Managing Mental Health

By: PJay

Editor’s note: In our office, we view mental health as a strong component of overall confidence and success in your future career path. Use PJay’s experience, described below, as inspiration for taking care of your own mental health. 

As the end of the semester was approaching I found myself losing a lot of motivation and constantly feeling stressed. It seemed as if a lot of my acquaintances were also feeling the same way as me when we were discussing mental illness in the Asian community. Whether you are Asian or not, I’m sure you’ve experienced the feeling of being considered “crazy”, “lazy”, or “ungrateful” when you mentioned the feeling of having depression or anxiety. It’s a big problem I want to address it in this post. Being a person who is Hmong American and has been told by doctors that I have anxiety, I want you to know that you are definitely not those stereotypes mentioned above.

Managing mental health

First I would like to share my experience of learning how I came to be aware of my anxiety. I grew up in a very supportive family but mental illness was never addressed as something that needed to be taken care of. I think this actually goes for a lot of Asian households. My sophomore year was the time when my anxiety got really bad. My panic attacks would make my breathing irregular and I would lose control of my body. There would be so much tingling and numbness from my head to toes that I would end up falling over or passing out. For some reason at the time, I thought I had asthma and after several panic attacks, I finally decided to schedule a doctor’s appointment. When meeting with my primary doctor in Saint Paul, we went in depth about my symptoms. It turned out I didn’t have asthma, and she concluded I had anxiety. I was so shocked at the time and I thought the doctor was wrong because I was unaware of mental illness. I was in such disbelief I decided to schedule another appointment at UMD’s Health Services instead. But guess what? The doctor there told me the exact same thing. At first, I was obviously upset because growing up, all I knew was that anxiety meant you were crazy and I didn’t want people to think I was CRAZY, so I only told very close friends about my situation. Thankfully, all of them were very understanding.

Moving on, I knew I couldn’t run away from it because it was something uncontrollable in my mind, therefore the only thing to do was to make it better. I began to learn more about how to take care of myself through online research and being around people who understood and experienced the same things as me. In addition, I attended APAA’s Mental Illness in the Asian Community lead by Julie Kim from Health Services, which gave me more insight about how I wasn’t the only who felt “crazy” with my mental illness. It also made me realize there are a lot of people who needed my guidance and my support. This is how I stopped shying away from accepting the fact I do have anxiety and it is OK.

I want anyone who has, or maybe doesn’t have, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues to know they should never treat themselves or others differently. Be aware that it can be a sensitive topic and don’t assume it’s “not real”. Someone may look normal on the outside but inside they could be experiencing something psychologically and these are considered non-visible disorders. Next time you hear about someone experiencing this, be kind and offer help. UMD’s Health Services offers free counseling for all register UMD students for various reasons. There are also very supportive groups on campus such as the Disability Resource Center and Access for All. Your mental health plays a bigger role in your life than you make think. Remember to take care of yourself.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Faye Cornish

A Guide for Alumni

By: PJay

I would like to write this post for the UMD alumni. Last year, most of my friends and peers who I looked up to graduated. Some have jobs, some went to graduate or professional school, and some are still discovering what they want to do with their unique majors. For those of you who feel like you have no idea what you are doing, you’ve come to the right place! This post is going to give you some goodies about our office and tips for you to rediscover your passion.

UMD Commencement overhead view

After graduation, you can still use all of the services in our office for FREE!!!
We are literally one phone call away. Whether you have questions about jobs, resume, personality assessments, graduate school, please contact us. Being an alumnus does not mean we forget about you. We want you to succeed. We love helping people and want you to get on the right path for you.

We offer phone and Google Hangout or Skype appointments.
The reality is that after we graduate, we will probably be relocating somewhere else. Even if you can’t make it physically to our office, we will still do our best to help you in other ways. By using the beauty of technology, the career counselors can still meet with you one-on-one to make sure your appointments are accessible wherever you are.

If you are a recent graduate, can still attend the U of M job fairs.
Being a “recent graduate” means that you have graduated within the past three years. Take advantage of this! These job fairs are some of the most life-changing events. Not only do you meet your potential employers, you also meet new people to find new opportunities.

Push yourself to ask for help.
I understand you may feel embarrassed to ask for assistance to find a job, but trust me, we get phone calls about this more than you would think. The world is a competitive place to live in, so do not feel ashamed if you don’t get your dream job right away. But in the meantime, don’t be afraid to practice for that career. It might just be that your resume needs a little more tweaking, or that you need should set up a mock interview for more practice. Whatever it is, our office is here for you.

Lastly, remember to not compare yourself to others.
It may seem like all your friends have their life together. But the honest truth is everyone faces adversity. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others. Also, take life at your own pace. Your life story is perfectly and uniquely written for you. Your opportunities are just not here yet, but with time, everything will come together.

I know you may be questioning: “why haven’t I found a job yet?” or “did I make the right decisions in college?” or other questions about your worth. But know that you are worth something to someone. Take this time to reflect on what you can be doing to change the way you feel, rather than doubting yourself. I know you are more special than you think you are. You survived some of the biggest changes and challenges in your life, your college years. Therefore I know you can do anything you want. Just put your mind into it and everything will fall into place.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Photo Source: UMD

How to Rock at Being in the Minority (Emerging Majority)

By: PJay

I’m sure at some point in our life we have all dealt with the feeling of being a minority. I am not just talking about the color of our skin, but being a minority can simply exist in the lifestyle we personally choose to pursue. Some examples are choosing to be a vegetarian/vegan, our gender and sexual orientation, or even our political views. I’m sure you can stir up a whole list of all the different ways you can be considered a minority.

Now for some of us, we might feel good or special to be a part of the minority, or as one of my best friends would call it, “the emerging majority.” And for others, it can be just a little scary. Whichever feeling you are getting though, I am hoping you can make use out of the tips I have listed below. These are just based off of my personal experiences at school that I believe can help guide you to be the embracive individual you were meant to be at work, school, or even in your friend group.

How to rock at being in the minority

Reach out!
There is always more to learn about something than you would think you already knew about. Join a club or an organization that has the same beliefs, values, and experiences as you. Choose one that has welcoming members, and one you believe will teach and help you grow the most. Having a great support system is seriously one of the best tools that is going to assist you to surpass obstacles and people who degrade you.

Keep in mind: time will mend everything together.
I cannot emphasize this one enough! Time is really all we need to grow more mature and become more accepting. Whether that is accepting your own imperfections or the way others see you. Time plays a role in both! Because the more we are exposed to something over time, the more it changes our viewpoints.

Accept the fact that not everyone is going to agree with you.
This is one of the most challenging things to do, but honestly, it is fine to have disagreements. We are raised in different environments, thus creating different experiences for us to behave a certain way. And if you want someone to become more knowledgeable about your circumstances, you also have to keep an open mind towards them. Relationships are based on balance and respect.

Teach, tell, and not expect.
Humans are not robots or mind readers, so you can’t expect someone to know or be aware of something without a bit of guidance. You are now the teacher. Just simply tell what’s on your mind or in your heart. It will be frustrating at first, but like I said before, allow them to take the time they need to process where you stand as a minority. It is hard to tell someone the experiences you are going through, but it’s truly the effort they put in to get to know you that counts.

Believe in yourself.
This sounds so cliche, but it’s true! No one is willing to push you to work harder than yourself. In addition, when you accept yourself and portray confidence, you become a standing stone in the eye of others. They won’t even try to push you down anymore because they know they can’t. Do what makes you happy because it is your life.

Differences are truly the things that make us unique and give us the ability to teach others about ourselves. Don’t avoid the things that make you a minority. These features about you are truly what make you special, just like the things we want the most in life are the rarest. I hope you found some wisdom in these tips to use in your everyday life. Take care and good luck!

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Advice for my Younger Self

By: PJay

Greetings everyone! I am so excited to be back to share a few things that I have learned about college and wished an upperclassman could have told me while I was in my younger years. I’m hoping my advice and experiences can guide you to know that it is alright to feel confused right now and that things will get better with time.   

One of the biggest things that I can remember struggling with as a freshman, and even to this day, was maintaining good grades. You may not have received the grade you wanted on an assignment, a test, or in an overall class, but that is fine. College was the first time I had to experience what it felt like to retake a class. It was EMBARRASSING, so I didn’t want to talk about it to anyone. When I learned how to accept the fact that I needed to retake a class, it only challenged me to work harder, learn, and love the class more. Understanding the topics better the second time around will influence you to be more eager to learn which will help you achieve the grade you want.  

Advice to my younger self

I know it’s difficult to hear your friends or classmates say that they barely even studied and still got an A on an exam, whereas you put in so much effort to study the night before but still received an unsatisfactory grade. However, sometimes you have to remember to not compare yourself to them because you are unique and everyone has different learning techniques. Someone can say they only studied for an hour the night before the exam, but that may also mean they studied for an hour every night for a week or the whole semester leading up to the day of the exam. You have to discover what works and doesn’t work for you. Don’t doubt your abilities and your intelligence because you are still learning. No one is expecting you to just know something or get everything right the first time. Remember to not let a grade define who you are. You are a person, not a number or a letter.  

Another thing that I remembered struggling with the most was making friends. Friends can actually help you get through a lot in college. I used to feel hopeless in making friends because when I introduced who I was or who my people were, many of the students that I met have never heard of the Hmong people before. They just assumed I was “Chinese” or “Korean”, so I was placed in an awkward situation when explaining who my people were. Because of those experiences, I shied away from going out to join clubs or even attend classes sometimes. I didn’t know what to do but eventually, I joined an organization that I identified the most with, the Asian Pacific American Association (APAA). By being more active on campus, I learned more than I thought I already knew about people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. If you want to learn more about the world than just what you’re taught in school, join a club. Not only do you learn more about others, but you also learn more about yourself.  It’s the easiest way to find friends who will accept you.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that it is okay if you cannot decide on your major. I have seen so many of my friends who wanted to be doctors their freshman year but now want to pursue other professions. Take classes that you have never taken before or even take classes that you may think you are not interested in. If you want me to be honest, there have been times where I enjoyed the classes outside of my major more than my required classes. For example, I have never taken physics prior to college and I was so intimidated to take it. I pushed it off until this year and discovered that it has been one of my favorite classes this semester.  

Sometimes we just all need a little bit of time for things to get better. You are not alone, you are smart, and you can get through all of this. If you are performing actions that come from your heart and passions, you will become the person you want to be in college.

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Photo Source: Unsplash | Sharon McCutcheon

Meet the Counselors

By: PJay

The year is finally ending, and if you still haven’t stepped foot into our office, I highly encourage you to do so. The Career and Internship Services office is filled with many sweet and friendly peer educators and professional staff members. Among the professional staff there are five of my favorite career counselors. Each of them has positively impacted me, and I would like to spill the beans on how you can receive assistance from them as well. I would also like to mention that I am sorry if this post sounds bias; I am honestly giving my true opinions on how these counselors have benefitted me and students that I’ve seen using our services.

Whether you know or don’t know what you want to do in college, my best advice is to just come in our office to a schedule an appointment. Recently, I was able to sit and talk with each counselor and they are all so amazing and inspiring. Not only are they some of the most positive people that I’ve met, but they listen so well and I believe as a college student, that is just what we need sometimes. There may be little technical jobs that one counselor performs and the others don’t. However, each of these staff members can perform the same job in their own perspective and with their own specialties, which together, makes this office complete!

Meet the Counselors

The first person I would like to mention is Julie Westlund. Not only does she work hard as a director but she’s also a very professional individual. She is awesome at working with people who have disabilities and are a part of the older generation. The first counselor that I met with at the beginning of the year was her. Julie has helped me multiple times with figuring out which jobs are suitable for my interests and skills through taking all three assessments that C&IS offers. She helped me learn a lot about myself, and also helped me believe in myself that I can accomplish my goals.

Secondly, Janet Pribyl is one of the most energetic people in the office. She’s a bundle of fun to be around. She’s a busy person with class presentations all the time. But when she gets the time to settle down with students, she finds herself working with everyone from different backgrounds, ages, and stories. If you are someone who is a couple of credits shy from graduating, or is just returning back to school, Janet would be your person! Her positivity has driven me to want to schedule more appointments with her to open my mind to all my different possibilities in life.

Sherrill Yeaton is such a sweet counselor. She works closely with the Multicultural Center at UMD. So if you’re a person of color like me, I highly suggest you speak with Sherrill. I have met with her numerous times. Every time we meet, I just end up wanting to go back again and again. She’s so great at helping me find the resources I need to be where I want to be. She’s always patiently waiting for me to finish blabbering, then shooting me with awesome ideas for me to learn more about my career.

Another fun person that I always get carried away talking to and laughing with is Ellen Hatfield. She does amazing work with managing all of our office’s social media. If you’re confused as to what you want to do, and you’re an incoming freshman or beginning college, I highly suggest sitting down with Ellen. She’s very down to earth. I remembered being quite lost at my first job fair. As soon as I saw Ellen there, she helped guide me to network. I not only gained connections with employers, but also with students at the U of M Twin Cities in such an easy and fun way. Thanks to Ellen, I can’t wait until my next job fair!

Lastly, I would like to mention Sue Holm. She’s so kind and has such a welcoming smile. Speaking with Sue has made me want to use her as one of my main resources as I get closer to graduating. She is the match for you if you’re looking to pursue graduate or professional school. I see so many students who are looking to attend medical school use Sue as guidance. She honestly knows what she’s doing and I’m excited to bond with her more.

I hope after reading a little bit about each counselor you will have an idea of who to meet with. Although they tend to work with more students under a certain category, do not feel like you are just obligated to see one career counselor. Their different personalities might actually determine who you want to go to since they all are open minded people. They won’t judge you no matter where you come from. They are just there to listen and help you reach your goals and succeed. By working at the front desk, I’ve realized many UMD student faces are becoming more familiar because they’ve been coming back to our office. It makes me feel happy that not only do I feel these awesome career counselors are doing their job right, but others demonstrate it as well!

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Photo source: Unsplash | Olu Eletu

Seeking the Role Models

By: PJay

The semester is finally ending and although it might seem late, I’m proud to say that I think I’ve finally figured out how the college life works for me! This year was one of the most terrifying and adventurous times of my life. I struggled so deep to where I didn’t think I was going to be able to bring myself up. I was losing motivation, but slowly, I managed to change my actions. I remembered I had one task here to complete: to succeed and bring a brighter future to my family and myself. Being the extrovert that I am, I opened my eyes and allowed others to inspire me in ways they might not even know. Such as just simply remembering my name. There are so many leaders at UMD I could mention, and here are just a few of the people who I would love to thank and talk about, and they might just be able to help you as much as they have helped me.

Back in the summer of 2013, I visited UMD as a high schooler with a program called Upward Bound. From that visit, the only face I could remember was Jordon Moses. He was honest to mention both good and bad qualities about college which pulled me to consider UMD. At the time, he was still an undergrad and a student ambassador. Thankfully, he is now a passionate mentor and Coordinator of African American Student Programs in the Multicultural Center. By sharing his background as a colored student who went to multiple schools and ended up at a privileged white high school, he learned that the question for him was not “are you going to college?” but “where are you going to college?” Eventually he ended up at UMD, and shared that through college, he become more patient, intelligent, and “witty”. He thrived to make the school better, and positively influenced people who wanted to transfer out of UMD, to stay. When I asked to interview him, for him to just know my name made me feel awesome because to me, he’s a superstar!


In addition, David “Victory” Lee, is a senior at UMD who I’ve found to be wiser than his years. In high school, David was not very involved with extracurricular activities (truly hard to believe now because he’s one of the most outgoing Hmong upperclassmen). He made a decision to attend a university rather than a community college because it allowed him to expand out of his comfort level. He learned to become a leader and held many statuses in different clubs. For me to come into college as an afraid and a little freshmen, David’s sense of humor positively influenced me to join the club Asian/Pacific American Association (APAA) where he holds the position as president. With his impact, APAA was where I met and made most of my friends. There was never a time when he let me or others feel excluded. Secretly, I look up to him as an older brother. He constantly teaches me to go outside of my comfort level because he knows it’ll open many doors. To have a supporter like David has encouraged me to try new opportunities.

Another amazing person I’d like to recognize is my resident assistant (RA), Kau Guannu. In 2001, Kau came to America from Liberia at the age of five. Similar to Jordon, she was also expected to attend college. She is now a junior, and despite her hectic schedule, whenever I’m confused with college, she’ll try her best to reach my needs. Whether that’s on a weekend or at 10:00PM on a school night. Most of the events I’ve attended such as Stress Less Week and Grocery Bingo were through her. With her major in Psychology, she has learned how to pay close attention and related phenomenons studied in her courses to read people’s body language. It has motivated me to want to push through my generals before my major will start to make sense. In addition, I’ve realized that we may come from different parts of the world but we’re connected through the value of wanting to take care of our family in the future. Her motivation to succeed in college to help her mother has also helped me to rethink every time I feel like quitting to consider my family.

Lastly, I would like to introduce the beautiful Coordinator of Asian/Pacific American Student Programs, Kaohlee Vue. Being the oldest daughter and a first generation child, she attended the University of MN Twin Cities and majored in Child Psychology. In many Hmong families, most daughters are strictly ordered to not leave the household unless if they are married. Therefore, a lot of Hmong elders criticized Kaohlee’s parents for allowing her to study abroad in Laos, and to travel to California and New York to work for AmeriCorps. But, she believed she was doing the right thing and her parents valued her education. Rarely do we see in the Hmong community a young lady be able to further her education. She informed me to make a lot of connections outside of my classes because the experiences made from the college clubs shaped her to become the person she is today. Witnessing the possibilities that Kaohlee has achieved, inspired me to want to explore college and find myself.

It’s extremely honoring and fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful role models. If you seek out guidance, it will come because there are many wonderful people who can and will help you out. A divine factor about the people that I’ve mentioned above is that they’re all passionate to make a change. Like one of my family member mentioned to me, “when you hang out with winners, you’ll feel like a winner too,” and these are just the very few people who are winners in my life. So whether you are already a student here or want to attend UMD, I encourage you to seek out my role models. I guarantee, you’ll just feel better coming to school and being surrounded by people who love encouraging you.

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Photo source: Unsplash | Greg Rakozy

Decisions, Decisions (Choosing My Major)

By: PJay

Choosing a major is probably one of the toughest decisions to make in college. There are so many great subjects to learn about, but sadly, we just can’t study them all. It’s so unfortunate that we are so limited on the time given to us to complete our four year degree. I honestly feel lost in college very often because I always want to study everything. I can be entertained easily, and I’m always so intrigued by every new thing that pops into my life.

Since I realized that I have such little self control, I’ve developed some ways to help me make my decisions less complicated. Recently I decided to switch my major from biology to cell and molecular biology. You might think:


And honestly, you aren’t the only one to think that (I thought the same as well). But after a little bit of research on the UMD catalog page, I decided to compare the coursework of the two majors together. I learned that cell biology had a stricter outline of required courses, whereas biology was more open to the upper division course possibilities. For some people, they might enjoy that kind of flexibility more.

In addition, I also searched for what graduates do with the two different majors (information can be found on the Graduate Follow-up Report). Apparently, twice as many people graduated with a biology degree compared to a cell and molecular biology degree. However, the rate of students heading onto graduate school were about the same. Therefore, I learned that my conclusion to choose one major over the other lied upon my interest in the upper division courses, and with what I wanted to do after graduation, which is to hopefully to enter medical school.

Honestly, no major is necessarily “better” than another. At the end, what matters the most is if you are truly enjoying what you are studying. If it makes you happy, then stick with it. Everything is more meaningful in life when you have the motivation. Once you accomplish what you have been dedicating your time to, it will be worth the change in your life!

Of Possible Interest: 

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Emerging Majority (My Path)

By: PJay

Remember the first time you came into college? Wasn’t it scary because you didn’t know where anything was, but yet, you were able to ask someone for help? And do you recall when you missed your family, but you got over it since you knew you were going to see them in a couple of days? Now imagine wanting to see your family but you know it wouldn’t be possible because they are probably lost in the jungle that is half way across the world. Or picture needing to know how to do something or get somewhere but not being able to get that point across to anyone due to a language barrier. So many of us overlook other’s shoes. Especially our immigrant parents.

If you are a minority, then there must be many reasons to why you have decided to continue on with your educational path. We may all come from different cultures, and yet, all of us know the importance of grabbing a hold of the opportunities that our parents weren’t allowed to have. Our parents have left their families, friends, and homeland so that we would not suffer from the pain that they had to deal with. So if we were to throw away all of our dreams and goals, it would be the same as throwing away their dreams as well.

What is your path?

There are times when I have questioned myself, “why am I here?” (in college) due to frustration from my back to back exams I haven’t studied for, or the eight pages of math homework I haven’t finished. Whatever it is, it can get to me pretty hard, but I know I cannot quit and that I am not alone. Many people who grew up with English being their second language know what it is like feeling there is twice the pressure to work hard in school. Mainly because of our parents.

I am Hmong, and I come from a family of immigrants. Growing up, no one in my family went to college. I was the first to leave my family and explore a whole new world my parents never got to seek. Sometimes, being the first generation to go to college can be prideful, but it also comes with a lot of responsibilities. Mostly, I am constantly nagged to be the role model for my younger sibling, and cousins. But, I know they just want me to be the best that I can be, which really isn’t much to ask for.

When the puzzle pieces are put together, we must understand that our parents love us very much to get us to where we are. They are the number one people who have dealt with so many people looking down on them. They constantly nag us to try hard in life, not to be annoying but to push us to become better individuals because they really do care. They want us to stand out and change the minds of those who have looked passed us. We should be proud of our beautiful cultures and keep in mind that we must succeed in school to prove how strong and powerful we are.

With that said, I have some words of wisdom. Whenever you feel like quitting, tell yourself that if you can make it through this then you can make it through anything. Remember that nothing is easy in life. We are no longer the minority, because we are the emerging majority. This is my reason why I have chosen this path, what is yours?

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Photo Source: Unsplash|Michael Hull

Stress Less During Finals

By: PJay

At this point in the semester, most people have probably started their mental breakdowns and sleepless nights already due to finals. Finals are definitely the Devil’s best friend. But while everyone is busy trying to find ways to defeat these crazy exams, I just wanted to drop by and say, you are not the only one stressing over these assessments. As important as these tests are to each and everyone of us, it’s truly important for us to remember what our limits are as humans.

Thinking that the best way to prepare for finals is to drown yourself in course material for days or weeks is really not. Studies have shown that a person can only take up to 40 to 90 minutes of concentrated studying with up to 10 minute breaks (source). Remember that you can not expect to relearn a whole semester worth of materials in the limited couple of weeks before these exams. So don’t beat yourself over if you’re struggling with trying to understand anything. You should try to squeeze in some time for peace.

Luckily, the UMD’s “Stress-less Week in the Library” maybe a possibility for those of you who really need a break before the most hectic week of the semester. This event consists of a week long of activities from December 7th through the 11th with many different types of fun and exciting bundles of joy! From getting free coffee with our one and only Champ, free chair massages to releasing your stress with petting adorable pets and so much more! To find out more information, check out the link:

I’m definitely excited to be attending my first “Stress-Less” week and am truly grateful for the opportunity. I highly encourage you all to attend at least one of these events. Nothing sounds better than receiving free food, drinks, or activities. Remember that we should not be overloading ourselves with intense studying. Work hard, but don’t forget to love and take care of yourself. Good luck everyone.

Of Possible Interest: 

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Prioritizing Isn’t Always Easy

By: PJay

Do you ever find yourself questioning, why there are so many things to do in a day, but you never seem to be able to finish them all? Sometimes when that happens to me, I tend to believe that it’s due to my lack of ability to be productive. But when I really think about it, I realize that I am actually just a very busy person. The answer is not being unproductive, it is time. There is just simply not enough hours in a day for one to accomplish all the task they wish to achieve.

Infinity time. Digital generated

Even though the first semester of my freshman year is already coming to an end, I am still struggling with how to balance out school, clubs, and work in my life. Sometimes there are just so many demands to finish in a day. Many times, I wished time could just go slow down or stop. But let’s face reality. You can’t stop time, therefore, you have to learn how to prioritize.

You may ask, “How do I decide on what to prioritize first?” The answer is simple, learn how to concentrate on one goal first before moving on to another one. The best thing to do is accomplish the goal you will thank yourself for tomorrow when you wake up. Sometimes you will regret not doing something, but take it as a lesson learn and figure out how you will do things differently next time.  

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no expert because I am still grieving over missing last week’s Pre-med club guest speaker meeting due to the infinite stack of homework I had. However, I have developed the mindset to understand that there will always be other opportunities granted to me if I seek for it.

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