Monthly Archives: September 2011
Alright, time for some concrete advice for this week’s Take it from a Senior. You’re in college, you go to your classes (at least for the the first few weeks), you sit there in your seat and listen (unless it’s a 9am lecture), and most likely you will be taking notes. But how should you do it? Each student has his/her own methods, but here are some general guidelines that might help you take better notes.
First things first, your note-taking strategies will depend on the type of class you’re in. Here are a few ways to take your notes and what kind of class they work best for.
1. The standard notebook. You know, the spiral-bound kind, probably with your school logo on the front. This works for pretty much anything, but if your class tend to have lots of hand-outs and such, consider #2.
2. The binder. This works great just like the notebook, but with the added bonus of organizing loose hand-outs, quizzes, old exams that are given back to you, etc. It’s an excellent way to keep all the materials for a class organized in one place.
3. The printed PowerPoint. If your prof lectures with PowerPoint presentations, I find it best to print out the slides and bring them to class with you, and take notes directly on each slide. To save paper, I suggest printing 4 slides per one side of each sheet of paper, landscape orientation (so that the slides are bigger), and print double-sided.
4. The laptop. This works great for those classes where the prof speaks faster than you can write. Or if you want to go on Facebook during class (just kidding, don’t do that). But the downside is that if the class involves complicated diagrams, formulas, or other drawings, it’s probably not the best.
5. The recorder. If your prof talks faster than you can write OR type, it might be worth it to invest in an small electronic recorder. That way, if you miss anything, you can always play it back and listen again. You can also be a true nerd and studying by listening to the lecture while riding the subway.
Alright! Now you’ve found the best way to take notes for each of your classes. Now 2 other little tips for effective note-taking:
1. Use a 4-colored pen! This might be a habit left over from my high school biology class where the teacher demanded we use only 4-colored pens, but it really does make your notes better. More colors make your diagrams clearer, your key words and important concepts stand out, and your notes prettier in general! Plus, it’s more fun.
2. Make up your own shorthand abbreviations and symbols. You won’t have time to write down every single word in class, so don’t. And don’t just stick to conventional shorthands, make up your own! Your notes are for you, after all. For instance, I use arrows a lot, for signifying one thing leading to another, one thing becoming another, or even increase/decrease with an up or down arrow.
And there you go! Now go take some awesome notes!
So I’ve been back in the Big Apple for 2 weeks now, though for some reason summer already feel so far away. The weather had been incredibly hot and humid for most of the past 2 weeks, and I’ve had to endure a lot of a sticky thighs on wooden chairs, mosquito bites, and stuffy dorms. But I’ve also tried to take advantage of the last bits of summer, for example, by going to Coney Island for the first time last Friday! The weather was gorgeous, and I was definitely craving some beach, so Yufei and I took the subway all the way down there.
I had no idea this was where the International Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place!
We pretty much just lied on the beach for a couple of hours, which was awesome.
But apart from being at the beach, that kind of heat was really quite uncomfortable. So I’m very excited that finally today, for the first time since I got back in the city, I was able to wear jeans! It was still beautiful outside, but the air was crisp and cool, perfect for an after lunch walk in Riverside Park followed by sun bathing on Columbia’s South Lawn (which, impressively, has been open the whole week!), and a visit to the Wallach Art Gallery right here on campus. I’d been wanting to check it out forever now, and right now they have this really interesting exhibit on Square Word Calligraphy, where Chinese artist Xu Bing “has devised a method of writing English words in rectangular arrangements which resemble Chinese characters.” So it basically looks like this:
Can you read it? It says “square word” and “Xu Bing” in the signature. Pretty cool right?
School-wise, things have been going alright. Classes are manageable as of now, though I’d rather not be taking 5 at the moment. My dorm is pretty nice – will post some photos as soon as it’s completely cleaned up and decorated.
In other news, I now have a Polaroid camera! Thanks to Yufei :) It’s so much fun!
I have a confessions to make: I almost quit my research internship in Vienna the summer after my sophomore year. I was about a month into it, and there were many reasons I wasn’t happy with the job. One particular Saturday morning (yes, I had to work weekends – one of the reasons), a co-worker took over the lab where I was supposed to work in without looking at the sign-up sheet. At the moment, it was just the last straw for me, and I broke down, took off, crying the whole way on the tram back to my dorm. Back in my room, I cried and cried. I hit my pillow in anger and frustration. I was so upset that I took out my contract and saw that that day was the last day I could quit. And I seriously considered it.
I opened up a Word document and wrote down all the reasons why I hated my internship and wanted to quit.
It had a shocking 20 items and took up the whole page. As I stared at it, tears still running down my face, I wondered what more reason I needed to leave this job. But I was always the indecisive one, so I hesitated. And when I calmed down a little more, I called my parents and Yufei and told them that I wanted to quit. I was pretty sure that none of them thought I was serious, that I was just having a bad day and would move on. So then I did what I always do when I’m uncertain: I researched the topic online. And the overwhelming opinion was that you shouldn’t quit an internship, especially in the middle of it. At this point, I was starting to doubt myself. The practical questions started to pop up: what would I do for the rest of the summer? Would I have to leave Vienna and go home? What would the other interns think of me? What about the travel plans Yufei and I already made for after my internship? Who’s going to finish my project? And so on and so forth.
In the end, I got so tired that I just went to bed. So I didn’t end up quitting, and I’m so glad I didn’t. And here’s why:
- Things did get better at work
- My final project presentation went great and I won a prize at the symposium
- I got to have some awesome experiences travelling in Europe
- My PI ended up writing me recommendation letters for future internships
- Even though my project ended up being pretty successful, I’ve come to realize that research really, really isn’t the thing for me
- And most importantly, the experience taught me that I have the ability to overcome anything. I still have the file “Why I hate my internship and want to quit” on my computer, and all of those things on it still hold true. But now I know that if I got through such a difficult and miserable time, I can get through anything.
I’m not trying to tell you to never quit. Heck, giving up is probably harder than holding on. But there are some takeaways from my story:
1. Never make big decisions when you’re extremely emotional. I’m so glad I didn’t let my emotions get the best of me and make a rash decision to quit. Take some time to calm down and regain your ability to think rationally before making the decision.
2. Think through the consequences of quitting. And not just the consequences you would face, but also how it would affect others. Not only in the present time, but also down the road. Think about the things you could be losing if you quit.
3. Talk it out and write it out. Talking with my loved ones and writing that list really allowed me to vent a lot of my anger. Your friends and family might offer a fresh perspective on things too.
These lessons about quitting apply no matter if you’re thinking about quitting a job, leaving a relationship, giving up on a career path, or changing a major. So think carefully before you decide to give up on something, especially something big, even if it doesn’t seem big at the time. But of course, if after careful consideration, you come to the conclusion that it really is time to move on, then at least you can be assured that you’ve thought it through and made the right choice.
Welcome to the first edition of Take it from a Senior!
What’s the overwhelming number one regret people have in college? Not studying abroad! Don’t believe me? Just ask around. It’s a fact. So if you have the chance to study abroad, go for it!
Going abroad can be a wonderful opportunity for learning and growing. Maybe you’ve always wanted to live by yourself in a completely new place. Maybe you’ve been itching to practice the foreign language that you’ve been studying for years in the classroom. Whatever the reason, if the thought has crossed your mind at all and if you have the means, do it. Sure, there may be things that hold you back, like not wanting to leave your friends, or a relationship, but honestly, it will be worth it, and if those relationships you have at home are strong and true, a semester or year away won’t hurt at all. You get to experience a different culture, travel around, make new friends, all while in college and earning credits. What’s there not to like?
But what if you have a demanding major and don’t have the time to study abroad? This is what happened to me. With a major, a concentration, the pre-health requirements, and the Core, my schedule was packed every single semester. But you know what? I still found time to go abroad – in the summer! A lot of students don’t realize that there are tons of opportunities to take summer classes, do internships, or get summer jobs in a different country. You just have to look. I went to Vienna for 2 months after my sophomore year to do a research internship, and despite some challenges, it was one of the best things I did during college. I have another friend who went to Australia in the summer to do research on the platypus! How cool is that? So opportunities for going abroad during the summer definitely exist, and they are worth looking into.
So there you go. Take it from a senior: don’t let this become one of your college regrets – go abroad!