Sarah Dunlap

About Sarah Dunlap

I am a Pittsburgh native and an English major and Communications minor at Nyack College Rockland Campus. I am a devoted dancer, avid reader, and an aspiring writer. "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences." - Sylvia Plath

College Hacks

It is the start of a new semester, and many of us are still getting into a new routine. This past week, I struggled finding my rhythm, adjusting to both morning and night classes and a full course load. ToFullSizeRender make your semester easier, and mine, I have developed a wide-ranging list of college hacks.






If you haven’t purchased all of your textbooks yet, you can always purchase them from the college bookstore, but check out the sites listed below to find cheaper prices or compare prices.

  • Chegg
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Successful Studying

Stay Organized

  • Keep a planner
  • Make lists and goals
  • Organize materials


  • It will help you stay on top of what needs to get done by the due date.

Minimize Distractions

  • Turn off your phone.
  • Find a place where you can concentrate best.

Drink Lots of Water

  • I always get thirsty when I work, especially if I am in a hot room. Stay hydrated!

Have a Snack

  • It helps you get through long studying sessions.

Take Breaks

  • This is so important. Sometimes it helps to get fresh air, get your mind off work, or get something to eat. Breaks allow your mind rest and recharge.

Listen to White Noise

  • My sister told me about white noise, and to my amazement, it works. White noise is a continuum of frequencies that mask background noise. When I use white noise, it helps me focus. There are also several other types of noises, including pink, brown, and grey-like.

Creative Cafeteria Options

Stir Fry

  • I have seen students make gourmet dishes at the stir fry station. Anything goes.
  • Borrow condiments from the sandwich station for different sauces.
  • Use the salad bar for different vegetable options.


  • Order a sandwich, and then press the sandwich on the stir fry station with a plate.

Bagel Sandwiches

  • For a breakfast sandwich, make an omelet and put it on a bagel.
  • For lunch, instead of choosing bread or wraps from the sandwich line, put your order on a bagel. If you don’t want deli meat from the sandwich line, use rotisserie chicken.
  • To make your salads richer, bring nuts or other fixings that are not at the salad bar to put on your salad.

Apples and Peanut Butter

  • It’s a classic option for an easy snack.

Dorm Room Musts (Besides The Staples)


  • I believe that a Keurig is a staple, but if you don’t have one, you should invest in one.
  • You can make coffee, but you can also make instant oatmeal and ramen by running water through the Keurig.

Pull Out Side Table

  • I use mine everyday, whether if it is to set down my coffee mug or to put my laptop on between my bed and my roommate’s to watch TV.

Dry Erase Boards

  • Write notes.
  • Write your schedule.
  • Stay motivated.

Bed Risers

  • To elevate your bed for storage, use bed risers.

Big Storage Bins

  • Put clothes, books, and/or snacks in bins under your bed for storage and access.

Mattress Topper

  • For a comfier bed and better sleep, use a mattress topper. You will notice the difference.


Wrinkle Releaser

  • It is great for when you don’t have time to iron.

Stain Removers

  • You never know when you’ll need one.

Clorox Wipes

  • Simply stay clean.

Schedule a Day to Do Laundry

  • When you mark a day to do laundry, you will make sure you do laundry before it piles up too much.

Getting Back to Journaling as a College Student

Sometimes it helps to take a step back to take a step forward.

IMG_0981Sometimes reflecting and assessing a situation allows for a greater sense of purpose and a fresh set of eyes. For me, it helps to journal. It not only helps to process the present, but give hope for the future and an appreciation for the past. When my emotions are displayed purely in written form, I can understand what I am feeling either as I write or when I look back. I begin to know myself better.

I kept a journal for years, but then I stopped. I thought I just did not have the time, but every now and then I would pull out a piece of paper or open a Word document and write.  Even today, as I was drinking my morning coffee, I opened my computer and wrote. Actually, this post is a byproduct of this morning’s meditations.

Going into college, I wanted to keep a journal, but I more or less wanted it to be perfect. It sounds silly, really, but I wanted the pages to be pristine, unaccompanied by scratches and edits, and my words right. That was my first mistake. My life is not perfect and neither should my stories. I then turned to the computer, thankful for the delete button. (It is more permanent and effective than a simple line drawn through a paragraph.)  Sometimes I would stare back at the screen, brows furrowed, wondering why in the world would I ever write something like that, and then finding extreme relief in the power of one simple button – delete. I realized that I could write and edit more easily, as well as read my words in print verses my usual cursive. I knew it was going to happen – I did not move forward.

Over winter break, I took a step back. I realized that my problem may have been that I put so much emphasis on the stories and writing them right. I was caught up in telling the story or writing the right story. I was not simply writing. I remembered something one of my teachers had once told me – once you begin writing, don’t pick up your pen from the paper. Spill everything out. That is all a journal should be. When you are writing in the moment, you do not have a set destination. You cannot formulate the story’s premise when it is still in the works.

Yes, I will write this year and keep a record in a journal. I think I learned my lesson. All I need to do is to write, and the rest will come together.

My hope for this semester and the rest of my college years, not only in writing but as a simple life goal, is to not get caught up in the particulars, but look at the big picture. I hope to take a step back — assess and reflect — and step forward to make decisions and take action.

15 Things You Learn During Your First Semester in College

Only a few months ago, I was double-checking my packing list before hitting the road from Pittsburgh to New York. My first semester at Nyack College flew by. Looking back upon my first semester as I begin the last half of my freshman year, I cannot believe how far I have come and the many memories I have made. Taken from personal experiences, I have developed my list, 15 Things You Learn During Your First Semester in College.

IMG_9636 15 Things You Learn During Your First Semester in College…

  1. You learn how to balance everything and stay organized.

Between your studies, friends, and activities, college life can become overwhelming. When you know what you can and cannot handle, you can determine your priorities and manage your time better.

  1. Professors will challenge you.

No matter the course, you will question and analyze various concepts, thoughts and beliefs. Professors will challenge what you believe and invite you to gain a greater perspective.

  1. Coffee is essential.

Coffee wakes you up in the morning and keeps you awake while you study. There are several coffee shops in town, and the best socializing and studying happens over coffee.

  1. Enjoy late night food binges.

What other time in your life do you have a fast to average functioning metabolism? Sometimes all you need is comfort food.

  1. Take chances.

College opens several opportunities and possibilities. You will never know what a difference something makes, whether if it is an activity, a class, or meeting a person, until you try.

  1. It is okay if you do not have your life mapped out, but plan for the future.

Part of college is discovering what you want for your future, not entering college with a set destination.

  1. Buy or borrow books from upperclassmen.

You would not believe how much money you could save, especially if you did not realize how soon you needed one of your textbooks.

  1. Find the best place for you to study, and find the best place for you to have time for yourself.

They are usually not the same. You need a place where you can focus when you study, clear of distractions. You also need a place where you can relax and recharge.

  1. You will meet people from all over the world.

Nyack College is known for being diverse. I love that no matter where you are from, you can always find something in common with someone else.

  1. People will challenge you.

You will meet people with different personalities, backgrounds, and views than you. It may be difficult at times, but you can gain a deeper understanding of people and yourself.

  1. Go into town or the city and do something new.

Going to college in New York offers an array of opportunities and activities. Try a new restaurant or café, spend a day at the Hudson, or visit the shops.

  1. Your major should be something that you love.

Know that you are making the right investment for your future. If you do not enjoy your major, it is okay to change.

  1. Pursue opportunities that give you experience for your goals in life.

Whether it is an activity, a job, or an internship, pursue opportunities that help you achieve your goals for your future.

  1. When bad grades happen, it is not the end of the world.

You are not perfect, and it will be okay. Eat that bowl of ice cream or extra slice of pizza.

  1. You will meet some of your best friends in college.

Be open to everyone, and you never know who will be that one person you wonder how you could have ever lived without.

10 Writing Tips from Writer and Editor



Reading on the beach, Cape Cod, MA

Walking along the cape, I hurried into The Brewster Book Store to escape the New England afternoon heat. I was glancing around the bookstore, when I found Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. It was the perfect book. I leafed through the pages, and then handed the cashier money, excited to read a new book on the sandy beaches. Summer 2015 – Cape Cod,  MA

As a student studying to become a journalist, Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd’s book, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction has immensely affected me. During my first semester of college, there were various moments in which I remembered advice from Kidder and Todd that helped me in class and as I wrote papers. Overall, their insights have changed and developed my views on writing, as well as inspire me to always strive to become a better writer.

In their collaborative book, Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction, Kidder and Todd address the three major nonfiction forms: narrative, essay and memoir. Kidder is a nonfiction writer and Pulitzer Prize winner for General Nonfiction, and Todd has served as editor of the magazine, The Atlantic. Good Prose delves into not only the key factors to consider when writing, but also the mistakes, offering advice from a renown writer and editor.

The following is a list of Kidder and Todd’s 10 Writing Tips:

  1. To write is to talk to strangers. You have to inspire confidence, to seem and to be trustworthy.
  2. It is always prudent to remember that one is not Tolstoy or Dickens.
  3. Don’t concentrate on technique, which can be the same as concentrating on yourself. Give yourself to your story.
  4. The reader wants to see you trying—not trying to impress, but trying to get somewhere.
  5. For a story to have a chance to live, it is essential only that there be something at stake. A car chase is not required.
  6. Try to attune yourself to the sound of your own writing. If you can’t imagine yourself saying something aloud, then you probably shouldn’t write it.
  7. The creation of a style often begins with a negative achievement. Only by rejecting what comes too easily can you clear a space for yourself.
  8. Use words wantonly and you disappear before your own eyes. Use them well and you create yourself.
  9. The best work is done when one’s eye is simply on the work, not on its consequence, or on oneself. It is something done for its own sake. It is, in Lewis Hyde’s term, a gift.
  10. Be willing to surprise yourself.

Reading Hemingway to Inspire a New Year

During winter break, I began reading Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The book is set in the mid-1920s and focuses on the generation of post World War I. Hemingway centers the book’s theme around Gertrude Stein’s quote, “You are all a lost generation,” and the quotation from Ecclesiastes: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cIMG_0662ometh: but the earth abideth forever…The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose.” Hemingway uses the quotes to imply that the generation of post World War I is not completely lost, but instead, enduring through the hard times. As I read the book, one line in particular stood out to me from the beginning; Hemingway writes, I cant stand to think my life is going so fast and Im not really living it. It reminded me of a quote by one of my favorite American dancers, Isadora Duncan, who lived from the late 1800s to 1927. Duncan said, “People don’t live nowadays: they get about ten percent out of life.” Duncan tragically died a year after The Sun Also Rises was published close to the book’s setting in France. I realized that life is what you make it, and maybe with the right perspective, life does not have to move so fast. Hemingway’s book was written ninety years ago, but I believe that he not only depicted one of the misfortunes of the age, but also one that withstands time. No matter what era one lives in or the difficulties one faces, one is always caught in the same predicament – Am I living my best life, despite all that is happening in the world?

It is the beginning of a new year, 2016, and I can assure you that if you ask anyone what their new year’s resolutions are, most will answer that one is to live a better life or live more. In the recent calamities of the past year, including the terrorist attacks, many hope to make the most out of life in 2016 and hope for peace and unity. Others recognize that their personal need is to live life and enjoy it to the hilt, even if it means taking risks. My hope for the world in 2016 is to live, not at ten percent, but completely. Ultimately, maybe lives will become better and find fulfillment. I hope that the new generation will not become lost, but enduring and thriving. In doing so, maybe the world will become a better place. 2016 is a new year, and perhaps it will become a new age.

A Fearless Heart For the New Year

It is the end of 2015, the beginning of a new year. Remembering the years gone by, I pull out my journal dating back to 2006, and I stumble upon an entry dated March 20, 2008, in which I wrote, “I want to live with a fearless heart. Courage at hand when the path gets a little dark.” I stop reading and ponder over the words of my twelve-year-old sIMG_0614elf. What does it mean to be fearless, and what does it mean to have courage?

To be fearless is to not only master fear, but to believe that by taking action one can conquer a barrier (fear) that separates oneself from a greater possibility. The action taken is called courage. I may fear failure, for example, but if I begin to become comfortable with the possibility of falling down in failure, I can get up and make greater efforts for success. One may not live completely without fear, but one may learn how to be free from fear. If one has the perspective that fear does not have the power to conquer oneself, then one can conquer it. Faith, unyielding confidence and trust, can dissipate the power of fear. With faith, conquering a fear begins to look less daunting and more feasible.

If to be fearless means to master fear with the belief that one can conquer a barrier, then what does it mean to have a fearless heart? 1 John 4:18, the English Standard Version, says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” If love casts out fear, then to conquer the barrier, one must have love. When I said, “I want to live with a fearless heart,” I may have been saying that I want to constantly have a loving heart so that I may not live in fear. If my heart is in the right place, then when “the path gets a little dark,” I can see with clarity in the midst of trouble and act courageously.

For the new year, my resolution is to live with a fearless heart. There will be moments in my life when I will need to walk into the water of fear. I hope to have faith to travel the stream that leads to greater possibility, whether that possibility is for me to grow and mature or to experience an opportunity that I could not have had without conquering a fear. I hope to live with a fearless heart and fathom the outcome of faith.

Home is Where You Know You Belong

My travel home was a ten-hour trip fueled by coffee and endless conversation, but it seemed as though I had never left. I was surrounded by friends and family, and I was leaving one place that I loved to go to another. The borders between New York and Pennsylvania seemed to blur. The world became smaller because I realized that home does not have to be confined to one place, but home can cross borders and extend to various places and people.

IMG_0203When I returned home to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I realized that time had been both stalled and moving. Home was just as I left it, but time had passed — my family and I had new stories to tell each other, and we knew that within the next week we will make new memories. I found joy in being back in Pittsburgh with the people who matter the most to me. I could not help but contemplate that I felt changed  maybe I was a little older or a little wiser, or maybe it was simply from the lapse in time. While being home, I enjoyed the comfort and warmth it gave me; it was a place full of childhood memories. I realized that what makes home home is the sense of comfort and the rush of happiness when you return. It is where you know you belong.
I realized that college is also home. The buildings, the people, the town – all encapsulate a sense of belonging over time. When I returned to college, I returned to a place that also made me feel like I had never left. As a freshman I may not have had the full host of college experiences that would make it seem as though a full life has been lived, but I have lived. I have made friends, memories, learned and grown up all in a few, short months. Before I came to Nyack College, I had already felt that I belonged. Now that I have been in college, it could not have been more true. While being in college, I have also made New York my home. It is a place where I feel comfortable and happy. I love the energy and the people. It makes me feeIMG_9806l like I am a part of something bigger, yet it has become smaller to me the longer I have lived there.

Having a home in more than one place makes the world seem smaller. I have realized that you can travel the world and live in many places; some places will only be another place or another memory, but others can be another home. Home is more than a place or a feeling. It is somewhere you will comeback to for the sake of the memories, new and old, and for the comfort it gives you. You can fit into many places, but the ones that always return to you bring you back home.

God-Designed Creativity

In the Honors program at Nyack College, my cohort has been studying the concept of work with Dr. Gates and how to understand work from a Christian worldview. It has been an eye-opening study as I have learned much about myself and God. We have read Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor and discussed the book and how it applies to our lives in our work, education and future. One of the key points we have learned is that God designed humanity to be creative because he is the ultimate creator. Through what I have learned in class, I have conceptualized my idea of what it means to be creative from a Christian worldview. Creativity often drives my work, and I believe that everyone is creative in a sense. The desire to understand is why we approach work from a creative mindset, no matter the career field or medium.

Creativity has been given a narrow view. Creativity is not a quality for only the right brained, but there is creativity in the logical and the rational. We are creative in our problem solving. Logic is not always black and white. The mind is complex, and God created our minds to be creative. Creativity comes from a part of our minds that craves to make sense of our world. It is not the quest for knowledge but rIMG_9934ather the effort to understand more about ourselves and the world. It is a part of being human.

The Gospel gives us an understanding of our work to understand life and do our work well. We can learn about our careers, our work and lives in God and his word; we find counsel, hope and direction in him. All people, no matter if it is the artist, the scientist, the writer, etc., are intuitive people with questions and who wish to find the answers. God’s masterpiece is mankind. We are complex, beautiful and we have the ability to create and do wonders in the world.

One of the aspects of work that I learned in class that has stayed with me is that our work won’t be complete on earth. We can only see partial reality now. We are learning and being perfected in God. One of the most beautiful aspects of God is that as creator of the universe, he is the master artist, scientist, and writer. Psalm 19:1-2 from the New International Version says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” In God’s creation of the heavens, there is a magnitude of beauty and wonder. God designed man in his image and gave him the ability to do great works.  God’s will for us extends beyond what our minds can comprehend. His knowledge is infinite and his creativity knows no bounds.

Top 5 Shops of Nyack

The Village of Nyack is more than just eateries and waterfront. Here are my top 5 favorite shops from the downtown scene. Having just started my freshman year at Nyack College, these stores stood out right away.

Sign of the Times

Location: 122 Main St., Nyack, NY

 IMG_9914Sign of the Times features music and pop culture merchandise. It has everything from mugs to t-shirts to toys for children. Sign of the Times is a great place to purchase gifts for all ages at affordable prices. One of their collection of items is vintage band coasters that look like forty-fives. Some of the artists featured include The Beatles, Queen, The Ramones, The Grateful Dead, and Neil Young. The shop shows a quirky and artsy side of Nyack and is comparable to Newbury Comics or Urban Outfitters’ merchandise.


The Kiam Records Shop

Location: 95 Main St., Nyack, NY
IMG_9812The Kiam Records Shop has both current music releases on vinyl and the oldies. Kiam has music playing in the store, and the music featured can be found in the store for purchase. The record shop also sells books, vintage clothing, CDs, cassette tapes, and turntables. One of the books for sale is Nyack Sketch Log by Bill Batson. It is about the history of Nyack, NY and features many of the shops in the town.



Grace’s Thrift Shop

Location: 10 South Broadway, Nyack, NY


Grace’s Thrift Shop offers quality clothing, books, and knick knacks. Grace’s offers a variety of clothing sizes and styles. It has excellent customer service and prices. As a college student, I want to buy affordable and quality clothing. I bought a Lord and Taylor’s cashmere cardigan for $10 and a cowl neck sweater for $5.




Maria Luisa – Maria Luisa Boutique and ML by Maria Luisa

Location: 77 South Broadway, Nyack, NY









Maria Luisa has two shops in Nyack, Maria Luisa Boutique and ML by Maria Luisa. Maria Luisa sells clothing, footwear, accessories, gifts, and home décor. The shops offer high quality items and a welcoming atmosphere. Maria Luisa is comparable to Anthropology. I bought a black shift dress on sale for half off. I can dress it up or dress it down and wear it during any season. I invest in quality pieces that I know that I will wear frequently and are versatile.

Saffron Trading Company

Location: 14 South Broadway, Nyack, NY


Saffron Trading Company shows a cultural side of Nyack through its high quality crafts, gifts, clothing and home furnishings with Asian influences. Saffron’s merchandise is both unique and beautiful. The shop offers an array of items that reflect style and versatility. I love Saffron’s clothing, especially the dresses. They are both classic and bohemian, comparable to Free People in style and price.




College Life Beyond a Cliché

I was nervous to go to a new state for college and have a new life, but I knew that God was in control. He gave me peace that calmed any anxiety I had and erased all my fears. I have confidence that he will do the same in my journey in college and career. It sounds cliché – a small town, country girl moves to New York for college to write. That is exactly what I did. I picked up my bags and said the line that so many others before me have said, “I want to make it in New York.” I watched one Pennsylvania farm after the other pass by, and my life began to change. The only reaIMG_9792son that kept me from turning back was knowing that I was headed where I knew I belonged.

My experience to Nyack College was like no other, and I believe that God put people and opportunities in place to push me towards Nyack and ultimately to rely on him. Now that I am at Nyack, my life is becoming less of a cliché. Not to say that I do not fall into the many college or striving writer stereotypes, but I have become less of the character of my dreams but the character of my reality. From this moment on, I can choose what paths I take that will define my future. This can be terrifying, but at the same time it can be liberating.

In my favorite book, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë writes, “I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.” I can assure you that I am in no way in the same mental state as Cathy, but this quote always applies to life no matter what chapter I am in. I have realized that dreams are so integrated into our beings that no matter what they become a central part of who we are as humans. In college, our career paths may change over time, but we always carry with us the same desires. I may change my writing track or pursue various writing opportunities that are not specific to my major’s concentration, but I will always want to write.

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I am not justifying the cliché “follow your heart,” but I am explaining that college is the time to understand not only who you want to be but also how you want to get there. College is a path many take to reach their desired destination. The destination I have in mind is a goal; it is not necessarily my endpoint. Although I do not know exactly where I am headed, I know that I will be where I belong.



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