Posted on

6 Things to Learn Outside the Classroom During University

University Life

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: most of what you learn in university you’ll learn outside the classroom.

Sure, the research professor you’ve spoken to twice is going to fill a great spot on your reference list. And, okay, I guess it is kind of nice to have a degree so you can do the thing you want to do for the rest of your life.

But the lessons learned about Anglo-Saxon coins in your Old English class will pale in comparison to the moment when you realize that your Old English professor is actually cooler than anybody else in the class. (Thanks for the pub night, M.J.)

In the end, the things you remember about university life will almost always occur outside of the classroom. Here’s a list of things to learn outside of the classroom during your university career.

1. Who to go to when you need help

So, you had a terrible day. It’s inevitable. You failed your midterm, you missed the bus, or you got splashed by a car on the way home. Maybe it’s even worse, like the guy you were seeing won’t answer your texts, your brother is in the hospital, or you feel desperately homesick. You need to vent.

Christmas CatBut your roommate is busy complaining about a ten-page research paper that’s due in the morning. Your parents aren’t answering your calls. (Why doesn’t Mom ever charge her phone?) Even the cat that used to visit your house is nowhere to be seen (just because you tried to dress him up like Santa for Christmas that one time . . .).

Where do you go?

It’s important to learn who to go to when you need help. Go to your friend who will always listen, not the one that’s always too busy to hang out. If that’s not enough, there are endless resources that nobody talks about. Most schools have student health services, and most will be happy to book an appointment for you. Even if there’s a waiting list, they should be able to provide you with a helpline or a group class.

Use every resource you can get your hands on. Book a yoga class. Try meditating at home. Keep a journal. Just know that you are never alone and that somebody, somewhere, will be able to help you.

2. What to do when you don’t know what to do

“Oh no, I should have taken biology. Why the heck am I a double major in vocals and political science?” This battle cry of confused students can be heard in schools everywhere. This is bigger than academics—this is your entire life! What do you do when you don’t know what to do? How do you decide?

Flip a coin. (No, I’m joking. Sort of.)

Make a list of everything you like to do. Make a list of everything you’re good at. Cross out anything that won’t support you financially.

Do you not have a list anymore? Welcome to adulthood.

Again, I’m joking!

Here’s the real secret: very few of us actually know what we’re doing. Anybody with a plan is really just hoping that plan will actually work out. Most people with a career path had a simple passion and chose a related field.

Nobody gets through four years of vocals and political science without some sort of desire to do so. Maybe you love something in there. Maybe you’re good at something in one of those fields. Maybe you thought you’d make a fortune being the world’s first operatic lawyer.

If not, then it’s time to regroup. Pick something you love, that you’re good at, or that will make you financially stable. If your choice happens to fit more than one of those categories, then great!

In the end, you might choose a path that you’re not totally certain about. Could it hurt you in the future? Might you regret your choice? Sure, of course. Eventually, though, you’ll just have to flip a coin. If all else fails, at least you tried something, and you won’t know you don’t like it unless you try it first.

Aha! Your mother was right all along. So maybe you will like broccoli when you get older. You just have to give it a chance.

3. When you’ve reached your limit

It might be drinking an entire mini-keg yourself on St. Patty’s Day. Or it might be taking on five classes, four clubs, three roommates, two part-time jobs, and the meanest professor in the world (in other words, the worst version of The 12 Days of Christmas ever). Either way, you’re going to wake up regretting biting off more than you can chew.

Recognizing your limit is the sign of being a grown-up. If you don’t think you can handle four clubs and two part-time jobs on top of all of your classes, drop something. Drop three things. Do whatever you need to do to stay happy and healthy. You are not Superman (and you don’t need that whole bottle of wine to yourself).

4. Where to get anything and everything cheaper

Surprise! It will often feel like your school wants to take all of your money. (I know, don’t fall over in shock.) Sometimes, the bursar’s office can feel like that bully on the school ground that shakes you by your shoes even though you only have three dollars. Just take my three dollars, and leave me alone, right?!

Used BooksWrong! Those are your three dollars. Yours. Spend them like they are magic beans.

Plant one in your local used bookstore and find your course books cheaper than a box of Ramen. The owner has probably already set up a bookshelf containing everything on your syllabus because he or she is expecting your arrival. Plant one in an off-campus clinic to get a discount on medication prices for students (and beauty products that are cheaper than the ones on campus). Plant one in a shared Netflix account with your roommates. Sure, you could just give them your password, but if you all split it, you’ll only pay a fraction, and you’ll get more magic beans in return to spend elsewhere.

See? Now you’re working the system. Time to climb that beanstalk!

5. Why your ridiculous roommate does the things he/she does

Maybe your roommate showers ten times a day. Or uses an entire roll of toilet paper every time he goes to the bathroom. Or refuses to share his frying pan with you and only speaks on the phone at three in the morning. Maybe she’s never held a broom, takes a cab everywhere she goes, and, you swear, only slams the cupboard doors to make you angry.

It’s so annoying that you can barely focus on anything else. You tell your mom about her antics every day. You and your roommates are going absolutely mad, and nobody knows what to do. She does all these terrible things!

But do you know why?

One of my past roommates was from a place where cleanliness was very important. She could only make phone calls late at night because of time zone differences. She cabbed everywhere because, back at home, it wasn’t safe to walk at night.

Okay, there’s no need to use an entire roll of toilet paper or scream so loudly on the phone. Still, understanding why somebody can be so frustrating is the first step to forgiveness. (Closing the cupboard doors more gently wouldn’t hurt anybody, though. Just talk to her about it!)

6. How to thrive looking less-than-cool

You’ll never have more fun than the time you wear a light-up Rudolph nose out to the bar for Christmas or the time that you and your roommates dress up as giant birthday bags for Halloween (even when the costumes melt off in the rain). Looking like an absolute fool is the first step to having an excellent time all throughout university, guaranteed.

People will stare at you. People will talk about you and roll their eyes and make faces. Guess what? It’s because they’re mad that they’re not having as much fun as you are. Ask them if they want to join you! If not, just keep doing you. That Rudolph nose your roommate bought you at the dollar store is going to be carefully stored with your other prized possessions, and nothing anybody says can ever destroy the fun you had that night.

So go to everything you can, and try to be the most ridiculous person there.

The guy who gives out Mardi Gras beads at the bar, the Stormtrooper riding a unicycle on the busiest street in the city, and the girl with the giant horse painted on her face at the big football game? Those people are always the ones that have the most fun.


Truly taking care of yourself during this wild time in your life is important. In the end, only you know what it is that will help you. If dressing up your roommate’s cat as Santa will bring you Christmas cheer, then it’s just going to have to deal with the jingle bells.

What’s important is that your university life be a series of ridiculous moments that you remember for the rest of your life.

Don’t focus only on classes, or you won’t notice when a life lesson speeds by you on a unicycle.

Image source: thelester/, Henry Lorenzatto/, Freddie Marriage/

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

Posted on

Putting Pen to Paper: How to Write a Rough Draft

A hand holding a lightbulb next to crumpled paper.

You have done the research and written the outline of your paper. You are ahead of the deadline, and you want to stay that way. You turn on your computer, poise your fingers over the keyboard, and begin your rough draft. But what exactly is a rough draft? And just why do you need to write one in the first place?

Have you ever assembled a puzzle? Most of us begin by dumping all the puzzle pieces out of the box and then grouping the pieces by color and shape. It is likely that the jumble of puzzle pieces in no way resembles the picture on the puzzle box. But looking at the pieces, you can get an idea of how they will all fit together.

A PuzzleWriting a rough draft is similar to building a puzzle. Your outline and your research are a collection of ideas similar to that jumble of puzzle pieces. When you write your rough draft, you begin organizing how these ideas go together. Just as grouping similar puzzle pieces can give you an idea of what the final puzzle will look like, grouping your ideas in a rough draft gives you an idea of what your final draft will look like.

Getting a Rough Idea

You may think that rough drafts are not important. You have done the research, and you know what you want to say, so what is wrong with just writing? Nothing! In fact, that’s exactly how to write a rough draft. A rough draft is a means of getting started on your essay. When you start a rough draft, you are no longer just thinking about writing or planning on writing—you are doing it! Writing your rough draft helps you get your information and thoughts on paper. Once you have your rough draft, you can edit and polish ad nauseum until you have your wonderful final draft. But before that, you need to start somewhere.

Writing a rough draft also helps build discipline. While you may have managed to write an essay off the cuff in the past, it was bound to be a stressful experience. Who would want to do that again? Writing a rough draft helps you get your ideas on paper. You can always fix the spelling and grammar, refine your word choices, and add your own style and panache later. For now, sitting down and writing helps discipline your mind.

How to Write a Rough Draft

  1. The first step in writing a rough draft is just to get started. Collect your research notes and your outline (you did do the research and prepare the outline, didn’t you?).
  2. Follow your outline to help you prepare your introductory paragraph. This is where you should catch your reader’s attention with an interesting first sentence, but don’t worry if you can’t think of one yet. Inspiration may hit you at a later stage—that’s the wonder of writing a rough draft! Make sure that you introduce your topic and write your thesis statement. This will help you with the structure of your paper.
  3. Write the body of your essay. Remember that you will need, at very least, three paragraphs containing evidence that supports your thesis statement. At this point, don’t worry too much about making sure you have transitions between the paragraphs. Improving flow is something you can do in a later draft.
  4. Write your conclusion. This paragraph provides you with the opportunity to summarize your research and show how it supports your thesis statement. You should also restate your thesis statement.

Surviving the Rough Times

There are some things you can do to make sure that you don’t have a rough time writing your rough draft. These tips will help make the writing process a bit easier:

  • Write in the active voice.
  • Don’t stress out over every word. Just let your ideas spill onto the paper. If you can’t think of an appropriate word, just type the first word that pops into your head, and return to it later.
  • Make sure your introduction not only introduces your topic but also provides some background information on the topic.
  • Write a topic sentence for each of your body paragraphs. This sentence indicates the direction for each paragraph and will help you remain on subject.
  • If you can, write some transition ideas in each of your body paragraphs so that they link together, but don’t agonize over them. It’s okay if you can’t think of these transitions at this stage.
  • Look for any paragraphs where you feel that your proof is weak or you need more information to bolster your argument. You may need to go back and do more research to fill in any holes.
  • Once you have completed your rough draft, take a break. You deserve it!

Image source: garloon/

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

Posted on

4 Writing Styles to Help You Ace Every Essay

Writing Styles

Writing Styles

Writing styles are like fashion styles. How you dress helps others understand who you are, describes a particular sentiment to those who see you, and signals a subconscious message to be interpreted by others. How you write will give similar signals to others that help them understand what you’re trying to communicate. Also, like fashion styles, writing styles have particular times and places in which they should be employed or restrained. It’s inappropriate to wear white to a wedding if you’re not the bride; similarly, it’s inappropriate to use certain writing styles for specific types of writing.

Luckily, writing styles are a little more cut and dried than fashion styles. There are four main types of writing: expository, descriptive, persuasive, and narrative. Each serves a specific purpose and differs from the others in particular ways. Knowing the difference between the writing styles is useful in essay writing because your essay must serve a precise purpose. By understanding the subtleties of the writing styles, it will be a lot easier to determine which style to employ based on the purpose of your essay.

Expository Writing

Expository Writing ExplainsExpository writing is used when you want to explain or inform, making it a very popular writing style for essays. Generally, the writer must first formulate a topic, outline the evidence, and further explain the idea to demonstrate a particular point about the topic at hand. A thesis statement is utilized to outline the topic, followed by body paragraphs held together by transitions. Often, evidence is stated in the paragraphs, and an introduction and conclusion are provided.

Very simply, this style is employed in academic writing to outline the main points of a topic. The writer explains a specific subject from beginning to end. The writing should be clear, supported by facts and logical reasoning. A common form of expository writing is the compare-and-contrast essay, which outlines the similarities and differences between two subjects. The writer can either alternate explaining similarities and differences in separate paragraphs or explain all the similarities in several consecutive paragraphs, followed by all the differences.

Descriptive Writing

Descriptive Writing DescribesThe main purpose of descriptive writing is to describe a subject to form a clear idea in the reader’s mind. This writing style draws attention to details to outline the topic. Writing a descriptive essay requires clear and vivid language to accurately describe the subject. The senses become very important in descriptive writing because they help to bring ordinary moments to life. The reader should be left with a vibrant understanding of the topic at hand.

Students are often required to write descriptive essays to explain a particular experience they may have had or an event that has taken place. This type of essay is a little bit more creative than the expository essay, allowing the writer to draw on lived experience and lively language rather than relying on dry facts. Here, the more specific and detailed the writing is, the better, and wordiness is not frowned upon as it is in expository writing.

Persuasive Writing

Persuasive Writing PersuadesThis type of writing allows the writer to take a stance. Rather than objectively explaining a topic or painting a picture for the reader, persuasive writing is used to demonstrate a very specific opinion on a topic. That means attention to word choice is imperative, as weak or incorrect word usage can make or break a persuasive essay. In this style, authors attempt to get the readers to side with them, share their particular opinion, and even sometimes take action on it.

Often, this type of writing is used for controversial topics that split people into groups based on their opinions. This allows writers to take a specific stance and outline their particular opinions. Even though the writing can and should be biased, the outlined arguments must all be logical and must be feasibly proven. Therefore, persuasive writing requires extensive research so that the writer can back up an opinion with reputable sources.

Narrative Writing

Narrative Writing NarratesGenerally, narrative writing is less common in the academic world because the narrative style exists to tell stories. Whether it’s a true story or not is irrelevant; fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry are all types of narrative writing. In reality, all types of writing exist to argue a specific point. So even though narrative writing is a more creative type of writing, it is still an argument and should be treated as such.

What do you want the reader to believe? That’s what you should ask when writing a narrative essay.

Narrative essays are generally used when writing anecdotal or personal essays. In the academic world, this usually takes the form of creative nonfiction. The writer should introduce the topic and lead the reader through the story by explaining what happened next until the story comes to a logical conclusion. That means it should have a clear structure. This type of writing is also used for book reports, outlining the story from beginning to end.


Really, the four types of writing are named aptly: expository writing explains, descriptive writing describes, persuasive writing persuades, and narrative writing narrates. All the different writing styles serve their own purposes and are thus useful for different types of essay writing. That means they never go out style (pun intended).

How to Write an Essay

Image source: stux/

Posted on

9 Proofreading Tips for Revising Your Essay at the Last Minute

A Quick Checklist for the Procrastination-Prone Student

Proofreading Tips

It’s two o’clock in the morning.

For hours, you’ve been frantically writing a paper that is due tomorrow. By some sweet miracle, you’ve managed to stay away from Netflix long enough to finish writing the first draft of your paper.

You breathe a sigh of relief and prepare to crawl away from the perils of your desk toward the safety of your bed. But alas, you do not make it.

Instead, terror strikes your heart. You gasp and clutch your shaking hand to your sweaty chest, for you’ve just realized that the battle is not yet won. Though you’ve finished writing, you still face one more daunting task: you must proofread your paper.

How will you do it?

You open your web browser, and though it takes almost all the willpower you have left, you resist the urge to post a Facebook update about your progress (“Currently trading in my sanity for a degree in philosophy. On second thought, likely never had any sanity in the first place”). Instead, you go straight to Google and frantically start searching for proofreading tips that will allow you to get more than three hours of sleep tonight.

Search no more, my friend. Though they won’t replace a substantial edit by a pair of fresh eyes (nothing can), these proofreading tips should help you remove the most glaring errors from your paper. Finishing that home stretch while retaining your precious mental marbles just got a bit less stressful.

But first, a disclaimer: If you struggle with the rules of grammar and punctuation, even the handiest of proofreading tips may not help you polish your paper. Unfortunately, these tips will only be helpful if you’re familiar with the errors you seek. A short-turnaround proofreading service may be something to consider if you don’t have confidence in your own editing or proofreading abilities. With that in mind, here are some proofreading tips to try.

Consistency Proofreading Tips

Ask any editor, proofreader, or college professor what irks them most about student papers, and you’ll likely find that inconsistency takes the cake. No matter how you slice that chocolate torte, writing something five different ways in the same paper is just plain wrong. The best way to eliminate inconsistency, especially after a long night of writing, is to tackle each potential inconsistency error one by one.

1. Check Capitalization and Acronyms

Names, terms, titles, and headings should all be written the same way. To find inconsistencies, scan your document for every usage of a term, and make sure each instance is written the same way. Acronyms should also be used consistently. Each acronym should be defined the first time it is used, and it should replace the term it represents for every use thereafter.

2. Check Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes

It can be easy to mix up hyphens (-), en dashes (–), and em dashes (—). They look so similar! Check out this guide to using these pesky punctuation marks, then use Ctrl + F to search your document for each instance of hyphenation and dash usage. Pay special attention to hyphenated terms!

Proofreading Tips Poster
Click to enlarge.

3. Check Spelling

Check the language setting of your word processor. Is it set to U.S., U.K., Canadian, or Australian English? To make sure the language is consistent throughout, select the entire body of text in your document (which you can easily do by pressing Ctrl + A), and choose the correct variety of English. Though this should help you find inconsistencies in spelling, be aware that Word will not catch all spelling inconsistencies. For example, realize and realise are both accepted spellings for the same word in Microsoft Word’s U.K., Canadian, and Australian English dictionaries. The same goes for words like labor/labour and labeling/labelling. To avoid inconsistencies, search your document for both versions of words that may be spelled inconsistently.

For specialized terms that Word doesn’t recognize, after checking the spelling using an online dictionary, add the terms to your Word dictionary so that every instance of the correctly spelled word is recognized. That way, only words that are actually being spelled wrong will be labeled as such.

4. Check Formatting and Headings

Read each of your headings individually, and make sure they are all formatted consistently. Then check that the indentation and spacing are the same across all paragraphs. Remember that most style guides recommend using only one space after a period, not two.

Other Proofreading Tips

Consistency obviously isn’t the only worry when it comes to proofreading. Grammar and punctuation errors are usually lurking in student papers—especially those written in a rush. If your grasp of grammar is decent, you should be able to solve most of your own problems. The trick, of course, is finding those problems. Here are three proofreading tips for detecting the errors that your eyes habitually overlook.

5. Print Your Paper

Though this will not be a feasible option for long papers, like dissertations, it can be a useful tip for shorter documents. (You’re definitely not trying to proofread your dissertation at the last minute anyway, right?) Giving your eyes a break from screen time can help make them more aware of errors that they missed before.

6. Change the Appearance of Your Paper

If printing isn’t an option, consider doing something else to change the appearance of your paper. Copying the content into a different document without formatting is one option, as is temporarily changing the font size or style.

7. Read Your Paper out Loud

There are two potential downfalls to this technique. The first is that reading a paper aloud actually takes much more time than most students allot for such a task, and the second is that it can be difficult to focus long enough to read the entire paper. These are the very reasons why reading your paper out loud is a handy proofreading technique: doing this forces you to slow down. It also helps stop your brain from automatically skipping words.

8. Find a Study Buddy

While not technically a last-minute tip, exchanging papers with a study buddy can be very useful when it comes to ironing the kinks out of your final draft. Make friends with a classmate at the beginning of the semester, and then send your papers to each other for a quick read before submission. One more disclaimer: make sure your study buddy is an adept proofreader!

9. Give Up . . .

. . . On doing it yourself, that is. If you’re running out of time and still not feeling confident about your final draft, check out’s short turnaround times for essay editing and proofreading. For important assignments, enlisting the help of an expert editor may be the best proofreading tip of all.

Image source: B-D-S/


Posted on

Writing a Thesis Statement that Takes Your Essay to the Next Level

Writing a Thesis Statement

Writing a Thesis StatementA thesis statement or hypothesis is essentially what makes an essay what it is. This one statement, found in an essay’s introduction, tells a reader what the essay is about and what the writer’s main argument or research findings are. Because this sentence states the purpose of the essay itself, it should be clear and concise and provide the writer’s concrete view of the particular subject. Writing a thesis statement that clearly outlines your stance on the topic and that is easy to understand differentiates a strong essay from a weak one. In this article, what makes a good thesis will be explained. We also provide some thesis statement examples to show you what works.

A Thesis Statement Should be Arguable

A good thesis statement can be debated and, therefore, can be backed up by research to persuade others that the hypothesis is correct or the best solution to a problem. You want the reader of your essay to agree with whatever you have argued, so stating facts does not make a good thesis or a good essay. The point of research is to further knowledge of a particular subject. Take a look at this thesis statement example that is simple but arguable:

Saving endangered species, like the polar bear, should be the responsibility of all countries.

There are people who would argue that it is not up to the entire world to save the polar bear but that it is the responsibility of the countries in which polar bears are found. This statement is easily debatable.

A Thesis Statement Should be Focused

Writing a focused thesis statement will not only keep your writing on track and help you avoid an overwhelming amount of research but will also allow you to create a solid argument. Every hypothesis must be supported by evidence and research. You do not want to make so broad a statement that you need a wide range of evidence to support it. Focus your statement on a specific area of your topic, and narrow your research to just this area.

The disappearance of suitable climates in which woolly mammoths could live likely resulted in the extinction of the species.

The thesis statement example given here is focused on a specific aspect that likely contributed to the extinction of the woolly mammoth—climate change. Researching evidence on one aspect of your topic can strengthen the final argument.

A Thesis Statement Should Reflect the Type of Essay being Written

The way you’ll go about writing a thesis statement will depend on the type of essay you need to write. A thesis for a book review will be worded differently than a thesis for a research proposal. Each version outlines the main purpose of the essay itself. Below are thesis statement examples for a variety of essay types.

A book or journal review thesis is a statement of your critical evaluation of the book

In The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien explores the theme of friendship through the loyalty and respect displayed between many of the main characters, such as Frodo and Sam, Gimli and Legolas, and Merry and Pippin.

A position or argumentative essay thesis is a statement of your position and why you adhere to it

University graduates in the 21st century cannot find valuable work because of the state of the economy and because many workers of the baby boomer generation refuse to retire.

A comparative essay thesis is a statement of your main argument and the main points of your comparison

Dogs often make better pets than cats because they can be easily trained and are more emotionally responsive.

A research paper thesis is a statement of your main claim relating to a topic or problem

Because of a greater sense of community and cultural involvement, people who live in the city experience a higher quality of life than people who live in rural areas.

A research proposal thesis is a statement of what you believe to be the main claim about a topic or problem

Evidence indicates that children who learn an instrument frequently go on to work in creative fields as adults.


Once you have a solid understanding of your research topic, writing a thesis statement should be relatively simple. Having your thesis statement planned out before you start your essay will allow you to focus your writing and help you create a strong argument. Once you have compiled all your research and know what you want to say in your essay, try writing out a few versions of your thesis statement, keeping in mind that it must be arguable, focused, and appropriate for the type of essay you’re writing.

Image source: janeb13/

How to Write an Essay

Posted on

5 Struggles Faced by International Students

Five Struggles Faced by International Students and How to Overcome Them

Five Struggles Faced by International Students and How to Overcome ThemBeing an international student is an incredible experience. Many students travel from all over the world to attend universities in the United States and in Canada. While many of these students do very well in their new environments, most still face struggles at some point or another. Moving across the globe all by yourself—usually at the young age of 18 or 19—is a pretty big deal. If you’re an international student in North America and you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t panic—you are not alone. Here is a list of five common struggles for international students, along with the best methods for overcoming them.

Struggle #1: Language Barriers

The Problem: Even if you’ve been speaking English for your entire life, learning to understand native English speakers can be a major challenge. Depending on where you are studying, the dialect could be almost impossible for you to understand right away—native English speakers can also have trouble understanding the dialects of English speakers living in regions different than their own. Even if dialect isn’t a factor, speed and slang certainly are added obstacles. Native English speakers may speak so quickly that you can’t separate the words, and they may use lots of terms and phrases that mean absolutely nothing to someone who is not well-versed in English colloquialisms. Being unable to communicate fully in English upon arrival at school can make it very difficult to make friends and to fully succeed in your classes.

The Solution: Make friends! This may seem difficult, but really, a university is the perfect venue for meeting people with whom you share common interests. Just like you’re interested in North American culture, customs, and language, many native students will be interested in where you come from and what your life was like in your home country. If you take time to communicate with your new friends exactly what your language limitations are, many of them will work to accommodate your needs.

The more you speak English with your new friends, the easier it will become to understand their speech and to generate more of your own. For example, I had a friend at my university who was an international student from Pakistan. His English skills were already very good upon arriving in Canada, but he had a hard time with slang and idioms. Instead of just avoiding the use of these phrases, he created a method for learning them. Whenever someone used a phrase with which he was unfamiliar, he asked what it meant. After the person explained—usually with some difficulty, as it is very difficult to explain why phrases like “I’m feeling under the weather” or “take it with a grain of salt” mean what they do—my friend would write down the phrase, along with its meaning, in a memo pad on his cellphone. He would then casually try these new phrases in his own speech with his friends to make sure he was using them correctly.

Struggle #2: Academic Issues

The Problem: Like most international students, you may be very serious about succeeding academically. After all, you did travel across the globe to receive your education. Still, sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try—some assignments or tasks may be too challenging. This can be especially true for projects that involve strong English language skills or abstract writing abilities, like essays. It can be very frustrating to fully understand a concept but be unable to express it satisfactorily in English.

The Solution: Talk to your teachers! Most professors want to help their students succeed. Though it may make you nervous at first, utilize resources like office hours and study groups. Stop in to talk to your instructor if you are struggling with an assignment. It is perfectly acceptable at North American universities to actively seek help when you are having a hard time. If your professors are unable to help you themselves, they can refer you to resources that they think will be helpful, like your university’s academic writing center.

Struggle #3: Homesickness

The Problem: Moving away to school is a major transition, even when you aren’t moving a two-day plane ride away. It’s easy to quickly fall into homesickness, especially if you find yourself feeling isolated. You may start missing your family, your friends, the customs of your home country, and even the food you are used to eating.

The Solution: Once again, the solution to this struggle is to make friends! While it’s great to call home sometimes to chat with your family and friends, you shouldn’t rely on this contact to keep yourself from being homesick. Instead, you should spend lots of time with new friends. These can be both international students like yourself and North American students. You may find that it makes you feel better to tell your new friends about your life at home, to sometimes speak your native tongue with friends from your country, to teach foreign words to native English speakers, and even to expose your new friends to the foods you are accustomed to eating.

Struggle #4: Staying Active

The Problem: Your lifestyle may change drastically when you move to school. If you’re anything like other students, you’ll probably find yourself spending lots of time sitting around. Whether you’re hanging out with friends, sitting in class, studying for exams, or writing a paper, you may have a hard time getting the same amount of exercise you’re used to. On top of that, the new foods you’re eating may be drastically different from (and greasier than) your regular diet. It doesn’t take very long for what North Americans cutely call “the Freshman 15” to settle onto your hips. And let me tell you—there is nothing cute about it.

The Solution: Take advantage of your school’s resources. Don’t be afraid to try going to the gym—after all, you have a free membership! Most university recreational centers also offer free fitness classes and intramural sports. Even if physical exercise has never been your cup of tea, you should make an attempt to do something other than hang out in your dorm room. Consider joining an academic or social club, and try to become familiar with the city you’re staying in by using public transportation and going for walks. Staying busy and active will also help you avoid homesickness.

Struggle #5: Other Problems

The Problem: You’ve made friends. You’ve joined clubs. You’ve attended classes, written papers, and studied for exams. But still, something is missing. You’re not happy. Maybe there’s something personal going on in your life, or maybe you’re just having a hard time with the transition to post-secondary education. Whatever the reason, you’re not enjoying your life, and that’s a problem.

The Solution: While it may be difficult for some international students to understand, in North America, it is completely acceptable to ask for help when you are having problems. Most universities offer counseling services for their students. Usually, a certain number of sessions are covered by your student health plan, which means you can talk to a counselor for free. Utilize these resources while you can—these types of services are not usually free of cost in contexts other than school, and they can be very helpful when you’re trying to deal with complicated issues. Don’t struggle alone—learn how to reach out.


Image source: NejroN Photo/

Posted on

How to Succeed in an Online Course

How to Succeed in an Online Course

How to Succeed in an Online CourseYou’re in your last semester of your undergraduate degree. Only five classes to finish before you cross that glorious finish line and leave the books behind. You have a couple of electives left to take, so you decide to take two online courses. This will be great! Without having to go to class, you’ll have so much extra time to do the reading and complete your assignments. Plus, you know, Netflix. (What? Who said that?)

Cut to three months from now. You just realized your final papers for both online courses are due on the same day, and you haven’t started either of them. You also haven’t done any of the reading for the past five weeks. Oops. That particular variety of stress, the one tied inexplicably to writing papers, wraps its cold hands around your neck. Who knew that an online course could be so much work?

Let’s do something you won’t be able to do in real life: roll the clock back to your enrollment in those online courses. No, I’m not going to suggest you don’t take them. Instead, I’m going to teach you how to succeed in an online course—information that’s particularly helpful before you begin one of these classes. Spoiler alert: it actually involves you doing your work. And, sadly, it has very little to do with Netflix. (Don’t worry: Full House isn’t going anywhere.)

1. Scheduling is your friend.

All students struggle to stay on top of their workloads. (Any students who say they don’t are clearly robots, and this blog is for humans. You’re not welcome here, Stepford Student.) Finding the time to attend classes, do the assigned reading, complete assignments, and study for exams is difficult enough for a regular course. Online courses make it even harder to stay on top of things, because no one is holding you accountable for staying on schedule. There’s no professor to guilt you during class for not having done the assigned reading, no classmate to ask you questions you most certainly don’t know the answers to. And there certainly isn’t anyone to remind you that your midterm paper is due next week. It’s all on you to stay on track. So how can you do that?

When it comes to succeeding in an online course, you need to schedule three things:Time Spent in an Online Course

  1. “Lecture” Time
  2. Reading Time
  3. Assignment/Exam Preparation Time

Most online classes don’t have required “lecture” times per se. Still, you need to have a set time dedicated to learning the lecture material. Let’s say you have a break in your regular classes between 2 and 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Well, now you have a break between 2 and 3 p.m., because 3 to 4 p.m. is dedicated to your online course. Schedule your reading time in a similar manner, and for goodness’ sake, stick to your schedule.

If scheduling is your friend, your syllabus should be your bestie. Relying on your syllabus will help you succeed in your online course. After all, how can you possibly prepare for exams or complete assignments if you don’t keep track of your deadlines? For some people, this may mean writing deadlines in a planner. Others may rely more on technology; for example, adding your deadlines to your phone and creating pesky little reminders may be helpful if you’re prone to forgetfulness. Do what you need to do, as long as you’re making a plan and sticking to it.

2. Active learning helps you . . . well, you know, learn.

Learning the material from an online course can be tricky. For lots of students, simply reading the material is not a great method for absorbing the content. Not having a professor to engage you in the content can also make that content difficult to take in. So what can you do to actively work with—and thereby actually learn—the material from your online course?

The methods that work best for you will depend on how you learn best. But, generally speaking, repurposing the material is often a helpful way to learn it. This may involve making notes, creating (and subsequently answering) mock test questions, creating a PowerPoint presentation, or making a video. You could also get together with classmates to discuss or debate important points, to role-play major events or theories, or to eat ice cream. (Hey, it can’t be all work all the time, you know!)

I know what you’re thinking. Who has time to do any of those things? To answer that question, I’d like to redirect you to the previous piece of advice. Who has time? You do. Why? Because you scheduled time for this online course. I would also like to add that there is always time for ice cream. Always.

3. Practice online etiquette.

Even online courses occasionally require some kind of correspondence between teacher and student or between students. Whether you’re working in a discussion group or just have a question about an assignment, you will occasionally have to communicate with someone via the Internet. There is a right and a wrong way to do this. Let’s take, for example, this email to a professor of an online course:

What not to say to your professor in an email.

This email contains spelling errors, incorrect punctuation, inappropriate short forms, and an unprofessional signature line. Colin would surely never hand in an assignment in this condition, nor would he use such a casual tone if he were speaking to the professor in person. If you need to email your professor or otherwise communicate online for your online course, be sure to use proper spelling and grammar, as well as a professional tone. Think of school as your job, and write accordingly. Let’s try Colin’s email again, shall we?

An appropriate and professional email to a professor.

Another aspect of etiquette to keep in mind for your online course (and all your courses, for that matter) is to check your syllabus before emailing your instructor with a question. Instructors don’t much care to answer questions you already have the answers to—do not email in haste!


There you have it: you now know how to succeed in an online course. Now that you have the know-how, it’s time for the follow-through. Go forth, student, and prosper in your online courses. Even if you’re not currently in school, many online courses are available to help you improve your knowledge or skills. And now that you know the best way to tackle an online course, why not take a course in editing?

Image source: BlueLela/

Posted on

How to Be Miserable at College or University

Be Miserable at College or University

Be Miserable at College or UniversityChocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. Back scratches. Led Zeppelin. Puppies. College success. What do these things all have in common? They are all so totally overrated. Let’s just think about this logically:

Cookie dough and ice cream, together—why overdo the yumminess?

Relieving itchiness with the appropriate application of friction—a pointless endeavor, really. You’ll probably just get itchy again anyway.

The combination of intelligent lyrics, soaring vocals, and insanely original guitar riffs—like, aren’t you just so over it?

Furry bundles of happiness—can you say, “ew”?

And finally, feeling satisfied and fulfilled on a daily basis while you learn, grow, and change by succeeding in college—I mean, really, let’s not be ridiculous.

You don’t want to learn how to succeed in college. You know better than that! You, my friend, are looking to be miserable at college, and if there’s anything I know about in my plain ice cream, itchy, silent, puppy-less life, it’s how to be miserable. Here are some tips to help you become just as miserable as I am while you trudge your way through college.

1. Study, study, then study some more.

School is about learning, right? Well, hop to it, pal! The only way to attain college success is to make a 200% commitment to getting good grades. Your roommate wants you to come out for dinner? No way! You get invited to a party? Don’t even think about it! You have the urge to watch a movie? Tough luck, bud! You’re trying to be miserable, and one of the best ways to do that is to remove the concept of “balance” entirely from your student life. Place your entire self-worth on your academic college success, and I guarantee you’ll be miserable in two weeks flat.

2. Party like a rock star.

Party like a RockstarIf dedicating your entire existence to academics isn’t enough to make you miserable, consider doing exactly the opposite. You’re not looking to learn how to succeed in college—or in life, for that matter—so don’t bother pretending that you care about assigned reading, attending class, or even sleeping like a normal human. You’re only young once, so now is the time to be intentionally irresponsible. Party enough to make yourself feel like the student loan you took out has gone completely to waste, and then think about how long it will take you to repay that wasted investment. Consider your transition to utter misery complete.

3. Take classes you hate.

You know what’s way cooler than being a happy history major? Why, being a miserable biology major, of course. Since you’re not looking to learn how to succeed in college, I advise you to take only classes in which you have no interest. When I think of students who haven’t attained college success, the first people who come to mind are the aspiring doctors whose parents chose their majors for them. They had no hope of making it through their undergrads, let alone completing medical degrees, and they knew it. They were much more miserable than the people who were actually getting something out of their post-secondary educations, so I encourage you to emulate them in your quest for college misery.

4. Don’t try to make friends.

You already have lots of friends, and you want new ones about as badly as you want college success. Who has time to meet new people or to try new things? Sure, this is going to be the only time in your life when you’re literally surrounded by thousands of people who are very qualified to be your friends. You’re all around the same age, you’re all dealing with similar issues, and many of you probably share common interests. If you were looking to be happy, you would totally take advantage of your situation and develop relationships with new people. However, because you scorn happiness and all those who strive for it, you’ll be much better off clinging to high school friendships with people who live in different cities, states, or maybe even countries. Those unsatisfying relationships will be sure to keep you good and miserable.

5. Transform your dorm room into a cozy cocoon, and make darn sure that you never become a butterfly.

A sleeping puppy.

Your bedroom should be your sanctuary. This is where you will study, sleep off that wicked hangover, or just avoid other people. If you make your dorm room comfy enough, you’ll never have much reason to leave. You can’t possibly achieve college success or general life satisfaction from the safety of your room, which is why your room is where you must stay. Don’t join any clubs, don’t sit on any councils, and certainly don’t consider spending time in public places unless absolutely necessary. You might experience growth, and self-development is certainly the very last thing you want in your quest to be miserable at college.


There you have it: a complete guide to post-secondary misery. Personally, I think that aiming for unhappiness is the smartest way to approach college. After all, you can’t be disappointed if you never have any hope to begin with, right? However, if you give the misery thing a go and realize it’s not exactly your cup of tea, you may consider checking out some of Inklyo’s other resources for students who actually want to know how to succeed in college. You know, it’s good to have a back-up plan.

Image source: Pavan Trikutam/,,

Posted on

Over the Hills and Far Away: 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time Studying Abroad

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time Studying Abroad

10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time Studying Abroad Whether you’re a Canadian studying in Paris or a German studying in New York City, it’s imperative to make the most of your time studying abroad. It is, after all, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not make it the best it can be?

Regardless of whether you’re in high school, college, or university, there are things you can do to enhance your experience and make the most out of your voyage overseas. Vacationing in a foreign land is one thing, but totally immersing yourself in the culture? That’s another.

But don’t worry! We’ve compiled this list of the top 10 ways to make the most of your study-abroad experience so you can enjoy every moment to the fullest. Safe travels!

1. Know before you go.

First, this means doing your research. You don’t want to get to your new country without knowing that its residents drive on the opposite side of the road, or that they eat with chopsticks instead of knives and forks. Really get to know the place before you arrive.

Learn the language, familiarize yourself with the culture, and try to imagine yourself as a local. Read books, watch shows, and ask questions about this new country where you’ll be spending a good chunk of time. The more you know about where you’re going and the culture of the people who live there, the more you’ll feel at home, and you’ll be able to adapt much more easily.

Second, find comfort in the fact that, while you will not find all the answers, you will learn a lot about yourself along the way. Many people travel with the sole purpose of finding answers to questions like these: What should I do with my life? What does it all mean? Why is German toilet paper like cardboard?

Well, it takes more than a semester abroad to figure it all out, but as you journey along in your study-abroad experience, you will learn a great deal about yourself, the world, and what truly makes you happy. Just remember that, while distance does bring insight, insight is not something that can be rushed. So take your time, live in the moment, and know that just by doing what you’re doing, you’re accomplishing a whole lot more than you think.

2. Buy experiences, not things.

You’ve probably heard it before, but I’ll say it again here: buy experiences, not things. By spending your money on intangible experiences and immaterial memories, you’ll have something much more fulfilling than the fleeting happiness an “I ♥ New York” mug or a tacky T-shirt might provide.

SouvenirsMake sure you’re spending your hard-earned cash on experiences that will stay with you forever. Souvenirs can get lost, broken, even stolen, but experiences give you something no one will be able to take away: anticipation, excitement, edification, culture, pleasure, nostalgia, memories, and, ultimately, real happiness. By their very nature, material possessions cannot provide you with these things; nor can they provide you with such long-lasting experiential pleasure.

In fact, research shows that anticipating an experience creates more happiness than anticipating something material, such as a new couch. The takeaway message here is simple: while it’s important to stick to a budget, it’s also important to spend your money on the right things (think quality).

After all, the feelings and memories of standing atop the Eiffel Tower will be with you forever. That plastic Eiffel Tower keychain? It doesn’t pack quite the same punch.

3. Don’t worry, be happy.

Know that you will experience emotional highs and lows; we all do. Whether you’re a homebody or a travel buff, you will have ups and downs during your time studying abroad, and this is normal. But don’t let the inevitable low moods and difficult experiences ruin all the great things that are happening.

Your trip will be what you make of it. If you choose to feel bummed out about things not always going according to plan, then you’re bound to have a less-than-awesome time. Yes, there will be times when you’re lonely, scared, and homesick. These feelings are normal, but they will pass.

Get out and sightsee. Check out a new farmer’s market. Meet other yogis at a yoga class. Whatever you do, acknowledge your negative feelings, but always know that there are lots of other people just like you in the exact same position. Learn and grow from the experience; keep calm and carry on!

4. Carpe diem.

If you truly want to make the most of this experience, step outside your comfort zone. (It’s cliché but true).

How many times in your life will you have this amazing opportunity to meet such diverse groups of people and immerse yourself in another culture? They say life begins the moment you step out of your comfort zone, and there’s no better time to do this than while studying abroad. After all, it’s when you’re out of your element that you really discover who you are.

It can be scary, challenging, and even chaotic at times, but I guarantee that you won’t regret one second of it; in fact, you’ll regret staying in your safe little bubble. So say yes, try new things, and open yourself to new experiences—you never know where they will lead!

5. Study.

This may come as a surprise, but . . . you’re going to have to do a little bit of studying while you’re abroad. (I know! How unfortunate!)

Remember, your studies are what brought you here in the first place. Just as you would back home, stay organized, keep up with your homework, and make friends with the people in your classes. Consider joining a study group; it’s a fun and valuable way to learn about a subject while getting to know your classmates better, and study groups can take some of the monotony out of studying alone.

Since your grades abroad still count toward your degree or diploma, it’s important to put in just as much (if not more!) effort as you would at home. Keep it up, and you won’t have to spend your time worrying about getting poor grades or failing a class.

6. Document your travels.

JournalKeep a journal, write a blog, make notes on a napkin. Whatever medium you choose, take this study-abroad opportunity to document your experiences. You’ll be doing so much that it will be hard to remember all the details, so why not write them down?

Record your adventures so you’ll be able to share them with your friends and family. Writing about your experiences creates a lasting memento for when you return home and are feeling nostalgic. It also sparks your creativity and allows you to practice your writing while you’re away. (You can even practice writing in the language of your study-abroad country!)

If you are traveling to an English-speaking country and want to do a little learning during your travels, check out’s comprehensive online grammar course, GrammarCamp. GrammarCamp will improve your written and spoken English while allowing you to learn at your own pace—wherever you are.

7. Expect the unexpected.

As with all things in life, plans don’t always work out the way you intend. But that’s okay, because sometimes having no plan actually turns out better than having one. Try not to worry when something doesn’t go exactly the way you thought it would. Things usually work themselves out in the end. As long as you keep a level head and trust that events will unfold as they’re supposed to, you’ll be okay.

A change in plans can teach you to be flexible and resilient, which will only help you in the future. Welcome the unforeseen. Embrace the unexpected. Celebrate the serendipitous.

8. Feel the love.

Socialize! Get excited about meeting new people!

One of the most exhilarating aspects of studying abroad is all the interesting people you meet along the way. Meeting people during such a pivotal life experience means that these new friends will likely stick around a while, and the memories you create together will only bring you closer.

While you’ll want to interact with people in other study-abroad groups, it’s also extremely important—and fun!—to meet the locals and do as they do. Have them teach you how things are done in their culture. You’ll find that people usually love to talk about their culture, their country, and themselves. It’s a two-way street, though, so be ready to teach them about your culture and country as well. If you ask me, it’s a win-win!

9. Be a tourist.

If there are sights you’ve always wanted to see or things you’ve always wanted to experience in your study-abroad country, check them off your list early so you won’t run the risk of missing them.

It’s okay to be a tourist! Don’t be ashamed of doing all the touristy things. The Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty are tourist attractions for a reason. Experience the sights for yourself, and don’t make apologies for being a tourist. (Be a polite tourist, of course, not an obnoxious one. If you are an obnoxious tourist, well, do be ashamed, at least a little bit.)

When your friends come to visit, they can be the tourists and you can be the tour guide. Trust me, they’ll appreciate it!

10. Stay safe!

Above all, stay safe. Make sure you know whom to call in case of an emergency, where to go if you get sick, and how to handle any health and safety issues that may pop up.

When it comes to your personal health and safety, you can’t have too much knowledge, so make a point of learning how to stay safe in your study-abroad country. From being wary of pickpockets to being cautious of public transportation to having an unlocked cell phone, there are many things you can learn and do before you get there that will help keep you safe during your travels.

It’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and to be street smart. Never assume that safety won’t be an issue for you, even (and especially) if you’re going to a popular tourist destination. Invest in a travel guide for your travel-abroad country, and meet people you can trust. Better to be safe than sorry!


We hope you’ve enjoyed our top 10 tips for how to make the most of your travel-abroad experience. Since the point of studying abroad is, ahem, to study, you may find it helpful to visit’s online grammar course, GrammarCamp, to help you improve your written and spoken English. If you’re already a native English speaker, GrammarCamp can help improve your communication skills. If you’re a non-native English speaker, GrammarCamp can help improve your written and verbal communication skills while teaching you the nuances of the language. Either way, it’s an interactive way for you to learn at your own pace and in your own space.

Bon voyage, and safe travels to you as you embark on your journey and make the most of your study-abroad experience!

Image source: Ryan McGuire/, ddouk/, Foundry/

Posted on

5 Tips for Improving Your Essay-Writing Speed (With Help from Bilbo Baggins)

Essay-Writing Speed

Essay-Writing SpeedWhat do most students have in common with Bilbo Baggins? Besides enjoying at least six meals a day, the trait most students share with our favorite hobbit is the desperate need they sometimes have for more time. Time is what Bilbo begs for when he can’t solve Gollum’s riddle (right), the answer to the riddle being—of course—none other than time itself.

Sure, in the scene above, Bilbo is at serious risk of being eaten by Gollum, while most students just have a lot of reading and essay writing to do. Still, time is the important thing here, and it seems that neither students nor “hobbitses” (as Gollum would say) can ever get enough of it. If only there were some way to make writing an essay a faster process . . .

The bad news? I can’t get you more time. Not even Gandalf can manage that, and I’m certainly no Gandalf. But what I can actually do is teach you how to use less time to accomplish more when you’re writing an essay, which is pretty much exactly the same thing! So, if you’re feeling well fed and ready to learn, prepare yourself for an unexpected journey into the art of writing an essay as efficiently as possible.

Step 1: Make a plan.

Imagine that you’re going on a trip. Perhaps you’re even traveling to the Lonely Mountain to face a very vain dragon in hopes of reclaiming some treasure. Now, how would you rather make that journey: with a map or without one? I think we can both agree that using the map would save you quite a lot of time that would otherwise be spent wandering—right?

Just like any adventurous Took, you shouldn’t try to start writing an essay without first creating a map for yourself. Yes, it takes time to write an outline. However, this is time that you will more than make up later in the writing process and that will ultimately improve your essay-writing speed.

The key elements to have figured out before you begin writing are your thesis statement and the evidence and arguments you will be using to support that thesis statement. Once you have these things, you basically have a road map to your final destination: completion of your essay.

Step 2: Do your research.

This step should really be done in conjunction with the former step. After all, what’s the point of writing a thesis if you can’t support it with research? Your research, including direct quotations from primary sources, should be part of your outline. Finding quotations from scholarly articles and books to support your arguments before you actually start writing will make the actual process of writing much faster, as you will have fewer necessary interruptions. (No, Facebook is not a necessary interruption—nor is a second breakfast. Sorry.)

Step 3: Just write.

Bag EndOkay. Your map is written, you’re out of your hobbit-hole door and into the world, and you’re ready to actually start writing an essay. You still want to know how to write faster? Well, friend, the key is to start by actually writing. Not agonizing over every clause, not questioning all life decisions made thus far, and certainly not watching Netflix. Just write. Try your best to communicate the ideas you’ve painstakingly outlined in your map, but most of all, just get those fingers typing and start writing. Write. There will be some clunky sentences, there will be some punctuation errors, and there may even be some paragraphs that don’t make the final cut. However, if you don’t start writing soon, there won’t be anything to cut, and then you’ll really want to know how to write faster.

Step 4: Tackle your essay in sections.

Of course, as good as the “just write” mentality is, it can only keep you going for so long. Writing an essay in one big chunk is like trying to travel from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain in a single day; that is to say, it is downright impossible without the aid of some kind of anachronistic aircraft, and very dangerous to even try doing. Instead of doing everything at once, think of your essay in terms of meaningful sections. Focus on completing just one section at a time, and give yourself time for short breaks between writing sessions. Dinner with dwarves, break. Meeting with Elrond, break. Goblin kidnapping, break. You get the idea!

Step 5: Take a break before editing your work.

Make sure that you give yourself some time away from your essay before returning to revise your first draft. Editing your essay with a fresh mind will make the process much quicker, as mistakes you made while writing will be much more obvious to your eye and to your well-rested brain. While it’s true that the time period needed to complete your essay will be longer, the amount of time you will actually have spent on your essay will be much, much shorter, leaving you lots of time to work on other things!


There you have it, folks: five ways to improve your essay-writing speed. You now know how to write faster—or, you know, how to complete an essay using less time overall. This more efficient method of writing an essay should give you more time to accomplish other important things, like rereading your favorite stories (cough—Tolkien!), working on your riddle-solving abilities, and perfecting your Gollum impersonation—all pursuits worthy of your extra time and devotion.

Image sources: yanjing/, kewl/