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Minimesters Provide International Experience in Less Time

by Alexis Mattera

Spending a semester abroad may not be feasible for students with rigid major requirements or ones who are aiming to graduate in the shortest amount of time possible to save on tuition. Instead of having students miss out on what could be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, schools like the University of Maryland are offering truncated programs called minimesters to foster international travel.

This winter alone, UMD’s study abroad office offered 42 short-term programs to destinations including Costa Rica, Mexico and Thailand with courses covering government and politics, art history, architecture, education, geography and more. These trips are usually about three weeks in length and students (including the article’s author, Elizabeth Roberts, who completed two minimesters to Chile and Brazil) have reported it’s plenty of time to immerse themselves in the culture without sacrificing school, work and other obligations back home. This time abroad even causes some students to alter their educational directions: One UMD senior's minimester in South Africa last winter sparked an interest in health issues and has since translated into an internship with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.

Do you think a minimester is a good way to interact with the age of globalization without compromising progress toward graduation?


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MythBusters: The Study Abroad Edition

by Darci Miller

Hello from the beautiful city of London! I’ve been here for a month and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the study abroad experience is just as wonderful as everyone says it is. It’s also given me the chance to put some study abroad myths to the test.

Myth #1: Study abroad is 90% partying, 10% studying. This certainly depends on what kind of student you normally are and what kind of lifestyle you lead at your home university. Europeans do go out more than Americans but “going out” often means drinking a pint with some friends at the local pub and not necessarily getting all dolled up and going clubbing. And once assignment deadlines start looming, you are going to have to hit the books.

Myth #2: It’s too much money. It’s very easy to study abroad in a financially responsible way. If you go through a program hosted by your home university, any financial aid you have will (or should) transfer. After that, it’s all a matter of using your money in a smart way. Also, check online and with your study abroad office to see if there are study abroad-specific scholarships you can apply for. I got $4,500 from Miami’s study abroad office and it’ll be funding all of my travels and then some!

Myth #3: It’s dangerous and/or scary. It’s drilled into our heads before we leave that pickpocketing is a big threat in Europe but as long as you’re smart about your belongings, international cities are no more dangerous than cities in America. And living in a new country is certainly a jarringly different experience but it’ll only change you for the better.

Myth #4: Europeans all dress a certain way and you need to fit in. Everyone in London looks like they’ve stepped out of a fashion magazine – well-dressed and attractive – so if I wear a Miami t-shirt to class, I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s ok, though: Regardless of how you dress, people will know you’re American as soon as you open your mouth.

Myth #5: You’ll have more free time than you know what to do with. I’m taking four classes and each is two hours per week with Tuesdays and Fridays off. I’ve become a champion napper but I’ve also done a ton of exploring. You’re abroad for a short time – don’t waste it!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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The Best Research Methods for College Students

by Jacquelene Bennett

There is going to come a time when you are writing a paper or doing a research project when simply doing a Google search will not be enough to get the information you need. As you progress through your college career, the papers you write and the projects you do will get harder and more in depth and the research tools you used in high school and in intro-level classes won’t help much. So how do you do proper research?

Start off by going to the library and looking at books – real, actual books. Contrary to what people think, books are not outdated or irrelevant but are actually great sources for papers and projects. The plus side to going to the library is that if you have trouble finding sources, you can ask a librarian who will be more than happy to help you out.

Another way to find reliable and informative sources for a paper is through scholarly journals. Scholarly journals are collections or databases of articles written by experts and professionals on different subjects and issues in almost every academic field of study. The databases I use are JSTOR, Project MUSE and LexisNexis but there are literally hundreds of different journals and students generally have free access to them through their universities. You can usually find these sites linked to your school’s library website, through a class’s Blackboard site, Google Scholar (though you generally have to pay for these), or, of course, a librarian can help you access them.

While a Google search might give you fast surface facts, you will have to search for a long time to find citation-worthy in-depth analyses and reliable information. With books and scholarly articles, you get the information you need and you never have to question their legitimacy.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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Junk That Junk Food - Eating Healthy is Important!

by Jessica Seals

It’s Tuesday afternoon and you just finished your last class for the day before heading off to club meetings, work, and finishing up two big papers. As you realize just how full your schedule is, you remember that you forgot to include time to eat and, given your time crunch, you decide to grab a quick burger for lunch and some chips to snack on later. As a college student, this scenario probably seems very familiar: We have so many different things going on in our lives that we struggle to make time for healthy meals. Although eating fast food occasionally will not cause you much harm, you will eventually notice changes in your body and mood if you eat it each day – in college and beyond.

Although the infamous ‘freshman 15’ still causes concern for college students, many continue to rely on fast foods. During my freshman year of college, I was more than excited to learn that our campus dining halls featured a few popular fast food restaurants but after eating these foods without including any fruits or vegetables in my diet, I noticed a big change in my mood. I have a high metabolism so gaining weight didn’t worry me but I was concerned about my lower energy level – I always felt too tired to do anything, even after I had just eaten and I could not focus on reading assignments or writing papers. At that time, I realized that it was time to make a change.

I knew that I could not give up fast food completely, but I did start keeping fruit in my dorm room or eating salads instead of burgers. When I went to restaurants, I opted for healthier choices and slowly but surely, my energy level returned to normal. My advice to even the busiest college students? Make room for healthy foods. Your schedule may be packed but you’ll be able to get through it much easier when you have more energy!

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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Studying Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

In my last article, I talked a lot about language classes at school and how you can use those skills in your own cities. But honestly the best way to practice a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it so in this column, I’m going to talk about studying abroad – but cost effectively.

Like with real estate, the costs associated with studying abroad depend on location, location, location. While your parents didn’t have a lot of study abroad options outside Europe, the world is changing and becoming more global every day; by changing that dream European vacation into a jaunt to a different continent, you can save a lot of money and have a unique experience. I studied abroad here in Buenos Aires, which at the time was about $10,000 cheaper than an equivalent program I could have done in Barcelona. Plus, my study abroad program was about a month and a half longer, meaning I had a lot more cultural immersion than I would have had with the program in Spain.

Also, think about if you really need the college credits you’ll get abroad. If you can just go for a summer and give up the academic courses or if you’re ahead on credits and can take a semester off, it might be worth it to check out volunteering abroad programs aimed at young people. Generally, the prices are significantly lower for a few months of building houses than for university classes; however, the experience is very different than taking university classes with native students (which is what I did...and loved) so think about what you’re really looking for in an abroad experience before choosing.

Finally, there are ways to actually make money while you’re studying abroad! Many countries are looking for English teachers and it’s worth checking out expatriate websites to see if anyone needs a babysitter who is a native English speaker. Similarly, if your language skills are good enough, there are lots of translation jobs out there – just check Craigslist like I did!

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Memes Sweep College Campuses Nationwide

by Alexis Mattera

There could be a 15-page research paper deadline, a monster exam and an internship shift tomorrow but if you think a college student isn’t going to take even a few minutes to destress or have a laugh, you’re crazy. My go-tos were Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Snood and UCTV but today, it’s all about college-centric memes.

According to Time (and Richard Dawkins), a meme is essentially an idea that replicates and evolves through imitation – a process the Internet makes almost too easy. Since October, schools like Florida International University, McGill, Appalachian State, UT, Duke, Northwestern and BU have all jumped aboard the meme train and the viral school spirit shows no sign of slowing: More student-created takes on Success Kid, Uber Frosh and others keep popping up on Facebook every day.

Have you caught college meme fever or do you think the meme trend has already worn out its welcome?


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British School vs. American School

by Darci Miller

Upon arriving in London for study abroad, I was initially amazed by how normal everything felt. I mean, everyone speaks the same language – how different could things possibly be? But two days later, as I was standing in an endless line and waiting to register for classes, I realized that some things here might not be quite the same.

While the lack of a language barrier definitely helps (we all know what a “lift” is, right?), the British school system does its own thing. Most British universities are three years rather than four and get this: the first year doesn’t even count. That’s right! If Brits want to slack off their entire first year of “uni,” they absolutely can. Of course, it’ll affect their ability to get work placement but it won’t mean anything when it comes to their degrees. This means a whole ton of drinking and skipped lectures followed by two years of mountains of work.

In America, handing in an assignment means printing it out and giving it to your professor. Not across the pond: Each assignment needs some sort of cover sheet that’s provided to you on Blackboard (or the “Virtual Learning Environment”) and needs to be handed into the department office. Not the lecturer or seminar tutor, but the department office. Does this make sense?

The grading system is different as well. One hundreds are completely unheard of: Eighty is basically the equivalent of a perfect score so don’t freak out about getting a 60 – that’s a decent grade here! There are all sorts of different labels assigned to seemingly arbitrary numbers and not even the educators have any idea why it’s done like this. Trust me, I’ve asked.

And then, of course, there’s registering for classes. British students only take classes in their “course,” or major so when associate students attempt to take classes in multiple courses, the online system isn’t equipped to handle it. You may be able to take out books from the school library using a touch screen and a scanner, but you have to run around to the different departments and have them physically sign you up for classes. I never thought I’d miss waking up early for my registration time back in the states!

Bottom line: No matter where you study abroad, you’re going to have culture shock, even if it means writing papers with footnotes instead of in-text citations. Just smile and chalk it all up to experience!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all '80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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BARC Can Give Your Career Some Bite!

Bay Area Retail Leadership Center Helps Students Learn from, Network with Professionals

February 28, 2012

BARC Can Give Your Career Some Bite!

by Radha Jhatakia

One of the best resources that college can offer you (besides an education, of course) is the opportunity to find employment after graduation. There are programs dedicated to helping students in different career fields and at SJSU, one of these opportunities comes with the Bay Area Retail Leadership Center, or BARC.

BARC consists of SJSU students and faculty who have partnered up with those in the retail industry. Currently, the list of partners includes Target, Walgreens, Kohl's, Verizon Wireless, Ross, Nike and Walmart and students are able to interact with professionals at these companies and gain insight to what working for a retail corporation will be like while networking and getting potential job offers.

BARC offers a study tour during which students travel to different headquarters and main offices of these companies – an advantageous experience that happens only twice a year. Apart from this, BARC hosts conferences in which speakers present on different aspects of how to make it to the retail industry; internships are also offered. Just like with any networking opportunity, though, it is up to the student to make the most of these prospects in the end.

If there is a program like BARC at your college, take advantage of it – there are so many unexplored opportunities! – but if a program like this doesn’t exist, speak with advisers and faculty to start one! It will be a great chance for you to launch a program that will not only help many individuals but will allow you to gain work experience and contacts in the professional world as well.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Handy Tips for Parents to Help Their Kids with SAT Stress

by Suada Kolovic

Upperclassmen across the country are stressed in every sense of the word. And it would come to no surprise that said students are currently walking around in oversized tees and sweats, with mangled hair and dark circles under their eyes, which can only mean one thing: The SATs are just around the corner. For years, the SATs have long been synonymous with intense anxiety and while that is considered the norm (unfortunately), U.S. News and World Report and psychologist Ben Bernstein, author of “Test Success! How to Be Calm, Confident and Focused on Any Test,” have complied a few handy tips for parents to help ease their kids’ stress:

  • Remain calm: It’s important that parents don’t get roped into their child’s nervousness, which Bernstein refers to as an “induced reaction.” He suggests that parents can help curb anxiety by staying calm themselves. Parents should remind their child to breathe and even suggest writing “breathe” as a reminder on their test booklet.
  • Be confident: Parents should listen for negative statements from their child, such as "I can't handle this," or "I'm not smart enough," says Bernstein. He suggests parents accept their kid's feelings but recommends saying something along the lines of, "'I know you feel that way right now, but I remember when you handled a really difficult situation. Do you remember that?'" In turn, he notes, "Of course the kid will remember that. They're forgetting that part of themselves, which has been successful."
  • Stay focused: Many students today simply have shorter attention spans than they did in previous generations. Why? Because they've become accustomed to the instant gratification of sending a text message or beating a video game level, says Bernstein. Parents can help their students focus by having them study continuously, without interruption, for several minutes at a time.

Do you find these tips helpful? Did your parents play such an active role in helping you stay calm and focused before you took the SATs? Let us know in the comments section.


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Take Advantage of Tutoring

February 29, 2012

Take Advantage of Tutoring

by Jessica Seals

Most college campuses offer tutoring centers where students can have classmates help them with any academic issues. Unfortunately, some students are either too embarrassed or proud to utilize these study services but they should know there are other students out there (like me!) who are willing to assist them outside a formal tutoring environment.

I found private tutoring to be a wise choice for several reasons. If you tutor classmates for free, you may be able to document these instances as community service, which employers and admissions committees for graduate and professional schools love to see. If you charge a fee for your services, however, it also allows you to make some extra money on the side while reviewing material you need for your own classes. Tutoring also allows you to make connections across campus by meeting new people who could eventually become good friends with; you may also encounter someone who might return the favor by tutoring you if you ever need help in their area of expertise. You are not limited to tutoring your fellow college students, either: You can also sign up to tutor at a local high school, middle school or elementary school – a move that allows you to make connections in the community and help you when you look for employment in the future.

Tutoring is a win-win situation and I would encourage all college students to try it if you have the chance – you never know where it could lead!

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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