Product Review: Aurelia Zierre

aurelia zierre

The problem with store bought scrubs and cleansers has never been that they don’t get the job done. Typically, they leave your face feeling clean enough and one is just as good as another. But along with that cleanliness comes a dried out feeling that falls very short of refreshing. The unnatural ingredients in store bought products is what brings on this dryness. Aurelia Zierre says that “we started our company in order to give people a safer and more natural alternative to caring for their skin” and I believe they’re doing just that!

honeysuckle mintAurelia Zierre’s Honeysuckle Mint Exfoliating Facial Scrub muscles up where many other scrubs wimp out. It seems they know just what’s needed to leave a face renewed and nourished, and don’t bother adding anything other than that. Another great thing about Aurelia Zierre’s products is that purchasing them allows the opportunity to “pay it forward”. The company, based in Washington, DC, is connected to local charities such as The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project”. Having volunteered at this program (along with Raven!) a few years ago, I know first hand that they do good and important work in the community, offering parents some time for themselves while giving children a break from the trials of homelessness.

On working with “The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project”, Aurelia Zierre says, “We decided to partner with local charities because we’ve always done volunteer work throughout the city and believe that we could also help by donating 10% of our proceeds to local charities. We reached out to our supporters and customers in order to get an understanding of what charities people held dearest to their hearts. We wanted to only partner with organizations that had a direct impact on the lives of Washington DC residents in need of a little extra help. Playtime Project was an organization that we heard plenty about when we reached out; we fell in love with what they do and made sure to link them to our altruistic dreams. We will continue to add products to our line with the hopes of partnering with more charities. As we grow so will our reach.”

Review written by Kesia Webster

To try out the  Honeysuckle Mint Exfoliating Facial Scrub visit Aurelia Zierre’s store at AureliaZierre.storenvy.com or check them out at the H Street Market at 806 H St. Northeast, Washington, DC.

Also check out their other sites:

Blog– AureliaZierre.tumblr.com
Email– AZ.Scrubs@gmail.com
Instagram– Aurelia.Zierre

 

You can also check out homemade soap by Yiaya, their sister store, which I also had a chance to try and adored! Products include Vanilla, orange, clovebus, vanilla pomegranate and colendula and honey with arise.

Email– loveyiaya@gmail.com
Instagram– yia_ya

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Pursuing the Art of Taste

SHANAI IMG_6195

City: College Park, MD
Occupation: Student & Tutor

Tell us a little about yourself!

I’m Shanaí, a senior Biochemistry student at University of Maryland. Go Terps! Aside from being a student, I also enjoy traveling, spending time with family and friends, listening to music, and cooking of course! I’m a very positive, free-spirited, and energetic person.

When and how did you learn to cook?

image5As a home-trained chef, I learned to cook from many sources. I come from a large Caribbean family with a long line up of chefs and I have always been surrounded by lots of food. Family has really been my first teacher. I also draw inspiration from cooking shows like Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, and also from other foodies and food blogs.

What inspires you about food?

Food is one of those amazing connections that anyone can enjoy regardless of social constructs and barriers. I’ve always loved creative arts and cooking is one of the most enjoyable ones. It’s amazing to create something that evokes memories or feelings through taste.

What/where is your favorite place to eat?

Aaah. It’s hard to narrow down just one place or food!  Seafood is one of my favorites, mainly shrimp, crab, and image3sushi. I also recently tried ceviche, which is a South American raw spiced citrus fish dish, and loved it. Some of my favorite places to eat are Sardis, Hibachis, Blue Dolphin, and, Olive Garden.

How and why has food become such a large part of your life?

After struggling with losing and maintaining my weight almost my whole life, I’ve finally accepted that eating healthy and nourishing your body is much more important than counting calories or stressing over weight or size. I started my Instagram food page, @TheArtofTaste, last year as a way to cook and eat more nutritious and less processed foods.

What would your last meal be?

Definitely some type of Alfredo pasta with lots of shrimp and crab.

Where do you get your recipes?

The best recipes I’ve gotten have come from family. I also use online recipes from use Food Network, Recipes.com, Food.com, and Bon Appétit. I also get recipe from my favorite Instagram food blogs like @myhealthydish, @thekitchenista, and @ecsince80.

image6Why do you think there is such a lack of women in the culinary field?

It’s almost ironic that there is a lack of women in a field that is sometimes expected as a profession or skill for women. I’m not entirely sure why this is.

Any words of advice for aspiring chefs?

Stay creative and new with whatever you do and don’t be afraid to take risks. Expressing your creativity and putting your own spin on things is what sets you apart!

Follow Shanai’s food page on Instagram! @theartoftaste

Making A Statement Using Fabric

ANGEL Angel1

Age: 29
Occupation: Self Employed/Full Time Medical Student/Mentor
Hometown: Baltimore

 

How long have you been designing?
4 years

What kind of women do you design for? How do you want women to feel in your clothes?

I design clothing for men and women. I design clothing based off the needs of my clients, if they are looking for trendy, traditional,high fashion, I pride myself on listening to my customers needs. I want my clients to feel like they are expressing themselves and feel confident in my items.

Angel4Who are some of your favorite designers?

Yves Saint Laurent, Roberto Cavalli

How would you describe your style? Angel3

I describe my personal style as artistic and without boundaries.

What motivated you to pursue this passion?

I have always loved fashion even as a child, I think that Tyra Banks motivated me to want to be the person who could allow the model to make a statement using fabric.

What is it like being a brown girl in the fashion industry?

Being a brown girl of different ethnic backgrounds and moral backgrounds has made it difficult. Being any kind of true artist you are never really understood for the craft that you love dearly. The journey has been difficult because of me majoring in the medical field. I have two skills that require a lot of my attention, which makes it hard on my social awareness scene. Thus its hard to attend events that could give me exposure so my marketing methods have to be a little more traditional then others. I think the most difficult part about finding support is finding genuine support. A lot of people in our era do not value the concept of continuous hard work so its difficult to find people with the same work ethics as you.

Where do you get your ideas on what styles to make? Where do you draw inspiration from?

I get my ideas from artists. I go to art galleries and sit with art students from across the United States and get a feel of what art is eye indulging. I am also a great fan of DIY projects.

Angel2What advice do you have for other girls who want to pursue designing as a career?

My advice is to learn about fashion, study your target, learn about being in business and always conduct yourself as a professional woman at all times. Integrity, consistency, and hard work is the key to success always.

Want to get in touch with Angel? Check out her Instagram @Aye_itsangel_, her LinkedIn: Angel King or her meet up page: Angel King!

 

As always, if you want to suggest a topic, wish to be featured or have any other feedback, feel free to contact me at raven.best5@gmail.com

 

Changing the Perception, Starts with Changing Ourselves

WARREN
Duke 1

Age: 21
Occupation: Real Estate Agent
Education: Earned his Bachelor’s in Sociology from UMD- College Park and is currently getting his Masters in Supply Chain Management at UMUC
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, MD

 

Lately there has been a lot of press about African American males, specifically young African American males, due to the recent deaths of Mike Brown, Ezell Ford, and Eric Garner from police brutality and excessive force. I am usually not the one to speak on situations that affect the public but being an African American male in today’s society, I feel this is a topic I must express my opinion about. I am not speaking to take sides with anyone because although I am an African American male, I do have a background with working for federal agencies and do get to see the perspective coming from a police officer’s view.

My peers don’t realize the severity of some of the things we do every day, which we think are normal but are wrong, and since no one has told most of us it’s wrong, we continue doing it. Some of these things include cursing out loud in public, sagging our pants, or even caring more about cars, clothes, and jewelry as opposed to getting a good education. I’m not perfect but I do understand that there is a time and a place for everything. I’ve been told that no matter how hard you try to hide, there will always be someone that is watching you and judging you based upon your actions, whether you are with your friends or family.

Duke2Social media and lifestyles, which I believe go hand and hand, are the other areas we must  consider in a time like this. Social media is something that is becoming more and more popular in today’s society. Many of us let social media determine our lifestyle or even use social media to reflect a lifestyle that we really don’t live. I recently heard this statement from a prior conversation and believe it’s true, which is social media is the only time African Americans can come together and keep up with the most recent current events while still being able to express our opinions. It’s very rare you see a young African American male pick up the local newspaper to read about what’s going on around the world such as politics or business. In high school, my 10th grade history teacher use to stand by the stack of local newspapers in front of the school and would watch how almost every male who picked up the newspaper, skip straight to the sports section and throw the rest of the paper away. Its little things like this that reflect our lifestyle to the public because in this case if sports are all you feel you need to know about, then others will be forced to believe that as well. Displaying that we don’t care about education, business, and politics, will give people a reason to judge us and not include us in decisions regarding these topics which have the potential to change our lives more than sports do.

Needless to say, I do not believe killing another person is right, whether that it is black on black crime, white on black crime, or white on white crime, but what I do believe is that we can’t change society until we first learn how to change ourselves. In the future, I plan on changing the perspective of how African American males are perceived in today’s society. Graduating from the University of Maryland in 3 1⁄2 years, going to graduate school, starting my own marketing company (MWA Marketing LLC), and purchasing my first residential investment property are all just a few things I have done at a fairly young age. Some may see this as “being ahead of the game” while I see this as being behind, because there is so much more I feel I need to catch up on. But with a mindset like this, I believe this is just the beginning of something great that God has in store for me and my culture.

 

We are still accepting submissions for this month! If you or anyone you know might be interested in the theme and contributing, feel free to email me at raven.best5@gmail.com!!

Black Men: You Are Loved

Trayvon Martin. Ezell Ford. Eric Garner. Mike Brown.

A few names in an overwhelmingly long list of men who’ve lost their lives due to the color of their skin. Many argue that we live in a post-racial society, that race is not a factor in these types of cases, that race is no longer an issue. Personally, I believe the sentiment that “we don’t see color anymore,” while utopian, is ignorant. A blindfold that enables us to overlook the blatant injustice that still exists. I don’t need to reiterate the statistics that proves while racism is no longer “legal,” it is still present; arguably even more threatening because it has now become covert and institutionalized.

The recent string of black male deaths at the hand of police brutality, while never easier to swallow, are not new. And even scarier is the thought that they are not surprising. Negrophobia is not a new trend or phenomenon, and it is constantly perpetuated in our society. Black men are perceived as a threat before anything else. And those who break that stereotype are considered an anomaly.Black images in the media are very narrow, if not a celebrity, athlete or the token black friend, black men in the public are generally assumed to be criminal or degenerate. And these unfair misconceptions not only reinforce, but *justify* the mistreatment that black men must face.

In seeing the complete character assassination in the news about Mike Brown that ensued after his death, it really hit me how rare it is to see positive and true depictions of black men in the media; and how even rarer to have it come from black men themselves. So, knowing that I created the Free Your Mind Project in the hopes of broadening the perspective of black women, it is only fair that I do the same for our men. So, September will be dedicated to giving voice to the black men who are tired of having to defend themselves against the stereotypes. This month will solely consist of features from black men talking about their lives, their dreams and their opinions. No questions, no specific themes, just unfiltered thoughts.

 

I’m truly excited to share these pieces with you guys and if you or anyone you know would be interested in contributing, feel free to email me at raven.best5@gmail.com


Happy September!

A PWI Experience: Finding New Opportunities and Avenues!

JANAEJanae`

Age: 22
Major: Broadcast Journalism at University of Maryland- College Park, currently a Grad Student at Ohio State
Hometown: Pine Hill, NJ

 

Why did you choose Maryland?

I fell in love with Maryland from the first moment that I stepped on the campus. I just had a feeling that this was my next home and I was correct. I visited the campus on a tour and I thought their was something in the water because every student I talked to seemed obsessed with it. I really feel like I found myself and found my passion while I was here.

What was first semester, freshman year like? What was the adjustment like?

The first semester was interesting. I lived in a predominantly White dorm, Centreville Hall. I was in the Scholars program. Most of the students on my floor wanted to stay in and hang out with each other or play mario kart. I did make a few friends but I was also the only African American girl on that floor which was a HUGE adjustment. I was used to diversity and while that existed to an extent on my floor I did feel disconnected from the Black community. Eventually I found my niche through RHA (Residence Hall Association), I started attending BSU (Black Student Union) as most Black freshman do. I got involved pretty early on and started making friends outside my hall and that made the adjustment much easier.

Janae6Would you say you found your social niche?

Yes I definitely found my Niche(s). I wanted to take every opportunity that Maryland had to offer so that I could have the full college experience. I worked with the Residence Hall Association to represent on-campus terps and plan events, I became a campus tour guide to convince other incoming students to fall in love with my school. I became a Resident Assistant, and then a Orientation Advisor and I even pledged a sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. I loved joining so many things because I created different diverse social circles and I really think those made my college experience.

What is it like being a black female at a PWI?

Pros:I was really able to explore Black beauty on this campus because of some of the inspiring mentors and Janae4upperclassman that I met.

I actually had a lot of African American female mentors and professors. My associate dean of the journalism school is African American, three of my journalism professors were African American women of color, my Higher Education mentor was a Black woman. So I was able to spend the last 4 years growing and learning from women who inspired me and made me believe that I could be successful in Higher Education too.
Cons:

It was hard at first because I was placed in a predominantly White Residence Hall so I didn’t really meet other African American females and males until the end of my first semester.

Janae7What kind of activities or groups were you a part of?

University of Maryland Orientation

University of Maryland Department of Resident Life

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Residence Hall Association

Maryland Association of Black Journalists

College Park Scholars

Students Helping Honduras

Janae2

What is your favorite thing about Maryland? Any dislikes?

I love the fact that it is so huge it creates so many opportunities and avenues to meet new people and learn from those people and explore their cultures, backgrounds, ideas, and minds. I made friends from my freshman orientation 4 years ago up until my last semester senior year and those are connections I will always cherish.

I honestly don’t really have any dislikes. I will say that I am an African American female who graduated with Straight A’s  all four years with the only 4.0 in my graduating class and I feel like that was never recognized financially. What I mean by that is I feel as though extra scholarships or grants through the school would have been really helpful over the last couple of years and sometimes it’s frustrating that athletes get full rides and students who excel academically might only get an email saying Congratulations on making Dean’s list.

What opportunities did Maryland afford you?Janae1

Maryland helped me find my passion for higher education. This school opened so many doors for me to study abroad, to travel to other universities, to connect with celebrities and major companies, and it allowed me to make some of the most amazing friends.

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Maryland?

I LOVED Maryland. I am a huge advocate for Maryland and I probably always will be. I loved my time here because I spent the last four years excelling academically but also enjoying my experience outside of the classroom and the mentors I found at Maryland helped me make sure that I didn’t waste away my four years but actually spent them finding myself and what I was passionate about.

Janae5What advice would you give for others trying to decide on college?

Go to the school that feels like a home. You spend four or more years there you want to make sure that you choose a university that gives you a feeling of comfort inside. I found that at Maryland and I hope that all students attending college find that too.

 

Want to reach out to Janae? Follow her on Twitter @jjanae or Instagram @j_janae!!

An Ivy League Experience: History, Inspiration & Friends Across the Spectrum!

KIKI

Kiki introducing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee

Kiki introducing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Leymah Gbowee

Age: 21

Major/Occupation: Political Science/African Studies; Yale

Hometown: Washington, DC

Twitter: @kikiochieng

 

Why did you choose Yale?

I chose Yale because I wanted to go to a university that valued the mind, but also valued cultivating the spirit. Yale’s focus on liberal arts is meant to encourage students to expand their minds beyond regurgitating some facts and to learn how to think deeply and critically. I also wanted to go to a school where I could feel not only inspired by esteemed faculty, but also where I could feel inspired by my peers.

 

What was first semester, freshman year like? What was the adjustment like?

Fortunately, my first semester of freshman year was a relatively smooth transition. I spent my junior year of high school living abroad in France, so I was fairly used to being independent and structuring my life and schedule on my own. My high school, Sidwell Friends, also prepared me academically for the rigorous course load.

 

Would you say you found your social niche?

I’m a very social person and love to meet new people. I participated in a pre-orientation called Cultural Connections freshman year. The program places an emphasis on the diversity of experiences of traditionally underrepresented students and issues related to racial identity. While Sidwell was very diverse, I didn’t have the opportunity in high school to engage with many minority students, so college was a welcome change. Furthermore, as a first-generation African, it was very important to me to engage with the African community on campus. I feel a deep affinity to that side of myself because my parents strongly reinforced my heritage growing up through introducing me to various aspects of their culture, making sure that I stayed in touch with my large extended family and through annual trips to the continent.

I also joined a sorority during the second semester of my freshman year, which was a lovely opportunity to meet girls from different backgrounds from all over the country. One of the things I love about being in a sorority is that you have the opportunity to meet people from different cross-sections of campus with varied interests. Moreover, the focus is on getting to know other people. I think that there are few spaces where you can have that kind of physical and intellectual diversity simultaneously.

 

What is it like being a black female at an Ivy League?

Having attended predominately white schools for my entire life, I knew more or less what to expect from Yale. Growing up, my teachers always encouraged me to perform my best and believed in me. That mentorship and guidance was essential to establishing my confidence in the classroom. When you believe in yourself, you can trust yourself in a way that allows you to take more risks. Know your worth.

The black community at Yale is incredibly kind and welcoming and I have always felt like I have a network of big sisters and brothers to rely on. I try to do the same for the younger students, so that they always feel that someone is looking out for them. That can mean a number of things – insuring someone is staying on top of their schoolwork or simply making them a big bowl of jollof rice, jerk chicken or sweet potato pie when they’re missing home.

I think it is important that black students – particularly, black women – learn to utilize the power of networking. Having access to opportunities sometimes boils down to who you know. We should become more comfortable navigating spaces that are unfamiliar to us considering that board rooms today still remain overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. Some people are intimidated by what they see as institutions that weren’t designed to include them, but you can’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and to reach out for help and guidance on your academic life and career. And when you’re at the top, don’t forget to pay it forward, so that you can cultivate your community.

As a black woman, I have often struggled with the feeling that I have been put inside a box. When people see me, they sometimes make snap judgments about my identity, which may stem from the media’s tendency to speak about black women as a monolithic entity. Even within the labels of “black” and “women”, there is such rich diversity in terms of personality, appearance and experience. Don’t let other people decide your identity for you and challenge people who put you inside the box. If you encounter ignorance, don’t necessary shun the person, but take steps to engage with him or her to help them understand your perspective.

 

Kiki and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

Kiki and the Reverend Jesse Jackson

What kind of activities or groups were you a part of?

Extracurricular life at Yale is very vibrant, so I feel like I’ve done everything under the sun!

I have a strong connection to the Afro-American Cultural Center (often lovingly called “The House”) where I serve as the Head Peer Liaison for incoming black freshmen students. I am a member of the Intercultural Affairs Council (which directs Yale’s diversity efforts at the undergraduate level) and the Title IX Advisory Committee (which helps spearhead ensure that we have a safe campus and a culture of sexual respect). In the past, I also worked as a Communication and Consent Educator to help combat sexual violence on our campus and direct people towards resources at Yale.

I love to write, so I write poetry and short stories in my free time. I also write occasionally for campus publications like the Yale Daily News and Broad Recognition, a feminist magazine at Yale. Outside of campus, I’m the associate editor of two online publications – Ayiba Magazine and Fair Observer.

I just stepped down as the President of the Yale Undergraduate Association for Peace and Development (YAAPD), an organization devoted to creating more opportunities for youth to engage with peace and development in Africa and to preparing students for careers related to Africa.

I also work at Yale Law School, where I assist with the Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights.

This year, I’ll also serve as the Class Day Co-Chair, which means that I get to help select Yale’s graduation speakers. I’m very excited for that role, especially because this will be the third year in a row that a black woman has served as one of the Co-Chairs. I think that speaks volumes about our visibility on campus.

 

What is your favorite thing about Yale? Any dislikes?

I could spend days talking about the things I love about Yale! It’s a place where students can be just as well-versed in pop culture as they are talking about the crisis in Ukraine or what’s going on in Gaza. Where you can spend your lunch break looking at Rothko’s and Van Gogh’s. Where you can casually grab a meal with one of your heroes – a senator, an actress, an activist… you name it!

But it’s also a place that can feel overwhelming – where people are so hyper-focused on filling their days (and I often guilty of that), that they don’t stop to simply look at the beautiful Gothic architecture or the fall leaves. Competing on “busyness” is the great disease of our generation. We need to learn how to slow down. One frustrating thing about Yale is that students are addicted to email, which is often subtly encouraged by how classes and extracurricular life is structured. This doesn’t set a good precedent for work-life balance and is something that shouldn’t be encouraged. It’s good to stay up-to-date, but it’s also important to unplug. I will be doing more of that as I enter my senior year.

 

What opportunities did Yale afford you?

Yale humbled me but also helped me grow immensely. I go to school with some of smartest, most innovative people in the country. I have learned that it is important to be willing to pick apart your beliefs and understand your logical fallacies in order to grow. For example, I often try to engage with conversations with people at the opposite side of spectrum when it comes to political beliefs so I can understand areas where I might have to do some deeper research to really understand an issue.

 

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Yale?

I love that people aren’t ashamed to be passionate about the things they love, no matter how arcane the topic might seem to the outside world. The school is older than the United States itself so you can imagine what a rich history and legacy it has. How many places in the world can you take a study break and go see a Guttenberg Bible?

Yale historian George W. Pierson once wrote, “Yale is at once a tradition, a company of scholars, a society of friends.”

 

What advice would you give for others trying to decide on college?

Try to do as many college visits as you can. On a regular weekday, you can see what students are normally like instead of slightly more polished version you might see during an admissions weekend.

Make sure you consider the size of the school. After attending a high school where my graduating class was only 111 people, I knew that I had to attend a small to mid-size school in order to feel comfortable. I love the size of Yale because it’s so easy to run into people you know but the school is large enough that it’s easy to always meet new people or expand your social circle. Being in a mid-size school always allows for some diversity in class sizes – you can do anything from a large lecture of 200 students to a small intimate class of 13.

 

 

Want to get in touch with Kiki? Follow her on twitter @kikiochieng!!

Making the Most of It

Hello FYM Project Readers!!

 

As promised, the blog is back in full effect as we roll into August! I hope everyone has had an amazing summer and has some great plans as we move into fall!

 

So, as this time of year is generally full of back to school preparations and first day anxiety, I decided the theme for this month will be College Experiences. I’ll be showcasing three amazing brown girls who’ve all attended different schools: An Ivy League, A PWI (Predominantly White Institution) and an HBCU (Historically Black College or University); and we’ll be discussing their experiences and reflections about their respective schools.

Looking back on my own college experience, I can confidently give this sole advice: Make the most of it. When I was nearing the end of my high school days, the only thing I was feeling was trepidation. I had taken the SATs, finished the applications, visited schools all along the east coast, but I was still so overwhelmed at the thought of leaving my familiar little bubble (I had attended the same school since 3rd grade). While most of my peers were chomping at the bit to reach independence and the “college life,” I felt like everything was moving too fast and wished I had a pause button I could press. On college tours everything blurred together, I had a hard time placing myself in any of these atmospheres. How was I supposed to pick one place to be for the next 4 years of my life?? I’ve been around the same people since I was 8 years old, can I even make new friends?? What if the work is too hard? And to top it all off, I had no idea what I wanted to study…I felt unprepared and far from ready.

But regardless how much I pulled back, life kept moving and soon enough I found myself attending orientation at the University of Maryland- College Park. I held it together as I met my new roommates and my family helped me unpack, but that night as I lay in my lofted bed, I was fighting back tears. You see, I’ve never been to fond of “new” and college was just too much new for me to handle. Even though I was in this new environment with hundreds of new people, I still held on tight to my old life. I went home every weekend, my social life consisted of class and seeing my roommates at the end of the day, and every chance I got I called at least one of my friends from high school. Put simply, I just didn’t put that much effort into making the adjustment. I didn’t attend club meetings, or go to events. I even avoided my own hallmates from time to time. Luckily I had some great roommates, and I had made some friends at a summer program I attended. But to  be frank, I made freshman year much harder than it needed to be for myself. It wasn’t until closer to my junior year that I finally ventured out of my comfort zone, and in my last year of college, I experienced more, met more new and amazing people, and learned more about myself than I had in the first three years combined.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to attend college, especially at such a great school,but sadly, I missed out on lot, all because I was too afraid of the unfamiliar. My experience could have been so much fuller if I had just put in a little more effort sooner. So, for my fellow brown girls who are preparing to embark on the journey that is higher education, all I can say is embrace the experience. Really get invested in learning the differences and exploring schools, find what you like, what you don’t, and make sure that wherever you choose feels like it could be home for you. It is perfectly fine to feel apprehensive, after all, this is one of your first major steps into adulthood, but don’t let that fear prevent you from making college everything it can be for you. College is a privilege that you don’t want to squander: go to class, meet new people, travel, party, date, and above all find what your passions are and pursue them!

Connecting Face to Face rather than on Facebook

When we were young, most of the time, making friends seemed like a breeze…all it took was a shy smile, quick hello or just asking to join in.  And next thing we knew, we had a new running buddy at the playground. Our social circles consisted of our parents, siblings, class mates and play mates that our parents set up. Everything was simple. But as you got older, especially when those awkward middle school years hit, finding and keeping friends became a bit more complicated.  While navigating the personal and life changes that accompany growing up, we also have to learn to navigate between the different cliques, norms and groups that become established and break down during these years, which can be an overwhelming adjustment. And with our generation being so integrated in technology, connecting face to face occurs a lot less often than on a screen.

My first semester in college, was one of the most uncomfortable experiences in my life to date. Coming from a small, intimate high school, where I had known most of my classmates since the 3rd grade then arriving at a huge, public university with 40,000 people was really hard for me. I’m naturally shy and introverted, so the idea of creating a whole new social group seemed impossible to me. I had made a great group of friends in high school that had taken years to cultivate and I had no idea how to find people that could represent those friends in my college life.  But honestly, that was my first mistake.

Coming to college, or when entering any new situation, you have to come open and unassuming. No one owes you anything. To make friends and meet new people you have to 1. put in the effort, 2. let people show you who they are and 3. be consistent. I (unrealistically) was expecting people to come to  me: for someone, anyone to miraculously see me, want to be friends with me and make the first move. My shyness and stubbornness in meeting new people prevented me from taking advantage of all of the new freshman who were living on my floor or in my classes.  Besides my roommates, a few floor mates that I had met through them and a handful of girls that I had done a 3-week pre-college program with, I hadn’t met that many people nor had I tried to. Yet, I still moaned and complained about feeling alone and missing my high school friends. Sadly, it took me until junior year to fully realize that the reason I was missing out, was because I wasn’t pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I hadn’t committed to any clubs, I hadn’t really tried to talk to anyone in my classes aside from group projects…I simply hadn’t put in the effort. But in my last two years, after I pushed myself to do new things and be more friendly, not only did I keep and better my relationship with the small group I had befriended freshman year, but I also met and bonded with a lot of great new people as well. And my senior year, was more fulfilling and exciting than the previous 3 years of college combined.

So the hard lesson learned was that making friends is not that complicated. When entering a new situation, what worked on the playground generally works when you’re older. A genuine smile, friendly hello and asking to join in is the only introduction you really need. And if someone doesn’t reciprocate a friendly hello?…you probably don’t want to be friends with them anyway. Their loss. So when we get stuck in the routine of life, and start to feel like our days are getting mundane, think about trying something new and commit to it. Go to dinner at a new spot, take an art or fitness class, attend an open mic night, try to go places that you haven’t been and reach out to someone while you’re there. Take an old friend and make new friends together. Even if you don’t meet anyone that night, it will feel good to experience something different and go back the next week and see if you find a familiar face.

New People, New Places

Beach in Tobago

Beach in Tobago

Hello FYM Readers!

Posing during the Hike in Asa Wright Nature Center

Posing during the Hike in Asa Wright Nature Center

 

As May brings in warm weather and summer fun, I know for a lot of us, the summer also comes with the excitement of new travels!

Family vacations, trips with friends, road trips, whatever! we all love the opportunity to escape for a while. So this month on the blog, the theme will be TRAVELLING!

Going to new places not only opens our eyes to different cultures and experiences, but it also shows us different sides of ourselves. By leaving our little bubbles and comfort zones, we learn about parts of ourselves that have never been tested before. My first opportunity to leave the country was to take a class on queer identity in Trinidad & Tobago. I applied for the class through UMD and went to Trinidad for 2 weeks with 10 other students. Needless to say, getting 3 credits to go to an island is more than ideal. Between class time, we went on field trips around Trinidad & Tobago to experience the people and culture. We visited a mas camp, ate doubles, attended a fete, hiked the rainforest at Asa Wright Nature Center, went downtown, went to Maracas Bay and ate shark and bake, and roamed Tobago.

Port of Spain

Port of Spain

Mas Camp designs for Carnival

Mas Camp designs for Carnival

Two weeks was hardly enough, it was my first time out of the country and away from my family for more than a few days. And aside from meeting other students and learning about the culture, I also learned how independent I could be. In the two weeks I had learned the different areas and figured out the public transit, knowing which maxis to take and which stops to look out for. Even though it was a short trip, I felt as if I was a different person coming home and I can’t wait to travel again.

This month, I’ll be featuring several fellow travelers whose passports are much more filled than mine! We’ll be discussing the countries they’ve visited, how they funded their trips, what they learned and so much more!

Shark and Bake at Maracas Bay

Shark and Bake at Maracas Bay