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College Life

How to Navigate Life at a Primarily White Institute



Lots of people studying upstairs in a big fancy brown wooden library.
Creative Common|Unsplash

As a white person who grew up in a mixed-race family, I have seen several of my family members go through a lot because of their race and ethnicity. I was under the impression that once I started to attend university, things would be different since many colleges are seen as liberal breeding grounds.

I was very wrong. I attend the infamous Penn State, which is a PWI or primarily white institute. I remember calling my sister the first week of school and saying:

“Melanie, I have never seen this many white people in my life.”

When she came to visit, she thought the same thing.

As I got more accustomed to the idea that I attend a PWI, I realized that given that I seem like the “default”, it must be hard for new students of color to navigate life on campus.

However, most higher education institutions do have resources that can make life easier and bring cultural enrichment to an otherwise vanilla campus.

Multicultural Student Organizations

Student organizations are a wonderful way to make friends and get involved on campus in general. It’s even better when there is a large commonality between all of the members in that organization. They can range from broad groups such as Penn State’s own Latino Caucus to a much more specific group like the Bengali Student Association. This is a chance to share cultural family traditions, experiences, food, music, or even just how your day way.

Offices of Inclusivity and Diversity

First thing’s first, if your university or college does not have something like this, do not go there. You want a place where the administration is on your side if you belong to a minoritized group; and especially if you have an identity where several minoritized groups intersect. This is the place where diversity, inclusion, and equity initiatives begin or are supported and analyzed. It is literally their job to make sure campus is an equitable place.

Cultural Centers

This resource, though sometimes vaguely named, is the epicenter of most important educational tools and resources. They could have multicultural student organizations housed there, peer mentors to educate you on resources or problems on campus, and they could sponsor amazing events to bring communities closer together.

Penn State has the Paul Robeson Cultural Center and it is easily one of the most underrated resources we have. They do so much amazing work, and if your college or university has this or an equivalent then you need to go to them.

Being White at a PWI

Do not, I repeat, do not expect students of color to educate you on the problems they face.

It is not their job. It is your job to see the problems around you and educate yourself. Go to the cultural centers and read the pamphlets and books they have.

Go to multicultural events. Put yourself in places you haven’t before. If you’ve already educated yourself, then be an advocate. Educate other white people. Discuss the uncomfortable truths. We can’t create a more equitable society if people don’t join in on the conversations and the actions that cause change.

By: Madison Starr

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College Life

The Powerful Benefits of Personality Tests, And Why You Should Take One



A hand holding a pencil filling out a personality test

Personality tests and the broad category of ‘which ____ are you’ are absurdly common all across the online sphere, and for good reason: people love them! Surprisingly enough though, while many of these tests are just for fun, they can also be very beneficial to our understanding of both the world and ourselves. Here, we’ll discuss why people love personality tests so much and what the benefits of personality tests are, and also give you a few of the most famous personality tests you can try and take for yourself.

If you’ve been on the internet for anywhere longer than two seconds, you’ve probably seen a link on the side of a website with a bold flashing headline: Click Here To Figure Out What Type of Bread You Are! Well, maybe not exactly that title, but the principle of the thing is what matters.

Why We Love Personality Tests

For many of us, personality tests are a fun and interesting way to investigate our innermost qualities, but that investigation does a lot more than just provide a fun diversion. Part of why we love personality tests so much is the idea that they’ll show us something we don’t know about ourselves. The idea of learning something new about ourselves is an almost irresistible lure to most of us, because, as we all know, humans are curious by nature. Additionally, personality tests provide us with something very simple: a feeling of connection. By dividing us into groups, these tests show us people that we are similar to, people that we belong with. Finding our people can be very reassuring, and is just one of the many benefits of personality tests.

“A simple reason that we tend to identify with our personality test results is that we have an inherent need to belong,” says Dr. Jennifer Fayard in Psychology Today

The Benefits of Personality Tests

Personality tests benefit us in several ways. They provide us with a deeper understanding of ourselves and can also guide us to more specific paths. Certain career choices might be better suited to people with certain personality types, and certain types of studying or certain kinds of academics might be easier or harder depending on where your personality falls.

Knowing your personality type can help you improve your life, by finding where you best fall on the spectrum of experiences and can help you maximize your own performance.

Additionally, knowing more about personality tests can give you a deeper understanding of how other people differ from you and can help you bridge those gaps in social situations. Knowledge is power after all, and personality tests can tell you a lot.

A man holding the sleeve of his shirt, looking down and smiling

Some Famous Personality Test You Can Take

Since we’re all stuck at home right now, what better time is there to take a look at some of these personality tests?

Here are three of the most famous personality tests you can look into right this second.

1. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, is one of the most famous personality tests of all time. Developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook Briggs based on the psychological theories of Carl Jung, the MBTI is a self-report questionnaire that is so widely known that some companies even use it when hiring employees.

It takes four pairs of characteristics, each symbolized by a letter, and sorts you into one of each pair, creating a unique four-letter combination for your type, with sixteen total types of personalities. The pairs are Introverted v Extroverted (I v E), Intuitive v Sensing (N v S), Thinking v Feeling (T v F), and Judging v Perceiving (J v P). That means you might be an ENTJ, or an ISFP, or something else entirely! What do all those letters mean? Take the test and find out!

2. The Enneagram of Personality

The Enneagram of Personality, also known simply as The Enneagram, is a personality test that started to come around sometime in the ‘50s, though it’s not exactly clear when. Derived from Greek words meaning ‘nine’ and ‘drawn’, The Enneagram (shockingly) sorts people into one of nine archetypes, each numbered (shockingly) one through nine. These include types like #2: The Helper, #3: The Achiever, #7: The Enthusiast, and #9: The Peacemaker, each characterized by unique traits.

There’s also an added layer of complexity provided by “wings”, which are leanings of certain types towards their adjacent archetypes, meaning maybe instead of just being a 5, you’re a 5 with a 4 wing. The Official Enneagram Site charges 12 dollars per test, but if you don’t want to shell out the money you can still read the detailed type descriptions and see if any of them call to you.

3. The Big Five Personality Traits

Coming from similar roots as the MBTI, The Big 5 is a popular model of personality in modern psychology also called the “five-factor model” or the “OCEAN model”; OCEAN being an acronym for the five traits that The Big 5 examines. How it works is the test will give you a score for where you fall on each of the five traits it measures; these being Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. The Big 5 can be used to understand how you interact with the world, and also as a predictor of your later life, as it stays more or less constant throughout your lifetime. The Big 5 is a hugely beneficial personality test to take, so what are you waiting for?

People love learning about themselves, about the world, and about each other, and personality tests allow us to do just that! Plus, they benefit us by giving us a direction to take our development in, helping us learn how to understand others’ points of view, and bonding us together. In these times, with Covid-19 cutting us off from each other, that connection is more important than ever, so why not try a few of these out and see where it takes you?

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College Life

5 Critical Questions to Ask When Moving in With Your First Roommates



Three women moving in together

The situation is this: you’re officially renting your first place. No more close-quarter dorms or parents looking over your shoulder. You might be feeling a variety of emotions, depending on why you’re moving out. Anxiety, excitement, and sadness are all valid. On top of all that, you are looking for your first roommate. Don’t worry— you’re not alone, even if you’re moving out only after your freshman year of college! In fact, you’re in good company. According to a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of people first moving out is 19.

One of the most important things, besides remembering to pay rent, is getting along with your roommates.

Whether they’re people you’ve known for years, or someone you are just meeting now, chances are you don’t really know all of the ins and out of living with them. Who will buy the toilet paper? Who washes the dishes?

Here is a list of questions to ask your roommates when moving in together!  

Which roommate buys the paper products? 

As silly as it may seem, this is an important question to ask! You don’t realize how much toilet paper, paper towels, or tissues you may use. The last one is especially important if you have allergies. Last year, the average person spent $120 annually on paper products! 

You have to be prepared if you don’t want to buy your own stock every week or so. If the roommates are already set up, send them a text if you can, or learn when you get there. But if everyone’s newly coming together, have a discussion with your roommates and decide on what sounds good for you! It might be that everyone buys their own stock. Or it could be whoever’s out just buys it! Maybe everybody chips in! It’s up to you and your group. While you’re out, don’t forget to get plastic wrap and foil, too! 

Do we want to share dishes? 

This is another thing that depends on if you’re all coming together for the first time, or moving into an already established house. If you can’t get a hold of the people you’re moving in with, it’s smart to have two full sets for yourself. Then, you can wash and alternate just in case. If you’re moving in with a whole new group, however, it’s important to convene on this. This way, you may be able to get a larger set of dishes for cheaper with everyone chipping in. When getting dishes, however, you also have to remember to get kitchen utensils and appliances, if they’re not included. It’s probably not reasonable for everyone to have their own toasters, but it might make sense for everyone to have their own spatulas.

Who pays for WiFi? 

Considering a student’s reliance on the internet, you need to know who the WiFi will be under. If you’re moving into an already established household, it’s easy! Just learn who pays for it and make sure to pay them your share every month. If you’re moving in with a whole new group, you have to sit down and decide who will pay for it. Be on the lookout: if you already have a phone plan, you might be able to get a good deal on an internet plan too. 

Do we want to share food? 

You don’t want to be the person stealing food from your roommates, after all! If you’re with friends, you might feel comfortable sharing food. However, if you’re moving in with strangers or acquaintances, you might not. Roommates might want to share some items, like spices or baking products. Things like meat, yogurt, or cheese might be a little too much to share. Similarly, you might want to figure out if you want to cook together, especially if you’re with friends. This is important to know not only for budgeting, but for knowing what times you can use the kitchen! 

What furniture do we need?

Again, your response will change if you’re moving in with a pre-established group or a new one! Pictures from the landlord should answer most of the questions, but it’s important to make sure the pictures are up to date! If there is no furniture, Ikea and Target are great options for new cheap furniture. But if you’re on a bit of a budget, don’t worry! There are plenty of options on Facebook Marketplace or at local thrift stores.

Figure out what you need for common areas like living rooms, and keep in touch about what you find. 

Moving into a new place for the first time is an exciting experience, but it can also be terrifying. Despite that, there’s definitely no reason to panic. Just keep these questions in mind, and you’ll be ready to take on the world!

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College Life

Learning Styles: How To Recognize Yours & Maximize Your College Studies



People sitting around a table in conversation.

We’ve all heard the phrase “I’m a visual learner” or “I’m an auditory learner” before, but what does that actually mean? These statements refer to the theory of “learning styles.” This is essentially stating that we all have a predisposition towards taking in information a certain way. This theory goes as far back as Aristotle in 300 BCE, but has gone through a few evolutions since then. One of the prevailing models of learning styles currently is the VARK model, created by Neil Fleming in 1987, which stands for visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic learning. 

This is a breakdown of the types of learning styles, how you can recognize if you belong to them, what that actually means, and ways to improve your learning utilizing that knowledge.


How to Recognize It: 

Visual learners are, shockingly, focused heavily on images and visualizations. Do you feel as though you only really remember something if you see it? Do you think as much in images as you do in words or feelings? Do you rely heavily on visual cues when interacting with other people? If these are true, you may have a visual learning style.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Visual learners thrive off of graphical information. Being presented with a chart or diagram makes sense and you’re great at decoding images. When asked to explain something, you’re pulled to visualize it in some way, maybe with gestures or a drawing, and you are great at making that leap between what’s in your head and what exists in the real world. However, when that visual element isn’t at play, you may find it harder to remember information or conceptualize something new to you.

“Visual learners learn best by seeing. Graphic displays such as charts, diagrams, illustrations, handouts, and videos are all helpful learning tools for visual learners.”

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Since visual learning is your wheelhouse, play to that strength. Use study tools like flashcards, concept and thought maps. Try to find videos or images describing concepts you’re trying to understand.

“Since sight is key, visual learners need materials in front of them to help get the information fully committed to memory.”

Simple things as well, like color-coding notes or highlighters may help you retain and file information more efficiently. Try out a few of these ideas and see how it works!


How to Recognize It: 

Do you feel at your best during lectures? Do you prefer podcasts over just about anything else? Do you have a habit of talking aloud to yourself to keep on task? You might be an auditory learner. 

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Auditory learners thrive off of sound. When they’re left solely with reading or still images they may find it difficult or impossible to focus, whereas they feel perfectly at home listening to a teacher talk about the very same topic. To many people, lectures and podcasts might be understimulating, but to you, they’re perfect. Auditory information sticks in your memory and you remember whatever you’ve heard really well. Additionally, verbalizing your ideas is something you’re good at, and you are great at getting your point across with words. Conversely, if you have to learn something another way you might have some difficulty. Schools focus heavily on visual assignments like reading and graphics, so you might find it difficult a lot of the time to thrive in modern classroom environments.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Listening and speaking help you learn, therefore do them as much as possible! Ask to record lectures so you can replay them for yourself later. Raise your hand and talk in class, as verbalizing your ideas will help you remember them later.

“Talking about your ideas and voicing your questions will increase your understanding of the material.”

Additionally, as simple as it is, reading assignments aloud can also help you retain the information. Just hearing the information out laud might be all it takes for it to click.


How to Recognize It: 

Are reading assignments your favorite? Do you feel completely comfortable with essays and writing assignments? Maybe you like to write on your own time, or never leave home without a book? You might learn best through reading and writing. 

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Reading/Writing learners work best with the written word. Text is easy to recall for you and putting your thoughts down as words is a simple task. Essays and other papers are not the source of stress you might’ve seen many other people experience and a long reading assignment is something you can really sink your teeth into. However, graphical depictions, lectures, and other methods of instruction might slip past your hearing altogether. You really need to have the words in front of you before they make sense or are retainable.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

Words work best for you, so use them! Write out study lists, take extensive notes and reread them to review. Take any term or information that’s important, and rewrite it. The act of putting it down in your own words will help you retain it, and so will simply rereading it. Phrase whatever you can into words and you’ll really be able to master the information.


How to Recognize It: 

Have you been told since you were a kid that you have too much energy? Do lectures and long assignments leave you fidgety and desperate to move? Did you buy a fidget spinner during the craze a few years back? You might have a kinesthetic learning style.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Kinesthetic learners learn best when their bodies are being engaged during the learning process. That means muscle memory is something that forms incredibly quickly for you, maybe after only one or two tries. You might also have a fast reaction time and feel constantly energetic. However, all those traits may detract from traditional classroom learning. Staying still for long periods of time may stagnate your brain and cause information to go in one ear and out the other.

Tips for Learning with this Style:

The most important thing to remember with a kinesthetic learning style is that your body needs to be involved in some way. Walk around your room while looking at notes, use a fidget-toy during class to help you focus on lectures, make notations and marks on whatever you’re studying. The act of tying the information to movement will help it stick.

“Often, those with a kinesthetic learning style have a hard time learning through traditional lecture-based schooling, because the body does not make the connection that they are doing something when they’re listening without movement.”

Learning styles are a great tool for your educational journey, even into college. Hopefully, these tips will help you maximize your learning by playing to your strengths with your learning style.

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