The Collegiate Guide to Surviving Wedding Season

I bet you’re reading this blog for one of three reasons:

  1. You got invited to ANOTHER wedding. You’ve been to so many of those that you’ve secretly started to despise them.
  2. You got invited to your first wedding since you were a volun-told ring bearer in first grade, and you’re clueless as to what is about to come.
  3. Your name is Gail Mertz, and you read all my blogs. Hi mom.

As a 10-time wedding guest in the first three years of my college career, I understand how much of a struggle it can be to survive other people’s weddings. And now, as a future bride myself, I can also see the other side of the coin. Some of the ridiculousness of wedding culture is actually beneficial, like a meaningful venue or catering from the restaurant the couple went to on their first date. Other parts, like matching bridesmaid robes and $175 tux rentals, are not.

Here are a few pointers for getting through wedding season as a college student without going bankrupt, ruining your friendships, or turning into a celibate, wedding-hating monk.

Real friends pay friends for their work. Weddings are overpriced, yet expensive is the aesthetic many couples dream of. Most come to realize, though, that they must cut corners somewhere. That somewhere is not you. Weddings are community events, and it’s silly to refuse to help cut the cake or make the reception playlist. However, if you’re an entrepreneurial photographer, a culinary-arts graduate, or a budding professional musician, you aren’t obligated to give out hundreds of dollars worth of services for free. Your level of generosity is your choice, but it is never okay for anyone to just assume that your work—your art—is theirs for the taking. It’s okay to stand up for yourself as a professional.

If you’re in the wedding party, it’s okay not to buy a gift. The only thing that rivals the expense of your own wedding is being in somebody else’s. According to WeddingWire, being a bridesmaid can cost $1200 with an extravagant bride, but even in a basic wedding, a dress or suit rental alone can easily cost over $100. That’s a collegiate fortune. If you’re struggling just to pay for your wedding party obligations don’t feel guilty for skipping on another present. In reality, it would, in fact, be present number two because you are the gift. Ideally, whoever loves you enough to ask you to be in their wedding will understand your financial limitations and simply be grateful to have you by their side.

Communicate well and appropriately. I don’t care how old-fashioned you think RSVP cards are. Don’t text your friend to RSVP; mail the card in like everyone else. You aren’t special, and those tiny squares of cardstock aren’t cheap. But please, DO RSVP for every event you are invited to. Never assume they assume you’ll be there. The couple needs to know who is coming, and they have better things to do than hunt you down. College is time demanding, but so is wedding planning. Honor your friends by honoring their time.

Follow the rules, whatever they may be. In a similar vein, respect what is asked of you. If you aren’t extended a plus one, do not bring one. If the dress code is back tie, don’t show up in khakis. If the couple asks for a no-cellphone service or that people refrain from sharing photos on social media, accept their wishes with grace. Disrespecting someone else’s wedding style, however genuinely ridiculous you think it may be, is distasteful and potentially relationship-altering. Spare yourself and your friendships by doing the kindergarten thing and following all the rules.

A study conducted by The Knot claims that eight of the ten most popular wedding dates of 2018 are still yet to come. So, if you’ve still got a save-the-date magnet on your dorm fridge, fear not. Weddings can be complicated for everyone involved, especially if you’re still in college, but like marriage itself, the path to success is not paved with the absence of mistakes or offence, but rather with the presence of grace and humility. Forgive when you are wronged, be generous with your love, and refuse to let the difficulties that come with the wedding season harm your friendships or dampen your perspective on life’s most wonderful covenant.

Written by Savanna

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10 Tips to Survive and Thrive During Finals Week

Though finals week is often the college student’s worst nightmare, survival is possible! Here are ten tips to survive, and even thrive, during the most challenging part of the semester.

1. Make a study schedule (and stick to it!)

 Planning ahead of time and making a schedule will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and help you to avoid last minute cramming. To be honest, I’m a bit of an obsessive planner… I won’t even try to deny it. My flower printed Erin Condren planner is even color coded to the hour! Though hourly scheduling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve always found it helpful to prioritize my to-do list in order to decide which things are the most important. After I’ve decided on the essentials, I often reserve blocks of time throughout my week devoted to accomplishing the specific tasks on my list. This trick has saved me from several nights of last minute cramming and helps me to devote an equal amount of time to preparation for each test.

2. Eat well

As a girl with a MAJOR sweet tooth, I know how tempting Braum’s and Sonic sound during those late night study sessions. However, the simple sugars in these treats only leave me hungrier and lacking energy when it’s needed the most. In order to function at my best during finals week, I try to fill my body with nourishing fuel.  Beef jerky, granola bars, nuts, and fruit are easy snack options (found in the Patriot Store) that support brain health and keep me full and focused while preparing for that upcoming exam.

3. Use your resources

There are so many free resources offered to help students survive and thrive during finals week. For instance, the University Writing Center (*cough, cough, shameless plug here) offers students free assistance with papers at any stage of the writing process. In addition to academic advice, many local churches open their doors to students during finals week, often providing free treats and a quiet study space. If you prefer to stay on campus, the new Coffeehouse, located next to the Union, is a great place to focus!

4. Minimize distractions

In order to overcome the temptation to scroll through Doug the Pug’s social media accounts while studying, I often put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode, or open the SelfControl app on my Mac. SelfControl is a free application that allows you to block certain websites for a period of time. Sorry Doug, finals week is no time for Pugs!

Also, make sure to choose a study space where you can actually focus. Seek out a quiet spot with comfortable seating and make sure to bring snacks and water with you. Rumbling tummies and parched throats are the worst distractions of all- trust me, this distance runner knows!

5. Take a break

After several solid hours of focus, I am in desperate need of a brain break! Seeking sympathy from my mom over the phone, swinging by the pond, or watching an episode of the Great British Baking Show helps me to regain my sanity and awards me the boost needed to reopen the textbook. These short breaks are essential to successful studying and remind me that there is life beyond finals week.

6. Get comfy

Finals week is my only chance to wear my owl onesie without judgment. I suggest pulling out your comfiest, coziest outfit and snuggling down in a quiet place with your textbooks. However, make sure that your finals week ensemble isn’t too comfortable, or you may end up dozing!

7. Exercise

Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind during finals week, this long distance runner can attest that exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease stress. After sitting around all day, a few trips up and down the library stairs would be the perfect brain break. However, if you want more of a challenge, treadmills, weights, and stationary bicycles can be found inside of the university Fitness Center.

8. Put down the coffee

Take it easy on the energy drinks! Although coffee and Red Bull are sure to give a quick boost, too much caffeine can actually increase anxiety. Try green tea or…

9. GET SOME SLEEP

Although this one is difficult, do your best to avoid late night cramming. Trust me, you will not benefit from all-nighters. In fact, sleep deprivation even decreases concentration and leads to memory loss, headaches, and stress! Get some sleep, ideally six to eight hours.

10. Keep an eternal perspective

Although you understandably want to ace all of your finals, remember that you are not defined by test scores. As Christians, our identity is secure in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This life is so temporary and each day is a gift from God! During finals week, remember to be grateful for the opportunity to receive an education and rejoice; no matter your grade, God is still sovereign and He is still working for our good.

Written by Leah

Got Stress?

Stress is a major part of our college lives. As college students, we stress about school, work, finances, food, social gatherings, family events, and the process of balancing it all out. Stress can be really unhealthy when it persists for an extended amount of time. Chronic stress can harm our sleep patterns, immune systems, and digestive processes (National Institute of Mental Health). For this reason, it’s extremely important to find ways to relieve that stress. Even if we have something going on every hour of every day, we need to find time to give ourselves a break.

I myself came to the realization of my workload and stress level last semester when I became engrossed in homework every single day and rarely did anything but go to class, go to work, read numerous books, and write extensive essays. During this time, I explored several different ways to relieve my stress which could benefit anyone experiencing a similar situation.

One way to relieve stress is reading. It’s a great way to escape reality for a bit. We can get involved in another story rather than our own. Whether it be poetry, fantasy, history, or dramas, reading forces us to focus on that idea instead of the things that give us stress. However, maybe you’re tired of reading. Maybe you’ve simply read too many books to be able to enjoy reading right now.

Instead of reading, you could try writing. I know, I know. “But I’ve just finished writing three 2-5 page essays!” you may say. Well, writing about our passions is loads more fun than writing academic essays for school. Trust me. Writing can help us focus on something specific and get our minds off whatever has been bothering us or stressing us out. For example, composing poetry can hone our senses on certain details about objects, people, or ideas. If poetry is a little out of your comfort zone (as it is for me), fictional writing is a good alternative. Much like reading, writing fiction can immerse us in another world, but this world is our own. Through fictional writing, we can create an entire world full of interesting characters and stories and use it as a temporary escape from reality.

However, if your enjoyment does not reside in writing, maybe you’d prefer something a little more artsy. Sketching, drawing, or painting can be considered leisurely activities, which may sound fun and peaceful to you. But my personal favorite type of art is coloring. It may sound silly, but coloring is a great way to relieve stress. It’s such a calming and pleasant exercise. It reminds me of the simplest time of my life: kindergarten, when the most difficult decision was deciding which crayon or marker to use. I think we as stressed out college students need to revert back once in a while to those more manageable stages of our lives in order to stay sane. So don’t feel awkward about going to the store to buy a coloring book and some colored crayons or pencils. I myself have to buy a new coloring book and some newly sharpened pencils every now and then.

One of the easiest things that I have done in order to reduce the stress in my life is simply taking a walk. Last semester when I was drowning in school work, I took up to an hour to walk around the DBU campus once a week. It may not sound like much, but it helped me out a lot. It gave me time to clear my head and get my thoughts in order. It was hard at first, forcing myself to do nothing when I knew that I had so much to do. But eventually, I came to love it and couldn’t go a week without taking my evening stroll.

I know that you may feel as if you do not have any time during any day of any week to take a break. But I implore you to make time for it. It doesn’t have to be every day; your break could be only a couple times a week. It doesn’t matter. What matters is your state of mind. Don’t let the stress of life consume all of your thoughts. Sit in your bed and read a chapter of that book that’s been on your reading list forever. Chill out on the couch and color while you listen to your favorite tunes for half an hour. Take a leisurely walk around the block. If you have time to stress, then you should make time for relaxation.

“5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health, 2018. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

Written by Taylor Hayes

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I Thought I Was a Good Writer

Do you have one of those things, perhaps a skill, fun physical quirk, or personality trait that you can always fall back on to say, “well, at least I have that?” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think of one thing that allows you to confidently say, “yes, I can do that” or, “yes, I am that.” For me, my “thing” has pretty much always been that I am a good writer. “Writer” is a title I can claim with confidence because, well, I wouldn’t be working in a writing center if I couldn’t write well. When friends or family ask me to give them writing advice or simply say, “Hey, can I read this to you?” it makes me feel good. While it is not at all a bad thing to take pride in our abilities, as with any label, it can become a treacherous thing to uphold too highly. This occurred to me on the first school day of my senior year when I realized I am not a good writer.

Okay, let me be clear: I am a good academic writer and a decent creative writer, but those two forms just scratch the surface of all the different writing mediums that consumers enjoy. There’s technical writing, newswriting, screenwriting, business writing, social media writing, and more, I’m sure, that I simply haven’t learned about yet. For my whole college career, knowing how to write academically was all I needed to know how to do. As it happens, every writing-related class I’m enrolled in this semester, (there are three,) requires the opposite of academic writing. Academic writing generally spans many pages, and the greater number of three syllable-plus-words you can throw in, the better. English and history professors drool over an artistic and catchy introduction with ten luscious body paragraphs following. That kind of writing I can do. But what do my professors want this semester? Every creative writer’s worst nightmare: short written responses. The shorter the better. Simple words like “lively” in place of long, pretty ones such as “effervescent” are not only unnecessary in these types of messages, but frowned upon. Some students groan about ten page papers, but I can promise them that communicating a big idea in one page or less is far more arduous. If this blog were for one of my classes, I wouldn’t be allowed to say arduous; I would replace that word with “hard.” Ugh, how boring!

The realization that I am only skilled in one type of writing was a bit alarming. However, as I continued to go to class and face assignments where I was challenged to say so much in so few words, it became readily apparent how married I am to my title of “writer.” When folks hear that you are a writer, many of them think you’re smart. And if you’re like me, you just smile, take the compliment, and not let them know how ordinary you really are. Because too many people consider writing to be a great, mysterious art form, those who do know how to do it become a necessary commodity to society. Rather than feeling discouraged that I’m not as great or prolific a writer as I once thought I was, I discovered excitement waiting for me in the unknown.

If I am to be a writer for life as I desire to be, I want to always be learning and mastering new writing skills. If academic writing were my whole future and career, I’d have a pretty limited skill set to offer the world, and a repetitive job at that. Now, I feel as though my writing journey is being reborn, in a way. I’m a baby in newswriting and business writing, and it can be pretty uncomfortable to go back to wearing diapers in the play pen when you’ve been riding a unicycle in your trousers for so long. If anything, I know that for the rest of my life, my passion will not only enrich me but surprise me with its ever-changing nature. All writers know that you learn to write by writing, and with the myriad of mediums that await my eager fingers, I’ll be learning to write for the rest of my life. Whatever your thing may be, when the day comes and you realize you aren’t the best at it, or even as skilled as you thought you were, ask yourself: “How fulfilling is a skill if I can never get better at it?” Find your avenue, memorize its path, and walk boldly onto the next fork that comes your way.

Written by Karoline

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Living with Food Intolerances in College: Eating in the Caff and in Restaurants

When I was fourteen years old, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, or severe gluten intolerance due to an autoimmune disease. A few months later, I was diagnosed with almost twenty other food intolerances. This discovery occurred when I was living in China, so my family and I spent the next year learning what I could and could not eat, both at home and at restaurants. However, when I returned to the States for college, I basically had to relearn how to eat. I researched restaurants menus, read food labels, and found new recipes. My parents could not cook for me anymore, forcing me to learn how to survive in college with food allergies.

The first food service that I encountered when coming to college was the cafeteria. I discovered that because my university required that I buy a meal plan, they were likewise required to cater to my dietary needs. When I began my college experience, I would usually ask the cafeteria staff to make me whatever I wanted to eat. If I did not want what they were offering or if they did not have something I could eat, I could ask for some of the secret stash of gluten-free products they kept in the kitchen. As I became busier in college, I started to change the way I ate in the caff. Now, I do not spend nearly as much time creating the perfect meal: I grab whatever I can eat and run out the door to work or to study. Because I’ve spent two years gazing at the caff’s food choices, I can normally recognize the foods that I am able to eat. Depending on one’s intolerance sensitivity, however, these methods may not suffice. I cannot eat any gluten whatsoever without repercussions, so I often regret not asking about the ingredients of dishes. Generally speaking, I select what I want to eat from the line, ask the chef which of those foods I can eat, and supplement them with things I am certain I can eat, such as selections from the salad bar or grill.

When my palate craves food outside the range of the capabilities of the cafeteria, I go to my favorite on-or-off-campus dining establishments. At DBU, we have Mooyah, Chick-Fil-A, and the Daily Bread Bistro, each of which has menu items that they can make for me. When I am able to get off-campus, I frequent Peiwei, Chipotle, and other such “healthy” restaurants, as they are more likely to cater (and even recognize) food allergies and intolerances. However, selecting the safest location at which to dine is mostly up to the individual to research, based on what is close to the student’s campus. Most restaurants have their menu and nutritional information on their website; some even have gluten or other allergy-free menus online or in the physical restaurant. It is becoming easier and easier for people with intolerances to find things to eat.

Eating in the cafeteria and in off-campus restaurants are the most convenient options for busy students to eat, but it is very difficult for people with intolerances to learn where they can conveniently eat safely. Don’t worry; you can do it! My advice is to befriend the staff of your favorite establishments. Every chef and manager who works in the caff knows my name; the director of the bistro knows my order and the procedure to keep it gluten free without my direction. This is the easiest and safest way to enjoy and succeed in eating during your college years, especially when you do not have time to cook for yourself. The phrase “friends in high places” comes into practice in cases such as these. Politely ask lots of questions, and do not hesitate to confirm that the chefs know how to prepare the space where they work to avoid cross-contamination. I promise; you can survive! Happy eating!

Intolerance-friendly Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

Cake

  • 1/3 cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons flax seed meal, mixed with 6 tablespoons water (allow to sit for >5 minutes before adding)
  • ¾ cup “buttermilk” soy milk (¾ tablespoons vinegar in ¾ cup measuring cup, fill up the rest of the way with soy milk)
  • 1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups gluten free flour blend (NO xanthan gum) (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon (I use ¼ tsp nutmeg and ¼ tsp cloves because I am intolerant to cinnamon)

Topping

  • ¼ cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free flour blend
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (OR half nutmeg/cloves again)
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  1. Generously grease a 7 x 11 inch (grey, not black; also glass is okay) baking pan. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat the oil, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla with a whisk or electric mixer until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Gradually add the rest of the cake ingredients slowly, mixing well between each ingredient.
  4. Pour into prepared pan.
  5. In a small bowl, mix toppings together; sprinkle evenly on top of batter.
  6. Here, you can either cover tightly with foil and put in the fridge for <24 hours, or put it in the oven.
  7. Bake 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Written by Michelle

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Outside My Window

I sat up straight, unsure of what had awakened me. Everything in the room was the same. The desk was still in the corner, the nightstand was still next to my bed, my bed was standing by the door, right across from the enormous window and next to my roommate’s. However, something was different. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something had changed. I was sure of it.

Being the curious person that I am, I crawled out of bed and stumbled around the room, trying not to wake up my roommate who was curled under her pile of blankets. I stopped walking and rapidly shook my head, trying to wake up. I felt a strange awe and wonder that I had never felt before. I just knew someone was watching me, but, for some reason, I was not scared. In fact, I felt something I had not felt in a long time: completely and utter tranquility. I swirled around and looked out my window, staring straight into the large, round, white moon. I surveyed the street; nothing moved. In the peaceful silence, I merely stared; there was nothing more I could do. I could not quite explain it, but as soon as I saw the street outside my window, I knew nothing would ever be the same again. I snuggled peacefully in my warm bed, unsure of what tomorrow might bring.

* * * * *

I was awakened by the sound of our opening door. My roommate was coming in from her morning run. That could mean only one thing: I was late for class. I jumped out of bed, startling my roommate.

“Shouldn’t you be gone?”

“Yeah, yeah. I… had an unusual night. Did you notice anything strange outside? Anything… different?”

“Yeah! You didn’t run past me, mumbling that you were late for class! You’d better hurry, girl! Your class starts in five minutes!”

As I threw on my clothes and grabbed my books, I kept glancing out the window. It looked normal: the trees waved in the breeze, the ducks dipped their heads in the rippling pond down the hill, and…

“Do you feel that?” I felt that strange wonder again. While it was comforting, I had no idea what it was. I felt safe and without worry, like all my cares could be taken away if only I were to be able to grasp whatever was giving me this feeling.

My roommate turned around and studied me. “I don’t feel anything. Are you okay?”

I looked at her and back at the window. What had I felt? Was I really okay?

“Yeah, I was just messing with ya. I don’t think I am completely awake yet. See ya later.” I hesitantly walked out the door. Was I losing my mind?

I rushed into class just as Professor Write was handing out one of her infamous quizzes. She looked at me with her chastising eyes, and I met them with the most apologetic expression I could conjure. I couldn’t get my mind off of what I had felt last night and this morning. But what had I felt?

I whipped through the quiz, as always. I don’t know what my fellow classmates feared in these assessments, but I loved the chance for easy points.

Still, I could not get my mind off that… whatever it was… outside my window.

I leaned over to Melissa, my faithful study companion, and asked, “Did you feel anything different this morning… or last night?”

She looked at me, questioningly, but I could tell she knew what I was talking about. A flood of relief swept over me; I was not insane. But that relief was immediately replaced with curiosity.

Melissa leaned over to me and whispered, “I’ll tell you after class.”

After a rather interesting lecture, I ran to catch up to Melissa in the lobby. “So…?”

“What do you think you felt?”

“Whatever it was, it made me feel a sense of, something good and right, like I had never felt before. But, it still made me feel rather uneasy. I really can’t explain it.”

“Well, I believe in an omnipresent God.”

“Oh, please, not that again.”

“Please, just hear me out. I believe He is always watching over us, His presence is not something to fear. He loves you more than you can ever know, so much He died on the cross for you.”

As she spoke, I saw how passionate she was about this. I thought about what had happened, glancing around the room to avoid her gaze. I didn’t want to… but…

“Could you maybe tell me more about this?” I finally conceded.

She smiled, and I knew my life would never be the same.

Written by Michelle

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Letter to the Patchwork Writer

Dear Patchwork Writer,

You might not have any idea why I just called you a “patchwork.” That’s because I made that name up. All it means is that you like quotes and paraphrases—a lot. If you have a habit of stuffing your papers with words and ideas from other sources and not including many of your own thoughts, pull up a chair—let’s discuss.

Now, for those history majors out there whose papers consist of biographies and other collections of information, you don’t really have a lot of choice. Those kinds of assignments leave little to no room for original thought, so don’t bother trying to shoehorn it in there.

For the rest of us, though, quoting too much can rob us of the most important part of writing papers in the first place—critical, applied thought. If you’re using block quote after block quote, all you’re doing is regurgitating what you’ve read; you’re not learning anything (and neither is your reader!). Adding your own thoughts is a way to connect what you’re reading with what you’re saying and thinking. It also raises your credibility by showing your ability to use research to back up your thoughts.

Imagine trying to sew a quilt without thread or assembling a car without bolts. Nothing holds together, and it falls apart into an unrecognizable heap of useless parts. That’s what an all-quote paper feels like to a reader.

On the other hand, you obviously don’t want to go on a rant and disregard quotes entirely. Your opinions matter, but they are far more convincing when they’re backed by credible sources.

Imagine you’re forced to listen to someone talking about how great (or how awful) their vacation was for half an hour. You can’t leave without offending them, but you’re dying of boredom and want to disagree just so it gets you out of the conversation faster. That’s how your reader (e.g. your professor) feels when you try to write an academic opinion without gathering facts from outside your own head.

So where’s the balance? In reality, it varies from assignment to assignment. I like to structure my papers in a specific way, in what I colloquially call the “quote sandwich.” (Hungry yet?)

Each paragraph starts with a topic sentence. Think of it like the first slice of bread. After that, I add some metaphorical mayonnaise or a slice of cheese by introducing my quote with the author’s name, the title of the work I’m citing, or some other important information to justify the quote’s existence. Then come the lettuce and tomato: the quote itself.

The key with this sandwich, however, is the lunchmeat—explanation. I spend at least a sentence (maybe two) explaining and applying the quote to my topic sentence or thesis. That way, I’m not just pulling a random thought to meet a source requirement; I’m actually using it to back up what I’m trying to say. After that, I might introduce another quote to further my point, but there are layers of mayo or cheese (introduction), veggies (quotes), and meat (original thought). I always end my paragraph with the other piece of bread—a restatement of my topic sentence or a transition to the next paragraph.

Now that you’re good and hungry, let me clarify that there’s no magic ratio of quotes to thoughts. It’s just important that you, as the writer, demonstrate a clear understanding of how these different ideas from different places support your claim—and not just to please your professor. When you are forced to include your reasoning, you often come to better understand it yourself, which is the whole reason you’re writing a paper to begin with. Seize this chance to explore new things about yourself and experiment—the end result will be much more delicious when you do.

Written by Catherine

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