5 Financial Tips For College Students

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Recently, I have taken the Personal Financial Management class here at Union, and as I am about to graduate in the spring, I have begun to think more and more about more and more of my own finances. Here are 5 tips in personal finance:

1. Pay in cash.

If you can, try to pay for things up front and in cash. Whether it is a new phone or a new car, try to use cash. As college students, we probably already have thousands of dollars of debt anyways. We really don’t need more.

2. Pay off your student debt ASAP.

Becoming a college student is one of the best decisions you can make in your life. It can also be one of the most expensive. Once you graduate, it is important that you live meagerly and attempt to pay off your debt in a timely manner. The longer you wait, the more debt will accrue.

3. Save, save, save.

Once you start paying off your debts, you can start allocating your money to other things. One important tip I have learned is that you can just start saving the money that you were already using to pay off your debts. You already know how to live without that money, so maybe you can keep living that way.

4. Start investing early.

One of the classic and most important financial tips is investing early. Putting money into a 401K or mutual funds is critical. Money you invest now will grow exponentially, and being financially aware now can legitimately help you to become a millionaire by the time you retire.

5. Give to charity and to the Church.

This is something you should already be doing. God has told us that we should give a portion of our earnings to God. This is the most important tip I can give you. Give, not only because God will reward you, but because we are called to.

 

There are many other tips out there! Learning how to create a budget, creating an emergency fund, treating yourself every now and then, having small side jobs, and writing down your goals are just a few others. More than anything, the most important thing is to be responsible with the resources given to you!

 

*written by Donny Turner

What Is Being An Intern Really Like?

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Last semester, I wrote a blog post on how to get an internship. Over the summer, I was given a chance to work as an intern at The General Insurance in Nashville, TN. While there I learned how insurance companies determine how much insurance should actually cost for different people in different areas across the country. This was my experience:

Working as an intern in a formal office was both very similar to and extremely different from what I expected. There is a LOT of sitting. I had to be extremely intentional about getting up and walking around after work and during breaks. You definitely have to be careful about exercise when working at an office job.

I learned that the expectations were high. I hit the ground running at this internship; they immediately gave me multiple big assignments that would actually impact the team I was working for. This was one of the first times I felt like I was doing work that was genuinely fulfilling. This work was also genuinely terrifying. I had to present the work I did to the heads of our department and get critiqued on the work I had done. I loved getting to present and have positive feedback loops, but this part of the job was one of the more stressful aspects. I definitely learned more public speaking and explanation skills.

There is also significantly more downtime than I expected. Sure, there was plenty of work for me to be done, but quite a bit of it was work that I finished well ahead of deadlines, and once that is finished, you are mostly waiting for another work assignment. This aspect of the job was both wonderful and awful. On one hand it was great to get paid while doing minimal work, but also the downtime was excruciating.

One of my favorite parts of the internship was getting to meet the people. I was able to meet people from all different backgrounds from all across the country. During our internship, some of the other interns and I were given the opportunity to take a week and go to Madison, Wisconsin, the place where the main headquarters of the company are located. We were able to give a presentation on our experience on the internship and pitch an opportunity for a charity. Over the course of this week, I was able to grow extremely close with my fellow interns. We still keep up even now. I am really hoping we get to cross paths again in the future.

I think one of the best parts of an internship, besides gaining excellent experience and the people you get to meet, is getting to learn if this is something you actually want to be doing for the rest of your life. You get the opportunity to work alongside people that have been doing their job for years. You get to learn their insights and passions. Learning about a specific job and actually doing the work are two entirely different things. I went into this summer trying to decide if this was something I would want to do or if I should go to grad school. I am eternally thankful for this internship, and now I know that this kind of job is something that I would love to do after my college career has ended.

Getting an internship is a fantastic opportunity, and if you ever get the chance, you should absolutely take it!

 

*written by Donny Turner

Harry Potter: Expectations and Isolation

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In this blog post, student assistant Donny Turner recounts his experience of reading the Harry Potter series for the very first time!

Warning: This Blog Post Contains Spoilers

When I was growing up, parents were skeptical about the Harry Potter fad. Like many Christian kids, I was not allowed to read the Harry Potter books until I was 13. As I grew up, the series became something of an urban myth to me- the taboo of something I felt like I was not supposed to have. In my head, the stories became something of a legend, and I kept building up how amazing the books were going to be once I turned 13. By the time I turned 13, my expectations towards the books became something that no book, no matter how good it may be, could match. So, when I ended up starting to read the first book, I was admittedly underwhelmed. The book was great, but when I found out that Harry Potter was an adventure story about a group of friends trying to save the world and it just happened to include magic, I was almost disappointed. I never even finished the first book, and for years I had no desire to read the other Harry Potter books. Throughout all of this I felt extremely out of touch and alone with a lot of my friends who had been obsessed with and read every single Harry Potter book.

Years later, in my sophomore year of high school, I stumbled upon the entire Harry Potter series in a used book store. I was able to purchase the collection for less than $50, and I was really excited about getting all of the books. I decided to attempt to read the series again, and for a while, it worked. I read through the first 3 books in less than a month, but then I stalled about 200 pages into the 4th book. For whatever reason, I just could not get past the Quidditch World Cup. I would read the first 200 pages, get busy and it would get set aside for a few months, and I would have to reread those pages again. Another few years would pass before I was able to get past those first 200 pages. Eventually, I began to read less in general; it just never took a precedence in my life.

When I first began college, I once again experienced a feeling of isolation again. I was at a new school full of new people that I had to meet. Often times I felt like an outsider at school; I had a very difficult time finding my niche. For the most part, I felt isolated and outside of the whole community. I remember thinking back to how I felt when my friends were talking about the Harry Potter books. Everyone had these shared ideas, and I couldn’t latch on to them. I felt detached from others. Eventually, I did find my groove, but those first few months of school were difficult.

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In my junior year of college, during the month of January, I found myself having to drive 4-10 hours a week and listening to music in the car was getting old; I needed something new. I realized I was able to check out the 4th Harry Potter book from the library (here), and I decided to listen to it on my long drives. While on the road, I was able to get about 400 pages into the book, and then I decided I had to start reading it in print. I flew through the last 400 pages in less than a month, and I immediately picked up the 5th book.

The 5th book is quite a bit darker than all the others. The tone is more somber and there is an edge to everything that is going on. Voldemort, the main antagonist, is on the rise, and it seems like something bad could happen at any moment. Throughout all of this Harry beings to feel more and more isolated. None of the awful things that are happening seem to be happening to anyone else. Harry begins to feel more depressed and more alone as time goes by. To top it all off there is a new professor at the school that is the literal worst. She specifically targets Harry, and she actively attempts to make Harry’s life worse. Harry feels utterly alone. The story focuses around this idea of loneliness and builds more and more that Harry has to learn to rely on his close friends. He must realize that he is not, nor was he ever, alone in any of what is happening to him. At the end of this book, the closest thing Harry has to a father figure, Sirius, dies. Once again, Harry experiences those feelings of expectations being destroyed and a great feeling of isolation. Once again I was able to relate very strongly to the character.

The 6th book of the story has some lighter tones, but ultimately ends on a very dark note. Harry is growing older, and Voldemort continues to gain more and more power. He is learning more about the history of who Voldemort is, and through these lessons, Harry learns of some of the humanity of Voldemort. The main antagonist is still extremely evil, but through multiple backstories, we are able to better understand Voldemort as a character. He is revealed to be more human, although definitely a very sociopathic human. Harry’s expectations of him change as a whole. He understands that he has love while Voldemort never will. Also, Harry’s expectations shift slightly towards the end of the story towards Draco Malfoy. Throughout the entirety of the series, Draco has been considered the antithesis of Harry Potter, and Harry absolutely suspects him of malicious intent at different times throughout the story. As the story is nearing its ending, Draco, ordered by Voldemort, matches up against a very weak Dumbledore and is poised to kill him. Yet, he cannot do it. There is a flicker of humanity in Draco, and he is unable to murder his headmaster. Harry, watching silently in the room notices this. Harry’s perception of Draco has changed in this moment, if only slightly. Where previously Harry had not seen any humanity there was some.

At this point, I was totally hooked on the books. Much of my free time was spent reading on and talking about the books. I can now say with certainty that the 6th book is my favorite, and I would tell anyone who would listen about it. Unfortunately for me, the fad of Harry Potter, while still quite prevalent, has definitely faded. I was dealing with isolation once again. Most people don’t want to listen to someone talk about how much they adore Harry Potter. Nevertheless, I persisted on towards the 7th book.

If you’ve ever read the 7th Harry Potter book, you know how different this book is compared to the rest of the series. The protagonists are no longer at Hogwarts, everything around them seems to be falling apart, and many of the main characters that you have grown to love end up being killed off. The book is gut-wrenching, and it seems like every chapter has a new main character dying. With each death, I felt more and more sadness and isolation. Throughout this book, the main characters become more and more removed from everyone as they are trying to find and destroy the horcuxes, the items that contain Voldemorts soul and ensure his survival.  At one point, Ron leaves Harry and Hermione, leaving them even more alone than they already were. Without Dumbledore, and with wicked stories of what Dumbledore has done, the main characters feel utterly alone.

As the story nears the end, however, the main characters learn of all the different people that are still on their side, supporting them. They are encouraged, and they are able to find and destroy almost every single horcrux. It is only when Harry returns to Hogwarts at the end of the story that he realizes he must sacrifice himself to save everyone. This singular moment, the moment he realizes that he must die in order for everyone to live, is a pivotal moment. This is when he reaches his most isolated, but he stays brave and dives deep into the darkness. He sacrifices himself, and through his sacrifice he is able to destroy the last bit of Voldemort that exists. Through his sacrifice, he is given the option to live again. In the moments proceeding his death, he is given a choice. He can decide to stay dead, and go on to the afterlife or whatever happens to witches and wizards after they die, or he can come back to a life that has caused him suffering and pain. He has to choose to make another sacrifice, and once again he makes the choice to come back and fight one last time to save his closest friends.

Despite his isolation and fear, Harry Potter is able to be strong and courageous when he needs to be. Sure, he absolutely makes a lot of really dumb decisions throughout the books that would have saved everyone a lot of time and pain, but I think that is what makes these books so special. Many of the characters are flawed, and even some of the main characters that seem downright evil throughout the entire series have redemption arcs. The Malfoys end up regretting their actions, and, most famously, we get to see and understand why Snape made the decisions that he did. We get to understand his love for Harry’s mother and how isolated and alone he has been throughout most of his life. Finally, the reader is able to understand why Snape acts how he does, and that he was actually acting out of love this entire time. He clings to one aspect of his life that will keep him from being completely isolated, and as a result, dies for an extremely heroic cause.

Every single Harry Potter book has some themes of isolation, and dealing with feeling misplaced or alone in the world. Reading these in the first years of college or whenever you are in a new place in your life can be especially helpful because often people feel out of place and alone at times of change. These books can help give one perspective about isolation, and they can show how one can emerge from that isolation and be a much stronger and better human being.

Plus, the books themselves are fantastic stories, with deep characters. These books are probably the most famous series of the 21st century. They personally have helped me get through a challenging time in my life. Harry Potter is absolutely incredible and 100% lives up to the hype, and if you have not read them yet, there is no time like the present.

 

*written by Donny Turner

Featured Book: “Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles”

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If you’ve ever dealt with (or are currently dealing with) OCD, ADHD, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other mental health disorders, you are not alone. That is the overarching message of Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. This book includes essays from various writers about their experiences with personal conflicts. Each essay is from a different author, so the writing style varies, and one author even incorporates free verse to tell her story.

Some of the authors included are as follows:

  • Amber Benson (who portrayed the character Tara on Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  • Jessica Burkhart (author of Wild Hearts)
  • Scott Neumyer (a popular journalist)
  • Sara Zarr (author of Story of a Girl).

It can be comforting to read about others who have struggled, gotten help, and learned how to cope. However, some of the stories depicted could be hard to read about for someone who is currently experiencing a similar situation- so be aware of this book’s heavy nature.

Several of Life Inside My Mind‘s lessons can be summed up in this passage from Amber Benson:

As much as your friends love you and want to be there for you, it’s not their job to fix you. Ignoring the problem, or pretending “you’ve got it under control,” will only make things worse. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist knows that they’re doing (they went to school for a long time in order to do this), and they know how to help you get back on track . . .

Whether we like it or not, the stress of of being a human being can be overwhelming, and having a safe space to talk about our problems, assess whether our brains are working correctly, make sure there’s nothing chemically out of line . . . well, I think that’s super important. I know I need that safe space in my life if I’m going to be a productive member of society.

Getting help when you need it- whatever that looks like for you- is encouraged by all of the authors in this book. They’ve been there themselves, and many of them are still figuring it all out. Pick up Life Inside My Mind when you need to know that you’re not alone in your struggles.

 

 

Brennan’s Brainstorms: Cirque du Soleil

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Over winter break, I had the privilege of taking a long eleven-day vacation with my immediate family. We journeyed west (further west than I had ever been) to Los Angeles. We spent several days there, before spending one day in San Diego (to see the zoo) and the last few days of the trip in Las Vegas. I was blessed to be able to see much that those three cities had to offer.

 

One of the highlights of the trip was certainly attending Cirque du Soleil at the MGM in Las Vegas. Specifically, I went to see their show Ká. I can say without a doubt that Ká is the greatest show I have ever seen.

 

Ká is one of the first performances by Cirque du Soleil that features one continuous storyline. The story centers around two siblings, a prince and a princess, who are split from each other when a rival kingdom invades their own. The performance depicts their journey to reunite, while also showing their conflict and close escapes with the rival kingdom. Landscapes vary from dangerous jungles, treacherous mountains, tumultuous seas, and even the dark lair of the rival kingdom. These transitions are done through amazing sets, stages (more on that later) and incredible non-verbal communication through costumes, dances, and stunts.

 

Ká opened in February of 2005 and has been seen by more than a million people over the course of its tenure. Though Ká is the first performance by Cirque du Soleil to have a concrete, cohesive storyline, it is not only the story that makes the performance so breathtaking. Having sat only four rows from the front of the stage, I can say it is the most technologically advanced theatrical show of all time. And that’s not just me; The Los Angeles Times said the same thing when they wrote about its debut.

 

There are actually two stages (and five smaller platforms) that are used throughout the course of the show. Having been there I can explain it like this; there is a small ring that goes around like a stage, and with what looks like a bottomless abyss behind it. Once the show begins a platform is raised up from that pit. This machine is by far the most innovative stage of all time. It can rotate 360 degrees around and can become almost completely vertical (around 100 degrees). It moves throughout the show as the athletes perform death-defying stunts. I could hardly believe my eyes as I watched the artists run up and down an ever-moving stage.

 

However, the most breathtaking feats came when the acrobats used one of the most dangerous circus constructions of all time, the wheel of death. The wheel of death is a large metal structure balanced like a beam with two open spherical cages on each end. The performers start inside these cages, though they later move outside them and on top of them. The catch is that the structure is constantly spinning and the performers must balance on it as they are turned around like a clock head. Describing such a structure is difficult, but there are plenty of YouTube videos depicting this kind of performance, including the scene straight from Ká itself. The artists ran up and down the wheel, including one performer who used a jump rope as the wheel spun underneath him. The audience could hardly react with each motion becoming more and more dangerous and equally more exciting.

 

Overall the performance took my breath away. The stunts, performed with such precision, made the audience gasp in awe with every twist and turn. Yet underneath the insane tricks rests a heartwarming tale of the reunion of two siblings and the salvation of an entire kingdom. So, if you are ever in Las Vegas and want to see a quality Cirque Du Soleil performance, Ká is certainly the one to see. There is never a dull moment and there is nothing like it in the world.

(The Union library currently has a documentary entitled, “Another Kind of Circus,” on the history of Cirque Du Soleil if you would like to learn more about their origins. You can find access to this documentary from the library page on Union’s website.)

 

*written by Brennan Kress