Happy Thanksgiving!–Anh Le Nhat

As the fall semester comes to an end and the weather gets colder, going to class becomes a difficult responsibility for all students, who are in need of a break. Fortunately, Thanksgiving Break is here! While we all like a break to de-stress and relax before the last wave of exams, not all of us understand the meaning of Thanksgiving as an American holiday, nor do we know the fun activities that go along with it.

To start off, what is Thanksgiving? It is a holiday celebrated in the U.S. on the fourth Thursday in November to give thanks for the harvest of the preceding year. It is dedicated to celebrate family, friends, and food; families and friends gather to enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pies while catching up with each other and cheering for football.  As an international student, I want to share with all my fellow international Jayhawks some ways you can enjoy this valuable break!

1. Celebrate traditional Thanksgiving day with a host family. If you’re eager to learn about the American experience on Thanksgiving Day, the best way is to connect with an American host family and live the experience yourself. Your potential host family could be the people who picked you up from the airport, or they could be the friends and roommates you are close with, so do not be reserved and give it a shot. You might miss out on a wonderful stay-over opportunity by not asking. If there are no friends who can help you out, check out ISS’s Betty Grimwood Thanksgiving Homestay Program–a wonderful program that has been running for almost 60 years. It gives you the option to either spend the day or spend the entire break with a trustworthy American family, and it gives you a great opportunity to exchange culture and enjoy traditional American food!

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2. Travel to different places in America for sightseeing. So you tried, but were unsuccessful with finding a host family. That does not mean you cannot enjoy your break to the fullest! If you like to travel and explore different places, maybe it is time to ready your back pack, gather a couple friends, and get going! Attractive destinations for Thanksgiving are New York City, where you can watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; Keystone, Colorado, where you can hit the slopes for ski season; or Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida to enjoy the magic of Thanksgiving and Disney World itself. One drawback is limited transportation options during Thanksgiving Break, as everyone is rushing back to his or her family, but a well planned and well budgeted trip will create your own unique Thanksgiving experience.

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3. Participate in Black Friday. You didn’t find a host family, travelling was too costly for you, and you ended up staying in Lawrence for the break. This might be the perfect opportunity for you to participate in the annual Black Friday–where you can get items for significant discounts. It marks the beginning of Christmas shopping season, and it is usually the busiest shopping day of the year, as people try to take advantage of the long weekend and prepare for Christmas. Even though Black Friday has been criticized for ruining the meaning of Thanksgiving Day, and traffic in the stores can be hectic, the experience of waiting, rushing, and getting good deals is definitely one-of-a-kind, and I recommend trying Black Friday at least once to get the full experience.

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4. Relax, recharge, and get some work done. If you are not interested in any of the above options, and you just feel overwhelmed and in dire need of a break, Thanksgiving comes at an ideal time. Kick back and forget about school for a couple days, and work on some projects you have been neglecting. This applies to me as well, as I have been busy with school, work, and activities. I plan to relax and spend time for myself, as well as catch up with some work during this break. Finals will be around the corner when the break is over.

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These are the few ways to spend your Thanksgiving Break that I want to share with my fellow Jayhawks, and I hope they are helpful! Have a great Thanksgiving Break, be safe, and until next time, peace.

Anh Le is a Jayhawk junior from Hanoi, Vietnam, majoring in Finance and Information Systems. He loves traveling, reading, playing sports and learning about business and technology. He is currently the Resident Assistant of Gertrude Sellards Pearson Residence Hall and a student in KU School Of Business. He is also in the Honors Program and is an International Student Ambassador for the Office of International Recruitment and Undergraduate Admissions.

It’s Theme Time–Melanie D’Souza

Now, this may be of little account to the impressive party scene that some parts of KU offer, but one thing that really pumps up college students throughout the year is the availability of theme celebrations! It’s one thing we can really borrow from the American college scene. What’s more exciting than having a fun dress code to adhere to–and arriving at a party with your friends to see everybody decked out in a way that sets a different mood than just wearing your regular attire?

Fancy dress, costume parties–whatever you might call it back home, theme parties are here to stay at KU!

Decade Themes
This is definitely my favourite theme, as it transports you to another time period altogether for a night of guaranteed fun.  There’s everything from the roaring 20’s to 50’s rock and roll and 90’s grunge.  Rieger Scholarship Hall, my home for two and a half years now, hosts its annual 80’s dance around late September for the totally rad people out there.  Not only do people sport 80’s hairstyles by teasing their hair up, wear bright neon colours, and sport biker jackets and what-not, but the hall is beautifully decorated to welcome its wannabe 80’s with fabulous catchy numbers from the likes of Michael Jackson, Roxette, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Blondie, Whitney Houston, you name it! And there’s something for everybody, so if you’re not so comfy with rocking the dance floor, there are arcades, photo booths, craft tables, and snack tables set up.  You can even enjoy 80’s games like Mario Kart and Jenga while munching on some Pac-Man themed cookies and grabbing some fun 80’s props to capture your memories of the night.

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This is a wonderful concept that is reiterated in several theme parties on campus. Facebook invitations that keep you aware of how you need to dress and where you can arrive; carpooling arrangements to the location, and then a fun evening with decorations and an atmosphere that can entice you to have a good time.  Don’t forget to capture your memories.  They sure beat out the stress of a busy college life when you get to shake it off (see what I did there!)

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Game Themes
For those who love sport and enjoy the atmosphere that surrounds it. Game themes usually include getting your gameday wear on, sporting Kansas colours, and going to the game at the stadium or the Phog (Allen Fieldhouse, home to the famous Jayhawks basketball team) or enjoying a watch party with your friends, where you can enjoy the comfort of your TV set with good game snacks. Of course, what precedes the game is tailgating, where people socialize and snack to get geared up for the game.  The whole town is in such spirit, and it’s worth being a part of.

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Halloween
Hardly a week away, Halloween has an inevitable mention.  It is the biggest theme party of all time! Students dress up not necessarily scarily, but anything creative is greatly appreciated. I had the genius of a friend who made his own Iron Man costume, and I’ve had friends who have dressed up as everything from Disney characters to fruits and flowers! It’s always fun to put some work into your costume and capture those pictures of the interesting array! Visits to haunted houses, trick-or-treating, and horror movie marathons are just some fun things to go with this.  Combined with the dawn of autumn (called “fall” here in the U.S.), with cold weather setting in, warm-coloured leaves painting the town, and pumpkin deserts spicing up menus, college Halloween is a time to be reckoned with!

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I hope this post has taught you much about the things I love about the festivities at KU and the U.S. in general, and I hope it keeps you as pumped as it does me!

Melanie D’Souza is a junior from Muscat, Oman, majoring in Architecture at KU.  She loves travelling, writing, sketching and cycling. She is currently the Orientation Chair at Rieger Scholarship Hall Council and a fervent schol-haller and Riegerette.  She is also in the Honors Program and is a Student Ambassador for the Office of International Recruitment and Undergraduate Admissions.

Hello, October: My Midterm Advice–Jen Jaeyoon Nam

Hello October

It’s October! A month of Halloween and piles of pumpkins, but it is once again the time of year for midterms.  Midterm season always comes in October.  Whether you are first year or senior year, midterms are never easy.

As I’m about to enter my senior year, I have gone through lots of exams so far.  I can’t even think how many I’ve had.  This time, I’d like to share my midterm tips with you.

1. Keep up with your syllabus. Give big priority to this first tip.  Most midterms come right after a fall break, and we easily get blind to our midterms because we are only thinking of time off.  Check the syllabus of every course you are taking, and plan ahead.  Stay a few days in advance of the midterm because cramming doesn’t work for midterm season–you might have three straight tests.

Syllabus

2. Go to bed and get enough sleep. Research shows sleeping will boost your memory; even a nap will make your studying better.  There were days of my own time that I planned to cram for an exam and did not sleep at all, but this made my exam day even worse because I could not concentrate on the real test.  Sleeping is necessary for a higher grade.

3 sleeping on books

3. Eat more than just snacks. Researchers at Oxford University found that students who had a high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet for five days before their exams scored lower than students who balanced their diet with fruits and vegetables.  During midterms, it is easy to skip a meal and grab snacks or healthy bars to avoid hunger.  I have seen many students, including myself, survive on vending machine food alone.  However, to get a better grade, taking care of your body should come first.  It will help you get through this stressful time of year.  4 veggies

4. Find your ideal study environment. The ideal study environment will differ from person to person.  I prefer to study at a coffee shop than the library because it gives me more energy to enjoy my delicious coffee at the same time I study.  However, a coffee shop never works for some of my friends.  They prefer the library, which gives them a quieter atmosphere where they can concentrate.

Books

5. Take your own notes. This seems obvious, but I believe it is the key to nailing your exam.  Take your own notes; translate the study material into your own language.  Your own notes will enable you to absorb the information and make it easier to recall your study materials.  I believe practice and conditioning are what studying is all about.

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Midterm Advice–Anh Le Nhat

First and foremost, I hope all you current Jayhawks had a great fall break! I definitely had an exciting one, as I got to visit the Windy City and talk to KU alumni living there. They were all bleeding crimson and blue! Fall Break was definitely a great short break for most of us, which makes it difficult to get back onto the regular schedule and study, especially when some of us have midterms coming up.  As a junior, I have some suggestions that might help you be successful:

1. Do not cram or panic. I feel I am contradicting myself when I offer this advice to you, as I have crammed and fallen into panic mode for midterms before.  However, you have probably heard from many other sources that studying for your midterm the night before is not an ideal solution.  Cramming means you have to load your brain with half a semester of material for a short period of time, meaning you will most likely suffer a bad mood, mental fatigue, and stress.  Cramming also means you only retain the material until midterms are over, which is not beneficial for you, especially if the class is in your major or fits your interests.  Cramming comes with panic mode–you feel like it is the end of the world, you will most likely botch the midterms, and there will be times you question whether the time and effort you put in are even worth it.  Overall, cramming and panic mode are a bad experience you should try to avoid.  But how?  One of the keys is to begin studying earlier.  Allocate time every day for two or three weeks before the midterms to study, so you can divide the material into smaller pieces that are easier to tackle.  Reviewing notes from class, especially right after class, will also refresh and ingrain the material into your mind, so you will feel prepared when the time comes.

2. Unplug yourself from technology and social media.  This is one of the most challenging aspects of life.  I myself constantly struggle with it.  Most of us have a presence on social media, and it almost feels like our life revolves around it, especially when our laptops and smartphones are readily available.  During midterm preparation, it is tempting to pick up your devices to check Facebook, play with apps like Snapchat or Clash of Clans, or update your status; however, you will be distracted from the task at hand.  The solution? Unplug yourself from your devices. For one of my midterms last semester, I could not pay attention because there was a big soccer game going on. Ultimately, I had to put my laptop away, print out all the study material, and just focus on the exam. It was challenging, but I did get a lot of work done when technology did not get in the way. The point is you can always watch another game, but you can’t retake your midterms to improve your performance.

3. Use all the help you can get. There are times you will feel you are against these midterms by yourself, and nobody can help you.  That is a myth, as KU offers many resources to help you be academically successful.  Your professors and TA’s usually offer extra office hours, so do not be afraid to go in and seek help, even to find out what types of topics the midterm will cover.  It can be scary going to your professors for the first time, but you will be pleasantly surprised by how much they are willing to share or help out! Furthermore, you are most likely not the only person who struggles with the material, so make some American friends, join a study group, and tackle the problems together, so the challenges feel less daunting! Last but not least, the Academic Achievement and Access Center offers tutoring service that is course-specific and led by peers who have been successful in the courses, so definitely consider it!

4. Stay healthy and make time for yourself. During midterm time, it is easy to feel you do not have enough time to study, and everything else can be put aside temporarily for academic success.  While it is true that studying should remain your priority, it does not mean it’s a good strategy to indulge in junk food and caffeine, neglect exercise and hygiene, and pull all-nighters, as your body will break down in exhaustion as soon as the midterms are over.  In fact, you will be surprised how a quick break can improve your focus because after all, studying for midterms is not a marathon study session. Scheduling ahead to make time for exercise, healthy meals, showers, and most importantly, sleep, will help you stay focused before and after the midterms.

These are the few tips I want to share with our returners and newcomers, and I hope they are helpful to you.  Just remember that even if all else failed, and you unfortunately did not do well on the midterms, never be discouraged, as there is still time to bring up your grades as long as you are committed!  Until next time, peace!

Anh Le is a Jayhawk junior from Hanoi, Vietnam, majoring in Finance and Information Systems. He loves traveling, reading, playing sports and learning about business and technology. He is currently the Resident Assistant of Gertrude Sellards Pearson Residence Hall and a student in KU School Of Business. He is also in the Honors Program and is an International Student Ambassador for the Office of International Recruitment and Undergraduate Admissions.

Let the Games begin!–Melanie D’Souza

A fun way of getting perfectly integrated into the Student Housing community.

A week-long international student orientation by KU’s International Student Services (ISS) bring us all together to begin our academic career well by dispelling fears and doubts and connecting us with the right number of connections and friends, but what happens when it’s all over? Like ants scurrying from a rolling object, we’re scattered to different pockets of the KU campus, to be immersed in our own fields of study, housing colonies, student organizations, and what not. And sometimes—well, most of the time–it is ideal that we integrate well with our own housing community, just because we all need that perfect home for our college lifestyle!

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Some of us enjoy having people around all the time, some prefer swinging it alone, and some are in-between – like me. But whoever you are, particularly if you plan to enter KU at the undergraduate level, the scholarship halls are a great place to stay; it is my third year, and it looks like I may never leave…like the majority of my fellow residents.

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So, last year, I gave you a glimpse into what living in a schol-hall is like.

Let me now introduce you to schol-hall land’s very own edition of Olympics – The Schol-Hall Olympics (SHO) and entertain you with snapshots from the same (2014). Designed to integrate new residents into schol-hall lifestyles, it is the perfect merger between the last days of summer and the first days of move-in, Hawk Week and first days of class, all for schol-hall residents. This year, it was run by our mastermind Will Kerschen, Orientation and Recruitment Chair at the All Scholarship Hall Council, encompassing all sorts on fun events from UNO tournaments and cookie decorating competitions to watermelon eating contests, 3-on-3 basketball, ping-pong, quiz bowl, Mario Kart tournaments, and our very own version of Assassins’ Creed!

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So, here are a few reasons why SHO is a well-proven strategy for orientation at KU’s lovely schol-halls:

  • There’s everything for everybody. And everybody’s awkward. There’s baking and watermelon eating and Mario Kart and UNO tournaments for athletically challenged folks like me, and then there’s Ultimate Frisbee, basketball, ping-pong, etc for those who love to run and play in the sun.

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  • It’s a way of just bringing down those intimidation levels for new residents who are entering into an already-active community, and it gets them plugged in, helping them understand this close-knit fabric of community life at schol-hall land.
  • It’s the time to cement those relationships with your Bigs and Littles, your new roomies, and your brother/sister hall and make friendships with older residents. They’ve all been through exactly what you’re going through, and they made it because of Olympics!
  • It’s also that moment in your life where you discover your strengths and passions. Where you may discover that you probably don’t like dancing all that much or where you’re secretly good at shooting hoops.

GAMES with themes? Who doesn’t love them?!

Scholarship Hall Olympics are just another reason why you may consider living in a scholarship hall during your time at KU. Instant friends, fun, academic foundations—these are ideal to your college lifestyle at KU–and the SHO can guarantee a smooth transition into such, if you do decide to become a schol-haller!

Feel free to shoot me any questions by commenting, no matter how silly they are.  I would love to help you out!

Melanie D’Souza is a junior from Muscat, Oman, majoring in Architecture at KU.  She loves travelling, writing, sketching and cycling. She is currently the Orientation Chair at Rieger Scholarship Hall Council and a fervent schol-haller and Riegerette.  She is also in the Honors Program and is a Student Ambassador for the Office of International Recruitment and Undergraduate Admissions.

Welcome (back)!–Anh Le Nhat

During the not-very-eventful (but still fun, regardless) summer in Lawrence, I was able to re-energize myself by working at a comfortable pace and enjoying one of the best World Cup tournaments.  Time flew by, and now I have been back in the fall semester for a month already!  As a junior–which is considered an upperclassman, though I do feel like I am still young and inexperienced–I have some food for thought for the new Jayhawks as well as my fellow returning students.

As a freshman, especially an international freshman, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the campus size, course structure, cultural differences, etc.  Believe me, I have been there before; I was not able to attend orientation and had to use the school map to navigate to classes during the first few weeks.  Here are a few tips I found particularly helpful for my freshman year:

1. Take advantage of all the resources the University offers you.  There are a lot of resources available to KU students, which is a good problem to have, but it can also be confusing, especially when you are new to everything new here.  ISS is the first resource I recommend new students reach out to; the staff in ISS are dedicated to helping international students be successful.  Furthermore, ISS also offers fun opportunities to explore Kansas, like Sporting KC games, trips to Kansas City, and the Clinton Lake BBQ.

2. You might have heard the phrase before, but getting involved really helped me during my first year.  Getting involved means you will have to put in extra effort outside the classroom, join an organization, or participate in intramural sports.  However, the efforts you put in will pay off, as you will discover your own passions and strengths, build friendships with people who have the same interests, and feel connected to KU.

3. Last but not least, just remember to go to class. Most international students come here without scholarships and have to pay out-of-state tuition (I am on the same page), which is a big financial investment.  Going to class will help you get a better understanding of the material, create friendships with classmates who share the same academic concern, and save time studying later.  Feeling unmotivated about making it to class or conversing with friends from a different time zone should not be your excuse, because after all, academic success is your priority.

For the returning international students, welcome back to KU! As a fellow returner, I hope that most of you have enjoyed and treasured your KU journey because it will not be long until we walk down the hill!  Here are some insights I want to share with you to make your KU experience more memorable:

1. Create a KU Bucket List.  I learned it from one of my American friends, who was able to check everything off before his graduation last summer.  Bucket List items can very according to your taste: the most popular ones are usually going to all the basketball games, sledding down the hill this winter, jumping into the Chi Omega fountain, and taking pictures with Big Jay and Baby Jay.  In a way, the Bucket List helps to make your KU experience become more memorable and exciting!

2. Study abroad.  Even though all of us are studying abroad in America, we still can take advantage of the study abroad opportunities KU provides to explore the world!  KU has partnered with many universities worldwide, which can help provide you a unique experience that combines exploring another culture and achieving a quality education. I was not able to plan for a trip abroad, but I have both American and international friends who went on these trips and had a great experience!  If you are interested, the Office of Study Abroad is a great place to start!

3. So you have been at the University for a couple years, and surprisingly, the only place you are familiar with is Lawrence.  College can be busy, and sometimes it is hard to take our time off and explore the beautiful state we are living in.  I strongly encourage us all to explore Kansas outside Lawrence and enjoy its beauties, whether they are the small towns and farmlands or the museums and halls in Topeka.  If you do not have a vehicle or limited time for travelling, you can always take advantage of ISS’s field trips.  Most of us will not be able to return to Kansas upon graduation, so take advantage of your time here!

These are the tings I want to share with our newcomers and returners, and I hope some of these will be helpful to you in your career at KU!  Until next time, peace.

Anh Le is a Jayhawk junior from Hanoi, Vietnam, majoring in Finance and Information Systems. He loves traveling, reading, playing sports and learning about business and technology. He is currently the Resident Assistant of Gertrude Sellards Pearson Residence Hall and a student in KU School Of Business. He is also in the Honors Program and is an International Student Ambassador for the Office of International Recruitment and Undergraduate Admissions.

My summer at KU–Anh Le Nhat

As my sophomore year extends to a summer term, and signs of constructions appear everywhere on campus, my first summer in Lawrence has officially begun. After two years working on my degree as a full-time student, I have made many interesting plans to relax, recharge, and explore this amazing college town.

My first plan this summer is to work as a summer Resident Assistant (RA) in Hashinger Hall.  Even though I worked as an RA during the school year, the summer position provides a much different experience, as most residents living on-campus in the summer are international students from Japan and Brazil.  As an international student, I understand the challenges that international students face, such as language barriers and cultural shocks, and I hope to provide an academically oriented environment and organize fun activities for my residents, so they can enjoy their KU experience. Working as a summer RA in a community full of international students is also a chance for me to show my Jayhawk spirit and learn about Japanese and Brazilian cultures.

Another plan that is on top of my list this summer is watching the World Cup 2014 with my friends and residents. World Cup 2014 is the biggest soccer tournament in the world which only happens once every four years, and as a soccer fan, I will be sure to enjoy the competition between top teams for the glorious trophy. While lots of my residents and friends can cheer for their respective countries in the World Cup, unfortunately, I will not be able to cheer for Vietnam, since our national soccer team still has a long way to go to qualify. That being said, I have been cheering for Spain these past few years in international tournaments, and I hope my team will win a second consecutive World Cup this summer.

Last but not least, I want to spend my free time this summer enjoying Lawrence by visiting places that I have not been able to experience during the school year. Notable examples on top of my list are Prairie Park Nature Center, Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center and Regal Southwind Stadium 12. Prairie Park Nature Center has a wide variety of native Kansas wildlife and offers walking trails and public fishing, which is ideal for a wildlife enthusiast like me. Lawrence Outdoor Aquatic Center, on the other hand, is the perfect solution for hot summer days, with water slides and fountains to escape the heat. As the upcoming summer is full of exciting blockbusters like Godzilla, Malecifient, 22 Jump Street, Transformers, and Dawn of The Planet of the Apes, Regal Southwind Stadium 12 will be where me and my friends hang out and enjoy the regular updated list of movies on the weekends.

Although doing well in summer classes will always remain my priority, summer provides me an opportunity to work at a comfortable pace and take breaks when I can, and I am excited to fulfill all my plans in my first summer in Lawrence! Until next time, peace.

Anh Le is a Jayhawk sophomore from Hanoi, Vietnam, majoring in Finance and Information Systems. He loves traveling, reading, playing sports and learning about business and technology. He is currently the Resident Assistant of Gertrude Sellards Pearson Residence Hall and a student in KU School Of Business. He is also in the Honors Program and is a Student Volunteer for the Office of International Recruitment and Undergraduate Admissions.