Bookworm Bloggin’: Cradle and All by James Patterson

lg-cradleandall-teen-editionSynopsis

In Boston, a young woman finds herself pregnant–even though she is still a virgin.

In Ireland, another young woman discovers she is in the same impossible condition.

And in cities all around the world, medical authorities are overwhelmed by epidemics, droughts, famines, floods, and worse. It all feels like a sign that something awful is coming.

Anne Fitzgerald, a former nun turned private investigator, is hired by the Archdiocese of Boston to investigate the immaculate conceptions. Even as she comes to care about and trust the young women, she realizes that both are in great danger. Terrifying forces of light and darkness are gathering. Stepping into uncharted territory where the unknown is just the beginning, Anne must discover the truth–to save the young women, to save herself, and to protect the future of all mankind.

Review

As someone who works at a bookstore, I often find myself in a position to give book recommendations in various genres. As a result, I’ve been trying to branch out and read books by popular authors as well as reading books that I wouldn’t otherwise read. While Cradle and All is certainly not among the typical young adult books that I usually read, I was drawn to this story and I thought it would be the perfect first-look into the vast array of books by James Patterson.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book, it would be “gripping”. Cradle and All is a page-turning masterpiece! I found Patterson’s writing style to be extremely entrancing and I had a hard time putting this book down to go to sleep or go to work. In short: this was a great introduction to James Patterson’s works.

While I am not an overly religious person, the religious presence in this book was very intriguing to me. The plot line of the story can only be described as a rapid-fire and bizarre. I mean, how could a story about two pregnant virgins NOT be captivating?

With that being said, my one major critique of this book is the lack of character development. While I felt that Patterson did a great job of developing Anne’s character as well as Kathleen, I felt like I didn’t really get to know the other characters very well. I found this to be a bit confusing as I read through certain chapters because I would have to take a moment and pause to remember who a character was or what role they had in the story.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed how this novel has been updated from previous editions to include references to popular culture figures such as Adele as well as the characters’ use of Twitter. While I can’t compare this book to the previous editions of the story because this is the only version I have read, I still appreciated these updates and I think these small changes could actually attract the interest of a younger demographic of readers who might be put off by older literature. Sometimes it really is the small details that count!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and the only disappointment came when I was forced to put it down. I would recommend this to anyone who has not yet delved into the wonderful world of James Patterson and I can’t wait to explore his other work! Definitely a must-read!

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. 

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25 things that make me happy- #tag

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I’m not usually one to follow tags or trending topics; however, I recently came across the 25 things that make me happy tag and I thought I would give it a go. I could definitely use some positivity right about now!

  1. A warm cup of coffee in the morning
  2. Listening to music during the bus/train ride to work/school
  3. My family
  4. My friends
  5. Memories of my dog
  6. Reading!! 
  7. Journaling and self-reflection
  8. Playing my guitar
  9. Tea
  10. Me-time
  11. Imagining the future
  12. My therapist
  13. Going for a walk
  14. Watching YouTube videos that cheer me up
  15. Thought-provoking conversations
  16. Learning/school
  17. Talking to my best friend
  18. Playing with my brother’s cats when I visit him
  19. Warm, cozy clothes on a crisp autumn day
  20. Autumn
  21. Pumpkin spiced everything
  22. Photography
  23. Cuddling with my Dad while watching TV (forever a daddy’s girl)
  24. Blogging
  25. Feeling loved and supported

This list is obviously by no means exhaustive, but it includes a lot of the things the little things I do all the time as well as some of the things that I don’t get to do often but I cherish when I can.

It truly is amazing how much of a difference it can make to your day if you take a moment to sit down and think about things that make you happy or joyful. Writing this post brought a smile to my face more than once and it made me realize the value in keeping a gratitude journal. The power of positive thinking is a tremendous thing.

xo
Ayla

Nostalgia: A secret anxiety-fighting weapon

balance-childhood-nostalgia-photography-favim-com-138417Nostalgia. It’s that feeling that takes you back to a happier moment in time; perhaps a more peaceful moment in time.

Sometimes I feel like a small child longing for that treasured item that brings comfort. It could be a stuffed animal, a favorite toy, or maybe even a blanket.

For me, my comfort blanket is quite literally a blanket. It’s a relatively new item, not one from my childhood; but the fabric and texture is identical to that of the blanket which I used to wrap around myself while cuddling with my dog on the couch at my parents’ old house. Now, when I’m lying awake at night stressing out about who-knows-what, I wrap myself up in this blanket and I can almost imagine that I’m hugging my childhood dog.

nostalgic-quotes-1For many years my dog was often the only source of companionship or support that I had in my home environment. There was always a lot of tension in my family but my dog was always a source of undying love. Or at least he was until he died in September 2015. His passing broke my heart and absolutely shattered me for months. Nearly one year later I’ve come to treasure the memories that I have of him and I’m able to find support in the love that exists in those memories as well as in the love that I still have for him even though he is no longer physically here.

When I think of my fur-brother, I feel many things. I feel sadness, grief, and loneliness because he is no longer with me, but I also feel peace and comfort at the idea that he is somehow watching over me and wagging his tail. When I’m going through really hard times, often the only thing that gets me through the day is wrapping my arms around a pillow and imagining myself hugging him. It’s not the same; but nostalgia is a powerful feeling and the memory of hugging him has helped me get through many rough days.

Alternatively, there are certain fragrances and tastes which bring back memories that are soothing. For example, my best friend loves the smell and taste of peaches so whenever I visit her she always has peach-scented candles. So, when I was at work yesterday and I came across a package of peach tea in the clearance section, I knew that I needed to break my no-spending rule for the sake of anxiety relief. Tea is soothing in and of itself a lot of the time, but this one in particular reminds me so much of my best friend. I don’t get to see her very often because we live so far away from each other for university so anything that reminds me of her also reminds me of all of the wonderful things that I love about her. One of the traits that I cherish about her is her support. So, in a roundabout sort of way, this tea reminded me that I am supported and loved because it reminds me of my best friend.

While the feeling of nostalgia is by no means an absolute cure for anxiety, I have been finding it rather soothing when I’m feeling extremely sad or stressed out (as I have been a lot lately). But just because it is not a cure does not mean that it is not a useful tool. On the contrary, finding things that bring about moments of nostalgia for you can be extremely effective for reducing anxiety and depression as well as fighting off panic attacks. Just try to find things that trigger happy memories or calming memories rather than thinking about things that will make you feel even more depressed or anxious.

I know first hand how difficult it can be to struggle with mental illness and I truly do find some relief in nostalgia. Sometimes it works better than others and sometimes it does not work at all; it really depends on how I’m feeling in a given moment. But the one thing that I think is really important to remember is that this moment is temporary. Things will get better. You won’t feel this way forever. Maybe you won’t feel better today or tomorrow, but eventually you will look back and see how far you have come.

Don’t give up.

xo
Ayla

Grad school anxiety

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Lately, I’ve been struggling. And I mean REALLY struggling; the kind of struggling that involves spending days on end laying in bed trying desperately to hide from the world and the impending stresses of life (read: impending doom).

I knew this was coming: grad school anxiety. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be this bad. I had anticipated that I would feel anxious for maybe a week or so leading up to the first week of school but that the excitement would triumph over the nerves. I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

My anxiety started eight weeks sooner than I originally predicted and the excitement most certainly did not win out. On the contrary, the excitement has virtually disappeared and in it’s place I’ve been feeling this overwhelming sense of fear and uncertainty. Will I be able to handle grad school? Will I be able to manage the workload? Will I be able to afford to support myself on top of all of these additional costs? And, most pressing of all, how will I survive such a huge transition?

I thrive on stability; I need it. Without stability I feel as though my life will implode. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that grad school is starting to feel like a life threatening situation rather than a new adventure for the coming years. My stability has been compromised and I am now in full blown fight or flight mode. But the problem is that I don’t feel strong enough to fight and I don’t have the energy for flight. So instead I stay in bed. I stare at the same four walls of my bedroom and feel endlessly sad. Whereas the time leading up to grad school admissions decisions seemed to slow to a crawl, time now seems to be flying by impossibly fast and I am desperate for it to slow down and give me time to breathe. September is just five weeks away. I start classes in just over a month. One month. How is that even possible? And how will I cope with the reality of that situation in five weeks when I can hardly cope with the idea of it right now?

Honestly, right now I don’t have an answer to that question. But that doesn’t mean I’ve decided to do nothing. On the contrary, after months and months of steadily increasing anxiety I have decided that it’s time for me to go back on medication for anxiety and depression. I’ve been avoiding medication for the past two years ever since my first experience with a different antidepressant; however, I’ve got to at least give it a shot. My doctors claim that this medication should drastically decrease my anxiety and at this point I really need some relief, especially with grad school starting soon.

My only source of hope at this point is the fact that I went through this before starting my undergraduate degree and I somehow managed to pull through that. If I could get through these feelings when I was 17, surely I can get through these same feelings six years later.

As Dory would say, “Just keep swimming”.

just-keep-swimming

xo
Ayla

Bookworm Bloggin’: Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

cloudwish-us-fiona-woodSynopsis

For Vân Uoc Phan, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing, or pointless. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, for example? Pointless. It always left her feeling sick, as though she’d eaten too much sugar.

Vân Uoc doesn’t believe in fairies, zombies, vampires, Father Christmas – or magic wishes. She believes in keeping a low profile: real life will start when school finishes.

But when she attracts the attention of Billy Gardiner, she finds herself in an unwelcome spotlight.

Not even Jane Eyre can help her now.

Wishes were not a thing.

They were not.

Correction.

Wishes were a thing.

Wishes that came true were sometimes a thing.

Wishes that came true because of magic were not a thing!

Were they?

Review

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood can best be described as a light young adult contemporary that almost anyone could relate to on some level. Admittedly, I was drawn in more by the cover of the book than the synopsis when I first came across this title. I know, I know: never judge a book by it’s cover! But in this case, I’m happy to report that it really paid off! I loved this book!

Amid the slew of young adult thriller and suspense novels that I’ve recently been reading, Cloudwish was a welcome change of pace. While I previously described the book as light YA fiction, this does not mean that Fiona Wood neglects depth in the story. On the contrary, Wood does an excellent job of drawing attention to important issues such as the struggles and oppression faced by refugees.  As the reader, I got to explore not only Vân Uoc’s struggles, but also learned about the heartbreaking past of her parents. While I have never personally experienced being a refugee, I know quite a few people who have and I felt as though the author did a wonderful job of staying true to the realities faced by refugee populations.

On a lighter (yet still relevant) note, Wood also delves into the idea of social hierarchies. As a scholarship student at a prestigious private school, Vân Uoc is the typical top-of-the-class student with good grades and a vision for her future. She knows her place in the social hierarchy of her school; yet, she can’t help but be attracted to Billy, the “alpha male” of the school. What happens next is both cliched and nonconformist: Billy starts to fall for Vân Uoc.

Personally, I had expected Cloudwish to be a predictable story about first-love and high school crushes. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the author has so much more to offer the reader. You will get your atypical love story fix with a nice side order of overcoming adversity and self-exploration.

While I would not describe Cloudwish as a page-turner (at least not in comparison to the YA thriller that I just read…) I still found it to be a captivating story. Cloudwish is the perfect leisurely book with a gentle pace that I found quite comforting during a stressful week. If you’re looking for a nice relaxing book that still deals with important topics, look no further than Cloudwish.

Ayla

Note: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest reader review. The opinions expressed herein are entirely my own. 

Tips for creating the perfect study space

creating-the-perfect-study-space

Studying: the dreaded S word that all university and college students avoid until they can avoid it no more. But I’ve got good news! There are simple ways that you can motivate yourself to get cracking on that next study session just by improving your studying environment! Here are the tips and tricks that I find helpful when it comes to creating a productive study space:

De-clutter

How can you expect yourself to concentrate and be productive if your desk/study space is filled with unnecessary clutter? Clear the clutter out of your dedicated study area before your next study session to reduce distractions and give you more space to spread out your books and other studying materials.

f7208Step AWAY from the electronics!

Put. Your. Phone. DOWN.

If you’re constantly checking your phone or getting distracted every time you get a notification you’ll never get anything done. It’s a good idea to unplug from your phone, computer, and any other electronics which will distract you from the task at hand. I recommend leaving your phone in another room or turning it off and putting it in a drawer where it will be out of sight and out of mind.

Invest in a good lighting fixture

Lighting is important to improving your concentration. A well-lit space can mean the difference between being awake and attentive versus fatigued and distracted.

Get everything you need for studying before you sit down to start

Get your textbooks, notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters, coffee, tea, snacks, and anything else you might need ready before you sit down to study. While it’s important to take breaks while you study, you don’t want to be taking a break every time you need a pen or a drink of water. Keep the essentials close by to ensure that you stay on task and power through that study session.

Eliminate distractions

While I’ve already touched on the importance of putting your phone away during study sessions, it’s also important to eliminate other distractions in your study space. This could mean studying alone rather than studying in a group with friends who distract you. Alternatively, this could also be as simple as turning off your music or listening to white noise (I prefer the sound of ocean waves) to drown out the sounds around you that you can’t control.

x354-q80Be mindful of the time by keeping a clock nearby

Before you start to study, create a schedule for yourself and plan your break times ahead. This will not only keep you motivated to get to those break times, but it will also keep you on track by ensuring that you are sticking to shorter scheduled breaks rather than accidentally taking an hour-long YouTube or five hour Netflix break.

NOTE: Do NOT use your cell phone to keep track of the time! If you’re constantly checking the time on your phone then you are more likely to also be checking notifications which will mean less study time and more distractions. Instead, use a digital or analog clock while studying.

Be comfortable!

Last, but certainly not least, make sure you are comfortable! If you are physically uncomfortable, you aren’t going to be able to focus on the material in your textbooks. Try to ensure that you’ve got a comfortable chair to sit in while studying and if possible, wear comfortable clothing such as PJs, sweatpants, or yoga pants.

Furthermore, this rule also extends to mental comfort as well! If you’re feeling particularly stressed or you notice that you have a lot of things on your mind that are distracting you from your studies, try to take a 15 minute mindful meditation break. Breathe deeply and be mindful of the things causing you stress while simultaneously letting those thoughts go. This practice can be extremely helpful when it comes to relaxing and eliminating stress, both of which are essential to increasing concentration!

♥♥♥

I hope that these tips will be useful to some of you as you head off to your first year of university/college or return to school in the fall! I know that I have been making some changes to my study space to get myself back into the swing of things for grad school so I hope that these tips will help you as well!

xo
Ayla

University Dorm Essentials!

Uni-dorm-essentials

It’s back-to-school season and that means university dorm shopping for all of you freshmen out there making the transition from high school to university! Packing for university dorms can often be a tricky business of trying to decide what is absolutely necessary and what might be a little over the top. Here are a few things that I would recommend bringing to your living accommodations to be prepared for whatever the semester is going to throw your way!

Desk Essentials

  • Notebooks (preferably one for each class)
  • A wall calendar to keep track of the month ahead
  • A daily planner
  • Highlighters
  • Pencils
  • Pens (in various colours if you like to colour coordinate your notes)
  • White out
  • Computer mouse (because the mousepads on laptops are no fun)
  • Laptop
  • Printer (unless your school has accessible printers available)
  • Paper (and lots of it!)
  • Decorations (pictures of friends, inspirational quotes, and anything else that will cheer you up and keep you motivated)
  • A lamp

Sleeping Essentials

  • Comfortable pillows
  • One of those backrest pillows (for sitting up in bed while you work on your mountain of assignments)
  • Stylish bedding (because your dorm room will likely look like a prison cell if you don’t do something to make it homey)
  • Comfortable pajamas for sleeping and lounging around
  • An eye mask for sleeping (especially if you are sharing a room with a roommate)
  • Ear plugs (again, essential if you have a roommate)
  • Spare sheets to make sure your bedding is always fresh (especially if you’re going to be eating pizza in bed while watching netflix. Nobody wants to sleep in a bed full of crumbs)

Food/Drink Essentials

  • An electric kettle (if you’re anything like me, hot chocolate/tea/coffee are essential to any study session. Save yourself some money and purchase a kettle for your dorm room)
  • Tea bags, hot chocolate mix, instant coffee…whatever you like to drink
  • A ‘care package’ of emergency treats for when you need a pick-me-up (I recommend chocolate)

Health/Hygiene Essentials

  • Cold/flu medicine (it’s inevitable, you will get sick around the exam time so you might as well be prepared)
  • Tissues
  • Coldfx, vitamin C, or your preferred immune boosting supplement
  • Tylenol, Advil, Aleve (whichever you prefer)
  • Midol (for the ladies)
  • Tooth paste and toothbrush
  • Feminine hygiene products for all of you ladies out there (stock up so you don’t run into any messy situations when that time of the month rolls around)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc.
  • Deodorant
  • Medication for any pre-existing health conditions (be sure to visit your doctor to get a prescription for re-fills before you move away to save yourself a trip to the campus health centre)

Miscellaneous Essentials

  • Photos of family, friends, pets, and anything that will remind you of happy things
  • Washy tape (most dorms have policies against putting pins and hooks in the walls but washy tape won’t leave marks and it looks cute!)
  • A shower caddy (especially if your room doesn’t have it’s own private bathroom)
  • A laundry basket and rolls of quarters for the washing machines and dryers
  • A good quality backpack (functionality over fashion in this case)
  • Slippers/flip-flops (for making the trek to the washroom down the hall)
  • Towels (I recommend bringing enough to last you at least a week or two depending on how often you’re planning to do laundry)

♥♥♥

I hope that this list will give you an idea of what you need to bring with you for your first year of university. Remember, you don’t need to bring 50 pairs of shoes or 20 hoodies. You don’t need to bring your entire closet of clothes (and you likely won’t have enough space to store it all anyway). Try to pack efficiently, but make sure you’re bringing enough of your belonging to make the room feel like home. I hope this helps! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you think of anything that I missed!

xo
Ayla

Uni life 101: Frequently Asked Questions

uni-life-101

As someone preparing for graduate school, I feel as though I have a million questions! The experience reminds me a lot of my experience with my first year of undergrad. The difference now is that I’ve already been living away from my parents’ home for a few years now so my worries are more about the actual program than they are about living on my own for the first time. With that being said, I made it through my undergraduate degree and I also worked for a university in a role which involved helping students transition into first year after high school, so I think it’s safe to say I have a few bits of wisdom worth sharing!

Will I make new friends?

Yes, you will! Even the shyest, most introverted people will make friends in university! The very first girl who introduced herself to me in my first university class became my closest friend throughout my undergrad and we are still close to this day. I know it can be hard leaving behind your high school friends, but that doesn’t mean you should hold yourself back from meeting new people. While I did lose touch with the majority of my high school peers, I am still extremely close to my high school BFF (she’s still my #1 girl!) and I currently live with another friend who I met in the 7th grade! So go ahead and meet new people; it doesn’t mean that you’re leaving behind your old friends completely, it just means you’re making new life-long friends who will help you through the trials and tribulations of university/college!

What if I get home sick?

This was probably my number one concern when I was moving away for my first year of university. In fact, I started to feel homesick 2 weeks before I even moved away and I was an emotional mess for those two weeks leading up to the big day.

While the first 2-3 weeks were rough, I eventually adjusted to living in a new city. Personally, I lived off campus so I had to get acquainted with public transit routes and times, the locations of grocery stores, the bank, and other key places, as well as getting used to starting university. Admittedly, I had a really hard time with the transition, but I made it through and I didn’t quit even when I desperately wanted to. If I can survive the transition, so can you!! (if you’re reading this and you’re currently going through the homesick phase, feel free to leave a comment below if you want to talk to someone about it <3)

Note: if you find that you are really struggling it might be a good idea to reach out to your on-campus mental health services. The therapists there will be able to provide you with professional advice about coping with the transition and they can provide you with the extra sense of support throughout the adjustment phase.

stressed-studentIs university really hard compared to high school?

I’ve answered this one already in a previous post if you want to check that out, but the long and short of it is that I did not experience a huge difference in the level of difficulty. The one major difference was the course load. In high school you complete a lot more assignments but they are worth less so it isn’t as big of a deal if you miss one or two. However, in university there are a lot fewer assignments worth a lot more (we’re talking assignments and exams worth 40-60% of your mark) so it is absolutely imperative that you complete ALL of your assignments and submit them on time in university.

Do I really need to go to orientation week?

As an introvert, I completely understand why the thought of orientation week (freshers week, frosh week–whatever you want to call it) sounds like a living nightmare. But trust me, it is important that you attend. Orientation week gives you a chance to meet new people who can support you over the course of the next few weeks as you adjust to university/college life. They may not be the people who you remain close to for your entire university career, but they will be familiar faces in a somewhat overwhelming world during your transition. Plus, orientation week gives you the chance to explore campus and find your way around which is obviously essential knowledge to have, especially when you’re on the hunt for that evasive Psychology 101 classroom at 8am on a Monday morning.

Is the ‘freshman 15’ a real thing?

Yes and no. In my case, it was more like the freshman 20; however, I know other people who actually lost weight in first year university because they started going to the gym without having to pay a monthly membership fee. If you want to avoid the freshman 15 the simplest way to do so is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It will be tempting to eat pizza and burgers for dinner everyday, especially if your university cafeteria is an all-you-can-eat style buffet; however, it’s a better idea to stick to the healthier options like the salad bar and healthier sources of protein to give you energy to get you through the day. Eating healthier will not only help you maintain your weight, but it will also make you feel better and keep your immune system strong which will help you perform better in your classes.

student-finances-3Should I have a part-time job during school? Will I be able to manage it?

This really depends on your program and how much time you are dedicating to lectures, labs, tutorials, and maybe even internships or placements. Personally, I did not work in my first semester of university because I had so many other transitions to deal with. However, I worked for the rest of my degree (part-time during the semesters, full-time in the summer) and at one point I was working 3 jobs at the same time (approximately 10 hours at each).

While I would NOT recommend working three jobs while you are a student, I would definitely encourage you to work one part-time job throughout the school year, even if you’re only making enough for pocket money. Every little bit helps when it comes to university/college and you would be surprised how much debt you’re saving yourself by working 10-20 hours per week in university. It may not seem like it adds up to much when you’re spending the money on groceries or rent as soon as you get your pay cheque; however, that means a few hundred dollars per month that you won’t need to take out in the form of a loan or line of credit. In the long run, this could save you thousands of dollars by the end of your degree.

What if I don’t like my roommate?

I’ve been there. Yes, it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. If you find that your roommate is not the instant BFF that you’ve been imagining, that’s totally fine! You will make other friends! The important thing now is setting some ground rules (ie. keeping the room clean, quiet times, etc.) so that you can co-exist without being completely miserable and becoming arch-enemies. You don’t have to be best friends, but you DO have to respect each other.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo I really need to buy all of the textbooks on my reading list?

NO!! I wish I knew this in my first year of university because it would have saved me hundreds of dollars! Wait to buy your textbooks until the first week of school when you receive the course outline (also known as the syllabus). This will give you an idea of how often you will be reading content from the books. If there is a book that you’ll be reading every week then it’s probably a good idea to purchase a copy. However, if there is a book that you only need to read a few chapters of, consider borrowing it from the library instead.

Also, it’s a good idea to look online to see if your required books are available for a cheaper price if you buy them used. I’ve bought the majority of my textbooks cheaper online than the prices at the campus bookstore and I’ve found quite a few for really good deals on used books online! Have a look to see if you can get a used copy for a fraction of the price!

Should I live in residence for my first year or stay at home?

When I worked for a university, this is one of the top questions that students would ask me. A lot of students these days are choosing to go to schools close to home in order to save money; however, they fear that they will be missing out on the experience by living off-campus. The truth is, living in residence can be a great way to feel more immersed in the university experience, but it’s not essential to feeling connected to your university community.

Personally, I never lived on campus because it was cheaper for me to pay rent than it was to live in rez. I found ways to stay connected to campus and meet new people by getting involved in campus activities and getting an on-campus job. This way, I got the best of both worlds because I saved money by living off-campus while still feeling like I was living that university experience that I treasured so much!

♥♥♥

These are some of the questions that I wish that I had the answer to before I moved away for university so I hope that it will help to ease the worries of others who are going through this transition in the coming weeks/months. Let me know if you have any other questions or if you’d like to see more posts like this! I’ll be creating a whole university series of posts over the next few weeks as I gear up for grad school in September! In the mean time, I hope you’re all enjoying your summer!

Thanks for stopping by!

xo
Ayla

 

 

Study tips to rock your first year of uni!

study-tips-infographic-blog

With September fast approaching and thousands of students making the transition from high school to university/college, it’s no surprise that a lot of students have concerns about how to be successful in post-secondary education. It can be a scary transition; trust me, I’ve been there! For this reason, I thought I would share some of the study tips that I’ve learned over the course of my own undergraduate degree in the hopes that it might help ease the transition for some of you freshmen out there!

Go to class!

This one might seem like a no brainer, but you will undoubtedly be tempted to hit the snooze button a few too many times when those 8am classes roll around. While your professors in university don’t really care either way if you show up to class or not, they might still keep track of your attendance. In my first year of university I was shocked to learn that participation and attendance marks still exist! In fact, some professors had strict rules which would result in the automatic failure of any student who missed X number of classes. But even if your professor does not keep track of attendance it is still important to attend! After all, how can you expect to earn those A’s if you don’t have a firm grasp on the course content?

Unplug from technology

This is one that I really struggled with throughout my undergraduate degree. I attended a “technology-enriched” university so it was mandatory to have your laptop during all lectures and almost all assignments were to be submitted online. As a result, I was constantly studying and writing my assignments on my computer. Unfortunately, this meant that I was prone to being distracted by things like YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest while I was supposed to be studying.

In order to avoid this trap, I recommend printing your notes off of your computer or writing them by hand to avoid the distractions on your computer. Additionally, if you’re writing a paper it might be a good idea to write it out on paper first and type it on your computer later. This helps you avoid online distractions while also giving you a chance to catch any grammatical errors or awkward sentences when you type it up later on!

Write your notes by hand

Having a laptop is essential to success in university; however, this does not mean that it is the best tool for studying (see previous point). Writing your notes by hand in class can not only help you focus, but it can also help you retain the information better than typing on a computer. However, if you find that you type your notes faster in class, I would recommend writing them out by hand in preparation for exams in order to help you review the information. I always found that re-writing my notes helped me recall the information much more vividly than simply skim-reading it on my computer.

Acronyms and silly jingles are your new best friend

Acronyms, acronyms, acronyms!! I frequently used acronyms or made up silly little jingles in my head to remember lists or categories. A lot of exam questions might ask you to “list the 5 stages of *blank*” or “explain the process of *blank*”. If you come up with a catchy little song or acronym you will likely find it a lot easier to recall this information.

tumblr_nyk1ejyu1r1tq3uqwo5_500Make your notes aesthetically appealing

As I mentioned before, I tended to re-write my notes by hand before exams. During this process, I would use different colour pens for key concepts, definitions, lists, and so on. This not only made it easier to navigate my notes and find specific information, but it also helped keep my attention on the notes because they were a lot more visually appealing than staring at a computer screen filled with pages and pages of boring Times New Roman black font. Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.

Don’t fall into the partying trap

If you know someone currently in uni/college or if you’ve watched any movies/TV shows about it, chances are that you have been exposed to the idea that university is all about partying. News flash… it’s not!

I mean, sure, there are parties and frosh week is absolutely jam-packed with opportunities to get a little tipsy (or a lot, depending on how much you’re drinking…), but aside from the first week, university is not as party-filled as you might be expecting. At least this was not the case at my university.

With that being said, if your school or dorm is one where there are parties happening on the regular I would strongly advise that you steer clear of the party trap. Sure, it might be a fun time for a few weeks, but once the end of term rolls around and you see your grades suffering you might just come to realize that you wasted a lot of time and money on classes that you may have to re-take. University is expensive; it’s okay to have fun and socialize but remember that you’re there to study, not to throw your money away on partying.

Make at least one friend in each of your classes

Having people in each of your classes who you can count on is extremely important, especially if you come down with a serious case of the flu which causes you to miss class. You want to be sure that you’ve got someone you can count on to take notes for you so that you don’t fall behind in your classes.

On the flip side, if one of your peers falls ill or misses class for another legitimate reason, be sure to offer your notes and help them out as much as possible. This will make it more likely that they will return the favor in the future if you need it!

f047e2a59d8ed1367e82486eea0918edUse a planner!

I can’t stress this enough: GO BUY AN AGENDA/PLANNER. IT WILL BE ONE OF THE BEST INVESTMENTS OF YOUR SCHOOL YEAR.

During high school I never really appreciated the usefulness of a planner. However, in university when you’re balancing a huge courseload, a part-time job, a social life, and anything else that might pop up, a planner is an essential tool. I recommend going through your syllabi/course outlines at the beginning of each semester and writing down your assignment due dates in advance so nothing can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead to avoid all-nighters

While it is quite likely that you will at some point in the course of your university career be faced with the dreadful all-nighter, there are ways that you can keep these occasions to a minimum. Planning ahead and carving out time in your busy schedule to complete your assignments on time will not only help you maintain a healthy sleep schedule, but it will also help you improve the quality of your work by ensuring that sleep-deprivation does not impede your ability to produce high-quality assignments.

Practice self-care

Taking care of yourself is soooooo important; yet, it is often the first thing to get cut out of the schedule when assignments start to pile up and stress runs high. Unfortunately, if you stop practicing self-care, you won’t be able to manage your stress level effectively which can have a negative impact on your ability to concentrate. Not only that, increased stress can interfere with your ability to sleep and it can also weaken your immune system which leaves you prone to getting sick. This is why a lot of students tend to get sick right around the exam period. Remember to practice self-care by doing little things for yourself to ease your stress and improve your mental health in order to improve your performance in school!

keep-calmTake Breaks!

While taking breaks might seem a bit counter-intuitive when you are cramming for a test or exam, it’s scientifically proven that you retain more information when you allow yourself to take short breaks. This could mean watching a few videos on YouTube (emphasis on a FEW! Don’t get sucked into the YouTube vortex!), or going for a short walk to get some exercise and stretch your legs. Whatever it is that you choose to do, remember that breaks are important!

 

♥♥♥

These are some of the tips and tricks that helped me throughout my undergraduate degree and I hope that they will help you as well! Let me know what your favorite study tricks are in the comments below!

xo
Ayla

The Isolation Paradox

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Have you ever felt so completely alone that you’re left wondering how nobody can see how much your suffering and then felt anger as a result of this which then causes you to push people away?

I have.

It’s a bit strange/unfair/unrealistic to expect that people will just know how you’re feeling without you telling them (especially if you’re like me and you mask your emotions); yet, I constantly find myself feeling this way, particularly when depression comes knocking and feelings of hopelessness set in.

As an introvert, I tend to welcome isolation. My idea of a perfect day off would usually include a warm cup of coffee, a good book, and blissfully silent alone time. However, when it comes to feeling lonely, isolation becomes a point of sadness and distress which causes me to think that nobody cares about me. As a result, I start to feel anger and resentment towards friends, family, and even my therapist, none of whom suspect that anything is out of the ordinary because isolation is generally the norm for me. Unfortunately, this anger and resentment then leads me to push people even further away and cut off contact for extended periods of time until I start to feel better–a feat which often takes weeks or even months due to the tremendous self-imposed lack of social support.

After much thought and self-reflection, I’ve decided to call this experience The Isolation Paradox.

It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

a4dcfebdb50bccb1c0f013d565dd5111To put it in metaphorical terms, The Isolation Paradox is like being in a prison cell cut off from the rest of the world. But the difference between the paradoxical prison and real prison is that you–the inmate–are the one holding the key and the cage is locked from the inside out. You feel trapped but you’re too afraid to ask for help; you’re afraid that nobody will listen; you’re afraid that you’ve finally pushed everyone away for good; you’re afraid that even with help you won’t feel better.

But it’s not just fear that keeps you locked away; the anger you feel towards others as a result of their inability to know how you’re feeling adds fuel to your raging internal fire. It’s completely irrational and unfair to those around you; yet, you can’t seem to tame the anger. As a result, the irrational voice in the back of your mind tells you to isolate yourself from the people who unknowingly caused you so much pain in order to somehow exact your revenge. It does not make rational sense, but it’s as if you expect them to once again recognize that your social isolation and distance is a silent cry for help rather than the normative solace of an introvert. And so the cycle continues.

Have you ever felt this way? It may not be the exact same experience as what I’ve described above (for example, you may not be an introvert) but I’m almost certain that I’m not alone in this irrational and self-damaging behavior and thought process.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve also experienced The Isolation Paradox or if you have any thoughts on it!

Thanks for reading,
Ayla