Thursday, 22 November 2012

How to Choose Classes

My name is Kay Hwa. I go by Caroline in the States and to some folks back home too. I’m currently a junior at NYU studying Economics and Comparative Literature and would like to share some tips on finding classes to take.

There are many things to consider when taking up new classes for the semester. Here are a few I constantly have to ask myself:

1) What is the class about? Is the subject matter interesting to me/is it intellectually stimulating?
2) Is the professor good at teaching? 
3) How hard is the class? Is the workload heavy? Might this negatively affect my GPA?
4) Will I learn anything practical/technical?
5) Does this fit into my schedule?

Since you get so much freedom to pick and choose your classes AND professors, one needs to be extra careful because a good or bad professor might make a huge difference in your perception of the subject matter. At the same time you might learn a lot from the class but maybe his past students have mentioned that it is a hard class to get an A in. On the contrary, you might be looking for something to boost your GPA this semester so you might look into something fun and has a relatively lighter workload. Also, some classes like “Intro to Programming” will be more practical to put on your resume than a class like “Renaissance Art” for example. However, you might be very interested in Art History in general, so you may opt to take a class some time down the road if not right now (I did). Lastly, since you are making your own schedule, YOU need to decide what kind of a schedule fits your lifestyle the best. For example, maybe you are not a morning person and hate 9am classes, so opt for afternoon classes instead then! Or perhaps you want to pursue on-campus jobs/internships while studying, so you want to keep 1 or 2 of your days free for that. 

Making all these decisions can be very time-consuming and frustrating at times, however I personally enjoy doing the research because frankly it's fun to have total control over how you want the next few months of your life to be like!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

~ Roommie Issue ~

"After any busy day which is full of classes and assignments, any college student will be longing for his or her bed in the dormitory or apartment. But, as we step back to our room, hoping to get some rest, we often smell some awful stench from the "rotten" pizza of your roommate, or find some dirty clothes all over the floor or even some sticky used condoms lying randomly on his or her side of the room, or something which does not help to make the room comfortable."

Are you familiar with the scenario above? Well, if you don't, congratulations! You are either one of the lucky few ones who gets a single or your roommate is/becomes your good friend, or you are the one who is responsible for the mess (if you are in this case, congratulate to yourself that you are reading this). If you do, let me share a few quick tips that would help you to overcome this roommie issue.

Besides the scenario that I made up above, there are also other issues that you might encounter with your roommate. For examples, you roommate could be:
- a smoker, smoking in the room is normal
- a party-er, college life = party all night everyday
- a drinker, alcohol seems to be their water
- a gamer, play computer games/ video games all night
- a parasite, constantly use your stuff and eat your food
- and etc ~

Regardless of whoever they are, first, you gotta get to know about them as soon as possible. Share with them about your lifestyle and ask about their's too! Set up some simple room rules so that neither' s lifestyle would be affected. If necessary, write down the rules and have both of you (or more if more than 2 staying with you) sign the Roommate Rules contract and put it at the front door or any obvious spot in the room/house.

This might sound like a cliche but effective communication is the best solution to whatever problems you might have with your roommate. You have to voice up your concerns no matter what, silence is gold but silence is useless if you are just keeping everything to yourself. Constantly exchanging ideas with your roommate is a good way to express your opinion/perspective about a certain thing, at the same time, understand what your roommate feels about it.

Sometimes, the issue might rise up due to culture shock. Even though we, Malaysians, normally fit in pretty well with the Americans, we might as well miss the lifestyle we have back in Malaysia. Perhaps, it might also just be a "independence shock" as we have to be, in one way or another, independent in taking care of ourselves. Thus, before you even start to discuss about your room with your roommate, it is important for you to be responsible of your own mess, if you have them.

The last but not least, patience is definitely the key for every single one of us to communicate with our roommate and sometimes we might need to consider accepting some of his/her bad habits, which do not necessarily affect your college life. Don't sweat the small stuff if it does not hurt you in a significant way. just let it go. Living with another person is tough but this could be your chance to loosen up yourself. However, if your roommate does not care about communicating with you about the welfare of each other in the room/house, contact your residential assistant/senior resident to help solving the issue. Well, if all above fails, I guess it is time for you to contact your Director of Campus Housing (or some other similar title) to either change your room or your roommate's.

Okie, time's up for all this same old same advice. Feel free to post any particular questions you might have in the comments section. I might not be the best candidate to help you but I am sure the other authors of this blog would not hesitate to give some useful suggestions that might be your solution.

Guan Tyng, Tan
Class of 2014
St. John's College

Friday, 23 September 2011

Arrival in the Land of Freedom...

Greetings from New Hampshire - The Granite State!

My name is Shu Wen. I was born and raised in Borneo in a little town called Bintulu before heading off to college in the US. I am currently a junior (whew, time flies!) at Colby-Sawyer College, a small liberal arts college in central New Hampshire that’s about one and a half hours away from Boston.

I remembered back then, prior to my departure from Kuala Lumpur, I had braced myself for the irksome admission process into the US. Passport. Checked. F-1 student visa. Checked. I-20 form. Checked. I-94 form. Checked. Custom declaration form. Checked. The immigration offer gained me an easy entry after inspecting all my documents and asking about my intention of coming to the US.

Suzanna and Megan were waving frantically at me when I stepped down from Dartmouth Coach. I stood aghast on the spot. They gave me an affectionate hug. I was astonished by the warm hospitality I received the moment I stepped onto the land of freedom. “Is it winter still?” I blurted out a silly question and they burst into laughter. I threw on layers and layers of clothing everyday during my first week in New London. I could never get used to the cold weather here.

New London Sweeping View
A view of New London, New Hampshire, where Colby-Sawyer College is located (Creative commons photo by Flickr user Bev Norton)

I'd always known that I never wanted to live in a small town for the rest of my life so I took a gamble and crossed the Pacific Ocean to the foreign land that I had always wanted to be a part of. I was amused as Colby-Sawyer College is beyond my expectations. The college is just like a big aquarium with fishes of various types and colors. It was an amazing experience to make friends with people from other countries throughout the world. A small United Nations, I would say, is developing in the college. We spoke our languages and shared interesting facts about our countries. Occasionally, we cracked up when we couldn’t pronounce other languages properly.

Indeed, New London is a tranquil and serene countryside place. The tour around the town area was an eye-opening experience for me. This was my first time holding maple leaves in my hands, to a farm with beautiful barns, hearing the chimes of the church bells, tasting apple and cinnamon, and seeing the trees changing colors gradually. I was overwhelmed by the stunning sceneries and the great sight here.

But frankly, I didn’t relish the regular student orientation. I had a few bumps to befriend the local students as they just mingled among themselves. I was hesitating to start a conversation with them because bashfulness tends to be one of the characteristics of Asian people. However, with time I polished my English speaking skills and regained confidence to blend in the community.

Now as a junior, I become a tour guide, as well as the “Peer Academic Consultant” (isn’t that such a cool title? I feel so important!). That’s really just a fancy way of saying that I’m a teaching assistant. I also get to act as a "Senator", meaning I’m learning all the ins and outs of the student government. I mention all this (whew!) to show the flexibility in the kinds of opportunities a small liberal arts college could provide.

Perhaps that's enough of that for the moment. Even I am getting sick of myself!

All good things,

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

More on Textbooks...

Be sure you have the same edition of the textbook if you are buying it...even if the title of the book and the author(s) are the same, if you have a wrong edition, you may find yourself lost...the page numbers or even the content may be different!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Get Ready: Textbooks

Hello there! :)

A new semester is about to start really soon! Have you got your copy of textbook?

Before making a purchase, you should check with your professor if:

1. You can use an older edition (because it is usually cheaper)
2. You really have to buy the textbook (because some textbooks are compulsory, some are not; because some textbooks are on the reserve in the library, and you can certainly make use of it)

Before buying that textbook, compare the prices from your university bookstore with other online sellers.

Great sites to get textbooks:

You need to sign up for the Amazon Prime ( because it's free, it gives you free two-day shipping, and it's for a year.



*** Always check for the shipping rate and the shipping date. Some books from used-book sellers take 1-2 weeks to reach you.***

Of course, you can choose to rent your textbooks, get used ones from your friends, or buy the kindle version. At the end of the semester, you can choose to sell back your copy to the university bookstore, other bookstores, or Amazon. If your friend wants it, that's even better! (saves shipping fee) Anyway, the university bookstore and nearby bookstores pay pretty low for the textbooks. You should check with a few buyers before you sell it off.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Packing Your Bags

Have you ever arrived at the airport to check in your bags only to find out your bags were overweight? Overweight baggage is expensive!  To avoid this:
1. Take note of the luggage allowance details provided by the travel agent or by the airlines you are taking.
2. If you have a weighing scale in your house, step on the scale and record your own weight.  Then hold your bag and step on the scale again and record the weight again.  Minus the difference and you will have a more accurate weight for your bag.  If you put the bag only on the scale, you may not get an accurate weight.

What about locking your check-in bags?
Use locks that are approved by Transport Security Administration (TSA).  Why?  Read on.

"TSA screens every passenger's baggage before it is placed on an airplane. While our technology allows us to electronically screen bags, there are times when we need to physically inspect a piece of luggage. TSA has worked with several companies to develop locks that can be opened by security officers using universal "master" keys so that the locks may not have to be cut. These locks are available at airports and travel stores nationwide. The packaging on the locks indicates whether they can be opened by TSA.
Not sure where to get a compatible lock? Try these Web sites: and"

At the Airport:
Check your bags in all the way to your campus. 
At your first point of entry into the USA, you will have to collect your bags from Baggage Claim.
Then you will go through Immigration and Customs, and check your bags in again if you have a connecting flight.  This can take some time, so if you have a connecting flight to your campus from your first point of entry into the USA, it is wise to allow about four hours in-between flights.

If you are breaking journey rather than continuing on to your campus on a connecting flight, you can expect to pay around $25 USD for each check-in bag within the USA unless you have lots of travel points or are travelling Business or First Class.