Making Time for Myself

Jana with her sorority sisters at SongFest
Jana and her sorority sisters used their study breaks to prepare to participate in SongFest; their theme “Game of Thrones.”

As the semester moves from Thanksgiving break into finals, now is a better time than ever to stress the importance of self-care, which has a reputation of being a glamorous luxury that requires a lot of time and money. While this is far from the case, it is also more than just mentally checking out and watching Netflix for a few hours.

As an average college student, I find myself under a lot of pressure to perform well in school, be involved in extra curricular activities, hold a job, maintain a social life, stay healthy, and keep my room clean. Even though that last one tends to fall lower on my list of priorities, I still struggle to make time for all aspects of my busy life, let alone to take care of myself.

According to PsychCentral, self-care is defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. That can mean different things to different people, but there are a few things to consider when thinking about your own self-care:

  1. Self-care is a way to recharge and replenish, not take away.
    As much as I love watching of all my TV shows, I found that I was not getting the relief I needed from a chronically stressful environment by mindlessly turning on “The Office” for the seventh time. Rather, activities that are engaging, yet still relaxing, have proven to be the better option. By reading a book has been my go-to downtime activity this past semester, for example, I am able to give my eyes a break from screens and lose myself in a story that is not visually presented to me; it is a personal, cozy pastime that also gives my brain some exercise. Be it reading a book, spending time outside, or even watching something different on TV, the time set aside for self-care is precious and is meant to be a way to give back to yourself.

    Jana and her Friends at Messina Hoff
    Jana and her friends enjoyed a Sunday afternoon at Messina Hoff after a long week of tests.
  2. Instead of an occasional treat, self-care is most effective when incorporated into everyday life.
    Some people meditate for a few minutes every morning; others hit the gym everyday after class. This aspect of self-care requires establishing a routine and knowing how you work most efficiently. Most days I feel like a ping-pong ball bouncing between school and work and friends and studying. The name of the game for me is frequent, short breaks. Right before classes started, a friend told me about this wonderful app from NPR called NPR One. Since downloading this free app, I have discovered that NPR is so much more than morning news and documentaries about obscure subjects (though those have proven to be really, really cool). Ranging from three to 45 minutes, incredibly enriching podcasts and radio shows that cross dozens of subjects serve as perfect intermissions to my day. Now, I look forward to my drives across town and walks between class buildings. Integrating self-care of any form into daily practice reduces and prevents anxiety and stress, leaving room for positivity and productivity.
  3. Self-care is not selfish.
    This final point addresses the perception of self-care. From a young age we are encouraged to give to and care for the people around us, to always work our hardest and try our best. It can be uncomfortable to bring something new into your lifestyle that seems to be solely for personal relaxation and pleasure. As a student working toward attending veterinary school, I have drilled the ideas of working hard, pushing my limits, and not stopping until the letters D, V, and M are behind my name; it has become the core of my undergraduate career. While determination and giving 100 percent are keys to success, I have learned you cannot get there running on fumes alone. In order to reach my full potential as a student, employee, ambassador, daughter, friend, and vet school applicant, I must take care of myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. In doing so, I am able to put my best foot forward when it comes to supporting the people in my life.

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of self-care characteristics or activities, I hope this serves to stimulate delving further into understanding the importance of self-care and discovering which techniques work best for you. Start that journal, make time for that fitness class, or stop being afraid to talk to a counselor.

Self-care is meant to build healthier, happier people, and healthier, happier people tend to do better on finals.

Taking Advantage of Opportunities

Kimberly N.Only 20 days of school left! I can’t believe time flew by so fast. Just a little over two months ago, I was starting my first semester of my sophomore year.

Because of the opportunities I found last year, I have been balancing not only school, but also working as an ambassador, doing research in the animal behavior lab, and volunteering at the Wildlife Center (it’s a class, but you’re essentially volunteering). It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun, too! I experienced so many new things this semester, and I can’t wait to experience more.

I like to think I’m a hard worker. Maybe it is the Vietnamese blood in me. Maybe it was my family’s circumstances. Maybe it is just my personality. Whatever the reason, that trait helped me get to where I am now.

About a month ago, I applied for the BIMS Costa Rica Study Abroad (which, by the way, I encourage any BIMS undergrad to apply for). In my application, I wrote a two-page essay that was peer-reviewed by four different people, along with the University Writing Center (super extra, I know). On Nov. 9, at 9:11 a.m., I received an email saying I had been accepted into the program. My heart stopped and I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe that I had been accepted! In disbelief, I emailed the professor asking if I was actually accepted and he said yes! Another person I know had also been accepted, but she wrote about a paragraph, so I guess I’m an overachiever. But I was extremely happy when I received that email because it showed that all my hard work paid off!

An important lesson I have learned this semester, which is advice I will now always offer to incoming freshmen, is that it is never too early to look for opportunities.

In fact, there are opportunities that have criteria you meet now and not later. I remember regretting not signing up for “Great Disease of the World” (one of the BIMS-directed electives) last spring because I found out too late that I could have gotten a certificate in public health entomology if I had taken that class. Now, I can’t, because you have to complete the class before you have 75 credit hours, which I have.

There are so many opportunities at Texas A&M, like research and study abroad programs, so you don’t have to look very hard to find something that might interest you.

Exploring the Unexpected

LisaCollege—what a scary word, even for students IN college. It is a time to live and a time to settle down and really focus into what you really want to make of your life. For me, my first semester as a sophomore in the BIMS program has been a little bit more stressful than what I had anticipated compared to my freshman year.My experiences within this program has taught me a lot about college—most importantly, that life goes on. I have never been the smartest girl in my class but I have been one of the most hardworking. Obstacle after obstacle, my experiences have taught me of my limits and boundaries. What I have learned about my challenges in school is that grades matter, but so does your overall happiness. A&M has been the biggest challenge I have had in my life. Being seven hours away from home, making friends, and keeping up in a challenging program is stressful but, yet, such a great experience.

Overall, I am still in the process of learning that life is somewhat challenging, and we all need somebody to help us through those challenging times.

For me, that person has been my mom, who has supported me throughout my education. When I feel as if my life has taken a turn, a sweet lady named Yolanda always comes to the rescue; she has really helped me get though my hardest times. The best part of it is that my mom and I never have a dull moment, especially when she comes to visit me.

For example, recently, the five living former presidents came to College Station. Crazy, right?!? It’s not every day you get to be a few feet from five presidents stuck in the Bush Library joking around with Secret Service! But, excitingly, that’s exactly what happened with my mom and me. We happened to be there, watching secret service pull together the motorcade for the five presidents to be transported to Reed Arena for the Hurricane Harvey benefit event hosted at Texas A&M. There were snipers on top of the buildings and police officers and secret service everywhere. We were also stuck with a few other individuals who were carefully watching how someone’s life (in this case, the presidents’) can be so organized but, yet, so stressful. As everyone carefully watched the presidents, I watched my mom be as happy as I ever had seen her in our years together.

Although this moment was for the presidents, I consider it OUR moment. It was so cool to actually see five living presidents, but it was so cool to experience this with my mom. This lady never lets anything slide, has always been an educator and always has supported me and my education. I am forever grateful that she has provided me the opportunity to go to A&M, even in the moments I feel as if life is tumbling down. Experiences such as seeing five presidents really doesn’t happen much, but I appreciate that my mom has really supported me in going to a school that gives so many opportunities. Thanks and Gig’ em, Mom!

Managing Time as a BIMS Major

Priya BandyI’m
almost half way done with my first semester of my sophomore year as
a biomedical science major. Looking back to the start of the fall
semester, I anticipated a lot of exciting things when the semester
began: another Fightin’ Texas Aggie Football season, taking courses
more geared toward my major, the sophomore wildcat (a way for
students to show class pride), earlier registration for classes,
and not wandering around campus looking completely lost. However,
after a week in, I realized I had a lot to balance, as well: a job,
demanding classes, honor societies, organizations, officer
positions for honor societies and organizations, volunteering,
shadowing, and training to become a certified first responder.

In high school, I was extremely involved, took
advanced placement classes, and also worked, and I still had time
to sleep and actively maintain a social life. In college, I’m still
extremely involved, taking hard classes, and working, but I barely
have time to sleep and actively maintain a social life. The reason
I haven’t completely shut down is because of my time management
skills. Time management is necessary, especially in college. Even
though I’m always shuffling myself from one part of campus to the
other, I still make time to study for classes and squeeze in a
couple hours of sleep and playtime with my two dogs.

The one piece of advice I always give to any
incoming freshman is to learn how to manage your time efficiently
and early. I didn’t learn how to manage my time until the end of
the second semester of my freshman year. During my first semester
in college, I always procrastinated, not really studying for my
exams as much as I should have; at that point in my college career,
my classes weren’t as hard, I wasn’t as involved, and I didn’t even
have a job. I just simply didn’t know how to utilize my time to the
best of my ability. Therefore, a drop in my grades wasn’t a
surprise, but it was a huge wake up call for me. I realized I
needed to change the way I was doing life. I stopped
procrastinating, started getting ahead in my classes, and spent
less of my time going out or watching Netflix and more of my time
in the library or volunteering at the hospital.

In short, I began making the most out of the hours
of my day and encourage everyone who may be struggling to work
toward actively managing your time; it really is the best way to
make college less stressful.

A Fresh Perspective for Senior Year

Jana G.The start of senior year as a biomedical sciences student is an exciting time. This will be my last football season to sit in the student section, many of my friends are getting “big kid” jobs and moving across the state (sometimes across the country!), and, on top of it all, I am applying to veterinary school.

Knowing that I wanted to be a vet since I was 7 years old, I spent the majority of my time growing up and as an undergraduate pursuing that goal. I have so much passion for this field and I have worked so hard, but how do I put all of that into words on an application? While inputting every activity, calculating every hour, and writing every essay, I can’t help but feel that years and years of energy, growth, and preparation have all led up to this moment. It can be exciting! But, more often than not, it’s scary and it’s stressful.

Summoning the courage to hit the final “submit” button on these applications has taught me a few things. One, my grades do not define me. Two, I have the best support system in the world. And three, it’s OK that I don’t have it all figured out.

Of course, grades are the most important part of college. After all, school is the whole reason any of us are here. In preparing for vet school, though, I have found that experiences matter just as much. Whether these experiences stem from plunging head-first into a 16-hour semester, volunteering out of your comfort zone, or shadowing in a veterinary field you thought you had no interest in, it all begins to shape you. Now, being a senior, the way I view and approach my classes has changed drastically since my freshman year. My courses are no longer daunting obstacles that stand between me and my goals but tools to help me get where I want to be. It is a wonderful feeling when suddenly class work has apparent, real-world applications, just as great, in fact, as realizing that the only reason you understand a metabolic pathway in biochemistry is because the underlying concepts were taught in CHEM 101. In other words, my classes have become part of my experiences. Through coursework, just as with extracurricular activities, I have found topics I enjoy and want to pursue, along with topics that do not intrigue me as much. I give the same piece of advice to every prospective student who takes a tour with me of VBEC: your classes have to interest you. The “A” on an official transcript may not have made me who I am, but the intellectual expansion and inspiration gathered from that class did.

College is a time of major change. My family has always been the most important part of my life, and I had to leave them three hours behind in Arlington to attend A&M. Breaking out of your shell to make college home and find new friends is hard, but once you do, they are friends for life. Between school, work, shadowing, and volunteering, my schedule can be hectic. Fortunately, my friends and family have been my biggest fans throughout the entire vet school application process. Be it with dinner dates, long phone calls, or simply studying with me, they have found ways to be sources of constant encouragement. In turn, they have taught me to be a better friend and support system to those around me.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have realized that my career goals are dynamic. Growing up with horses, I had always thought of being a large-animal veterinarian. Now, thanks to fun trips I have taken, incredible people I have met, and unique opportunities I have had, I want to go into veterinary research. Though I am fully confident that this is what I want to do with my life, I could not tell you what kind of research I want to do; I only know what interests me. Vet school will be a new, wonderful chapter in my life, and I am positive it will change my perspective and bring my attention to new areas of focus. I may not know exactly where I will be in five or 10 years, but I do know that I am following my passion and am on the right path.

My Final Year

Alex C.Welcome back to Texas A&M for what is hopefully another great year!

It dawns on me that I am now a senior, meaning this is my last year as an undergraduate student here at TAMU. Whoop! It seems like just yesterday I was meeting with the BIMS advisers to discuss what my first semester schedule would be. It’s interesting to consider what being a senior really means. It means some things are coming to an end and other things are just beginning.

For one, this will be my final year as a student ambassador, a job I’ve appreciated greatly since I started as a sophomore. This job has taught me several things over the years. It’s allowed me to see firsthand the excitement this university and our vet school can bring to prospective students. Seeing the passion these future Aggies have for their educations, and for animals, is inspiring. I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to help acquaint guests with our top-notch facilities, and, fortunately, I still have the whole year to continue leading tours and meeting future students!

I only have two more semesters of classes, as well. Right now, it looks like I’ll be mostly taking classed related to my minors, public health and occupational safety and health. Considering that I plan to apply to Texas A&M’s wonderful public health grad school, that’s an exciting schedule. I’m starting to get more involved with public health-centered curricula and getting to see another side of health promotion. I’ve even begun to start searching for summer internships in order to gain more experience relating to workplace safety. Texas A&M offers are some great opportunities in that realm.

All in all, this is shaping up to be another wonderful year. I can only hope the same goes for all of my fellow Aggies. While this may be my final year as an undergraduate, I look forward to what the future brings. I hope it brings the best for all of us and am optimistic it will.