All posts in Student Life

  • Top 10 Apps to Survive Student Life in the U.S.

    From planning trips home, to speaking a new language, studying abroad comes with many unique challenges.

    Luckily, technology provides us with lots of cool applications to help navigate student life – reminders, calendars, dictionaries, study apps, etc. Check out our top 10 apps to make life easier as an international student in the US.

    1.    Google Maps

    google maps

    An excellent, free map application and a handy travel guide, Google Maps will quickly become your best buddy in unfamiliar places and help you locate shops, restaurants and landmarks nearby.

    The GPS navigation with voice prompts will guide you to your destination, and traffic alerts will help you avoid heavy traffic. The app maps out the best routes, depending on whether you’re driving, walking, or prefer to bike it. To keep your mobile data, you can save your favorite maps for offline use. The app is free for Android and iOS.

    2. Google Translate

    google translate

    Nobody doubts your language skills, but if you need a little help, Google translate will come to the rescue. Free for Android and iOS users, it translates over 90 languages, is simple to use, and usually reliable.

    You can speak, type, or draw words into your phone or tablet and this app will instantly translate it into your chosen language. A cool new feature called Conversation Mode will even translate your chats with friends in real-time. The Word Lens tool lets you hover your phone over menus, signs and other text to overlay the translated text on the image, though it doesn’t always recognise certain fonts.

    3. Converter+
    converter+Wondering how much to tip the waiter? Need to calculate the sales tax? You might know how many pounds are in a kilogram, but there are times when you’ll need to convert on the go. Whether you’re calculating a tip, or checking the weather in Celsius (°C), Converter+ is a really useful app.

    It packs in over 100 converters and calculators including temperature, length, weight, and currency. It’s simple to use, and could prove a life saver in a foreign country. It’s available for free on iTunes.

    4. LINE

     lineYou can chat to your friends and family for free with LINE. Send messages, make voice or video calls, and have group chats with other LINE users worldwide free of charge using its VoIP technology. ​

    As well as free messages and phone calls, it comes with an integrated social network and lots of cute symbols and emojis for your chats. A great, low-cost way to keep in touch with parents and friends, it will help you feel loved no matter how far you are from home. You can download it for free for Android or iOS.

    5. DataMan

    dataman Phone plans in the US can be confusing. You can avoid paying insane phone bills by using the DataMan app for iOS. DataMan Next will keep track of your data usage in real-time. Simply input your phone plan info and you’ll get warnings when you’re about to exceed your usage limits.

    DataMan Pro is an upgraded version that provides specific information on what apps are eating up your data. A small investment in this app could save you quite a bit of cash in the long run.

    6. Dropbox

    dropbox Never lose course work again with Dropbox, a superb, cloud-based file storage service that lets you upload files (documents, photos, videos, etc.) and access them on any device with an internet connection.

    It comes with 2GB free storage, and lets you share files and sync them from any computer or device. Dropbox can instantly save email attachments, photos and docs for safe keeping, and more importantly, the mobile app will automatically backup all your precious photos and videos. You can get it for free for both Android and iOS.

    7. CliffsNotes

    cliffsnotesCliffNotes have gone digital with their study guides in this iTunes app. If you’re taking an English Literature class, then these guides could prove very useful coming up to exams.

    You can download the app for free on iTunes and purchase notes with information on characters, plot, as well as summaries of every book you read. You can also listen to audio versions of the notes at your leisure, outside during walks, or even at the gym!

    8. Spotify

    spotify

    With over 20 million tracks, Spotify is a sleek music streaming service essential for any music lover. Similar to iTunes, one of the biggest differences is that you can listen to all your favorite artists for free.

    Simply download the free app to your device and stream songs using a network or Wi-Fi connection. You can upgrade to the paid version, Spotify Premium, to stream and download songs to your device commercial-free. Spotify is free for Android and iOS.

    9. Studious

    studios Get organized with Studious, the perfect study companion. Studious will keep your class schedule, exam dates and project deadlines all in one place. It works like an alarm clock, so when you enter information on your classes, exam dates, and projects, you’ll get gentle reminders.

    You can choose how and when you’re notified, so your phone doesn’t suddenly start ringing loudly during lectures. Another useful feature lets you save notes and pictures for those times when you don’t have a pen handy. You can download it from iTunes for $0.99 or free on the Google Play store.

    10. Eventbrite

    evenbrite

    Find out what’s happening in your local area with the Eventbrite app. Free on iTunes and Google Play, this app lets you search festivals, concerts, and upcoming events in your city. You can take a break from study and find networking events, classes and more fun things to do near you.

    The app lets you search and buy tickets for events based on interests, dates, what your friends are attending, and by popularity. You can share events with friends, make bookings, and get vital details from times to dates and location, all from the palm of your hand.

    Have we missed any apps that you can’t live without? Let us know in the comments!

    Don’t forget Sprintax can make your life as a student in the U.S. easier too. Sign up to Sprintax now for a simple US tax solution.

  • Music for studying

    Music and the brain: What does the research say?

    Are you one of those students, jacked in with plastic cables running from your ears to your phone or laptop during long late night study sessions? Or do you find any kind of background noise distracting when trying to get down to study?

    The question of whether or not listening to music while studying can benefit your concentration and performance remains hotly debated. The bad news for those who pick a playlist, before even opening a book is that most of recent research suggests silence is actually the best atmosphere for studying.

    Mozart Effect, Shmozart Effect

    Sadly, it turns out the popular idea that listening to classical music can enhance people’s intelligence and performance – the Mozart effect, is a tabloid-created fable. Listening to one particular composer or genre is highly unlikely to transform your intellectual powers.  The whole “play classical music to your unborn child” craze, turned out to be almost entirely contrived by the media.

    Psychologist Frincis Rauscher, whose experiment on music and the brain in 1993, reported in a single page paper that listening to Mozart’s music improves spatial reasoning for about 10 minutes. She also says the most effective music will vary depending on the person. In short: “If you hate Mozart, you’re not going to find Mozart effect. If you love Pearl Jam, you’re going to find Pearl Jam effect.”

    Dr. Nick Perham, from the University of Wales, on the other hand, concluded that listening to music while studying – regardless of how much you love or hate the sound is “worse than the quiet control condition”. He’s also found that music containing lyrics is especially disruptive during any task involving reading – a point also argued by Stanford University professor Clifford Nass.

    Before you put your iPod away, feeling like you’ve lost the only thing about studying, that makes it bearable, consider this: both Perham and Nass acknowledge the potential of music to help create the perfect state of mind for studying, somewhere in between relaxation and excitement. So it seems that listening to some favorite music before commencing studies could help, even if silence is golden during the actual brainwork.

    You know what else will help you focus on your studies? Sprintax, of course! Sign up with Sprintax, to prepare your tax return in no time, so you can concentrate on the forthcoming exam period.

    If you are still convinced that your headphones are an essential study tool, share with us your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Professions of the future – Top jobs needed for the next decade

    Life changes every day and new trends come and go. The jobs market is also constantly changing and we see new and sometimes downright bizarre professions popping up on jobs boards.

    While many traditional jobs may become phased out as technology evolves, the changes will also make way for new career opportunities.

    We did a search and came up with some very unusual new jobs that might become increasingly sought after in the future. Curious? Read on.

    Nostalgist

    The nostalgist is an interior designer that will help people recreate a past moment or decade that they consider the happiest time of their lives. What exactly does a nostalgist do? Well, basically you’ll specialize in recreating memories for retired people. Whether this means recreating a 70s-style kitchen or decorating a whole house in the spirit of the 90s, you’ll recreate retro surroundings to make your client happy.

     Garbage Designer

    ‘Upcycling’ is a term we hear more frequently these days. It refers to the practice of turning waste into better quality products. Garbage designers specialize in creating products from, well, garbage. One designer recently made a line of sports clothing from recycling plastic bottles. Candidates for these positions typically have a background in materials science and engineering.

    End of Life Therapist

    The end of life therapist helps people plan the last years of their lives to put their affairs in order. The therapist also offers advice about the technologies and procedures that can make the physical side of leaving this world smoother.

    Tele-surgeon

    Tele surgery or remote surgery as it’s sometimes called involves operating on people with robotic tools instead of human hands. It’s likely to arise more and more as more remote areas become inhabited.

    Rewilder

    A rewilder is a person who will help resurrect natural areas that are harmed by humans, factories, cars, pollution etc. Removing fences to restore flight paths for birds, tearing up roads and replacing them with forests, and reintroducing native species are all activities that could be part of the rewilder’s job. Could this maybe just be a fancier name for a farmer?

    Simplicity Expert

    Simplicity experts target the business or to be more exact the companies that have complicated internal procedures. The simplicity expert will help the firm to optimize their work and limit administration, to help them reduce three interviews to one, or four days of work to one hour.

    Healthcare Navigator

    Whilst the world of medicine becomes more advanced, hospital procedures seem to become more complex and hard for patients and their families to understand. This is where the healthcare navigator comes in; this person’s job is to liaise with the patients and families to make things more understandable for them at a difficult time.

    Memory Eraser

    Believe it or not, this will not be confined to sci-fi movies anymore. Memory erasing is apparently in the imminent future. Scientists are already conducting experiments on rats to try and make bad memories go away for good.

    These jobs all may sound a little bit out there, but soon enough you might see them creeping into everyday life. So if you liked one of them or you have already chosen one of these slightly unusual professions… we wish you a successful career.

  • Healthy food = good university grades?

    Did you know that your academic performance is strongly linked to what kind of food you eat?

    Maybe such a claim sounds really hard to believe but a lot of studies have confirmed that it is not just another old wives’ tale. The results of a recent research  were indisputable – students who ate proper amounts of proteins, vegetables, fibers and fruits had much better academic results then those who dont.  Results show that proper eating habits not only promote our physical well-being but also influence students’ academic performance.  Healthy food habits can really help you get better university grades!

    So it is  worth paying more attention on what you eat. Your daily meals should include something different than the usual junk food. If they do not, now is the  time to change your eating habits.

    Why food is essential to your academic performance?

    The answer is really simple – the food you eat, provides the energy you need to to study more effectively.

    The best brain booster foods.

    • Whole grains

    When we talk about healthy food to feed your brain with, whole grains are the best choice. They contain ingredients that boost your memory and help increasing concentration. You are having a difficult exam next week – make sure you are well supplied with whole grains. A good example is Oats for breakfast.

    • Vegetables

    Go green and eat vegetables, particularly broccoli, spinach, pumpkin and tomatoes. Experts suggest that they are the best food for your brain. Yet do not underestimate other kind of vegetables as well – include them in each of your daily meals.

    • Berries

    Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries. Did you know that these sweet fruits improve communication between brain cells and promote stronger mental function of your brain?   Bear this in mind and instead of eating pancakes for breakfast, try something healthier and better for your mental functions like yoghurt with fresh strawberries. Yummy!

    • Fish

    Fish is another food of excellent nutrition value. The Omega 3 acids in it are extremely good for your memory and mental performance. Put fish on the menu at least once a week.

    As the saying goes – you are what you eat.  Quite a cliché, isn’t it? Yet it seems that there is a lot of truth in it and if you use the magic formula: healthy food + physical activity + studying, your academic success is guaranteed!

    “We would love to hear about your healthy eating tips, see some pictures of some healthy foods you have prepared or find out where is best to shop for healthy brain booting food in the US!”

  • Do’s and Don’ts in preparation for coming to America!

    Your dream has finally come true – you have gone through the entire process of researching the right University, all the application procedures and visa interviews. And here you are –eager to pack bags and hit the road to USA.

    Your excitement about the upcoming unforgettable time in the Land of Opportunity is only normal.  But it is good to come back down to earth (for a moment!) and make sure you can avoid any potential situations which could ruin the trip – take a look at the most crucial do’s and don’ts when it comes to travelling overseas.

    Do’s

    1) Get USA guidebooks and local maps – Also available as apps on Android and iPhone. Read travel blogs etc. Guidebooks are your best friend during your travelling abroad. Travel guidebooks will give you interesting and valuable information about almost anything you get your eyes on; and maps always help when you accidentally get lost in big cities! The New York subway has a great app which will ensure you will never get lost in New York!

    2) Keep separate records of your passport and your credit card numbers.

    Why? In the event that if you become a victim of robbery, for instance or even if you loose them. Keeping photocopies of your passport and other important documents will make the process of getting new ones much easier. In this regard it is also advisable to provide your family with copies of your Visa and other travel and work docs, just in case.

    3) Be aware of rules and regulations in the USA

    For example in the USA it is compulsory for everyone to file a tax return including international students. You must file a tax return if you are working or receiving income in the US from grants, scholarships, stipends etc. You must also file a tax return form if you have not received any income or have not worked in the US. The tax system in the US is complicated and different situations apply based on your nationality and other factors. But don’t let this worry you, Sprintax is a web based tax software specifically designed for international students. Visit sprintax.com to find out more.

    Don’ts

    1) Do not expect things to be like they are at home

    If you go abroad with expectations everything to be the same or similar, forget about them now. It is another country which has different history and quite diverse culture. It’s a whole new world that you will fall in love with, for sure – just do not pack any prejudices along with your personal stuff.

    2) Make a checklist so you don’t forget the essentials:

    • ID and passport – check
    • Visa – check
    • Travel and medical documents – check
    • Money- check
    •  Time for adventures – CHECK!

    3) Avoid over planning

    Try not to attempt to do everything mentioned in your travel guide. You are there to study – combine getting your education and  experience with visiting the most exciting and remarkable places for you. Prepare a list to make your trips arrangements easier and well planned.

    Studying in USA will make you a citizen of the world! So be open to new experiences. Keep the tips mentioned above in mind and you will have the most amazing time.

     

    Enjoy! We would love to hear about your trip and see some pictures of places you visited. Help us help out next years students who may be considering coming to the US.

  • Sports

    The end of the school year is approaching and you will have a lot of free time in your hands. This means that this is the perfect time to find something new and exciting to do in your spare time. Why not try sports?

    Sport has historically played an important role in all societies, be it in the form of competitive sport, physical activity or play.

    Most American universities host athletic camps during the summer. These camps are a great opportunity for a college coach to see what you can do – and you will get invaluable, unbiased guidance about your ability level compared with student – athletes.

    This can be the perfect opportunity for you to be active during the summer and continue this valuable activity during the winter as well.

    Here are some general tips on why sports are good and how to choose the best one for you:

    Why play sport?

    1. It keeps you healthy – Physical activity is the most obvious benefit of sports. Sports practices and games provide an opportunity for exercise that can keep you in shape and healthy.
    2. It builds character – One of the most popular sports philosophies is to valuing sports because they are seen as having a positive impact on your personality, character and makeup. Sports build belief in one’s own abilities, which leads to being more confident in everyday life.
    3. It improves your social skills – Sports are a great way to build friendships and form new connections, which can create a support system that leads to future opportunities and life-long bonds.
    4. It helps you be more successful – Students who play sports learn they are rewarded for their efforts. This often drives academic success, which leads to better college and career opportunities.
    5. It has positive impact on your attitude – Exercise elevates mood and relieves stress so that people can channel their energy towards something positive, like improving strength and endurance.
    6. It teaches you to set your goals – Achieving and setting goals are a big part of sports. This involves hard work and discipline which helps you attain skills you need to score, to win, or to finish strong.

    How to choose the perfect sport for you?

    1. Select a few sports, which seem interesting to you and try them all – this way you will see what you enjoy to do and what you are good at
    2. Compare the sports you like to your body type – for example if you are tall you might want to try basketball; if you have strong hands – you could try wrestling. Don’t push yourself to do more than your body can endure.
    3. Try both individual and team sports – decide for yourself  how you feel better – to practice with a team or just by yourself. If you’re not a team player you might want to try karate, tennis, swimming or cycling. If you enjoy playing in a team you could try football, soccer, baseball or dancing.
    4. Decide how much time you would have for practice – try one you can find time for in your full schedule, so you don’t have to miss your other activities
    5. Examine how you feel after a work-out – above all you should feel relaxed and more energetic. Don’t feel bad if you have muscle cramps – they’re normal when you haven’t practiced any sports recently
    6. Learn more about the sport which you are interested in – there might be many interesting facts you had no idea about. You can learn a lot about the history of the sport and it’s best players. Read about their achievements and goals – you can feel more motivated during practice

    Once you find a sport that you love start practicing it on a regular basis. You will feel much better when the sport you have chosen takes a place in your schedule.

    Sports also provide a positive learning experience – perhaps the greatest life lessons are learned in sports. Winning does not come easy; you’ve got to work for it. “Winners never quit and quitters never win”

  • How to write an article for the universities newspaper

    Whether you are interested in writing for a small school newspaper or you’re fulfilling a requirement for school, you will want to write like a professional if you intend to write a good article.

    Here are a few simple steps and tips on how to write the best article!

     What makes a good story

    First you must decide what to write about. Sometimes an editor (or instructor) will give you specific assignments, but other times you’ll have to find your own stories to write about. Anything that could interest or affect your classmates, teachers, school or family will make a good story. Make sure the news report is suitable for everyone to read and is easy for everyone to understand. Encyclopedias, dictionaries or other reference materials, and internet research will help you get the facts you need. You can also interview people — such as a professor or coach — who know the facts. This way you will collect quotes that reflect the public’s opinion on the story.

    You need a strong lead

    Almost all newspaper stories start off by answering the most important questions – Who – What – When – Where – Why – How. This will be the opening paragraph of the article and it needs to be strong so it will grab the readers and make them want to read more. The lead tells the reader why he should read the story. Make sure that your lead includes only one main idea. It’s good to make the reader smile or be surprised sometimes. Some leads can be lifeless, and need some tension or something that pushes the reader to read on. Another crucial point here is the length of the opening sentence. The word count needs to be no more than twenty words for your grab line. This in itself is a challenge.

     The Story

    Once you’ve set the stage with a good lead, you follow up with a well-written story that contains facts from your research and quotes from people you’ve interviewed. The second paragraph should contain quotes, built on the information from the lead. The third graph is a “nut” graph – it tells why this story is important to the reader. It should include the where and when. In the next paragraphs which will complete your story, fill in other information. These graphs should include at least one more quote, which usually goes in the final paragraph – “the kicker”. It usually sums up the point of the story. It should also refer back to the first paragraph, which ties everything up nicely for the reader.

    Here are a few additional tips for writing that apply to writing in general. These will help your writing be clearer and easier to understand.

     

    •  Accuracy-  Make sure everything you say is true. A writer has a responsibility to make sure his facts are accurate.
    •  Once the article is completed, professional writers will always proof read the article to find and fix any errors.
    • Avoid jargon – If a technical detail is not essential to your argument, don’t use it.
    • Use the active voice – it is always better than passive voice. It’s easier to read, and it leaves no doubt about who is doing the hoping, recommending or other action.
    • Add to the amazing text you’ve written with videos, pictures, charts, and any other visual or audio material which you found or made in the course of your research. This will make your information more engaging and easier to understand.
    • Practice your writing as much as you can – we all know, that practice makes perfect!

    And why not start practicing now? Tell your personal story or most exciting adventure through the Sprintax blog –  http://blog.sprintax.com/share-your-story-for-being-an-international-student-in-the-usa-now/

     Just send it at hello@sprintax.com

  • It’s almost time for spring break!

    It’s almost time for spring break!
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    The crucial difference between a CV and a resume
  • How foreign students deal with stress

    How foreign students deal with stress

    How international students to cope with stress caused by the brand new environment

    Continue reading “How foreign students deal with stress” »