Is study abroad right for you?

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Once you survive freshman year, your school’s campus starts to feel a little smaller and lot less daunting. If you find yourself missing the thrill of a new start, study abroad might be your perfect fix. We’ve all heard that getting the chance to try living in a foreign country can be a life changing experience. But with study abroad comes many more challenges than just taking a good passport picture and getting the right adapters.

If you’re still struggling to decide if you should pack your bags here are a few things to consider to before taking off.

Pros-

  1. See the World- This might seem semi-obvious, but getting the chance to travel to new places can broaden your perspective. If you have yet to get a passport and go abroad, college is a great time to do it. Once graduation comes there will be student loans to pay off and that means a full time job. Take the chance now to try living in a new country for a few months while you still have the opportunity.
  2. Friends in New Places- Meeting new people is a huge part of going off to college. When studying abroad, you will be thrown into a brand new place where everything is unfamiliar, but fortunately so will the other students in your program. Not only will you bond with other study abroad students, but you will make friends in the country you’re visiting. Making foreign friends can mean a free couch to sleep on next time you go abroad.
  3. Break from the Stress- Yes, study abroad offers stresses of its own- the public WiFi never seems to work and the maps are always confusing. That being said, it can also be a great way to step away from the books. Even though you are still taking classes while abroad, many programs are set up to give you less work and more time off to travel.

Cons-

  1. Money- Many study abroad programs are affordable and cost the same amount as a semester at your own school. Don’t forget, though, there are many of other costs to factor into your budget. For students with part time jobs while in school, it also means months out of work. The exchange rates, plane tickets, hostels, dinners with friends and numerous souvenirs add up fast.
  2. Getting Behind- Taking a break from a full load of classes might be exactly what you need for a semester. Unfortunately, when it comes to graduating the semester abroad can leave you behind on units. This could mean loading up on classes in your final semesters, taking a class during summer or even having to take another year to finish your degree.
  3. Homesickness- Homesickness might seem like something that you only experience as a child at summer camp. When going abroad, however, it can really affect your experience. The language, food, customs and people will all be completely new. Once the excitement wears off, it can you leave you feeling completely uncomfortable. Months of living this way can be way too much for some people, making a shorter trip abroad a better option.

Want more college tips? Contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or info@acispecialtybenefits.com. ACI can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+,Pinterest, orYouTube.

Anna Goforth, Student Ambassador and College Blogger for ACI Specialty Benefits, is a Journalism and Public Relations student at Point Loma Nazarene University. Anna writes for ACI’s HealthyU™ blog while keeping up with college life. After moving from Alabama to California for college, Anna spent a semester abroad in London where she traveled throughout Europe.

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LGBT Pride: Free support and resources for the LGBTQQI community

ACI Specialty Benefits celebrates LGBT Pride Month and is proud to offer tailored support and resources for our LGBTQQI clients and family. Whether or not you are an employee/student of an institution that provides ACI’s benefits, free resources and support are available at the following links. For further assistance or more information about ACI’s  Employee Assistance Program (EAP), SOAR Student Assistance Program, CORE Wellness and Leverage Concierge, email us at info@acispecialtybenefits.com.

Happy Pride!

AARP Pride

This is AARP’s online home for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The page is designed to spotlight articles on news, personal finance, relationships, travel and other topics of concern to older gay Americans, and their family and friends.

American Civil Liberties Union

For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Campus Pride Resources

Campus Pride represents the leading national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBTQ students. The organization is a volunteer-driven network “for” and “by” student leaders. The primary objective of Campus Pride is to develop necessary resources, programs and services to support LGBTQ and ally students on college campuses across the United States.

Family Equality Council

Family Equality Council is changing attitudes and policies to ensure all families are respected, loved, and celebrated – especially families with parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Family Equality Council is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date information in as easy-to-follow formats as possible. We strive to empower you to take action on behalf of your family in your daily lives and to do so in accessible, step-by-step ways.

Fenway Health Free LGBT Help Lines

Anonymous and confidential phone lines that offer lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning adults and young people a “safe place” to call for information, referrals, and support.

GLMA

GLMA’s mission is to ensure equality in healthcare for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and healthcare providers.

GLAD

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) is New England’s leading legal rights organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status and gender identity and expression.

GLSEN

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Human Right Campaign Resources

Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights. Through research, educational efforts and outreach, HRC encourages lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to live their lives openly and seeks to change the hearts and minds of Americans to the side of equality.

IGLHRC Org Resources

The mission of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is to secure the full enjoyment of the human rights of all people and communities subject to discrimination or abuse on the basis of sexual orientation or expression, gender identity or expression, and/or HIV status.

Lambda Legal

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.

Matthew Shepard Foundation

The Matthew Shepard Foundation empowers individuals to embrace human dignity and diversity through outreach, advocacy and resources, effecting positive change.

NCLR

The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.

National Center for Transgender Equality

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is a 501(c)3 social justice organization dedicated to advancing the equality of transgender people through advocacy, collaboration and empowerment.

National LGTB Cancer Network

The National LGBT Cancer Network works to improve the lives of LGBT cancer survivors and those at risk.

NGLCC Org

The NGLCC is committed to forming a broad-based coalition, representative of the various interests of LGBT owned and friendly businesses, professionals, and students of business for the purpose of promoting economic growth and prosperity of its members.

National LGBTQ Task Force

The National LGBTQ Task Force advances full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Out & Equal

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates™ educates and empowers organizations, human resources professionals, employee resource groups, and individual employees through programs and services that result in equal policies, opportunities, practices, and benefits in the workplace regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, or characteristics.

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24. The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock suicide prevention helpline for gay and questioning youth.

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How to get the most out of college

It’s no secret that college is a quick affair. One day you’re figuring out which building is where and which professor is which, the next you’re making your postgraduate plans.

Large group of students writing.So – how do you ensure you get a good return on your college investment when the years are seemingly flying by?

If you’re an incoming student, a current student, or just now looking to get backinto the classroom, these five tips will ensure you squeeze every experience you possibly can out of your college experience.

Spend your time wisely

For most students, college is the busiest time of their young lives. We go from long summers and short school days to nearly non-stop studying and weekends where we’re lucky if we can spare one or two evenings for ourselves. But this can be as much of a blessing as it is a curse, as it allows us to learn how to manage our time as well as pack as much as we can into a few short years.

The first thing to do? Write every deadline you get on a calendar as soon as you can. Look at this calendar every day. Where can you knock out an assignment early? Where can you squeeze in a chapter or even a few pages of your studying? By thinking proactively about your work, you’ll spend less time stressing and, when you do have time for some relaxation, you’ll feel content that you earned it rather than worrying about your workload in the back of your head.

Know when to splurge and when to save

Unless you’re cruising on a full-ride scholarship, have access to free books and materials and won a raffle for a paid-off apartment lease, money will play a huge factor throughout school. So rather than waiting for your finances to become a problem, attack your financial situation head-on. Make a budget that anticipates the big costs first, and track how well you stick to it.

As for your miscellaneous expenses, always ask yourself: a) How can I save a few extra bucks here?, and b) Why might splurging a bit in this scenario make sense? If you know there’s a way to save some dollars, for example by packing a lunch instead of eating out, do it. On the flip side, if spending a bit extra on a trip home or a more fuel efficient car can help youin the long run, bring the idea to someone with experience. Determining your money style can also help you plan your budget.

Value the life lessons

College is much more than just a long string of lectures, quizzes, midterms and finals. In fact, some of the most important things you will learn in college won’t even have anything to do with what’s written on the whiteboard.

The best way to get the most out of your investment is to treat every experience like a learning experience. Get out of your comfort zone, raise your hand, participate and ask questions. The more you put yourself out there–even if you’re not always in the mood–the more confidence you’ll have to continue to dream bigger.

Make meaningful relationships

It’s one thing to be a social butterfly who talks to everyone in class but has few actual lasting relationships. What’s even better, though, is to spend your time fostering lasting relationships with a few people who truly are on the same page as you.

This might not mean you come from similar backgrounds, or have all of the same interests, but when you click with someone, pursue that friendship. Study partners and peers can be the people that ultimately push you the furthest throughout college and beyond.

(Also, be sure to check out the basics of networking here.)

Don’t take things so seriously

You’ll learn quickly in college–if you haven’t already—that always taking things to heart will be the death of you. You forgot your assignment in your printer at home? Prep your materials the night before next time. You didn’t get the grade you wanted on that test? Tell the professor you’re disappointed and ask how you can improve. Your weekend coffee plans with friends fell through? It happens.

Nobody breezes through college, no matter how much it may seem some do from the outside. But rather than stress over every mistake or disappointment you face, don’t sweat the small things. You’ll find that the quicker you brush off the mishaps the quicker you’ll be able to collect yourself, learn from the setbacks, and keep on moving forward.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Want more college tips? Contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or info@acispecialtybenefits.com. ACI can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube.

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5 free apps that outshine your phone’s default calendar app

To the naked eye, the modern-day college student may seem more akin to a machine than a young intellectual as the expansion of higher education has led to students’ taking advantage of more opportunities than ever before.

Thankfully, however, one thing that students don’t have to spend hours of their valuable time doing is actually figuring out exactly how all their different classes and extracurricular activities fit into their day.

student_cell_phone_in_school_HInstead, several free calendar apps for iPhones and Androids mean that you can keep being the assignment-completing, study-grouping machine that you are without being at the mercy of your planner. Here are 5 such apps that cracked our list:

CalenMob

There are many reasons why CalenMob is not only a great calendar app, but a great student app. The reason? Canary makes it a breeze to sync up your Google events to your calendar. And since email and social media has become the go-to for millions of students for planning everything from study groups to birthday parties, it makes sense that your calendar puts an emphasis on being in tune with your social life.

Sunrise

There are many reasons Sunrise has quickly become one of the most popular electronic calendars for students who use iPhones or iPads. Sunrise can sync with most calendars, it’s ad-free, and, most uniquely, the app lets you plan your day by location, teaming up with Google Maps to make directions to your day one click away, saving busy students time.

Wave

Are you a student who is always on the go? Or do you find yourself always a part of several different groups like clubs or study teams? If so, Wave and its unique “predictive assistance” features may be right for you. Wave not only compiles your events into one easy calendar, it anticipates your schedule and sends you texts to remind you when to leave for events and even notes to your group when you are running a bit late.

Cal

Most students already use their phones to make lists and set tasks. If you’re someone who already does this with an app like Any.Do, Cal (an Any.do creation) not only syncs up your events to one calendar, it consolidates all notes and tasks even down to your grocery to one free app. The biggest plus, however, is probably Cal’s clean interface that doesn’t swarm iOS or Droid users with too much information at once.

Horizon

Not every student goes to school in places where the weather is always 70 degrees and sunny. But thankfully, there’s Horizon, which is a one-of-a-kind calendar app that understands how much weather can play a part into students’ commute and how they plan their day. By placing all weather information directly next to your planned events, this free iPhone and iPad app takes the guessing out of what to wear and when to leave.

HealthyU_Harry (1)

Want more time management tips? Contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or info@acispecialtybenefits.com. ACI can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube.

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6 essential summer workout tips

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone and now, just like that, it’s officially unofficially summer. But aside from the longer days and the increase in outdoor-cooked meals that come with the new season, summertime can also mean a longer, tougher, more intense workout.

Blog_FitnessSummerWorkout

Choosing the right time of day can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your summer workout.

And while this can be exciting at first as morning workouts no longer need to be accompanied by a beanie or sweatpants, the warmer the days get, the more dangerous your summer exercising will inevitably become.

So before you head out on your run, here are 6 essential tips to remember before getting your summer sweat on.

Ease into it

Rather than going full-swing into an intense workout routine this time of year, give your body time to adjust to the hotter weather. Fitness experts suggest that students start small and work their way up. Cut your planned routine in half and take a week or so to slowly ramp up to the real thing.

Get a buddy

Whether you’re working out indoors lifting weights or heading out to the trails to get some cardio in, it’s always a good idea to have a summer workout partner. Having a partner not only can help you keep your motivation up during those final pushes in your workout, it can keep you safe if you’re feeling woozy or showing symptoms of heat exhaustion.

Hydrate

The hotter it gets, the more you sweat. And the more you sweat, the more electrolytes you lose. Don’t simply focus on drinking sports drinks throughout or after your workout, but make it a point to carry water with you all day, whether you’re working out or not. Staying hydrated is the most important thing you can do to keep your summer workouts safe.

Plan

Avoid spontaneously going for runs in the middle of the day because it’s the only time you can squeeze a workout in. Instead, plan your workouts in advance to avoid the hottest times of the day and to allow yourself time to recuperate before moving on to the next task.

Dress the part

Students often forget that it’s not sweating that cools your body off, but the evaporation of sweat. Thus, wearing breathable fabrics that allow your body to breathe will help keep you cool, while a sweatshirt won’t make you burn extra calories, it will only weaken the efficiency of your workout.

Listen to your body

Finally, if you’re worried that you’re overheating or under-hydrated, then take a break. Pushing yourself too far can ultimately slow you down as your body becomes more exhausted. Common symptoms that mean you should stop your workout are dizziness, heavy fatigue and nauseousness.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Still searching for the perfect summer workout plan? ACI can help. Contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or info@acispecialtybenefits.comACI can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube.

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The top three reasons you should have a portfolio

More and more often, job applications are being updated to include a little dialogue box known as the “portfolio link.” Here, employers look for prospective employees to enter a personal website that showcases their relevant or even non-relevant work–anything that would help recruiters get a better idea of who they may be hiring.

615 hiring computer shutterstock Viorel SimaAnd while portfolios were once reserved for photographers and creative positions, today they’ve been established as valuable assets for any student looking to get an extra edge.

If you’re still on the fence about setting up an online portfolio, here are three reasons to stop the debate and jump on board.

It sets you apart

Portfolios can be as unique as you want them to be. Just as they’re no longer reserved for artists, they no longer have to be elaborate, fancy spaces that try to overhype your accomplishments. If you’re more of a head-down worker, for example, create a portfolio that focuses solely on a few of the accomplishments you’re most proud of.

If you’re someone who takes pride in their volunteer or personal work, showcase the pursuits you have that aren’t necessarily on your field of study but showcase your outgoing nature. Furthermore, make sure you pick a theme that is right for you; different page layouts can help showcase your tone as a possible fit into a team setting.

It complements your resume

Are you the kind of student that treats your schoolwork like a job? If you are someone who makes a point to “learn by doing” in college, don’t let the value of your research and your projects go to waste. While one-page resumes leave little room for anything other than skills and professional experience, your portfolio is your chance to show, not tell, what you’ve done.

When making your portfolio, be sure to include pictures and work from projects you did with groups or research you did with professors.

It speaks for itself

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a portfolio is worth many more. Your ability to combine photographs, videos and words on free sites like Portfolium not only is a chance to say more about yourself, it can be seen as a skill in itself. Having a portfolio shows you truly care about showing yourself in the best light, and that you have the ability to see a personal project through from start to finish.

If anything, this is the number one reason to create your portfolio–it’s free, it’s unique, and you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

HealthyU_Harry (1)Start creating your portfolio with one of ACI’s Student Assistance experts. We can point you to the right website for your portfolio, and even help you decide what goes in it. Drop us a line on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube or contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or info@acispecialtybenefits.com.

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The pros and cons of taking a gap year

Gap years can be instrumental in getting ahead in life in general when done for the right reasons.

Gap America defines a gap year as “a structured period of time when students take a break from formal education to increase self-awareness, challenge comfort zones, and experiment with possible careers.”

But at what risk would you be taking a gap year and what benefits would you get out of an extended internship, travel, or personal projects? If you’re considering taking time off of school, be sure to first weigh out these important pros and cons to the gap year.

Cons

Falling behind

Be honest with yourself. When you take a gap year for the wrong reasons (i.e., because you’re upset with your school, because you want to relax, or because you’re afraid of failing.) you run a serious risk of losing vital momentum when it comes to working toward a degree. Create a failsafe degree progress plan that keeps a graduation date in mind and not simply “sometime in the future.”

Getting out of the rhythm

One of the biggest benefits school can offer is a structure with set deadlines, schedules and predetermined dates. If you plan on taking a gap year, make sure you know you can be equally diligent on your own as you are when a professor is leading your progress. ACI’s student assistance experts can help you keep you form and keep up with a work schedule.

Finance

If you plan to spend a gap year traveling, as many do, or pursuing an internship or apprenticeship it’s important to first weigh out the financial risks. Sit down with your family as well as an academic advisor to assess whether the opportunity is worth the financial risk and, more importantly, think ahead and come up with a one-year financial plan for when you do return from your gap year.

Pros

Work

On the flip side of things, gap years can be instrumental in getting ahead in life in general when done for the right reasons. Maybe you feel you’re simply treading water in school because you’re unsure what you want to do, or maybe you want the chance to start working on your own project or company. Either way, understand that a gap year isn’t about relaxing, but working hard on other jobs or projects you’re passionate about.

Education

Whether you’re a STEM student, a liberal arts major, or business student, most can agree that it’s hard to spend four years learning about all these issues happening in society and around the world without actually going out and experiencing them for yourself. Gap years are almost always beneficial when they’re used to go out and learn by doing in your desired field.

Renewed energy

Just as it’s not always best to follow the traditional, formal school plan, it can be wise to take a gap year on your own terms. Maybe you simply take a semester off; maybe you take fewer classes for a few terms to focus on personal issues; maybe you just make a resolution to install more you time into your weekly schedule. The important thing to remember is that you’re young and a gap year should be all about what’s best for you and your future.

HealthyU_Harry (1)ACI’s student assistant experts are here to help. Feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034 or info@acispecialtybenefits.comACI can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube.

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