Friday, August 1, 2014

Katie’s Tips for Transitioning!

Hello Everyone!

My name is Katie, and I am going into my Junior year of college. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by! I realize everyone says that, and it sounds kinda cliché. But it really has gone by in what feels like the blink of an eye!

Penn State Berks Campus

Now, when I was a first year student getting ready to start my education at Penn State Berks I was definitely feeling overwhelmed. I had just graduated from high school and was starting to get really excited, (but also nervous) for school to start. Here are a few of the things that were running through my head that whole summer beforehand:
  • Oh my gosh…this means I’m out of High School.
  • Does this mean I need one of those internship thingies?
  • I’m almost in the real world.
  • What if I oversleep? Maybe mom can call me just to check…
  • Crap, I have to be to class on time…
  • At least there is a mall nearby, right?
  • Now I definitely need to do my homework.
  • There might be a Charming Charlie nearby…that would be fantastic.
  • What if I have trouble making friends?
  • I googled it… there is definitely a Charming Charlie nearby. SCORE.
  • This really IS the next chapter of the rest of my life.

So as you can tell, my mind was definitely on overload, as I tried to prepare myself for the next level of my academic career. I created list after list after list outlining what I would pack for my dorm, study schedules to follow to make sure my homework would get done and the list of classes I had written and rewritten countless times in every notebook I owned. I went the whole nine yards and back.

But you know what I learned?

There was no way I was going to be able to prepare myself for the fantastic, (let me emphasize FANTASTIC) years to come, each one dripping with incredible opportunities, awesome people, supportive faculty, and a plethora of events and activities to be a part of.
So, using my experiences, here is a list of “Katie’s Tips for Transitioning!” to help you prepare yourself for college.

1.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I’m going to sound like a mom, so forgive me. But I’m being 100% serious, and as 20-year-old-not-mom’ish as possible. This was one of the biggest changes from high school to college. If you do not do your homework, your teachers aren’t going to treat it like in high school. Take responsibility for your school work. Even if you hate doing homework and never did it in high school, think about it: Your degree is one of the biggest factors in getting you hired. To complete your degree, you pass your classes. And what is the one way you pass your classes? You do your homework and get good grades on them. So why skip doing what will help get you money? AND! You are going to really hate me for saying this. Do optional work. And, get this: optional work not for extra credit. This sounds like crazy talk, right? But do any work: required, optional, extra credit, or for a pat on the back. Because no matter if you are given class credit, or extra credit, you will receive knowledge credit. Doing this extra work will help you understand all of the information, and the more you understand the information, the more knowledgeable you will be. That is going to take you miles in your future career… whether you think it will or not!

2.  Take the time to reflect on yourself and know yourself. This is a really important one.  If you know you do your best studying and homework in the morning, let’s not make the decision to stay up until 2:00 am watching YouTube videos, as funny as they might be.  Along with that, you must know yourself so that you can remain true to yourself. Believe me, I realize how deep and mushy gushy this sounds. But think about it. Everyone has heard that college tends to be a time to “redefine” yourself. But, make sure that you aren’t letting others dictate to you, what you redefine yourself to be. That is something only you decide on.

3.  Ignore the college stigma. You don’t HAVE to party, and you don’t HAVE to drink, just because you are in college. Please don’t forget, for your sake, that Penn State Berks is a dry campus. You can’t drink on campus at all, even if you are twenty-one. And even if you are off campus and get caught, you still can get in trouble on campus. No matter if you are on campus or off campus, you represent Penn State, so you can still get into trouble. People think that college is the “last hoorah” before the real world, so live it up! FALSE. Remember #1? Good Grades = Passed Classes = Degree = Higher possibility for good money. Why waste time on drinking expensive liquids that can allow for bad decision making and blacking out?  Don’t forget that some majors will not accept students if there is any trace of judicial “issues”. There have been juniors that have to switch to a new major and it costs them at least an extra year to catch up. Education majors, don’t even go near alcohol, please. It’s just a bad idea.

4.  Take advantage of all of the countless opportunities on campus. Go to activities and events on campus. Talk to faculty members and network. Try to meet as many people as possible. Accept the free food and free stuff!!!! There have been so many, actually, countless times, that students have taken advantage of an opportunity only Berks was able to provide. I could talk to you about two friends of mine that met at orientation during our First Year Seminar class breakout, and got engaged only months ago. Or the student that was offered the opportunity to be a Summer Research Assistant for a professor he had taken classes for. I could tell you about the opportunity I had to intern with the Career Services office as a Social Media Intern, because of my interest in Student Affairs Graduate programs. You could even look in my closet and see all of my free shirts from various club events and activities!

So my final tip to you, enjoy your time as a Penn State Student. The name itself carries incredible honor, and the fun you will have along the way will simply add to it.

I hope you had a fantastic summer and are getting so excited! I’m excited to meet you all! Try to make the most out of your last weeks before college begins. If you have any questions I can help with, feel free to email me at

Once a Penn Stater, always a Penn Stater. WE ARE!

Katie Zam

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

5 Great Study Tips

As exciting as college life can be, it is important not to let your academics fall by the wayside. Here are 5 great study tips that can make your transition into college smooth and successful.

1. Start Early.
Ask most people, and they will tell you that working up to a big exam is much easier when you start early. If you begin studying 2 weeks before a scheduled exam, you could study in 20-30 minute intervals each day. How is this not better than downing two energy drinks that look like acid, studying from 9pm-5am, getting two hours of sleep, going to the test, probably get a bad grade, and the next day forget everything?
In many cases, my attention span will not last more than two hours, and that can even be stretching it. I do not know how people can cram the night before exams.

2. Know Your Schedule.
A good piece of advice that I got a while back was to add all of your exam and due dates to your planner upon receiving your syllabus. That way, you can see from week one what your hell weeks are going to be, and what weeks look like pretty light. So, if you have four exams in one day, and that has happened to me before, obviously you are gong to have to work out some kind of schedule when to study. In this situation, doesn't starting early look much more attractive than cramming?

3. Consider Flashcards.
Flashcards have always been a great study tool for me whenever I really have to nail vocabulary or tough concepts. Writing them out in itself is a good way to study. Once you have them, it only takes a few minutes, deepening on how many cards you have to run through a whole stack and figure out which items you know well, and which you do not. Using flash cards can be better than simply reading, because you can't cheat, and you really need to be able to come up with an answer in your head.

4. Maintain a Good Note Taking System.
Every student is different, and each one must discover what note taking system works for them. I can't tell you what system will work for you, but I can tell you some that probably won't. They include:

  • Sleeping in class
  • Not taking any notes

Outlining is popular, and I kind of do that. Here is my system, which is a bit time consuming. Maybe it can help you.

I keep a yellow legal pad for each class. I bring that pad to class and take extremely rough notes of basically everything the teacher said in order to be sure I have all of the material covered. People think I'm nuts. It's awesome.

Later on, I will use either a spiral bound notebook or Microsoft OneNote to recopy the notes in a more legible outline format that utilizes underlining and highlighting to indicate important material. This has proven very successful for me, as recording the notes in itself is a method of studying, and reviewing them later on is simple and organized.

At the end of the day, the goal is to establish a system that will help you easily study, understand all key points, and above all, help you learn efficiently.

5. Consider Recording Your Classes.
I am surprised that so few students take advantage of this. On basically every smart phone, there is a voice recording application. You can bring your phone to class, sit your phone on your desk, and simply hit record when the class begins. When the class session is over, you have your professor's entire discussion in a handy audio file. Go back and listen to it. You will be surprised how much of it you didn't catch in class. This is an amazing study tool.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Looking Back Fondly

And so…this is it.

As the semester starts to dwindle down, finally, two weeks to go until finals… it seems as though only yesterday we were all moving in, the hot August sun blazing down on us, (or in my case, the August rain pouring down on my parents and I as we pushed cart after cart of plastic bins to the second floor of Greenbrier.)

And now, its April, the flowers are finally blooming, the sun is FINALLY shining, the snow has finally stopped and excitement is in the air.

As the excitement starts to build for this school year to come to a close, I can’t help but reminisce of the excitement I had at the start of this year. As I look back on this, I realize that the excitement was well deserved because, although it came in some stressful forms from time to time, this school year was monumental for me. Not specifically because of awards, executive positions, or good grades, all of which I received, but because of my personal growth, and what I’ve achieved as an individual.

Now you may be laughing to yourself because this may sound rather cliché, corny, or just lame. But it’s true, and is a complete underestimation.

Throughout all of the ups and downs of the semester, I feel as though I have learned so much, not just from a textbook or a guest speaker.

"A new experience can be extremely pleasurable, or extremely irritating, or somewhere in between, and you never know until you try it out." –Lemony Snicket

Katie and Cody preforming
Cody and I preforming the cup song at
the Mr. & Mrs. THON competition!
I've learned to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. Forget being afraid of making a fool of yourself. I had always thought that, if I've never tried it before, I wouldn't be good at it... why try? But now, I've tried hard to branch out. I've preformed in front of my peers multiple times, and this is something that I convinced myself I would never do during my time at school. And yet, when the songs were finished, and I walked off the stage... I felt good. Accomplished. Proud.

“Don't be distracted by criticism.  Remember - the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you." –Zig Ziglar

In life, people can be really mean. There are going to be people that really couldn’t care less about you, or worse, they care enough to bring your down. But you have to grin and bear it. Grow thick skin and wear it proudly. There are mean people, and then they seem to be counteracted with good people, ones that care about you, want you to succeed and give 100% every time. But then the confusing part is when you find someone that is incomprehensibly in the middle. In my experiences, you can’t do anything except just smile. Or just try to. Just remember, “Don’t let the tall weeds cast a shadow on the beautiful flowers in your garden.”  (Unknown)  Ponder that for a little bit.

"Just remember... it doesn't matter how long you have known each other, all that matters is that he has kept you smiling from day one." –Unknown

All the frames from the scavenger hunt
All of the frames that I found at various
buildings and locations around campus!
This is something that I’ve found to be true, especially this year with the start of my relationship. In the beginning of September, fresh new school year, I was asked out in the most unique, creative, and caring way. I was led on a scavenger hunt all across the Penn State Berks campus to find picture frames, each with different clues on them.

When I finally got to the last clue, it was Cody himself holding the last frame, which read, “I can picture us together, can you?” Realizing a great photography pun when I see one, I started happy crying. I was happy beyond words.

Cody at the end of the scavenger hunt
Cody at the Labyrinth on campus,
with my last clue!
And on September 14, 2013 I said yes to date Cody. Best decision I’ve ever made. And I made it after knowing him for only about a month. Crazy right? Well it turns out that it wasn’t so crazy, and I wish I had met him sooner, because like the quote says, we have not stopped smiling since day one. And this has taught me that we all need to surround ourselves with non-toxic people, people that are going to support us and not bring us down. And Cody has been one of my number one fan, and number one supporter. He definitely brings out the best in me, and I like to think that I do the same for him.  I can honestly say that I don’t know where I would be this year without him. I love you!
Cody and Katie
I mean... just look at that
sharp dressed man!

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not to mention my friends have been so fantastic in supporting me and helping keep me sane. I am so appreciative of that. Thank you all.

"You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you." –Mary Tyler Moore
Katie and Abhar
Abhar and I– posing for a picture but wishing we were watching friends...
Katie and Ali
Ali Cat and I, my suitemate next year!

Katie and Ryan
Ryan and I at Semi formal–
you're the best Ry!

If there is one thing that I've learned from life that I want you to remember, it is this. There is a learning experience in everything. No matter what happens, good or bad, you need to take a straw, suck the knowledge out of it, and digest that knowledge until you can apply it to your life. We all go through things that stink. Like, really badly. But we also all go through fantastic experiences. So take the bad as learning experiences and make yourself a better person because of them. And then take the good, wonderful, fantastic, and amazing experiences for all that they are. Good, wonderful, fantastic and/or amazing!

So overall, I’ve really learned a lot about myself. Not to mention I’ve learned a lot of Communication Theories, the Geological Cycle, and writing a Radio Broadcast. My sophomore year was important for me, and I look forward to what my Junior year has in store for me.

But, let’s not forget summer that’s right around the corner… a summer that, hopefully, a lot of people are excited for.

SO, from me to you, have a fantastic summer, make good choices, have fun (but not TOO much!) and be yourselves, but that’s what is going to get you far in life.

Thank you.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why YOU Should Wake Up Early in College

College students seem to endlessly suffer from the inability to wake up early. When I was in high school, apart from falling asleep in class, I rarely heard people complain about having to be at school at 7:30 a.m. Monday - Friday. Now in college, here are a few things I have heard:
  • "I can't take that class until next semester, because now it is only offered at 8:00 a.m. and I would probably fail it."
  • "You have class at 9:30? Wow! My first class is at 2:30 p.m. I wake up between noon and 1:00 p.m. every day."

Does that sound familiar? Probably. It is a shame, but also pretty cool to be honest. 

Things to do todayI guarantee you that if you wake up at 5:00 a.m. or even 6:00, you could walk down your hall and see that practically no one is awake. You could check your Facebook or Twitter and see no posts. You probably aren't getting texts asking to meet up to study or meet for lunch. You will be left alone.

What is a better condition to go get things done? If you can't seem to focus during the day on one of your classes because of so many distractions, what is there to distract you now? It's not even light outside. Imagine being done your assignments for the day, or getting ahead in your classes, or even having laundry done before your roommate even wakes up! 

Look at how much your day can open up if you wake up early. If you can get the nitty gritty things done in the morning, that leaves you time to do all sorts of things, from exercise, hanging out with friends without being nervous of failing classes because you're not studying, or pursuing a new hobby. 

But some people claim that it's just impossible to wake up early. I can't do it, I just go back to sleep, they'll say. Do you know why that is? It's probably a number of things. One, they don't have the right motivation, and two, their sleep schedule won't allow it. 

If your motivation is right, that drive will carry you out of bed in the morning. Knowing you need to finish that paper, or study for that critical exam before other commitments steal your time is motivation for me. You must figure out if waking up early is for you. Weigh out the benefits that you could reap from doing so. 

Now onto another issue, the sleep schedule. If you're like me, you can easily fall into a crappy sleep schedule, where you go to sleep at 1:30 a.m. and cannot wake up until 10 or 11.  It's likely that one day, whether it be your job, role as a parent or spouse, or any number of reasons, that sleeping in until McDonald's breakfast is over probably won't cut it. Why not fix it now? 

Waking up at 5:00 a.m. is easy if you go to bed at 9:30 p.m. You just have to adjust your sleeping schedule to let it happen. From my experience, the way that I fix my sleep schedule into permitting waking up early is to just shock my system and then be consistent. If you're used to going to waking up at 10, just muster up the will power to get out of bed at 5, or whatever time you want one day, and start there. It'll be a tough morning. Grab some coffee. 

During this first day, just try to be productive. Get things done, work out, have a great day so that by night time you just want to drop early. Keep this going for a few days, and it will get easier. Trust me. I started doing this, and after a few days, I was tired and ready for sleep at 9:30 p.m., and woke up 10 minutes before my alarm feeling pretty good the next day.

Waking up early provides some amazing opportunity for productivity. It is definitely a good habit to adopt before you begin your college journey. 

- Taylor