Mike’s Semester Survival Guide

Welcome back! I can’t believe that Winter Break is already over and another semester is here. Exactly like last semester, this semester will be fully online for classes. If you didn’t do well last semester with the all-online format, here are some tips to help get you through this semester.

Use A Calendar

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Apple Calendar from MacOs Big Sur from Apple YouTube Channel

Whether it is your phone, computer, or a paper calendar, it is essential to stay organized throughout the semester. I love to use my phone calendar. I have an iPhone and MacBook Pro and using my iCloud account, the two sync together, which is perfect when entering assignment due dates and virtual appointments.

If I enter an assignment on my iPhone, it automatically shows up on my MacBook calendar and vice versa. Android users can use their Google account synced with their android and use google calendar.

School Hack: Canvas, our new learning management system in which we submit assignments, has a feature where you can connect their calendar with your own, so all assignments professors enter with due dates can be automatically entered on your calendar.

More information on how to add events to Google Calendar are available here and for iCal (Apple Calendar) here.

Use A To-Do List

Photo Credit: Screenshot of todoist app from todoist.com

You have your calendar to keep track of assignments, which is great, but having a to-do list is also important. Being able to plan out assignments without putting exact times is important in keeping you organized.

I use a to-do app called todoist. I can organize everything by category (homework, class, work, cleaning, etc.) to let me know what I need to get done for that day. It is important to focus on one day at a time so you do not feel overwhelmed. Focus on what projects/tasks need to be done for that day and that day only and get them done.

Take Advantage of Office Hours

Photo Credit: Office Hours Clip Art from nextgengovt.com

Virtual learning is not easy, one thing we have learned from the previous semester. My suggestion to help you this semester? Take advantage of office hours with all of your professors. Hold yourself accountable in attending office hours and schedule it like a meeting on your calendar.

Office hours are the perfect time to check in with your professor to ensure you are on the right track in class, clarify any confusing concepts, or asking a simple question. You do not need to be there the entire time, but checking in can help you stay on track throughout the semester. Remember, your professors are here to help you.

Use School Resources

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Coding from heylagostechie on Unsplash

Even though we are fully online our school resources are still available to us virtually. The library on-site may be closed however everything has transitioned online. You can chat with a librarian who can guide you in the direction of finding research materials for a project.

You can access the entire library database remotely from home. Need a hard copy of a book? Not a problem. The library is offering domeside book pickup for students who need physical copies of materials. For more information on Library materials, you can visit the library website.

Have a paper due and need some feedback before submitting it? The writing center offers both live (real-time) appointments and “e-tutoring” appointments.

A tutor will provide written comments on a paper within 48 hours of the appointment day and time. You can learn more about the writing center appointments by visiting their website.

Need help with math? The Math and Stats Learning Center has transitioned virtually and has live tutors available via zoom. You can learn more about the Math & Stats Learning Center by visiting their website here.

Make Your Health a Priority

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Healthy Food from Brooke Lark on Unsplash

The pandemic is still here, we are still learning virtually, and places are still closed. It is essential for us to take care of our physical and mental health during this time.

When visiting the grocery store stock your cart with more fruits, veggies, and protein than processed food like chips, power bars, candy, and drinks. It is ok for a treat once a week but most of the week we should be eating healthy.

Here are some healthy recipes to get you started. In addition to eating healthy, working out is essential.

Sweating it out by completing a workout has proved improved mood and handling of stress. Even if it is for 30 minutes, take the time to complete a workout that you find on YouTube or check with your local gym to see if they’re operating outdoors. Remember to check in with your doctor before starting any new workout routine.

Schedule “me” time

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Surfer from Daniel Guerra on Unsplash

Every day we should be scheduling “me” time and this should not include your workout as that is mandatory for physical health. For mental health, we should select an activity that we enjoy and want to do, but stop scrolling social media.

We need to take a break. “Me” time can be anything from journaling to facetime with a friend or family member.

Take 60 minutes out of our day to watch a favorite tv show, go for a run, or practicing meditation.

Don’t forget to also stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day. Self-care is essential for our mental health and keeps us going through the semester.

If at any point you are struggling emotionally throughout the semester there are campus resources available here to point you in the right direction to get back on track.

Good luck this semester, remember to take it one day at a time and check in with me on social media @MikeStarkCA on Twitter and Instagram to let me know what tips worked for you and if you have some to share with me.

Written By: Mike Stark | @MikeStarkCA

Cover Photo Credit: Computer Desk from Galymzhan Abdugalimov on Unsplash

10 Fun Activities To-Do Over Winter Break

We did it, we made it through our first full virtual semester, and I am sure you are happy to be done. No more waking up early, studying in between classes, all-nighters, and the best part no more Zoom lectures (at least for a while) and silence that GroupMe app.

Indoor businesses may be closed and gatherings discouraged, so what is there to do now? Here are 10 fun activities to-do over winter break that abide by COVID-19 rules and maintain physical distance.

  1. Host a Virtual Happy Hour with Family & Friends

Photo Credit: Screenshot of Echo Video Call from review.com

Ok, I am sure you are over Zoom calls, especially because you have been on them all semester long and some have been on zoom calls all day from when they wake up to when they go to sleep, but since social gatherings are highly discouraged due to the pandemic it is important for us to still have contact with our social circles. Make the zoom calls fun but sharing the latest life updates, how your semester went, what you hope to change next semester, etc. You can even play games virtually over zoom like among us and chat about in-person to find the imposter.

2. Christmas Light Viewings


Photo Credit: Screenshot from San Diego Family Magazine

San Diego has some of the best houses that have excellent decorations for Christmas lights. Drive around your local neighborhood and see some of the excellent lights that your neighbors put in the effort to decorate year after year. You can also visit other neighborhoods by driving by to see how others decorate their houses. Remember to keep that social distancing by remaining in your car. For a complete list of neighborhoods with Christmas lights go here.

3. Self-host a Movie Marathon



Photo Credit: Screenshot of dining hall from Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone Warner Bros Pictures

Die Hard, Elf, and The Polar Express, or a regular movie marathon of some of your favorite movies. Why not? You have the time since you do not have a paper to write or test to study for, enjoy it. Unwinding with your favorite movie is the perfect form of self-care.

4. Complete A Tasty Video



Photo Credit: Icons 8 Team from Unsplash

We’ve all wasted point at one time in our college career by watching those addicting Tasty Videos on YouTube or Instagram so why not put that time waster to good use? Go outside your comfort zone and create something new and not to worry you will not be alone, you will have the video right there in your kitchen with you and who knows, you may like what you whipped up and can make it your own for your family once gatherings are allowed again.

5. Decorate your Room/Home


Photo Credit: DESIGNECOLOGIST on unsplash

Whether you celebrate the holidays or not this is the perfect time to make some changes around your room/home. It is the end of the year, so why not start the new year with a few changes, sure 2020 was full of changes but that does not mean all change is bad. Some suggestions for decorating: Purchase a new piece of artwork from Etsy or e-bay (support small businesses). Change around your Work from Home or virtual school desk set-up. These small changes can be meaningful in your life and affect your mood in a positive way.

6. Catch up on your favorite shows


Photo Credit: Adrian Swancar from Unsplash

Now more than ever is the perfect time to binge-watch your favorite show or start a new show guilt-free since you’ve been busy in school. You may get the message “Are you still watching?” and now you can press yes without any remorse. If you are in need of some new shows to watch visit one of my recent posts where I shared “Quarantine TV Picks” and includes current shows along with throwbacks on multiple streaming services.

7. Make a Gingerbread House


Photo Credit: Gingerbread House from Wilton.com

Every year during Winter Break I take the time to create a gingerbread house. There is something that is therapeutic about creating a gingerbread house. You can purchase a premade gingerbread house where all you have to do is decorate it or purchase one where you have to make it from scratch. How creative are you feeling? The brand I use year after year is Wilton as they make it so easy to build. You can purchase one of these from party city here (subject to availability).

8. Do a TikTok Dance


Photo Credit: Andrew Weiss from unsplash.com

If you’re obsessed with TikTok like me or haven’t even used the app before this will be a fun activity. There are many dances out there to chose from on TikTok like “What You Know Bout Love” by Pop Smoke, “Savage Love” by Jawsh 685 and Jason Derulo, or “Tap In” by Saweetie to name a few. It is a great form of exercise practicing these dances, learning something new, and getting out of your comfort zone. The best part, you have the time to perfect while on break. Download the app and start searching TikTok dances.

9. Start Journaling


Photo Credit: Andrew Weiss from unsplash.com

Journaling is an excellent activity for self-care that you can do for fun when you’re upset about something, or when you’re just bored around the house. You make journaling work for you. It can be paragraphs of thoughts, a mixture of paragraphs and photos to describe how you’re feeling, rearranging song lyrics, or making a list of things you want to do after quarantine. This is your creative space. You do not need to have a fancy journal for this activity. Pen and paper around the house will do just fine or the notes app on your phone, but if you are feeling fancy. I recommend the Day One app. Available both on Andriod and iPhone. I use it and it’s awesome. You can incorporate photos, videos, and text all in on entry. I love it because it’s simple to use, secure, and private. Information regarding pricing for Day One is here and you can download the app from the App and Google Play store.

10. Try a New Fitness Class


Photo Credit: Screenshot of Chris Hemsworth in Gym from The Associated Press

All indoor fitness centers are closed, however, there are many that have moved operations outdoors. Try something new over the break like a fitness class. This is the perfect opportunity to meet new people while socially distancing and getting in a good workout at the same time. Don’t feel like leaving the house just yet? That’s ok too. There are endless amounts of at-home workouts available on YouTube like Orangetheory Fitness at Home. You can complete this workout with everyday items around your house already and no sign-up is required and they’re free.

Now that have you some ideas for your winter break what do you plan on doing? Hit me up on socials and let me know. @MikeStarkCA on Twitter and Instagram. I will definitely be creating a gingerbread house and then eating the creation and watching classic tv shows on the couch with some hot cocoa, an SDSU hoodie, holiday socks, and my favorite blanket. 

Written By: Mike Stark | @MikeStarkCA

Feature Image: Screenshot of holiday tree from hopkinsmedicne.org