10 Tips for the Best College Experience

After one academic year under my belt at CNU, I feel qualified enough to know how to make the most of my college experience for my next three years. Here are 10 tips I can recommend to any incoming freshman (or all students) at Christopher Newport to have the best possible experience here!

1. Get involved on campus. Join a club or activity that’s challenging to you. Join one that isn’t. Join ones that relate to stuff you’re passionate about! Campus involvement is encouraged for everyone here, and it’ll help you to meet new people and get out of your comfort zone.

2. Have a few favorite study spots! Studying is a major part of college life for all classes, tests and final exams. Make sure you find a few different places where you can concentrate and get the most out of studying. Having a variety means you can switch up where to go if someone steals “your spot,” so you won’t just be stagnant at your desk whenever you do so (unless that’s preferred, of course).

3. Go to all of your classes! This might sound annoying, but most people’s schedules won’t be filled with multiple classes each day like in high school, so there’s no reason to not show up.

4. Be active! This is one of the few times in your life that you’ll live somewhere with a free gym, so take advantage of using the Freeman Center and all of its resources. Personal trainers and group fitness classes are also way cheaper than they’ll be in the future (or over the summer, if you’re especially dedicated) if you choose to take them when you’re an (older) adult, so if you feel so inclined try those out, too.

5. Enjoy the little things. Go to Einstein’s to get a milkshake in the middle of your study session. Spend an afternoon exploring the Noland Trail. Spend some time reading in the Ferguson Center’s secret garden (if you can find it)! College was made for having unique experiences that you can’t have at any other time, and at CNU there are limitless opportunities for those.

6. Don’t miss out on Tender Tuesday or Buffalo Wrap Wednesday. After being here for a couple of months, you’ll understand why this is so important and essential to CNU life. Once any CNU student’s had these, they’re hooked for the entirety of their time here. Try either, and you’ll understand why the lines are so long for them every week.

7. Go to your professor’s office hours. This is something I can’t stress enough. At college, professors see you on a more equal level as people, rather than just students like your teachers probably did in high school. They’re extensive sources of information and are so wise and helpful, so getting to know them outside of the classroom and having real discussions in their office hours can be really beneficial. This semester, I’ve really gotten to have some enlightening discussions with my child development professor during his office hours, which has made the subject much more personable for me. See your professors as people rather than just instructors, and go to their office hours!

8. Get to know new people. This is one of the few times in your life that you’ll be entering any school year with at least 1,000 other people who are all in the same boat as you, without cliques and any stereotypical social constructs. Simply talking to your peers, whether it’s in classes or in your residence hall, really establishes the sense of community here at CNU. Just by engaging in conversations with other students, I’ve gotten to know so many people who I never would have talked to in high school and see them on a more adult level, so I encourage everyone to do that.

9. Enjoy dorm life. Get to know the people on your hall. Go to hall meetings and events. Befriend your roommate; my current one and I are practically best friends! And always ask your RA for advice or help with anything they’re able to, since they’re always willing to be a resource if you need one and are incredibly knowledgeable about dorm life and college life in general.

10. Have a schedule for all of your classes. Being organized in the adult world is no joke, so having an agenda or academic timeline to write all of your activities and assignments in can help you stay on top of your college life. It also helps with being balanced and establishing timely schedules for exam studying!


How to Eat Healthier at CNU

Upon entering Commons or Regattas, students are greeted with the sights of entrees, pasta, pizza and a display of desserts, along with tantalizing smells of various high-calorie foods. The options for where to eat meals and pick up snacks seem endless and overwhelmingly delicious (which they are)! However, the dreaded “freshman 15” (and any weight gain-related stress for any sophomore, junior or senior) hits a lot of freshmen without their knowledge (myself included) and causes immediate worry in terms of how to lose the weight. A little helpful information, I’ve learned this year, can go a long way. With that in mind, here are some tips for on-and off-campus dining that can hopefully help any college student struggling to eat healthier (and not reach for that extra piece of peanut butter pie).

1. Master dining at the dining halls – The Healthy Havens at Regatta’s and Commons have saved me from making so many unhealthy eating choices this year! That isn’t to say that all food at the dining halls is bad for you; it totally isn’t. Just keep in mind to eat foods served more regularly, like pasta, fries and pizza, in moderation. I alternate my lunches and dinners at Regatta’s with turkey burgers or a salad with a soup or panini. Choosing turkey burgers as opposed to regular burgers has been a majorly beneficial decision; they take slightly longer to cook than regular hamburgers, but are a much leaner protein that’s equally delicious. At Commons, I alternate every lunch or dinner with a salad and soup or sandwich, and always eat wraps (with no cheese) at both dining halls whenever they’re being served. This could be a bit complicated and easily tiring for most, but just keep in mind what you’re eating and if there are any adjustments or routines you need to make to improve your eating habits.

2. Get up in the gym and work on your fitness! – The Freeman Center has fitness classes, personal trainers, and even (sometimes) free classes! Almost any type of class from Zumba to yoga is offered here. If you don’t want to work with an entire group and focus on more routine workouts to adjust your physique and stay healthy, set up regular sessions with one of the Center’s various personal trainers!

3. Avoid unhealthy eating habits. First, slowly decrease the amount of junk food that you consume each week (with a normal serving size). Gradually take a day off of eating junk food every week until you’re only eating it two to three times a week. If you seriously can’t live without it, use unhealthier foods as an incentive for something or only limit yourself to eating them on certain days. For example, I’ve used Greek yogurt bars or chips and guacamole as a “reward” for finishing assignments if I’ve been craving them but don’t want to go overboard. More recently, I restricted myself to only eating unhealthily on the weekends this semester, which has been massively beneficial. With my schedule, I usually only have time to go to the gym on weekday mornings or (occasionally) weekend nights; being able to have a junk food excursion on the weekends and go back into a regular routine of exercise and healthier eating for the majority of the week causes me to have more scheduled periods for healthy and unhealthy eating. It also helps me to lose enough weight during weekdays that I know I can’t gain back over one weekend.

4. Drink two cups of water before every meal. You have to gain water to lose water weight! I read an online article about this earlier this winter, and figured I’d at least attempt it to clear up my skin and shed a couple of pounds. However, within a week and a half after rigorously sticking to this routine, I’d lost seven pounds! It can feel tedious at times, but seeing that number on the scale change so much from where it was a week before is amazing; and the fact that it establishes a regular healthy habit doesn’t hurt, either.

5. Replace your snacks with healthy and tasty alternatives. Try switching from eating regular ice cream to low-fat ice cream, fat-free ice cream, or Greek yogurt bars, which are cheaper and healthier than expensive pints you could spend $6 on (which I’ve been prone to do; I’m not perfect). Replace sodas with sparkling waters, fruit-flavored waters, or sports drinks; the first two are sold for extremely cheap prices, and sports drinks (while they might be slightly unhealthy) replenish your body’s electrolytes and are extremely hydrating. You can also try replacing:

-chips and dip with whole-grain tortilla chips and guacamole or salsa

-cookies with cookie thins or fruits like apples, oranges and bananas

-flavored crackers with whole-wheat crackers or un-microwaveable popcorn

-any type of candy with granola bars, dried fruit or snack mixes

8. Eat produce. This is something your parents have probably told you from the day you were born, but try to eat at least one serving of fruits or vegetables at each meal (and no, some lettuce and tomato on top of your cheeseburger don’t count). Fruit is always available at Regattas and Commons, as well as cooked vegetables at lunch and dinner. Each dining hall has a salad bar with plenty of veggie add-ins like cucumbers and peppers, and omelet bars offer add-ins like green peppers, tomatoes and onions (which can be a healthy alternative to omelets that only have bacon and cheese in them).

Spring Break: Reflections

This year, spring break was much more abrupt than last year’s (this is, naturally, an understatement). Maybe it was the fact that it was only a week long and, compared to previous vacations, seemed shorter. It seemed like it had barely begun by the time I left to go back to school, and I’ve already been mildly missing my family, friends, and dog (at least, until these next five weeks conclude and summer vacation starts). With the end of the semester a mere five weeks away and a week full of blissful memories with family, socializing with friends, and taking some genuine time to rest and relax to remember until I return home in April, I figured reflecting back on it would be appropriate,

I’d definitely say spending time with my family was important when I got back. I was able to go out more and spend more time with them. Not having work to do over break meant that I was more present for family dinners, which I hadn’t fully realized I’d missed when I was away (I spent most of my winter break working late shifts at my local mall). I was also able to help out more by doing extra cleaning (which my mom oftentimes didn’t have the time to do, and my siblings didn’t care to) and driving my sisters and brother to and from various social and athletic events, which made my parents’ schedule much less hectic.

Socializing with my friends back home was also important. Simple moments like spending an afternoon at the mall or going out for a quick lunch (which inevitably turn into two-hour-long affairs from catching up) with people I hadn’t seen in-person for a couple months made it all the more memorable and meaningful. I got to go to a dance party at a downtown DC club (where the only music played for three hours was 90’s hip-hop, pop and R&B), get pizza and Asian food at my favorite local restaurants, and give my input on one of my best friends’ senior prom dress options. Those are the types of things that (as great as Newport News is) just wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t at home and were instrumental in having a great break. That, and being able to sleep in on weekdays past the times I normally would’ve had to be up for classes.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of, based on my vacation, what I consider to be necessary do’s and dont’s for CNU students when their next spring break comes around (mostly if you’re staying in your local area, cruises and beachfront vacations aside):


  • Spend time with family
  • Reconnect with friends from home
  • Re-visit local highlights and
  • Help out around the house (if it’s needed)
  • Work, if you’ve secured a job for the week (all college students need money!)


  • Overpack!! You’re only home for a week; pack accordingly
  • Be on your phone all the time. If you’re home with family, be present and with family
  • Not make efforts to connect with friends (they might not know you’re home if you don’t tell them first!)
  • Overdo certain habits. Eat healthy, go to the gym, but maybe not as much if you have time to spend with family
  • Over-book your schedule. This is meant to be a break. Have some down time to spend with those closest to you and with yourself, but don’t do it so much that every day is a scheduling struggle
  • Overload on the homework. It’s okay to do some at home, but it will still exist when you get back to school

For most of us, this is our last chance to be home until spring finals are over and we begin summer break! Don’t waste it and make good memories to get you through the next 7 weeks!

Studying with Music

When you’re studying for an upcoming test or simply doing your homework during a free hour or two between classes, chances are that you’re listening to music. Eight out of ten students I recently asked said they listen to music while doing school-related work. If that’s accurate for the rest of the university, that means roughly 80 percent of the students here listen to music when they study.

In my College 150: The Intentional Learner class, my teacher says that listening to music while doing homework or studying can be distracting. If we are listening to it, she says, it should always be music that’s instrumental or has no legible words to it, as those are usually less distracting than “normal” music with clear vocals. On a logical scale, I would definitely agree with her. However, many of the students that I asked said that having any type of music on, with or without words, was “better than no music at all” and helpful with cancelling more distracting noises. After considering my studying methods, I have to agree with them.

If I’m studying in the library or a quiet part of the Crow’s Nest, I usually don’t have music on. If the silence is extremely deafening and I’m in an extremely easily distractible mindset, I’ll listen to generic Zen music from an Apple-generated playlist.

However, if I’m studying in an area with more people and less noise restrictions, like the Great Lawn (if the weather’s nice) or Einstein’s, “normal” music is a must. I’ll need it to distract from the louder background noise around me, or else I won’t be able to properly focus. In my book, it’s better to have music making noise in the background that doesn’t distract you than noise that does. Listening to music I’ve heard so many times that the words don’t snag my attention are extremely helpful and assist me in getting my work done faster (Britney Spears, Coldplay, and Avril Lavigne are frequently used).

Everyone’s situation differs on your study environment and the work they’re doing, though. If I’m just copying notes I missed from a professor’s PowerPoint in class, I can listen to any type of music in nearly any environment. However, if I’m working on something larger, like an essay or group PowerPoint, I’ll need no music or music with no legible words to help me focus. Again, this type of thing is different for everyone; there are students who need music and those who don’t, as everyone learns differently and one study plan (with or without music) does not fit all.

While studying, I’d advise my fellow students to try listening to music they’ve practically memorized by heart to help drown out background noise and concentrate more. If that’s too much to work with, try listening to instrumental or generic noise music (there are tons of options on most streaming platforms). With midterms behind us and finals looming ahead, it’s important to know what works for you when you’re studying so that you’re not overly distracted and are as proactive as possible. Hopefully this helps.

The Four Keys to Being a Successful Roommate

Having a roommate, especially if it’s your first, can be an intimidating experience. Social media can help to initially connect, but ultimately meeting and getting to know them in-person gives them the strongest impression of you. This is, after all, someone you’ll be sharing your personal space with for eight months; you want to have a healthy relationship with them and be your best self around them! Based on my own experiences and memories, these are the four essential keys that have made me a great roommate and have a great relationship with mine! Hopefully, they’ll help you become the best possible roommate at CNU.

1. Honesty – Honesty is, understandably, the best policy for any situation, but especially with your roommate. Mutual trust is important to have, so make sure that’s established as soon as possible. If some of their behaviors (or yours) are or might cause you to clash, let them know beforehand so any possible problems are ruled out before they start.

2. Communication – Let your roommate know about any boundaries or rules you have or want so you can meet halfway to avoid conflict! Communication is so important, and with so many ways to communicate nowadays (on and off social media) it’s mind-boggling why it’s even a problem for some people at all. If some habit of theirs is bothering you, let them know so you two can work out the problem.

3. Equality – Equality is an essential value for everyone to have, and roommates need to mutually respect each other’s space and time. Be respectful of their personal space, schedule and activities, and they will likely do the same! Share responsibilities like buying room supplies (paper towels, cleaning wipes, air freshener, etc) or cleaning your dorm sink or refrigerator.

4. Support – Finally, be supportive! Encouraging your roommate in their goals and opportunities, be they emotional or career-related, is what a good person would do! Encourage each other to reach your goals, and be there if they need someone to talk to. My roommate and I always encourage each other in our respective activities (boxing and internships, respectively) and it helps us have a more positive relationship. It’s so important to have someone who supports you and feels like they can be open with you about almost anything, so don’t count your roommate out of that.

A Fresh Start

With a new year comes new year’s resolutions. And with no membership I’d be directly paying for and no real reason to not go more often than I did last semester (aside from sleeping in for an extra hour before breakfast or watching Westworld on my roommate’s HBO account), mine has been to regularly go to the gym for an hour, at least four times per week.

“The gym” has always been a delightful area of discussion that I’m quick to avoid discussing (or appearing at). Despite the overwhelming media advocation for healthy lifestyle choices and making friends that are vehemently more “into it” than I (some have even gone for two months straight without taking a day off), I’ve been frequently opposed to going. I think it’s the disposition lots of people have; the disposition that you need the physique of Cristiano Ronaldo or Karlie Kloss to even step foot beyond the rotating metal bars in the front entrance, let alone use one of the machines. However, after realizing that my steady diet of cookie dough and Girls wasn’t getting me anywhere close to my Calvin Harris-esque physique goals, and hearing my roommate’s girlfriend casually remind us multiple times that “swimsuit season” (oh, the horror) was mere months away (and a potential beach trip on the horizon for mid-June), I decided I would go.

Maybe it was because I’d spent too much of my spare time watching Nicole Richie’s Instagram story or reading important journalism (such as charming Buzzed articles like “8 Photos Of Kylie Jenner Realizing The Floor is A Thing”). Maybe it was because I couldn’t gather the motivation to get out of bed, throw on a coordinating shirt and shorts and make the two-minute-long trudge to the Freeman Center. But after going more regularly, I can confidently say that I’m slowly on my way to understanding how the “gym works” (no massive lifestyle changes or mindset change necessary!).

I think the main reason people decide to not go to the gym to exercise is because they feel like everyone is focusing on them. All of the people with perfectly-toned bodies who look like they’ve been lifting weights since they were born can be kind of intimidating, and seem like they’re totally staring you down as they lift and run and stretch longer than you can. And before I began going for longer periods of time and getting more comfortable with going more often, I had the same type of mindset.

Here’s the thing, though: nobody’s focusing on you more than you are! If you’re in the weight room or the dance studio with 14 other people, chances are they really don’t care what you’re doing! Unless they’re a trainer that you’re directly working with, nobody’s focusing on you or trying to improve you. The main point of going to the gym is self-improvement. As in, nobody’s paying attention to how long you’re spending on the elliptical, or how you’re holding your barbells when you lift, or how steep you set the incline on the treadmill. Everyone that’s there is focusing on improving themselves. They aren’t there to monitor you or pay attention to how you’re trying to work on yourself, because they’re really just there to work on themselves! If you’re spending your time at the gym thinking about how other people are judging you for doing what you’re doing or stressing that you don’t have the arms or butt or back of the person across the room from you, you’re wasting your time on nothing; just focus on improving your own techniques and ignore whatever you might think is happening with the other people around you!

As for me, it’ll maybe (definitely) take more time at the gym before I’m fully used to it, have developed more specific routines, and have gotten used to being more active. Maybe I won’t be as chiseled as Chris Evans or Tom Daley when the semester is over (and I’ve stuck with it long enough). But it’s a new year, and I’m trying to positively change myself by doing something new. I know I’m making a better decision to go as often as I’m trying to than to not go at all. It’s a commitment that I know will pay off if I work at to as hard as I do with most things in my life, and, most importantly, I know I’m not trying to improve anyone other than myself through it. And for right now, that’s enough.

Now, as I feel I’m semi-qualified enough to give this advice, here are some tips for you if you’ve been stressed about going to the gym (for various reasons):

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask another person how they’re doing something or ask for help. If you’re inexperienced, chances are the people around you have been (if they aren’t) in your shoes before and will be more than willing to help you improve!
  2.  People at the front desk will help you however they can! They don’t bite. They won’t find it laughable that you’re at the gym in the first place, or roll their eyes if you don’t know where the locker rooms are because you haven’t used them yet. They’re there to help.
  3.  Try working out with your own music, if you aren’t or haven’t already. It can really help to focus on the specific technique or exercise you’re doing if you’re just listening to music you hear regularly, as opposed to what the gym speakers are playing (although that music is perfectly fine for most). After I decided to bring my own music to the gym (and determined that the only workout-ish songs in my music library were overplayed David Guetta and the always delightful “Get Low”) I made my own playlist specifically for the gym. It’s helped me to focus more on what I’m doing and improving myself by listening to my own compilation of M.I.A., Sleigh Bells and Britney Spears than something else.
  4.  Nobody (unless you’re working closely with a trainer, of course) is or should be focusing on you except for yourself. Having a self-improvement mindset is key!

The First of Many

When I first saw the door frame of my newly assigned residence hall room back in August, I was excited, nervous and almost every emotion in-between. I’d grown accustomed to the lifestyle that comes with having your own bedroom and bathroom, and hadn’t shared a room with anyone since I was nine years old. Now, I’d be sharing a room with someone I’d never met for an entire academic year!

I didn’t actually see my roommate until I returned from a family lunch and shopping run (coincidentally, he’d done the same thing slightly before I did). When I heard the voices of him and his family talking and unloading bags, the nervous feeling returned. We’d had brief contact over social media, but what if he was the total opposite of how he appeared? What if he’s a catfish, like one of those bad Tinder dates? I worried. What if he eats food that I’ve saved for myself in the mini-fridge? What if he leaves toothpaste and stubble in the sink that I’ll have to clean up, or throws his dirty laundry all over the floor? Or (worst-case scenario, in my mind) what if he steals my clothes or tries to re-sell my textbooks and jewelry on eBay?

Thankfully (to me and my massive skepticism), my roommate was even better than he seemed on Facebook and is one of the most accommodating and happiest (seriously, he’s always smiling, and he’s a hugger) people I’ve met in my life. We wore outfits with the same color scheme (red shirt, khaki shorts) the first time we met, which has slowly led to deeper similarities we’ve discovered (we’re both November babies and were born in the same hospital about two weeks apart). He always makes sure he’s not bothering me when he plays guitar (even though he’s incredibly talented, so it’s never a problem), doesn’t fight over fridge or dresser space, and has bought us a light-up jack-o-lantern (Jimmy) for Halloween. He’s even encouraged me to start going to the gym, and for some reason (despite my consistent sarcasm and dry sense of humor) he’s hoping to get on my “good side” and be roommates next year. Basically, I totally won the roommate lottery.

My expectations for a roommate were totally backwards, but in the best possible way. I was so nervous about how I’d adjust to living so closely with someone I barely knew, and in just over a month we’ve become fast friends. If you’re starting college next year and are worrying about the living situation as you fill out various applications, don’t stress yourself over it. Having a roommate can be the total opposite of what you might think (if you’re like me and were worried about that) and one of the best experiences you’ll have. I know as I venture into my twenties I’ll have more roommates (I want to live in New York, and apartment rentals aren’t cheap), but right now, this first one is pretty great.