A Freshman’s Guide to a Happy, Fulfilling Semester at College

When midterms and deadlines are piling on top of one another, it can be easy to get carried away with the workload, only to come out at the end of the day feeling physically and mentally exhausted, unmotivated, and worst of all, unhappy. To me, happiness is arguably one of the most vital factors (I’d go as far as to say that it is the most vital) in accomplishing anything in life, and it’s just saddening to see how challenging it has been for some as they navigate through college. After all, shouldn’t college be the best time of our lives!? As important as maintaining your GPA and social life are, maintaining your health and happiness should definitely make the top of your list of priorities, and here’s how: 

  1. 1. Look after the mind!

    One thing that Barnard has been getting right is its emphasis on students to look after their mental health, and the vast resources that are provided to ensure this. With that being said, it is very important that we as individuals set aside time, even if just to do nothing. Although a little stress is can make us productive, too much of it will have an adverse effect. Allow yourself to take healthy breaks while studying (and it breaks my heart that taking a nap is not one of them). Don’t feel guilty about not maximizing your time to study; after all, studies have shown that you are actually doing yourself and your work a favour by taking breaks. If you are looking for ideas to take breaks effectively (yes, there is such a thing!) take a look at this page for a couple of suggestions (spoiler alert: taking naps is not an excellent way to take a break!). 

  2. 2. Campus scene bores you? Go out!

    As a nerd for organizing and planning out things, I love sitting down with my friends to plan out our NYC adventures, and it helps me to stay motivated to work hard as I know I “earn” the right to explore the city. Don’t forget that you have the entirety of New York City at your disposal, so take advantage of it! If you also enjoy making lists, create one for places for great food, attractions, cafes, and Instagrammable spots in the city, or just about anything you want to do here. If you are stuck for ideas, be sure to check out the New York Insider for some! 

  3. 3. Eat the right foods in the right amounts.

    While exploring the culinary offers of NYC is a must, you should limit it to only a few occasions per week, as they are not exactly healthy. Eating healthy and eating three meals a day go a long way in keeping your physical and mental wellness in check. Try to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, and (although very hard), try to limit your amount of caffeine intake for the day. If you’re hungry for a snack, try healthier options such as carrots and hummus, Greek yoghurt, granola, and fresh fruits rather than sugary sweets, as they can actually distract you from studying, (if not make you crash afterwards). Popcorn is a great option for snacking for you’re not a fruit/veggie person, and it is low in calories too! Look here for a wide range of healthy snack options!

  4. 4. Exercise!

    Although I am definitely calling myself out on this one, studies have shown that exercise offers more benefits that just simply to stay in shape. Personally, working out gives me a sense of accomplishment (although this is probably because I don’t do it as often as I should) and boosts my concentration noticeably, especially if I have been sitting in a single spot to study for long hours. However, exercising does not always mean that you have to come out with a sweaty back; even taking a stroll in Morningside Heights counts as a form of working out that can help keep your wellness in check (you get an amazing view of the riverside as a bonus for this one, too!). 

Despite the fact that well-being is heavily emphasized at Barnard, I feel like it will never make a difference unless we actually put in the effort to implement change ourselves to feel happier about our college lives. Being happy, after all, goes a long way in making you a successful Barnard gal, both academically and socially!