I'm Taking Summer Classes, And Honestly? Not Mad About It

I'm Taking Summer Classes, And Honestly? Not Mad About It

Staying in school through the summer has allowed me to graduate an entire year early, even transferring universities.
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Ahhh, that lovely summer break of one week. Yes, that's right... one week. I had a one week break because I'm doing this thing called "taking summer classes." And, honestly, I'm not even mad about it.

Staying in school through the summer has allowed me to graduate an entire year early, even transferring universities. It also has allowed me to get some general education classes or other graduation requirements done in a shorter amount of time.

Don't love the fact that you have to take a math class? Get it done in six to eight weeks instead of 16! Doesn't that sound great?

Summer is also a great time to take "that class." You know, the one in your major that has a reputation of being the hardest class in the history of hard classes. By taking it in the summer, you can focus completely on that class, which allows you the freedom to really invest what it takes to get an A!

It also keeps me focused because I'm constantly studying. For some, this may sound exhausting, but isn't it more exhausting when you have to get back into a routine every fall semester after months off and away from studying?

Campus is also quieter, so I'm able to study easier and get my work done in a much more timely manner when I don't hear people screaming every other second down the hallway.

I'm not spending my summer this way because I failed a course or fell behind, I'm spending my summer this way because I want to. Classes are smaller, you can get ahead, campus is quieter and the overall experience is just better.

Summer sessions often allow for a lot of online class selections as well so in some cases, you can even go home for the summer still, live your life, intern, work, go on vacation etc--all while earning credits!

Taking summer classes isn't really that bad. Sure, I may have only had a week-long summer break, but I also get to save an entire year's tuition.

Cover Image Credit: Katie Bottino

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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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Being A Preceptor Was The Most Rewarding Experience

"Students would come to the review sessions nervous and confused, then would leave thankful and confident"
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Over the course of the semester, I was a preceptor for statistics and it has been an absolutely priceless experience.

I have had the ability to help students feel more confident and succeed in this course in ways they didn't think they could and reach out to students in ways I didn't think I could.

This past semester in this course consisted on me hosting office hours three times a week where students would stop in to see me about questions on the homework they needed help on or for one-on-one clarifications to concepts and lessons taught in class. Beginning this experience all we wanted was for the students to grasp an understanding of this course, hopefully, take an interest and relate it to other areas in their lives.

I want to say that we have successfully given this class the knowledge and skills needed to know to thrive in this course.

One very valuable thing I learned was how to teach students in various ways. Some students needed me to draw more diagrams and charts in order for them to understand the lessons while others needed to hear examples where they could plug the numbers in and understand where this would be applied in real life.

Sometimes it was a struggle meeting with new students and trying to figure out what the best way was to explain the information that they needed help with. After a week or so of working with students, I was able to adapt to different learning styles and personalities and teach them what they needed to learn.

I thought that would be a challenge during this semester and I am happy to say I overcame it fast during this experience.

I would never have thought I would learn so much from helping these students and it truly was a very rewarding experience when students would come to the review sessions nervous and confused, then would leave thankful and confident for their next exam.

After being a preceptor, I realize that I truly do have a passion for helping students succeed and understand given materials in classes.

I am thankful to have had this opportunity of being a peer mentor also being able to provide students with my own knowledge from taking the course and relating to them student to student.

Cover Image Credit: Talkpoint

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