To The College Semester That Killed My Academic Passion

To The College Semester That Killed My Academic Passion

... and then helped me find my true passion.
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Upon attending a vocational high school, four years of engineering technology had me excited and proud of my technological background. I had spent years learning everything from mathematical formulas, to the pros and cons of different wood types, to how to create a design for, program and run a 3-D printer. I had spent countless nights, which turned into early mornings, using Solidworks, a computer-aided engineering design program, trying to get my assignments just right; taking and re-taking measurements, then sketching my designs, crumpling them up and throwing them away, and then re-sketching them. These activities took over my life, and I could not have been happier about that. Towards the end of my secondary education, I began applying to different universities. I had pinpointed my interest to the mechanical engineering field, and with each application, I became more and more exhilarated for my future as an engineer.


During the early Spring of 2014, I had been accepted to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and quickly accepted their offer. I even attended the university's Freshman Summer Institute (FSI), which was designed to prepare incoming engineering majors for the academic struggles which were to be faced come the fall semester. The program sampled some of the courses, as well as introduced me to some of my peers, that I would be encountering in the future, all of which simply widened my eagerness for the upcoming semester. Classes began just a few weeks later, commencing the best years of my life... Or so I thought.


My first semester of college was supposed to be perfect. Well, if I learned anything in my Introduction to Engineering course that semester, it was Murphy's Law. Murphy's Law states that "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong," and Murphy's Law is real. That semester, I struggled immensely. I spent numerous nights, alone in the library, trying to teach myself calculus; math problems that took two pages, front AND back, to complete. You can only imagine how discouraging it was to finish a problem, and then realize that my answer did not match the one in the book. And let's face it- chemistry was no walk in the park, either. About twelve weeks later, as my first semester was coming to a close, I began thinking, "maybe integrals just aren't my thing." And then final grades were posted. My heart dropped as I learned that I had failed (miserably, I might add) my calculus course, and would be unable to move on to the next level in the spring. A minor set back for some, but this inconvenience would set my degree back almost a full academic year.


It is safe to say that similar struggles occurred throughout the next few semesters. Now, fast forward to the Spring semester of my sophomore year of college. I was in a meeting with an academic adviser who pointed out the fact that the courses which I seemed to enjoy, and excel in, were not my major requirements, but the humanities and social science courses. I had received an A in all of my English courses, philosophies, and psychologies. At this, she suggested a major change. She said that changing majors at this point in my educational career would set me back close to a year, if not more, but that I really had to make this decision on my own.


For months, I sat in disbelief that she could even suggest such a thing. I was an engineering major. I had always been an engineering major. I knew this is where I wanted to be long before I graduated high school, or even thought about applying for college. And then it hit me. Did I actually WANT to be an engineer? Or is that just where the path I was on was leading me? I absolutely loved studying engineering technology in high school. It was my first opportunity to think critically, use my resources, and be creative. But somewhere along the lines, it went from something that I loved, to something that I did. I finally realized that when I applied for college, the only reason I decided upon the mechanical engineering field was because I didn't know anything else. I didn't know that I could know anything else.


Newly aware that I no longer dreamed of being an engineer, I had to decide what path I truly belonged on. After hours and hours and hours of research, I decided that I wanted to become an educator. I sat down with my family and told them the news. Some were concerned that I had just suffered a tough semester and was making a rash decision, and others questioned whether or not this was the right route for me, but I knew deep inside me that I had made the right choice.


Fast forward to the present. I am now going into my senior year of college. I am a liberal arts major with a concentration in writing and a concentration in philosophy, and I aspire to be a middle school teacher. For the first time in my life, it does not feel like a chore to go to class, and homework doesn't feel like homework. More importantly, I no longer have to fight my alarm to get up in the morning; it goes off at 5:00 a.m. daily, and I wholeheartedly look forward to getting to work. I am now a registered substitute teacher in four different school districts, and I work a before school program with elementary school children, so it's not exactly where I would like to be for the rest of my life, but it is a step in the right direction.


Now that I have the opportunity to look back and reflect on my decisions, I am proud of myself for getting out of my comfort zone. I left behind what I had known all of my life, and began to explore the unknown. I am so grateful for that meeting with my adviser, and for my boss who took a chance on me during the Summer of 2016. Who knew that a summer job as a camp councilor would be just what I needed to help me decide where I wanted to end up in life? To anybody out there who is walking in my shoes, just know that it is okay to let go. It is okay to make that risky decision and it is okay to acknowledge that you are unhappy, as long as you are taking the steps to do something about it. Just because you are somewhere, does not mean that it is where you belong. Please, go out and find your true passion, because there is so much more to life than being unhappy.


So here it is: the biggest thank you I could muster up to the semester that killed my academic passion. Thank you.

Cover Image Credit: QuoteFancy

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4 reasons how Drake's New Album May Help Us Fight Mental Illness

Increasing Evidence Points to Music as a Potential Solution to the Mental Health Problem.

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Okay, You caught me!

I am NOT just talking about everybody's favorite actor-turned-rapper— or second, if you've seen Childish Gambino's "This is America" music video. Unfortunately, current research hasn't explored specific genres and artists. However, studies HAVE provided significant evidence in possibilities for music to treat mental health disorders. Now, before you say something that your parents would not be proud of, ask yourself if you can really blame me for wanting to get your attention. This is an urgent matter concerning each one of us. If we all face the truth, we could very well reach one step closer to solving one of society's biggest problems: Mental Health.

The Problem:

As our nation continues to bleed from tragedies like the horrific shooting that shattered the lives of 70 families whose loved ones just wanted to watch the "Dark Knight Rises" during its first hours of release, as well as the traumatic loss of seventeen misfortunate innocents to the complications of mental health disorders in the dear city of Parkland— a city mere hours from our very own community— it's impossible to deny the existence of mental illness. As many of us can already vouch, mental illness is much more common than what most would think: over 19 million adults in America suffer from a mental health disorder. Picture that: a population slightly less than that of Florida is plagued by hopelessness, isolation, and utter despair.

Disease in the form of depression holds millions of people prisoner, as anxieties instill crippling desperation and too many struggles with finding peace. This can be you. It could be your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your cousin, your aunt, your uncle, your friend, your roommate, your fraternity brother, your sorority sister, your lab partner, or just your classmate that sits in the corner of the lecture hall with a head buried into a notebook that camouflages all emotion.

I hope we— the UCF community— understand the gravity of the problem, but it's clear that some still see mental illness as a disease that affects only a handful of "misfits" who "terrorize" our streets, while the numbers reveal more to the issue. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans suffers from a mental health disorder. The problem is so serious that suicide has risen to become the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. While many continue to ask for more antidepressants and even the occasional "proper spanking," recent studies indicate increases in occurrence, such as one in depression from 5.9% in 2012 to 8.2% in 2015. So, clearly, none of that is working.

The Evidence:

If we really want to create a world where our children are free from the chains of mental illness, we need to think outside the box. Doctors and scientists won't really talk about this since it's still a growing field of research, but music has strong potential. We don't have any options at the moment, which means we need to change our mindset about music and to continue to explore its medicinal benefits. If you're still skeptical because of the title, then please consider these 4 pieces of solid evidence backed by scientific research:

1. Music has been proven to improve disorders like Parkinson's Disease.

Researchers sponsored by the National Institute of Health— the country's largest research agency— saw an improvement in the daily function of patients with Parkinson's Disease. This makes patients shake uncontrollably, which often prevents them from complete functionality. The disease is caused by a shortage of dopamine— a chemical your neurons, or brain cells, release; since music treats this shortage, there's an obvious ability to increase dopamine levels. As numerous studies connect dopamine shortages to mental illnesses like depression, addiction, and ADHD, someone could possibly use music's proven ability to increase dopamine levels to treat said problems.

2. Listening to the music has the potential to activate your brain's "reward center."

In 2013, Valorie Salimpoor and fellow researchers conducted a study that connected subjects' pleasure towards music to a specific part of the brain. This key structure, the nucleus accumbens, is the body's "reward center," which means all of you have experienced its magical powers. In fact, any time the brain detects a rewarding sensation— drinking ice-cold water after a five-mile run in sunny, humid Florida, eating that Taco Bell chalupa after a long happy hour at Knight's Library, and even consuming recreational drugs— this structure releases more of that fantastic dopamine. So, with further research into specifics, doctors may soon be prescribing your daily dose of tunes for your own health.

3. Listening to Music may be more effective than prescription anti-anxiety medication.

In 2013, Mona Lisa Chanda and Daniel J. Levitin— two accomplished doctors in psychology— reviewed a study wherein patients waiting to undergo surgery were given either anti-anxiety medications or music to listen to. The study took into account cortisol levels, which are used daily by healthcare professionals to gauge patient levels. This "stress hormone" was actually found to be lower in patients who listened to classical music rather those who took the recommended dose of prescription drugs. Sit there and think about that for a second: these patients actually felt more relaxed with something as simple as MUSIC than with chemicals that are made specifically to force patients into relaxation before surgery. Why pop a Xanax when you can just listen to Beethoven?

4. Music may release the chemicals that help you naturally relax and feel love.

Further studies continue to justify music's place in the medical world as results demonstrate increases in substances such as prolactin— a hormone that produces a relaxing sensation— as well as oxytocin— the substance that promotes warmth and happiness during a hug between mother and child. So this study basically showed us that music has the potential to actually make you feel the way you did when Mom or Dad would embrace you with the warmest hug you've ever felt.

The Future:

The evidence I present you with today is ultimately just a collection of individual situations where specific people found specific results. There are a lot of variables when it comes to any research study; therefore, data is never truly certain. We should take these findings as strong suggestions to a possible solution, but we must remember the possibility of failure in our search.

The neurochemistry behind the music and its medicinal properties is just beginning to unfold before the scientific community. In fact, extremely qualified scientists from the National Institute of Health— the organization that basically runs any important medical study in the United States— continue to remind us of the subject's youth with the constant use of "potential" behind any and all of their findings. Therefore, it's our responsibility as a community to look into this— not just that of the scientists at the National Institute of Health.

We're all surrounded by music. It's at the bars. It's in our ears during all-night sessions at the UCF library. It's keeping us awake through East Colonial traffic at 7:00 AM while hordes of students focus on their cell phone screens instead of the paved roads ahead. It's in the shoes we wear, the actions we take, and the words we say. IF YOU'RE READING THIS: it's accessible to you. So, don't be shy, and try to play with your Spotify account, or even just on YouTube, and gauge the power of music. As more and more of us see the light, we can promote the movement and carry on as more research comes out to support us.

Drop the bars, drop those addictive pills that destroy your body slowly, and pick up your headphones and press PLAY.

Just relax, close your eyes, smile, and live.

Cover Image Credit:

@champagnepapi

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4 simple Grammar mistakes that people need to stop making

Basic grammar is not that hard.

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Growing up, my grandpa would always correct my dad's grammar. He recognized the importance of speaking and writing clearly and correctly and wanted to pass that along to his son. As a result, my dad did the same thing to me. I constantly heard things like, "you mean 'Mom and me,'" or "you played well, not good." For better or for worse, I often pick up on small errors that people make in speech or writing, thanks to him. Here are some mistakes that keep me up at night that really shouldn't be that hard to fix:


1. Could vs. Couldn't Care Less

I'm convinced that more people say this phrase incorrectly than correctly. If you stop and think about it for a second, it's obvious which is the right way to say it. If you could care less about something, that means you care about it at least a little bit. If you couldn't care less, you literally do not care at all. I could definitely care less about people messing this up.


2. Breath vs. Breathe

I won't spend too much time on this one. Breathe is the verb, and breath is the noun. You can't take a breathe, and fish can't breath underwater. Easy fix.


3. Who's vs. Whose

This is probably the most common mistake I've seen people make, and it's also my least favorite. I've seen countless people on social media say, "who's mans is this?" That phrase in general sounds really dumb to me, but I'll focus on the first word. "Who's" is a contraction of "who is." Would you ever ask, "who is car is parked outside my house?" I hope not. "Whose" is possessive. If you're asking whom something belongs to, use that one.


4. General Words/Phrases That People Mess Up Or Don't Actually Exist

Finally, here are some words and phrases that people get wrong all the time or that have just been made up along the way: First, the word "nother." It looks odd written out like that—that's because it's not a real word. People use it in the phrase, "a whole nother," as in, "there's no way I can sit through a whole nother class today. I have to get to BTC." It's not a word. You probably mean, "another whole class." Another common mistake is when people substitute, "for all intents and purposes," (correct) with, "for all intensive purposes," (incorrect). No matter how intensive your purposes may be, that's not how the phrase goes. Finally, people tend to say they don't feel well when they're sick. In this context, "well" is an adverb. If you don't feel well, that means your nerves don't work properly, and you can't tell when you're touching something with your hands. If you're under the weather, you don't feel good, which is an adjective.

Most people don't care about grammar that much, which is fine. But if you're in an interview or writing a cover letter, it's probably best to proofread and avoid making dumb, preventable errors.

Cover Image Credit:

https://www.pexels.com/photo/bookcase-books-bookshop-bookstore-220326/

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