College is different from high school in so many ways. The main difference is that you have greater freedom over how you manage your lifestyle; namely, you have more opportunities to do what you want to do. As someone who likes having a plan and sticking to a regular schedule, this was frustrating in some ways: everyday looks different to me, and I have to make room for flexibility/change of plans. However, this has also allowed me to explore and experiment different things to do and different ways to do things.
I’ve also realized that, though I have fewer hours of class each day, I spend more time after class preparing, studying and reviewing for my classes. Part of the learning comes from lectures and class discussions, but a large part of it also comes from independently studying the material assigned to you. In order to do this effectively, it’s important to understand how you study and work best.
1. Schedule what you want to do as well as what you actually do.
Scheduling what you want to do helps you be more oriented towards accomplishing those goals. I use the iCloud calendar to schedule all my classes, office hours I want to go to, workout/exercise times, as well as personal time for socializing, blogging, and others. But rarely do I do things by my schedule down to the exact minute, I also schedule what I actually do to see the times in which I’m most productive and can work uninterrupted for periods at a time.
2. Take notes by hand in class, and paste your notes digitally after classes.
In all my classes, my professors emphasize the importance of taking notes by hand. At first, I was skeptical by this idea. How could I possibly take notes by hand as fast and as neatly as I do digitally?
However, over time I gradually switched to taking notes by hand 90% of the time. Why?
- Physically taking notes forces your brain to process the information being presented to you better so that you can write it down as concisely as possible, whereas taking notes on your laptop often leads you to typing down everything you think is important, verbatim.
- You can map out your notes, making it as visual as possible to aid your understanding. It’s harder to do that when you’re typing on a laptop.
- You’re less prone to surf the web when you go old style, and less prone to distracting others as well. Whenever I sit towards the back of the room, I always get distracted by people with laptops in front of me, surfing the web mindlessly. It can be really distracting, annoying, and definitely unnecessary.
You can use pen and paper or a table to write down your notes. Though I have a Surface Pro (a tablet-laptop) that I can use as a notepad, I noticed that I prefer the regular pen and paper style much more. Figure out what suits you best, and stick to it.
Additionally, it’s useful to practice taking notes by hand quicker by learning to write in cursive relatively quickly and neatly. This way, you can actually take notes at a regular speed and understand your notes when you go review them. Talking about reviewing, I have also found it helpful to pass (important) notes to my laptop after classes. I mix my class notes with my reading notes in such way that I can understand them, as having my notes all in one place is useful when it comes to revision.
3. Make a cheat sheet even if you don’t have to.
Similar to taking notes, making a cheat sheet forces you to narrow your notes down to the most important points. It’s impossible to remember every fact, formula or explanation down to the very last detail, so by creating a cheat sheet you’re actually forcing yourself to understand and jot down what you believe is most important to your learning. If you can’t fit everything in, you’ll naturally want to fit in what’s most important.
4. Note down the methods of revision that work best for you.
Each class tests you on different materials and in different ways. Thus, you can’t study for one class the way you study for another. This is how I study for my classes this semester:
Science: I am taking an Astronomy class that is heavy on Physics material, and the midterms and finals are multiple-choice. There are a lot of resources from my class notes, textbook, and online, and these are the ones I usually use:
- Watch Crash Course videos on Astronomy, to refresh and strengthen my understanding
- Re-write slide notes, as test material comes directly from the slides
- Read “Concept Review” from textbook, which provide a nice summary of each chapter
- Review multiple choice questions from each chapter as preparation for the tests
- Learn formulas and when to use them, as a handful of questions comes from knowing which formulas to use and how
- Revision sheets, from class activities/handouts
Language: I am taking Chinese, which means that I have to do at least some revision every day to strengthen my long-term memory. It’s a lot of vocabulary, memorization, and just practice. This is what I usually do pretty much on a daily basis:
- Quizlet, to revise the newest set of vocabs and/or to revise old ones. I try to squeeze these review sessions in between my classes, when I’m waiting for something, or when I’m just procrastinating on my phone. It’s called good procrastination 🙂
- Read the textbook, to see how the vocab is used in context and to practice grammar. Ideally, I do this every morning before heading to classes
- Practice writing, as I have to hand write the characters for my writings and tests. It’s also good practice, as I gradually improve my Chinese handwriting and memorize the vocab better.
I recently found this “spaced repetition” memory technique on Thomas Frank’s website, which I think is really clever if you are seriously looking to expand your language learning beyond classroom usage.
History: This is a Hollywood class on both Film and History, very heavy on reading material and classic films. For this class, a lot of the revision lies in how well my notes are from class lectures, readings, and films. I’m also taking a Philosophy class, and I study and review for it in a similar manner to a History class:
- Read the assigned reading materials by noting down the argument, as well as specific examples. For Philosophy, I find it very helpful to read other people’s summaries on the Philosophers/texts that I have to read, as I can get different views on the same topic. However, there are pretty much zero summaries/reviews online for my Hollywood class, so I can only trust my reading skills to get the main ideas of the text before discussing it class.
- Review my notes, especially while I copy my handwritten notes to my Word document with all my other notes for the class. This helps to refresh my memory of the material dealt with in class that day, as well as piece my thoughts more coherently.
- Draft, draft, draft. For the writing assignments, it’s good to write one, two or even three drafts before turning them in. I do this by getting my first draft done days before the assignment is due, and then sleeping on it and coming back to it and seeing if my ideas have changed or not.
5. Use your school/college’s resources as MUCH as you can!
This means going to review sessions and office hours, signing up for peer-to-peer tutoring, and even conferring with friends about homework or test material. As an introvert, I’m not a fan of doing “extra” academic work that includes socializing. But more often than not, they have helped me understand the material quicker and with a different perspective:
- Office hours: whenever I’m given an assignment and I have doubts or concerns about my paper, the best way to clarify them is to go directly to your source.
- Peer-to-peer tutoring: some classes offer this service wherein another student helps you with your homework or assignment. Though the student may not always provide the help that you need as well as your teacher would, they are definitely helpful in providing you a different approach to your way of doing this.
- Other resources that your school offers. It’s definitely ‘extra work’ to ask for help outside of class, but it really helps for classes that you have most trouble with and when a big assignment is to be due. If you’re particularly interested in the class, it allows your teacher to see that you’re truly engaged in it!
Sleep, eat and exercise. Three simple things, yet when life’s demands get in the way, it’s easy to push these things aside. But for me, these three things are non-negotiable. As someone who fusses over the smallest things, mulls over assignments and stresses about school work easily, I have learned to prioritize my health. I may not always be able to control my emotions or how I react to particular situations, but I can control my lifestyle. By controlling the physical aspects of my health, I am also helping keep myself mentally and emotionally sane. Now that I’m in college, it’s easy to fall into the temptations of social pressure and delicious food places that surround me. But, as my life has gotten more regular and stable, so have my habits. This is what I *normally* do to keep that up:
Sleep. I need at least 7 hours of sleep each night to function like a normal person – ideally 8-9, so I go to bed between 11pm-12:30am, and wake up around 7:30-8:30 every day. All my classes start in the morning and end early afternoon, so it’s crucial that I wake up feeling rested in order to be able to focus well.
I often find myself in need of a mid-afternoon nap. I combat this by letting myself take a nap, for ideally 30 minutes. Even though power naps can help you focus better, they can also be dangerous. Over-napping is a real thing, and it’s an awful feeling waking up from a nap and seeing that it’s already dark outside. So other times, I drink coffee during lunch if I have the stomach for it; however, it’s not always the most efficient option for me, and personally I would rather not grow ‘dependent’ on it.
So, the best way to combat this is by actually getting quality hours of sleep at night, and finding other activities to prevent me from falling prey of z’s, such as taking a walk after lunch before heading back home to do work, doing some light exercising to increase blood flow, or just pausing from whatever task I’m doing lest I grow even wearier.
Eat. I live in my college dorm, which comes with a meal plan, so I eat most of my meals at the school dining halls. The tricky thing about this is that all the dining halls are all-you-can-eat, so it’s easy to overindulge in foods when you’re really hungry or stressed about work. So this is what I’ve been doing:
- Breakfast: I make porridge with milk and granola (or just milk with cereal), paired with a fruit (usually a banana) that I eat later in between my classes. About once a week, I have a full meal at the dining hall with eggs, pastries, and bagels (and other yummy food).
- Lunch: I am hungriest at this time of the day, so I eat at the dining hall and get most of my nutrients of the day: veggies, eggs, some meat, sometimes a bagel (if I haven’t had it for breakfast) and coffee.
- Dinner: Sometimes I buy a wheat wrap with chicken and veggies from the school’s food cafe/market. If I’m not too hungry, I have milk with cereal, coupled with a fruit and/or a pastry that I brought home from the dining hall.
- Snacks: I have a big Kirkland Mixed Nuts jar sitting on my desk, and I snack on it every time I crave something. I also take small packs of nuts or granola bars in my backpack in case I get hungry in between classes. I also have chocolate, sometimes cookies and other not-so-good snacks lying around in my room. The way I control my intake of these snacks is by limiting myself from buying such snacks to 1-2 times a month.
One thing to note is that because I’m living in my college dorm, I can’t really cook. My meal plan allows me to have 10 meals a week, but because I’ve used part of the meal points to buy groceries (milk, cereal, and other foods), I have started to ration my meals so I have enough points till the end of the semester. I make my breakfast most days and don’t eat at the dining hall for dinner (when it’s the most expensive), but I always make sure I eat there for lunch to get my nutrients of the day.
Even though campus is surrounded by myriads of food places, I don’t eat out by myself that much. Lately I’ve been eating out about once a week, and if I eat out it’s usually with someone else or to treat myself. I spend money on groceries, because I believe that eating well is worth every penny, but I don’t think eating out is that worthwhile, especially as most restaurants (and even the dining halls themselves) don’t offer the healthiest food options.
Exercise. This is where I like to have the most fun in. I like to mix exercising with sports, so I joined my uni’s recreational figure skating team at the start of the year. Besides that, what I have been doing on my own is explore the exercise opportunities that I can do. As a student at my university, I get free access to the gym – including the myriads of cardio, strength-training and other group classes that it offers. Lately, I’ve been very into power yoga, which I do about 2-3 times a week. On other days, I like to combine nature with exercising, so I go hiking or for a run. I don’t exactly live in the safest neighborhood, so I can’t really go that far, but I can go far enough.
All these three things are bound together: if you sleep well, you will eat well, and you will exercise well. If you fail on sleep, you will need to compensate it with a nap during the day, depriving you of your exercise-time. If you don’t eat well, you will most likely not have the energy to do things as well, such as exercising. If you don’t exercise, I find that it makes it harder for me to sleep at a consistent time every day, thus disrupting my sleep cycle.
I was down with a cold for nearly 2 months since the start of the Fall semester, and it most definitely took a toll on my performance. There were some weeks in which my cough prevented me from falling asleep peacefully at night, or I coughed so much during class that I found myself not able to speak up when I had something to say, or not being able to breathe normally because my nose was so clogged up. I would come home from school tired and beat. This persistent told made me realize that I have a weak immune system, so it’s even more important that I take care of the aspects of my health that I do have control over. Stress, anxiety and other worries affect my immune system, but if I take control over my lifestyle, I will be able to manage my health much better.
This just comes to show that we each have different needs, strengths and weaknesses that are individual to each of us. I’m prone to getting cold (and getting a cold) easily, which means that I have to pay special attention to how I take care of myself accordingly. Understanding what your body needs and finding your own balance is the key to keeping you healthy.
I love when the sun rises early in the morning, and sets late at night, making the days seem longer and fuller. I enjoy walking out of my building and being greeted by the sunlight, even when it sometimes greets me too fiercely. I particularly relish my weekend morning walks around other parts of the neighborhood that I don’t normally pass by during the week. I love how the college dorms here are not inside campus, but rather in the areas surrounding it; it gives me the freedom to explore other parts of this town-like place, and it allows me to take these blissful morning walks. I am someone who believes in enjoying the small things in life, especially when nature is part of it. Taking a walk is the simplest way to wind down from the frenzy of life that surrounds us each day.
Taking a walk means challenging life’s demands. When I find that I’m overwhelmed by the demands of life, I make a conscious effort to walk in the places where nature is my surrounding company. It reminds me that I can choose to either rush my day to get as many things done as possible, or do a few things with thoughtful consideration without overstimulating myself. The world won’t end regardless of how much I squeeze into one day, so I might as well choose to spend it in the best way possible for me.
Taking a walk means doing something for yourself. By yourself. We easily spend so much time stimulating our senses artificially that we deprive us of true alone time. We listen to music on our phones whilst we type away on our laptops, we watch videos or read articles online when we’re bored, we text people while we walk. Whenever we’re not interacting with others one-on-one, we fill our voids with the immediate stimulation that our devices can offer. But when we do this, we lose being in the company of ourselves. Taking a walk means listening to your footsteps, looking at the path in front of you, and noticing the details that surrounds you. Though I often feel like distracting myself with a good movie or burying my head in a book, it’s good to ground oneself back to reality at the end of the day.
Taking a walk means noticing our surroundings with a childlike curiosity. There are increasingly more places to see, cities to travel, and adventures to have. It’s always fascinating to go on a roadtrip adventure or visit an exotic place, as it’s literally an escape from our more mundane reality. It’s fun and important to travel somewhere where the culture and reality is different to that of your own, as it’s a valuable experience in itself. But it’s also important to remember that the things that surround us every day can be just as special. You don’t need to travel long distances to find novelty; you can find it exactly where you are right now, if you choose to do so.
I believe that it’s important to accept this before you decide to go out and explore more. It’s important to accept this because only then can you see everything that surrounds you with curiosity, not just the grand exotic places. It’s important to appreciate the richness in all the big and small things.
So, take a walk around your area, but take a different path this time. What story are behind the homes that you see? How do you feel, walking along a calm residential area as opposed to a busy city street? What sounds do you hear – are they human, animal or nature sounds? Welcome any thoughts that come into your mind as you walk along.
It’s a strange feeling, starting college in the summer. When everyone’s leaving school, and you’re just starting. But this is also what makes it all the more special. Waking up everyday to the sun shining and going to bed not too long after the sun sets. This made the days seem longer than they were, and it helped me seize the day after classes.
Students were from all over the place. Most of them were incoming freshmen or transfer students, but a lot were from other places too. Some were international students – they were just here for the summer. Others were from community college, and there were even high school students taking the same classes as we were. The thing I loved most about this was the diversity that was naturally created. The diversity in class, personal background and experience, even if many of the students came from similar ethnic and racial backgrounds. But it was a bummer, meeting great people only to learn later that they were just there for the summer.
After a few weeks of moving in, I grew comfortable with my being in this new setting. I woke up and went to bed at regular times, ate my (healthy) meals everyday, and exercised by trying out all the martial arts clubs and taking all kinds of group exercise classes offered at my university’s gym. As for academics, I gradually became more comfortable as I learned to handle the workload based on the difficulty of the class. Fortunately, none of the courses I took were excruciatingly difficult, unlike other (STEM) classes I heard about. I spent the first few weeks of school studying and working in the comforts of my dorm room. My (lovely) roommate was an extrovert who spent most of her time in the floor lounge, so I often had the room to myself. I could work on my desk or on my bed with comfy clothes on, nap whenever I needed (or wanted) to, eat food I took (*stole*) from the dining hall, and stare longingly out my window.
But then I started hunting for other study spots. I am in a triple room for the academic year, so holing myself up in my room is not always a viable option. I have found some great libraries on campus and outdoor spots to work peacefully, but I don’t know how that’s gonna work out once the influx of freshmen come in.
Though I decided to start college in the summer to get a head start with my courses right away (after a long gap year), my days in summer were not defined by my classes; rather, it was working out my new life and seeing how my classes fit into them.
As summer was nearing its end, however, my ‘disciplined’ life was completely thwarted. I stopped sleeping 8-9 hours a day, but I often found myself more awake than I had been when I did hit those hours. I stopped exercising regularly, and instead tried to make the adventures that we did into some form of exhilarating activity. I stopped eating with a healthy conscience, and instead enjoyed each meal that we tried together. As a pretty uptight girl, I would have been pretty concerned with this sudden change of self.
But it all happened from one day to the next, and it happened all so naturally. Though I will continue to see most of the people that I’ve met in the summer, I will rarely (if ever) see some of them again. So I tried to make the most of it with them, and it made this summer an incredible one. Some of our days were filled with sunrise yoga, feeding squirrels all over campus, and a (long and tedious) hike to see the night sky, while others consisted of taking (adventurous) walks, watching films and having late night (sleepy) talks. It was exciting and heartwarming exploring my new home with people I had just met, yet become so close with. They taught me that it wasn’t really about what or how much we did in the time we had, but rather about how we did them, together.
As summer has ended, I look back at it with a pang of nostalgia that I’ve become familiar with. But this time, though I’ll continue to live here for the rest of my college years, nothing will be the same as it was this past summer. The faces I used to see everyday – even if I rarely interacted with them – will now be faces I see amidst a crowd, rarely. The people I used to have class with, some I might not even see at all. Those I used to dine and play ping pong with, will no longer be there. As much as I wanted to deny it, I had become more attached than I had intended.
But that’s ok. It’s the fleetingness in our life that allows us to treasure our times together and make the most of it.
As summer is coming to an end, I thought I would talk about my experience taking summer college classes.
Personally, I decided to start college in the summer instead of in the fall because I have already taken a gap year ‘break’ from school. I wouldn’t have taken summer classes if I were coming to college straight after school; I like to spend my summers doing something different, or enhancing my skills in a non-academic context.
However, I love the experience that I gained from this academic summer session, and if you are considering doing it too, here’s a list of pros and cons for you to consider: (Note that this is solely based on my experience!)
benefits of taking summer college classes
You can move ahead in your major or explore other courses that may be too filled up during the year.
This is particularly so if you’re in a large school and have to ‘fight’ for courses during the academic year. The population at my university is huge, so enrollment for classes is always very stressful. For summer, however, I was able to enroll in the classes that I wanted without worrying about not getting in.
If you’re an out-of-state student attending a public school, summer classes tuition will be ‘cheaper’ for you, as you’ll pay the same as someone who is in-state.
I am an out-of-country student, so tuition is definitely more expensive for me during the academic year. But my summer fees are the same as that of an in-state student, so it’s a ‘win’ for me.
There are not as many distractions.
During the summer, most extracurricular activities are on a pause, so you’ll be able to focus better on your academics. You’ll be able to start exploring campus before all the chaos of the academic year kicks in – and that’s a pretty cool and different way to transition into college.
disadvantages of taking summer college classes
Summers should be spent doing something different.
Even if you’re not doing something to build up your resume, e.g. volunteering or interning, you can still use this time to work on yourself. Time is valuable, but so are you.
I feel that the hardest aspect of college is not studying – everyone can buckle down and study (or cram) if they are under pressure. The difficult thing is in understanding why you take the classes that you do, what you can do with your education, and what your priorities are. You can only do this if you actually take time off the system and think about it.
So, go out, explore, and discover.
It’s harder to get an internship and/or work on other side projects.
If you are hoping to get an internship at the career that you’re intending to follow, or hoping to work on any other projects, summer classes might ruin this for you. At least half of your time will be spent attending classes and studying/working for them – which is not too much, but you will be left with less energy to work on other things.
Classes are very fast-paced.
There’s only 2 months (or less) to learn all the material that you would normally learn in a semester or quarter system. This means that you have to be ready to condense a lot of knowledge and information in half the time. This should be doable as you’ll be taking no more than half the classes that you would during an academic year, e.g. a normal semester workload is 4 classes; for the summer, it’s 2 classes.
You won’t be able to move around or travel too much.
If you’re hoping to travel or go on adventures, your possibilities will be limited if you’re physically taking classes at some college. However, this won’t be that big of a deal if you’re not from the area, or if you prioritize your academics over travel.
alternatives to taking summer college classes
Spend the summer abroad.
If you do this through your college, it can allow you to do two things at once: intern/take classes and explore the new country. It’s a perfect combination, and it’s a great and enriching way to spend your summer.
Take online classes.
Though online classes are not as much fun, it will give you more flexibility to manage your routine and accomplish other things, including traveling and working/living somewhere else. I would recommend this for a class that you are not looking forward to, as you’ll be able to get it out of the way quickly in the summer.
If you attend a 4-year college, you can take 1-2 classes at a nearby community college.
If there are classes that you need to satisfy, you don’t necessarily need to do so at your (expensive) college – you could check out which community colleges can satisfy these requirements for you. The perks of this are cheaper tuition and cheaper classes. However, you will also need to find housing near the college, which may be a nuisance if you don’t know the area really well.
Personally, I am really happy with my decision to start college in the summer. Because orientation doesn’t start until fall, I had to explore my college campus by myself (or with friends), which helped me become more college-independent. As an international student, I also love having used this time to get used to the new environment, explore the area, and plan for my upcoming semester with the campus at my reach.
One of the hardest things about my gap year was keeping track of my progress by myself. With no teachers grading me and no classes to attend to, with what means do I even measure my progress?
For me, it was a matter of trial and error before I found out what worked best for me. I started my gap year with a list of things I believed I wanted to accomplish, and every month I would review and tweak parts of it. You can see how my goals changed from 2016 to 2017 on this page. Below, I will comment on each of the 5 categories that I worked on in the past year. I hope you enjoy!
This involves college applications, classes I took online, and anything academics-related.
2016: A lot of my focus inevitably went towards my college applications – retaking a few standardized tests, researching for colleges, drafting dozens of essays, and all that stuff. The only part that I truly cherish from this arduous process are the essays. I could see how much my thoughts, mentality and writing style had changed since the previous year. As someone who writes, blogs and journals frequently, it was really uplifting to tangibly see my progress.
Additionally, I took some classes that I was interested in academically. This included psychology (one of my intended majors), coding, and a little of web design. I took these courses on Coursera and Codecademy, and though I didn’t love taking classes, they gave me the general insight I needed to become familiar with these fields.
2017: This year was very different. I focused a lot of my education in other ways (that you’ll see later in this post), and mainly brainstormed and planned long-term goals for college. I realized that I am very much interested in psychology and cognitive science in college, looked into other possible minors, researched the clubs and organizations available at my college (once I knew where I would be attending), looked into the ‘different’ types of classes and opportunities available, and mapped out a general 4-year plan for college. So, very college-focused, but also very concentrated on my interests.
This includes activities directly related to my emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
2016: I tried out so many activities and classes this year: meditation, yoga, Pilates, Systema (a Russian self-defense martial arts), ballet, and strength-trained jogged, biked and roller skated on my own. I did not stick with all of these, but they allowed me to understand and take care of my body much better.
2017: I continued taking classes on ballet and Systema – both which I absolutely loved. I learned about beauty and poise in ballet, and the myriad of bio-mechanic skills that Systema taught me opened my understanding about the human body. I also started jogging more, and experienced runner’s high in my first 10k (6.2 miles) race for the first time! I continued to meditate when I needed to (though not as religiously as before), and strength-trained when I deemed it fit. This year was a continuation and consolidation of the activities that I believe helped me most.
All about things that I deeply love and cherish: books, mistyprose (blogging), writing and creativity-related activities
2016 and ’17: I read 100+ books and started a new challenge of reading the world. I got more into photography and learned more about my ‘aesthetic’. I joined the bullet journal community, explored different styles of journaling – morning pages, 5-minute morning journal, gratitude journal, among others. I loved all these activities.
But my proudest personal achievement was creating mistyprose. It started out as The Sapphire, a blog about books, but as my passions started to shift during my gap year, so did the focus of my blog. Earlier this year, I ‘re-branded’ my blog as mistyprose, and realized that my content was varied, but also with a touch of my own style. I promote my blog through Instagram and Tumblr, platforms where I could share my photography too. A few months ago, after getting my (first) camera, I decided to try making videos. As more of a blogger person, this became a new but exciting field to me that I’ve yet to explore further.
This is about traveling, learning new languages, socializing, and volunteering.
2016: Fresh out of high school, I was so eager to travel during my gap year. I thought that backpacking around the world would make me into an independent adult, and I couldn’t wait to get started. However, my (tiger) mom thankfully prevented me from making such rash decisions, as I am a young and naive girl, fresh out of high school. So I started learning languages. I got into German, but couldn’t find my connection with it so I dropped it. I took up American Sign Language (ASL), having learnt Peruvian Sign Language already. I then also started learning Italian, and I loved it. I also became the translation coordinator for this huge and admirable NGO, something that makes me proud to say.
2017: This year, I realized that I don’t need to physically travel to satisfy my wanderlust soul. I travel when I read books. I travel when I walk to the park and see the sky and the trees with a renewed sense of wonder. I can travel whenever and however. Traveling can be fun, and it’s always an amazing experience to have. But the fallacy in only wanting to travel is not seeing the value of the things that are surrounding you already.
Additionally, I continued learning Italian and ASL, by taking online lessons and/or reading about them. The most important step, however, was my decision to start learning Chinese again. Mandarin Chinese is my first language, but I barely know how to read or write in it. It was after visiting my family in Taiwan in early 2017 that I realized that I needed to learn to communicate properly in Chinese.
Instruments and music-related endeavors.
2016 and ’17: Music has been an integral part of my life ever since I was young. I still remember seeing a cello for the first time back in 3rd grade, and watching my cello teacher play the instrument with such expertise and ease. Thus, I learned the cello for several years at school, and then got into the national music conservatory. A year later I joined the national youth symphony orchestra, and then went back to taking private lessons again.
Though I am far from being able to call myself a true cellist, my journey with my cello has been a wholesome one. I learned what ‘passion’ means from other musicians; I saw the hardworking class of the music industry in Peru; and I learned a valuable skill that I will try to cherish for the rest of my life. My gap year allowed me to understand why music is important to me. I went out of my comfort zone and taught violin at a public school; violin’s not my specialty, but I know the theory well enough to teach beginner students.
Something new that I started doing in 2017 was teach myself the piano. My brother used to play the piano a lot, so we have a keyboard at home. I purchased a few beginner books and easy pieces on the Kindle, and that got me started. I love the sound of the piano, but whether I will continue this during college is another matter that I’ll have to decide later on.
So. I read, learned and discovered many things in my gap year, but I did not do so without endless nights of pondering about my personal interests and periods of self-doubt and distress. However, as I look back into this year with sweet reminiscence, I cannot help but be grateful for all that I’ve gained since then. My ‘hardships’ cannot compare to what many have to endure in their lives, but it has allowed me to see past my insecurities with greater faith. As Viktor Frankl once said,
If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.
Now that i’m in college, it’s easier to think back and reminisce about the things I liked the most about school: the consistent routine, the predictability of my school environment, and going back to my precious home at the end of the day.
As an introvert, I rejoiced in the alone time I had at home. Away from the buzz of school activities, I could work without major external distractions. Over the weekends, I gradually learned to say ‘no’ to outings with friends/acquaintances when I didn’t feel like going, in favor of more time to work on my passion projects.
During my gap year, while everyone else was progressively moving on with their lives at college, I learned to be okay with doing my own things. Long periods of self-reflection and pondering about my future allowed me to bring more meaning into my life. But getting comfortable with being alone by myself has always been a challenging phase at every step of my life.
College has not been an exception. The first 2 weeks of living on campus have made me realize that I can rarely be alone without feeling like I’m missing out on something. The nights that I spend working in my room, I can hear laughter erupting every few minutes in the lounge room a few walls away from my seat. Weekend (party) nights start on Thursday here, which means that these nights I go to sleep with loud music soothing me to sleep.
On top of being an introvert, I can also be shy and awkward in unfamiliar situations. My introversion makes me want to be alone most of the time. My awkwardness makes me recoil whenever I act or say something awkwardly. My shyness prevents me from approaching a group of people in the middle of whatever it is that they’re doing or talking about. The struggle is real.
Of course, there are moments in which I put myself out there. Moments in which I just shove my introversion aside, or go forth despite my awkwardness and shyness. But, oftentimes, I can no longer retrieve into my room without feeling guilty for not being or doing more of something. Should I be hanging out more with my floor mates? Should I be making more ‘social’ plans over the weekend? Am I doing enough?
FOMO and such feelings are not new to me, and I’m sure that all of you have experienced this at some point in your lives. Even as an shy and awkward introvert, having a well-balanced social life is crucial for my happiness and emotional wellbeing. It can influence my self-esteem, ability to focus on my work, and emotional stability. But FOMO in college is a new scene for me, and the novelty of everything makes this task extra-daunting.
But it’s now 3 weeks since I moved into campus, and these lingering feelings of FOMO and self-doubt are slowly being overcast by understanding what my priorities are. Though I can be vulnerable and tempted to my social surroundings, keeping grounded to who I am and what I want have been helpful in allowing me to make peace with the things that I miss out on. At the end of the day, I’m happier having control of my own actions, rather than just responding to my external stimuli.
It’s been 10 days since I’ve moved here. By ‘here’ I mean a college dorm at a city in California, my new home for the next 4 years. The change of moving from Peru to the US and living independent of my parents has not been as drastic as I thought it would be. My new surrounding is quite accommodating – despite the relatively unsafe neighborhoods surrounding my dorm and college – so overall I settled down well and fairly quickly. My parents came with me to the US and helped me move in; a few days later, they left. And life continued.
The past week and a half have been hectic though, to say the least. Moving to a new country, attending my brother’s college graduation prior to moving in to my dorm, attending welcoming events and such, attending classes, exploring the new environment, meeting people, ensuring that I have all I need in my new home, and so on. It’s been crazy, but most of this has gone by smoother than I thought.
I am starting college this summer (weird time to start college), as I have already had my long gap year break. I’ll be taking 2 courses during this time; my first class started last week, and my other class starts 2 weeks later (so, the following week). Though this means that workload will be a little more fast-paced beginning from next week, I’m glad that I have these 2 weeks to just settle in.
In many ways, starting college in the summer has been good for me. I am able to settle in to the college workload earlier, giving me a slight head start to those who will be moving in after the summer. I can start taking classes that go towards my major and/or fields of interest now, as my gap year has allowed me to truly know what it is that fascinates me. Most importantly, I can use this time to really settle into my new home, set new goals, habits and routines that will prepare me for my first year of college.
If you’re a prospective college freshman, I wouldn’t recommend starting college right after finishing school. I’m only taking summer classes because I’ve had my loong break already, and I highly value the time spent away from school and the academic system. It’s important to pull ourselves away from any system for some time, so that we can figure out what we want to do for ourselves when there’s no one telling us to do so. Your summers should be spent exploring, adventuring, learning and being you. There is no need to rush college; it will come when the time comes.
This blog, and everything I else I did around ‘mistyprose’ has been my proudest personal achievement in the past year, as I can really see how my mentality and ways of expression have developed since I started this blog. It has allowed me to pursue the things that intrigue and excite me the most, with no fear of judgment from those around me. Even though I hide my real identity here, doing so has allowed me to direct the focus of my blog on the work that I produce, and not on myself.
I wish I knew where mistyprose is heading, but the future seems so uncertain at the moment. Hopefully I’ll figure it out soon.
Hello! This is a post detailing some of the things that I’m loving, doing and enjoying as of now. Some of these are things that I’ve recently picked up; others are things that I’ve been enjoying for a while. In order to prevent this post from going on endlessly, I will name only 5 things per category. Please, enjoy!
As a lifestyle blogger, I read and watch a lot of online content creators too. Below are some of the ones I watch most consistently (though it was hard to choose just 5):
- krist & yu: Krist creates lifestyle & travel videos, and her personality is very bubbly and relatable in all of them. This is actually her second channel (her main is called krist soup); both are different in their content, but personally I enjoy the more personal and motivational content of this one.
- Anna Akana: Anna’s this badass comedian who also creates (very pro) advice & lifestyle videos. I love how each one of her videos leaves me with an open-ended question, usually based on things that we may encounter in our day-to-day lives. Her videos are scripted, filmed and edited with the help of other people, but unlike some channels, I feel that her content stays true to her personality.
- Conan Gray: Conan creates artsy, creative and lifestyle videos, and his aesthetic is very retro and cute af. I love how his content can appeal to an audience of any gender,
- Jordan Clark: Jordan’s my fave new youtuber so far. Her DIY’s, lifestyle and travel videos are just so soothing and aesthetically pleasing to watch. Her DIY’s are really good, creative and not too hard to recreate, which makes them all the more appealing.
- Thomas Frank: Thomas’ videos are very study and motivation-related, and his content is always very helpful and enjoyable to watch. His videos are also backed up by a detailed blog post, with steps on how to follow his advice.
These are some of the things that I’ve been using this year. I’ve had all of these items for at least a few months now, so I’ve had plenty of time to ‘get to know’ these items in detail:
- Hobonichi Cousin Planner: I love how this planner has monthly, weekly AND daily planning. The layout is very visual, which allows me to plan neatly ahead of time. I also use it daily as a journal, and for anything I fancy, as it has enough space to allow me to explore my journalistic desires.
- Kindle Voyage (& marble cover): this is my bible. I use it everyday, and I treasure it very much. It’s the size of my hand, and it’s very lightweight and convenient to carry around!!
- Game of Thrones Leather-Cloth Boxed Set: yes, I only bought this set because it’s beautiful. I’ve read the first 2 books on my kindle, because the words here are TINY. I propped this set up on my bookshelf as soon as I got it, and I look at it everyday. It’s beautiful.
- Olympus PEN E-PL7: this is the (only) camera that I have to film and take pictures. I use a pastel-ish filter for all my photos as well as most of my videos. It’s not the best camera out there, but it’s small, very pretty, easy to handle, and it does the job for me. It’s also pretty much a fashion accessory itself.
- Fuzzy slippers that mop the floor: these slippers allow me to be lazy and clean at the same time. I wear these when it’s cold (so, during winter), and allows me to (kind of) clean my floor when I walk from place to place.
I don’t have many apps on my phone due to limited storage (though I’m getting a new phone soon), but this has allowed me to use my apps efficiently. These are the ones that I mainly use to maintain my productivity, and the great thing is that all of them are free:
- Reminders: This helps me keep track of my daily tasks and events. I create different lists, including “morning”, “afternoon”, “night” and “bored?” to remind myself what to do or what I could be doing during the designated time. I personally think that it’s a great way to take advantage of this free app.
- Notes: This is for anything I want to remember and keep on my phone, ranging from book quotes, things I aspire to be, blog post ideas, and packing lists. It’s the Microsoft Word of my phone.
- Goodreads: THIS. Is where I keep my very own virtual bookshelf. I can track books I’m currently reading, want to read, and have read. I can also create bookshelves to separate books by genres and types, and basically keep an orderly record of all my books.
- Quizlet: I hate studying vocab, but Quizlet makes it much more fun and bearable. Besides being able to create online flashcards, you can also play games and take tests to review your memory.
- Clue: this is a life SAVIOR for all you girls and women out there. You can keep track of your period AND other details such as emotions, discomforts, feelings, etc. The more detail you give to this app, the more information it will give to you regarding your body. I think it’s amazing to get all this for free.
books & quotes
Books are the best tool for self-education that you’ll ever have. During my gap year, books were my source of comfort, solace, entertainment, and learning. I read fiction when I felt the need to escape to a different world; I read self-help when I was losing touch with whom I was; I read psychology to deepen my intrinsic interest for this field; I read any other book to deepen my understanding in such field. The following are 5 books that I’ve just read or am currently reading, and a quote to give you some insight into each book:
- Fiction – The Forty Rules of Love
“You care too much about what other people think. But you know what? Because you are so desperate to win the approval of others, you’ll never get rid of their criticisms, no matter how hard you try.”
- Personal Finance – Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending
“knowing we have access to wonderful things undermines our happiness by reducing our tendency to appreciate life’s small joys.”
“Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work, wheareas economics represents how it actually does work.”
- Housekeeping – Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House
“You can be male and domestic. You can have a career and be domestic. You can enjoy keeping house. No one is too superior or intelligent to care for hearth and home.”
- Language – Italian Short Stories for Beginners
“One of the main benefits of reading stories is that you gain exposure to large amounts of natural Italian. This kind of reading for pleasure is commonly known as extensive reading. This is very different from how you might read Italian in a textbook. Your textbook contains short dialogues, which you read in detail with the aim of understanding every word. This is known as intensive reading.”
My favorite songs change so fast that by the time I publish this post, the top 5 songs that I’m listening to would have already changed. That’s why I make monthly playlists on Spotify to keep track of my favorite songs per month. The following are songs that I was listening to nonstop at some point in the near past, and I hope you like them too!
- Room for 2 by Dua Lipa
- Intertwined by Dodie
- You & Me (Flume Remix) by Disclosure
- Indian Summer by Jai Wolf
- Good Love by Jome
What are some of your current faves?