Fun wintertime activities–Anh Le Nhat

To all the international Jayhawks out there – Welcome back to KU for the second semester! I hope you all had a great winter break, whether you visited your home country, stayed in Lawrence, or travelled around the U.S. I myself had an opportunity to go back to my home country and even had the opportunity to visit a tropical island – which was an amazing experience! I was in sandals and basketball jerseys for the whole time, and it was quite hard to leave the lovely weather and family to come back to Kansas during winter time! That being said, there are some fun wintertime activities that I hope to share with you all so we can enjoy winter a little bit more.

1. Going to KU Basketball games: It is the time of year again that most Jayhawks are excited for – basketball games against Big 12 Conference rivals! For all the new and potential Jayhawks who do not know, most KU students love KU Men’s Basketball, and the team has a strong tradition; most currently they have 10 straight Big 12 titles! I have been excited to watch young players like Kelly Oubre Jr and Cliff Alexander grow to become skillful players, as well as watch thrilling games against good teams such as Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma, and K-State! If you are a basketball fan, you probably do not want to miss out on any home games, as Allen Fieldhouse is called one of the best places to watch college basketball, and the atmosphere, passion, and unity are unforgettable! KU also has a great women’s basketball team who needs our support!

basketball

2. Playing in the snow: Although snow has been less frequent this January, we have had snow days for the last few years, and it was always a great time! Not only because there are no classes, but also because of all the snow that’s around. Snow creates opportunities to have fun outside with snowball fights, snow angels and sledding down the hills! I had a great time last year trying to sled, and even though I am personally not a big fan of snowy weather, I hope to enjoy the sledding experience again this year!

sled

3. Staying in and getting cozy: If you are not a big fan of the chilly weather and long for spring to come—I am there with you—another attractive option is staying in. Wintertime is a time to bake great delicacies—like cookies, pies, and cinnamon rolls–and share them with friends and family. Along with hot chocolates, apple ciders or buttered rum, you can have a great time inside sharing stories or catching up on your favorite TV shows on Netflix. A hot tub is also an attractive option in winter, which can help you decrease your stress and feel warm!

4. Volunteering in shelters: If you have some free time, I strongly recommend this activity! We are all fortunate to not have to worry about daily necessities like food and shelter, but volunteering will give you an opportunity to contribute your effort to help out other less fortunate folks, and appreciate your privileges. Helping others by volunteering will probably mean less free time for you; however, seeing the happy faces of everyone you help will warm your heart up in this cold weather! I recommend going to KU Center for Community Outreach (http://www.cco.ku.edu/) to start!

cco

These are the few activities that I want to share with my fellow Jayhawks, and I hope they are helpful to you! I hope you guys have a great semester ahead! 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.

Money, money, money!–Melanie D’Souza

Now, now, now; I’m no financial expert (at least my father is, haha), but I thought it would be good to touch on this important subject, a delicate one indeed, which some people treat with respect, some with carelessness, and some, as taboo.

The expense of a college education may be one reason to touch this hot money topic, but the more important reason is financial independence. As we leave our homes but not necessarily the comfort of financial security, we must remember that it is important that when we graduate from this phase of life called college, we must emerge responsible, independent individuals who give back to our parents/family who we love so much—wouldn’t that bring much comfort to the whole family?  Also, we need to avoid a head-on collision with ‘the real world’ once we head out with cap and gown, ready to take on the world’s opportunities. Not only must we prepare ourselves educationally and professionally during these few years of college, but we must also prepare financially–it will definitely help us avoid much stress later on.

So I’ll give you a few places to start!

  1. BUDGETING. Super important! It’s easy to keep swiping that plastic card, but you don’t want to be living paycheck to paycheck.

Therefore, make it a small goal, no matter how small it is, to save a tiny amount of money every month until you get better about living on a certain budget. Prioritize how much you’ll spend per month on meals out and school supplies, and more importantly, how much you’ll need for your annual/biannual trip home during breaks.

  1. FINANCIAL LITERACY. Trust me, I’m still learning. If it weren’t for a few helpful websites, my CFO of a father, and some patience, I’d still be entirely lost.

But don’t worry, and pace yourself to learn a little bit more about money every year. One thing that might be extremely important to know about is the existence of a Student Money Management Services department at KU, which offers financial advice. Also, you may consider creating a free account with a website called Cash Course, which has informative articles for college students, which you can bookmark to save for later! And if you still have to fulfill those General Education requirements, try taking Finance 101/301 at KU!

  1. STAY ALERT. Perhaps the earliest money habit my father got me into was saving my receipts and making Excel sheets, thereby enabling me to track my expenses.

 When your parents are conveniently paying for everything through KU Enroll and Pay, or a scholarship covers tuition for you, it is easy to overlook what fees KU charges you, and how much each costs. So pay attention, check your bills regularly, and remember: sometimes you are able to waive a few fees, depending on your situation. Know where your money is going.

  1. STAY PROFESSIONAL. While you learn to budget your lifestyle, to save a little, and to keep track of your spending, you may also start making your first attempts at earning, step by step.

The smartest way to earn while not wasting time in employment you do not enjoy or wouldn’t claim is to look for those internships you can professionally and financially invest in. Look out for the career fairs, or simply consult the University Career Center at KU for a place to start. Summer internships are the best way to make efficient use of your college breaks while building your work portfolio.

In these times, while prices rise, financial difficulty seems to cloud certain families, the struggle becomes even more real. When President Obama recently visited KU, he most definitely touched the subject of a ‘middle class economy’ prevalent in the state of Kansas. No doubt, business magazines may seem like vanilla to some of us, but such financial knowledge always pays off (see what I did there!)!

Obama visit (2)

Good luck to you, and wishing you another successful year yet!

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.

It’s 2015….Almost!

Well, well, enthusiastic as I may try to be for the New Year to begin, I am sure as not ready for 2014 to end. It has been yet another wonderful year- so much has happened- internship, research, obtaining a driver’s license, taking challenging classes –more fruitful experiences at KU that have kept me on my toes enough to make the year go by quickly! I’ve been busy, I’m now tired, so tired, but I cannot wait to see what the next year brings! I hope that you are looking forward to the New Year too and that you shall decide to make the KU experience part of your 2015, if you haven’t planned to already!

Now, it’s time to talk about what’s hot and happening. Wintry weather, talk of Santa and Jesus’ birthday . . .  yep, it’s Christmas time. For those of us who celebrate Christmas, December is a special time of the year. The holiday season kicks in and is especially active in certain parts of the world–even Lawrence, KS, home to KU. Now, I’ve never spent winter break in the U.S., since I always have spent Christmas in Oman with my family, so I don’t quite know what a Lawrence Christmas is like, but I sure have an inkling!

One thing not to miss is a walk downtown. Closer to December, the trees of the Massachusetts Street are lit up to guarantee a pleasant wintry Yuletide feel! Cafes and restaurants start serving Christmas-inspired options on their menu, and all these are worth trying. Folks attempt to go ice-skating at either the Plaza in Kansas City or the brand-new Lawrence Public Library rink in Lawrence itself.  Christmas trees are up in malls and offices and other public buildings and people begin to sport ‘ugly’ Christmas sweaters, thus painting the whole town in red, green and white. If you like theatric performances, you should try watching The Kansas Nutcracker- a Kansas version of the famous Christmas-themed Russian ballet by Tchaikovsky that plays at the Lawrence Arts Center, downtown.

theme 4 Secret Snowflake

Thus the Christmas season kicks in much before Christmas Day itself, thus I have been able to experience so, but I’m sure as actual Christmas Day inches closer, it would be fun to indulge in the festivities, be they singing Christmas carols, attending traditional Christmas parades and winter formals and Yuletide dances, and what not! Here’s wishing you compliments of the season in the hopes that you will one day experience a Kansas Christmas! And best wishes for a Happy 2015 as well!

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.

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!

tree

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.

parade

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.

black friday

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.

keep calm

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.

theme 1

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!)

theme 4

theme 7

theme 8

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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theme 5

theme 2

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!

theme 9

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.

6 notes

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.