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Polina Malakhova's picture

Survive exams and plan your break

While everyone is worried about first semester finals, I'm worried... about winter break!

Discussing your problems, finals, exams, assignments and concentrating on studies is surely fun, but the best anti-atress is planning your holidays. Believe me. But I perfectly get it that most of us are broke college students with a very limited budget. And little time to plan it because of exams. That's all understandable. Here are some hints how to manage to do everything and both increase your productivity during finals and get away for the break.

Part 1: hints for studying

1. Set a timer for every 40 min of studying, get up from your place, stretch your body, jump 30-40 times and just take a 5min break. Your body needs it! Blood will sirculate more actively through your body and brain, muscles won't get sore, your eyes will take a break from computer and papers. 
2. Remember to stay hydrated and allow some fresh air to fill the space you're studying in - this won't let you feel sleepy.
3. Everyone around invites you to study groups, I guess. But some people do better on their own - decide which type of studying is more comfortable for you. If you are easily distracted by social networks, people, food and everything except textbooks - keep it all away and answer all messages during your 5min break. 
4. Study in a well-lit place. Dark places stimulate our brain to produce sleeping hormones - definitely not something you want when you study.
5. Don't drink too much coffee. I am a coffee lover myself, but big amounts of coffee deplete organism sources by constantly stimulating brain. Switch to fresh juices and cold water.
6. Got stuck with some topic? Search YouTube educational videos for it. People usually get the material better with both visual and audio parts and there are many channels that explain material really well. Sometimes even better than professors (no offense). Personally, I additionally studied my 1,5 year math course online and did better than most students from my class.

Part 2: hints for traveling

Winter break is a great time to travel somewhere and relax after first semester. Even with a very little budget it's a realistic thing to do.

1. Decide whether you would like to go somewhere hot, warm or cold and if you want to do sightseeing, hiking and so on or you'd rather do nothing except laying on a beach. Make it interesting and combine some cities in one trip as well. (Consider the weather, though)
2. Best time to buy airplane tickets for winter break dates - up to mid-November. Last really great deals you can find on black friday.
3. Don't take too many things. If you can fit everything in a backpack - perfect. Personally, I'm going to travel for 3 weeks and I can fit all I need in a backpack. Girls, i understand it's hard - but believe me, it gets much easier to take only what you REALLY need. Underwear, couple of t-shirts, couple of jeans, hoodie/sweatshirt, toiletries in small packages (up to 100ml each for carry-ons) and your phone/camera with a charger. DO NOT take heels, skirts, dresses, tons of make up, etc. for traveling. Useless.
4. If you can go by bus/car between cities - do it. For example, Boston-NY is only a 3hr drive, so it's much cheaper to use ground transportation than plane.
5. Don't travel alone if possible. Especially if you are a foreigner. It's just much nicer to have someoone to chat with, share emotions and so on. Ask your friends! And friends of friends, too.
6. Search for couchserfing - great way to find out about cities, their history, best places and everything else from locals. And save lots of money on housing. Never consider it as just a free stay option, though. People want to listen to your story, they want you to teach them something - from your mom's cake recipe to another language. Stay open-minded and kind, appreciate what people do for you and show it. Bring some small souvenir from your town or make dinner for everyone in the host's house.
7. Cook yourself. It's much cheaper to buy granola, yoghurt and fruits in a supermarket for your breakfast (it would be enough for several days) rather than buying the same mixed up for you every morning in Starbucks, for example.
8. Go by foot. If weather is nice - take a walk around the city, visit parks, sightseeing places without taking bus/car/light rail. You would be able to see much more and feel the spirit of the city, not of people around you in transport or traffic.
9. Search for museums, sightseeing and etc tickets online. Scroll through coupon websites and everything else. Sometimes there are free admissioin dates, discounts for students and great deals.

Just for example: this winter break I'm going to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle for 3 weeks. All flights from Minneapolis through these cities and back to Minneapolis took... $250 from my budget. In LA, SF, Seattle we found hosts ready to welcome us (3 girls). In Las Vegas we wanted to live near strip, so booked a hotel within 5-10min walk from Bellagio. Price? $55 per person for all 5 nights of stay. Hotel, yes. Near Strip, yes. The price is for all nights together. 

Need websites and help in planning? Ask me! But basically it's just about searching online for deals and comparing prices carefully.

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Good luck with exams and happy holidays!

PS: The picture above is Millenium Park in Chicago! One of the destinations close to Minneapolis.