December 10, 2013

A Student's Prayer for Finals Week

Hello there, happy Tuesday! So around the time for midterms this semester, I posted A Student's Prayer from St. Thomas Aquinas. Today, I'm writing this prayer that this week will go well for all of us college students. Good luck on your tests, and merry Christmas!

Dear God,

Thank you for this semester. It has been a long one, at times challenging and draining, and at other times full of discovery and joy. We rejoice in the difficulties that you have presented us with, for they are contributing to our growth, mentally, emotionally, or physically. 

Thank you for the new relationships we have formed in these past months, for placing people in our lives to help us along the way. And thank you also for preserving the old, because those relationships are gold.

Please bless the rest of this semester. Help us to see through with our hard work. Give us motivation to study efficiently and constructively, and give us wisdom as we sit down to take tests and write papers. 

Please help us remember that our grades do not determine our worth as people, as important as they are, and help us maintain our joy in learning and energy for doing good will.


And remember:

Take care,
-Riley XO

December 8, 2013


Hello everyone. It has been such a busy time of year as for many university students it is finals week. I can't say that I'm in a spot worse than anyone else's, but my university practically disregards the meaning of dead week. Long story short, I had a unit exam in Gen Chem this last Friday. But on the plus side, I actually did have a productive dead week and am looking at a pretty easy finals week as far as finals week goes, so that's cool.

That being said, was anyone else blindsided by the holiday season?

I am from Colorado, so I'm used to seeing snow for a solid month before Thanksgiving. But here at school we've only had a sheet-thin snow one time last November. For a while, it really just felt like it was pretty much the same speal of college, just getting colder. Then suddenly, I went home for Thanksgiving. And then suddenly, there were two weeks left in the semester!

Anyway, although finals week is at the absolute forefront of my mind, the magic of Christmas is settling in too. The university I attend put a great deal of effort into making the campus look absolutely splendiforous. 

Who else out there is a sucker for pretty lights?
And it also snowed today (about 3-4 inches), which made the quick walk for a study break really special. Then, this evening for church, we read Bible verses and sang carols that corresponded to the stories. I'm at that point right now where I don't know if I should say "Good luck on finals" or "Merry Christmas," so for today I'll just have to wish you good luck on finals and a merry Christmas.

Take care,
-Riley XO

P.S. I am making some minor changes to Smiles throughout the rest of this year (so that studying for Calculus will not consume and destroy my life). If you have any feedback, please let me know by shooting me an email or leaving a comment. There will be a new section called "Dear Friend," which I am so excited for, and I'm also planning to update the "About" page (also, what do you guys think of the pictures I'm starting to incorporate?). I know a lot of bloggers say this when they start thinking about New Year's Resolutions, but I'm also going to try posting more too. I'm trying to get into vlogging for fun too, so I guess we'll see what I find time for. Thank you for reading as always--please follow and subscribe!--and I hope that you have a great rest of your day. 

P.P.S. For those of you who may have ever wondered, tree squirrels do not hibernate but ground squirrels do. I saw a squirrel wandering out in the snow today and could not decide if they hibernated a lot and just looked it up two seconds ago.

P.P.P.S. Look at this red squirrel, it's so adorable and fluffy!!

December 2, 2013

10 Tips For Studying For Finals

So finals are just around the corner... I had this rude awakening when I realized that it is almost time for Thanksgiving Break--and dead week is right after that!

With that said, it's time to buckle down and start studying hardcore for finals! Is it just me, or is it difficult to find the motivation to study around this time, especially with snow on the ground and the holiday season acting as a wonderful opportunity to make new memories? Well, here are my top ten tips for getting "in the zone" for studying so that you will do your ultimate best and ace those tests!

  1. Don't procrastinate! Yeah, you should've seen this one coming. Procrastinating has become such a big problem for me because it is so easy to get distracted. So, the best way to avoid procrastinating is by making schedules and by turning those electronic devices off. Then, it will be easy to focus on the task at hand and be more productive during your study time.
  2. Study in different places. Changing up the environment while you study helps keep things interesting. Sitting down in one place mulling over a textbook is something that no one wants to do. I like to do certain tasks in one part of the library, then go to the student center and study another subject, and then go back to a different section of the library. Walking around a little bit is also a nice brain break. 

  3. Speaking of breaks, take quick ones every now and then. Don't underestimate the power of your brain--as you probably already know, it's more powerful than computers. If you go for more than two hours studying hard, it'll overheat. To keep your brain from overheating, look up from your notes/readings/textbooks ever fifteen minutes, just up at the ceiling or a poster nearby, and then return to work. It allows your eyes to stay awake because staring at the same thing for an extended period of time can be hypnotic. Then, once every 60-90 minutes, do a quick 5-10-minute-long exercise. Like, 100 pushups or squats, or a Blogilates video would be fun. Avoid going on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Reddit on your breaks though, because you don't want a 10-minute break to turn into a 40-minute break!

  4. Study alone. You're taking the finals on your own, so you should study alone. Even if you think you work better while with other people, it is beneficial to be independent too so that you can focus on the topics you understand the least. While studying alone, make sure you prioritize by asking: "If I were the professor, what would I be testing my students on?" This encourages active reading and will help you retain the most important information.

  5. Study with friends. Sometimes, it's easy to get distracted when you're studying with friends, but if you have friends who are in the same class as you, it's a good idea to work together so that you can spin ideas off each other and quiz each other. Your friends could catch some ideas you may have missed while studying on your own, and when you teach someone else a topic it helps solidify your existing knowledge on the subject. Having a balance between studying independently and collaboratively will maximize the benefits that come with each of these methods.

  6. Multitask wisely. It is possible to be productive with other things while studying. Some people can read as they work out on an elliptical. I personally enjoy doing planks while hovering above a book. You could also accomplish a lot while the laundry is going. Listening to light music for some background noise is also helpful for keeping your brain active. But remember that there's a fine line between doing laundry vs. going on Facebook.

  7. A quick tip on music: It is best not to listen to music in English while you're working because sometimes the lyrics can interfere with your thoughts. Instrumental music is nice, and I personally enjoy listening to Latino or Korean music. 

  8. Find some form of stress relief. Yoga, meditation, exercise, writing, music (instrumental or vocal), or crafts are activities that make the day fun without taking up too much time (only an hour at max!). Remember to take care of yourself and balance the studying with something enjoyable.

  9. Make mental check-lists. Keep organized so that you'll have a plan of attack. I usually construct a schedule in my head while I'm walking to/from class and only deviate from it if something important comes up. 

  10. Stay positive! Remember why you're in school, and recognize that getting an education is a privilege that a lot of people don't have. Moving forward with a spirit of gratitude always helps brighten the mood. :)

Do you have any study tips you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments below! Good luck with all those tests!

Take care,
-Riley XO
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