Friend Favorites Part IV

The favorites my friends are all talking about.

Truffle hot sauce, Masterclasses, Shiseido for men… this blog post really has it all! This week my friends are giving you the low-down on all of the things they are loving right now, which includes some intriguing recommendations to say the least. If you have been following along, you will definitely consider purchasing some Supergoop! products by now or investing in Hulu or Netflix subscription to watch all of the latest movies and shows my friends are loving. Today, we have three friends, who I met during my study abroad program, giving up their latest finds. They could not be more different, yet more the same in so many ways. Take it away guys and gal!

James (left), Ola (center), Jeremie (right)

Snack

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James: Apples, oranges, blueberries or nuts because they’re healthy!

Ola: Truff Hot Sauce – technically not a snack but it’s a condiment that I’ve been putting on everything from eggs to veggies and I would highly recommend if you want to spice up your life.

Jeremie: Greek yogurt topped with seeds, oats, and fruit is the best snack I’ve found to satisfy and sugar cravings.

Beauty Product

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James: Shiseido face wash– really makes my face feel clean. My aunt sent it to me in a care package when in college and I’ve been using it since.

Ola: Supergoop Glowscreen – I recently got this sunscreen because I’ve heard so many great things about the brand and founder. It’s moisturizing and makes the skin so radiant.

Jeremie: I have a love-hate with Crest 3D whitening strips. They feel like a chore to use, but it’s a big confidence boost.

Favorite Clothing Item

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James: PIMCO t-shirt, it’s from a friend and it’s soft and versatile. My friends and I give each other t-shirts from where we work and one of my best friends works at PIMCO. The shirt is blue and very soft, it’s also large so I can lounge in it. 

Ola: Soludos sneakers – I got a pair of these embroidered sneakers last summer and they are so cute and unique and super comfortable too!

Jeremie: I’ve been wearing smart trousers from H&M lately. They’re comfortable in spring weather and easy to dress up or down, depending on your shoes and top.

Show or Movie

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James: Movie is Limitless with Bradley Cooper. I like movies that involve smart people, I also like the idea of being able to unlock the rest of your brain.

Ola: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – I feel like I might be the only person who watches this but it’s a show where the main character hears her friends’ and family members’ innermost feelings and thoughts through song. As a former musical theater nerd, I really enjoy the performances and random singing and dancing.

Jeremie: I’ve been loving MasterClasses, especially Sara Blakely’s and Chris Voss’s. Anytime you hear someone speak about one specific craft that he/she mastered, it’s a great mix of entertainment and education.

Hobby or Activity

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James: Anything with friends: poker, drinking, the beach, you name it!

Ola: Reading! I’m currently enjoying Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton, a British journalist. It’s a memoir about growing up that explores navigating friendships, jobs, loss and romance. I also recently read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo which I would recommend if you’re looking for something more serious.

Jeremie: My girlfriend and I have been finding things to do in our area on TikTok. It’s an easy way to plan a date night while doing things we normally wouldn’t.

Friend Favorites Part III

The favorites my friends are all talking about.

Yes, it’s our first all-male edition of friend favorites, where I asked my guy friends what items they are using, snacks they are eating, what they are wearing, and so much more. Whether it be my girl friends or my guy friends, I feel like there is always something to learn. Who knew that I needed some kale chips and a Dyson hair dryer stat!? One of the many reasons I love asking my friends for recommendations is because they all have such diverse perspectives and viewpoints. I walk away learning so much and feeling motivated to give something new a try! Here are the latest friend recommendations- get your wallets ready!

Ivan (left), Justin (center), Hayoung (right)

Snack

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Ivan: Crispy kale chips 12/10, perfect balance between healthy, and crispy that you get from wanting to munch on something.

Justin: Frozen Mango. Perfect summer snack, cold and soft, yet firm consistency.

Hayoung: I don’t snack much, but chocolate covered pretzels, I have a HUGE sweet tooth.

Bathroom Product

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Ivan: Differin Acne Treatment Gel, it’s my hidden secret that I use to spot treat wrinkles, and small pimples!

Justin: Unseen Sunscreen by Supergoop. A daily essential and you never feel like you’re wearing sunscreen. 

Hayoung: My Dyson hair dryer, it dries my hair in like 15 seconds… it’s incredible.

Favorite Clothing Item

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Ivan: I am super eager to start traveling again, and nothing says beach side vacation like a pair of Havaianas.

Justin: Lululemon shorts, “The short.” Its just a must for working from home. 

Hayoung: My brown leather loafers from To Boot New York, it’s my go-to when I’m going out to dinner.

Show or Movie

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Ivan:Broad City” is the right balance between chaotic and borderline weird that I crave in a TV show.

Justin: Forget a movie or show – online classes on “EdX”

Hayoung: “How I Met Your Mother”, I think it’s the perfect show (except for the ending).

 

Hobby or Activity

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Ivan: Never underestimate the power of a good walk! I usually listen to Gary Vee’s coffee chats on YouTube, and it’s cool to listen to him while being outside and enjoying the weather.

Justin: Cycling! It’s important to get sun and fresh air, you can cover great distances and it’s great for socializing.

Hayoung: Getting a great meal with my friends, vibes are so good before, during, and after.

Friend Favorites Part II

The favorites my friends are all talking about.

It’s only the second part of the series and I feel as though there is so much for me to try that my friends have recommended! I love taking recommendations for so many reasons, the main one being that it bonds you closer to your friends. When you try something that someone else is passionate about, you are able to connect with them on that experience. A funny show they mention? The best way to spark some laughs in referencing the punchline during a conversation. A yummy dessert recommendation? An insight into your friend’s palette. A soft sweater they always talk about? The perfect birthday gift when the time comes. And when the time comes for these three friends of mine, I know just what to get them!

Farah (left), Thomas (center), Pam (right)

Snack

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Farah: Chocolate chewy bar. They are light, delicious and reminds me of the great memories I had durning my middle school and high school days in Tunis when we would go to the commecery to buy them.

Thomas: Pink Lady Apple. I have a bad addiction to sugar and find it sometimes satisfies my craving for something sweet and sugary.

Pam: Baked hot Cheetos. They are sooo good and addicting. I also think they taste better than the regular hot Cheetos.

Beauty Product

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Farah: Province Apothecary eye brow serum. My favorite serum to promote hair growth for eyebrows. The only thing that has ever worked for me!

Thomas: Aesop Camellia Nut Facial Hydrating Cream. I love to use this product after I’ve washed, scrubbed, and toned my face with the Aesop In Two Minds Facial Toner. My face is always glowing afterwards and makes me feel like I’m at my best.

Pam: La Roche-posay Lipikar Lotion AP+. I was using a toner that irritated my skin. It caused a really bad reaction and ended up drying out my skin MAJORLY. This has single handedly saved my skin. Also using it all over my body for soft and hydrated skin.

Favorite Clothing Item

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Farah: AG black skinny jeans legging. By far, one of the most comfortable pair of jeans that I have ever purchased. A little pricey, but the quality is worth it & I still have my first pair of AG jeans since I bought it 5 years ago!

Thomas: My current favorite clothing item has to be my HENRE swim shorts. Launching this summer, along with swim briefs I based the HENRE collection on the inspirational mid-century modern architecture of Palm Springs.

Pam: My beige Khaite aceline cardigan. Soooo comfortable and cozy. Would wear it everyday if I could.

Show or Movie

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Farah: Definitely Grey’s Anatomy. And not because I’m a doctor! I first started watching this show in early 2000’s since my days in Tunis & it’s just been an ongoing thing for me, one of those shows that feels like home & Meredith is like part of the family.

Thomas: Schitts Creek is my absolute go to. The show is so beautifully written and produced. I feel like I’ve learned and grown a lot as a person from watching the show. There is a line in the show where the character Alexis Rose says to her brother “nobody’s thinking about you as much as you’re thinking about you” and the saying really hit a nerve and changed the way I viewed life in general.

Pam: Grace and Frankie. They are such a hilarious duo. Love their different personalities and how they balance each other. This is really a show that is hard to stop once you start.

Hobby or Activity

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Farah: Driving around in my car with my friends, the windows down with my favorite playlist on!

Thomas: I love a long bike ride with my headphones in listening to Dua Lipa and my snapping photos of my surroundings on my camera.

Pam: Long walks. Not a big fan of cardio but I can go on hours long walks. Something about and evening stroll to close out your day or a mid-day walk to clear your mind. Also, I feel like this is all I can do these days…

Friend Favorites Part I

The favorites my friends are all talking about.

Is this another friend finds series I see!? Yes, you would be correct! This time, instead of asking my friends about their favorite beauty products, we are here to talk about all kinds of favorites- snacks, tv shows, clothing, you name it! I always feel like I can count on my friends for their recommendations when it comes to almost anything. And, if there ever was a time to get recommendations it would be now! With some extra time on our hands due to the pandemic, it’s a great time to explore and try new things. The first round of friend recommendations are coming from Divya, Upasana, and Celeste, who are here to bring you some excellent suggestions on food, beauty, clothing, media, and the hobbies that they are enjoying. Take it away my ladies!

Divya (left), Upasana (center), Celeste (right)

Snack

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Divya: Terra vegetable chips, satisfies a craving without making me feel too bad about myself!

Upasana: Caramel Popcorn! It’s one of those snacks that satisfy a craving but it’s also SO sweet that I end up eating less of it than I’d eat if I ate something salty!

Celeste: Smartfood popcorn! This snack takes me back to elementary school packed lunches and reminds me of my childhood.

Beauty Product

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Divya: The Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask. I know it’s supposed to be a sleeping mask, but the hydration and feel has made it an all purpose, all day lip balm/lip moisturizer that I love.

Upasana: Cloud paint by Glossier. Working from home I don’t wear much makeup anymore, but something that makes me feel instantly bright and pretty in the morning is just dabbing on some cream blush on my cheeks and a little as a lip tint too! I use the haze and storm colors!

Celeste: Beekman 1802 fig leaf hand cream. It smells so good and I love the company’s mission!

Favorite Clothing Item

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Divya: Definitely my oversized white shirt. It’s so hot in Nigeria that sometimes I just want to comfortable and I can dress the shirt up/down which makes it perfect for every occasion without having to try too hard.

Upasana: I’m absolutely obsessed with these comfy lounge like pants that are also great to wear out for a brunch with friends or a day at a cafe just relaxing and reading!

Celeste: Midi silk skirts. These skirts make me feel so elegant and the length is comfortable for any occasion.

Show or Movie

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Divya: I recently binge watched The Spy which was so incredibly good. Definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Middle Eastern Politics or honestly a must watch just for Sacha Baron Cohen.

Upasana: I’d have to say this is the hardest question ever! I finished watch HBO’s Succession and I was absolutely hooked throughout! It’s masterful and nuanced cinematography with characters that aren’t deeply likeable, but are VERY real and that’s a testament to how phenomenal the actors are! Another show that’s my all time favorite that I always go back to, and currently have been watching is Gilmore Girls! It’s just a feel good, heartwarming show but has some very valuable life lessons and important messages!

Celeste: Daria. This show is so funny and relatable to being a teenager.

Hobby or Activity

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Divya: Tennis! I recently started learning the sport and it’s so fun. For me it’s a great way to be outside doing something active while learning a new skill.

Upasana: I’m really getting into candle making and I’d been watching my mom excel at making really creative, deliciously scented candles, so I thought I’d give it a try and it’s a really calming, centering activity with a great finished product that I can use day to day!

Celeste: Sewing and quilting. I love getting inspiration and coming up with ideas. It is an amazing feeling using my hands to make those ideas come to life.

Peloton 101 with Max Dedekind

700 cycled miles in 1 month later

Just three years ago, Max would not have called himself an athlete. Having avoided playing on sports teams and exercising in gyms throughout his life, one would never expect Max to have transformed into an athlete, and not just an athlete, a pretty advanced one, you might say. 

It was some time during 2018 that Max became interested in riding a Peloton bike that his family had purchased to be able to engage in low-impact exercise. Max had the idea of incorporating more exercise into his daily routine for health reasons and thought that cycling could be his way of achieving a level of fitness. Max also views cycling as one of those exercises that you can pick up so easily because all you need is a bike to get started and your athletic abilities don’t have to be advanced to begin.

Starting out, Max felt challenged by the cycling classes’ level of difficulty. 

“When you first begin cycling you are not super encouraged because you feel slow, your output is low, but the harder you push yourself and the longer you stay at it, the easier it gets.” 

Max admits that it took him about 6 months of regularly riding his Peloton in order to feel that he was really making progress and transitioning into harder classes. What helped Max continue to stay motivated throughout the process was self motivation, in achieving something that he set out to do for himself.

“No one is going to care if you get on the bike and ride or don’t. If you don’t have the internal desire to believe in yourself and having the conviction that it’s something that you want to do, it’s probably not right for you.”

When Max first started, he was taking 45-minute classes at a regular level with instructor Robin Arzon, who became his favorite instructor. As time progressed, however, Max began experimenting in taking 20-minute classes, 1-hour classes, “Climb” classes, and even  HIIT rides. 

Max loves his Peloton, not only for how well the bike works and the spin classes the company’s platform provides, but also because of all the other classes the monthly subscription provides. Peloton has its standard spin classes, but also instructions for floor workouts, outdoor running and walking guidance, and even strength classes. It’s like paying for personal training or a gym membership that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home.

Screen_Shot_2021-03-24_at_9.50.53_AM-removebg-previewMax credits the up beat music,- Peloton even has an exclusive collab with Beyonce– the Peloton community, and the acute instruction to motivating him to always getting back on the bike. Max mentions that, when you are riding a Peloton, you don’t feel like you are exercising alone, with someone instructing you and encouraging you along the way. Peloton also makes it easy to compete against yourself and others with the leaderboard, which provides a way to see your continued progress. Along with the leaderboard, Max feels encouraged by the challenges that Peloton presents, such as achieving daily exercise for one month. Max would suggest participating in one of these challenges to help motivate yourself and avoid discouragement. 

What cemented Max’s newfound athleticism was a challenge that he accepted that was sponsored by Babson College’s Alumni Network for the month of January of 2021. The challenge was to have the highest combined output, total distance, or consecutive days biked. Max won all three categories, cycling a total of 704.82 miles. Max wanted to challenge himself during COVID, setting a goal that he could commit to for the month. Some of the challenges in competing include the amount of time taken to ride daily, Max often riding two to three times a day, in addition to the added mental fatigue that riding daily entails, where no matter what mindset you are in, you have to get on the bike and ride. Despite the challenges, Max mentions that it felt nice to see all of his hard work pay off, knowing that mentally he could achieve something that he hadn’t done before.

All you have to do is just get on and ride!

Recommended by Max:

  1. Polar Heart Rate Monitor
  2. Peloton Gear
  3. Peloton Cycling Shoes
  4. Siggi’s Yogurt Snack

Meredith King on Advice for College Students

On transitioning from being home schooled to attending Amherst University and more.

Are you in college? Going to college? Taking a gap year? Whatever it may be, you can never receive too much advice on how to maximize your time in college! When thinking about the college experience, I knew that I had to recruit my good friend Meredith King to give her take on all things higher education: what classes to take, picking a major, taking a gap year, being a student athlete- this lady does it all! College is all about exploring, trying new things, and embarking on new adventures. Arming you with all the info you need to make your journey a successful one, here is Meredith!

Meredith! Tell us a little bit about you! 

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 6.36.01 PMHi everyone! I’m a senior at Amherst College, double majoring in Music and French as well as doing prerequisites to go into accelerated nursing programs post-grad. I’m currently writing a historical musicology thesis looking at the transformation of French prostitute novels into operatic forms. I’m on the Amherst swim team, but I also spend a lot of time singing both in a Christian acapella group called Terras Irradient and in the Amherst College Chorus Society. One of my favorite things to do is spend whole afternoons or evenings sitting in the dining hall with friends from the Amherst Christian Fellowship playing word games or talking about life. 

What should students consider when thinking about taking a gap year?


I think it’s only worth taking a gap year if you have a concrete reason or goal for the year. A gap year can be a chance to do something exciting and different that otherwise you wouldn’t have the time to pursue,  but unless you have a somewhat solid plan, it’s easy to waste a gap year and feel like you wasted time. 

Being someone who is interested in so many different things, how did you go about choosing a major?

Terras Irradient a capella Freshman Showcase 2018 P.C. Faith Wen

I had an unusual path to choosing my major. I knew that I wanted to be a French major coming into college, I studied the language throughout high school and I wanted to continue through college. Amherst doesn’t have minors, so the languages often have few course requirements for their majors. I expected to have a double major in a STEM field since I’m pursuing a pre-nursing track, but I took a music theory class the second half of my freshman year, since I knew I was interested in music. I realized not only that I loved music but also that I loved having a balanced course schedule: one french class, one music class, and two nursing pre-req classes (STEM courses generally). It allowed me to really fully use my brain: when I couldn’t think in French any more I could turn to more concrete STEM coursework, and when I needed something more creative I could turn to music courses. Obviously my path is a slightly unique one: I’ve known what I want to do for a career (Nurse Practitioner), and so I had the freedom to do whatever I wished with my non nursing courses, which is definitely a fortunate position to be in. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to learn how to think in so many different ways, and I think that’s something you can pursue no matter what career path you’re taking. 

What are things students should consider before deciding to join a college sports team?

I think a common misconception is that if you join a college sports team your academics will suffer. While you definitely will be committing a significant portion of time to your sport, you’ll be forced to manage your time well, and you’ll be more efficient in your academic work. Once you join a sports team (or a club with high time commitments), it can be easy to make that your entire social life. I definitely encourage branching out and finding friends with varied interests and backgrounds from you — you’ll learn a lot about yourself and about others. 

How do you go about deciding what classes to take?

For me, I really like to have a balance between STEM and non-STEM classes, that way if I’m sick of doing an online problem set I can switch and do some reading for a humanities class. Having all STEM or all reading can definitely be exhausting on the brain and make for a big slog, whereas having different types of work allows you to take a “break” from one type of work by doing work for a different class. For me, my majors and my nursing-prerequisites took up just about all of my classes, but I made sure to arrange them as evenly split across the semesters to keep that balance, but I also made sure that within the confines of what classes I needed to take, I took every chance to take classes in subjects that actually interested me. There are many French and Music classes I could take each semester, so I got to choose unique ones that actively interested me. One semester I decided that there were two music classes that I absolutely wanted to take, and so I only took one pre-req that semester to allow myself the chance to pursue courses I loved. 

How do you balance your time in college between homework, studying, teams, organizations, class, and fun?

Puerto Rico Swimming Training Trip Room Group 2020

Honestly, the best thing I’ve done for time management in college is start each week with my Monday and Tuesday assignments done, and spend the week getting work done as soon as possible after it’s assigned.  This means that no matter how crazy my days end up, if things pop up unexpectedly, I have a buffer and am never cramming to get my work done in the last seconds before a due-date. Having a buffer also means that you can go get boba with your friends on a whim, and you don’t have to decline because you’ve procrastinated your work to the last second. And sleep!!!! The more rested you are, the more focused you’ll be, and the quicker you’ll get your work done. 

What is some general advice you would give to previously homeschooled students in terms of entering college and the formal in-person classroom?

I was fortunate in that I had taken synchronous online classes with real (albeit virtual) professors and classmates, so I remarkably didn’t find the transition too shocking. I do think that the most helpful advice I have for transitioning to college (for “normal” schooled people as well) is attending office hours. Having a personal relationship with your professor, one that you start at the beginning of the semester, will only help you academically. Especially during the transition to college, it can be hard to tell what a professor is expecting for an assignment, or what they’re expecting you to know or not know for a test. Spend time in their office, ask casual questions, don’t be afraid to look silly, it will show them that you care, and it will help you learn the material the way they want you to. 

What is the best class that you have taken in college and why?

The class visiting Vienna (P.C. Faith WEN)

My absolute favorite class that I took was a music seminar titled “Vienna.” We were a class of 12: half Music majors and half German majors. We spent the first half of the semester studying various things about Vienna as a city and music in Vienna, and over spring break we took an 8 day trip to Vienna as a whole class (including our two professors!) It was a very special experience to get to study something in the classroom, and then get to really experience it, and feel the weight and valuable nature of the knowledge we acquired. And of course it was an incredible opportunity to really bond with those classmates, most of whom I barely knew before the trip. It was a very diverse group of students who I probably wouldn’t have been close with otherwise, so I’m very grateful for that experience. The second half of the semester revolved around us presenting research projects, and it was my first time writing a 20 page research paper, which was a huge help for me when deciding to write an honors thesis. 

What did you wish you knew before entering college and what advice would you give to a student entering college very soon?

I think that I was very fortunate to have my gap year: it allowed me to come into college with a pretty clear sense of what I valued and who I was, and the ways that I wanted to grow. While I met a lot of people, and I’ve continued to meet interesting people throughout college, I was fortunate to find friends my freshman year that I am still very close to, in part because I think I was able to shrug off the pressure of trying to “fit in” or needing to get to know everyone just to ensure that I’d have some friends. Of course, I was also very lucky to happen across those people my first few days, and while we clicked quickly it was a couple months before we were what I would call “close friends.” So I suppose my advice is: don’t stress about making friends, don’t just hang with a group out of fear, if you talk to someone and genuinely like them, make an effort to connect with them more deeply. And don’t stress if you don’t have close friends quickly — deep friendships take effort and come with time. 

Anything else you might want to add?

Everyone should take Intro to Psychology and Developmental Psychology! Intro Psych is so helpful and important for better understanding how people think and work, and watching my baby nephew become an almost two-year-old I’m so grateful for my Dev Psych knowledge. 

Upasana Roy on Life Advice for Recent College Graduates

Graduated? Yeah… me too.

Because I have an older brother I always benefitted from having friends who are older than me. Having these friends, I have had the opportunity to pick their brains about everything- what classes to take, how to get an internship, friend advice- you name it! My friend Upasana Roy is one of those friends who I can always count on for advice. She is open, honest, and always willing to provide a different perspective. When I went through my job search, Upasana was there to motivate and support me. Having been a college graduate for some time now, I knew that I had to get her take on the highs, the lows, and everything in between when it comes to coping with life after college. For me and many others, life after Babson has been challenging at times but also filled with hope, excitement, and adventure. For Upasana, a bit of the same. 

The biggest difference between going to college and working post-graduation for Upasana has been how you approach every day. In college, you study for tests and exams, hoping to ace your courses. If you don’t, you just try harder next time. You’re being tested on your competence and your discipline, as well as your willingness to be a team player and learn. After college, every day at work and in life can feel like a test and you really have to strive to do your best because your efforts are reflected in tangible results. Suddenly you’re faced with “adulting”, a term that’s said in humor, but is in fact so real! You’re paying bills, trying to understand your 401K and Roth IRA and navigate finding your own place, figuring out plans moving forward.

bumble-dating

Upasana also notes that you have to consider aspects of your life that you haven’t necessarily had to concern yourself with before, like managing your finances and planning your social calendar. Upasana’s advice for you is to invest a little bit of money with each paycheck and recommends looking into Robinhood, an investment app that takes $0 in trade fees, and Public, another platform for beginner investors. In terms of your social life, after college, a big part of acclimating to a lesser degree of socialization is realizing that loneliness is a bigger part of life after college than anyone recognizes. It’s easy to take for granted how much of a bustling social life you had as a college student. It is important to foster an uber supportive set of friends to hold you up in hard times and laugh during the good times! Postgrad depression is a real problem and it is important to make a point of socializing. Be open and honest about your feelings- you are switching lives practically after all. Upasana also uses Bumble BFF, where she says you can meet some really cool people and have good conversations as well as networking events and gatherings with people that have similar interests, such as plant societies, book clubs, dance classes, or gyms! It’s important to stay friends with people and keep in touch, even if they are in different parts across the globe. Make it a point to schedule some time together. Distance shouldn’t mean anything if your friendships are real. Virtual friendships are something to be proud of!

Imposter syndrome is another aspect of post-grad life that can be unexpected for many. Women are especially known for underplaying and doubting their achievements in a workplace setting- yes, this has actually been scientifically proven. Upasana notes that college feels more like a meritocracy, where you achieve good grades when you work hard and perform well. However, in a workplace, you might be at the table with big decision-makers and leaders, but feel underqualified or underskilled in some way. Regardless, they genuinely want to know what you have to say and you bring a perspective that is unique and fresh to how things are going to work. Speak up, Upasana says, you got hired for a reason. 

But, how do you “let go” of the past, when it can be really difficult, especially for those who felt like their best self in college? *major feels*

Upasana mentions that she struggled with this a great deal. She had it ingrained in her brain that college was the best 4 years of her life, a thought process that wasn’t doing her any favors! Upasana’s best friend Divya, once said to her that “that’s no way to think! You should always think that the best years of your life are yet to come! You need to move forward and move on!” Upasana needed that snap back to reality and soon was able to let go of the negativity and perpetual feeling of “loss” that came with leaving that life behind. 

“You haven’t changed, you at your very core are the same. You are the same person, but you might be just a bit older or in a different location” Upasana wisely states. 

The trouble with graduating is that stages of your life are no longer prescribed. Next year you will not become a Senior, now you have to write your own story, while also remembering that your plans won’t always work out and things will change. It’s about changing your level of expectation to solve this problem, Upasana mentions. Always have a plan B. When Upasana lost her dad 1 year out of college, she felt really lost. One of her best friends and confidants was gone and she had a continual “what do I do now?” feeling. No matter how hard things get, Upasana learned that you will survive and having people around you to support and lift you up is extremely important! It can be family, friends, anyone you trust, have a strong support system, and close the loop by being kind to others in return. 

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feat. Upansana and I (center)

Now that we have covered the challenges, let’s talk about the joys of post-grad life!

Upasana’s favorite aspects of young adulthood include the ability to control her own finances and saving money on travel and fun purchases. She also has learned to enjoy the little things more, like having dinner out with her mom or having a long phone conversation with her grandma. Upasana says that she lives slower and lighter now than ever before. Upasana has a greater sense that she is able to plan for things to come and that the world is really her oyster. She also gets a lot of enjoyment in seeing her friends transforming and evolving alongside her. 

Looking towards the future, Upasana is most excited about the uncertainty of life! She is eager to go to grad school, see where her romantic and friend relationships lead her and is motivated to get more healthy this year. More than that, however, Upasana is taking more time to reflect on what she wants for her life and the impact that she wants to leave on the world. 

“We live in such interesting times and I feel so positive about our generation,” she mentions. As long as Upasana is leading the way, I feel pretty positive about us too.

Jenna Sweeney on Tips for Branding your Business

Go brand yourself!

Brand (/brand/). Definition: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. For some businesses brand identity can make or break a company. It can be the difference between recognizing a company from another and forgetting it altogether. Some brands take years to find their distinctive voice, others naturally pick up a tone during a company’s inception. Brands can be tricky to handle and can be easily tarnished, which is why many businesses spend a significant amount of money on retaining a good brand image. Jenna Sweeney is someone who is passionate about brands and their connection to our society and culture, which is why she is the perfect person to give us her tips on branding your business. Jenna, the floor is yours!

Tell us a little bit about yourself Jenna!

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I’m a recent graduate of Babson College who’s fascinated by the ways brands connect with their audience and as a result, influence culture. I’ve been working with eco-conscious start-ups in Los Angeles, CA since July under my brand strategy consultancy, Freedom Machine. I feel so grateful to be working towards a better Earth while exploring new markets and collaborating on exciting projects—getting to flex different creative muscles— it’s really my dream come true! 

In your opinion, what makes a good brand?

What makes a good brand to me is a distinct perspective. Brands which have a unique look, feel, and voice that all work together to tell a compelling story are typically the brands that rise to the top. I like to think that every brand has its own personality in what they value and how they show up. Every sale is a social interaction first and foremost, even within e-commerce. 

What are the most common challenges that the companies you help face?

Nowadays, in every sector, there are brands with an outstanding visual identity, stellar product, and great intentions. I think the most common challenge is finding a way to creatively compel your audience and distinguish your company from the inevitable competition while following best practices. 

What are some steps that companies can take in order to begin to develop their own brand strategy? 

I think asking yourself or your team how the brand would show up in the world as a person is a great exercise to reimagine the way your brand functions. Looking beyond target customer, to ask:

Who is your brand? What do they stand for? How do they treat their competition, customers, and team?

I think bringing attention to those traits of the business can really help to hone in on the nuance that helps a brand to resonate with its audience. 

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From a marketing perspective, what are some suggestions you would give to companies that have struggled during the pandemic?

My advice would be to get creative! Systems in our world are being rebuilt and part of that process is making way for a new mode of commerce to emerge. I see a lot of great, new companies finding a niche demand that is more unique to this moment in history. In America, most people have been spending most time at home in this past year– but that has made space for subscription-based goods and services to come back in style, for example. I think it’s just about recognizing the opportunities in enhancing our new ways of living. 

If a company wants to branch out into utilizing social media, what is some advice you would give them to figure out which platforms would be best for their business?

I’d say it definitely depends on what the product is– A B2B for example may only need a landing page and a LinkedIn, whereas direct-to consumer would want to be active on Instagram first, then Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, etc. as they’re applicable. The best way to find your audience is to start creating on different platforms and prioritize the platform where you get the most user/audience interaction. 

What are some company brands that you admire? 

I’m loving Seed, Ghia, Topo Chico, The Elder Statesman, Paloma Wool, Bode, Suprstructur, and Older Brother

What excites you about the future of the marketing and branding space?

I’m excited about new perspectives in the marketing field that will change how an audience resonates with a brand’s content and challenge existing social norms. I’m also excited by the market’s high standards for companies to use sustainable practices and conscientious employee relations. Quality of life and product is more important now than ever. 

How can someone looking for your services get in contact with you?!

www.freedommachine.space 

Or send me an email at jenna.sweeney3@gmail.com

10 Things I Learned from Starting a Blog and Writing 100 Blog Posts

Eat some cake! It’s time to celebrate!

Wow! We have come a long way haven’t we? Although I wanted to 100 things I learned from starting my blog- trust me that could easily be done- I decided to spare everyone the lengthy reading and narrowed it down to my most significant 10 learning points from this experience. Starting my blog was undoubtably one of the highlights of 2020 for me and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to share it with you all. I thought that this milestone was something to celebrate and I cannot wait for the next 100 articles. But for now, here is what I have learned.


1. The importance of starting and committing 

I had the idea of starting a blog for a while, yet it was a professional mentor of mine who encouraged me to create an online profile for prospective employers to look at. Yes, that is the reason that my blog has a resume and I decided that, even though I have a job now, it still might be interesting for people to know a little bit about my journey. In such a tough job market, I was motivated to do anything that would help me stand out as an applicant and widen my reach to employers. I created not one, but two websites in the process and posted a few articles about my life experiences and professional takeaways. Little did I know that I would become so incredibly passionate about writing and sharing that we would still be here 7 months later! And employed! The reality is, however, I could have kept thinking about starting a blog, had it not been for one night that I took the leap to purchase a domain, roll up my sleeves, and start building the site. There is something incredibly important in committing to an idea and starting, no matter how much you think you know. If the interest is there, just go for it. You have nothing to lose and so much invaluable knowledge to gain. 

2. Learning to continue regardless of readership or engagement 

Cora_II-removebg-previewWhen I started the blog, just having one reader meant so much to me, I would think to myself  “I can’t believe people are invested and engage in what I write!” It felt incredible. However, as time progresses, you naturally expect to see an increase in engagement, readers, followers, subscribers- whatever it may be. You begin to expect more, which can be crushing at times, especially when you have spent 5 hours on an article that you can read in 5 minutes, read by only 5 people. In summation, the process can become increasingly discouraging if you don’t see any progress. This taught me a couple of things. Firstly, to celebrate the little wins and sharing those milestones with others so that they can celebrate with you. I love to post on my Instagram about the interesting places that my readers are reading from- the best by far has been the Seychelles- or how many email subscribers the blog has reached. If you take the time to be grateful for every achievement- like this one!- it will make the process much more enjoyable and encouraging. Another takeaway for me was to reflect on why I was blogging in the first place. Although it started out with professional motives, it has become personally motivated, as I have come to learn how much I have a passion for writing, interviewing, sharing, making collages, and learning. If I remember that I am continuing on with my blog because of how much I love it, I am reminded that I do this for me, first and foremost, not for other’s approval or interest. If someone feels motivated or inspired by my writing, that is the cherry on top. 

3. A plethora of new skills

Ok, when I said you would learn a lot by trying something new, I wasn’t kidding. Here are a few skills that I have honed or learned for the first time in creating my baby- I mean blog. 

  1. Google Analytics and Google Search EnginePeony_52-removebg-preview
  2. Writing with style and voice 
  3. Social media marketing 
  4. Creating a newsletter
  5. Networking
  6. Researching the best website hosts and softwares
  7. Photo editing
  8. Branding
  9. Web design
  10. Phone interviewing
  11. Proofreading and grammar
  12. WordPress software
  13. Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  14. Collaborating with companies to form partnerships
  15. Creating formal deck presentations
  16. Succinct interview note-taking
  17. Crafting my personal elevator pitch 
  18. Coding 
  19. I am sure that I am missing a few here…

4. Human connection is central to my life

Without sounding too dramatic here, this blog has really saved my life. In late July, when I first started the blog, I was completely burnt out. I had spent everyday for two months applying for jobs and having networking calls. I was still mourning the loss of the last two months of my senior year and not being able to graduate on stage with my classmates. Most of all, I missed my friends and my professors. I missed my social job at the library, interacting with friends, acquaintances, and strangers everyday. I felt as though I had no purpose and no one to share my life with anymore. This blog changed that. I was able to motivate myself everyday to work on something that I could call my own and take ownership of. And, most importantly, I was able to interact with people again, from every walk of my life. On my blog, I have had the chance to feature friends that I have only just met, never even in person, to friends from my middle school and everyone in between. Whether it be phone interviews, through social media, or chatting online, it was such a pleasure to connect again in so many different ways. Sharing that on this platform has made it all the better.  

5. Discovering my personal brand and written voice

Starting the blog has allowed me to really reflect on who I see myself as and facilitated a lot of self-discovery. I began to ask myself a lot of questions like “what content would I find interesting? What interests me? What do I like to read about? What is my personal brand? How would I like to appear to others online?” I also began to think about my written voice and who I identified as, as a writer. This process is continually evolving, yet really made me consider, in every decision, how I am able to put my best foot forward and who I want to be.  

6. Pushing my boundaries of productivity, organization, curiosity, and creativity every day

Peony_47-removebg-previewWriting a blog post 3+ times a week has forced me to be incredibly organized in how I approach scheduling and writing my articles. This has led me to consider what days people engage with my posts the most, what my readers enjoy reading, and how I can consistently push the envelope in terms of content, whether it be in the writing style, photos, videos, music, and gifs that I incorporate into my articles. I am forced to constantly look for inspiration in everything and everyone that I meet. Every time that I begin to doubt my ability to come up with creative ideas for content, I look back on all of my articles and feel compelled to push forward no matter what. My friends have also been a support in helping to collaborate with me on articles to diversify the voices on the blog. I am forever grateful for everyone who has contributed in a big and small way!

7. Learning content strategy

In starting my blog, I learned how to constantly iterate and improve both my content, strategy, and processes. Here are some insights about my blog that I have gathered so far:

  1. Utilizing Google Analytics, Google Search Engine, and internal WordPress analytics, has helped me to decide what external platforms gain the most traffic to my site. Believe it or not, the majority of my readers come from LinkedIn! 
  2. Learning about search engine optimization has been incredibly beneficial to me. Over the past two months I have averaged 12% of my website views as coming from search engines. This month I am on track for even more web clicks!
  3. Looking at trends on when to post. Looks like Monday at 10:00 am is the most popular time for readers on my blog. 
  4. Looking at trends as to what content performs better than others, which, for my blog, tends to be business, entrepreneurship, and fashion related content. 
  5. I have also evaluated what social media posts work better than others. Trust me, photos of people always perform the best!

8. Learning should be a joy versus a task

Screen_Shot_2021-01-21_at_9.20.31_PM-removebg-previewIf you really love something, you are going to want to learn more about it and dive deeply into how to constantly improve and evolve. I find that this was a good learning experience that will help me for the future. If something feels like a chore, then it’s probably not a passion or intense interest. If you are someone who is looking to find a passion of your own, this is a good litmus test. 

9. Better understanding current and future industry landscapes 

Starting my blog and writing interesting content has forced me to be engaged in current trends, culture, news, and events. It has encouraged me to read more news, discover more insights, and speak with people that are industry experts to understand where the future is headed. Articles that have allowed me to take a deep dive into learning more about the complexity of our world have been some of my favorites, including this article on TikTok fame, this post about the future of modern luxury retail, and this piece on cryptocurrency banking. The world is a playground, so make sure to use the monkey bars!

10. I am capable of literally making something out of nothing

When the going gets tough, I just get tougher. I am able to create something of value out of the resources around me and that is pretty special. Just making lemonade out of lemons over here baby! Now you get out there too. 

 

What Learning to Code Taught Me

It’s not as easy as ABC or 123, but maybe 1010…

A few months ago, I had a phone call with a recruiter. It had taken me weeks to set this call up. It all began with a networking call, then an email reference to internal HR, then finally to the recruiter for the job that I was interested in. The job was as an Operations Analyst at a popular fashion retailer and I could not have been more excited. Despite my sticky palms, I hopped on the recruiting call, ready to discuss why I was most qualified for the position. After running through my resume with the recruiter, she mentioned that she was impressed with both my enthusiasm and experiences just coming out of college, however, the position required a working knowledge of SQL. At the time, I only had experience with R code, a coding language that I learned in my Quantitative Business Analytics courses. She said that this would not normally be a considerable problem, however there is a mandatory SQL test during the recruitment process that I would not be able to finish if I did not understand SQL. After thanking her for the call, I remember sitting in my room completely frustrated. I had just lost an incredible opportunity due to the fact that I did not have one simple skill. It was then and there that I knew I had to roll up my sleeves and take a crack at it. Challenge accepted.

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In simple terms, a coder is someone who writes specific instructions or a “program” for a computer to understand and process the submitted request in the form of a completed task. Different coding languages are used for different purposes and require a specific language for writing “instructions”. SQL is a particularly helpful language for managing data in a relational database management system, making it useful for data analytics roles. 

If you are a beginner, like myself, I recommend using Codecademy to get your feet wet! Codecademy is free to sign up and offers various different courses to learn coding languages, such as SQL, Python, R, and Java. After signing up for my SQL course on Codecademy, I decided to dive right into the first session. Each session is composed of a few parts, the main ones being lessons, informational articles, projects, and quizzes. I especially appreciated the variety in material the courses offer, which helps coders learn the language more than memorize it. I also really enjoyed the challenging projects within each session that tests your coding skills in a useful and practical manner. 

After earning my “Learn SQL” course with Codecademy this past November, I had a few takeaways that I thought were worth sharing. My first takeaway is that, although the phrase “learning to code” and other tech terminology may seem intimidating, coding can be learned by anyone no matter what skill level. If your ambition is there, there is no stopping what you can learn, especially given the incredible online resources at your disposal. If you put your mind to something you can just about teach yourself anything. Simply put, learning to code is just like learning a new language. It seems intimidating from the start, but the magic is in when you find out it really isn’t too complicated. You are just not versed in the conversation yet!

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Another noteworthy takeaway is that coding allows you to think in ways you never approached problems before. When you are in the process of learning to code, you are pushed to ask yourself difficult questions that may be frustrating in the beginning. Coding forces you to dive deeply into the “why” questions, which you must answer in order to write efficient and useful code. Learning to code orients your mind into breaking down complex issues into bit size pieces that you must understand in order to accomplish your goal. A life lesson almost more than a coding one. 

Lastly, learning to code helps you become more detail oriented in your thinking. When writing code, you must go through a step by step process of explaining to the computer what to do. But, once you get the basics down, it is just learning what more functions and short cuts are at your disposal. It is incredible learning about the possibilities of coding, organizing data, and the capabilities of modern technology. You just have to try it for yourself!

The future is only going to become more and more technologically integrated, making it worth understanding the fundamentals to fully appreciate the world’s sheer complexity. It is only when we uncover the basics that we begin to understand how far we have developed as a people, society, and world. Thank you internet.