How To: Make The Best of Your Time On Winter Break

Some see the time off from school during Winter Break as a time to rest and recover for the Spring semester ahead. Others may see it as a time to work on getting ahead of priorities that may be difficult to take care of when school rolls back around. As crazy as it may sound to say, it should be a mix of both relaxation and being “on your grind”. With over a month off from your typical academic workload, there are a variety of ways in which you can take advantage of the free time:

 

Start Applying for Career Opportunities

One of the biggest mistakes that many people make during their college career is not working towards “stacking” their resumes early on. To stack your resume means to make it stand out from the competition beyond just format and GPA; you need to show future companies you’d like to work for that you’re experienced in the field. Whether it be seeking out an internship, a co-op, an externship, or something similar, all take time and dedication towards fulfilling the requirements of each application. When I began applying for internships, I’d wait until my Winter Break rolled around, as I didn’t want the process of applying to interfere with my academics. Unfortunately I waited a bit later than most to begin seeking internships out, so now I find myself in a spot where I feel as if I’m having to “catch up” to my peers resume-wise. There’s no better time than when you’re on break to work on getting ahead; utilize your Winter Break to knock out those often-lengthy applications.

 

Find A Seasonal Job

It can be difficult to pay for school-related expenses while you’re balancing academics, social life, and the various other aspects of day-to-day college life. Winter Break provides a substantial amount of time for most college students to find seasonal work, which is great for those who would like to have cash to spend in the Spring without having to work during the semester. I’ve always found myself working during breaks to have money to cover my semesterly expenses, so that I don’t run into spending issues while trying to focus on school. Whether it be your local mall in need of extra employees for the holidays, or parents in your neighborhood in need of a sitter for their children, there’s always something to find.

 

Get Into A Workout Routine

Finding motivation to stay focused on fitness during the school year can be hard with all that life throws at you. Early morning classes, finding time for mid-day naps, and having to stay up late to cram for exams can really be demotivating for any kind of fitness plan. One of the best ways to keep yourself on track for staying fit is to establish a routine that works for you, and taking the time to find that routine over your Winter Break is definitely doable. Setting up a routine that works with your sleep schedule and takes into consideration your typical work schedule can be troubling when free time is limited. I’ve personally struggled with keeping up with my running routine almost every new semester, as I’ve come into semesters with bad sleeping habits that kept me from wanting to hit the gym, so instead I found myself taking naps instead of working on staying fit. Take time with the time you have off to see what works (and what doesn’t work) for you when it comes to having a good workout routine; your body will definitely thank you later on.

 

Establish A Solid Sleep Schedule

Similar to what was said in the previous paragraph, using the free time you have over Winter Break to set-up a good sleep schedule is key to finding success in your Spring semester. Aside from it helping with some of the issues related to workout motivation, it can really make a difference in your academic and social life. Studies have shown that sleep plays an important role in academic performance and how one functions during the day. Students who get five to seven hours of solid sleep a night meet the recommended amount of sleep time necessary for daily functioning, while those who operate on less are more likely to find themselves facing performance issues. Throughout my time in college, I’ve found that my peers who are consistent with their sleep schedules often see consistency in their grades as well. Personally, I’ve found my sleepless semesters to be my most academically disappointing semesters, even when the work isn’t overwhelming. It can be hard to get in the habit of putting yourself to bed and waking up at times that suit you best when the Spring semester rolls around, so Winter Break should definitely be the time to get in the habit of sleep wellness. 

 

Try New Things 

One of the more difficult things to do when you’re busy with school work during the semester is to try out new things. Whether it be attending a yoga class, learning a new skill, or attempting new recipes in the kitchen, there are a variety of activities that could enhance your time during college if you gave yourself the time to try them out, but getting starting can be tricky if you don’t come into the semester prepared. I personally found myself wanting to make every new semester of college better than any of the previous ones, so I’d commit myself to learning at least one or two new things each break. One time it was learning how to cook and how to be better at parallel parking, with the following break being for learning how to be better organized and more effective at writing papers. In doing so, I could walk into the following semester without the stress of trying something new and not having much free time to address any issues I encountered along the way. Winter break gives an amount of time for trial and error; don’t let the time slip by.

 

While Winter Break is what you ultimately make of it, often it’s the only time after the academic year has begun that you find yourself with an ample amount of free time. Whether you want it to be a time to kickback or a time to grind, make sure you do what’s necessary to be happy with the road ahead.

How To: Shopping Small In Blacksburg

Blacksburg, like many other college towns, prides itself on the numerous small businesses that cater to both the local and collegiate crowds in the area. Whether you’re there for school, living the life of a townie, or just visiting, there’s plenty of shops and restaurants around to enjoy. 

 

Bar Selections

For those who are looking for some evening fun, Blacksburg is home to some of the best bars in southern Virginia. If you enjoy fine Hispanic meals and flavorful margaritas, Centro Taco Bar and El Rodeo serve up some of the best food and drinks around. For a more traditional bar experience, Top of The Stairs (TOTS), PK’s Bar & Grill, Hokie House, and Sharkey’s are some of best to check out.

If you’re 21 or older and have a taste for fine dining and wine, perhaps the Blacksburg Wine Lab may suit your interests. Owned and operated by Virginia Tech instructors John Boyer and Katie Pritchard, the Blacksburg Wine Lab is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine paired with one of their many entrees and appetizers.

 

Food For Thought

Going downtown to grab a bite to eat? Many of the area’s great small business restaurants are ready to serve you. Benny Marzano’s, a small pizza chain founded by Virginia Tech alumni Chris Brown and Zach Toth, is serving up pizza by the slice daily. Gaucho’s Brazillian Grille, a Latin American food-oriented restaurant located near the University Mall as well as Green’s Grill & Sushi Bar, a downtown favorite for all things needing chopsticks, are popular spots to try solo or with friends.

 

Fresh Selections

The Blacksburg Farmers Market is a popular attraction to people of all ages in Blacksburg and beyond due to its unique offerings and lively atmosphere. Vendors carry a wide variety of homemade goods and locally sourced produce that even the pickiest of buyers can enjoy. Whether you’re looking to try kombucha for the first time, or you’re looking for the freshest finds to add to your favorite recipes, The Blacksburg Farmers Market is the place to be.

 

Small Shops To Explore

Aside from restaurants, there are many local boutique stores as well. T.R. Collection, a popular gift shop located in downtown Blacksburg, offers just about every kind of option imaginable if you’re looking to send that special someone a present for whatever occasion is in need of celebrating. If you’re into photography or simply just a vinyl fanatic, John’s Camera and Records shop is your go-to shop for all of your artsy needs.

For those seeking local entertainment, The Lyric Theatre is a great place to see new and classic movies across all genres. A historic site to be seen in Blacksburg, The Lyric has been around for nearly 100 years, and is a must-visit for anyone who wants to complete the Hokie Bucket List.

 

As VT students, we owe it to the area to support small businesses, as they’ve been serving the wants and needs of the Hokie Nation for years. Should we want to keep them around for many more years to come, we need to give them our business now in order to give them reason to stick around.  

How To: Socially Survive Your Freshman Year

Entering any new environment can be a daunting task for many to embark on, and for countless individuals starting off their first year of college, survival mode begins as soon as they move into their dorm room. Being surrounded by primarily new people from a variety of backgrounds coupled with the pressure of putting yourself out there to make friends is no doubt a stressor to many, but it is a doable venture if one approaches it properly. From looking into what your campus has to offer to making your presence known where it should be, here are some of the ways in which you can ensure that you socially survive your freshman year of college.

 

Check Out Clubs

One of the best ways to get to meet new people and to find those that best mesh with your personality is to look into joining clubs that best suit your interests. GobblerFest is a once-a-semester event put on by the university where just about every campus organization comes out to showcase who they are and what they do. If you’re unable to attend GobblerFest, GobblerConnect, a website that highlights many of Tech’s events and organizations, is a great place to check out if you’re interested in adding some extracurricular involvements to your schedule. 

I can honestly say that one of my biggest regrets during my freshman & sophomore years at VT was not diversifying and expanding upon my extracurricular involvements. It wasn’t until my junior year that I started to branch out where I should have been involving myself, and at that point I felt as if I had waited too long. The earlier you start getting involved in activities/organizations that interest you, the better. Don’t feel pressured to rush into anything; it’s easy to lose sight of what you really want to get out of your time here in college when you compare yourself to what your peers are doing. Take the time to do a bit of researching and getting to know about any involvement before you commit yourself, but don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.

 

Go Greek

Odds are you’ve heard of Greek life, oftentimes referred to as “fraternity and sorority life” at some point in your academic life. Many people tend to form opinions about this unique area of extracurricular involvement without truly getting to know the organizations and the people within them. Regardless of what you may have heard or assumed about Greek life, it is one of the larger offerings that just about every college campus has, with hundreds of thousands of college students across the country actively participating in. Thinking of joining? The best way to go about the process is to get to know the organizations, and have their members get to know you during the recruitment period, commonly known as “rush”. Check out the rush schedules on the organizations’ social media accounts, and look into which organizations are offered at your school.

Prior to coming to college, I had no interest in Greek life whatsoever, and I definitely didn’t want to join a fraternity. I had seen all the news reports and heard stories about fraternities, all of which made the whole system sound unappealing and not worth the time to me. For the first few years of college, I got by fine, I was going to parties and enjoying time with friends, but I felt that I could get more out of my time as an undergraduate by expanding my horizons. I eventually found a group of guys that I felt had similar interests with what I’m into, and I joined a fraternity. It opened doors for me socially and academically; I’ve been paired up with brothers that have been able to help me seek out internships, take on leadership roles, and various other activities that have helped me grow as a college student. Even if you don’t believe Greek life is your cup of tea, at least give it a chance by looking into it.

 

Get To Know The People In Your Hall & Classes

If you find yourself living in a residence hall your freshman year, don’t wait on the opportunity to get to know those who live around you. A timeless, almost guaranteed way to make long-term friendships in college is to branch out to those who live in your dorm hallway; the earlier the better. Additionally, the same rules go for your classes as well. Whether you have a class in-person or virtually, take the time to get to know the people in it with you. Beyond getting to know who they are, establish a connection with them beyond just knowing their name. Doing so could lead to opportunities down the road, such as making new friends and/or networking perks.

One of the things I did during my freshman year that has benefited me long-term was taking the time to get to know those who were in my hall. Many of the people I’ve kept in close contact with over the years have been those who I got to know during the first few months of my time in college, and having talked to other people outside of my friend group, I’ve heard many similar stories. Don’t delay on getting to know people when you go off to college, but don’t feel left out if you don’t find your crowd right away. 

 

Get Involved in Campus Activities

Wanting to be active in your university’s extracurricular offerings, but without the commitment/cost of typical options? Perhaps looking into helping out with campus activities would best suit your interests. It’s common for universities to have events and organizations that are of moderate to low commitment to be a part of, such as helping out with the school wellness center, yearbook committee, or running social media accounts. Committing to roles within campus organizations can be difficult when trying to balance academics and other involvements on top, but that doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself. Often there are ways you can be involved in campus activities short-term, without the need of fulfilling a continuous role within the host organization.

Reflecting on how I approached adding extracurricular activities to my already overwhelmed schedule during my first few years of college, I realize now that I was too apprehensive at spreading myself thin. While overextending yourself in any situation tends to be detrimental to your performance abilities, making an effort to test your boundaries and see what is/isn’t doable within your schedule can’t hurt in the short term. Additionally, seeking out ways to be involved in extracurriculars that work within the confines of your day to day life will surely help you find what is best for you.

Freshman year of all years that one spends in college is truly what you make of it. There may be some, “barriers” to living out that amazing college experience that you dreamt about back in high school, or perhaps you don’t find yourself to be the social butterfly that’s able to make friends right away. Regardless, the time to be putting in the legwork to ensure that the remainder of your undergrad years are enjoyable is now.

20 Essential Items for Your Dorm Room

There are so many “what you need for your dorm room” lists out there, but they are so long and you often find yourself thinking, “Will I really need that?” What items are essential and what items are unnecessary? Here are twenty items you ACTUALLY need for your first year in Blacksburg, according to students who have done it first. Most of the titles are linked to Amazon listings hand-picked by students so click on those and check them out!

Item #1: A power strip or two

Small dorm rooms have limited space and a limited number of outlets. As college students, we need as many outlets as we can get. Sometimes your laptop, phone, and headphones all die when you have a quiz due in five minutes. You will need to bring a power strip with multiple outlets. In my second year, I brought two power strips and I consistently used every single outlet. 

Item #2: Mini-fridge

This is absolutely essential! 

Item #3: Microwave

Small microwaves are generally inexpensive and they don’t take up a lot of space. You can stick it on top of your fridge.

Item #3: A large Brita, or any water filtration pitcher

Filling it up is quick and easy, and it makes the water taste so much better. They are also very cheap.

Item #3: Long phone charger

Chances are, the closest outlet to your bed will not be that close, especially if you have a lofted bed. You need a long charging cord; ten feet long is probably the best length. It is much more convenient to have a cord that is very long and versatile.

Item #4: Shower caddie and shower shoes

A shower caddie will help you conveniently transport all your shower things to the bathroom in one trip. As for the shower shoes, communal showers are disgusting, and you do not want to be barefoot.

Item #5: A thick mattress pad

It gives you that extra cushion for comfort! I’d recommend something memory foam and pretty thick.

Item #6: Noise-cancelling headphones

Sometimes, people choose the exact wrong time to be loud, like the night before an exam. Noise-canceling headphones will help you block out unnecessary sounds.

Item #7: Command hooks

Since we are not allowed to put nails or holes in the walls, command hooks are every college student’s go-to when it comes to hanging and mounting their things. Bring a few big packs, you will definitely use them.

Item #8: Febreeze, or any kind of scented spray

Sometimes the air quality of dorms is not the best. Some scented spray can help it smell a little better.

Item #9: Basic medical supplies, and Advil, NyQuill, and Tylenol

You will get a lot of headaches and random bouts of sickness in college. Make sure you have the medicine necessary to help you push through and submit that assignment on time!

Item #10: Laptop USB hub

These are so useful! You can plug a camera memory card in there, connect your laptop to a TV, and do so much more with a USB hub.

Item #11: Side table for your bed

If your bed is lofted, get a clip-on side table to put your phone, charger, and whatever else you need on it.

Item #12: Easy to clean utensils and plates

Having a few plates and utensils around is great for when you eat leftovers or try to cook something. Plastic is super easy to clean!

Item #13: Hand sanitizer

Dorms are dirty, and hand sanitizer comes in handy when washing your hands is not an option.

Item #14: Husband pillow

Even though the worst name is quite strange, husband pillows are so useful. They provide support for your back wherever you decide to sit, and you are going to need that support!

Item #15: Flash drive

You absolutely need to purchase a flash drive for college, especially if you plan on printing anything. 

Item #16: Laptop compressed air cleaner or slime for keyboard

Your laptop gets dirty for no reason. A laptop cleaner or some slime really helps get the dust out of the smallest nooks and crannies.

Item #17: Whiteboard

Whiteboards are great for both academic and fun purposes! You can use them to work out equations, or just to write down your plans for the day. They’re inexpensive and useful.

Item #18: Tide pods, not detergent

You are not going to want to deal with laundry detergent. Tide Pods are so easy to use and very portable.

Item #19: Snacks

Some days, you are lazier than others. Bring some of your favorite snacks for the days where you do not want to leave the comfort of your dorm.

Item #20: Desktop file and pen organizer

These can hold your papers, your pens, and other odds and ends you may have lying around. It makes everything look neat and organized.

Bonus Item #21: Pepper spray

If you’re a girl, make sure to bring some mace or pepper spray. A keychain one will do! If you ever get into a bad situation, you have an easily accessible, potent weapon to defend yourself.

 

Those are the 20 most essential items that you absolutely have to bring for your first year of college. If you purchase all these things, your life in college will be so much easier. Most of these things are relatively inexpensive and available almost anywhere. Check out the Amazon links and make some smart purchases! Go Hokies!

 

Image credit: https://www.freepik.com/vectors/business

Mental Health Resources at Virginia Tech

Between being in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, viewing and experiencing racial injustices, watching wildfires take over the west coast, and an election coming up, it’s safe to say that some, if not all, of us are feeling overwhelmed.

The physical and mental isolation this year has brought has made it especially hard on college students, who are trying to keep up with assignments and push for their degree despite what’s going on around and/or inside of them.

If you’re struggling with your mental health right now – whether that be anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, struggling in school, loneliness, low self-esteem – know that you are not alone. I mean, with the never ending threat of getting sick, the isolation dorms, deprivation of social settings, trying to navigate online classes, job uncertainty post-grad, how could we not be struggling?

Struggling with your mental health is no different than struggling with your physical health, except that we don’t talk about it as often because we fear being judged, and therefore don’t ask for help as often. The truth is, simply talking to someone about how you’re feeling can take a lot of the weight off your shoulders. 

The upside about being in college and a college town is that we have access to several online and in-person resources that we might not otherwise have. Here’s a list of all the Mental Health Resources that Virginia Tech and the town of Blacksburg have available for students:

 

  • Cook Counseling Center – This is probably the most well-known mental health service at Virginia Tech since its located on campus by Schiffert. This year, Cook has switched over to virtual counseling, which means you’ll talk to someone through a confidential zoom. Call 540-231-6557 or visit https://ucc.vt.edu/cook_connect.html to set up a 20-minute Cook Connect session to discuss plans and options.

 

  • Cook Counseling “Virtual Coping” Online Workshops – Cook has set up online workshops which include things like strategies for managing anxiety, adjusting to college during the pandemic, planning for midterms, and support groups for COVID-19, students of color, first-gen students and more at https://ucc.vt.edu/index/virtual-coping.html

 

  • Cook Counseling Black Mental Health Resources – This is a directory that leads to websites with comprehensive lists of resources, such as Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective, organizations, books, social media accounts and more. https://ucc.vt.edu/index/Black_Mental_Health_Matters.html

 

  • VT Community Provider Database: This Database allows you to search for counselors by type of insurance accepted, what area you need help in, preferred gender of your counselor, and if you need them to be walking, BT or handicap accessible: https://www.search.ucc.vt.edu

 

  • Virginia Tech’s Women’s Center: The VT Women’s Center provides counseling, support for gender-based violence like abuse, stalking and harrassment, and support for sexual assault, such as information and accompaniment to Title IX meetings, criminal court proceedings and obtaining protective orders. Services are free for all Virginia Tech students, regardless of gender, and it’s located right on Washington St. Call 540-231-7806 to schedule an appointment with a counselor or advocate, visit https://www.womenscenter.vt.edu/advocacy.html or email wcsupport@vt.edu.

 

  • Lotus Counseling and Coaching by Beth Fariello – Therapy and Life Coaching for Individuals & Families: This counseling center is located on Roanoke St. and she specializes in depression, anxiety, trauma and more. I’ve personally gone to Beth in the past, and she is a great counselor – young, hip and knowledgeable! Call 540-695-0250 or visit https://www.lotuscounselingandcoaching.com/aboutme

 

 

  • Healing Tree Counseling: A small, women-owned counseling and psychotherapy center located right off South Main St. They are currently providing counseling online, on the phone, or in outdoor sessions. Call 540-808-3382 or visit https://www.htcounseling.com.

 

  • Online Counseling Services: There are tons of online counseling services available right now, including Betterhelp and Talkspace. I personally think this is a great option for college students because it’s 1) less intimidating/awkward than going to talk to someone in person, 2) you can chat your counselor, that way you don’t have to worry about anyone hearing you over zoom/phone, and 3) the chat option allows you to vent whenever you want without having to schedule an appointment! 

 

  • Dorm Resident Assistants (RA’s): Freshmen, even if you have to scramble to hide your bottles of Burnett’s in your room from them, your RA’s really are there to help you. If you’re feeling lost or overwhelmed with personal issues, classes, or adjusting to college, you can always go and talk to your RA if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your friends.

 

Remember, therapy isn’t something that’s reserved solely for people who’ve endured extreme trauma – it’s for everyone. Therapy is normal, and it’s a great tool to either cope or be proactive with your mental health. Plus, you get to talk to someone about all your worries, problems and drama in a judgement-free, bias-free, and them going and telling your personal information to all their friends-free zone! 

Mental health disorders and personal struggles don’t discriminate – they affect us all, regardless of gender, race, if you’re a freshman or if you’re a senior! Allowing yourself to open up to others and admit to the vulnerability and challenges that come with life, especially in college, is a courageous act of self-love.