June Wrap-Up + July TBR!

June Wrap-Up + July TBR!

So, it’s been a minute since I’ve published a post here.

Before I share with you all what I read in June and plan to read in July, I wanted to make a few short announcements.

  1. I’m going to be posting more about my reading/writing journey on this blog.
  2. Speaking of my reading/writing journey, I did a thing. (Hint: It’s a YouTube channel.)
  3. If you want to see what I’ve been writing this summer (and for the past few months), you can check out my Odyssey page!

I think that’s it.

Finally, let’s get into the books I read in June and the books I plan hope to read in July!

What I read in June:

  1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes | Goodreads rating: 2/5 stars

I’m sure everyone knows what this book is about by now. Based on the reviews I have read/watched, it seems like people either love this book or hate it. I lean more towards the “hate it” side for two main reasons. Firstly, it was slow. There are a lot of details Moyes gives that I just did not care about. Secondly, I wasn’t a fan of how Moyes portrayed Will’s struggle with being a quadriplegic. The book focuses more on his caretaker, Louisa, and I wish it had been focused on Will instead.

2. The Vacationers by Emma Straub | Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars

This was a “feel good” read. It’s about a family and their journey to becoming “whole” again after lots of controversy and conflict emerge. Like its title suggests, the novel takes place while the family is on vacation. I enjoyed the latter half of the book much more than the first.

3. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling | 5/5 stars

Someone please tell me why I never read this series as a child! (Oh, right. It’s because I was adamant about not reading fantasy.) I absolutely fell in love with this book (and the first one in the series, which I read in May). Rowling is a genius.

What I hope to read in July:

  1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I’m about 100 pages in right now, so I’ll definitely be finished in July.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Duh.

3. Night Film by Marisha Pessl

I’ve heard great things about this novel. All I know is that it’s about a detective who becomes emotionally invested in a case involving a filmmaker.

4. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

This is a very hard maybe for me. I’ll read this if I’m lounging by the pool, wishing I had a summer romance.

5. The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

This is about small-town life. It seems like a “feel good” read. I picked up the Advance Readers Copy at Goodwill (pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be on sale there) and I’m looking forward to reading it.

I can’t wait to start reading these next books in July, so stay tuned for updates about those reads!

 

 

When The Going Gets Tough

Well, it looks like I haven’t posted in a couple of months. I can explain.

This year has been tough so far. 2016, though promising of great memories, has come with its fair share of hardships. (You might be thinking, But it’s only February! I know. Who knew two months could have such an impact on me?) For starters, I’ve been sick over the course of two weeks, causing me to miss class and freak out just a little bit. I’m also still struggling with my anxiety disorder; this is a battle I have to fight every day. On top of all of that, my friends are going through their own personal struggles right now, and all I want to do is comfort them and tell them everything is going to be alright, but I know that I can’t make the pain go away, and that kills me.

I’ve been having some trouble with my life plan — I feel like everything wants to go against my own wishes and that my end goals are far from my reach. I’ve had trouble listening to Him and trusting Him. I’ve had trouble having faith in Him as I’ve gone through so much struggle recently. I find myself asking why things are happening the way they’re happening, and I just can’t seem to find an answer.

It’s easy to have faith when times are good, but boy is it hard to have faith when the going gets tough. I’m working towards it, though, and I believe that goodness always finds a way.

I know that things are going to get better, as they always do. Maybe that makes me optimistic and unrealistic, but I’d rather have some hope left in me than none at all. When you’ve lost all hope, that’s when you’ve hit rock bottom.

So I’m coping the best I can. I’m trying to keep things in perspective and trying to remember what really matters. This life is too short and too beautiful to worry about. Everything works out the way it’s meant to, and these hard times will not last forever.

I don’t mean to be negative, but I felt that I needed to get this off my chest and update you all as to why I haven’t posted recently. Just know that I am working through these tough times right now, and I’ll be back to my normal self soon enough.

 

Until next time,

Julia

 

A Day in My Life: Christmastime in the City

Every year, we take a trip up to New York to visit family for Christmas. This time around, we decided to spend a day in the Big Apple.

Our first stop was the 9/11 memorial. I did not get any photos of the memorial as we spent this time reflecting.

After visiting the memorial, we made our way past Trinity Church — which you may recognize from National Treasure — and took a stroll down Wall Street.

Trinity Church is absolutely beautiful.
Another view of the church.
I’m pointing at the New York Stock Exchange.

 

Then, it was time to be the true tourists we are. We headed to Rockefeller Center (a must-do when you’re in NYC during the holiday season).

I had to take a selfie in front of the tree.
This is arguably the most beautiful part of NYC in December.

 

It seemed like the day was moving by quickly; by the time we were finished admiring the tree, it was already close to dinnertime. We went to an Irish pub/restaurant a few blocks away for a nice meal.

The pub reminded me of “How I Met Your Mother.”
Good eats!

As the day came to a close, we had one final stop: School of Rock on Broadway.

Sadly, Jack Black didn’t make an appearance.

This was an excellent show, if you’re a fan of rock and roll, that is. I was impressed by how much the lead resembled Jack Black in the film, and the children did a great job fulfilling their roles as well. They even played their own instruments!

 

Though our trip was short, I loved visiting the city. I hope to come back one day for a more permanent visit.

 

Until next time,

Julia

 

 

How I Overcame My Fear of Public Speaking

You’re sitting in class on a Friday, thinking about your weekend plans, when your professor informs you of a fifteen-minute presentation due next week. Some students may not fret all that much about it, but if you hate public speaking like I used to, your weekend plans have been ruined.

It’s taken me many years to navigate the art of public speaking, but I’ve found a few ways that have helped me drastically.

public speaking photo
The once-dreaded podium will not be feared anymore.

1. Fear isn’t something to be feared.

That sounds a little strange, but what I mean is this: Don’t be afraid of being nervous. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to freak out about whether your voice is going to crack or if your hands are going to shake. Don’t freak out about this. This fear is what always got the best of me before I realized I can’t help that my face turns red when I speak in front of a crowd. As long as I am aware that it happens, I have control over the situation. Over time, my face has stopped turning red simply because I recognized that it happens and that I am in control.

2. But it is okay to be nervous.

Nerves are a good thing when it comes to public speaking. They keep you on edge and make you aware of how you’re presenting. As long as you do not have excessive nerves that make you incapable of speaking fluently, it’s okay to be nervous. It means you care – and caring means you’re going to want to do well.

3. Find a part of your speech/presentation that captivates you and run with it.

Sometimes, we get lucky and have presentations about topics we love. Other times, we have to present in our least favorite class about a topic we could care less about. If you can find something about your topic that interests you, this can make a huge difference and will even make you want to give the presentation. I did this for my most recent presentation; although I was required to speak about technology, I made it my own by talking about technology’s role in education – a topic that interests me.

4. Practice, practice, practice.

This seems like such an obvious tip, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t actually practice their presentations beforehand. If you hate public speaking, this is the worst thing you can do to yourself. It has helped me to practice my presentation at least three times: once by myself, once to a friend, and a third time in the room I will be presenting in. I practice by myself so that I am sure of what I want to say without the pressure of an audience watching me. Then, I practice with a friend to present to a mock audience and get my hand gestures and eye contact just right. Finally, if I can, I present in the room where I will actually have to deliver my presentation. If I do not have access to the room beforehand, I go to the next best thing: a classroom with a projector. This helps me envision a successful presentation and allows me to get comfortable with the environment.

5. Hydrate.

This is another seemingly obvious tip that’s often overlooked. If you’re nervous, your voice is probably going to crack; you’re going to want to drink water beforehand and have a water bottle available to you during the presentation if it is allowed. You don’t want to let the sound of your voice psych you out.

6. If all else fails, put the presentation into perspective.

Although we want all of our presentations to be successful, sometimes, this just doesn’t happen. We can take all of the advised steps to a great presentation but freak out the day it happens because of an unforeseen circumstance. (This is especially true if you have anxiety like I do; it can completely throw you off your game.) If this does happen, just remember that this presentation takes up a minuscule chunk of your life and that it’ll be over in no time. You have plenty more presentations to knock out of the park in the future.

I hope some of these tips help those of you who fear public speaking like I did for so long. Remember: you’re in control, and there’s nothing you can’t train yourself to conquer.

Until next time,

Julia

 

Julia Talks College: Navigating College as an Introverted Soul

Being social when you’re an introvert is difficult as is. Adding college into the mix makes being an introvert even more difficult – you’re surrounded by people almost 24/7, everyone wants you to be involved in some sort of activity, and icebreaker games are a thing.

introverted me
Here’s a photo of me being super social during my first week at school.

Ah, the dreaded icebreaker.

Adjusting to college life as an introverted soul myself was no easy task, but I’ve found myself making lots of friends and being involved on campus. Here’s how I did it (and I hope you’ll do the same):

1. Find a spot on campus where you can be alone. As an introvert, you’re going to want to spend a lot of time alone. However, college life makes this incredibly difficult since you’re surrounded by people at all times – and now you have a roommate on top of that. It can be hard to find a quiet spot to just be alone with your thoughts, but if you go ahead and try to find a spot on campus within the first couple of weeks, you’re set. This spot, for me, is my room since there are times when my roommate and I’s schedules keep us out of the room at different times. If that doesn’t work for you, there are plenty of other places that may work, such as a nook in the library or under a tree on the quad.

2. Once you find a quiet spot, set aside time each day or two to go there and do what you need to do. Don’t spend all day alone, since college life is about meeting new people and doing new things, but do enjoy the time you get to be by yourself and do the things you enjoy doing. Sometimes, I like to bring my laptop and write. Other times, I like to listen to music and work on homework. That way, I’m being productive while still having my “introvert time.”

3. After setting aside a place and time to be alone when you need to be, force yourself to be outgoing. I know what you’re thinking: I can’t just force myself to be outgoing. Trust me, I felt the same way before realizing it can be done. In the beginning of the semester, your school is going to be putting on a bunch of different events for freshmen to get them acclimated to the environment. You certainly don’t have to attend all of them, as that can be exhausting, but do go to a few. Develop a habit of attending one every other day, if that’s how frequent they are. You don’t even have to stay for long, but trust me, attending these events will help you with being more social when other, more “authentic” social situations come around.

4. Keep your dorm room door open. This is the biggest life hack of them all. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your room for people to come visit you. Trust me, people will walk right in and see what you’re up to. This was one of the best things I did since I am most comfortable in my own space, eliminating any anxiety I might feel in a new and unfamiliar environment.

5. Make some friends who will be outgoing for you. I have a few friends who always want to go and try new things. This literally forces me to be social. Having extroverted friends can be helpful if you have a tendency to stay inside and binge-watch Netflix all day. However, you don’t have to feel obligated to always go out with them; everything in moderation is key, and that includes being social.

I hope some of these tips help if you’re an introvert like I am. College can be tough for the introverted soul, but you’re tougher.

 

Until next time,

Julia

 

 

 

 

 

Julia Talks College: Choosing the Right School for YOU

Today is the one-year anniversary of my scholarship competition for the college I attend! (Thanks, Timehop, for making me aware of this.) Here’s a photo of me on campus that day:

lc scholarship comp photo

 

In all honesty, I didn’t think I would end up attending this school because it was my safety school. I’m so glad I ended up picking here, even though some people tried to convince me I should’ve taken a different route.

Here’s some advice I think would’ve been helpful when I was deciding which college to attend the fall after my senior year:

1. It’s all about location, location, location. My dream school was all the way up in Ithaca, New York. My dad kept telling me that I would be miserable going there because of the harsh winters. Of course, I told him the weather wouldn’t bother me at all. Guess what? I was wrong. The weather is going to bother you. Make sure you choose a school where you won’t be miserable for most of the time because of the rain/snow/heat/etc. In addition to the weather, take into consideration the distance from home. I ended up picking a school that’s about 3 hours away from home, and even though I thought proximity wouldn’t matter to me, it does. Traveling long distances can be expensive, and if you’re like me, you’ll start to miss your family a little bit. It’s also nice to just be able to go home for the weekend when you need a break from college life.

2. Don’t pick a school for its name. I almost ended up picking a different, more expensive school simply because it had better name recognition. I am so thankful I didn’t do this. Although this may impress your relatives and friends, it’s more important to pick the school that’s right for you. For me, this was a small, liberal arts college in the mountains. It wasn’t the large city school with the well-known name, but I can guarantee this school is the better fit for me.

3. Don’t pick a school because your friends/family think it’s best for you. Although my parents happened to know what was best for me (and I should’ve listened to them all along), they’re not always going to be right. This holds true with your friends, as well. Some of my friends tried to convince me that the city school was better for me, but I knew it my heart I would not be happy there. I’m glad I was able to listen to my own heart.

4. There’s no reason to be ashamed of attending your safety school. You applied there for a reason. Sometimes, things happen, like finances falling through or being rejected from your top schools. I felt embarrassed when I told people I would be attending my safety school because I felt I was being judged. I was in the top ten percent of my class, and I was a part of a very prestigious academic program. (One of my classmates ended up going to Columbia. Of course that was intimidating.)  I realize now how ridiculous my embarrassment was; all that matters is that I’m attending the perfect school for me, and it really doesn’t matter what other people have to say.

5. Sometimes, you just have to listen to your gut. I knew that I loved my safety school right off the bat. The only reason it was my safety school was because I was often told that I could “do better.” I’m sure if I wanted to go to a school with more recognition, I could, but I am so glad I don’t. My gut told me this college was perfect for me, and it certainly is.

I hope these tips help some of you as you decide which school to attend after graduation. Best wishes!

 

Until next time,

Julia

Dear 18-Year-Old Julia: A Letter to Myself About the Lessons I’ve Learned

Dear 18-Year-Old Julia,

Congratulations! You’ve almost made it through your very first semester of college, and a lot has happened since you’ve entered this form of adulthood. You’ve registered to vote, you’ve tried to learn how to slack line, and you’re even thinking about traveling to Greece over spring break. Life is unpredictable, always changing in ways you never could have expected, but it is oh so beautiful.

I’m proud of you for breaking out of your shell and for being your unapologetic self. Who would have known that the shyest girl in elementary school would manage to socialize with all types of people by the time she came to college? What I’m most proud of is how willing you are to discover yourself without letting silly little things hold you back.

You’ve certainly learned a lot of lessons throughout your first semester of college (and your first semester of being 18). Here are some of the best of them.

You’ve begun to realize what’s most important to you. More specifically, you’ve begun to realize that spending time with your friends when they’re going through a tough time is more important than your math homework. You’ve also realized that giving yourself time to just be alone is key, as it forces you to examine the life you’re choosing to live.

You now understand that life isn’t perfect. Even though you knew this before, you understand it now. You learn about the hardships people face through personal experiences and through your classes. There are people in your life now who are struggling more than you could ever imagine. Everyone is fighting their own battle.

There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling of trying something new. Sure, it can be terrifying, but it’s worth it in the end, even if it is a failure. With that being said, failure is okay. In fact, failure is essential to growth and exploration. How will you know your true character without seeing who you are when you’ve fallen down a few times?

You certainly have a lot more to learn, but you’re doing great. You’re growing. You’re discovering.

Your best years are right now; you’re staring them right in the eye. Continue to take charge. Jump into this world and don’t look back.

Sincerely,

18-Year-Old Julia