Making the Most of Your First Year of College

Now that the first semester is halfway over and I am ~finally~ settled in at Rutgers, here are some helpful tips that I have learned throughout the past two months.

1. Focus, focus, focus. I have heard countless times that time management is so crucial in college, and boy is it true. College classes are so much different from high school and they take a lot more effort and hard work, but if you focus and put in the time for your classes it will absolutely pay off. As fun as going out every night may seem, focusing on your classes is so much more important and will be worth it in the long run.

2. Join clubs. This is something that I did not take advantage of as much as I should have in the first few weeks of school. Definitely go out to the involvement fair on College Ave which will be one of the first few days of school and sign up for anything that interests you. Being involved on campus is a huge resume builder.

3. Have fun. While it is crucial to focus on your academics, it is most important that you make the most out of your four years (or more) at this school. This includes going out and making new friends and having a blast with them. Whether you are getting a bite to eat at one of the fabulous restaurants on Easton Ave, studying, or going out at night, it always is so much fun to be with people who share the same interests as you and that you can have a good time with.

4. Think about your future plans. This can be super scary for many people, and trust me I have no idea what exactly I want to do with my life yet. But it is important to really think about it and talk to advisors and the lovely people at career services to help you out. You don’t want to be stuck at the end of sophomore year with absolutely no idea what you want to major in. So, take classes and join clubs that interest you and I have no doubt that everything will fall into place!

FIGS: First Year Interest Groups

So taking a break from the dining halls, I would like to talk a little bit about Figs: First Year Interest Groups, here at Rutgers University.  Figs are one credit courses that provide a focus in a specific subject or career area.  For example, my Figs is Exploring Business.  This class focuses on exploring the different business options here at Rutgers and in the world in general.  You do not have to be a business major or in the business school to take this class, but it gives students who are not sure about what they want to do the chance to explore a little more in depth about a subject before they actually take a full class in that area.  It is also beneficial for students planning on majoring in that area to take a Figs in order to learn more about the opportunities offered to them in that major here at Rutgers.

There are Figs available for many different subject areas, such as journalism, mathematics, political science, etc.  The great thing about them is that they only run for about 10 weeks and they are pass or fail.  Also, the class focuses greatly on freshman success (they are only open to freshman).  All of the Figs have a common core curriculum that students have to follow regardless of what Figs they are in.  Of course, there will be different assignments here and there, but all students are required to complete a RIOT Tutorial which instructs students on how to use library and research resources here on campus.  All students are also required to write an event reflection paper based on the Figs subject that they are in.

Some classes throughout the semester focus on involvement at Rutgers, others on how to plan your schedule, and others on how to register for classes.  This gives freshmen the knowledge they need to succeed, and if you do not take a Figs it may be a while before you learn some of the information taught in one.

I highly recommend that every freshman take a Figs in a subject area that they are interested in but are not thinking about studying because it may change your mind  about what you want to study or make you realize something about yourself and your talents that you did not know before!

How to Buy Textbooks at Rutgers (Economically)

As an incoming freshman one of the most daunting and frustrating tasks entering the academic year was purchasing my own books. Previously, I’ve been guided by my school system as to which books were required or simply given the books directly by the school to be returned at the end of the year.

Now, after a plethora of mistakes I hope I can shed some light on how to get the right books without emptying out your wallet!

  1. Get your courses picked quickly. The first hurdle to getting your books is setting your schedule before all the textbooks fly off the shelves. Not a tremendous task, but waiting for special permission numbers or switching sections eats up valuable time.
  2. Use Barnes and Noble’s online Rutgers tools to SEE which books to buy. I emphasize see because please do not buy books from Barnes and Noble unless its the last resort – I’m not an econ major, but I’m convinced that 99.99% of Barnes and Noble’s profit is from freshman buying their textbooks because incoming students don’t know any better. ***However, their online tool for searching which books your class requires is outstanding. You can search 5+ class sections at Rutgers in their database and the website will tell you which books your professors  want. It’s been reliable for me and every suggestion has been accurate.
  3. Now, record the specific textbook editions from Barnes and Noble and bring them to your professors to check if this is what they require. You might consider this step additional, but hey, better safe than sorry. Verifying your books now will save you from shipping books back and getting new ones – this is a hassle if you’re extraordinarily bad at using the Rutgers mail service (me).
  4. Order your books from Amazon if possible. Now that you know exactly which books you need – buy them here! This is the best case scenario because every student is eligible for Amazon’s 6-month free Prime trial which gives you FREE two day shipping. Believe me, that is convenience at its finest. Additionally, purchasing books on Amazon gives you a wide range of options that will often include the lowest prices for books.
  5. Stay away from renting books from Amazon. Unless you have done this before, I wouldn’t advise it. Unfortunately I have heard too many stories of people unable to return their books and having to pay if it is not sent back on time. Used books have been sufficient so far, don’t stress if you don’t want to rent or pay in full.
  6. Look around! Better deals could be out there online, but traditionally Barnes and Noble is on the expensive side and Amazon is more economic.
  7.  Ask upperclassmen about which books you will actually use. There’s no one who can tell you how useful a textbook will be except a previous student. Get advice from upperclassmen on whether you really need certain books and this will save you a hefty amount of money. (Still regretting buying my $260 physics textbook, hopefully I will get some mileage out of it next semester).

Devin Lorusso: Freshman in the Engineering Program. devinlorusso@gmail.com

The Rutgerian Chronicles – Easing through the Midterm Waves

Being an International Transfer, I have experienced both the Indian education and US education system of higher studies closely. I would say not only the course structure and the workload is more dynamic in US system but also the Midterm exam is a salient grading criteria of this system. The challenging part is that the courses you are taking are independent of each other, i.e., your Midterm schedule can be scattered over a several weeks or concentrated over a span of few days, unpredictable as the sea waves

 I feel that the best way to deal with it is to study “regularly”. I know it sounds kind of difficult to do but to put in simple terms, if you are doing your homework, assignments and have knowledge what is going in class, you would be half done with your preparation. Secondly the weekends,I know it is as if I am asking for your treasure chest, but atleast couple of hours would help you to a great extent in preparing for the Midterm that is coming up the following week. Thirdly, most of the professor want you to focus on the materials provided during the course. For example, the engineering dynamics course book has atleast 25 problems in each section but our professor explicitly mentioned that do only those problems that was given to us in notes. So freshman and transfers, please take care of that and to add on attend office hours before your tests as it helps a lot. I would also recommend students to use the tutoring services provided by the university. Lastly, the key to do good in Midterms, or even the Finals, is self-confidence and scheduling. Instead of getting hyped up at last minute or on receiving email about the test weeks before, start planning asap, instead of panicking. 

So after the first wave of Midterms, not an easy one for me, I opted for “personal check”practices. It’s simple but effective. Start by analyzing your performance, figuring out your strengths and weaknesses, looking for areas where you could improve, changing the way you approach the subjects and choosing courses you need to work more harder on. Even if you haven’t done well, it’s fine. It’s the first milestone of a long journey as a Scarlet Knight. Hence, it’s a great thing if you figure out that you haven’t done well because that’s when you start to improve.Remember the words quoted by Robin Sharma “Setbacks are the most important learning curves of your life”. 

Have a Safe RU Halloween!

Halloween is a national and cultural tradition, candy-filled and fun-themed, celebrated by young children trick-or-treating for candy – and yes, for young adults as well. In college, the act of trick-or-treating is not parallel (in practice) to that of young children. Children leave the house at a specific time, and depending on their ages, they may be accompanied by a parent or guardian. In any case, there is a limit of time in which children are to be out. As they knock on doors for sweet gifts in the dark, their eyes must pay some attention to the hour – as home usually calls for them around 11:00 p.m. or midnight.

As for college or university students, the parental or guardian-driven restrictions disappear. University students, with less probable concentration on time, walk around campus until late night or early morning. This may be a particularly fun night for freshmen – for it is their first time celebrating Halloween in dorms or apartments – and therefore, it is crucial to stay safe, stay surrounded, and enjoy a safe (first, second, or third) Rutgers’ Halloween. Here are some tips of caution and security for those planning to go into costume on campus tonight:

1. If possible, stay in a group of three or more.

Two is better than one – but three is safer than two! Always remain physically close to friends and acquaintances that you may plan to trick-or-treat with. Walk within reach of one another especially in dark areas – and at best, stay close to streetlights, lampposts, and bus stops (remaining in a group).

2. Carry a flashlight.

 As silly as this may initially appear (why do I need a flashlight when I am not leaving my dorm housing/when I am certain I will stay in lighted areas?), you never know what to expect on October’s annual night of notorious mischief. A small flashlight – one that can fit in your trick-or-treating bag or costume’s pocket – will work for the night’s event. In the circumstance that you and your friends are lost, or in the event that you may be afraid of a dark area, a handy flashlight will provide a sense of comfort and sight in an unexpected condition.

3. Know your means of transportation.

This may be implied in the planning of this evening’s events, but it creates no harm to make mention of its importance. Know where you and your group will be going tonight (what campuses/streets/buildings?) and how you will be returning home. Before going out, review the RU bus schedules. Research which avenues or streets are safest during specific hours of the night. Most importantly, know who may be able to take you home in a vehicle or walk you back to your dorm/apartment/parking lot. If it is avoidable, do not go home alone, especially past midnight.

4. Leave valuables at home if you only plan to trick-or-treat door to door.

Wallets, car keys, identification cards, credit or debits cards – keep them guarded from becoming lost, dropped, or left in the street by locking them away at home. Unless you plan on going out (to a location where you may need money), it is best to keep these types of personal belongings in a drawer or safe. The only valuables you will need tonight are: your costume; a trick-or-treating bag; a couple of your friends or more; and a positive mood to adventure on through the night.

5. Go home at a reasonable hour. Binge on candy. And yes (if you choose to indulge in your sweets), the morning regret of a sugar-overload is integral to October 31st’s festive fun.

 If you have morning classes, you will certainly want to be home before or a little after midnight. Of course, this self-restraint may seem ruinous to the fun – but you will be grateful with saved energy for studies and responsibilities in the morning. In any case, or in any choice you make, feel free to binge on classic candies and unwrapped chocolates before bed. Yes, this may stimulate a morning headache or stomachache – but this celebratory spooky night happens only once per year. Therefore, why not make the most of it by indulging in sugary sweets with friends? Of course, this is optional (especially if you have personal health plans or goals for the month), but note that the presence of Halloween reminds us of our liberating youths: youths without the weight of adult responsibilities, strapped over our two shoulders, in the form of a backpack.

Explore the night and enjoy it. But be cautious: stay with friends; stay out of shadows; know where and how you will be transporting place-to-place; do not bring or lose personal valuables; and most importantly, enjoy your candy and sleep at a rational hour (according to your own Tuesday schedule). But for tonight, be a kid again.

 Happy Halloween!

Figuring Out How to Schedule

So scheduling is just beginning to start and like many other freshmen, I am very intimidated. In middle and high school, and on APA Day someone else has done my schedule, so I have literally never done this before. On top of that there are many different websites to go to.  There is Degree Navigator, Online Schedule of classes and webreg and all that. On top of that I have to figure out how to fit all the classes that I want to take in four years and figure out how to fit the max number of classes in the allotted number of credits. On top of that I have to figure out how to fulfill credits for the SAS core (I’m in the SAS Honors Program).

Even though I’m a newbie, this is what I have to say.

  1. Make a list of all the classes you want in order of preference. Keep in mind the course number and section. Chances are that you are  not going to get every single class on your list but you will get classes that you are interested in. And on the day of registration, you don’t want to have to waste time searching up classes to fill up your schedule.
  2. Check out Degree Navigator. This gives you a list of requirements that you need to fulfill to graduate either from a certain major or a certain school. So for me, I am enrolled to two different programs: Undeclared, and SAS Core. Obviously its different for everyone but this tells me what requirements I have fulfilled and I have yet to fulfill.
  3. Check out the Online Schedule of Classes before hand. Just to make sure where and when each class is offered.
  4. Be open to all the possibilities. Luckily for me I have 3 1/2 more years before I graduate, so I am going to try my best to take classes that I normally wouldn’t like religion or philosophy.
  5. WebReg Be sure to go on Web Reg on the final day.

Good luck to everyone and hopefully you get the classes that you will actually enjoy.

Neilson Dining Hall

Alright! So a lot of people say that the Livingston Dining Hall is the best, but Neilson is always close in the competition.  At Neilson, you can expect to have best fresh food.  Also, the variety is amazing!  An awesome option for anyone looking to switch things up are the pre-made tiny subs.

As soon as you walk into the buffet area, on your left you will see different selection of hot foods that are usually suitable for dinner, such as salmon, marinated chicken, rice, mashed potatoes, etc.  As you continue down the line, you will see the wok section, although it does not compare to the LDC wok section. The back of the buffet section features sushi and tiny subs. In the middle of the buffet section is the salad bar which features a great assortment of dressings.  On the right of the buffet section is the pizza station and ice cream station.

The ice cream station at this dining hall does not disappoint.  On Wednesdays you can even make your own sundaes!  This feature is a big hit here and many students come just for this on Wednesdays.

The only downside to this dining hall would be the fact that it is not as large as the LDC, but it is definitely worth the trip!

I hope you all enjoy the photo of my typical plate at the Neilson Dining Hall!neilson

RU Biking?

We all know that image: the deafening sound of a ringing alarm, sun barely above the horizon and our own bed warmer than ever, subconsciously calling Stay with me!” . It is so hard just to get up, especially when the upcoming day seems like it’s going to be unbearably long and challenging; so much work to do, so many classes to attendso much rush in the crowded buses in order to get to the destination. But waitthere is a solution.

Ive discovered Rutgers bikes when I was thinking about an alternative way of getting to my rowing practice. 

The boathouse is not that far away from my dorm, there are two bus routes (F and EE) and just two stops on that way. Seems to be very convenient, doesnt it? Unfortunately, getting on the bus which sometimes is delayed, then driving in traffic and eventually walking from the bus stop to the final destination may take way more time than previously expected. 

I dont want to complain about the efficiency of Rutgers buses, because this system, regardless of a lot of imperfections, in my opinion does the job well. Obviously, some things like routes and weekend hours of operation may be improved, but objectively discussing pros and flaws of Rutgers Bus system could be enough material for a new article. Rather than that, I will focus on a positive solution found accidentally, that turned out to be a great idea.

Bikes seem to be a quite popular use of transport, but in fact it is rare that more than a few people in a dorm use them. Potential reasons for this situation may be few: bicycle theft occurs quite often in the New Brunswick area, obtaining it is an additional expense, and that driving it requires a physical activity. And its all true — getting a bike definitely may be a hard time for the wallet, while renting it from the Rutgers program — not necessarily. For the price of $10 per month or $25 per semester (!), we can get this vehicle for the entire semester, fully equipped (altogether with an Ulock, a helmet, lights, bike, etc).

From the first time I rode it, I was very satisfied. It actually made my trip to the Boathouse 4 times shorter — 12 minutes instead of around 50 in worst case! From that day biking became an inevitable part of my every day.

 

Map of Busch Bicycle Lanes. More maps available at bikes.rutgers.edu

 

People++

When I moved to this country, the many differences that were striking right away were not only connected to the people-, but also tech-related. In fact, coming to the US was followed by a number of thoughts about computers and their everyday usage. Living here is much more technologically based, which, I believe, makes life a lot easier and more convenient. However, will the current state of human control over automatic innovations remain unchanged? Is it possible for people to keep control of the world over the next hundreds of years? Are we able to maintain the balance between using technology and thinking independently? It seems that the answer to each of these questions is not quite.

Computer Science allows us not to worry much about a lot of services on campus. Paying automatically for the laundry (of course, if we have enough money), counting how many meals are left in the dining hall or opening the correct lock at the post office when we receive mail  everything just because of one swipe of our RU ID card. Those examples are only taken from the Rutgers community, but potential of Information Technology reaches so far further than New Brunswick area, and I’m sure everyone is aware of that. Online banking, tools like Spotify, social applications such as Facebook, Skype and video calls and maaaaaaany more… all of them are possible now but they are things that people 50 years ago would have never dreamed of, or, at least consider improbable in their near future. My grandmothers’ prediction was that in 100 years people would see each other over the hills and far away. It became a fact just after 30.

Progress of Computer Science is a thing that we are not, and never will, be able to stop. This fact is both fascinating and slightly terrifying. Recently Ive read a couple of articles about Artificial Intelligence and its evolution. Its interesting that starting from the middle of the XXth century, with every year we are getting closer to loosing our most intelligent species on the planet” status in favour of computers. Yesterday (around 3 decades ago) first cellphones, so different from the ones we are used to now, started to become popular. Today our life is more computerised that we even know, and machines are much more smarter” (how can this word characterise something that isnt human!) than we think. The case with Russian chess-master Garry Kasparov, who lost a game to a computer is well known, but how many of you were conscious that in March this year, one of the nominees to a Japanese literature prize was a book co-written by a robot — “Konpyuta ga shosetsu wo kaku hi? Humans still have control over the intelligence of machines, but scientists estimate that around year 2030 their intelligence will become indistinguishable from the one that people have. Progress in computer science field tends to be more and more faster, and the question is … what will happen tomorrow?

What is striking to me, after becoming interested in Artificial Intelligence, is the importance of performing some actions on our own. It is incredibly easy to allow all the applications that we have downloaded to do our job. Automatic reminders will never let us down and forget about the vaccination that we have to register for, PhotoMath will calculate mathematical equations, calendar suggestions will tell us when is it the best time to do something and how we should do it.

There is nothing wrong with using these tools. What worries me, however, is the gradual lowering of the human participation level in performing even the very simple tasks. My Math teacher from high school would go crazy if she had seen someone older than seven years of age using a calculator to obtain 49 x 4. Again, the problem is not that we use the tools that we have handy to make our lives simpler. My point is about the dangerous over-reliance on the technology.

I believe than with making life more and more automatised, humanity reaches the point of no return. Both in terms of brain supremacy — because eventually robots will become more intelligent — but also mentally: our trust in computers becomes so big, that we do not even consider the accuracy of what we see on our screens. Im far from entertaining visions known from Science-Fiction movies, such as robots taking control over the world and trapping people in prison. Im only saying that we are so used to the correctness of what the computers provide us with, that there is no will to think if it really is like that. Automatic acceptance of the accuracy of what we see may weaken the diligence and skill of reasoning. Technological progress may result in a regression in independent, critical thinking.

What makes me wonder is also how can we use our brain to work efficiently on a very complex task, if we are not willing to complete the simplest ones — such as multiplication. Will this case the same as with Maslow pyramid? Can we perform tasks requiring very advanced brain usage without doing the ones that are way simpler?

One of many USACS meetings.

Fortunately, at Rutgers, most people do not have a problem with overusing technology. Im trying to take advantage of the most of the Computer Science possibilities here -because thats the discipline I want to major in – and meet a lot of awesome people who help me to do so. Apart from my class, I also attend the biggest CS club — called USACS” — and the events that they organise, such as hackaton Hack RU. Im very happy to have a possibility to learn about a range of topics, from Databases to Github usage and programming applications. My long term-goal is to do research in Artificial Intelligence and have an impact in developing this branch of science.

I leave all those questions without an answer just to make you think, and hope that my thoughts were not too disturbing or depressing. Im a very huge fan of technology with all its uses, as well as concepts such as Sharing Economy and the Internet of Things. I only believe that in the era where everything becomes consistently more and more automatic and requires less and less human participation, its worth it to sometimes stop for a while and think.

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