3Tips for Keeping Your Commuter Sanity

I won’t be the first to say it: rush hour traffic is the worst. Like, I would rather just sit somewhere on campus for an extra three hours, just to avoid having to endure traffic. Because it’s either that, or sit in traffic and stare at the car ahead of you for so long that you begin to associate that car brand with the terrible traffic-related feelings (I got stuck behind a Saturn  for like 20 minutes once and seeing that logo makes me frustrated now). If you commute, then I bet you know that feeling exactly.

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(Parks and Rec articulates my feelings so well)

 

But, as a commuter, well, there’s not a lot I can do to change my situation. I don’t live in Mississauga, so I have to find a way to get there (I personally drive). Which means that, to get rid of that frustration, I have to find some way to cope with rush hour. Here are three tips I’ve been using so far;

1. Make yourself a driving playlist. Get together a bunch of songs that you find really groovy – songs that you wouldn’t skip if you were on shuffle, or that you sing along to when you’re alone. Put those on a playlist, and there you go! Something to distract you from the fact that you’ve been waiting at a light for what feels like an eternity…

2. Talk/think yourself through some studying. One of my big problems with commuting is the fact that it feels like I’m losing time. I start driving, and half an hour is lost, time I could have spent studying for some big upcoming test.

Solution? Make yourself a mental list of topics for a course you need to study for, and work your way through it as you drive. Test your memory; act as though you’re trying to explain the concept to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. You’ll get a chance to work on explaining things, which you have to do in essay questions on exams, and remembering things (for multiple-choice purposes).

3. Read/listen to a book you really like. If you’re not that into music/studying, then audio books are a great thing! Maybe there’s some old classic you’ve just can’t find the time to read (me, I’ve been holding out for In Search of Lost Time) or maybe it’s time to read Harry Potter again – whatever your choice, commuting is a good time for audio books.

A longer time spent commuting means more time to listen to your book of choice, now isn’t that less dreadful?

There you have it – hopefully these can make your commute through rush hour a little better. Remember, stay safe on the road, and don’t let it get too frustrating.

 

 

 

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Love True Crime Stories? This Podcast Is for You!

I think I can speak for a lot of us when I say at the end of the day, I’m done. Completely, 100% finished with the very notion of doing things. Reading, watching Netflix, it’s too much work – I don’t want to have to keep my eyes open. And, ironically, I don’t want to go to sleep either. A week ago, that meant it was time to find an alternative.

So, I sought out a podcast. Now, in the past, podcasts haven’t really been my thing. I just never got into them, and I was skeptical. But entertainment for which I didn’t have to keep my eyes open beckoned, and so, a few lists later, I found what I was looking for: Serial.

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Hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig, Serial is currently a two season podcast that has eaten up my nights for the past week. Each season follows one story though about 13 hour-long episodes. Each episode goes into another detail of the same story – by the end of the season, you’ll have the “full story” (sort of- it’s complicated).

Season one presents the case of the 1999 murder of a high school student named Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent arrest and trial of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed. Where things get a little more complicated? Well, Adnan swears he’s innocent. And the evidence in the case isn’t exactly proving him wrong. But it’s not proving his innocence either.

On one side, you have the very, very questionable witness, Jay, who claims to have helped Adnan in the murder and keeps changing his story. On the other, you have the fact that Adnan claims to not remember the afternoon when Hae Min was murdered, so he can’t provide an alibi. So, the question comes down to who’s lying? Someone has to be. Honestly, there are so many details in this case I can’t even begin to break it down in a way that would do it justice.

Serious in tone, but really easy to listen to and follow, Koenig investigates what she can of the story in a relatively fair manner. She’s not taking any particular side, so you can consider the evidence yourself. It’s absolutely gripping.

Season two takes on a different sort of case – and full disclosure, I’m only part way through, so I’m not quite sure where it’s going yet. Anyhow, in the second season Koenig investigates the case of Bowe Bergdahl, who was held by the Taliban for five years after having walked off his post in Afghanistan one evening. The key question: is Bergdahl an American hero, or a traitor to his country?

In every episode, of course, the topics are also retreated respectfully and fairly. As far as I know, no baseless claims are made, and no ‘alternative facts’ are employed – not by Koenig, at least. It’s the sort of podcast that might turn me onto other podcasts.

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(Sarah Koenig, who currently narrates my thoughts. I’ve been listening to this so much.)

And, bonus, it is the sort of end of the night thing to listen to that won’t scare you, but won’t tire or bore you either. It’s impressively well made, and it’s totally captivating. Which, when you’ve just come off reading about a billion pages of a textbook, is pretty great.

So, next time you’re feeling pretty done at the end of the night, get some tea, get cozy, and give Serial a try – if you like true crime, then you’ll be completely hooked. And, while you’re at it, comment with your other favorite podcasts – I know I’m going to finish Serial by the end of the week, after all…

5 Tips for More Efficient and Effective Note-Taking

Three hours.

That’s the usual amount of time suggested for homework per class. Maybe it’s a whole skew of math questions or science questions. Maybe it’s a chapter or three from the text book. Either way, you’re probably going to be summarizing and recording information in  a notebook at some point. But, and I don’t know about you, on most days I don’t want to spend all my free time on summarizing and recording information.

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Early last semester, however, I had no strategy for making that homework practice more efficient while not throwing away the benefits of note taking at the same time. 3 hours per class, day in day out. That, or I could take minimal or even no notes, and kiss a good exam mark goodbye (That option was quickly off the table).

But, even with my admittedly limited experience, I did figure a few things out. So, unqualified as it may be, here are my tips to taking more efficient notes when reading your textbook.

1: Read, then write.

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If experience counts for anything, stopping every time something important comes up to write it down is going to take forever. Not only that, but chances are, you’ll come across a sentence shortly after that will undermine the first sentence or phrase the point better, and you’ll have the erase and write a new note… You get it. It’s frustrating.

Instead? Take it a couple paragraphs at a time. Read for a bit, then stop, summarize the most important points, and continue. Aside from saving yourself a lot of time, you’ll get a chance to mentally edit and understand what you’ve read – which will be all the better when exam time rolls around.

2: One example is (usually) enough.

One textbook I have lists what feels like a billion example for every concept. It gets to the point where, well, I’m not reading any more. I’m looking for where the examples end. If I were to write every single one down, for every concept? It would take a whole lot more than three hours to do my homework.

So? Write down one example for any concept you understand otherwise. Obviously, if you feel you need more for something in particular, go for it – do what will help you learn. If you’re worried exams will come and that one example won’t be enough? Remember you can always refer back to that list of examples later. For me, though, one has always been enough, and it has kept my efficiency up. Instead of focusing on writing ten examples, I can focus on the key concepts.

3: If you can print, print.

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This applies pretty much exclusively to online papers or articles, evidently. I find that those are the hardest of all the read – I’m less inclined to take notes as switching from screen to notebook is hard my eyes, and the internet can be quite compelling when you’re reading something particularly dense. Sooner or later, I’ll be watching cat videos instead of reading a paper on political philosophy.

The solution? Print double sided, and only print what you need (If there are four pages of bibliography, you can probably just read that part online), but print what you’re reading. There’s a good chance that you’ll take notes, highlight important quotes, and just read things more deeply. Something about reading off screens just makes the information harder to retain. (Here’s some science to back that up.)

4: Know what you’re looking for.

This is a lot easier said than done, I admit that. Me, I have one really helpful TA who hints at what is most important to make notes on for one course. For other courses, it’s just something to figure out on your own. Consider the aim of the course, consider what the professor tends to emphasize in lecture. These are the things that may turn out to be more important – though every course is different.

One big pointer would also be to look at the subheadings in any given textbook chapter – look at what main ideas are being presented, and base your notes on those. Or, if you’re reading an essay, write down the thesis and main arguments, with minimal examples (see above for more on the examples). Come exam time, this might make your studying more worth while.

5: Organize!

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This is almost self-explanatory; keep things in order, keep them labelled, and make sure nothing gets lost! It will save you so much stress, knowing that when you need to look at your notes, they’re all going to be there and grouped together nicely. Like topics should stay together, separate courses should stay separate, and binder/folders/bound notebooks are your friends!

So, there you go. Hopefully these tips (and their respective memes) will help make your note taking a little more effective. And maybe the point of homework isn’t to get it done quickly, but these tips will help with that too – it’s an added bonus. I know I certainly don’t like scrambling for good notes when exams come!

With that, happy note taking, and good luck in the rest of your semester! Let me know if there are any other note-taking tips and tricks that work for you!