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.


Surviving Shakespeare

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As an English major, I knew I wouldn’t make it out of college without studying Shakespeare. I managed to make it to my junior year before having to register for the dreaded class. I bought the four required plays and showed up to the first day of class, resigned to my fate. 

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But as we started reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I discovered, to my shock and amazement, that it was a pretty entertaining read. It helped that my professor was enthusiastic about the material and had some fun ways of teaching. For the midterm and final papers, we had the option to write a creative retelling of the plays, and my imagination took off. I had a hard time sticking to the 10-page limit. 

It turns out that Shakespeare is amazingly fun to adapt. I never would have guessed that my Shakespeare class would provide so much inspiration for the Creative Writing part of my English major. But by the end of the term, I had an outline and three chapters written of a novel inspired by Twelfth Night, which I’m still working on six months later. 

What I learned from my Shakespeare class is that keeping an open mind is the best way to enjoy a class. You never know what new interests you’ll discover. Not only did I finish this required class, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

What classes did you unexpectedly enjoy?

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.

15 Hours Behind

Noowong_Headshot By Anchitta Noowong

I moved from Bangkok, Thailand to the United States roughly six years ago. I left my friends and family behind to get a higher education, and to follow my dream of pursuing film as a career. 15 Hours Behind is an experimental film based on my personal experience of homesickness.

Getting Used to MyPSU and the New PSU App

me-1 By Kimberly Nakayama

Sometimes, I feel that my experience in college is just me using my laptop in a variety of different settings. However I always wish that doing “important” PSU stuff online, like paying bills or updating my major, would be much simpler so that I could spend more time focusing on other things. So, when someone told me about the myPSU update, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that PSU had actually been working to fix this exact problem.

As a senior, I usually just go between the web pages that I am already familiar with like D2L and Banweb. I’ve found that in between classes, work, and everything else I’m supposed to be doing, it hasn’t really been a priority for me to improve my usage of university technology. I think that, like most students at PSU, I am definitely not using PSU technology for “fun.” So I was a little skeptical at how “different” another PSU web page would actually be and how much it could actually improve my experience as a student.

After using MyPSU, however, I saw that this negative perception was out-of-date. It took a little adjusting, to be sure, but I quickly found that it was much more efficient in accessing all kinds of information about PSU. One problem that I’ve faced as a PSU student is that there are so many departments and events and staff that it can be hard to hear about specific news. MyPSU, however, has compiled a live news source that shows social media announcements from a number of different departments which makes this process so much simpler. They also offer an interactive list of active resources on campus, so if you are looking for support or to get involved on campus it is so much simpler to connect with these organizations.

In general, I think that MyPSU is a much simpler way to access information that all students need. I’ve found that I now spend much less time scrambling around online for specific web pages. The organized homepage has labelled certain sections that contain a ton of information about specific topics like registration, financial aid, and classes. This means that I can see the entirety of PSU web pages regarding a particular topic, rather than to wonder if I had managed to find every bit of information out there myself.

The best part, a MyPSU app is also available, which allows you to access different web pages from a smartphone rather than always having to use a computer. So definitely be sure to check out the new MyPSU update! I hope that it can help other students so that they can spend more time on the things that really matter.

One Stretch At A Time

nc1By: Naela Cabrera

When you have constant terrible pain in your leg, walking through an urban campus with hills and long distances between places is not fun! That was my struggle this past year until I finally decided to help myself.

At the start of the year, small leg and hip discomfort lead to unimaginable pain, which led to numbness all the way down to my toes and the inability to even get out of bed. By the summer I was on crutches! After a long time with pain, I learned I was a victim of sciatica, a pinching of spinal nerves that affects the back, hips and outer part of the legs. A lot of damage to our spine and nerves are caused by bad habits such as poor posture or excessive sitting, or a lack of good habits, such as walking, stretching and exercising. This experience taught me that the pain was there only because I wasn’t doing enough to help myself. I could have stopped the pain myself with small habit changes.

A physical therapist helped me learn more about things I could change in my daily routine. Water sessions taught me how a simple back and forth walk from one end of the pool to the other could really make a difference. Land sessions taught me about powerful workout machines that only take 10 minutes of my day to really help the pain. Five simple stretches a day also keeps the pain away!

The pain has slowly lessened over time, but when I feel it coming back I quickly hit up Campus Rec to follow the therapy routines on my own. My access to Campus Rec has been a game changer. The facility has a ton of equipment that I used during my PT sessions, and the pool couldn’t be better. I realized a lot of the free aquatic fitness drop-in classes are very similar to my pool PT sessions, so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of those to help myself! It’s amazing to know how much you can do for yourself to overcome pain and keep yourself healthy.