“Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.”

Studying is a hot topic for many, both those who are currently in college and those who plan on attending college. In my experience with studying, I have found that it isn’t as static as a term as many people think. In fact, to many people’s dismay, there isn’t a correct way to study; it’s different for each person.

My first encounter with “studying” was not pretty. I remember it all too well. It was freshman year of college and my biology professor told us to make sure we studied at least a small amount every night after lecture. Being fresh out of high school with a 4.0 and barely doing any studying, I thought I had studying all figured out. Unfortunately for myself, it caught up to me after receiving my first exam grade back. A few minutes of flipping my scan-tron answer sheet over later, it finally sunk in that I had made a 68. This was nothing like I was used to. I could get by perfectly fine in high school without once having to crack open a textbook. So naturally, I blamed the professor. I approached him after class and asked him if he had given me the correct grade because there must be some mistake, I don’t make 68s. He quickly reassured me that it was indeed my grade, and because it was so low and I was visibly upset by it, I should meet with him during his office hours. Reluctantly, I accepted his offer and met with him the next day. Little did I know, that meeting would be one of the most beneficial meetings I would ever attend.

When I arrived in his office, he told me to take a seat. I panicked. I thought for sure I was in trouble. He obviously saw the unease in my face and told me to relax and that he simply wanted to have an informal conversation with me. After about five minutes of awkward silence following this remark, I finally spoke up. “Is there any way I could make this grade up?” I asked very cautiously. The answer shocked me. “No. . .” That word echoed in my mind over and over until I heard him say, “but I do have a suggestion.” I immediately gave him my full attention, and was on ecstatic to hear of this miracle solution. “Caitlin, I know you’re more than capable of doing well on my exam, but you’re going to have to study.” I was offended. Granted he complimented me, but how dare he suggest that I hadn’t studied. I defiantly stated, “I did study. I read over my notes the night before. I just think your exam was too hard.” Now would be a good time for me to recommend that none of you ever tell a professor that his/her exam is too hard. Seriously, that’s just asking for trouble. He quickly pointed out that several students in my class had made As and Bs, so either they were certifiable geniuses, or that my argument was simply invalid. Once my ego was out of the way, he told me that, though reading through my notes is an acceptable way of studying, I shouldn’t only do it the night before an exam. He also suggested that after each lecture I should read back through the material and write down any questions I have about that section so I can ask them in class.

All in all, this was probably one of the most crucial moments of my time in college. From this point on, I began experimenting with different ways of studying. First, I tried my original method of reading my notes–this time beginning a few days before my exam–no matter how I manipulated it, this method just didn’t seem to work for me. Then I tried holding study sessions, in which I was forced to make and read a study guide aloud to fellow classmates. This method was super beneficial for both myself and my classmates. While I read the study guide, I was teaching my classmates and myself the material. Finally, because hosting study sessions wasn’t always an option, I began making flash cards of the information on my study guides. This method of studying, by far, has been the most successful form of studying for myself.

 

Though I am still not happy about the 68 I made in Biology 111, I will never regret it. That score alone led me to break out of the academic ego I had acquired in high school, and have one of the most important conversations I have ever had in my college career.

Do any of you struggle with studying? If not, what method works best for you? I would love to know, and if you’re struggling I would to help you out! Leave your comments on the matter below, and if you’d like to read more of my posts feel free to follow my blog. I would appreciate it!

6 Steps to Good Paper Writing

I completely baffled myself last week. It was our spring break, and I somehow managed to write 3 papers. Altogether I wrote 20 pages and 7,387 words! I was wondering to myself how I managed to get all of this done in a matter of days, but then it dawned on me: this is how I’ve always written papers, and, with the freedom of spring break and no classes to attend, it made for a super productive break. So, in honor of my insane motivation to write this spring break, I’ve decided to dedicate to create a “how-to” on paper writing (from my perspective of course).

1. Find Your Groove. - This first point may seem a bit odd to you, but for me it is absolutely necessary. Personally, I can’t even begin to write if I don’t have some seriously good jams going on in the background, preferably blasting through headphones. I have a few writing playlists in my library ranging from acoustic albums to boy bands of the 90s. This certainly isn’t for everyone, however. Sometimes your groove is silence or ambient noise, and that’s completely fine! Just start by finding your groove, and stick with it.

2. Get Comfy - No one wants to be uncomfortable ever. So why torture yourself when you write? Papers usually take longer than 30 minutes, so pick a spot that you’ll be comfortable in both physically and mentally. By mentally, I just mean pick a place that you’re not easily distracted or interrupted. I have never typed a paper while sitting in a regular hard back chair. I have to be somewhere where I’ll be comfortable or I’ll complain to anyone around me the entire time. If no one is around me, I’ll have a full blown conversation with myself about how uncomfortable I am (my comfort is a pretty serious thing).

3. Check Your Attitude - Perhaps one of the most detrimental actions you can take when planning to write a paper is having a sour attitude. If you go into it expecting to hate it, you will. I’ve found that when I’m in a bad mood, it’s much more difficult for me to write, and if I do manage to write with this attitude, my work is terrible. Even if you just don’t like writing, it will more than likely be necessary at some point in your life. If this is the case, look at it as an ability to sharpen your skills. Writing just one paper can transform you into a better writer, so what do you have to lose?

writergiphy

4. DO NOT LOOK AT THE WORD COUNT - There is no way that I can stress this point enough. If you don’t get anything else out of this post, get this: if the word counter is present at the bottom of your word processor other program you use, remove it. Trust me, it’ll be worth it. I am aware that some papers have minimum word counts, but constantly checking your progress will only make matters more difficult. They say a watched pot never boils and I believe the same thing applies to writing: a watched word count never increases. It can also cause issues when you’re extremely close to reaching that magic number. If your main concern is reaching your minimum word count, your writing will reflect it. The passion of your wording can fizzle out, and people will notice. This rule also goes for page requirements. Just focus on writing your best, not your least.

5. Use Your Resources Wisely - Word processors and other programs have excellent little tools to help you enhance your writing, so use them! There is this awesome feature that allows you to highlight a word and immediately find synonyms  for it. This tool has proven to be extremely valuable in my own writing. I am the worst for being repetitive in my papers. In fact, if you look closely at this post, you’ll likely find many repeated adjectives, phrases, etc. Reread your writing after every paragraph and look for these things. If you find them, sometimes it’s as simple as using a synonym for a repeated word. This same tool will also allow you to look up the definition of the word. This is also an essential tool in my writing because I’m always using the wrong word. Today I used the word frivolously when I meant furiously, and believe me these words have two very different meanings. Thank goodness for the definition tool!

6. Finish What You Started - When possible, I try to finish a paper in one sitting–no matter the length. Granted, sometimes it is hard to do this with classes, eating, and other priorities. I’m not suggesting that you neglect all other responsibilities and necessities in order to finish your paper, but I do suggest that you do as much of it as you can. If you’re anything like me, when you’re writing one paragraph you’re thinking of what to write three paragraphs later. If I don’t immediately write what I am thinking at the time, those thoughts somehow disappear into what I can only imagine is a massive black hole of lost thoughts. I wonder what it’s like there? So, in order to avoid this sad fate of your thoughts write as much as you can. If you know you’ll have to do the paper in a span of several days, write out ideas you have directly below the paragraph you’re typing. They don’t have to be organized or pretty, just legible.

Well, that’s a wrap! I hope that this how-to will be helpful for you in your own writing en devours. If you have any tips or tricks you use to help you write leave them in the comments below. Let me what you think of my how to in comments section as well. Was it helpful? I would love to hear from you! As always, follow my blog and have a lovely day!

Insecurity in secrecy

Insecurity. This word alone is enough to make people cringe. I chose to write my post this week about insecurity while I was looking through some old middle school assignments I completed. One assignment in particular, my eighth grade scrapbook, caught me completely off guard. There were two portions of this assignment that required us to reveal personal information about ourselves. The first was called a “Bio Poem”. This very short poem was meant to be a biography condensed into a few lines. Mine read:

Caitlin
Nerdy, smart, short, happy
Daughter of Merry and Dean
Sister of Courtney, Whiskers (cat), and Lou (cat)
Lover of animals, school
Who feels sad that people don’t understand me
Who fears dogs, being stabbed in the back
Who like to see no one special
Resident of ______, Tennessee. (omitted for privacy)
Golding

While reading this poem, I was instantly transported back in time and became painfully aware of how little I thought of myself. I could have written any four adjectives to describe myself and the first that came to mind was nerdy. I saw myself how people labeled me in school. I did, however, list happy to describe myself, and that was reassuring. Then I read on and saw the line that said I was sad because I felt that people didn’t understand me. This was due to the fact that everyday of middle school, I allowed people to pick on me and ridicule me for being smart. I was never popular, so I figured if the only way I could get attention was to be the object of people’s amusement that was good enough for me. I remember being very lonely at this portion of my life and the phrase in my poem “being stabbed in the back” meant that I was afraid my friends, the few people I would allow to get close to me, would one day become just more of my bullies. As for listing my cats as my siblings, I was so unhappy at school that I used to come home and confide in them, and they honestly were like family to me. They were the two individuals that I could tell anything to that wouldn’t tear me down or laugh at me. It may seem odd that I was so open in this assignment, and I had two main reasons for doing so: I thought this was a private assignment that only the teacher would see, and I was reaching out for help. Much to my horror, my teacher posted these poems in the hallway of our school. My classmates immediately began to tease me about listing my cats as family members, and made fun of the fact that I thought people didn’t understand me. Then my biggest fear was made real, the people I thought I could trust had broken that trust. Looking back now, I know my teacher didn’t post the poems to hurt me. She simply wanted to post the poems for other students to read and to show the school what we had been doing in our poetry unit. At the time, though, it revealed all of my deepest insecurities to everyone in the school and I was devastated. Continue reading

Amazing Animals, part 2

This post is the continuation of my Amazing Animals, part 1 post! If you haven’t read that one yet, please do by following the link here.

I have been immeasurably excited to post this. I love learning about new, exciting, and even weird animal species. Being a wildlife major, this happens quite often, and I love telling people about them even more than I love learning about them. So without further ado, on to the next few species that I consider “Amazing Animals”:

Rusty-spotted cat ssp. <i>phillipsi</i>

Rusty Spotted Cat: Though this may look like just a house cat at first glance, it’s actually pretty amazing. These fancy felines are one of the world’s smallest cat species. They are about half the size of a domesticated house cat, and never get much larger than 12 inches in length. Unfortunately, for those of us who would love to have one as a pet, they’re only found in India and Sri Lanka, and are listed as a species vulnerable to extinction. They’re also wild cats by nature and not easily tamed.

Malayan Colugo: The moment I found out discovered this little flying lemur, I was overwhelmed with how adorable it was. Just look at those eyes. Don’t you just want to grab it and hug it?! These little guys are found in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia jumping and gliding from tree to tree, or simply hanging around in the branches. They are close relatives of the sugar gliders (seen at many flea markets and sold as pets), but they grow to be much larger. 

Olm: I learned about these incredible creatures my freshman year of college in Biology 111. As we were entering the the chapter in our textbooks about chordates, basically animals with spinal cords, there was a picture of one of these organisms. They are model organisms to study for this grouping because they form one of the basal levels of the group. Humans are chordates, so it gives one a good idea of how broad of a group the chordates are. Olm typically dwell in caves, which the reasoning behind their lack of skin pigment, and lack of eyes. Yet they still navigate their habitats with ease, how amazing is that?

Giant isopod

Giant Isopod: The easiest way to describe this creature is a giant roly poly (a.k.a. pillbug), but they live in the ocean and grow to be much, much larger. These aquatic giants can grow up to a foot in length, and spend most of their time in the frigid depths of the world’s oceans. Like the pillbug, they are able to roll into a ball-like shape for protection from predators.  They feed upon fish, squid, sponges, and other oceanic creatures. If they can’t find food they have a fascinating ability to survive for up to five years without food. They certainly deserved a spot on my amazing animals list.

Dumbo Octopus: For those of you who are fans of Pixar films, you might find these octopuses to look oddly familiar. That’s because this is the type of octopus that Pearl from Finding Nemo was modeled after. They get the name Dumbo because of the little projections on the top of their heads that look like ears. If that isn’t enough to make you say “aww”, they also swim such a way that it looks like they’re bouncing around underwater.

Wilson’s Snipe: Keeping with the theme of Pixar inspired animals, the above animal is a Wilson’s Snipe. For those of you that have seen the movie Up, this bird differs monumentally to Kevin the snipe. Though I’m sure this wasn’t the specific species Kevin was modeled after, the Wilson’s snipe looks much different. This bird is actually a common resident of Tennessee in the winter season, in fact, it has a hunting season and is a greatly prized catch due to it’s zig-zag flight pattern.

Mirror Spider: Though this may make many of us cringe, I found this spider to be absolutely beautiful. Granted, beautiful would be the last word that many people would choose to describe a species of spider, but this one is special. It actually has specialized pigments in its thorax that create several reflective mirror-like splotches. I imagine that I would be so in awe of this spider that, if I were to ever see one, I wouldn’t even be afraid of it.

I hope you all enjoyed the second installment of my Amazing Animals list, and learned about some new, unique animals! Do you know of any amazing animals not on this list? If so, let me know! I would love to hear about it; leave it in the comments below!

As always, please follow my blog, and stay tuned for more amazing animals posts in the future.

My Weekend

Last weekend I attended two amazing events in a row, Winter Jam and Repticon. I had a blast at both of them and I can’t wait to tell you more.

Lecrae at Passion 2013

I’ll start with Winter Jam. It’s a yearly concert tour that includes some of the biggest names in nearly every genre of Christian music. Last year was my first time attending, and I was even more ecstatic about going this year. The “headlining” artist this year was Lecrae, a Christian rap artist. I had seen him once before at the 2013 Passion conference in Atlanta–which was quite possibly the epitome of my life–so naturally, I was excited to see him in concert again. The best part is that the concert is in Knoxville which is only about an hour from campus!

Another amazing thing about attending Winter Jam was that I got to bring my mom. For many, a mother may not seem like the ideal concert buddy, but my mom is my best friend and she loves Christian music, and we had a great time together. It was awesome to be able to let loose and praise God with a woman that I hold so dear to my heart. The rest of my college ministry, my mom, and I got early entry into the Thomson-Bowling arena because we bought early entry tickets, and got to have a private Q & A session with some of the artists before the show. As you could imagine, this was one of the highlights of the concert. I was totally star-struck.

The next event I went to was Repticon. Honestly, I would have never known about this one had it not been for my blogging director. Luckily, she happened upon a Groupon for tickets to the convention, and asked if I knew about it. Within two days of her telling me, I had already bought the tickets and convinced both my parents and my boyfriend to come with me.

Repticon Reptile & Exotic Animal Shows

You’re probably still wondering what Repticon even is. Well, basically, it’s a reptile convention –a huge one, in Knoxville. Being a wildlife major, it was right down my alley and I was stoked to go! It was so incredible! I walked in and I was like a kid in a candy story, if the candy were reptiles, that is. There were so many friendly vendors that told me all about their reptiles. Much to my surprise, there were even several mammals there as well. Here is a vlog of my experience!

All-in-all, my weekend was great. It was nice to able to go home and spend some time with my family and go to some really fun events. I even vlogged some of it, which was pretty fun as well.

I hope you all enjoyed this post. Did any of you attend Winter Jam? Have you ever been to a huge convention like Repticon? If so, I would love to hear from you in the comments below. As always, follow my blog for more update on my ‘wild’life!