Author: Amy Esselman

Credit Crunch

Whether you’re a freshmen or a senior, the number of credits you take throughout college is important. Now as a freshman, you may not pay as much attention to them, but as senior year gets closer, I advise you to take a look.

Every semester you take classes and in exchange get credits towards graduation. Depending on your major and your school, you will need different amounts—let’s say 122, just for fun—I’m a marketing major! These credits will be made up for electives, major track classes, and of course, required classes that everyone takes. It sounds like a lot, but over time they start to rack up. You will have more credit hours than you ever dreamed of in just a few short years.

Now in theory, that’s great. But, you have to be careful! Credits are important to have as long as they are building toward a degree. You don’t want random credits—it’s like doing work you don’t need. I thought I was on track, I was one of those people who checked every semester to make sure everything was lining up. However, much to my dismay, I received my checklist for graduation in the mail this summer and a few things were out of whack. Some credits don’t fit, some look random, I thought I was a double major? Where’s the line that says that?!

If this happens, don’t panic.

Make an appointment and chat with an office that knows how to make sense of it all. They can help you figure out what goes where, and get you on track. But do this early! Don’t wait for senior year to sneak up on you before you make sure you’re on the right path—if want to walk across the stage, be prepared. There doesn’t need to be a credit crisis, just credit awareness. When you’re aware of your credits, and know what you need to finish where you want, everyone can relax. There won’t be surprises, and no one has to cry. You can enjoy each semester and pick classes with confidence.


Out With the Old, In With the New

While there may not be real school bells ringing, or yellow buses picking you up, it’s obvious that school has once again started. For many, it’s their first time at college. And for others, it’s the start of their last year, and final few semesters. Even though everyone is at a different starting point, we can all learn from some simple “start of the semester” advice.

Whatever happened last semester—whether in college or high school—it doesn’t have to happen again. If you were less than pleased with your performance, or really want to strive for something different, you still can.

Each semester marks a new slate, a chance to do and be something different. Maybe you got all A’s, or maybe you never even went to class. Either way, you call the shots. The beginning of the semester marks a special moment when you get a choice—you get to decide who you want to be and how you want to act.

I’ve had friends go all through college not applying themselves—not going to class, partying all the time, pretending they didn’t care about their future or their GPA. But then something changed. All of the sudden we came back from summer and they were setting goals, and really working hard. When I asked them about it, it was simple. It took a while to focus, to figure out what was next for them, but with graduation looming in the not too distant future a plan of action was necessary. Lucky for them, the new semester and the new year allowed for the change. With new classes, new professors, and a clean GPA slate—hey we all start with a 4.0—they were able to paint a different picture for themselves, one that didn’t involve not going to class.

The saying “out with the old, in with new” has never held truer. You can forget your bad final, or your slacker high school days and start fresh. Make a plan of attack for this fall semester and set some goals. And maybe you aren’t concerned with the type of student you are, and instead you need goals for something else. Take involvement for example. Have you be less than a social butterfly for the last few years? Ready to get outside your dorm room and mingle on campus? It’s not too late. Nothing is set in stone in college; you have time to do whatever your heart desires. Juniors and seniors join clubs, not just freshmen. Don’t think that because you didn’t do it before, you can’t do it now. The start of the semester is a great time for change as long as you take advantage of it—it won’t be as easy later.

College Budget Shopping

Ever since I went to college my definition of “grocery shopping” has changed a little. I loved going with my mom and dad, of course—sneaking things into the cart, or begging, “but mom, it’s on sale!”

But, now that I’m footing the bill, shopping goes a little differently. I’m frugal and picky. I need to make sure that whatever I’m buying meets a list of highly thought out requirements.

1)     It’s inexpensive (or on sale)

2)     It’s delicious (nutritious is a bonus, but not a requirement)

If an item doesn’t make the cut, it can’t go in the cart. Now, I thought that my college shopping techniques were subtle—There could be a million reasons why 90% of the cart was pasta or carbs. However, despite my attempts to conceal my budgetary grocery needs, clerks at checkout knew instantly that I was a student.

I was surprised at first. I wasn’t wearing my school shirt. I didn’t use my school I.D to pay. How did they know that I was a college student, on a college budget?

Let’s examine my cart:

Case of Soda

Macaroni and Cheese (at least 3 boxes)

Green Grapes

Instant Noodles


Gallon of Skim Milk

Pasta Sides

Bow Tie Noodles

Chips and Salsa

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised after all.

In between working, taking classes, and trying to enjoy summer, it’s hard to find time to shop and afford the kinds of groceries you really want. Yes, I would love steak, or tons of fresh produce. But, it’s easier and cheaper to buy cheaper and stick to one or ton items from the “fresh” section. Plus, did you know there are about a million ways to prepare bowtie pasta?

Although I’m embarrassed that the guy at the check out called me out on my Chef Boyardee raviolis and ramen noodles, it doesn’t change what I like to eat and shop for. Sure it’s not the healthiest or the most balanced—but those things can be altered. Ingredients can be added, side dishes can be prepared. However, grocery budgets don’t just appear. While you’re in college do the best to eat balanced meals, but also remember that you’re only young once. I’m pretty sure I can only get away with buying spaghettios for so much longer—I might as well take advantage of it while I can.




Longing for Language

I went to China in May. It was amazing. Everything was different—the food, the culture and of course, the language.

I loved everything about it.

I got to climb to the top of the Great Wall, and try 10 different kinds of dumplings. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t crack the language. It was fascinating to listen and watch the people speaking. There are so many tones and symbols—even watching people write had me in awe.

It got me thinking about how important language is. When I was in China it was so hard to communicate because of the language barrier. You are stuck using your hands, or trying to convey a message with your expressions alone.

It’s tough. It’s scary. It’s beyond frustrating.

You want to be able to speak the native language of country you travel—it’s easier, respectful, and of course just cool.

In fact, if I could have any superpower it would be the gift of speaking and understanding every language in the world. Now granted, that’s a lofty goal. But imagine what that would mean—the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime. It’s not that easy, but I wish it were!

Languages are unique and complex. They are full of history and tradition. I took French starting at a young age. I didn’t keep up with it and it’s a shame. Looking back now, I wish I would have practiced more or taken it more seriously. How cool would it be to really talk to someone in French, like really talk?

Every time I travel I get enthralled with the language—I hang on every word. Even the ones I can’t understand, which are a lot.

I have a new life goal—one that will no doubt take a while to accomplish. I want to learn to speak Chinese, at least conversationally. I left China in May knowing how to say hello, how are you, I’m fine, and thank you. It’s not a lot, but it’s a start.

I may never reach my super power goal, but I can say hello and goodbye in French, Chinese and English—I just have to keep adding to my word base!



Real Chinese Food

In my three years of college I have experienced a wide variety of take-out, fast food. In fact, there are a plethora of options right near my campus, as I’m sure is the case with many of you.

In Philadelphia, we can get cheese steaks, pizza, chicken, fries, burgers, Chinese food—you name it, in about 30 minutes or less.

A personal favorite of mine is New Asia, a Chinese takeout 3 blocks from main campus. They don’t do delivery, but they made a mean pizza roll (oh, did I mention they specialize in both Chinese and American favorites?).

On any given day, New Asia caters to a variety of students. You can get General Tso’s chicken, friend rice by the bucket, and noodles for days. I’m always in Heaven.

Then I actually went to China.

I still like New Asia, and you can bet I’ll be back there in August. But, now that I have experienced real “Chinese” food, I don’t know which I’ll prefer.

When I arrived in Beijing, I had trouble with chopsticks, as many newbies do, but I also had mixed feelings about the menu.

Some food was similar—dumplings for instance a big deal in China. They have every kind and are considered a staple at most meals. New Asia could compete easily with some of the dumplings I tried.

But other offerings seemed to come from different places. First of all, in China, they don’t name their food after Generals. So, General Tso’s is unheard of. In fact, I didn’t see it once.

And another misconception? Rice.

At school, I could order rice, just rice, and be satisfied in my Chinese food craving. However, in China, rice is not a main dish. In fact, it’s served at the very end of the meal, almost as an afterthought. It signifies that the other courses are finished.

When my class would go to restaurants and not be particularly thrilled with the duck liver, or heart that we tried, we would patiently wait for the “fried rice” or noodles. We would have waited forever. Although it exists, and is amazingly delicious, it’s not a huge part of the menu. Instead you have fine meats, marinated veggies, dumplings, crab, and soy.

I had a blast trying the food in China. I had crab dumplings, duck heart, and the best cucumbers I’ve ever tasted.

But here’s what I discovered: Chinese food in Philadelphia is a distant cousin to Chinese food in China. Both are good, but both are different.

Because we live in such a huge country, with plenty of cultures, influences and people we have access to food from all over the world. Don’t be fooled. Food is specific to location and local influence. In name alone, it may appear to be one thing, but stay open minded. Be prepared to have multiple food perspectives.

Just like China, Pizza in Italy probably doesn’t taste like pizza from the dining hall, or maybe it does? You tell me.