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You’re Not Alone: Facing Loneliness in College

There is often an expectation that going to college will result in the commencement of the best years of a person’s entire life. For some people, this is true. Becoming independent, moving away from home and making new friends can provide the freedom that they need in order to flourish. Yet, for others, this isn’t the case at all.

Whilst college can be fun and exciting, it is natural that such huge amounts of change can cause anybody to feel anxious, vulnerable and insecure, prompting feelings of loneliness in college. According to a 2017 survey of 48,000 college students, 64 percent said that they had felt “very lonely” in the previous 12 months.

So why doesn’t anybody talk about loneliness in college?

Thanks to pop-culture, the pressure to enjoy college is paramount, generating shame and silence in those who can’t keep up with their classmates’ levels of constant excitement.

College is pretty much a wildcard. Disappointment with reality compared to expectation is a huge struggle for students, along with being in a strange environment, lacking money, being unprepared for independent living, missing family and friends and lacking a routine. Not clicking with the people that you’re forced to live with and comparing your experiences to those on social media can lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy.

With no one to check up on you, retreating into these suffocating feelings of loneliness can be easier than conforming to the pressure to fake it along with everyone else. This can cause mental health struggles such as anxiety and depression, and make it impossible to concentrate on your increased workload.

Sound familiar? Here’s how to face loneliness in college.

“Not clicking with the people that you’re forced to live with and comparing your experiences to those on social media can lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy”

Talk to someone 

Telling someone that you’re feeling lonely and overwhelmed won’t fix the situation, but will relieve a huge weight from your shoulders and allow your brain to process these feelings objectively.

This person could be a family member, friend, neighbor or even a complete stranger or doctor. Colleges often have wellbeing and support groups that will help you to realize that other people are experiencing the same feelings as you.

Admitting that you’re lonely can be hard and feel embarrassing, but speaking out and realizing that it is normal to struggle will ease your mind. You might even make a new friend.

Put yourself out there

It can be hard, but making an effort to meet new people will increase your chances of finding someone who you connect with and combating loneliness in college. Don’t feel pressured to like everyone that you live with, choosing who we forge friendships with is one of life’s privileges.

It sounds cliché, but joining clubs and societies and being part of a team or learning a new skill can introduce you to new people, give you a sense of routine and distract your mind for a while. Sitting next to someone new in lectures and mustering the courage to ask them if they’ve finished the assignment could lead to conversation, and hanging out in community areas will also help you to feel included.

Posting on a social media group for your area of residence and asking if anyone wants to hang out can also introduce you to new friends. If you’re thinking about quitting anyway, what have you got to lose?

Look after your body 

Loneliness and mental health problems are often linked with decreases in physical health. Getting enough sleep, exercising and eating a healthy, balanced diet will not only give you energy, but also improve your mood and cognitive function, helping you to think a little more clearly.

Get a part-time job

If you had a part-time job before college, consider applying for a similar role or volunteering in your free time. Unlike the vast, new changes in your life, knowing what to expect in a job role will give you routine, distract you from your worries and help you to feel more settled. Not to mention, working will introduce you to an entirely new set of people and give you a break from your fellow students.

Remember: You are normal

It is so important to normalize the situation and realize that being lonely is not only okay, but also expected.

Every person is different and being thrown together with a group of strong personalities when you are more reserved, or vice versa, can make you feel different, in a bad way. People also naturally have different stress levels, coping abilities and family relationships.

Similarly, remember that social media is not a true representation of reality. People post staged highlights of their life, and in most cases do not live to that level of excitement on a day-to-day basis.

Give yourself time

Like with any big change, adjusting can take time. People take varying amounts of time to adjust to a situation and the academic year will also take a while to quieten down.

If you need to take time for yourself, then do. Equally, it’s okay to go home for the weekend, or take a break from college all together and apply again when you’re more prepared.

For some people, college just isn’t for them. There are so many other paths forward in life and nobody is going to judge you for wanting out of a bad one.

Monitor your mental health 

Whilst loneliness is not a mental health problem, lonely feelings can turn into anxious thoughts. If you’re feeling worried, depressed or having panic attacks, talk to someone. If your feelings of loneliness in college are interfering with your ability to function and taking over your daily life, then ask someone to step in.

Further reading: Mental Health Awareness in School

Staying Safe on Vacation

Bon Voyage! Staying Safe on Vacation

With nature beginning to bloom and the sun bright in the sky, summer is quickly approaching. Summer fills our minds with dreams of vacation on the crystal-clear, white beaches of Cancun, in the snow-peaked mountains of Switzerland or in the mind-blowing skyscrapers of New York. Many people have already planned vacations or are beginning to do so, but in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, many forget the most crucial ways to stay safe on vacation and traveling. For those of you lucky enough to turn those vacation dreams into reality, here are our top tips for staying safe on vacation:

Before arriving at your destination

Before heading out on that trip you’ve been planning for months, don’t forget to pack all of your important documents like passports or IDs in a waterproof container (especially if you’re headed to those crystal-clear beaches in Cancun!) or somewhere they won’t get lost or left behind.

Do some research before you book that cheaper hotel. Read the reviews online and ask around about the area where the hotel is located before making a decision.

Before leaving home for your trip, notify your bank that you will be vacationing in another state or country. Save yourself the anguish of trying to make a purchase while abroad before realizing the bank froze your debit card due to “fraud”.

Arriving at your destination

When you travel somewhere unknown, stay together with the people you are traveling with to ensure you are staying safe on vacation. Getting lost is way easier than it sounds, even with our modern GPS in hand. The number of times a phone dies exactly when you most need it is astounding.

While you may be itching to explore your holiday spot’s nightlife, remember: You’re in a strange, unfamiliar place, so think twice before hopping into whatever taxi appears first. Tourists tend to stick out to natives, making you an easy target for theft. Only use well-known transportation methods like Uber or Lyft. These companies perform background checks on their drivers, making them a safer option.

If you are traveling in your own vehicle, make sure to complete a full inspection on the car before heading to your vacation destination. There’s nothing worse than getting a flat tire 200 miles from home and realizing you don’t have a spare.

While out & about

Nothing goes better together than drinks and fun while on vacation. Remember to watch those drinks like you would with any other outing with friends. Don’t accept drinks from strangers if they’re open or if you didn’t watch them pour it.

If you’re in a sunny climate, don’t pass on the sunscreen. Those UV rays are hitting you hard even though you’re having too much fun to feel it. If, on the other hand, you traveled to those beautiful mountains in Switzerland, remember to keep Chapstick and lotion handy so your skin doesn’t dry up from the cold.

Watch out for pickpockets in big cities by keeping your phone and wallet in your front pockets. With the old habit of putting your phone in your back pocket, you may think someone is squeezing past you, but they might be taking your phone or cash.

Wherever life takes you this summer, make sure to enjoy yourself by staying safe on vacation. You want to make safe, happy memories—not an experience you’ll regret!

Further reading: 6 Surprising Travel Destinations for 2018

 

College Degree to be Successful

Do You Need a College Degree to be Successful?

With potential loan debts and tuition costs rising every year, it’s no wonder half the millennial population is asking: do you need a college degree to be successful? The answer isn’t simple. There is no definitive proof that a degree can secure you the job of your dreams or lead to the ultimate “success” (especially because success is in the eye of the beholder). One person’s idea of being successful may be different to another’s. But, for now, lets assume that it means you have effectively climbed to the top of your field and earn a reasonably high salary.

A career prerequisite

Before considering whether you wish to attend college, you may want to reflect on what you have a real passion for. This is almost always the thing you will excel at. From there, you should surmise whether a degree is necessary in order to enter this vocation. For many industries, a degree isn’t a prerequisite for an entry-level position. In such circumstances, some students may feel a degree would simply postpone any possible opportunities. However, a degree may be an absolute must for certain fields—the obvious ones being medicine, the sciences, engineering and architecture.

Having realistic expectations is important at this stage of your decision-making. This is not to say don’t aim high, but be honest with yourself about what you can achieve. If your objectives are ambitious, devise a plausible plan that will make your dreams a reality. You may aspire to be a professional swimmer, but you should appreciate that this profession may be slightly out of reach. Instead, becoming the best swimming instructor in the region may be more achievable. Identifying a suitable location with a gap in the market may facilitate you founding a swimming school, which could even lead to a franchise.

What’s it worth?

There are various elements that can determine the value of your college degree: the amount you will ultimately pay to attend, your desired career path and your post-graduation living situation—each can contribute to its worth. One way to determine whether your college costs will stack up against your potential income is to use the Major ROI tool on the Discover Student Loans’ website. The website covers the potential average salary for different subject majors. For industries with six figure salaries, you can afford to pay for a more expensive institution. If the rewards are low, you may wish to consider a more economic method for achieving your goals.

Let’s not forget that financial aid is still available in the form of scholarships for those who need help with offsetting the cost of a college degree. Community colleges and state universities are also options that shouldn’t be cast aside. Both can provide quality educational courses for people with a subject or occupation in mind.

Pro college degree

  • Shows passion and dedication to the field you are applying for.
  • Prepares individuals for the workplace by developing independence, introducing important connections and improving social skills.
  • Provides resources that students can tap into for in-depth insight into various topics—experienced lecturers stand as a fountain of knowledge and expertise.
  • A college degree has become the standard for which many candidates are measured—mostly due to the imbalance of the job-to-candidate ratio.
  • According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2016, earning potential and educational attainment are directly related; lower earners had completed fewer levels of academia in every category.

Pro no college degree

  • Free from debt and tuition fees.
  • Internship and apprenticeship programs can introduce young people into the workplace—securing such a position doesn’t necessarily require a college degree to be successful.
  • Fostering ambition and making valuable business connections is possible via websites such as LinkedIn and Quora.
  • Online courses and certifications provide useful self-educational tools, providing knowledge needed for the workplace or specific industry.
  • The CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey 2017 reported that business owners without a four-year degree far outnumber those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.

What the experts say

Several famous personalities have managed to prosper without the help of a college degree; Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Coco Chanel and Steve Jobs, to name a few. This adheres with the data produced by the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey from 2017. It found that entrepreneurs who didn’t finish or attend college outnumbered those with higher-level degrees across both genders and every age group apart from the over 65s. However, all business owners who had skipped higher level education all shared common personality traits: each had a distinct attitude of independence, determination, a great idea and the willingness to take risks.

Jacqueline Gold, founder of the Ann Summers adult retail empire is another example of a self-made businesswoman, who climbed her way to the top without a degree. “I was acutely aware when I started Ann Summers Party Plan that I had no formal business training, but what started out as a disadvantage actually turned into one of my biggest advantages. I had to rely entirely on listening to customer feedback, which led to the rapid growth of Party Plan turning over £86,000 in its first year.” While Gold believes that college is undeniably beneficial, she also champions those that follow alternative paths. “I’m excited that there are individuals that want to do something different and create their own career and get straight in to the work place.”

On the topic, Chuck Runyon—co-founder of the 24-hour gym chain Anytime Fitness—commented: “If you want to get out of college and try to hustle, it still requires a great deal of capacity.” Runyon decided to leave college after he identified a gap in the market for a gym that was always open, one whose equipment focused solely on what was most frequently used by members. “I want to make it clear: you have to work every bit as hard, if not harder.”

The brain behind Microsoft, Bill Gates, agreed with Runyon’s sentiments. In a blog post in 2015, Gates said, “Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success.” While the majority of successful entrepreneurs show that college degrees aren’t the only way to succeed in life, none seem to show a dislike for higher education, either.

Whether you decide to get a college degree or jump straight into work, it is clear that the key to succeed in life is to aim high, work your hardest, take risks, stretch your creativity, and—no matter what—follow your dreams.

Further reading: Free Courses to Boost Your Resume

Leadership Skills

Develop Your Leadership Skills

Learning leadership skills while being a college student is an achievement that can set you up for life. By focusing solely on academic education, we fail to learn the practical problem-solving methods that we may need as we enter real life post-college.

As a community, we are facing tons of problems like lack of quality health services, failure to build a strong economy and maintenance of national security. Perhaps the best way to ensure that our future is better than today is to transform today’s college students into future leaders.

Things I learned as a college student leader

Fortunately, there are many instances of our college life where we can learn leadership skills to secure our future.

To bring about change, it’s essential to accept change. To become a successful leader, one should be prepared for the changes he or she is going to experience next. This is perhaps the best thing I learned as a college student and a leader.

The points below are my personal insights that could help any young college student develop successful leadership skills:

Confidence and arrogance are two different things

If you are confused between these two terms, it could guarantee your failure right at the beginning. Leadership does not make you better than others, but it may make you stronger. Using the powers you have as a leader or authority figure to satisfy your ego is not leadership. Instead, be responsible, speak only when you have to and learn to keep opinions to yourself. Whatever you do, though, do not talk without conviction.

Leadership is about setting goals

Without a vision, leadership is incomplete. Learn to give a unique perspective to things to distinguish yourself from others. Being able to translate your own interpretation and understanding and communicating your ideas to your team is what leadership is all about.

Do your research, collect more facts and figures before setting your goals, but never rely on others’ data to lose your vision.

You can’t expect others to perform without performing yourself

As a leader, you are expected to set positive examples. Your own actions, dedication and commitment towards your goal will keep your followers on foot. By taking steps yourself, you can easily convince and encourage other people to join forces with you.

Learn to take risks

A leader is always ambitious. If you really want your team to rally up for you, learn to take risks. A leader is idealistic. Risks do not always mean failure. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you would have liked, it helps you recognize your limitations, your strengths and develops a learning environment around your team. When your team gets to know that their team leader isn’t afraid to learn a thing or two, they generally follow in their footsteps.

The best part about knowing your weakness is the ability to thoroughly test your maximum potential. With time and practice, you can deliver your best.

Don’t let people tell you “you can’t”

Oh heck, you can! Nothing is impossible. Don’t let people around you bring you down. It could be the people you are closely working with or the team you are leading. Not everything will be as favorable as you like. If there’s something you can’t find, create it but never let yourself down.

Organization is key

To develop leadership skills, you need to be organized. You must keep track of things to ensure that everything is running smoothly. For that, you must write down your goals to avoid forgetting them.

Work through your communication skills

Communication is one of the most essential traits of a leader. Reach out to your people, and address them the right way. Fortunately, communication skills will not only help you as a college student, they are essential for a successful career as well.

As a student leader, you are expected to speak with confidence and carry the right body language when discussing your goals. Persuasion techniques along with diplomacy skills are applicable for most careers you will seek in your future.

Become more responsible

In addition to fulfilling your own responsibilities, as a student leader, you have extended responsibilities to cater to. Your job goes way beyond just ensuring that the task is complete. You need to outline, dedicate, work along and follow up to ensure that the job is completed promptly.

Learn management skills

This is something you will need in all areas of your life during and post-college. It’s the second nature that makes you control how life moves forward. As a leader, you must make budgets, oversee operational tasks, build consensus, prioritize workload and assign tasks accordingly. If you practice your management skills in college, you can definitely earn more significant rewards in the future.

Final word

The role of a student leader is a great responsibility. Having said that, it pushes you to learn skills during your college years that you can proudly implement throughout your career and life. Don’t forget: part of having a successful student leader career also depends on how good you are in bonding with people around you.