Making Friends in College

Making friends in college is daunting to say the least. As a freshman, I remember life in the dorms and being intimidated by all that was available. I was even nervous and confused on how to approach others in my hall. With the vast ability to do whatever and whenever and being a semi-shy individual at the time, it was hard to find what I wanted my niche to be or know who I even was. One part of me would like to think it’s easier to make friends now, but I think that I’m still in the same boat; I just know how to navigate the playing field a little better.

I advocate highly for creating a relationship with your roommate(s). I know that sometimes things don’t always work out, but they are the person that you will always see at the end of the day and be there when you wake up in the morning. You don’t have to try to be someone you’re not, they’ll already see the real you by being in such close proximity, which can be nice in a way. You don’t have to break down any barriers or walls, you’re already being your authentic self in your very little space you now call home.

My Aunt Kim, who works at Northern (I know, I know, it’s our rival), has always given the best advice for making friend’s while in college. She always had something to say, as this is something she deals with quite often in her line of work on campus. “Don’t wait for an experience to come to you or for a great experience to happen. You need to make it happen.” This has been ingrained in my mind since day one of college. Constantly participating and putting yourself out there per se in terms of joining orgs. and attending events is crucial. How are you going to make friends by sitting in your dorm all the time? Which is funny to say, because that’s the boat we’re all in right now!

Despite being stuck inside due to the global pandemic, the university and all of the different orgs. have been really proactive in finding ways to still stay connected. It’s also nice, because everyone is in the same boat. We’re all figuring this out together, which has been making relationships even stronger, from what I’ve noticed. While you can’t physically go out and meet others, there are still zoom events and different orgs. on social networking platforms to connect with. There’s also E-sports, which I always forget about due to being busy with school and work, but I have only heard great things about it thus far. If you’re into video or computer games, that would probably be something really neat to check-out. I also know that Greek life is still doing recruitment at a safe distance, if that is something you’re interested in.

All in all, the message is – we hear you. It’s tough enough to make friends without the presence of a global pandemic putting a damper on just about everything face-to-face. In the meantime, give it all you got and attend all the zooms and introduce yourself to everyone. It might be terrifying to put yourself out there, but I promise you that the relationships you will create will be some of your most treasured. Thus far, I can say that the friendships I’ve gotten to make in college are ones that I know will be lifelong despite distance, pandemics, and time-zones.


Study at Home, Effectively

Welcome to a new age of school! Many of us are going back to school by staying right at home. I know that for myself, it can be so hard to stay focused and get work done when my bed is calling my name for a nap or my phone reminds me that Netflix just released a new season of my favorite show. I have had to implement new habits into my life to be successful in school, and I want to share those with you.

Pick a spot that isn’t your bed (or the couch)

I know how tempting it is to pick the comfiest spot in your home to get work done. But the bed is for sleeping, and you might be tempted to do so if you pick that spot for studying. The same goes for a couch. It can be far too easy to sink into the couch and get lost in your favorite TV show.

Insted, pick a spot where you have to sit upright, just like you would if you were attending class in person. Perhaps you already have a desk, a vanity, or even a kitchen island. The regular old kitchen table works well too! By sitting in a spot that mimics regular school, your mind will subconsciously prepare itself for learning better than it would in bed.

Make sure the area is decluttered and distractions are minimal

Take just a few minutes to clean up the area you will be working. With a clean space, your mind can be more clear and you have maximum space to work. It won’t be very helpful if you can’t put down your laptop or notebook down flat. By having a clean work space, you can also spread all of your resources out in front of you so it is all easily accessible. It takes up a lot of time to constantly be flipping and shuffling through everything that you need to be learning the material.

Additionally, by removing distractions, you can stay focused for longer. I beg of you, move your Nintendo Switch out of your line of sight, you will be far less tempted to play Animal Crossing that way. This also includes other objects such as fidget toys, footballs, yoyos, and any other random things you may have obtained over the years.

Find a time ratio that works for you

There are a lot of time ratios for studying and taking breaks. If you can work for hours without taking a break, that’s fantastic and we’re all jealous of you. If you are not that person, a very popular time ratio is 25 minutes of work, with a 5 minute break. Maybe you function better on a 50/50 split. Maybe you can work for 45 minutes and only need a 10-15 minute break. Just make sure you hold yourself to the restricted break time. Remember, the sooner you get your work done, the sooner you can truly relax (or take a nap).

Additionally, get competitive with yourself. When you set that timer, challenge yourself to see how much you can get done in the time-frame you’ve chosen. That’s how I clean my room so quickly. It is also how I stay on track and hold myself accountable.

Now that you’re actually ready, set goals for yourself

There are two main ways to set goals: qualitatively and quantitatively. Setting a qualitative goal mean you’re setting goals that have to do with improvement, and quantitative goals are goals that you want to get a certain amount of something done. It is also possible to have a combination of these goals.

Some examples of qualitative goals would be: editing the paper you wrote, reviewing your notes, understanding the learning objectives from the chapter. With goals like these, you aren’t necessarily getting a set amount done, but rather doing a task that improves your recollection of the information or improves the quality of the work you did.

Quantitative goal examples include: doing 1, 2, 3… or even 10 more problems on your homework (or just finishing it). Reading a set amount of a chapter, and completing a certain number of paragraphs for that paper you have been putting off.

Music isn’t the best, but…

If you need music and simply can’t get work done without it, I understand your struggle. However, if I may, I have a few suggestions to improve your work ethic.

Try and pick music without lyrics. Whether you know the words or not, your brain wants to focus on what it’s hearing and it will jumble up the words your reading or writing with what you are listening to. There are plenty of instrumental playlists and channels are various services such as Youtube, Pandora, and of course, Spotify. I sometimes find instrumental music to be far too sleepy. Additionally, if it is the instrumental version of a song I already know, I find myself singing along anyways, so my personal recommendation is the genre lofi. It is free of lyrics, but also upbeat. It helps me tune out the outside world, but doesn’t put me to sleep.

Test yourself, again and again

It has been proven through many studies that testing your knowledge helps you learn and remember the important information better. There’s four easy ways to go about this, among many others. Those four easy ways are learning objectives, end of chapter review questions, example problems, and practice exams. Very often, teachers will provide learning objectives for the course material, or they will be laid out in the beginning of a chapter. Most textbooks have questions at the end, and you can copy problems like math equations with new numbers. Some teachers provide practice exams before the real deal. By the time you get done working on notes and homework, quiz yourself!

If you can effectively explain a concept or define something (bonus if you can do it without referring to your notes), then you likely have a deeper understanding of what the chapter was referring to. Ever hear “teaching something is the best way to learn it” – it’s so true! Practice explaining things to friends or even to an imaginary student. For problems such as math or chemistry, testing your abilities repetitively will help reinforce the steps to solving the problem. Both end of chapter questions and practice exams are direct ways of testing your knowledge of definitive answers. And practice exams are great on their own because they are a direct example of what your teacher’s exams look like.


Get ready to “flex”

MTU Flex is the university’s plan for returning to campus and responding to any future disruptions that might be caused due to COVID-19. Part of MTU Flex includes surveillance testing. At any point this semester you might volunteer for testing.  If you decide to quarantine or need to quarantine due to suspected close contact, be prepared to “flex” anytime and reduce your stress by knowing:

On-Campus

  • Quarantining individuals may have meals delivered to dorms
  • Listen to your RA regarding protocols for using necessary public spaces, such as restrooms and showers. 
  • Keep your professors informed on what is going on. Tune in virtually if possible, and if not be sure to contact deanofstudents@mtu.edu for approval on an excused absence. 
  • If you’re looking for ways to stay active while quarantining, check out the archived “Daily Workout” stories on the MTU Wellness instagram page (@mtu_wellness). 
  • Stay connected with the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being’s groups, workshops, and Husky Hour sessions!
  • Student Leadership & Involvement and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion often offer fun or thoughtful virtual events.  Check in with each to see what additional virtual events and resources you can access from your quarantine zone!
  • Additional assistance or questions? Ask your RA.

Off-campus

  • Try to have 2-3 days of food ready to prepare.  Run out of supplies?  Contact Public Safety 906-487-2216 for an Emergency Meal Kit.
  • Talk to your roommates and others you may share necessary spaces with about how to protect each other and prevent possible spread. 
  • Keep your professors informed on what is going on. Tune in virtually if possible, and if not contact deanofstudents@mtu.edu for approval on an excused absence.
  • If you’re looking for ways to stay active while quarantining, check out the archived “Daily Workout” stories on the MTU Wellness instagram page (@mtu_wellness). 
  • Looking to stay connected? Tune in to virtual Husky Hour, groups, and workshops offered by the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being.
  • Head to Student Leadership & Involvement and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion to see what additional virtual events and resources you can access from your quarantine zone!
  • Additional assistance or questions? Email deanofstudents@mtu.edu or call 906-487-2212

Roll with it.

What will be different? How will my routine be impacted? What can I expect week to week?  These are just a few of the many questions that churned around in my mind while I was preparing to come back to work for the year.  And while I’ve had plenty of questions, I haven’t been met with many answers.  There is so much ambiguity and change in our world right now, so I understand the lack of concrete answers.  However, I still noticed myself becoming anxious, frustrated, and stressed. So with that said, I realized it was time to adapt.

For someone like myself, who likes to plan and be prepared, constant change is maddening.  If you say the word “change” my body immediately reacts like you actually said “chaos”.  Since I know that about myself, I’ve put time and effort into learning how to be flexible and adapt to my surroundings.  #Tenacity, am I right?

Reframing and challenging my thoughts has been crucial in allowing my newfound flexibility to become a lasting change, rather than an effortful, daily focus.  Don’t get me wrong, it still required effort on my part. But now it’s become more like a reminder to myself to embrace my new mindset instead of a more frequent effort to mold and form my thoughts to match the mindset I wanted.

 When it comes down to it, I haven’t changed who I am.  I still love planning and order, and might get a little uneasy at the mention of change.  However, the difference is that change and transition are no longer the enemy.  I don’t see these things as a threat, just waiting to heighten my levels of stress or anxiety like it used to.  Not anymore.  Change and transition can’t control me, because I’ve learned how to “roll” with whatever comes my way. 

I share my own experience with the hopes that it can help someone reading this blog know that they’re not the only one having a hard time with this transition.  I also hope that this might serve as encouragement to lean in to any discomfort you might be feeling and embrace it instead as an opportunity to grow. 

If you’re looking for ways to adapt and overcome some of your own thoughts and reactions related to change and uncertainty, I encourage you to first be present with your thoughts.  Gain an understanding of yourself and any patterns of thinking that may emerge.  Once you have that understanding, you can begin to break each bit down to a more manageable level, and challenge the thoughts for what they are.  This can also be thought of as reframing, which might look like shifting something that might seem negative or scary, finding a way to see it from a new angle, and adjusting the initial thought to a positive outlook or perspective.  After tackling each of these parts, continue to integrate them into your routine and check in with yourself on which areas might need some adjustments. 

The beauty of a growth mindset is that you decide what you want yours to focus on. It’s also a fluid concept, allowing you to alter it when necessary and integrate new ideas or concepts. So here’s to you, the mindset you choose to embrace, and a semester of rolling with whatever comes next!


Making Time for YOU

We all know that when the school year starts in the fall, that things can get hectic. It can be easy to let self-care go by the wayside in order to study for a big test or to get a project finished. So, how can you make sure you are taking care of yourself and making time to regain that energy that you need to get things done in a healthy way? 

A good tip to try is making sure to put time on your calendar for yourself.  It can be easy to fill your calendar with classes and assignments, but sometimes something as simple as putting breaks into your calendar can help you re-establish the importance of those breaks. 

Put down times on your calendar to take care of yourself as well. Time to eat, time to work-out, time to sleep….now we all know that that is an important one but we often do not get enough sleep. 

What’s your favorite hobby or maybe a hobby you would like to try this year, such as kayaking? Put some time on your calendar to make that a reality and do it! 

Take the time to connect with family and friends even if it has to be virtually. Doing all of these things will give you so much more energy back to do the things that you need to get done to be a successful student. 

If you would like to increase your level of happiness and life satisfaction this year, one of the best changes you can make is to find more time in your schedule for a life that reflects what you’d really like to be doing. That balance in life is so important!

For more ideas and reading on this topic, check out this article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/high-octane-women/201202/why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-about-stealing-little-time-yourself


How is Self-Esteem Working for You?

Growing up, many of us have had the idea of how to build self-esteem, how to raise self-esteem, and how to keep a high self-esteem emphasized throughout our school careers. Although self-esteem has its place of importance, I challenge you to take a look at the concept of self-compassion. You see, the problem with self-esteem is that it emphasizes that failure is unacceptable and many times encourages comparison of yourself with others.  Self-Compassion involves being kind to ourselves even when things don’t go our way. Check out this article from Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher on Self-Compassion. https://self-compassion.org/why-self-compassion-is-healthier-than-self-esteem/

In addition, if you are interested in learning more about Self-Compassion, email counseling@mtu.edu to find out more about our Self-Compassion Group.


Having Meaningful, Empathetic Conversations About Racism

Why is racism so hard to talk about? It’s so hard, yet it is so important. Many of us have recognized that change is necessary. But how do we facilitate conversations about race that are meaningful and help us better understand each other? 

The answer may very well be empathy. Empathy is a person’s ability to share and understand each other’s experiences. The good news is that we all can work on being more empathetic toward each other.

In the past month, many people have opened their eyes to the suffering of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) that they had previously ignored or are ignorant to for various reasons. How can we keep our eyes open and bring about positive change? A good place to start is to cultivate and expand upon our empathy. Truly listen to each other, talk to each other, and care for one another. Continue to talk about racism and do our best to try and see things from another person’s perspective.

The way our society is structured, some people think that talking about race is divisive in and of itself, and therefore avoid talking about race. However, a person of color may easily recognize the privilege that a white person has to not discuss race or have to think about race all the time. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Many of us that are in a place of privilege avoid talking about race to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes, so we shy away just to stay on the safe side. Some of us don’t speak out for fear of being called a racist, or any other -ist. But, avoiding this conversation reinforces the sufferings of our underrepresented communities. By taking this bold step of continually communicating with each other with empathy, we can hold each other accountable to the everyday work of anti-racism.

Let’s talk about the different layers of empathy.  The first layer of empathy is cognitive empathy. This layer is impactful in motivating others, negotiating, and thinking about understanding the viewpoints of others. Be sure not to ignore or block out your deeper emotions. If you do, you may assume that you know what the other person is feeling or experiencing. Ask questions directly and listen with your ears and feel with your heart. 

The second layer of empathy is emotional empathy. This is when you literally feel the same emotions and relate to the other person’s experience as if it were your own. As humans, we all experience the same gamut of emotions throughout our lives – anger, fear, happiness are all emotions we feel at times. 

The third layer of empathy is compassionate empathy. With this type of empathy, we understand the person’s situation and feel with them, but we also have the motivation to help. Compassionate empathy considers the whole person (both cognitive and emotional empathy) and we should all strive to step into this type of empathy as much as we can. Gauge each situation and listen to your heart and your thoughts as to which type of empathy to use.

We must have uncomfortable conversations to facilitate change. I hear many of us saying that we want to make changes, but are not sure how to make a difference. Talk to your colleagues, peers, friends and family about what they have been feeling in the last month about all the unrest and racist acts that are happening in the Nation. Take things a step further and have authentic and empathetic conversations with people of all colors to help continue the conversation on how to combat racism.  Use compassionate empathy when talking with BIPOC to gain their full perspective and understand what they are going through as much as possible. By being more empathetic towards each other, we can be more than just an ally. Through compassionate empathy, we can work on understanding the whole person so that we can actively commit to unlearning bias ways of thinking and behaving. We can change the current landscape that teaches us “us vs. them” and instead unite together as “we” to create meaningful, lasting change.

At Counseling Services and across the Michigan Tech campus, our hearts are broken at the violence, discrimination and hatred we have seen unfolding across our nation on members of the Black Community and historically marginalized people. Please take the time, if you have not already, to read A Call to Action written by Kellie Raffaelli, Director for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion and also A Message to Campus regarding George Floyd by President Koubek. 

“As we navigate these challenging times together, let us serve as role models for unity and strength. Let us use our voices, our skills, and our influence to advocate for change. And let us elevate the level of public discourse around equity and inclusivity. The responsibility of justice rests on us all and can only be carried out as one community built upon a plurality of voices.” – President Koubek

In addition, check out this video from former Michigan Tech student, Travis Tidwell, where he has shared his first-hand perspective of his experiences in Houghton. https://www.facebook.com/travie.tidwell/videos/10157998175200073

Please know that Counseling Services is here for you and we hear you. We recognize that you may be experiencing many different emotions that can be difficult to unpack. We are offering times for drop-in healing spaces throughout the summer and fall via Zoom. Summer dates are July 15, July 22, and August 5 from 11am-12pm EST.

If you would like more information on this or need a supportive space to connect with one of our counselors, please contact counseling@mtu.edu.


Flower Breathing to Relieve Stress

During times of stress, make sure to take care of your yourself – your mind, heart, and soul. Deep breathing is a good way to start and will enable you to increase relaxation. Remember to breathe deep to the bottom of your lungs and release your stress as you exhale. Take a look at this post from the Association of University and College Counseling Center Outreach (AUCCCO).

Breathe along with this animation! Art by @colormehappii
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CAL9b_yjHWf/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link


Personal Growth Goals

Continuous self-improvement and self-development are likely things we all strive for as members of the Michigan Tech community. As you go through this summer, I encourage you to come up with some specific ways that you can become a better version of yourself. Summer is often a time of renewal and it can also be a time to reflect on what you may want to improve upon. Take a look at this article for some great tips. “21 Examples of Personal Development Goals for a Better You.”