Explore the World

By: Ashley Asuncion, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences Well-being Leader

The Fall semester is close to the end! This is the time of the year to make all efforts we can as students to ensure we pass the semester to secure our future studies. Now, students start to think about their next steps in their academic journey. Perhaps I can give you a suggestion! Try exploring but think big- exploring the world. Studying abroad may be just the thing for you!

Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to enhance one’s college experience. It is startling how different travels as a student are compared to an average adult on the international scale. As a student, you will be provided support systems and frameworks revolving around critically engaging yourself in the host country/community. Therefore, taking the leap to become a well-rounded World Class citizen is an opportunity studying abroad can provide.

At UMass Lowell, we have a study abroad office dedicated to support and facilitate the study abroad application process and travel preparations. UML’s study abroad office has a website which describes where to start the exploration of this unique academic choice, in a “Getting Started” page. The pages entail forms to connect with a study abroad advisor, questions to consider when thinking of studying abroad, forms that would be considered like financial aid, approval forms and travel documents. The sooner a student starts their search of the right study abroad program it will facilitate more options and a pleasant experience. Between making decisions, fulfilling paperwork, receiving documents, purchasing flights, paying fees, preparing for travel, approving classes and funds, obtaining student information from host, etc.; it can take weeks to complete all the necessary ins and outs of study abroad

Needless to say, there is plenty to look forward to when making the choice to see a different part of the world. I, myself am studying abroad to the Dominican Republic in Santiago De Los Caballeros from CIEE Liberal Arts Spring Semester Program. It has been quite a process to go through but I’m glad to begin my journey in the islands for Spring 2023. The excitement to being able to enjoy in a different culture instead of focusing just on hardcore academics with responsibilities socially, financially, etc.; is my main focus. I am lucky to have UML support through each step as I create an experience to live for.   

It has been an honor to be one of your Well-being Leaders for the Fall Semester. I will see you when I return!

Time Management (The Pomodoro Technique)

by: Yashvi Patel, Kennedy College of Sciences Well-being Leader

I recently learned about this technique from my aunt, and it has helped me get through various tasks without feeling mentally drained. It is known as the Pomodoro Technique. There are six steps involved in this process. First, you decide on a task you need to do. Then, you set a timer for 25 minutes. Then, you work on that specific task until the timer goes off. This block of focused work time is referred to as one Pomodoro. A fun fact is that the technique is named after the Italian word for tomato as the timer that was used by the founder was shaped as a tomato. After that, you get to take a short, 5-minute break. After you repeat this four times, you can take a longer 15–30-minute break. It will allow you to stay focused without being mentally exhausted.

I do not believe in having an hourly time schedule, personally. For me, an hourly time schedule creates unwarranted stress as I am rushing to complete items in a set amount of time. I practiced this during my freshman year of college where I was asked to put a time schedule into effect. I noticed that tasks accumulated, and I was overcome by a feeling of failure if I didn’t finish something on the agenda. This hourly time schedule adversely affected my productivity as I would rush to complete things, that in the end, would be carried over to the next day, which already had projects and tasks lined up.

Instead, I like to break down a complex project into smaller tasks that are actionable. It allows me to see the progress that I’m making instead of overwhelming myself by looking at the big picture. I go into a mental funk when I look at a big task and typically don’t know where to start. For example, I wanted a research project for my thesis. Immediately, I thought of the end goal and how I need to write a thesis paper and have a presentation where I would defend my thesis, which was overwhelming.

Instead, I stopped the intrusive thoughts of how I could manage that and focused on what I could do to get there. I started by reading articles and papers to get an idea of what research question I wanted to answer. I am taking it one step (or Pomodoro) at a time, which is really helping me see some light at the end of the tunnel and reassure myself that I can do it.

In terms of the connection between smaller chunks of work and the Pomodoro technique, I can cross different tasks off my checklist if I work on a new task every 25 minutes during my “burst of energy.” Sometimes, you spend too much time on one project that you fall behind on the rest of your assignments. I use the technique to start working on another task and come back to the old one the following round of Pomodoro. That way, I can get more tasks done and not mentally exhaust myself over one assignment over a long period of time. The quality of my work is also comprised if I cram everything in one go instead of breaking it down into manageable chunks. For instance, I like to break down my lab reports into the different sections. I do the introduction, hypothesis, procedure on one day or during one Pomodoro. Then, I do the discussion, conclusion, and application another time. For my breaks, I typically would go for a walk, draw, listen to music, or do some stretches. Essentially, you would get up and move. I like having a short interval of break because I tend to get distracted on my phone and fall into a slump. Having a timed break forces me to get back to the task in anticipation for my next break! I hope this technique helps as it tremendously stopped me from falling into the rabbit role of procrastination or overworking myself over one, big task.

Effective Methods to Studying and Maintaining Motivation

by: Haiya Patel, Kennedy College of Sciences Well-being Leader

As a college student, you must have heard the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’. As a freshman in college, I failed to grasp the message behind the phrase, but sooner or later I  learned the meaning behind it and it helped me further in my academic career.

As a college student, you are engaged in multiple activities on  and off campus, which can challenge your time commitment towards your required academics. Hence, using the limited time that you can contribute towards academics in an effective manner is the key to staying on top of your academics. One of the most mind-blowing concepts I was introduced was the forgetting curve. Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus demonstrated the concept of forgetting curve – curve that demonstrates the rate at which one forgets the new material introduced. Usually, we learn a new concept or new material in class, and we usually end up forgetting most of the information obtained after few hours. Further, when it’s time to study the materials, we are mostly clueless about the material. Hence why, educational psychologists developed a method to optimize study times. As seen below, there are three peaks in the graph: the first peak – first revision immediately after the class, second peak – second round of revision, third peak – third round of revision. The graph shows the drop after the first revision leads to most of the material being forgotten. Second drop shows that more information is retrieved compared to first drop. Comparatively, the third drop shows that the rate at which you forget the materials is very slow. Hence, revision of the materials constantly at timed intervals leads to better information retrieval, and the repeated revision consumes minimal time, uses the time effectively, and helps to avoid cramming all the material on the day before exams. Moreover, spending long hours in the library the day before your exam can be stressful and cause burnout. Hence, the repeated revision is also effective at managing stress about your exams and prevents burnout.

Another factor that can help is a change in location for a refreshed experience – it can feel constrained to study in the same location, so a change in scenery can help you feel refreshed and able to produce better results. However, some people also prefer to stay in the same location as it can be a ‘comfort’ spot for them to study. If this is the case, schedule times to take a walk away from your study spot to get that same refreshed feeling.

Another thing that can help is journaling. The repeated stress to study for your classes and exams can lead to burnout that furthers into a lack of motivation. One such method that helped me stay motivated when I lacked motivation is to write few minutes in my journal. Usually, the journal entry starts with the main statement of my long-term goal, what I imagine myself doing in the next 10 years. Then, I breakdown the goal into factors such as: what and why I am doing what I am doing, how it is contributing towards my goal. Lastly, I end the journal entry with a message along the lines of ‘I know my future self will appreciate the efforts that I put into my goals today!’. This serves as a reminder for my purpose to study and amplifies my motivation for the study session.

              Overall, college students spend hours and hours in the library trying to ‘cram’ study, but still don’t end with expected grades. However, implementing methods to study effectively in mini study sessions, taking breaks for a change of scenery, and focusing on your larger goals can lead to more beneficial results. Instead of cram studying all the material the day before the exam, try  repeated revision of the materials ranging from immediately after class till the exam, studying in a new spot, or journaling about why you need to study to reach your larger goals!

https://examstudyexpert.com/ebbinghaus-forgetting-curve/

Procrastination

by: Jayla Galvez, Manning School of Business Well-being Leader

Procrastination gets the best of us and there is no need to be ashamed of it. A conversation I had with a close friend of mine helped me put this into perspective. We were in the car one day and she was talking about a video she watched of top students pulling an all-nighter to work on a paper they had due the next day. She said that this is what a lot of smart people do. We laughed about how the students in the video were crying at some point before continuing their paper. It was all too relatable. This was either before or after she came back from getting her master’s at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. What did I gain from that conversation? Procrastinating does not mean that you’re not smart! It doesn’t necessarily mean that you are lazy either.

Some people may feel like they work better under pressure, but others may not feel that way at all and fall into the category of passive procrastinators. Passive procrastination is when someone puts off completing a task out of fear or intimidation of that task. Sometimes this is a fear of failure, the heavy workload, or the thought that if it isn’t perfect, it isn’t worth turning in. This kind of thought process can be a barrier to success and have people drowning in an endless cycle of procrastination. Sometimes a huge part of getting over procrastination is the mindset that you have.

Here are some personal tips that I use to pull myself out of the vicious cycle of procrastination:

Limit the distractions around you. Go where you feel the most calm and stable minded. Personally, the library doesn’t always work for me, sometimes I need to be in a coffee shop, or the dining hall, and sometimes I need to just switch up my environment. Do what works best for you.

Speak positively to yourself! Remind yourself that you are far more important than the situation and no grade or achievement is greater than your wellbeing. Without you, those accomplishments would mean nothing, and that you are more than capable of doing whatever you set your mind to do.

Notice the early signs of burnout. Is your body trying to warn you that you are overwhelmed? Check in with yourself. Are you eating much less or much more? Are there any noticeable changes in your health or attitude? Are you spending less time with friends than usual this study season? Maybe it is time to reset and take a self-care day. Just like our bodies, our minds need rest sometimes. Taking a day away from the books can help you feel more refreshed and be more productive.

This too shall pass. I would look back on the fast-approaching deadline and be afraid of the time I had to complete assignments, but this was also strangely comforting because I knew that no matter what, the day would come when this would be due, and it wouldn’t be on my mind anymore. The day to drop the pencil, close the books, and walk away from my inbox for a while. It is coming, and whatever happens, you should be proud of yourself for whatever you were able to do, even if it was just getting out of bed this morning and getting a sip of water.

Feel free to check out this article that looks into different reasons for procrastination, types of procrastination (active and passive), and a few methods on how to overcome it.

Study Tips to Relieve Stress

by: Yashvi Patel, Kennedy College of Sciences Well-being Leader

In this post, I will give you some tips on how to study effectively that I have learned and practiced throughout my time in college. Being a pre-dental student who has to fulfill classes for my degree pathway as well as take prerequisites for dental school, I can assure you it is not easy. I hope these study tips I learned in one of my wonderful cognitive psychology classes can alleviate exam-induced stress.

 The first study tip is to participate in class even if you don’t get credit for it. There were two studies performed to back up the effectiveness of this study tip. Intro-psych students came into a lab and sat down in front of a computer screen. They were presented with pairs of items, in which they read pairs and had pairs for which they had to generate the second word. It was found that if you generated the second word over reading the pair, you were more likely to remember the pair (the generation effect). In another study, the effect of generation is magnified if words were read aloud compared to silently (production effect). That being said, you should participate in class. I used to be afraid of saying the wrong answer, but I’ve noticed most professors at UML help guide you in the right direction without outrightly telling you are wrong, which is why some people don’t speak up.

The next tip would be to take notes by hand instead of the laptop. A study was conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of note taking. Participants watched videos and were asked to either take notes on laptops or notebooks, take a distractor task, and a test, thereafter. The test consisted of factual and application questions. It was found that for factual questions, the recall performance was consistent. However, handwritten notes were better for conceptual memory. I know a lot of people take notes on their laptop because its faster, but I suggest transitioning to handwritten notes because the bulk of evidence leads to the advantages of taking notes by hand. I started taking handwritten notes on my iPad this semester and I can attest to these claims as I feel like I understand and remember the content better. This might have also impacted my grades, which are better so far than the semester before.  

Another tip is to study often and as early as possible, so you are able to space study. There was a study performed to test the two types of learning: massed and distributed. A group of people were learning a second language. Half the participants performed massed study, while the other half spaced studied. Both groups were tested a day later or a week later. It was found that massed studying was effective for memory performance if the test was a day later. However, distributed studying was better if they had to remember information a week later. This is called the spacing effect. Essentially, if you want to remember something for the long run, do distributed study.

The next tip is to study before sleep or rest. There were pairs of words that were studied, either unrelated or related to each other. Half the group studied at 9 am and were awake the rest of the day, whereas the other half studied at 9 pm and then slept. The study found that when you study at night, sleep, and take the test the next morning, you recall more information for unrelated and related content. The benefit of studying at night is especially prominent for unrelated content. The likely reason for the finding was that if you sleep, your memory processing system consolidates the information and there’s no interference when you sleep.

All in all, studying effectively can save a lot of time that can be expended towards other things like relaxation or career-oriented endeavors. It is also beneficial in reducing stress as effective study habits allow one to manage time better and score higher.

Citation:

Geraci, Lisa, D. (2022, May 2). Learning Tips [PowerPoint slides]. Psychology Department, University of Lowell Massachusetts. 

How To Manage Your Time Well

by: Doa Jamal, Francis College of Engineering Well-being Leader

Oftentimes, when asked about what our skills are, we say we are good at time management. For many of us, this may be a blatant lie, and we are aware that this is a skill we need to work on. So, how do we get better at managing our time? Once again, I think most of us are aware of the obvious answer. The answer is to make a schedule (and then actually stick to it!).

Before we get to the actual schedule-making, here are some things to recognize if you are looking to improve your time management

  1. Your schedule is based on your priorities. Before you make your schedule, you need to know your priorities. Are you an athlete that needs to make it to practice on time? Is piano important to you,and you have to make sure you attend your daily piano classes? Do you prioritize sleep and your health?
  2.  Once you’ve made your schedule, although you need to use the schedule, you are not confined to the schedule! You can still go out with friends even it is not on your schedule. You can still go to bed earlier if you feel sick or tired.

Now to the schedule-making! We are going to skip forward to after you have made your class schedule. Remember that your class schedule was already built around your main priorities (i.e sports practice, work, etc). Now, I encourage you to print out a 24-hour schedule sheet so you can write on it. If you are tech-savvy you can do this online if you prefer.

Here is a template you can use:

For a printable version of this, please email wellbeing@uml.edu

First, add on those top priorities For example, write in when you have practice and/or when you have work. Next, add in any extracurriculars. What days and times are club meetings? Then, you can add in what times you are going to exercise. If you like, you can block out times to eat as well.

Finally, the most important part! Sleep! Block out when you’re going to sleep! I am legally obligated (not really! I’m just kidding!) to encourage you to get a full 8 hours of sleep every night. Realistically, as we know, that is nearly impossible for college students. So instead, I recommend you choose a minimum number of hours of sleep and a strict absolutely must-go-to-bed-by time. This may change depending on the day. For example, I make sure to get at least 5 hours of sleep each night. If I have to get up at 6:00 am on a certain day of the week, I only allow myself to stay up until 1:00 am (although I usually try to be in bed by midnight). If I have to get up at 7:00 am, I can stay up studying until 3 am at maximum (this rarely happens though since I value my sleep). You may choose to plan for 7 or 8 hours a night (good job!), however, I implore you to not try and get by with 4 hours or less of sleep. Coffee and energy drinks can only take you so far. If you don’t get enough sleep it takes a toll on both your body and mind and your body will eventually crash and burn.

Here is a sample schedule:

Now, your general schedule is built! You may choose to add specific times to study, or you may not. Building your schedule was one step toward better managing your time. The next step is figuring out what goes in the blanks of your schedule. That is, when you have time in between items, what are you doing? For example, if you have two hours in between classes (and this block of time isn’t the scheduled time for exercise) what do you choose to do? Do you take a break and watch Netflix? Do you choose to do homework/study? And most importantly, which homework do you do? Do you work on a project that is due in a week or do you do your homework that is due in 2 days? The choice may seem obvious when stated with the deadlines but often you may not be aware of the deadlines until they sneak up on you. I am a strong advocate for turning in assignments on time!! Getting a few points taken off may not seem like a big deal but those little points add up fast if you make a habit of turning assignments in late.

To organize your to-do list and make sure you complete your work on time, I highly suggest using a planner/agenda book. This allows you to see when everything is due and what events you have, and thus be able to prioritize your actions. In your planner, write the deadlines of assignments. Add in the dates when you have tests and quizzes. Then, and this is the important part, write in when you are going to work on that assignment or study for that quiz. For example, as shown in the photo below, I write that my quiz is on Wednesday and that I am going to study for it on Tuesday. I write that my Biostatistics homework is due on Thursday, and I am most likely going to do it on Wednesday. If there is time before then,  I can do the Biostatistics homework before Wednesday. However, this makes me at least aware of my deadlines and keeps me on track. Another example is that I have to fill out a form by a certain date so I write when it is due and when I plan to fill out the form. Additionally, I have events in my planner such as when the Pre-Med E-board meeting is, as well as work to do for the club. Essentially, no task is too small to not be included in your planner. For instance, I also include reminders to email a professor or to post a reminder about a club event on Instagram.

If you truly make a schedule, stick to it  and utilize your planner, you are almost guaranteed to be much better at managing your time (Source: Trust me, bro). So, if you do not already have a planner, go out and buy one! Start organizing your time and be more productive!