Traveling Alone Changed My Life – Studying Abroad in Sydney

College Tips, travel, Uncategorized

Traveling alone is a giant leap into an adventure- no matter where you go or even if you’re visiting the same place again. No two travel experiences are exactly alike- and each time that I travel, I learn a new lesson.  One of the biggest lessons I learned during a trip was when I traveled on my own to study abroad in Australia. Just reminiscing about it now (2 years later), those short four months went by in a flash and completely changed who I am today.

Australia had always been a country I was fascinated with- starting with my obsession over Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin (R.I.P.) and love for the movie “Kangaroo Jack.” I’d always loved the idea of a country so incredibly far away and literally “down under,” but with incredible wildlife, wonderful people, and a stunningly beautiful country. Fast-forward to 2015- I finally decided to make the huge trek over there during my last semester at UCSC. Upon getting accepted by the University of Sydney, I was overjoyed but also unprepared for the journey ahead of me. This was the opportunity of a lifetime, but even at 21 years old I had no idea how significant this experience would be in shaping my life today.

The first step was getting on that 15 hour flight from LAX to Sydney. I arrived at the gate for Qantas (the only airline I considered for that lengthy flight)- thrilled and incredibly nervous for the journey ahead of me. Despite the long flight ahead and my crippling anxiety, a little bit of booze and a whole lot of food helped me get through it. After arriving, I finally got out of the plane and attempted to find my ride to the hostel. I’d never even stayed in a hostel before, but this was one of the best I could find and I needed a cheap place to crash for a few weeks until the start of the semester.

Wake Up! Sydney was definitely one of the coolest (and craziest) places to stay. If you’re young and looking to meet other young travelers, it’s the perfect way to enjoy Sydney and party any night of the week. Since I definitely couldn’t live in a hostel while studying at the Uni, I finally had to get my head on straight and look for an apartment (I used Flatmates.com). After searching far and wide with my friends from the hostel, I finally found an amazing apartment in Glebe- just outside of all the craziness of downtown Sydney and only five minutes from my university.

The months flew by after moving in, and I was so excited once I made friends from my classes and started to finally form a social life. My flatmates were amazing and I had such a phenomenal time even when I explored the city on my own. There’s something great about just going out on your own and experiencing a city without anyone or anything holding you back.

I hopped on a bus one time (after moping for most of the week about my lack of a social life and desire to see more of the city) and I went all the way to the Opera House on my own. Everything seemed to slow down after the first month of living abroad- my friends from the hostel had all gone home, I was still adjusting to my new apartment, and I had a whole new university (and city) to navigate. I remember breaking down a few times on the phone with my dad. I felt like it was too long of a wait before going home, too long of a flight to get home, and just too much for me to handle in general. Little did I know that simply waiting a little while longer and taking some steps to branch out would make all the difference in the world.

I managed to make some new friends in my classes, opened up about my anxiety and really worked on pushing my comfort zone while traveling and living abroad. I visited new places and took several plane rides to see the best of Australia. My travels took me to Cairns, Ayers Rock, Melbourne, and of course all around beautiful Sydney. I learned to be more independent, manage my money, cook and clean for myself, budget my time wisely, and especially believe in myself more than ever before. Without this experience, I can’t say I’d be where I am today or even feel the way I do about myself today.

Whether you’re studying abroad or just traveling alone for the first time- remember that you’re never alone. People in other countries are often friendlier than you think- so long as you communicate yourself appropriately and respect their culture. Next time you’re unsure about traveling alone, just think of the freedom you’ll have to work on yourself and embrace making new memories and socializing with interesting people. Don’t be shy to speak to the person next to you, even on your flight there! I actually ended up running into the guy next to me on the plane because he was a professor at the university! Remember, people all over the world are often excited to meet foreigners and hear about their life experiences.

So- are you thinking about traveling alone or studying abroad someday? If you’ve ever traveled alone, comment below with your experience and any of your tips for people who haven’t gone yet! Until next time- thanks for reading “From My Perspective.”

Marketing Yourself Through Social Media

Professional, Uncategorized

In today’s bustling world of technology and online socializing, it’s critical for anyone entering the professional world to make a positive impression in all areas- including on social media. Though it can be difficult to find a balance between putting your personal versus professional side online, there are some social media pages where flexibility is valued. Depending on the profession, a slight emphasis on your “fun” side could be just what employers are looking for. The important part is knowing where to draw the line between social media outlets meant for privacy and those that can be manipulated to fit your career aspirations.

Let’s break down the different forms of social media, starting with the most personal and private. When it comes to privacy, Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter are most often used for social interactions with close friends. They offer private messaging, calling, video/photo sharing, and repeatedly feature political, religious, and/or societal discussions. Granted, some people use Facebook to create special pages for their businesses or talents. These pages are the exception to the rule- but unless you’re an actor or business owner, there’s no need to create your own Facebook page.

For platforms like Snapchat and Facebook, enforcing strict privacy settings is probably the smartest option- especially if you like to post opinionated content or you’re just venting about your day. Again, these are more personal forms of social media and it’s probably best if a potential employer doesn’t catch which bar you went to last night on your Snapchat/ Instagram story or what your religious/ political/ relationship status is on Facebook and Twitter.

Bottom Line: Don’t add your employers on these social media outlets unless they’re either really close friends or they already know these things about you.

snapchat-2480959_1280

As mentioned earlier, privacy settings are a great way to separate your personal life online from the professional side you want employers to see. Because privacy is immediately an option for most social media outlets, try to figure out which ones you’d like to use for work and which ones are strictly for play. Instagram is a very flexible outlet that creates a balance between the two- without spilling all of your personal beliefs. As an image-heavy site, it’s a great way to portray your personal interests while simultaneously showcasing your personal branding skills with hashtags, creative captions, and tagging of relevant brands.

Don’t let the numbers get in the way- having the most followers or likes isn’t always a deciding factor for getting the job. Instead, focus on using Instagram to show employers your “fun” side and the numbers will come later. How do you spend your vacation time? What kind of creative outlets are you interested in? What are your hobbies and (healthy) recreational interests? Use specific hashtags and add your location in travel photos so others can see where you’ve been and follow your adventures. If you keep posting things that you enjoy, you’ll discover how many other people share your interests… and maybe even have something to reference when your employer brings up their favorite travel destinations or obsession with hiking.

Of course, avoid posting excessively racy photos, drinking, drugs, or any kind of inappropriate behavior in these images (unless that’s the kind of job you’re looking for). Save your Las Vegas selfies, cat photo collection, or college drinking conquests for another Instagram page. From beautiful photography and art to simple photos laughing with friends at a bonfire, emphasize the positive activities in your life so employers can see just how vibrant your personality is.

Bottom Line: Like it or not, today’s employers are consistently checking the background of applicants to see what they’re signing up for. Make sure you’re the one in control of how you look online- turn on the privacy settings for pages you don’t want them to see!

For an example of a personal/ professional Instagram aesthetic using fun travel photos (my favorite way to spend time off), check out my Instagram in the screenshot below, or click this link to go straight to my page. There, you’ll see how I like to use hashtags and posting techniques I’ve learned from managing social media pages for different businesses in the marketing industry.

insta jpg

While trying to keep up with your appearance to employers, don’t forget to put just as much effort into doing your homework on the company itself. A great way to do this is to start by Googling them, scroll through their social media pages, or find them on LinkedIn. Just as it’s important for you to look professional online, most companies work hard to maintain their own social media pages and provide up-to-date information for potential employees.

LinkedIn is an excellent professional social media outlet that can be used for networking, finding jobs, endorsing skills, and presenting your resume/ past experience. If you haven’t yet created one, it’s a great idea to make a LinkedIn page before applying for a job. With this outlet, you can research the company itself and start connecting with employees even before you land that interview. For a simple example of a LinkedIn profile, check out this link of my profile. I included a professional headshot, my resume, descriptions of past jobs, and a few of my skills endorsed by coworkers and friends.

Another excellent resource for presenting yourself professionally online is to create a website or blog. Blogging is an excellent way to attract employers by demonstrating your talent for writing- a highly coveted skill in any industry. As you may have noticed, the personal/ professional blog you’re currently reading was created using WordPress. Here are some other excellent free blogging services, like Bluehost, Weebly, and Squarespace. By creating a personal website or blog, you take control of exactly how you want to portray yourself to employers using a personalized platform.

office-620817_1920.jpg

Finally, one of the best tips I found for marketing yourself online is to create a “social media loop.” Upon drawing viewers to your profile on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, a smart marketing move is to always include links to your other social media profiles. For example: when people see my Instagram page, the only link in my personal description box at the top of my profile leads directly to my blog posts here on WordPress. Then, once visitors are brought to my website, I include links to several of my other social media pages. The “loop” continues from there, with visitors bouncing between social media platforms and spending as much time as possible on my different pages.

By implementing a “social media loop” across all of your social media pages, you’ll hold viewers’ attention even longer and direct their gaze toward what you want them to see (your resume, website, photography, or just fun facts about who you are). Whether these visitors are friends or potential coworkers and employers, it’s important to create this loop to showcase your personal branding talent. Though this “loop” will especially count towards getting marketing and advertising jobs, it’s common practice for most companies to value an extensive social media presence in today’s advanced and competitive job industry.

Below is a screenshot from a free presentation by World Nate, “How To Build A Social Media Following.” In this slide, Nate’s girlfriend (and travel buddy) Hannah Martin outlines the importance of having a “social loop.” Her social loop connects various social media outlets to gain followers and promotion from her target audience: introverted travelers. Beginning with her Instagram page, a link takes visitors to her blog, where she features multiple other social media platforms. While this marketing “loop” is unique to their business (travel), it’s a great way to show employers your interests and keep them trapped on your various platforms so you are the candidate that remains at the front of their mind once they start scheduling interviews.

social loop.jpg

So, let’s go over the main points again:

  • Keep your personal life private on social media- avoid adding coworkers or future employers as friends (unless it’s a work-friendly platform like LinkedIn)
  • It’s ok to have a mix of personal and professional on your page– just be sure to keep it tasteful so that employers will take you seriously
  • Just as employers will likely investigate your social media platforms, you too should research their company and how they market themselves online. This can come in handy during interviews- what better candidate than someone who already did their homework!
  • Creating a website proves you can handle basic web-page formatting and highlights assets that might not be on your social media platforms (writing skills, photography, videography, etc.)
  • Capture your audience’s attention for even longer by creating a “social media loop.” Do this by simply linking different social media pages or websites on every platform and making it easy for your audience to scroll through each one.

 

That’s it! Thank you so much for reading this blog, and stay tuned for more helpful tips every week from yours truly. If you have any more questions regarding personal branding, how to use different social media platforms, or professional inquiries please contact me via email or messenger on one of my social media pages. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me to keep up with future blog posts!

10 Graduate Study Tips You’ll Wish You Had as an Undergrad

College Tips

As a current grad student who struggled getting through a UC during her undergrad, I’ve had my fair share of late night study sessions. From drastic all-nighters to freaking out about tests I’d waited too long to study for, here are some of the tips I learned when transferring from a baby-step community college to plummeting headfirst into the challenges of a four-year university.

1. Take a break!

Huh? Take MORE breaks? How am I going to get any studying done if I keep taking breaks? Well, you’ve heard this all too often- budgeting your time is the key! It’s not easy, but once you get the hang of taking much-needed breaks from staring at that computer screen, you’ll feel way better. Try installing a Pomodoro App on your phone or computer and setting timers while you study. Taking 5 to 10 minute breaks in between 25-30 minute study sessions is the ONLY thing that got me through finals. Caution: Be sure to STOP what your doing right when the timer goes off! This will keep you motivated to come back to your task after the break and grab a sip of water or take a quick walk outside for some fresh air. Just make sure you get back to studying after the break alarm rings (Pro tip: keep the volume high on your device for when the alarm goes off)!

2. Out of sight, Out of mind?

One of the biggest distractions for students trying to study is that extra limb we’ve glued to ourselves known as the cell phone. Putting your phone on airplane mode or “do not disturb” can really help when attempting to study or write that dreaded final paper. Better yet, tuck your phone away someplace where you won’t find it! Studies have shown that silencing your phone is no longer enough to keep your mind off it- you’ll have to answer those Tinder messages later. Put your phone in a place you won’t be tempted to take it from, and get your work done. The longer you stay off it, the more productive you’ll be.

3. Meal Prep

Those hunger pains hitting you every five minutes after you’ve only typed the header of your ten page essay? Foodies rejoice- eating while you study could actually extend your 30 minute study of web browsing/crying/calculating-my-grade-to-see-if-I-really-need-to-do-this-right-now to a few hours of actual productive work! By preparing your food before sitting down at your computer or picking up those books you’ll certainly avoid constantly getting up for food and water. This tip is particularly handy when studying at the library and trying to avoid binging on chips or candy and accumulating coffee charges. Snacking is great, and healthy snacks are even better for your brain! So stop using food as an excuse and keep a reasonable supply of snacks and water at your side so you can keep working.

4. Find Your Study Space

The most difficult part of transferring to a UC for me was figuring out whether I was a library person or a “study-at-home” person. Most four-year universities have a myriad of study options, from cafes to libraries and even outdoor quiet spaces that are perfect for Santa Cruz tree huggers like myself. In any case, figure out your ideal study space fast- it’s amazing how some people need extreme quiet to study and others prefer people watching and a steady stream of white noise. There are many pros and cons to studying at home (or in your dorm) to studying in the library or anywhere else outside your living space. Try doing both in the beginning before your workload piles up so you can find where you feel most comfortable and the least bit distracted.

5. Catch some Z’s!

Another very common but crucial tip for college students. Remember that popular image of a triangle with sleep, social life, and good grades on each corner? Were you able to pick two things on that chart in good conscience? I know that’s how the reality of college feels, but it’s important to recognize the immense benefits that sleep can bring you- especially as a college student! Sure, you might be living it up at college parties and doing some necessary networking- but remember to treat your body to at least 7 to 9 hours per night so you not only maintain that fitness bod, but also stay awake in class!

6. Study Buddies

Whether you’re a freshman or a transfer student, it can be super intimidating talking to other students your first week of class. Gather up your courage and try introducing yourself to the person next to you. Odds are, you’ll be seeing one another a lot and classes will be so much more interesting when you have someone to share them with. As an introvert and one of the youngest transfer students in my class, I get that this is a challenging one. But just think of all the difficult papers and quizzes you’ll have coming up that are so much easier to study for with someone you already know! Just make sure your professor says its ok to work together… plagiarism is a serious offense when you get to a four-year university! Yes, even the dreaded group projects will most certainly come up in your undergraduate career. So make sure you’ve got someone you can tolerate in your class as a group partner and you’re good to go!

7. Planners and To-Do Lists

Some people enjoy writing things down, others type them into their phone’s calendar or “Notes” apps. Whatever works for you, I highly suggest keeping track of important dates from the first day of class. That first day or week reading the syllabus might seem like time off or even an introduction to the university, but make no mistake of taking a vacation here! Write down, highlight, and keep a mental note of all your quiz/paper/extra credit assignment due dates so you don’t miss a beat. Upon receiving my class syllabus, I always highlight the dates and (if time permits before the lecture) write them down in my planner. Making a to-do list and planning when I really want to get down to writing an assignment or studying helped me keep my head on straight when juggling three or four classes in a quarter system. When applying for a university, it’s imperative that you know the difference between a quarter system and a semester system so you can figure out your workload. Check out this video if you still aren’t sure which one works best for you.

8. Book worm- Buying books and alternatives to skimming

If your university is like most, you probably know or have heard of the stereotype that professors assign expensive books you hardly even end up using. Most of the books that I ended up reselling without even reading were cheap from the beginning- some of them I ended up keeping because they were so interesting I decided to read them later. There are endless ways to save on college textbooks, so buying books shouldn’t be too big of a concern. If you think your books are too expensive, try talking to your financial aid advisor or using one of the many tips here. Many of the books or articles I needed for a class were also found online. Your university library should grant you access to several academic journals you can use for research. Be sure to read the assigned portions of your book/article carefully, taking notes or creating index cards for future reference. Though “skimming” is a popular college remedy for long books and assigned readings, I’d steer clear of that technique. If you really are short on time, try reading the summaries (abstracts) or end paragraphs of the chapter/article to get a feel for what it was about. Then, try doing some “in-depth skimming” by reading as much as you can and summarizing the main points in your notes. Even if you hate reading, this tip can save you a world of time and energy so you don’t freak out during finals.

9. Finals brain

Speaking of finals- one of the biggest mistakes students make is underestimating the mental and physical toll they take on your mind and body. If you haven’t experienced finals yet, make sure you’re prepared. This may sound exaggerated or funny, but trust me when I say finals are no joke. We’ve heard it over and over again: procrastination is your biggest enemy in college. Using some of the techniques above, prepare yourself for the amount of studying you’ll need to do, get some rest, eat healthy, and study hard- and early- so you don’t suffer during finals week. Most universities have several mental health outlets during finals so students can detox their brains with fun activities and quiet study spaces. Keep yourself informed and motivated by following your university’s social media pages or even just online student groups where people post group study sessions or other activities to lift the burden of finals. You’ll get through it, so long as you feel prepared and try to get as much work done early as you can.

10. When the going get’s tough… It’s ok to change your mind!

This last tip is less relevant to studying, but really matters when it comes to what you’re actually studying. Countless college students end up changing their major during their undergraduate career- even when they’re about to finish the major! So, don’t worry if you feel unsure about the class you’re taking or the major you’ve declared upon starting at a university. Talk to your counselor, parents, friends, or just someone you trust to get some advice about that college major. Sometimes even sitting in on other classes from your potential new major can help you decide if the switch is right for you. Perhaps adding a minor is a tiebreaker to get the best of both worlds. Either way, do your research and figure out the best decision for your future. More often than not, it seems like a Bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for most jobs. As long as it’s something semi-relevant to your future career, don’t stress too much over the specifics of your major. I know most of my fellow alumni haven’t even gone on to work in the same field as their major (myself included) because they were able to tailor their combined job experience and degree to that particular position. So don’t stress- just study hard and get that degree so you can move on to the career of your dreams!