3 Ways to Study for Exams Without Losing Your Mind

We all reach that one point when we're a studying machine for three days, and then suddenly we're hopping aboard the struggle bus. It's at this point that we plan on studying- I mean we'll even open up the lecture slides- but we can't quite bring ourselves to do anything academic and decide that watching Netflix all day is a much better idea.

But what I've come to realize recently is that studying doesn't have to be a constant stream of flipping through powerpoints and reading case studies. I mean, it does have to be like that to some extent. But when I'm not feeling particularly motivated, I've found that there are lots of ways to study without feeling like I'm actually studying. This way, I'm doing something different and enjoying myself while also being productive.

Khan Academy // I first learned about Khan Academy through their YouTube channel when I was in high school and was struggling a lot with math and science. But up until now, I didn't know that they did more than YouTube videos and much more than just math and science. My friend introduced me to 'SmartHistory' which definitely helped me along the way as I was studying for my art history exam. This series of lessons covered everything on my exam and more, while still providing information that was both clear and in depth. 
Ted Talks // If you watch them when you see them in your Facebook feed, why not watch them to study? Ted Talks are probably just about the best thing since sliced bread. They're funny, informational, and focused on unique topics- plus they're usually only 10-20 minutes long (y'know, for those of us who struggle to make it through movies without getting distracted). Ted Talks cover nearly every topic- from statistics, to environmental science, to anthropology (my personal favorite). After just one video you'll be surprised at how much of the information you'll retain! 

Buzzfeed // This black-hole of time-wasting is an unlikely study buddy, but if you look hard enough they sometimes produce quality information that may be relevant to your course. My friend sent me this link in which some hilariously gifted people combined the world of art and the world of snapchat to make something beautiful. To prepare for my upcoming art history exam, I found it appropriate to send wittily captioned pictures of Giotto's artwork to a bunch of my friends (sorry guys, they weren't really that funny). Truth be told, I didn't forget that one painting I snapchatted to my friends. 

Too bad it didn't come up on the exam. 



My First American College Experience, And How It's Different from British Uni

People always ask me: 'What do you think the major differences are between American college and British University?'

Answering this question always goes one of two ways:
a.) I make stark over-generalizations about American colleges based on what I've seen in the movies (Legally Blonde is a pretty accurate movie, right?)
b.) I simply and honestly say 'I can't compare because I've never spent time at an American college for longer than a campus tour.'

But, folks, now I can finally say that I've been to 'college' and experienced all the things that I traditionally associate American college with- from an acapella performance, to an on-campus house party, and everything in between.

This weekend, two of my best friends who I've known since I was in elementary school graciously hosted me at their lovely school, Bowdoin College, up in Brunswick Maine.

Now, before I get to the differences I noticed between American college and British University, I have to say that what I experienced was, indeed, individual and unique to my home school, Edinburgh Uni, and also to Bowdoin, of course. Plus, I was only at Bowdoin for two nights (and didn't even go to any classes), so that limits my observations as well.

However, I'd say that I've definitely gained much more insight into what a lot of my friends from home experience at college. Here are some of the differences I noticed:

Bowdoin is SMALL // And I can see both the pros and cons of going to a small school. It was so cute to walk beside my friends and have a solid majority of people on campus waving and saying hi as they passed by. I can literally take my twenty minute walk to campus without seeing a single soul that I know- or at least that I'm comfortable saying hi to. Bowdoin has a total student population of around 1,800, while the University of Edinburgh has a total student population of around 30,000. Being at Bowdoin kind of reminded me of being in high school and having the ability to recognize so many faces- I mean, my high school was just a tiny bit smaller than Bowdoin!

Their dining hall food is insanely good // This is actually something that most of my friends in America like to brag about. So what you have a soft serve ice cream machine in your dining hall? The JMCC serves haggis! I'm sure they're all jealous of my easy access to spicy ground lamb liver. But, real talk- Bowdoin's two dining halls had an incredible variety of food, including the best fruit selection I've ever seen (grapes, pineapple, watermelon- I was in heaven). Alright, JMCC- you need to step it up.

Not the dining hall food, but there were also some pretty great places to eat in town.

The campus is really concentrated // My friends actually complained about having to walk for 15 minutes in the rain to get to a restaurant in town. Excuse me? I walk 40 minutes a day (almost always in the rain) to get from halls to one class and back. Pretty much all of Bowdoin's academic and residence buildings are located in a small area so everything's very walkable in about five minutes. Granted, Brunswick isn't exactly a major city- it's more like a quaint, New England town or village. But, I mean, they don't have to get up as early to get to class- so I think they might have a better deal.

There isn't much to do outside of campus // As one of my friends eloquently stated 'There's not much else to do here other than eat, sleep, party, and go to Walmart.' As I said earlier, Brunswick is a pretty small and tame town. There didn't seem to be any crazy clubs or bars on the main street (not that people my age could go to them) and there weren't many major museums and sights nearby (apparently there's a waterfall that I didn't get to see, though). Being in such a small town kind of made me realize that I should take much more advantage of everything that living in a major city has to offer.

Social Houses at Bowdoin host parties and other social events on campus.

While American college and British university can often be miles different, higher education is higher education and it's totally what you make of it. Somewhere like Bowdoin definitely wouldn't have been a perfect fit school for me, but visiting this weekend was a wonderful experience.



West Coast Adventures: My Trip in Photos

While I don't quite agree that the 'West Coast is the Best Coast,' I can't help but be jealous of the endless summers of the western most states. Living in Boston for my entire life, and settling down in Scotland for University, a girl needs some sun every once in a while!

On Thursday, my parents and I headed to Las Vegas to meet with my brother, a California transplant, in Las Vegas to start off on our warm-weather vacation, which ended in Los Angeles. Here's a roundup of what I experienced, as told by the many photos I took along the way:

It always baffles me how long the flight from one side of the country to the other is. 6 hours to get to LA, and then an hour back east to get to Las Vegas. The journey from Boston to LA takes as long as a flight from Edinburgh to Boston! How crazy is that? 

Vegas was the first stop on our short trip. No one in my family had ever been before, so it was a bit of a culture shock to say the least. The bright lights, busy atmosphere, and totally modern feel was a far cry from the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh, a calm city-life of Boston. Everything in Vegas isn't an original- the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, and Pyramids of Egypt are all trying to be something they're not. But I guess that's what makes the city original in its own way. 

Still, the one thing I really didn't like about Vegas? That you had to walk through a smokey casino to get everywhere. Outdoor walking just wasn't a thing, and everything was a lot farther away from one another than you would initially think. 

The food in Vegas was absolutely superb. And the best part is, there are so many different styles of restaurants that cater to different tastes and price-points. One night we had classic burgers and fries from Shake Shack (my parents first time!), and the next we had some pretty posh French Cuisine from Bardot. I'd say there's really something for everyone in Vegas. 

I certainly am not the 'right' age to be going to Vegas on holiday. Being 18 there is awful because not only can you not gamble, but you can't even drink. I was absolutely deprived. In fact, I even got kicked off the gambling floor for simply watching my parents play the slots. Even so, I was able to have a good time by enjoying other activities such as the roller-coaster at New York, New York, and watching an insanely beautiful acrobatics performance called Le Reve. 

Once our short time in Vegas was up, we headed through the desert on a four hour drive to LA. It was pretty barren along the way, but I found it fascinating to see what a real desert looked like (I hadn't seen one since I was 3!). 

In-n-Out burger was a must. And my brother claims that these are the best burgers on the west coast. I had never been before and was very impressed with the quality of the burger for a fast-food chain! 

For our first night in LA we paid a visit to my dad's best friend's house for Iranian food. A lot of Iranians live in LA, so there's no shortage of good kebab and rice. If you're ever in the Westwood area and are feeling adventurous, I'd definitely recommend trying some Iranian food.

We spent the next morning at a farmers market just three blocks from the beach. Fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, and flowers were for sale from local farmers, and there was even live music! After the market, and after my brother dropped my dad off at the airport, we headed down to the beach to cycle along the bike path. I was actually pretty convinced that I didn't know how to ride a bike anymore because I hadn't done so since I was, say, 12? But, as the old adage goes, you never forget how to ride a bike. I was a little bit unstable at first (I blame that on my lack of balance), but I only tripped up once! I was so proud of myself for being able to do something any five year old could easily do. 

Once we had biked-off all of our vacation weight, we gained it all back at Mr. Chow's Chinese restaurant in Malibu. This wasn't your average take-away type Chinese food. Each dish was incredibly fresh, flavorful, and unique. Some of our favorites were the glazed shrimp, crispy duck, and drenched fish.

But the real big story of the night? (And one I'll probably be telling for ages) We saw a celebrity! Two, in fact. Once we were seated in the (near-empty) restaurant on Sunday night, I noticed a couple sitting near us who looked vaguely familiar- especially the girl with her blue hair and plump lips. Once the couple had left (with a body guard), my brother and I started talking about reality TV, and how those people looked like they could've been on one. The hostess came by and told us 'Oh yeah, that was Kylie Jenner and her boyfriend Tyga.' 

Yeah, so I saw a member of the Kardashian clan. And we were eating at the same restaurant. That has to be the quintessential LA experience. 

I still have one day left here in LA, so who knows who I'll see next. Overall, this trip was a nice break from the chilly air of Boston and the rainy days of Edinburgh. Maybe I just won't go back!  


When Things Don't Go According to Plan

I'm a serial planner- always have been, always will be. Two weeks ago, I spent an entire afternoon creating a colorful revision schedule for my upcoming sociology exam, instead of actually doing the studying part.

And while I did end up following my revision plan to a t, sometimes it turns out that as much as you plan on something, it doesn't end up going your way. And that's exactly what happened to me this Saturday on my way back home to Boston.

One of the best and worst things about studying far from home is the super long journeys going to and from school. It's the worst because, well, it takes an incredible amount of time to reach your destination- especially when you have a long layover. On the other hand, having a lengthy layover in a cool city can be a great opportunity to explore the area in a single afternoon.

Boston looking beautiful from the sky- as always.

Just a few days ago I found myself with an eight hour layover in London Heathrow Airport. And since I knew about the extensive break between flights ahead of time, I had perfectly planned out what I was going to do during that time.

I planned on leaving the airport right away and hopping on the tube- expecting to take two different underground lines to my destination. Then I would arrive just outside the Borough Market (a food lover's dream) and take a couple of hours grazing the stands for delicious eats. I would then get back on the tube and return to the airport in time for my flight.

Sounds like a great plan, right? I mean, I had even written down which stops I was going to get off at, and which line I was going to switch to. Plus, I knew exactly what I was going to eat at the market (a chorizo sandwich and goats milk ice cream, of course).

But as much as I had prepared for my eight hour excursion into London, absolutely nothing went according to plan. Upon arrival, I ended up going into the departures terminal instead of leaving the airport right away. It took me four customer service agents to finally figure out how to escape from Heathrow. Then, of course, there were multiple delays on the tube, and once I went to switch to the other line, I found out that it was shut down for repairs.

Okay, I thought, just get out at this station- you can't be that far from the market.

Wrong. According to Google Maps, I was a 57 minute walk away from where I wanted to be. If I had attempted to walk there, I would have had a measly 30 minutes to enjoy the market. I felt disappointed and deflated. I ultimately decided to skip out on the market and take a walk around the Piccadilly area and grab some lunch.

Luckily, it wasn't raining. So lunch in the park was an option.

I've never really been a 'go with the flow' kind of person- but in this situation, I knew I had to be. Despite all of my detailed planning, a few things had happened that prevented my plan from going forward, and these things were 100% out of my hands. 

In the end, you just have to make the best of your situation- whether it's planned or unplanned. I suppose the upside of my (mis)adventure was that I got some fresh air, saw a couple of cute dogs, and had a little taste of London in a short span of time.

And while my stress levels were high during my layover, I was lucky enough to have a stress-free (and rather empty) flight back to Boston, complete with a viewing of The Theory of Everything and two mini-bottles of white wine.

So I guess I can't complain.

Does wine always taste better when it's free?

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