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Coronavirus Epidemic Ends Study Abroad Students’ Semesters

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Coronavirus epidemic gets serious to the point that college students' study abroad programs come to an end.
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People all over the world are unpredictably affected by the newest Coronavirus and its implications.

More specifically, abroad students are finding themselves being sent home from their study programs. Having to cancel personal travel, and living in the uncertainty of how their semesters in Europe will end.

Coronavirus started as a blip on the radar of students preparing to embark on a four-month journey to study in Europe.

The first mysterious case emerged in Wuhan, China on December 31st,  2019. And millions of American university students packed their bags and flew to another hemisphere without any worry of this ‘random’ flu discovered so far away. 

Fast forward to January 30th, 2020- just one month later- and the outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Though COVID-19 has symptoms paralleling that of the common flu (cough, fever, shortness of breath). And only has a death rate of 3.4%, the virus has uncontrollably spread. The shutdown travel has students living in Europe wondering, what now?

The countries currently most dangerous to travel to are China, with a whopping 80,703 cases. Italy, South Korea, Iran, and France are also a threat. But perhaps the most alarming aspect of this virus is how quickly it spreads.

Similar to other contagious viruses, COVID-19 spreads by human-to-human contact. Or by coming into contact with respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Thus, the increases in cases in countries with patients concentrated in quarantined areas are skyrocketing. Just within the last 24 hours,  Italy has 1,492 new cases and 250 new deaths. 

The Coronavirus map displays countries that are the most at risk for getting the virus.
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Alex, a Junior at the University of Michigan, had been studying abroad in Rome for just four weeks before Italy was declared a Level 3 Travel Advisory by the US State Department.

Almost immediately after Alex’s program was canceled and his home institution called for all students enrolled in programs in Italy to return to the US. This came as a shock to Alex and other students in his program, as Rome itself was not an area with many Coronavirus cases. 

“Almost no one was wearing masks, even when we visited the Vatican the day after the announcement. It all felt so surreal that we were really being sent home, even though Rome hadn’t changed at all,” he recalls.

Many students studying in Italy were feeling similarly. Other universities like Syracuse and Villanova had pulled their students from Europe before programs abroad had even canceled themselves. 

The next steps in these types of situations vary from school to school. But one thing is for sure: many students are left financially and academically devastated by abroad programs being abruptly canceled.

For Alex’s specific program in Rome, students will be finishing the semester through online courses. And will receive no compensation for the canceled $15,000 program. The epidemic has other serious implications such as economic recessions and discrimination towards Asian people. Abroad students’ pockets have certainly felt the blow of this unpredictable virus. 

Similarly, several typically cheap airlines used by many American students studying abroad. Such as Ryanair and EasyJet, have not changed their “no cancellation of flights after 24 hours of booking” policy.

This means that students who had flights to now untravelable regions like Italy cannot get money back from canceled travel due to the rapidly escalating virus outbreak. 

Shannon, a Junior at American University, had dropped $450 of her own money on flights and $150 on housing for an unforgettable April spring break trip in Amalfi, Italy. Now, with Italy at an overall Level 3 Advisory and some parts at a Level 4, she and her group have been forced to cancel.

“When I contacted the airline about possibly getting some of my money back given the sudden situation, they refused to refund me. Now, I’m out $600, and don’t know if I should cancel other trips I had planned just in case,” Shannon said.

 Unfortunately, many students find themselves in a similar predicament: should they not take the risk of traveling at all outside their home country?

Georgetown Junior Ally and her parents have already considered the option of canceling all travel going forward. Her program is in Copenhagen, Denmark, a country that has a notoriously strong health care system. And only 35 cases on COVID-19 with none actually in Copenhagen.

Though Ally is most likely in one of the safest areas of Europe, her parents fear that if she were to leave for a weekend trip she would not be able to return.

“People all over Europe are in busy airports and then getting on planes with 400 plus people. My parents are just worried that my plane will land. Someone will have a fever, and all 400 of us will be quarantined or denied entry to Denmark.”

The Coronavirus advertisement informs people how to avoid the virus as much as possible.
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In situations like this, many parents are struggling to figure out how to best keep their kids safe while they’re living across the world. Some students’ parents are preemptively pulling them from their programs. Others aren’t as concerned about this virus that seems to only put infants and the elderly in danger. 

Nonetheless, the official advice from the World Health Organization as of now is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Wear a mask only if you are feeling sick, and self-quarantine if you feel sick or have traveled to Italy, Iran, South Korea, or China. However, different students are dealing with this unprecedented virus, the future of existing abroad programs is unknown.

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College Life

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

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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.

VISUAL LEARNER

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!

AUDITORY LEARNER

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.

READ/WRITE LEARNERS

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.

KINESTHETIC LEARNER

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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College Life

5 Ways to Tell if You are a Workaholic

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been working from home as students and employees. Many have fallen into the cycle of overworking without taking time for themselves. Here are a few ways to tell if you are becoming a workaholic, as well as ways to have a healthier work routine. 

1. Working countless hours a day 

One of the easiest ways to identify workaholism is when you lose track of how long you have been working. Getting up from your desk and not knowing the time, missing meals, or realizing that you have worked into the early morning hours are all signs of this phenomenon. The solution to this is simple: create a daily work schedule that allows your brain and body to relax, allocating time for meals, sleep, and other leisurely interests you may have. This will not only be beneficial to your mental health, but also to the content of your work, as many studies have shown a correlation between being well-rested and creating quality work.

2. Losing contact with friends and family due to overworking

The isolation caused by the pandemic makes it extremely hard to feel connected to the people in our life, especially if we do not regularly see them. For people who are naturally introverted and work-driven, quarantining makes it easy to use work as a coping mechanism for loneliness and other negative emotions that may be exacerbated due to the pandemic. Luckily, in our age of social media, we can stay in contact without physical presence. 

A black and white photo of a women sitting at a table, stressed.
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If you feel like you have been losing touch with family and friends, make a goal to reach out to them on a weekly basis. Even something small like checking on a loved one will keep you “in the loop” with those that you cannot regularly see in-person. It is important to remember that we will eventually go back to regular contact with these people, and that in the meantime, it means a lot to just reach out and let them know we are thinking of them. 

3. Deprioritizing your mental health due to overwork 

We have witnessed an astounding drop in the general public’s mental health due to COVID-19, and burying oneself in work is a common coping mechanism that people justify as “quarantine productivity”. Without regularly seeing the people who make sure we are doing okay, the pandemic has forced us to be much more accountable for our own mental health, which is extremely challenging if all our time is consumed by work. 

A women sitting at a table doing work on a laptop.
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Like the other solutions on this list, keeping track of your mental health comes down to maintaining healthy routines and checking in on yourself, since contact with others may be difficult. Making sure you do enjoyable activities everyday is integral to keeping your mind healthy. While working may be an easy distraction from dark thoughts or feelings, it is not a solution. Maintaining habits that make you feel relaxed or happy will be much better for your overall mental health. 

4. Dropping hobbies due to an obsessive focus on work

This sign of being a workaholic is as easy to identify as it is to fix. Ask yourself, “are the things I do for fun still a part of my daily or weekly routine?” If the answer is “no”, then most likely you are replacing your hobbies with additional work, which produces anxiety and sadness, as you are more stressed and spending less time doing things you truly enjoy. Simply prioritizing your interests and hobbies, one or two days a week, is a great way of counterbalancing a heavy workload.

A cartoon of a women doing many tasks at once, speaking on the phone, on the computer, holding a purse.
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5. Missing out on sunlight or fresh air on a daily basis

One of the easiest ways to make sure you don’t overwork is to get outside, at least once a day, and take a walk or run around your neighborhood. While this may seem easy enough, it can be extremely difficult to motivate yourself to leave the house once you have already started working for the day. Therefore, it’s great to go on a morning walk or jog before you start working. It will leave you feeling more content and energized, so you can start your day on the right foot.

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College Life

How People are Connecting Online During COVID-19

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4 people connected online through their phones.
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Connectivity has become more important than ever in our ever-changing society. Amid the many horrors of this year, many people are finding social interaction to be crucial to their daily life, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has complicated that. As a result, friends and strangers alike have gotten creative with how they connect with each other online.

Friends and family have certainly had no problem staying in touch. Between texting and apps like Snapchat, it’s no trouble for individuals to keep in touch with their loved ones. Even a traditional phone call and the popular Zoom have allowed for friends and family to see each other when catching up, creating an experience as close to in-person as it can be right now.

The real trick this year has been meeting new people. While this might only be a problem for some, many people, especially college students, have struggled to make new friends amid social distancing guidelines. It has given many the chance to try out independence, but the loss of social interaction can be upsetting for some, and even unhealthy for others.

A person connected online using an iPad.
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Humans are very social beings, and to lose that aspect of our day-to-day lives can be detrimental to our mental health. However, there are still several opportunities every day to meet new people as a part of various communities, and those relationships have all the potential of any real-life friendship.

This summer, with the increase in stories being shared by members of marginalized communities in accordance with the Black Lives Matter movement, thousands of people discovered these shared experiences through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The interconnectivity this created granted many their first opportunity to see the world from another perspective.

Minority communities from every corner of the world came together this summer in response to police brutality and other social injustices. Twitter in particular offered many an outlet to give live updates on protests, activism, and individual stories. This helped to create awareness everywhere, and even celebrities joined the mix to connect with protestors and minority communities demanding justice

One of the most astounding examples of the power of these connections has come through the enduring relationships founded on social media websites. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, online connections between individuals were not uncommon, especially among young people who were adept at developing relationships through the Internet. However, with recent events limiting our access and opportunities, others have had to get creative with how they interact, spiraling into a mass connection of individuals all over the world..

Once, these friendships might have been concerning, even unhealthy. Social interaction is meant to be a personal, and emotional dependency on another person and does not always thrive via text, email, tweets, or any other form of online communication. However, many people have no choice now but to cultivate these relationships online. Whether it be for their own health or the health of others, an online connection is one of the few safe ways we have to maintain social interaction.

A close up of Twitter with the blue bird avatar and their motto of
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This, of course, raises many concerns regarding universal access to the Internet. Within the last decade alone, the Internet has become such a vital part of our everyday lives, and many people, especially students, might find it difficult to navigate their daily lives without it. In a world that now relies almost entirely on the Internet, there are obvious feelings of distress when it comes to how some people will stay connected.

As we continue to adapt to a post-COVID world, this is only one of many issues that will need to be addressed. Beyond safety, public health, access to resources, and more, we are seeing a build-up of social issues that will need correcting, in addition to the ongoing threats of police brutality and institutionalized racism. Already, there have been responses to this as protestors demand change in major cities globally. Their fight is ongoing, and they have made note to recognize the plight of people battling the COVID-19 pandemic and these other social injustices.

There has always been a feeling of distrust toward the Internet. It comes with so many unknowns, especially as data revealed in recent years has proven that our information is not as secure as we once thought it was. However, it has given us access to a surplus of information, educating countless people on topics that they do not experience themselves.

The social connections formed online has allowed individuals to share their stories, serving only to deepen others’ understanding of the world. In the coming years, it is likely we will continue to see this reliance on social media and the Internet rise, and, if the day ever comes where we can safely interact in person again, we will have been bettered by the connections that began behind a screen.

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