Mindful Transitions

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”  – Nikki Giovanni

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Whether you are an undergraduate living away from home for the first time, a graduate student new to Philadelphia, or even a returning student planning for life after Penn, chances are you are undergoing a period of transition. As the semester begins, it’s important to recognize that we are all experiencing change in one form or another. Although this can bring uncertainty–sometimes manifesting as anxiety, or lack of focus–there is also an upside. Transitions can lead to tremendous personal growth. In the words of the poet Maya Angelou,

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
  • Have there been times when you felt frustrated this semester?
  • Did you get lost on the way to a new class, or struggle to understand an assignment or reading?

In addition to feeling frustrated (because this is a valid way to feel!), try to acknowledge these moments as a vital part of your journey – as a student, a learner, a thinker, and a member of the Penn community.

While transitions are necessary, there are ways to make them gentler on your mind and body. Notice how you are feeling. If you experience negative thoughts, like “this is too hard,” “I’m frustrated,” “I feel lost,” or “I’m not smart enough,” try to stop judging yourself or comparing yourself to others.

Instead, realize these thoughts are normal, take a deep breath, and let them go. Don’t forget to pay attention to your body. You might feel tired, or tense, or hungry at hours that are not normal for you. Try to attend to what your body needs, whether it’s more sleep, a long walk, or eating delicious and healthy food.

Wherever you are in your academic journey, remember that the staff of the Weingarten Learning Resources Center are always here for you. Whether it’s helping with time management skills, identifying additional resources on Campus, or just talking through how you will manage a stressful week, we are committed to helping all Penn students cope with transitions!

By Staff Writer: Jennifer Kobrin, Learning Fellow, Office of Learning Resources, Weingarten Learning Resources Center, UPENN.

 

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Make This Semester Your Best One Yet!

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Welcome Back to Campus!

It’s hard to believe how quickly summer went by. Here at Weingarten we are excited to have you back! We have collected some tips over the years to help you start this semester off strong and make this semester the best one yet.

1. Make a plan.

Before the semester gets too busy, write down all of your obligations, including
exams, projects, quizzes, trips, and parties for your classes, jobs, clubs,
organizations, and personal commitments. Adjust your schedule to ensure you
have time for each.

2. Make your health a priority.

Schedule time for you now. Make taking care of your health a habit early in the
semester. Decide when and how you can take time to ensure you are doing what
you need to do to stay physically healthy and active.

3. Make time for sleep.

Make a night time routine for yourself now. Getting a good night’s sleep increases
your success and focus in your academic and personal pursuits. Try to keep a
schedule so that you can be the healthiest and most productive you.

4. Make personal appointments.

Schedule any appointments you will need this semester (doctor, dentist, therapist,
counselor). Once the semester gets going, it’s easy to brush these to the wayside.

5. Make appointments with campus resources.

Schedule appointments with Penn Libraries, Career Services, Academic Advisors, or
the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. Get to know the resources on campus
now so that you are more comfortable reaching out for help later!

6. Get to know people in your classes, in your residence hall, in your clubs
and organizations.

Attend events and programming here at Penn with your friends, hallmates, and
classmates! The University of Pennsylvania is a place where we can all grow
personally and academically. Make the time to be a part of a community where
we can learn and grow together this semester.

 

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow and Learning Instructor

WHY Do You Use the Weingarten Learning Resources Center?

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For the 2018-19 academic year, the Provost’s Academic Theme is the Year of Why. “The concept of asking “why?” is key to advancing knowledge; philosophers and thinkers build on historic foundations as they move forward with new discoveries. We often associate inquiry with technology and scientific advancements, yet it exists in every aspect of our intellectual culture. Above all, asking “why?” is a central aspect of Penn’s history and identity: founded by Benjamin Franklin, one of history’s great thinkers, Penn was designed from the outset to be different from other schools of its day by inviting examination and discussion across disciplines” (The Year of Why, 2018).

At Weingarten, we asked some of our own students, who represent various disciplines and schools, and range across undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate, professional and executive programs – why they use the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. Here are some of their responses:

  • Senior, School of Arts and Sciences, AND 1st Year, Masters of Bioethics, Perelman School of Medicine:

“For me, I think that using Weingarten Learning Resource Center (WLRC) has been one of the biggest advantages to my academic career at Penn. This group not only wants what is best for each student but also knows how to work with each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. There are many reasons for a student to use WLRC, but I use this space in helping me be true to myself. What do I mean by “being true to myself,” you might ask? Well, sometimes as students we are not realistic with how to manage our time. In fact, my first draft of my weekly calendars never have time allotted for eating, grooming, or other “arbitrary” tasks. However, not taking into account the walks around campus or other duties that come my way throw of my ideal–yet semi-robotic–schedule. The team at WLRC teach me how to not only be realistic and but also the importance of not doing work 24/7. Using this resource at Penn has made me realize the importance of mental well being and has proven effective in my successful academic career. Aside from helping me “catch my life,” I know that the people I work with truly care about my success. I feel fortunate to have a piece of my Penn family in WLRC, and I will forever be grateful for what they contributed to my academic career. I always recommend WLRC to my peers because there are hundreds of reasons to stop by.”

  • Senior, Wharton Undergraduate Program:

“Going to WLRC is one of the best decisions I made at Penn. I go at the beginning of every semester to define my priorities and set a schedule. Over time, I learned effective time management techniques, improved at prioritizing and imposing self-deadlines, and grew to be more proactive and intentional about how I want to spend my time. I also went during overwhelming time crunches and received great help. WLRC is a judgement-free environment. No one will judge your priorities or blame you for not starting an assignment earlier. Instructors are here to support you, and you may develop great relationships!”

  • 2nd Year, GSE TESOL Masters Program:

“I have already used WLRC services for more than one year and I have gotten so many benefits and help in learning and obtaining learning resources. In general, I attended several workshops held by WLRC and booked appointments with the instructors there also. I always made appointments with a particular Learning Instructor and she gave me lots of helpful and beneficial suggestions for my academic writing. Overall, I think I have made big progress on my academic writing skills with the help of my Learning Instructor and become more skilled at polishing my writing pieces as well. The valuable help from the Learning Instructors there is the most essential reason for me to keep using this service.”

  • 2nd Year, Wharton Executive MBA Program:

“The Learning Instructor from WLRC services has been a tremendous mentor to me. Coming from educational non-profit background, I was not very confident going into my Wharton program, which is known to be quantitatively focused. She and I met regularly throughout my first year – she not only provided practical tips but also helpful encouragement. As a result, I was able to excel in my first year!”

  • Doctoral Candidate, GSE Reading/Writing/Literacy Program:

“As a part-time student, the WLRC helps me manage and balance my time with school, work, and life. Being able to listen and share strategies for reading, writing, and overall organization is a tremendous help. I’ve found the WLRC staff from the front desk to advisors to be incredibly welcoming and encouraging.”

  • 2nd Year, Wharton Executive MBA Program:

“I started using WLRC services at first because I wanted to improve my communication skills (i.e. speaking with confidence and eloquence). Now that I have been using this service for over a year, I use WLRC services beyond just for improving my communication skills. I get to talk with a great coach who helps me think through a lot of professional and personal issues and questions. For example, I learned that, in order to improve my communication skills, I need to learn to become more confident of my capabilities and skills. It wasn’t just about my communication but more about the perception that I have about myself. From this perspective, it has been an educational resource for me academically and personally. The Weingarten Learning Instructor is a great coach and a mentor, and I believe more students should use this service not just for trying to learn a certain topic but for broader purposes that the WLRC services offer.”

  • 2nd Year, GSE TESOL Masters Program:

“WLRC has been my favorite place at Penn, because the Learning Instructors here are so helpful and caring. They have been good friends to me, giving me constructive feedback on my essays, as well as useful advice about studying abroad. I feel so blessed to have found this place, without which my study abroad experience would not be this rewarding.”

To make your own consultation with a Learning Instructor, please contact us at 215-573-9235 to make an appointment. Also, consult our Website for more information about all of our services, including Walk-In’s and Workshops.

Welcome Back PENN Students!

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By Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Fellow, Weingarten Learning Resources Center.

Reference

The Year of Why. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.nso.upenn.edu/theme-year/theme-year-2018-year-why

Connecting, Bringing Closure, through Gratitude

Whether you have just graduated in May 2018, have some final courses to complete during the summer, will be a returning student in the Fall, will be going away for an academic internship next semester, will be taking a gap year, a leave of absence, and/or simply enjoying and relaxing this summer – the end of an academic year and the possibilities of the summer can be emotional, exciting for some and perhaps nerve-wracking for others. Either way, it is helpful to intentionally reflect on bringing closure to the academic year.

Gratitude is a great way to stay connected to others, be they faculty, staff and/or peers. Take some time to reflect and perhaps journal what you are most grateful for this past semester, year, or journey at Penn, thus far.

These need not be major events, but could be moments, passing interactions that made a difference for you, insights gained, thoughts and gestures observed and appreciated, or a concrete act.

You need not be the explicit beneficiary of a direct act of kindness, support or favor. Perhaps you simply observed and appreciated a peer’s contribution to a class or project, or their voice, orientation, views, approach and/or work ethic. In fact, acknowledgment and validation is a great form of expressing gratitude. Gratitude that builds up and encourages is more authentic and valuable.

Even if there were some challenges, starting with gratitude is a great way to gain perspective, find common ground, open up conversation, or gain a sense of closure. Finding the pearl in the sand can help bring resilience and transition us to the next stage. Gratitude is a great counterbalance to challenging situations, as it can be more humanizing to stay connected through gratitude, despite of differences, than to completely disconnect.

Students often ask me if they should purchase an impressive “gift” as a token of gratitude. But that is not necessary at all. In fact, depending on ethical rules, faculty and staff may not accept physical tokens. A simple note or email that expresses your thoughtfulness in gratitude can help you release your appreciation and connect with the individual through acknowledgment. Keep it short, specific/authentic, and professional.

Gratitude is a great way to network, bring closure to milestones, transition to other stages, and connect to your inner self – as you grow and develop alongside others in your academic career. Gratitude will restore your sense of positivity, by affirming your perceptions in relation to others, and as a result, validate, build up and strengthen your own, intentional community.

Thank you!

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Staff Writer: Min Derry, OLR Learning Instructor and Research Fellow

Wellness Expo: Wellness Resources @ Penn & Beyond

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At Weingarten, we emphasize Academic Wellness beyond academic achievement. Situating your academic achievement goals across the spectrum of Academic Wellness provides more coherence and balance as you transition to post-secondary education, professional career and beyond. Academic / Wellness is the glue, a core bonding element, that holds it all together in your pre-, during and post-Penn life transitions.

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The Division of Campus Recreation and Penn Athletics regularly partners with the broader Penn Community to present a Wellness Expo at least once during the Fall and Spring academic semesters. The Wellness Expo, which is typically located at the Atrium of the Pottruck Fitness Center, provides study tips before finals, stress relief and coping strategies and activities, and other helpful resources for school-life balance, including healthy snacks!

Naturally, the Weingarten Learning Resources Center was represented to provide you with all of your academic wellness support resources! Here’s one of our Learning Instructors, Min Derry:

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Other Penn and Penn Community Resources in attendance were:

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And of course, Penn Athletics had a well-supported and cheered, win-a-t-shirt, Push-Ups competition:

Most importantly (he-he!), there were tons of swags, snacks and even a make your own granola buffet with tons of different types of nuts and grains for your enjoyment!

Be sure to take advantage of all of these resources as you wind down your Reading Days and wrap up your final projects and exams for the semester! Also, be on a lookout for the next Wellness Expo in the Fall 2019!

Staff Writer: Min Derry, Learning Instructor & Research Fellow

Sharing Stories at the Penn Faces Speakeasy

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On Thursday, April 5, Penn students, faculty, and staff braved the unseasonably cold, windy, and chilly weather to share and listen to one another’s stories on Penn’s College Green. This event was organized by the student group Penn Faces, which has been supported by the Weingarten Learning Resources Center since its inception.

Penn Faces is a “project that is the product of collaboration among individuals who came together with the common goal of creating a site to foster resilience and encourage honest conversations. Its vibrant color is a blending of Penn’s red and blue, highlighting both the spectrum and the unity of our experiences.”

The Penn Faces website provides students, faculty, and staff with a space to present their stories to the broader Penn community in the hope of breaking down the expectations of perfection that can be found on Penn’s campus.

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Some members of the PennFaces Student Advisory Board

The PennFaces Speakeasy is an annual event, organized by the PennFaces Student Advisory Board, that is held to provide the Penn community a space where they can share their stories with a wider audience.

The speakers exhibited strength through their vulnerability while sharing their personal stories of facing setbacks, experiencing loss, finding different paths, and building their resiliency. Here are some of the speakers from the event:

As an audience member, what stood out to me where some common themes that connected the different stories.

  • While each person shared their own individual stories of facing challenges, of feeling like they needed to hide who they were, or of believing they needed to conceal their struggles behind a mask, what made a difference for each person was finding an individual or a community with whom they could speak and connect with.
These ideas spoke to me about the need to find community and to make connections here at Penn.

Too often, I can feel like I just really need to zone in and focus on my academic and professional work while I am here, but we all need to make time and space for our personal lives.

We can have a richer, happier, and more fulfilling experience if we can be our whole selves on Penn’s campus.

Further, some acknowledged that every resource on campus is not for everybody, and that the first resource you reach out to might not be the best for you.

The speakers touched on ideas that reaching out to others and asking for help is a process, but that when you find the right place, it can make all the difference.

Whether who you reach out to is your friends or family, or a designated resource here on campus, these stories remind us that there are people here who truly care, and that there are people here who may be struggling too, even if they don’t always show it.

The speakers and advisory board hope that one day an event like the Speakeasy is not needed at Penn, because we will all feel more comfortable speaking about our fears, difficulties, and struggles openly in more spaces. For the time being though, PennFaces highlights a real need at Penn for students, faculty, and staff to remove our masks and to share our stories.

If you are interested in becoming more involved with PennFaces, go to Penn Faces to find out more.

For more resources at Penn, here is a helpful guide:

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Additionally, here are some other resources students have found to be helpful:

  • The Tutoring Center
  • Marks Family Writing Center
  • Resource Librarians
  • Professor and TA Office Hours
  • Campus and Community Houses (La Casa Latina, Makuu, Greenfield Intercultural Center, LGBT Center, etc.)
  • Your college major Advisors
Wherever you build your sense of community and decide to share your story, ask for help, or to find camaraderie, know that the Weingarten Learning Resources Center is here for you.

We wish you the best of luck as you finish up this semester!

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Dr. Ryan Miller, Director of the Office of Learning Resources, the PennFaces Student Advisory Board Members, Matthew Lee, Victoria Meeks, and Dr. Myrna Cohen, Executive Director of the WLRC, and Wendy Zhou.

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor & Research Fellow

 

 

Creating Positive Environments

College is advertised as a place where students can learn, grow, and interact with their peers. The college setting is known for bolstering interpersonal relationships in virtually every setting, including college dorms, dining halls, and even group study rooms in open spaces.

Before coming to college, both of us had imagined a college experience that would challenge us to explore the unknown, meet unfamiliar faces, and succeed academically. This image of the perfect college experience soon became dependent on the people in our immediate surroundings. From the friends with whom we became acquainted, to the professors with whom we interacted, these key relationships provided a strong and positive foundation for our now flourishing college careers.

Interpersonal relationships are an important part of students’ academic success. We have found that surrounding ourselves with the right people, inside and outside of the classroom, is an essential component of achieving academic success.

From Chieme:

Chiemela Ohanele

At Penn it is easy to be consumed by the daily pressures brought on by academics or extracurriculars. However, Rani and I have found that the constant positive reinforcement of a persistent friend or a model mentor can make these daily difficulties easier to withstand. Whenever I am concerned about a class or overwhelmed with responsibilities, I can turn to Rani to encourage me to get the job done and to put my best foot forward even if I am burnt out and ready to give up. Through my friendship with Rani, I have learned how essential it is to have these constant cheerleaders in my life. Not only have these motivators given me the courage to persist through adversity, but they have also given me the confidence to know that I am capable of achieving the goals that I have set out to accomplish.

From Rani:

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Our relationships outside the classroom are critical for thriving academically, but the attitude we have toward our coursework plays a role as well. Contrary to what we had expected, sometimes, campus culture can also include negativity about schoolwork. It is normal to hear people around you discussing how pointless the class is and refusing to do the homework. During exam week we hear people saying how they are going to fail the exam, and it affects not only their focus and productivity, but it affects others as well. It can be very difficult to do well in a class if one internalizes this type of mindset.

Chieme and I have adopted an attitude of positivity. When we have classes together, we sit near each other and our comments on the coursework classroom material are usually positive and hopeful, if there are any at all. In classes where I don’t have friends like Chieme to foster a positive attitude, I try to sit with quiet people or those who also have a similar outlook on the material. Surrounding oneself with positivity seems to supply the courage and energy necessary to attack the material in a more productive way.

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Overall, we have enjoyed our college experiences. Our friendship, work ethic and positive outlook have gotten us far along our respective paths.

  • So, try to find people who push you towards the goals you have set for yourself.
  • Try to find those constant motivators who will encourage you to think beyond the campus culture and to embrace positivity.
  • Look for ways to create constructive friendships and in-class interactions that will promote academic success.

Contributed by PENN Students: Chiemela Ohanele and Rani Richardson