December: Women Who Give Back

Hi readers!

I know its been a moment since I’ve posted but a lot has been going on! I’m working full time now as a preschool teacher and I’m back in school to get my teaching certifications. So, needless to say I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle everything, bear with me!

I just wanted to take a quick moment and introduce this month’s theme: Women Who Give Back. One of my favorite things about the holiday season is that family and community are brought to the forefront of our conscious. Whether you get it from exchanging gifts, driving past decorated houses, doing community service, or your mom’s mac and cheese: everyone is enveloped in a warm fuzzy feeling. It is a time where you embrace love and inspiration and I just wanted to continue the trend by sharing the stories of some women who inspired me in how they have created non profits in service to their communities. I definitely hope to follow in their foot steps.

Stay tuned and I hope you enjoy!


Happy Holidays 🙂

An HBCU Experience: Finding Sisterhood!

LARK

Lark3Age: 21

Studying: English & Minoring in Comparative Woman’s Studies at Spelman College

Hometown: Washington, DC

Why did you choose Spelman?

I was initially drawn to Spelman because I wanted to go to a great school that would be different than the one I’d had for the past twelve years. I knew Spelman’s academic expectations and size would be similar to what I was accustomed but I was curious about how my worldview would change by attending a historically black women’s college.

 

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

Initially, the adjustment to college was a bit tricky for common reasons. I had an awful roommate, was confused about registration etc. When things settled down and I got comfortable in my routine I was able to appreciate all that Spelman had to offer!

 

Would you say you found your social niche? If so, how?

I found my social group through my first year hall- my friends and I joke that if you didn’t live in my hall freshman year I still have no

(Lark in pink jacket)

(Lark in pink jacket)

idea who you are. I also made a lot of friends through participating in activities sponsored by our Women’s Resource and Research Center (WRRC). In my opinion, the WRRC is the greatest place to have discussions, meet new people and (as Spelman’s tagline/ theme song says) make a “choice to change the world”. I’ve learned about more social justice initiatives and met my most open minded classmates in our women’s studies department. Most importantly, my women’s studies classes and the people who gather in the WRRC have given me the tools and vocabulary to express my thoughts on the issues I’m passionate about.

 

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

I think it’s great. I love the sisterhood I have found and fostered with my friends. Mostly I appreciate the role the homogeneity plays in the classroom. It is wonderfully freeing to be a Black woman in class with only other Black women. This is not to say that we are not a diverse group of students. We do not all understand the world or even the texts’ we study in the same way. Navigating classroom dynamics is less stressful because the microagressions and uncomfortable situations I had to deal with in my independent grade school classrooms don’t exist at Spelman. For example: I have never been asked to be the voice for all Black people or to read the Black woman’s part in a play and none of my professors or peers have made incorrect assumptions about how my personal background helps or hinders my academic experience. My time at Spelman is the first where I have been a part of an inclusive learning environment that encourages, respects and expects all voices to be heard. It has helped me to become a more confident person inside and outside of the classroom. I think the benefits of all girls/ women’s spaces and all Black spaces are extremely beneficial and their benefits wildly underestimated in today’s society.

 

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

I am a part of the Toni Cade Bambara Scholar/ Writers/ Activist Program. We meet with social justice groups and activists from around campus and the world who share with us about the causes they support. We also organize a conference where students and other activists facilitate performances, workshops and panel discussions that explore the complexities of Black/ African women’s lives. I’m also a member of the Atlanta University Center Alliance for Fair Labor. We work to help our maintenance and cafeteria workers get the wages and working conditions they deserve. We also try to raise awareness in the AUC about the daily injustices workers around the world face. I also volunteer in the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art!

 

 

Studying Abroad in India!

Studying Abroad in India!

What opportunities did Spelman afford you?

Spelman affords its students many opportunities in college and afterward. If you want to do something, and know who to ask, you can probably do it through Spelman.

 

Would you say you enjoyed your experience at Spelman? 

I have so many favorite things about Spelman but what I have enjoyed/ appreciate most is my professors and the material they cover. For example: as an English major, I had a mandatory class this past semester called “Seminal Writers of the African American Tradition” where we read works from James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Richard Wright and more. It was amazing and pretty standard for most of the humanities courses I’ve taken.

 

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

Try to pick the school that is most suitable for your learning style and will give you the most opportunity to grow. Going to college is such a huge privilege and financial investment but you’re the only one who has to do it. So, pick the major you want to pick and participate in the activities you want to participate in. Study hard. Most importantly: Be open to learning new things about yourself and others.

Want to get in touch with Lark? Follow her on twitter @Lark_T

How To Be Happy

You guys notice those 10-Step “How-To” Articles? The ones that give different tips or ways to improve something; ranging from hair to relationships. I came across one the other day that advised its readers on how to be happy. And as much as I find these types of articles interesting, I feel they are somewhat misleading…They say things like: Smile, Be Compassionate, Travel, etc.

But what if I just don’t feel like smiling? I’m tired, on my way home from a long, stressful day at work and the only thing I want to do is swan dive into my bed…there would probably be nothing more annoying at that point than someone telling me to smile. Being compassionate is a great quality to have, but what’s the line between compassion and doing more for others than for yourself? Which can be more detrimental than beneficial after a certain point and with a certain type of person. Traveling, which I’m sure is on the top of everyone’s bucket list, but what if we simply can’t afford to go anywhere? What then??

What irks me about these articles is they act like such a monumental accomplishment in life, like being happy, can be achieved in some certain amount of steps. Everyone has an opinion on what works, but that is based on their own perspective and life experience, which can be completely different from your own. The definition for happiness and how to get there means something different to everyone. For me, finding happiness has been a journey that is ongoing. I can say that I am in an exponentially better place than I have in the past, but I can’t say I’m where I want to be yet. The biggest things I’ve learned is that happiness is not a constant state. There are some days where you’ll feel like dancing, and other day’s you’ll feel like crying and there is nothing wrong with that. As long as you recognize the good and bad in life, and appreciate the high’s and acknowledge the lows, I feel like you’re on the right track. Anyone who says they’re happy 100% of the time, is probably not being completely honest with themselves.

I’ve also learned that your surroundings affect your attitude which affects how happy you can be. If you have people in your life that are always negative: they’re not supportive, they always doubt you, they’re always talking about something or someone; whether they’re a significant other or a best friend or your boss, that person is not healthy for you. Those How-To articles don’t mention the time and effort it takes to make necessary changes and commit to them which is hard for many of us who are a part of this generation that is so accustomed to quick fixes and instantaneous solutions. But the most important thing I’ve realized is that there is no quick fix to happiness. It’s not like a light switch that you can turn on. Toxic energies are contagious, and when someone is down, they bring you down to their level whether you want to be there or not. But if you keep pushing and trying to seek what makes you happy, you’ll get there.

When to Be Fearless

As June is upon us, I was panicking because I hadn’t picked a theme for the month yet (keeping up with a blog consistently is hard!) And with June being not only my birthday month, but also with my recent graduation from college: a new beginning; I decided to stop and reflect this month. To think about different lessons and realizations that I’ve come across so far and share them with you 🙂 So, this month on the blog will be Personal Reflections!

~~~~~

So recently I made the decision to do the big chop. Not necessarily because I wanted to go natural or because of any other emotional reasons tied to cutting off your hair…but simply because I wanted to know what I would look like. I’ve always admired women who could rock an ultra low cut, it’s a one of a kind look that not everyone can pull off. And I’ve always been curious but of course hesitated because of the omnipresent “they” that plagues so many of us. Worried about what “they” will think…so whenever I had almost worked up the nerve to seriously contemplate the move, I talked myself out of it: There would be no turning back…what about the versatility of longer hair?…what if I hate it?? So, I just pushed the idea out of my mind.

But, for anyone who knows me, they know my hair changes with the seasons. I’ve gone from pixie cut, to weave, to bob, to bangs, to braids, to natural and back to pixie cut with reckless abandon. So why should this hair cut be any different? It’s just hair right? It will grow back…and it’s pretty much the only style I haven’t tried yet. So, without overthinking it, I just made the hair appointment, showed the stylist a picture and let her and her clippers have at it. And gratefully, I love it!

Besides the excitement that comes with a new hairstyle, I’ve gained a new found confidence and assurance about myself: I feel unique, I feel beautiful and besides the ultimate perk of it taking all of 10 minutes to wash, deep condition, dry and style my hair, I’m simply proud of the fact that I did something I’ve always wanted to do. And, in the few days since I’ve cut it, I’ve gotten more compliments on my look than any other hairstyle I’ve had!

So, with this small but glorious victory with my hair, I’ve gained a rather important lesson about life. All of your thoughts and desires occur for a reason, those small seeds of ideas were planted in your head specifically because they were meant for you to carry them out. Whether its to start a business, drop everything and travel, reach out to someone or to just get a haircut…act on it! When it comes to making those decisions you’re a little iffy about, when its time to gamble a little, when that one thought keeps finding its way back in your head, be fearless! Because if you don’t, who will?? And at the end of the day, in the big picture of life, no one decision is the end, you can always bounce back. And I believe a “mistake” is only an indication that you tried, which is better than not doing anything at all and just wondering.

 

At the End of the Day, We’re All the Same

LEAH Leah9

Age: 23

Occupation: I am currently an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Malaysia as a part of a Fulbright Fellowship. I majored in public relations and history at the University of Miami and graduated in May of 2012.

Hometown: Washington, DC

 

Leah6Where have you traveled?

I have been blessed to travel to 28 countries: Canada, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Honduras, El Salvador, Senegal, The Gambia, South Africa, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain (lived here for 5 months. Whattup Barcelona!), Italy, the Netherlands, Malaysia (my current home), Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), India, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, and Japan. I have also been to over 40 states in the US.

What inspired you to go abroad? 

I really owe it all to my family. Although I am born and raised in DC, my family has always thought it was important to expose my Leah1sister and I to the rest of the world. I did not fully appreciate it at the time, but there were summers when my friends would be playing with the newest Sega games or hanging out at recreation centers and instead I was taking road trips across the country with my family or going to Europe, Africa, etc. My parents are not materialistic at all so I was never one to have the newest clothes or toys but what I realize now is that they were giving me life experiences that has encouraged me to seek out what the rest of the world has to offer.

Leah5A lot of these trips were very short but still amazing. Some of my longer trips were in Spanish speaking countries because I have always wanted to learn Spanish. I spent a summer in between Honduras and El Salvador doing service projects and a semester my junior year college in Spain. When I applied for my Fulbright grant I initially wanted to return to Spain, but when my grant adviser recommended Malaysia as something different I decided to give it a shot. This is my second year teaching in Malaysia and I have really enjoyed exploring the country as well as Asia as a whole. Definitely an amazing part of the world! Once I’m in an area if there are countries close by I will most likely try to get there, whether I know much about the country or not. There’s always an adventure to be had.

What has been your best experience? Worst experience? 

I absolutely loved Spain! I think a piece of my heart is still over there and I cannot wait to go back and find it. Barcelona is completely different than the Spain I learned about in school, so I enjoyed living there and learning from a Catalonian perspective.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks I spent in Santa Marta, El Salvador, just a beautiful rural area where it gets dark at 5 p.m. and the stories of the civil war are rich. I stayed with an abuela and her daughter and granddaughter, none of whom spoke English, and by the end of it was able to converse with family about how most of the abuela’s family was killed trying to flee during the civil war, including her husband. Although I was only 14 or 15 when I went, this experience still stands out as one of the richest I’ve had traveling.Leah7

Living in Malaysia has been one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had but also one of the most challenging. I have not run into many race related issues being an African-American female, but race tension throughout the country is very prevalent making for some hostile and unpleasant interactions. The gender differences can also be very taxing. Malaysia is a country where a majority of the Muslim women wear head coverings (here they’re called tudongs), and clothing that covers everything from the neck down, but there’s still a sizeable percentage of the population that is Chinese or Indian and don’t adhere to these clothing restrictions. Leah2This makes being a foreigner engaged in the teaching culture very difficult, but then exercising your freedom of personal expression through dress outside of school is also difficult because no matter what you wearing you will almost always feel objectified. There have been times when my housemate and I have been walking back from the gym wearing a long skirt and a long sleeve shirt and still have still had to hastily walk to our home due to people following us on motorbikes or cars. I feel very safe here, but there are some things I’m extra alert about just because of how I know I’m perceived as a foreign female.

How did you hear about these opportunities?

My high school presented me with a lot of international service trips so I went to Honduras and South Africa with members from my high school. I always knew about studying abroad but I had to seek it out in college. Because a lot of students from the University of Miami are from other countries I didn’t feel like information was readily available, but once I found the office I never left. My best friend Kelly actually told me about Fulbright. I remember sitting in my sister’s apartment the summer before senior year of college and freaking out because I knew I wanted to live abroad after college but just didn’t know how I financially could. Kelly mentioned that Fulbright was a fully funded government program and that I could virtually go anywhere in the world. I’d heard of Fulbright Grants but was not aware that there was an English teaching fellowship as well. That day I contacted Kefryn Reese, the adviser at the University of Miami, and she helped me tremendously to make my dreams become a reality.

Leah3How did you fund these opportunities?

Some of the service trips in high school were able to be included in my tuition (I attended a private school). The study abroad program I did (CEA Global Education) actually cost less than a semester’s tuition at UM so my parents paid for my semester. And yea big ups to all the tax payers for bringing me out to Malaysia because my Fulbright grant is fully funded by the American and Malaysian government. Once I get to my initial destination though any additional travel I pay for or my parents help me out.

What have you learned from your travels? 

Through traveling I’ve learned how humans are inherently all the same. Yes you may come across different customs and Leah4experiences, but the fundamentals are all the same. When I travel I enjoy wandering and meeting people more than visiting the sites that are included in tour books. It’s when you meet the people that you realize how much you have in common with the inhabitants of a place that is so far from home. The architecture tells one story, which I will not discredit, but the personal interactions tell something a little more powerful for me. Traveling throughout Asia has taught me to be a lot more flexible. Almost nothing will go according to plan, so you just have to be open and accepting to whatever adventure you are about to embark on.

Where do you plan to visit in the future?

We have a school break coming up at the end of May, so I have tickets to go to Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, and back to Thailand. Before I leave Asia I would like to check out Nepal because I’ve heard amazing things. Next up on my big adventure list is South America. I have heard nothing but positive things about the people and beauty in South America so I would like to try and spend some time there. Also Prague is high on my list as well as Germany, Greece, and Egypt. Pretty much I want to see the world. Every place has beauty and a story to tell and I would consider myself truly blessed if I am able to even get a snippet of those narratives.

Leah8

Want to get in touch with Leah?

Facebook: Leah Imani

Email: Fulbrightetadanville@gmail.com

Website: (Still in progress) http://ldanville.wix/the-eta-exchange

 

Learning About Other Cultures

ANGELAAngela 1

Age: 18

Major: Studying Communications at St. John’s University

Hometown: Oxon Hill, MD

Where have you traveled?
So far I’ve been to Spain (Pamplona, Barcelona, Madrid, Toledo, San Sebastian, Segovia and Hondarribia) and France (Biarritz and Hendaye). In a couple weeks I’ll be adding Rome, Italy to the list of places that I’ve travelled to.

What inspired you to go abroad?
What inspired me to go abroad was ultimately my love for travelling. My mom and I had always taken our “mother-daughter trips” to different places in the U.S. such as the Mall of America in Minnesota or Orlando, Florida, and I wanted to expand my horizons and truly see the beauty of other countries. I’ve always wanted to see how other people lived and taste authentic cuisine from those places, and the more I traveled, the more I fell in love with it. Another big reason I began travelling was that I was taking Spanish at the time and I wanted more experience at the language, and where’s a better place to practice than in Spain? After that experience it became more than just wanting to practice the language and more about wanting to see the world. At this point I consider myself a “travel junkie” and I’m always looking for the next opportunity to travel abroad.
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

What has been your best experience? The worst?

My best experience had to be seeing La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia is an absolutely stunning work of architecture, and what’s amazing is that it isn’t even finished being constructed yet. Every touch of detail is beautiful in that church. From the birth of Christ being depicted in the architecture and design on the front of the church to his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection on the back of the church, it is a breath-taking design. It’s definitely a must-see for anyone in Barcelona. I was in complete awe at that church, and no other church or cathedral we saw in Spain compared.
My worst experience probably had to be visiting France. The parts of France that we visited (Hendaye and Biarritz) are absolutely gorgeous, especially Biarritz. However, even though those places were in Basque Country (meaning the people were essentially of Spanish descent) they spoke French, and unfortunately, myself and the other students did not. The French people we encountered were rude in a way that if we didn’t speak French, they didn’t speak to us, which made it hard for us to enjoy our time there. Fortunately, one of the Spanish host students spoke French, and that made our day much better. But I now know to learn some French for the next time I go to France!
How did you hear about these opportunities?

San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain

Every trip abroad I’ve done has been with my schools. The trips to Spain and France were with my high school, the first in Spring 2012 was solely travel, but the trip in Spring 2013 was partially an exchange program where I stayed with a host family the first half of the trip, and then we travelled the latter half of the trip. My upcoming excursion to Italy is with St. John’s, and it is one week abroad while taking a one credit course.

How did you fund these opportunities?
I have to thank my parents for these opportunities. I never fundraised or received a scholarship for these trips and my parents paid out of pocket for me to go to Europe, not once, but now for my third time. I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am for these opportunities my parents have blessed me with and continue to bless me with.

Royal Palace of Madrid

Royal Palace of Madrid

What have you learned from your travels?
I’ve learned that I truly enjoy learning about and partaking in other cultures. I can even say that I’ve adopted many of these customs and I still use them to this day, such as, putting olive oil on my bread and salad instead of butter or salad dressing. It’s amazing to see how other cultures live as opposed to our own. I learn new things every time I go somewhere and I can’t wait to tell people about what I’ve seen. I’ve also learned how much I like food from other countries! Being in another country did make me miss foods like Chick-Fil-A, but there is nothing compared to eating authentic Spanish Paella or a croissant from a French bakery or having helado (ice cream) for dessert. One of my favorite things about Europe besides the food, has to be how laid-back the people are and not in a lazy way at all. It never once seemed like people were in a rush to get to work or had road rage. Everyone would be at the park with their pets or their loved ones just enjoying life, soaking in the European sun. It was relaxing and refreshing to see.

Where do you plan to visit in the future?
In the future I plan to study abroad in the Spring spending a semester in Seville, Spain,

Biarritz, France

Biarritz, France

Rome, Italy, and Paris, France as well as possibly visiting places such as England, Ireland, Germany, Amsterdam, and Morocco. Other places on my list that I definitely want to visit are Portugal, Australia, Brazil and South Africa, just to name a few.

 

Want to get in touch with Angela? Email her at anjieamore@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seizing “First-Time Opportunities”

NANDI Nandi1

Age: 22

Major: Studying Public Health and Spanish at University of Maryland

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Where have you traveled?

I lived in Costa Rica for four months and visited Panama, Brazil, Antigua. While my heart beats for international travel, I don’t neglect the treasures that lay domestically. I’ve been to about 12 states and counting. Outside looking in, it may seem that I’m always on the go but I like to take my time with my travels and really get to know a place as much as I can. I’m not traveling for the sake of travel or for the passport stamps. It’s truly for the people met, the late nights, missed flights, new and lost loves, breath taking sights, personal growth and experiences. I chose Costa Rica because my high school teacher who encouraged my Spanish development is Costariccense—so that was sort of to pay homage to someone who paved the way for me. I’m West Indian, so naturally the Caribbean countries will know me. As for Brazil, I had the opportunity to explore what Afro-Brazilians experience, and I’m always down for any Black and beautiful learning experience.

 

Cachoeira, Brazil

Cachoeira, Brazil

What inspired you to go abroad?

My parents always taught me that there is life outside the town you grow up in, no matter how much you love it. The world is a vast place. So moving from New York City to a southern town wherein people are born, live, and die was probably the driving force of my travels. Meeting people in high school and even college who classify the entirety of the Caribbean as “Jamaica” inspired my travels. I knew that I couldn’t change the perspectives of those people with mere words, but that by ensuring my worldview is progressing upward, I could show them the door leading out of their town and into the world. I read a lot, and it is said that a good book will take you to places you’ve never been. But that alone just wasn’t good enough for me. I needed to go to the places I was reading about, breathe the air, engage the people, and speak the language. All things considered, there are 196 countries, which allows me to safely assume that my personal mantra is true– life is not meant to be spent in one place. I grew up in NY, attended secondary school in SC, and moved to MD for undergrad. I didn’t know it then but those small life moves were setting me up to have an insatiable thirst for travel.

 

What has been your best experience? Worst experience?

My best experience this far was living in Costa Rica. Because of that experience, I can say I have roots in the country. I have friends, and family that I can always go back to visit. I love my host family and they love me; we’re friends on Facebook and whatsapp! They tell me they miss me and how much it meant to have me as their daughter for the time I was there. That means so much to me. The guys I met there were…the sweetest and most kind. I perfected my handling of the Spanish language and as a result am bilingual. There are schools there that I would love to have my children (when I have them) attend where I know they’ll get a worldly lens. I can dance a vast variety of Latin Dances impressively, my bests being bachata and merengue. Being able to see the close similarities between Latin and Caribbean culture, made me so happy. The lifestyle there suited me well; I started my days early, ate healthy, traveled domestically inexpensively, and worked out and loved every minute of it. Pura Vida! (Costa Rica’s motto, translating literally to ‘pure life’ but loosely as ‘full of life’, ‘real living’, ‘plenty of life’; used as a greeting or farewell.)

 

Worst Experience: I went to Panama for a week and didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I wanted. Why? One night our

Panama City, Panama

Panama City, Panama

group went out for dinner at the start of the trip. We went to this awesome restaurant built on the mar that had swimming holes situated throughout the restaurant. Literally…the ocean was steps away from our table. After we ate and danced, we were all socializing and people decided to go swimming in their undies (as none of us had brought swimwear to dinner).They were doing backflips into the mar and having it up! My conservative friends from the program were discouraging me but I had to join—it was a first time opportunity! (I don’t believe in once in a lifetime.) So, I did a smooth front flip in (with my clothes on) swam about for a bit. I’m swimming around and decide to get out. At that precise moment I decided I was over it, I sliced the bottom of my foot on something crazy sharp in the water. Have no idea what it was. Could have been coral or a rusty pipe, who knows? All I know is I had this 2 inch gash, gushing blood, on my foot. These (cute) guys at the restaurant bandaged me up and I got dressed and prepared to head home. This guy from the program offers to carry me home. Cool. Worst mistake of my life. He was inebriated and drops me, and to add insult to injury I get glass stuck in my toe of my other foot. So I end up in the bathtub of the hotel, screaming as my friends play doctor and pull the glass out of my toe, while my other foot is on fire with pain. Our program coordinators take me to the hospital where thankfully I didn’t have to get a tetanus shot but was administered a painkiller injection to the culo (they love to give vaccinations in the backside in Latin America I learned). It hurt. I didn’t get to dance the night away with the cute guy at the bar, I missed a boat ride and seeing where Survivor was filmed, and was always last to everything–all because I couldn’t walk flat on my foot. -_- The WORST.

Now, I have to go back and re-do Panama and get to know it because I missed out on so much because of my lame foot (which is now fully healed).

 

How did you hear about these opportunities?

I frequent the study abroad site for UMD, just to see what I can finesse and milk from the university. But most of my travelling I come up with and plan on my own. I keep a running list of friends, family, and acquaintances that I have in various countries, cities, and states. This makes for less expensive travels as I’ll usually have a place to stay comfortably. Outside of housing, it’s always nice to have someone you know in an unknown place to look out for you and show you the gems of that particular place. As vacations/breaks approach in school, I refer to my list to see what move I would like to make and start coordinating.

People watching in Parque Central, Heredia, Costa Rica

People watching in Parque Central, Heredia, Costa Rica

How did you fund these opportunities?

I mostly save to fund my travel. Because I typically plan far in advanced, I start saving for the flight and lodging as soon as I can. I put a certain percentage of each paycheck from my job aside to go toward anything I want. I mean I don’t have many bills to pay, I’m not much of a shopaholic—what else should my money go into besides a rewarding and memorable travel experience? I read a quote once on the Humans of New York page that said “travel as much and as far as you can while you’re young, even if you have to borrow money to do it.” While non-conventional, I do if I have to. My family will give me what they can when I tell them I’m planning a trip and I do good deeds to “work” it off. I funded my Brazil study abroad trip with a crowd funding website, Gofundme.com. I shared that on every social network I have until I reached goal. I also look for scholarships and financial aid opportunities for study abroad. I take advantage of our international studies and diversity offices on campus for funding. I try to do a lot of travel as study abroad as well, because there is no cheaper and quality travel than when you’re in school! Yes there will be work, but what is the sense in traveling without learning? Being away from the US is relaxing and vacation enough, but I use my travel to learn something…anything.

 

Underground Atlanta, Georgia

Underground Atlanta, Georgia

What have you learned from your travels?

I’ve learned a great deal. I’ve learned to keep my travels private to an extent. Why? Because people have a tendency to live vicariously, instead of just doing what it is they desire. If I post my entire photo album from Costa Rica or my zip-lining video, yes it may encourage them to go and do what I have done but it may also encourage a sense of complacency! As I travel, people tell me to keep going because my 20s are the best times of my life. I’ve learned that my life is the best time of my life. I can do this for as long as I want. Married? I’ll take my husband. Children? They’ll learn Spanish and come too. Life commitments shouldn’t hold me down and discourage learning and horizon expansion. Honestly, to go into detail about other cultures would take another interview but there is beauty and mystique in EVERY culture. I’m a picky eater, I’ve found. Willing to try a lot but very picky. My street smarts have amped up—getting your freshly cashed wallet stolen at a police station of all places will teach you a lot. In regards to people…wow- people are just people. It takes meeting and living with people that I’m unaccustomed to dispel preconceived notions, stereotypes, and judgments. Traveling is the one thing that tests my patience to the max…but I’m able to remain level-headed. I’ve become confident in my travel knowledge and abilities to where I can book trips for others and lead groups. I’ve learned to take the time to myself…observe, people watch, appreciate nature, etc.

 

Where do you plan to visit in the future?

I’m very interested in Latin American and Caribbean people and culture so I intend to travel to every country

Swimming with Stingrays, Stingray City, Antigua & Barbuda

Swimming with Stingrays, Stingray City, Antigua & Barbuda

classified as Latin or Caribbean. I know I want to go to Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Egypt. I have to go to Australia, because it’s trill– it’s the only continent country. I’m not closed to anything, as long as there is a culture to learn about—I’m down for it. As for up and comings on my calendar, I have Antigua this July, next October–Miami for Carnival, next winter Ghana, Spring Break 2015 –Paris, Summer 2015 Barbados for CropOver, and February 2015–Trinidad and Tobago. I’m always looking for dedicated travel groups and partners so if you’re up for it hit my social media page and we’ll make something happen!

 

Want to see more of Nandi? Follow her on twitter and instagram @TheNandiLion, friend her on facebook as Debz Nandi or email her at thenandilion@gmail.com!

Just Want to Get Up and Go!

BELLABella 1

 

Age: 21

Major: I am a senior at Wagner College in NY studying Education and Spanish with two minors (english and philosophy).

Hometown: Columbus, OH

Where have you traveled?

Well I have traveled around the US to different places such as San Antonio, Texas, Seattle, Washington, Washington DC, Florida, Philly, Boston, Chicago, etc. but my abroad travels have been to Canada, Mexico, England, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and Haiti.

What inspired you to go abroad?

WELL I never really knew I had a love for traveling until I went on my third trip abroad by myself to London, England. The trips before were just fun little vacations with my family but I had a friend who was studying to get his PhD in Oxford and he asked me to visit him because he was very lonely. I begged and begged my parents for the longest time (they actually thought it was a joke that I asked). They finally allowed it and I was overjoyed. It was scary leaving by myself like that for a little over a week but I had been away at school for about a year now and was a little accustomed to it. London opened my eyes to a whole new world (sorry for that copyright Aladdin). Just being in front of Big Ben made me want to see every major monument I could. What can I say, I fell in love.

So after that I decided that I wanted to live somewhere new for an extended period of time and that’s when I looked into studying abroad. I really didn’t pick Costa Rica for any reason other than it was the cheapest place to go haha. I was actually quite ignorant and didn’t even know about it as a country…embarrassing. So my best friend and I decided to go together and man did we have an amazing time. While in Costa Rica we were fortunate enough to go on an excursion to Nicaragua for a few days and then spend our Spring Break in the ACTUAL Panama City. We thought it was funny because everyone wants to spend break in Panama City, Florida and we were in the actual Panama City. When I returned from Costa Rica I diagnosed myself with “Post Travelers Depression” haha. It was the worst…I just wanted to get up and go. Anywhere! Everywhere!

Bella 3

Around January or February of last year I got an email talking about the Military Extension Internship which allowed you to intern on a military base and work at the youth center there. Of course I was hooked, being a military brat myself, so I applied right away. I was awarded the internship and was lucky enough to be selected as one of the four other interns who were chosen to go abroad instead of stay on a base in the States. I was so pumped I could hardly wait. I think my mom and dad really inspired me for that one because I would have never thought to apply to work on a military base if I didn’t grow up around it and already understand the surroundings.

Haiti was inspired by my want to go to places that no one would think to go. I also wanted to go on a trip where the sole purpose was to help people. It was truly amazing.

 

 What has been your best experience? Worst experience?

It is hard for me to pick my best experience because all of them were so different and life changing in multiple ways. I will say that the experience that changed me the most as a person would be my mission trip to Haiti. Going from a first world country to a third world country is a truly humbling experience. There wasn’t a day I didn’t reflect on my surroundings and just break down from it. But what really got to me was the conditions these children were living in…many without families or clean clothes…and the smiles that they had everyday. It made me really rethink the way I go about my day to day activities and the attitude I put into it. Those kids taught me way more than I could have ever taught them in that short week. Living simply is all people really need. America really has an excess of material that could be cut down to make things so much easier.Bella 2

Some bad situations that I had were mostly in Costa Rica. I got very sick at one point and had to be hospitalized. It was really scary because my family wasn’t with me and the doctor was speaking in a language that I didn’t quite know at that time. I was very lucky to have my best friend from back home with me so she comforted me a little. I also wasn’t looking and  fell down a big hole (there are HUGE potholes in the streets of costa rica…its ridiculous) and sprained my ankle. I just had to laugh at that one though haha. Then, I found out that I am allergic to red ant bites because I couldn’t walk for a few days due to my foot inflaming from a few ant bites. Lastly, I got over $400 dollars of merchandise and cash stolen from me in a hostel. I wouldn’t call them bad experiences…I would just call them experiences because…well…I lived didn’t I? 🙂

How did you hear about these opportunities?
Well I heard about Study Abroad through my spanish class I was taking. It is also a requirement for language majors to study in a country where their language is taught so I didn’t really have a choice haha. I actually heard about the Spain opportunity a few days before the application was due and was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get that application done. That was right around the time of a major breakup of mine and I knew I needed this opportunity to just get away from everything. I was fortunate enough to get it! While in Spain I made friends with a family who loved to travel and they took me everywhere with them! Again I was quite lucky because without them I wouldn’t have been able to go to many of the places that I did. Haiti was actually an accident trip. I was signed up to go to Israel through a course that I’m taking at school and it got cancelled because of lack of people SO i quickly looked at different extended spring break trips that my school offered and signed up at the last second.

Bella 4How did you fund these opportunities?

Costa Rica was actually very difficult to fund even though it should have been easy. You see, my mother awarded me her Post GI Bill from the military so it pays for most of my college education. We thought that it would pay for studying abroad as well but there were lots of paper work issues and I’m actually still to this day confused on how Costa Rica was paid for haha. Spain was an all expense paid internship. They paid for my flight to orientation in San Antonio, my flight to and from Spain, and awarded me a stipend of $1,500 every other week. Long story short I made BANK last summer haha. My parents made sure I saved some of it instead of go crazy like I probably would have. Haiti I paid for all on my own…I was kind of proud of that 🙂 It was $600 for everything! It was really a great deal.

What have you learned from your travels?

I have really learned to be by myself and what that entails. Its helped me to find myself and learn to love that person. I’ve learned to not judge ANYTHING before you try it (i.e. foods, zip lining, 2 second showers, etc). Most of all I’ve learned that this world is full of amazing and inspirational people. I’ve learned to not complain, for someone out there has it sooooo much worse than me. Those guy troubles I was having, that flat tire I got, those shoes I couldn’t buy…thats nothing compared to the struggles that some go through on a day to day basis and THAT has humbled me.

Where do you plan to visit in the future?
My number one bucket list place is INDIA!!! I am trying to plan a trip there this summer. I am in love with their culture and oh my goodness their weddings are beautiful. I also want to ride an elephant in the water. One day…one day…Bella 5

 

 

 

Want to see more of Bella? Follow her on Instagram @peace_love_puravida

“Never Compromise Your Morals or Your Heart”

ZAYANI ROSE Zayani4

 

Age: 23
Occupation: Singer and Guitarist from the band SolStar
Hometown: Washington, DC

 

When did your love for music begin?

Florida Avenue Grill in DC was really live in the 70s. It still is really popular but not to the extent it was back then. There was a lot of live music and there isn’t much there anymore. Anyway, my mother used to sing at Florida Avenue Grill and a lot of other hot spots in DC. She also sings opera and has studied music theory. Fred Foss (jazz aficionado in DC) told me not many people can sing classical and jazz but my mother can and has a beautiful voice doing both. I love it. Growing up in Mama Rose’s house I heard a lot of jazz and tons of classical music. She sings in the Aria Club of Greater Washington and sings for several churches. She taught me piano at a young age. Later, I took up flute and played in the DC Youth Orchestra, and finally in high school I picked up guitar. So when I talk about my love for music it certainly starts with her and encompasses all of those musical experiences I had growing up. I have three older sisters and a brother who are musically inclined as well so I have those influences too. One of my sister’s brought home this world beat CD when I was 8 or 9 and it was the first time I’d heard bossa nova. I think that’s my favorite genre. I’d like to incorporate more of that style in our music.

 

When did you learn to play the guitar?

When I was 15…sophomore in high school, I saw the classical guitar lying underneath the piano. I begged my mother for lessons. I took lessons for about 1 or 2 months—enough to learn names of strings and basic chords. I started coming to lessons with songs and chords my teacher hadn’t shown me yet-he was shocked. I had always written poetry and lyrics but once I found out about chords—I really dove into songwriting. However, I wish I had stuck with his guitar lessons.

 

Zayani3Can you tell me about your band?

I met Mosi (violin), Prince (Bass), and Osim (Djembe) at a show at Spelman that I was helping host for student council. They were already a group and had recently chosen the name SolStar. The show we were putting together was called “A love Story” and they were the featured band. They did a beautiful job. Afterward we exchanged contact and linked up to practice. That first night of rehearsal was magic. We started performing around ATL. Our first show together was at the Five Spot. Later on we met Miso (performing artist) who began as our manager but later found a better fit in the group participating in the show doing dance, painting, and crowd interaction. We are a pretty unique band with a mission to spread love and raise the frequency. Our goal at our shows is to invite you into an experience.

Zayani1

What goes into starting and maintaining a band?

I remember posting on craigslist about starting a band–looking for dj, keys, drums, just whatever! Made a few contacts but nothingZayani2 came of it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look for long. SolStar showed up and showed out at Spelman, and we were able to connect afterward. It was easy with them because it seems that we just came together naturally. There are mutual interests and there’s respect in the group so it’s easier to work together. Maintaining a band is like any other relationship where honesty, respect, compassion, and other virtues are important. It can be hard but it’s very rewarding.

 

Who are some of your favorite artists?

My favorite musicians/artists right now are Thundercat, Janelle Monae, and Robert Glasper, Mosi, Kendrick, Chance the Rapper and Solstar. –My most recent albums I’ve purchased and listen to are from Eric Wright, Elle Varner, India Shawn, Marian Mereba, Brik Liam …  Of all time — Lauryn Hill, Sly and the Family Stone, MJ, John Mayer, Hendrix, John Scofield, Debussy, Pac and Nas.

 

Advice for other girls trying to get into music?

My advice for girls getting into music is respect yourself and your craft. Don’t compromise your morals and your heart to further you in your career. Accept constructive criticism and don’t forget to have fun.

 

Zayani5Where do you want to be in the future?

Musically, I see myself a more skilled musician, doing large shows with SolStar globally, and completing awesome albums!
From Zayani:

Hi readers! I hope you get a chance to check out our band’s music! You can find us at solstarmusic.com, solstarmusic on the gram, twitter, and like us on Facebook!

You can tweet me @zayanirose. I’m on insta @zuniverse_xo.

For booking, email info@solstarmusic.com

For Karyn Washington, and For Myself

Karyn washington

This past week on facebook, my timeline was flooded with news about the death of Karyn Washington, the blogger behind For Brown Girls. As I clicked on the different links reading about how this one soul touched so many, my heart sunk as I learned about her depression after the death of her mother and how she ended her life at 22, a milestone that I’ll be reaching in 2 months. Letting her story really sink in, what saddened me was that such a beautiful person was lost so early…and I wondered how many other women could relate to her story. How many of us beautiful, brown girls have lost something so dear, or felt so low that we’ve contemplated the worst? And as much as it scares me to admit it, I am one of those girls.

Growing up, I always struggled with self-confidence. A black girl going to a predominantly white private school, I battled with so many different complexes: I wasn’t “white” enough for my white friends and wasn’t “black” enough for my black ones, All the boys I was interested in never liked me back, I wasn’t filthy rich but my family was by no means poor. I wasn’t a straight A student, but I didn’t need extra help either. I was ugly, average and invisible as far as I could tell; not special in any discernable way. My presence didn’t seem to make a difference. I had mentally degraded myself to the point where I had no concept of self love or value. Sophomore year of high school was my lowest point, I was playing at normality while on the inside screaming to be noticed. While battling anxiety and depression, I denied those feelings, scolding myself because I had no reason to feel the way I did. I had two parents and a stable, middle class upbringing, I had friends, I had privilege…what the hell was I crying about? So on top of my depression was self-hate for feeling depressed. I felt like I was losing my mind.

I had convinced myself that this would be the easiest way. I had planned what I was going to do…had even started planning when would be “a good time.” But one night sitting on the couch with my mom, paying more attention to the swirl of thoughts in my head rather than the movie we were supposed to be watching, on an impulse I whispered “I need help.” Of course caught off guard, my mom turned to me and asked what I had said. It took me a few minutes to gather up the courage to say it aloud again. But I looked her in the eye and told her I had thought about killing myself. Some might say it was bravery or strength, reaching out to her. But in that moment, I would call it desperation more than anything.

I was exhausted. Not all mental illness is visible, especially when you’re trying your hardest to suppress it. I had friends, I went to school everyday, I was “functioning.” But it was a front. Everyday was a battle to keep this facade together. No one was supposed to know about my depression because I wasn’t so supposed to feel that way. I didn’t have the right. But the best thing I did was finally own it. Acknowledge it but not surrender to it. My mom immediately found a therapist for me to go to. And she encouraged me to start a journal. And I started talking to the people closest to me about it. And the more I wrote and spoke, the more reflective I became. About my feelings, my triggers and my insecurities; I had to realize the things about myself that I should accept and embrace and take control of the things that I could change.

And the first thing that I had to accept, was that there was no overnight fix. It was constant work, through the rest of high school and into college, I still battled with bouts of depression. And 6 years later as I’m finishing my last year of college, I can’t say that the battle is done. There are still days or even weeks at a time where my mood sinks and I feel like I’m reverting back to the “old me.” But the key difference between the Me then and the Me now, is that those feelings don’t scare me anymore. They’ll come, but then they’ll go. Depression does not have to be permanent. And today I can say that I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been: physically, mentally and spiritually because I reached out and asked for help.

In January, the theme for the blog was Emotional Health and in my piece “The Myth of the Strong Black Woman,” I wrote about how many black women are socialized to equate emotionality with weakness. Feelings of anxiety and depression are not problems that black people are supposed to face. But we do. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you have or who you’re supposed to be, you are perfectly validated in your feelings, both the positive and negative ones. I know this month is dedicated to Black Musicians, but I wanted to make a post dedicated to Karyn Washington. Herself and her loved ones are all in my thoughts and prayers and I can only hope to reach as many people as she did. After reading her story and sharing my own, I hope that anyone who sees either of them realizes that they are not wrong, they are not crazy, and they are not alone. That reaching out can be the best thing you could ever do for yourself and that there is a future that can be very, very bright.