My Experience Meeting with Nathan Richardson!

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I usually never stay at college till 9 pm. However, flyers, posters, and banners of Frederick Douglass caught my attention. I decided to attend Frederick Douglass event on 7th November 2018 at 7 pm. I am a liberal and one of my majors is in Political Science. I deeply care about present-day racism commonly seen in police brutality and in the US prison system. I am highly interested to learn from history and this GCC event was definitely worth my time. The librarian allowed me to sit inside the T-102 hall room half an hour before the event started. Derek Maxfield-Associate Professor of History greeted me as soon as I entered the hall room. History Professor Derek Maxfield also got the honor to introduce Nathan Richardson. Nathan Richardson is an African-American poet and author. Nathan Richardson historical impression of American statesman, writer, orator, abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass was mesmerizing.

I was completely awestruck when I first met Nathan Richardson. I simply could not believe that I was sitting in the front row of a huge hall room and Nathan Richardson is directly staring at me and narrating the life of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Maryland in 1818 and after his escape to New York in 1838 became one of the most famous men in nineteenth-century America. Douglass fought to end slavery and championed civil rights for all Americans. His autobiography, published in 1845, was a powerful weapon in the abolitionist cause and a bestseller in the United States.

Nathan Richardson is a brilliantly eloquent speaker. His presence is very dynamic. Nathan Richardson really knows how to inflect his voice to convey emotions. Frederick’s brutal experience of slavery really resonated within me as I have witnessed slavery back in Bangladesh. It is 2018 and slavery is still legal and a norm in third world countries. Maids, rickshaw pullers, construction workers and other low wage workers are treated brutally and have little to no pay. I have vivid memories of watching slaves being beaten back home and Nathan narrations of slavery brought back all the unpleasant memories I have filed somewhere in my brain. I told myself that I will tell Nathan personally that slavery is still legal in many other parts of the world after he is done with his narration.
Nathan Richardson introduced who Frederick Douglass was during the first portion of the speech. He then narrated the brutal experience of slavery Frederick Douglass had to endure. Nathan’s narration was very real. I felt like Frederick Douglass himself was narrating his life events at GCC to all of us. Nathan also called a girl from the audience to read a poem. Nathan ended the narration by talking about the future of America and how we must never give up in life. We must always strive for equality and justice. Later, Nathan Richardson took questions from the audience. The audience asked interesting questions. Nathan tried to cut his answers short but the audience kept asking more questions. Nathan Richardson was showered with several rounds of applause. Nathan shared his life experience as well and spoke about his accomplished children. Lastly, Nathan ended his speech by addressing a very important audience question- the present day racism in America. I quickly jumped out of my seat to shake hands with Nathan Richardson before he finds himself surrounded by the crowd. I was the first person to shake hands with him and chat with him one on one. I asked Nathan Richardson several questions about black lives matter and police brutality against unarmed African Americans. Nathan Richardson inspired me never to give up and to fight for racial and immigration justice using my degree in Political Science. I bought a $10 book and I requested for his autobiography. Then, I clicked several photos with him. I was the last student to leave the hall room. I had a long discussion about present-day racism in America and slavery in other parts of the world.

Yes, racism still exists in America. Unarmed African-Americans are shot more often by police than white people and blacks are given long prison sentences for the same crime committed by another white person. Police are more likely to use excessive force on a black person than on a white person. I run the page “Secular America” on most social media platform and I hope to start my YouTube channel very soon while I pursue my healthcare major in college. I want my YouTube channel to be an affiliate of the progressive, left-leaning media “The Young Turks“.
I am willing to fight discrimination whenever and wherever I encounter it. Overall, I left the event feeling more inspired than ever!

Does Learning Style actually exist?

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I am a skeptic at heart and I accept nothing at face value. I have always been the ultimate truth-seeker. I love slaughtering a sacred cow with facts, logic and peer-reviewed evidence. Just because the vast majority of people hold a particular belief it does not make it true. Remember at one point we all used to believe that the earth is the center of the Universe or the earth is only a few thousand years old. No amount of belief/faith makes anything true. Wise people change their deeply held belief with new information. I always wondered if learning style actually exist and if I am wasting hundreds of dollars every semester paying for software and companies to figure out my learning style. Then, my favorite history instructor showed us a TedxTalk video on “Learning styles and the importance of critical self-reflection” by Dr. Tesia Marshik. Dr. Tesia Marshik is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Please watch the full TedTalk video and check the peer-reviewed scientific study I cited here before rejecting the fact that learning style actually does not exist.

I will quote Dr. Tesia here. “The belief in learning styles is so widespread, it is considered to be common sense. Few people ever challenge this belief, which has been deeply ingrained in our educational system. Teachers are routinely told that in order to be effective educators, they must identify and cater to individual students’ learning styles; it is estimated that around 90% of students believe that they have a specific learning style but research suggests that learning styles don’t actually exist! This presentation focuses on debunking this myth via research findings, explaining how/why the belief in learning styles is problematic and examining the reasons why the belief persists despite the lack of evidence.” Furthermore, Dr. Tesia explains to us that learning is the same regardless of how the content is presented to you. Most of what you learn is stored in terms of meaning. The best way to learn or teach something depends on the content itself. Suppose if you need to memorize and identify how different insects look like then the best way to learn that is to photos of different insects. Now if I ask you to memorize the sound of different insects then the best way to learn would be to hear the sound. It is not because you are a visual or auditory learner. Many things can be taught using multiple senses.

Another peer-reviewed scientific research concluded that “there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice.” Lastly, Dr. Tesia states reasons we must stop believing in learning styles. It is a waste of time and valuable educational resources. Teachers already have an enormous task of accommodating all students of different backgrounds, abilities, disabilities, motivations, and interest. The fact that learning style does not matter should be a relief for teachers. It is one less thing teachers need to worry about. The US colleges can no longer afford to waste time and resources trying to promote learning style when there is no evidence that it actually helps to learn. Especially, when there are other research-supported strategies that do impact learning. Moreover, labeling yourself as a particular learner can be dangerously misleading. It prevents you from thinking outside the box and trying out other strategies. The fact that learning style actually does not exist should be a good news. It means we are all capable of learning in a variety of ways. We are not as limited as we think we are.

I hope you all will examine and question your belief about learning styles after reading this blog post. Happy learning!

Image taken from https://bonniegillespie.com/is-your-learning-style-the-problem/

My most favorite online classes at GCC

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I have taken several online classes at GCC like Philosophy, Sociology, Medical Terminology and hybrid classes like Microbiology and Anatomy and Physiology. However, my most favorite online class at GCC was HIS-104 and HIS-101 taught by Judith LittleJohn.

In fact, Judith Littlejohn is one of my most favorite instructors at GCC because she is very pro-science, progressive and is a scientifically literate humanist like me. She is the only online instructor I had so far who actually incorporated activities to make sure students are questioning their study habits and learning new study habits. She is also the only instructor to actually offer weekly check-list for all the assignments, tests and quizzes that we have to complete and how much time students need to assign each week for a certain quiz, assignments, research paper and discussions. Her weekly checklist helped me to organize my schedule very efficiently.

I am about to graduate from GCC. I have taken countless classes at GCC and I have written what feels like thousands of research papers. Research papers carry a lot of points and research papers decides whether you will pass or fail a class.
I never had an instructor before who made it mandatory for all students to submit a rough draft for their research paper. In fact, my instructor broke down the research paper into topic and thesis statements for one week, outline for another week, rough draft for another week, annotated bibliography for another week and lastly, the final research paper is due at the end of the semester. You need to complete all the requirements- topic and thesis statement, outline for a research paper, annotated bibliography and rough draft each week separately in order to receive credits. Only then, you can submit the final research paper.

Previously I have taken classes, in which the majority of the students wrote the research paper all by themselves and the monumental task of writing a research paper was not broken into several stages. As a result, a lot of students ended up getting very low grades. Sometimes, instructors were generous and gave students one more day to correct the research paper and to re-submit it again for a better grade. It takes months of research and brainstorming to write a good research paper. One day is simply not enough to correct a research paper. Last minute rush only creates chaos and confusion.
That is I why I like Judith LittleJohn’s teaching style of breaking down the final research paper assignment.
HIS-101 and HIS-104 are also the only classes I have taken at GCC that offer halftime survey. Students earn extra credit for completing the survey. Students can communicate their progress and concerns in the middle of the semester anonymously through the survey. In other classes, I have seen students dropping out or withdrawing from a class. I believe all classes should offer half-time surveys to students to communicate their disappointments and progress to their instructors anonymously in the middle of the semester. Assignments and tests usually get more difficult during the middle of the semester.

Meta cognitive café discussion offered by HIS-101 and HIS-104 classes are also very useful and all classes should offer that. I learned the Pomodoro technique and other learning habits. I also got to see a Ted Talk video on whether we actually have a learning style. It is not only important to teach students what to study but how to study. Teach students how to think not what to think. The study skills I have learned HIS-101 and HIS-104 are invaluable and will be useful to me for the rest of my life.

How I saved hundreds of dollars in the cost of living in the US as an International student.

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For the last one year, I did not pay a dime for heat, electric, garbage pick-up, laundry and gas without any roommates. I am successfully graduating from GCC this fall and I managed to do it by saving hundreds of dollars in the cost of living. Most Americans and International students alike, stare at me in disbelief when I tell them that I pay nothing for utilities and I managed to do so without a roommate. Do I sound too good to be true? I certainly do. Let me show you how I made frugal living a reality in this outrageously exorbitant economy. According to a news report by the national low-income housing coalition, a full-time minimum wage job won’t get you a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in America. A lot of one bedroom apartments in Batavia range between $500-650 plus you will have to pay for heat, electric, Internet, phone bill and fuel separately.

I have spent the first one year at GCC building friendships. I have spoken with everyone and I got to know everyone around me. I am a keen observer of people around me and I am a pretty decent judge of character. It did not take me long to figure out people who would be genuinely helpful to me. I like helping people as well and I am usually extra kind and respectful to elderly folks. I live away from my parents and whenever I come across an elderly person I suddenly miss my parents. South Asian children like me usually live with their parents until their parents pass away. South Asian culture also emphasizes a lot on family values. Very quickly, I got to know a lot of elderly folks with empty houses in Batavia and Oakfield because their children moved out. Many of these elderly, soon to be retired folks were impressed by me and offered me to live in the basement of their large, empty houses to pay off their mortgage. It did not take me long to figure out that it is way cheaper for me to lease one bedroom and bathroom space in a large empty house, instead of, leasing a whole apartment. I pay only $500 for rent without any roommates. Electric, heat, laundry, garbage pick-up and everything else is included with it. I do not deal with electric or fuel companies at all.

I know a lot of International students who pay $300-400 for off-campus housing but they are forced to put up with roommates and additionally need to pay for heat, electric and other necessities separately. On-campus housing is extremely expensive and if you are like me who is not at all interested in dealing with roommates, residential assistants then, yes, off-campus housing is for you. Some International students almost get free on-campus housing if they choose to be a residential assistant on campus. However, all students do not get the job of being a residential assistant. International students also do not get financial aid from the US government to live on-campus. Personally, the job of being a residential assistant and dealing with on-campus drama never appealed to me. Never mind, how much you dangle the offer of a free on-campus housing to me. I simply refuse to have roommates. Hence, I never considered applying for a residential assistant job.

Leasing a basement or a separate unit in a large, empty house with no children is the best way to save money on the cost of living, instead of, renting a separate house or one bedroom apartment all by yourself and being responsible for your own heat and electric. I live in a basement of a large house with my own kitchen, bathroom, study room, and bedroom. I have a nice backyard and parking space as well. I almost never see my landlord who lives upstairs. I have my own separate entrance. There is no way I would be charged a separate electric or heat bill as there is usually only one meter per house. However, be respectful. Try to conserve energy and heat. Do not abuse anybody’s generosity and trust. I keep all my lights off when I do not need it and I use as little water as possible. Do not tamper or raise the thermostat. You certainly do not want to upset a landlord who is willing to pay for your heat, electric, garbage pick-up, and laundry.

Thus, the moral of the story is to be nice to people in general. Do not pretend to be nice to people just because you have an ulterior motive. People will quickly realize your motive and turn away from you. If you want to successfully live in a place for a year or two like me, then focus on building a good relationship with your landlord. Good behavior will take you a long way in life. Do a background check and make sure you really know the person you are living with. You will definitely come across good-hearted people who will offer you almost free-housing or housing at a lower cost. I am graduating this fall from GCC and I am moving to another state. I will be a house-aide at an elderly person’s house and I will be paying nothing for rent, electric, heat, garbage- pick up and other expenses. Now, I have decreased my cost of living from $500 to zero dollar. I repeat again, “Be nice to elderly people!”

Part-2 How International Students can save money while being at GCC

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Earn money and/or gift cards just by watching videos online and by taking quick surveys:

I wasted thousands of dollars during my Freshman year at college because I knew nothing about coupons or how to rack up points and free gift cards. Sign up for MyPoints accounts. You can earn points just by completing daily activities which includes taking a survey, voting on a poll, watching videos, checking out deals, printing coupons etc. Whenever, I need to shop or sign up for a subscription like Hulu, Sephora and others I usually do it through MyPoints accounts. I always keep MyPoints tab open in my browser and I rack up points all day. It is very easy to rack up thousands of points very quickly by taking advantage of deals from popular stores like Amazon, Kohl’s where you would shop for basic necessities anyway. Other great legitimate sites for taking surveys are I-psos, Inbox Dollars, Survey Junkie, YouGov and I-Polls. College textbooks are very expensive in the USA. Last semester I brought books worth $1000 for free using Amazon gift card balance. You can easily knock off a thousand dollar  bill by using these sites religiously every day. Next time, whenever you are waiting for an appointment try taking a survey or two.

Earn Amazon gift cards just by walking:

Just think how many flights of stairs do you use every day? How many miles do you walk every day when you are rushing from one classroom to another in huge college campuses?  GCC has a pretty huge campus with a college dorm. I keep Steps Cash apps always activated on my I-Phone and I rack up points for Amazon gift cards just by walking to and from one class to another and from one campus building to another building. This is a great app to make sure you exercise by walking every day and you also earn Amazon gifts just by walking. Stay fit and happy walking!

Download FreeBird to get discount Uber rides and to earn cashbacks:

You will probably have to use a lot of Uber rides if you are an International student without a car. Uber rides are very expensive. FreeBird  gives discounts and cashback for Uber rides and restaurants.

Get a secured credit card:

You better start building up your credit history if you are going to live in the USA for the next five or more years to earn a US degree. Credit score is used to analyze everything in the US. You cannot even rent your desired apartment unless you have a good credit score. I knew nothing about credit history when I came to the US.  I wasted one and a half year without building my credit history even though I was paying all my bills on time. I remember asking a bank employee how to get a credit card. The bank employee smirked at me and told me that I cannot get a credit card because I am not a US citizen. The bank employee did not even bother to suggest me to apply for a secured credit card. You do not have to be a US citizen to apply for a secured credit card. You only need a social security number or tax identification number (TIN). So, apply for a secured credit card as soon as you land in the US. Start looking for on-campus jobs as well as soon as you start your semester. It takes several months to get a social security number. You cannot work on campus without a social security number. It is extremely difficult to apply for online credit/debit card with higher cashback value without a social security number.

When I first came to the USA I did not have access to these survival tips. I hope these tips will help you to make the most of your time and money in the US.

 

 

 

 

 

Part-1 How International Students can save money while being at GCC by Zerin Firoze

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I was born and raised in a developing country, Bangladesh, and it was my dream from a very young age to study in the US. A lot of youths like me from developing countries also aspire to study in the US. It is extra challenging for poor students from developing countries to be able to afford to study in the US. Students from developing countries cannot remit money to a foreign country. The US government is also notorious for imposing sanctions in certain countries. Exchange rates plus foreign transaction fees by banks also add up. For example, 1 US dollar is 84 takas in my country Bangladesh. There is no legal way to remit money and corrupt middlemen charge high fees. I am a student from a developing country and here are the following things I have learned after coming in the US. I hope these tips will help you to save both time and money.

Choosing the right college

I would encourage all students to start at a community college first. You can literally save thousands of dollars and still get the same degree and classes at a cheaper price. Many community colleges like GCC do not even charge admission fees. It is completely free to apply for admission. You just need to apply online. So, apply to as many colleges as you want.

Learn to drive in your home country

Many cheaper colleges in the US are located in rural areas with little to no public transportation. You can save a lot of money by choosing a rural location. The cost of living in large cities is extremely expensive. It is not possible for students to pay out of state tuition fees and still afford thousands of dollars per month for rent, food, and other basic necessities. According to American Infrastructure Report Card, the US infrastructure is crumbling and has a rating of D+. Driving schools in America are very expensive. Private one-hour driving lessons are also very expensive and are not available in all rural US counties. So, try to get some driving time before coming to the US. Ask your family members or relatives in your home country to teach you driving for free.

Try to learn about car maintenance and repair before you come to the US. Then, attend a defensive driving course and Driver’s Education course in the US to get your license. You will be very busy being a full-time student once you come to the US. So, try to learn basic life skills while waiting for your acceptance letter from US colleges or for your visa interview.

Learn how to cook and preserve food before coming in the US

I lost thousands of dollars in wasted food. I had no idea how to preserve food. I had no experience in estimating the shelf life of certain food items. I cried when I had to throw away tons of fruits, frozen meat, and cartons of milk. I have been in the US for two and a half years now and I still did not find the time to read all the articles or watch all the videos that I always wanted to watch about food preservation. You can save a lot of money by learning to preserve food. Cooking skills are also important. Next time, hit the grocery store with your mom and learn about basic spices and ingredients if you are not a cooking pro.

Learn how to use coupons and rebate apps

I remember how overwhelmed I was when I first landed at JFK airport and very quickly I became busy with campus life. I had no time to read blogs about saving money in the US as a full-time student. I had no leisure reading time outside college textbooks. Hence, do yourself a favor. Read blogs and website articles about saving money in the US while you are waiting for a decision from US colleges or for your visa interview.

Coupons and rebate apps are not used in my country at all. I became familiar with coupons and rebate apps after coming in the US. It took me two years to learn to use coupons and rebate apps. Now, I am the ultimate coupon queen. I received $54 cashback from Ebates and $55 from Ibotta just for buying groceries and other necessary items. Groupon is also a great website to save money. Learn to use coupons and rebate apps before you even come in the US. Read articles about rebate apps and coupons on the Internet.

I will share more secrets and life hack in part-2 of the same article next week!

 

 

 

 

Read this before you register for a class!

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I have taken a lot of classes at GCC and I have learned a thing or two from my mistakes. I wish there are things I would have done before registering for a class, costing hundreds of dollars. Instead of, leaving important decisions and consequences of signing up for a class to fate!  Spring Registration begins October 1st.

  • Speak with your Academic Advisor and Success Coach

You might think it is a hassle and a waste of time to schedule an appointment to meet with your advisor and success coach but trust me it is important to meet with both the academic advisor and success coach. This is, especially true, for International students. You will be wasting a lot more time and banging your head in frustration when your advisor messages you that you did not sign up for the right class. Meet with your advisor even if you know your degree requirements because you can find a lot more information about your future classes, instructors who would be offering your classes and other academic activities. Your advisor and success coach also have a wealth of other resources that can help you. Message your advisors if you have any questions or if you are too busy to schedule an appointment to meet in person.

  • Meet with the Instructors in person before you sign up for a class

It is extremely important to meet with the instructors in person before you sign up for a class unless you want to be miserable for the rest of the semester and waste hundreds of dollars and your valuable time. You will get an idea how your instructor is when you meet with them in person to discuss their class requirements and expectations. A lot of students are excited to sign up for a new major or class. However, they are quickly disappointed and surprised when they do not like their instructors after they start a class and are half-way between the semester and it is too late to drop the class. Hence, they are stuck with an instructor and a study style they do not like. There are several instructors offering the same classes. Pick the instructor with whom you best get along. Ask your instructor how and why certain students perform poorly in their class. Your instructors can give you valuable advice to ensure your success.

  • Read the description of classes online before you sign up for a class

Carefully read the description of each class before you register for these classes. Check how much time you need to spend on each class before you sign up for additional classes. International students with no financial aid must purchase their books ahead of time during winter and summer break. Double-check what other additional materials you will need for a certain class. Try to use Schedule Planner to organize your time and classes.

  • Speak with students who have already taken those classes with a certain instructor

Students who have already taken classes that you are about to take are a bundle of resources that you must utilize. However, do not be persuaded by the opinion of just one student. Speak with multiple students, including students who have dropped the class. Learn from the mistakes other students have made.

  • Check if you accidentally qualify for another certificate

A lot of classes and degree requirements are very similar. For example, both the Nursing Program and Respiratory Care program have similar prerequisites. Health studies certificate and child care certificate have similar classes. You may have to take one or more additional classes to earn another certificate. Hence, carefully select your classes. Additional certificates can boost your resume.

May the force be with you!  Happy Spring Registration!