Taking Notes Doesn’t Have to Be Boring

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Taking notes is one of the best ways to retain information. We’ve all heard it before…writing things down helps them stick in your mind. That doesn’t change the fact that taking notes can get a little boring. But I’m a huge nerd who loves taking notes, and there are a few ways you can spice up your everyday notes to make it fun. Here’s a picture of my notes from class last year. Keep in mind that not everybody is as obsessive as I am, so your mileage may vary. Do whatever works for you!

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First, get a notebook that you love. You don’t have to get any particular kind. Just find one that makes you smile and inspires you to fill it up. My notebook for this term was $4 from Muji, a store by Pioneer Square just a few blocks from campus that’s a great source for inexpensive school supplies. If you’re tired of lined paper, try graph paper or dot grid to change things up.

To go with your notebook, of course you need a writing utensil. Whether that’s a mechanical pencil or quill pen, just make sure it’s easy to write with. My latest obsession is fountain pens. Some students enjoy multicolored highlighters to color-code their notes. And many students prefer taking notes electronically, whether on their computer or tablet. The idea is simply to try changing things up if you’re bored with your notes.

When it comes time to actually take notes, be creative! You don’t have to write in a linear fashion. Try putting important facts in boxes or other shapes. It’s easy to experiment with different headings and bullet points to keep the process interesting. A few doodles never hurt, either. With a few little changes, taking notes can be both an educational and a creative process…and a lot more fun!

Writing an Essay Without Tears

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

We’ve all been there: the deadline for that five-page essay is looming, and you don’t know where to start. I’ve written a lot of essays in my three years as a writing student, and this is the process I use to reduce stress.

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  • Leave yourself plenty of time. Although a Red Bull-fueled typing frenzy at 3 a.m. is certainly an effective motivational tactic, it usually results in mistakes and a subpar essay.
  • Find your thesis. This is simply the main idea of your paper – the more specific, the better.

  • Make a haphazard outline. An easy method is to write the general topic of each paragraph, followed by a few bullet points of things you want to include.
  • Find your quotes. When you’re on a roll with a paragraph, the last thing you want to do is stop to scour the text for quotes. The nice thing about finding quotes before you start is that you can tailor the paper around them rather than trying to fit them in at the end.

  • Write! There’s no need to write in a linear order if you don’t want to. Just use your outline at the end to make sure everything’s in the right spot.
  • Read it out loud. This helps to catch grammar and syntax problems you might otherwise miss. Don’t forget to run it through SpellCheck, too. 

By the way, the Writing Center is a fantastic resource to visit anytime during this process. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this essay under control.


Five Beautiful Things a Day

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

It feels like just last week it was summer, and now fall is upon us. It’s easy to lament the loss of long, sunny days. As somebody who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (aptly abbreviated as SAD), the transition into fall and winter is difficult. Lots of people have SAD. If you’ve ever felt more gloomy in the winter than you do in the summer, you may be one of them. 

There isn’t much you can do for SAD, because whatever you do, the seasons will keep on changing. Your doctor can advise things like Vitamin D supplements or spending time under a sun lamp, both of which are extremely helpful for me. However, I’ve found that the biggest difference comes from actively trying to change my mindset. 

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One way I do this is by making an effort to see the beautiful in the everyday. On my walk to the bus stop, I look for five beautiful things. It can be anything from a neat-looking rock to a cute corgi waddling along the street. The point is to engage with your surroundings and get out of your own head. 

I’ve been doing this for over a year, and it’s second nature now. The picture in this post was taken on my way to class when I got distracted by this cute little dandelion. It’s amazing how much beauty there is in the world once you start looking. 

Calming the College Nerves

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

This post is for all the incoming freshmen out there who are nervous for the first day of college. I felt exactly the same as you do. I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self that it would all be OK…It’s not nearly as scary as I thought it would be! This is what I would tell Freshman Claire if I could.

Starting something new is always nerve-wracking, and that’s my first piece of advice: remember that everybody else is nervous, too. No matter how calm and collected your classmate seems, chances are they’re anxious on the inside. It’s OK to admit that you’re nervous. People will probably find it relatable.

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Something that helped me a lot was finding my classrooms before the first day of class. Nobody wants to be running across campus five minutes before class, frantically trying to find their building. I write down my classrooms and go on a quest to locate them all the weekend before term starts…even now, in my fourth year of college.

It’s a good idea to get to class early on the first day. It gives you a buffer in case you can’t find the classroom, plus you get the pick of the seats. But don’t panic if you get there late – professors understand that the first day is hard! 

My biggest piece of advice is to take a deep breath and get through it because it only gets easier after the first day. You can do it!

The Pixelated Page

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating on physical books. My eyes wander off the page or I find myself reading the same sentence over and over again. For whatever reason, I don’t have this problem with ebooks. 

Nothing will replace the smell of a new book, but ebooks have perks of their own. You can search by keyword, easily highlight, and bookmark without dog-earing the page. It’s easy to enlarge the text. Plus, ebooks don’t take up valuable dorm room space or terrify you by falling off the shelf in the middle of the night (the dangers of being an English major).

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Not all professors allow digital texts in class, but many of them are amenable if you talk to them about it. As long as you’re not slacking off on Reddit during class, electronic devices are an excellent tool. The great news is that most public domain texts (that is, books that were published before 1920) are available for free online on gutenberg.org. Most libraries allow you to check out ebooks. You can also email PDFs to your ereader rather than printing them out.

So while nothing will replace my love for paper books, I’ve come to appreciate my Kindle. These days you can buy an ereader for as low as $30, like I did, which is less expensive than some textbooks! It’s easy to bring with me and have hundreds of books wherever I go… And I’ve gotten a lot less papercuts.

The Perks of Summer School

by Claire Golden

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If you’re reading this, you made it through finals week! I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to sleep for about three weeks and then eat a lot of cake – not think about summer classes. But this will be the third summer I’ve taken classes, and though my post-finals brain may protest, I’ll be happy to have something to keep me busy once summer boredom sets in.

What’s so great about more homework during the summer? I’m a former homeschooler, so I don’t think in terms of the “school year.” There’s no time limit for learning! It can be rough going from being a full-time student to having no classes at all, so taking a few credits can help keep your brain occupied. Plus, it means you can take a lighter course load during the year.

What I like best about summer classes is that many of them are online. Being homeschooled means I’m used to this format, and I love it. You can read the lectures at your own pace rather than frantically taking notes in person. Online discussions mean I sound way more eloquent than I do in real life (thank you, backspace key). If you’re going on vacation, you can work ahead in the syllabus so you don’t have to do homework on the beach.

Most importantly, you can go to college in your pajamas. Thank you, online classes, for helping me earn my degree in style.

Portland State’s Best Near-Campus Movie Theaters

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 3.31.14 PM By Andrew D. Jankowski

Who doesn’t love movies, right? Whether what you prefer, movies offer a means for finding common ground and expressing bold ideas. Portland State University has numerous professional theaters within an easy walk from campus, but PSU also houses numerous spaces to see movies on campus. All the listed screening spaces are free for PSU students.

5th Avenue Cinema

The most well-known spot on campus to see movies, 5th Avenue Cinema is a student-operated theater that screens a different movie every weekend in the term, with each term having an overarching theme, like the term where they screened movies directed by women. 5th Avenue Cinema is on the north side of the Ondine building, which, in addition to students, houses numerous resource centers, classrooms and a dining hall. In addition to film classes, I’ve seen everything from Space Jam and Magic Mike XXL to Rabbit’s Moon and White Zombie at 5th Avenue Cinema.

Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Performance Hall occasionally screens movies, sometimes with live scores from orchestra students. These movies are often of historical significance, like Jewish Luck, Hungry Hearts and The Picture of Dorian Gray; or are festivals featuring student works.

Smith Memorial Student Union

SMSU’s basement holds a multi-use space sometimes used as a satellite screening space for PSU film festivals, and the ballroom, along with other rooms on the second and third floors, have been used to screen movies in the past. The first floor’s Parkway North space screens movies in addition to hosting concerts. The movies screened in SMSU range from mainstream movies like Spider-Man, Star Wars and Blade Runner 2049, along with documentaries, foreign films and club-centric movies; I swear I’ve seen the anime club have a viewing party at least once.

Campus Rec Center

PSU’s swimming club has screened movies for people as they swim or float. These are usually popular movies that one can follow along with as people splash and slosh. The Dive-In Movie series has screened movies like Wonder Woman and Finding Dory. Near the Rec Center, along 6th Avenue, is a set of four screens that project curated art films 24/7, and have been featured as part of PSU’s involvement in festivals like Portland Winter Light Festival and Portland State of Mind.

 

What’s your favorite movie you’ve seen at PSU, and where did you see it? Tell me in the comments.