HealthSkills

The transition from summer to fall can be a little sluggish, especially when many of us are in denial that summer is coming to an end. It’s when the leaves start turning orange and the air becomes crisper that it really starts to feel like autumn. And what better time to reset than at the beginning of a new season? With fall comes a vibrant energy that was lacking in the warmer summer months. People are buzzing around getting ready to head back to school, start new jobs, and plan out the year ahead. Before the official first day of autumn on September 23rd, get a head start on thinking about how you want to spend the next few fall months.

  1. Set goals for fall. Look at your personal life and professional life with a critical eye. What do you want to learn this season? How do you hope to improve? Look forward to what’s coming up and figure out how you can set yourself up for success. Another helpful way to look at the big picture? Create a timeline of the past three to six months and fill in highlights from each month. Compare what you’ve done to what you still want to do, and then add those items to your Autumn To-Do List.
  2. Constantly edit your life. What’s working? What’s not working? Eliminate the negative from your life, whether it’s a bad habit or a toxic person. Add positivity into your life, should that be more vegetables, laughter, or new experiences and travels. Don’t settle for what your life currently is – make it the best it can be.
  3. Clean your space and wardrobe. Now that it’s time to break out the sweaters, scarves, and boots, you might as well go through and de-clutter your space and wardrobe. Clear your desk, donate items you no longer need, go through your kitchen cupboards and toss expired foods – these are all actions that will help clear your mind and allow you to begin the season in a fresh environment.
  4. Get serious about being healthy. As the temperature drops, the drier your skin will get. Hydrate more than you think you need to and take advantage of the vegetables that are in-season. Move your body more, take the stairs, and be more mindful of how you’re treating your body and mind.
  5. Reconnect with friends and family. It’s too easy to check out during the summer and retreat into your own world. If you haven’t been a social butterfly the past few months, strike up conversations with friends you haven’t talked to in months. Right now is the best time to reconnect. Don’t wait for another season to pass you by. Better yet? Make new friends. Join a book club, talk to the person next to you in class, join a sports team – you’re never too old to add new people into your inner circle.
  6. Adopt a positive mindset. It may be easier to have a positive attitude when the sun is shining and the summer days are brighter and longer. But when it starts getting darker earlier and the skies turn gray, maintain a positive state of mind. Surround yourself with positive influences, smile, compliment a stranger or friend, compliment yourself, challenge any negative thoughts that enter your mind, and start saying “I can” instead of “I can’t.” The little changes make a big difference.

How are you resetting for autumn?

Image: Autumn Mott

TravelVolunteerism

“Where am I?” is all that crossed my mind when I was volunteering in South Africa the summer before my freshman year of college. In honor of my high school graduation, my family and I decided to break out of our comfort zone and stray from our usual lounging vacations and plan one that exposed us to a different world. With an organization I would recommend to everyone – Global Vision International (GVI) –  I lived in a town outside of Cape Town called Gordon’s Bay to teach basic English and Math to children at a devastatingly poor, but dedicated school called A.C.J. Phakade Primary. It wasn’t until this remarkable experience that I realized how moving and important giving back, especially in a country as dynamic as South Africa, truly is.

Here are three main reasons you should highly consider “The Rainbow Nation” for your next volunteering venture.

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The children need your help.

Many primary schools around Cape Town require its students to take an entrance exam into high school. While this may seem easy enough, trouble arises for native Xhosa-speaking – one of the country’s 11 official languages, spoken primarily by the black population surrounding Cape Town – students when they have to take the English-only exam. English is not part of school curriculums, so the only way a student knows English is if their parents taught them or they picked it up from American movies. For many of the eager students, an English volunteer is the only chance they have to learn the language well enough to get into high school. If they don’t pass, sadly they are stuck in primary school until they get it right.

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Put your own problems into perspective.

In college, getting a D on a midterm, getting into arguments with friends, and not living in your preferred dorm might seem like the end of the world, but once you explore a slum you begin to see life differently. Surrounding Cape Town are “townships,” poor, rag-tag neighborhoods mainly inhabited by black South Africans who were kicked out of the city during Apartheid. After seeing children come to school wearing no shoes and a school with a rat problem and gaping holes in its walls, you’re bound to realize how fortunate you are.

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Meet people from all over the world.

With GVI, I had the opportunity to meet likeminded young people from all over Europe, Africa, and Australia. It turns out that South Africa is a hot destination for the millennial generation because of its stunning landscapes and Cape Town’s stylish appeal. Even about four years later, I keep in touch with the friends I made and now always have a couch to sleep on in case I visit any of their home countries!

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I urge you to consider all of these points if you are seriously thinking about doing a volunteer trip. Remember, as responsible citizens of the world and Carpe Juvenis enthusiasts, it is up to us to make a better tomorrow!

Image: Photos courtesy of Aysia Woods

Health

  1. Dance in the rain
  2. Drink hot chocolate
  3. Watch a movie
  4. Catch up with friends and family
  5. Sleep late
  6. Relax by meditating
  7. Read a good book
  8. Cook a meal
  9. Bake from scratch
  10. Bring out an old board game
  11. Try on clothes and create new outfits
  12. Experiment with different makeup looks
  13. Take an artsy Instagram
  14. Read articles about your favorite inspirational person
  15. Paint your nails
  16. Spend an hour on Pinterest
  17. Plan a weekend adventure
  18. Listen to new music
  19. Make a mix CD
  20. Jump in a puddle
  21. Order takeout
  22. Try some new hair styles
  23. Paint
  24. Make mac and cheese
  25. Solve – or attempt to solve – a Rubix cube
  26. Update your photo album
  27. Take a hot bath (with a bath bomb!)
  28. Go through old yearbooks
  29. Search through Instagram
  30. Online shop and see how expensive your cart gets
  31. Watch your favorite YouTube star
  32. Practice an instrument
  33. Play balloon volleyball
  34. Workout
  35. Play videogames
  36. Write in a journal
  37. Brainstorm new business ideas
  38. Organize your closet
  39. Walk around your neighborhood
  40. Take a 20 minute nap
  41. Refresh by brushing your teeth and washing your face

Image: StokPic

EducationSkills

As much as we hate to admit it sometimes, we can’t all be Superman or Superwoman. Finding the time to get daily necessities done, as well as doing things just for pure enjoyment and relaxation, can be difficult. Here are some ways I multitask with my busy college schedule!

1. Work Out Between Loads of Laundry

Believe it or not, having to do your laundry can actually be a useful way to manage your time. Instead of being that one person who leaves their load in the washing machine for hours on end until you’re finally out of class, set a timer for each load that you do. You’d be surprised how much you can get done in a 30-45 minute load. Personally, it’s usually a toss-up between napping and working out, but I usually like to try to get a little exercise into my day which can be difficult when piles of homework are calling your name. Try splitting up your workout to give you plenty of time to get a few sets done and take a breather. I try to split my workout into sections and do legs during one load and abs during another!

2. Brew Your Coffee While You Get Ready

The simplest trick is the book is over-looked way too often! I can’t survive my 8:30 AM class without a hot cup of coffee, but it can be difficult to find time when you’re rushing to get there because you wanted to sleep late. Instead, make your coffee first and go about your daily routine. This will also give your coffee some time to cool off so it isn’t boiling when you go to take a sip!

3. Call Your Family While Walking To Class

That 15 minute walk across campus can really make a difference. It can be difficult to find the time to keep your family up to date on your life while being away at school, but a quick catch up here and there while walking to class can easily make your day and their day and fit into both of your schedules. It also makes the walk there a little less lonely!

4. Your Cell Phone’s Speaker Is Your New Best Friend

Whenever I’m in my dorm room eating takeout, cleaning, or doing homework, I’ll try to call or FaceTime a friend to catch up! It’s the easiest thing to do and is multitasking at its finest. Plus, if you don’t understand something on your homework you can ask away!

5. Review Notes While Catching Up On Your Favorite TV Show

We all dread that night of studying before the next-morning-quiz. To make it a little more bearable, try binge-watching that show you’ve been meaning to catch up on and review your notes at the same time. During breaks you can quiz yourself on what you just went over!

Image: Startup Stock Photos

CultureTravel

Gazing over the dreamy Panama City skyline, with international deep house music in my ear like a heartbeat and the delicious tang of ceviche on my tongue, it became no surprise to me that my parents fell in love here. For my parents’ 28th wedding anniversary, my family and I traveled to Panama City, Panama. It was here they met all those years ago on what was formerly Howard Air Force Base. My parents thought what better way to celebrate than to go back to their beloved city, and to show my younger brother and I “where it all started.”

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I was at the Tantalo Hotel’s rooftop bar with my brother, sipping on my second Balboa, Panama’s most popular brew named after the immortalized conquistador Vasco Núñez de Balboa. We were both sitting in thoughtful silence, just looking over the city, whose skyline is reminiscent of that of Miami. The Balboa wasn’t my favorite flavor, but I figured, when in Panama

Atop the building, a warm breeze was liberating us from the astonishing Central American heat we’d been walking in all day. Before this trip, I thought I knew what hot was. I was wrong. The heat in Panama is unlike any I’d ever experienced during summers in Louisiana or Georgia with my grandparents. Panama heat is throat-tightening, heavy, and humid. But as much as I complained about it, I was oddly grateful of how the tropical climate cleared my skin and nourished my hair. Wobbling on my charmingly uneven barstool, I couldn’t help but reflect on my whirlwind of a trip.

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Earlier in the week, we’d visited the Panama Canal. Aside from it being nothing of how I imagined the Canal to look in my head (I was picturing a giant river in the middle of Panama City, similar to the Seine in Paris…Not sure why.), it was breathtaking and made me inexplicably emotional. From up high, we watched a cargo ship skillfully squeeze through the first lock of the Canal with as much precision as a doctor in brain surgery. Perhaps what got to me was the thought of the thousands of people who lost their lives building the canal in the name of cosmopolitanism combined with true engineering innovation.

On one day of adventure, I’d ridden in a dugout canoe up the Chagres River to spend a day in the jungle with the Embera Indians. Not only did I eat the best fresh tilapia of my life, but I also met Miguel, the shaman of the village who shared his knowledge about holistic medicine. The heat this day was sweltering, but I soon forgot about it as I was quickly enveloped in awe of the green jungle, impeccable straw huts, and impressive self-sufficiency of this remote village. The villagers, who live the same way their ancestors lived hundreds of years before, wore bright, intricately beaded garments and, to my astonishment, never seemed to sweat. It was as if I had stepped straight into a National Geographic magazine.

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After the adventures with the Embera, we choose a more relaxing activity for our next day in Panama. I spent the day hunting for sea glass and lounging on the pristine beach at Isla Grande, a small island frequented by Panama City locals. The island is a 2-hour drive and a short, slightly nerve-wracking ferry ride from the city. The pleasant laughter of families enjoying their own beach days was infectious and the warm water of the Pacific Ocean truly restorative. For someone who doesn’t consider herself a huge fan of beaches, I adored this place. The waves were soothing, the sand cool, and trees provided the perfect amount of shade. It was as if the island new exactly what to do to make us fall in love with it.

Our home for the week was a lovely apartment in Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama city. I had become somewhat familiar with the trendy area, which was bursting with spectacular dining spots, nightlife, and shopping. One favorite dining spot was The Fish Market, a food truck with a festive outdoor seating area that served killer fish tacos. Let me tell you, no taco will ever compare. Another favorite was Café Coca-Cola, the oldest café in the city, located just on the edge of Casco Viejo in an area called Central. Locals say it was a favorite dining spot of Che Guevara. This place is a must if you want large portions of good, authentic Panamanian fare for an insanely low price.

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Finally and perhaps, most meaningful to me, I visited Panama Pacifico, the super modern Special Economic Zone that is home to many multi-national corporations. This development is located on what used to be Howard Air Force Base. Though the American base hasn’t been in use since 1999, many of the original buildings are still standing. I am forever grateful that my parents were able to see where they lived, met, worked, and played before the remains are completely renovated or torn down. After all, that is “where it all started.”

Still gazing over the city from atop my charmingly uneven barstool, I couldn’t believe so much was happening in this small country I’d only ever heard reminiscent stories about. I had only been briefly immersed in this kaleidoscope of a city, colored with various cultures and a colorful colonial history, but I already knew I would have to return one day.

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Images: Aysia Woods

Culture

Though Christmas is not the only holiday celebrated during this time of the year, it is one that seems to spur the creation of some of the most heartfelt and sentimental films ever made. I have already delved into some of my favorite Christmas movies of all time – all classics in their own right – but those are not the only flicks that utilize the cheer and spirit of this holiday. There are quite a few lesser known films that exhibit the same emotions during this time of the year through touching stories. So, without revealing too much, here are some indie films to satiate your Christmas movie appetite!

Joyeux Noel

In short, Joyeux Noel explores a fictionalized version of the Christmas Truce of 1914 in which the Scots, Frenchmen, and Germans involved in fighting one another decided to cease fire during Christmas Eve and Day. I enjoy this film around the holidays not only because it is cinematically gorgeous, but also because it reaffirms the notion of putting ones differences aside to celebrate something larger than everyone. Whether you believe in Christianity, Judaism, or no religion at all, I believe people can appreciate the sentiment of hope for peace cross-culturally that is evident in this movie.

A Midnight Clear

Like Joyeux Noel, A Midnight Clear expounds upon similar ideas of peace amidst violence by retelling how at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 Germans were willing to surrender over Christmas. Unlike the other film, however, this one ended with a ton more bloodshed and more of introspective view of how humanities xenophobia and inability to accept and atone for their indiscretions can ruin even the most intelligent plans geared towards peace. Tie that in with the fact that this is a time of the year for forgiveness, I hope this film helps people to learn to be more tolerant- this film definitely showed my own flaws in regards to this.

Mon Oncle Antoine

In this 1971 French-Canadian film, the Christmastime set storyline explores the Maurice Duplessis region of Quebec preceding the Asbestos Strike of the late 1940s. Benoît, a fifteen year old boy, is the prime character of the film, and as the viewer’s watch his coming of age story in this mining town simultaneously linking up with the move towards the encroaching political revolution, this film forces you to look at how we treat people in society; how we belittle and oppress others. Not the cheeriest of Christmas films, but definitely one to bring you to reality and teach you similar lessons to that learned from A Midnight Clear. It also cannot hurt that Roger Ebert also put this on his Great Movies list, if you need more convincing to look this up.

Which holiday movies do you always go back to?

Image: Unsplash

Skills

Asking for help can be hard when you’re going through a hard time. At times it can be a case of pride. You don’t want to show how much something is bothering you or how much it is hurting. Perhaps you don’t want to burden someone with your problems. Whatever the reason, I can say it is always a good idea to ask for help when you need it.

I have never regretted asking for help. Have you ever not raised your hand in class because you were worried about asking a dumb question? We’ve always been told that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Even if there were, you could either have an answer right away or you could just agonize on your own for however long it takes for you to figure things out. When you speak up, you get answers.

I admit that this is a lesson I have had to learn more than once. I once missed a day of school while sick. I didn’t ask for anyone’s math notes because I was sure I was smart enough to piece together the information on my own. A week later, not only had I not figured out what I missed, but I didn’t understand anything that came after it. Instead of letting my confusion grow, I finally asked my teacher for help. Guess what? Everything began to make sense.

If someone can’t or won’t help you, it’s not the end. It just means you can move on to someone who can help you with your problem. This idea is not limited to class lessons. The holidays in particular can be troubling times for people. Some feel overwhelmed about spending so much money or the need to make a holiday perfect. Some people feel like they have to spend the holiday alone. Like the fear of asking for help, this pressure we put on ourselves tends to all be in our heads. Reach out to friends or family if you want to spend the holiday with someone. If you need space from your loved ones, you can volunteer somewhere. Don’t suffer because you’re afraid to reach out.

If you’re scared or confused in life, it never hurts to ask for help. You may want to prove you can do things on your own, which is valid. However, if you are slowing yourself down because you don’t want to admit that you need help or because you’re scared others will see you differently, don’t worry so much. Everyone has problems. No one was born knowing everything or being able to do everything. We all learn as we grow. Even in adult life we are still learning. The very problem you are struggling with may be just the thing that someone else is struggling with. You just have to be brave enough to talk about it. Not asking for help just wastes time that you could use to move forward. So don’t waste anymore time. Just ask.

Image: CollegeDegrees360

Culture

1. Holidays

The obvious: it’s holiday season. You may celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or just plain old New Year’s Eve. December means shopping. It means pigging out on all year-round-forbidden foods. And it means seeing family and friends and reconnecting with those who you have maybe lost touch with throughout the entire year. I see December as a month of reunion.

2. Hot Drinks

Don’t tell me you don’t participate in PSL season. Okay, if you had to look up PSL, maybe not. Either way, we all know there is nothing more comforting or satisfying than sipping on a searing cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate in cold December. It is the time where coziness reaches its climax. Drinking away your calories is acceptable, but only in December.

3. Smell

December has a smell – that is fact. It smells like cinnamon. It has the aroma of pine trees. And it has the faint scent of deliciously baked goods. Am I wrong?

4. Winter Clothes

Summer is definitely a desired season, but during this time you can finally dress in sophisticated coats and elegant scarves that you’ve secretly been waiting to wear all year long.  It’s cold, but not cold enough where you’re forced to wear bulky parkas. Also, it calls for some fun when putting an outfit together – scarves, boots, pants, jackets, ear muffs, hats, and gloves! There is much opportunity to be a fashionista – get creative, my friends.

5. Cozy, Cozy, Cozy

Not only do you get the chance to drink sugar and calories, but December also means sitting by mellow fireplaces, candles, and an excuse to just be lazy for once! The sun sets earlier, therefore your days end earlier and getting home early in the midst of some comforting dim lights is very tempting. Readers: what’s better than spending a night reading a captivating novel by the fireplace?

6. Netflix

Let’s be honest, not all of us have boyfriends and girlfriends to cuddle with. However, Netflix is always there to comfort all singles worldwide. From interesting documentaries to addicting TV shows to the movies we just never had the time to watch during the year, Netflix is our best friend.

7. Vay-cay

December is the time to reunite with family and friends, as previously touched on. However, it is also a time of travels and vacations – be it to see those family and friends or to travel with those family and friends. December is a time to bond with family and friends and get closer to your loved ones while still getting the chance to visit familiar or unfamiliar places!

8. Fluffy Snow

December introduces many parts of the world with snow. By January, the snow is no longer “pretty” because by then, it has turned yellow or brown and icy. However, in December, it is a beautiful thing to see blankets and blankets of freshly fallen snow! Snow angels better be on that to-do list!

9. ABC Family

December tends to revolve around child hood memories and this includes flipping the television channels only to find Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas or Polar Express on. For some of us, ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas is on our calendar – spare the judgments, please.

10. Reflection and Renewal

Above all, December is a month of renewal. It is a time to wrap up the year, to wrap up old habits, to plan for new ones; it is a time of reflection and preparation. This is a beautiful time that invites reminiscing and change. Plan to embrace the goals you have for 2015 and think about what you would like to leave behind in 2014. December is the close for the year – enjoy every last moment and squeeze out the best remaining bits of it!

How will you enjoy December?

Image: Stanford

CultureSkills

There are many things to be thankful for when the Thanksgiving pieces have fragmented into a “disastrous holiday.” This very American, very well planned, very much awaited for holiday may not be the picturesque family-filled weekend.

The Away-From-Home Blues

Not everyone gets the marvelous chance of traveling home for Thanksgiving as intercontinental trips can result in two entire days of travelling, exorbitant holiday fares, or simply lacking the luxury of time to do so. These away-from-home holidays can be seriously depressing – especially when you scroll through your relative’s posts of family reunions or phone calls that report you’re on speaker and all family members you love and secretly hate are together dining without you screaming their “Hellos.” However, if you are away from home, it doesn’t mean you need to celebrate Thanksgiving alone. Call up some friends who are also away from home and have a five-person-Thanksgiving-dinner; try cooking it all together. Amateur cooking without the guidance of your Mothers expertise is only calls for hilarious memories! Another option could be tagging along with along with a friend who has family in the area. Why not experience a different kind of Thanksgiving?

Preparation Timeliness

It’s almost law that you pay a price for the good stuff, no? Food: delicious, anticipated, and the entity that makes Thanksgiving actually happen. In other words, it is one of the most, if not the most important part of any Thanksgiving dinner. However, in order to have your guests roll their eyes in heavenly delight, you must first prepare this complex meal – aka the ultimate “OCD-enticing-price” as people are stressed out of their minds because the food is either finished too early or too late. Both can be disastrous because nothing is better than eating a home cooked recipe fresh out of the oven and nothing is worse than having to wait hours for your long awaited meal. Take a piece of advice: relax. Nothing ever turns out perfectly and that’s just a part of life! The premise of Thanksgiving may have a food component thrown in there, but when looking deeper into the holiday, it’s about being around family and friends and being able to reflect on just how lucky you are to have them!

Bizarre Selections

The quintessential Thanksgiving Dinner: turkey, apple pie, and stuffing? These are all foreign to me as my family celebrates with only a traditional turkey and Colombian food. Maybe we will get the occasional pumpkin pie that is bought from the nearest convenient store and left untouched throughout the night. Our unconventional dinners allow me to realize that there is true beauty in this holiday: the convergence of two cultures. On a different note, there are great stress-inducers other than the turkey not being prepared on time: not having a turkey. Not having turkey is only the worst thing that can happen in any Thanksgiving. But why? Why not have what vegan/vegetarian families have and eat seitan instead? Why not solve the catastrophic problem of having all stores having sold out turkeys by having a chicken substitute instead? The odd substitutes for what is representative of this day may just bring other little surprises!

Family Reunions

Aside from the obvious mishaps that can happen to anyone on any given family gathering, this can be the most unsettling: awkward reunions. It can be the horrible to have to introduce that semi-announced boyfriend or girlfriend. The impressions, the expectations, and the anxiety can all be a bit nerve wrecking. How about this situation: the absolutely irking family members who try to catch up with the happenings of your life by prying with totally eye-rolling questions. They’re all the same. “Any new boyfriends/girlfriends I should know about?” “You’re turning into such a woman/man!” or the expected comparisons to other relatives. Maybe you’re about to see relatives you have not seen in ages. What to expect? Expect anything from total joy to total awkwardness. But, hey, family reunions do these things – they are good problems to have!

Two Ideals. One Night.

“Bye! I’m off on a shopping spree,” everyone practically screams as they hurriedly move from feasting on gluttony to feast on the “more is better” American mantra. You just had a night of thanks for everything you have had and everyone you have had in your life and suddenly America hurries off to Black Friday to catch those 50% off deals like a heard of sheep desperate for a grass buffet. I have forever been curious and mildly disapproving of this concept but it’s very much present in this culture. Perhaps discern this transition with some extra-thanks? Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone meets in loving gathering – most of the time. It is the time of year when everyone gives thanks for the experiences, opportunities, people, and things in their lives. But it’s also a time when patience, emotions, and your ability to “let go” is tested.

How will you manage your Thanksgiving mishaps?

Image: Satya Murthy

Culture

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated among all sorts of families from all walks of life. The moment they came to America, my family resolved to understand how the culture and holidays work here as part of their immigration process. I’m from a Chinese family, and with that comes its own values. One of them, like many cultures, is to be thankful for the good that has come, and to hope that there is good in the future.

The way my family celebrates Thanksgiving isn’t too different from other families. We put on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade broadcast on our television. Over the years, the television went from a big bulky block that sat on our table to a nice flat screen. Sometimes it would be the sound of the Nintendo Wii, and me kicking my cousin’s butt on Super Smash. While the sounds of trumpets and music and the voice of an announcer cheerfully declares the coming float, the sounds of metal clanking comes from the kitchen.

Our family has turkey like many others. We also have rice and fish, salads and cooked dishes of vegetables. The important thing is that everyone is happy and eating what they want, so having both turkey and chicken wasn’t unusual on some Thanksgivings. I always liked my little bowl of cranberry sauce, and my dad makes a great mixed salad, and my mom orchestrates the way the extended oval table, with its orange and white Hawaiian flower cover, is arranged.

We did prayer every year, with my grandparents leading, and this year is special. The prayers involve incense and a neat arrangement of oranges, meats, sweets, and vegetables by the window. The prayer is to the spirits, ancestors or gods or what have you, to thank them for protecting us and that we would appreciate their protection in the future. Any deaths in the family, especially any within the past year, would especially be remembered, as the spirits of those people are most close to us. This year, we indeed have one of these close spirits, so the prayer will not be without deep contemplation.

The fun comes after the food is done, after the prayers said. That’s when we get to eat, and my family, as well as extended family from all over NYC, come to one household. It’s a loud event with a lot of noise and clattering and energy, but there is a lot of love. More than anything else, this love, not the food or the parade or the incense, is what makes Thanksgiving so lovely.

How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?

Image: martha_chapa95

Culture

We’re so excited that one of our favorite holidays is just around the corner. While delicious food is a major perk of Thanksgiving, it is also a great time to remember what you are grateful for. We’ve talked about ways to show your gratitude throughout the year, Spotlighted a guy who started a company that encourages sending thank you cards, the power of random acts of kindness, and have offered tips on different ways to say thank you.

Thanksgiving is a time to count your lucky stars, appreciate your family, and give back to those you love. It is also a perfect time to share with friends and show how much you care about one another. A fantastic way to do this is by hosting a Friendsgiving! Friendsgiving is the celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends, and it usually happens the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Whether you plan a Friendsgiving a couple of days before Thanksgiving or if it replaces actual Thanksgiving (since you might not be able to make it home for the holiday), there’s no better way to spend time with friends.

These are the 6 benefits of hosting a Friendsgiving:

  1. Experiment with new recipes.

Have you been waiting for the perfect event to make those mini pumpkin pies? Here it is, your perfect moment has arrived. Since you’ll be cooking or baking for a crowd, you can try multiple recipes and show off those kitchen skills.

  1. Experience different traditions.

Encourage those attending to incorporate their family traditions – does your best friend play football with his family before the feasting begins (hello Friends!)?, does your other friend watch football on TV afterwards? Is there a movie that one of your friends watches every Thanksgiving? Does someone love playing board games post-meal? Perhaps your family goes around the table before eating to say what they are grateful for?

Include these fun and new traditions into your Friendsgiving. By kicking off Friendsgiving, you and your friends will be starting a tradition of your very own.

  1. Try your friends’ favorite foods.

Make your Friendsgiving a potluck and tell everyone to bring their favorite dish (you’ll want to coordinate this so you don’t have four types of mashed potatoes). Through the variety of foods, you will experience the different flavors that your friends have enjoyed and celebrated over the years.

  1. You’ll get two days to focus on being thankful!

While being grateful every day of the year is important, this year you’ll get two days to focus on what you are thankful for – Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving. Lucky you!

  1. Start celebrating Christmas early without judgment.

So you and your friends want to start listening to Christmas music without being judged for it? This is the safest environment to do it in! Blast those Christmas carols and holiday tunes and make a dance party out of it. Who better to rock out to Jingle Bells with than your best friends who love the holidays just as much as you?

  1. Cleaning has never been faster.

Once the meal is over, there are multiple hands to make the clean-up process move much faster. For a stress-free post-meal experience, clean before you eat dessert. This way there won’t be that huge task looming over you. The job gets done sooner when everyone helps out.

Happy Friendsgiving!

Image: Friends Season 10

Skills

During the holiday season, especially right around Thanksgiving, gratitude is everywhere. Starting around kindergarten, we’re taught that this is the time to list out the things we’re grateful for and say our thank you’s. It’s a wonderful thing, and our warm holiday glow often lasts a few weeks past the big day. But, most of us get caught back up in our busy routines and forget to show or regularly acknowledge our gratitude for the miraculous gifts life has given us: friends, family, love, education, health, pets… and the more simple ones (which may not be so simple to many people in the world): a sip of water, a bite of food, or a breath of fresh air.

Forgetting to show gratitude doesn’t make us bad people, but it actually would serve us and our happiness if we could remember to thank our lucky stars each day. Giving thanks daily can be so quick, but can truly impact the way we see our days.

Here are a few ways to remember our gratitude and give thanks to those who mean so much to us:

  1. Gratitude list – get a small journal, notepad or just sheet of paper, and fill it every day with five things for which you are grateful. You will soon realize how many tiny yet wonderful things have accumulated in your life.
  2. Start your day with thanks – if you happen to be religious or spiritual, wake up and thank the Universe, God, or any divine form of energy or higher power you worship. An example could be “thank you for letting me see another beautiful day.” Repeating this each morning can slowly rewire the way you see things.
  3. Say “thank you” – to EVERYONE! The person who held the door, your server, your friends, your boss for complimenting you, your teammates for working hard. Thank people for just being. Even if they try to play it off cool, no one ever dislikes being genuinely thanked for being kind or doing a good job.
  4. Write thank you notes – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve put them off, write letters to people who have recently given you gifts or cards. Write thank you notes to your friends for being the friends they are. Write a thank you note to the person who smiled at you and made your day, even if you don’t know them and have no way of giving them the note.
  5. Thank yourself – no matter what anyone says, you are doing the best you can, so thank yourself for that. You’re here, living despite any challenges you may be facing. You’re awesome, thanks for being you! Write yourself a note or just look in the mirror and say it.
  6. Share – when we truly appreciate the abundance in our lives, we are more willing to share it. I believe this can work backwards, though; when we share, we often become more aware of our abundance.
  7. Make a phone call – call a grandparent, and ask him or her to tell you a story from his or her life. Ask your dad to tell you his favorite recipe, or your mom to tell you more about her favorite hobby. Asking others about themselves is a way to show we care, we are interested and we’re glad they’re here.
  8. Take a deep breath – and notice the air filling your lungs. That, in itself, is a miracle, and the more we slow down, stop to smell the roses and feel the air in our lungs, the more we train ourselves to realize these small but beautiful things.

Thank you for reading! How do you show your gratitude? Share below!

Image: MTSOfan

Culture

It’s the time of year where we say our thanks to the things we’ve taken for granted, and being without a phone for the second time this semester has caused me to realize all the things I’m truly thankful for when it comes to my phone. Being without a phone has made me acknowledge not only the many things I take for granted regarding my phone, but also the things that having a phone has caused me to take for granted. Here are some things I’ve become thankful for that may just influence you to put your phone down for a couple of hours this holiday season.

1. Reminders

I’m always busy, and with being busy comes needing a way to stay organized and on top of things. My phone has all of my alarms, appointments, birthdays, and random notes in it in order to keep my daily life together. Being without it has definitely made me thankful for my little partner in crime!

2. Email

After missing out on the email for my 8:30am class being cancelled and getting up and lugging myself to class, I have definitely taken having access to email on my phone for granted. Being able to have my email on my phone allows me to check it straight when I get up; along with any cancellations that go with it!

3. Social Media

Not being able to Instagram on the daily may or may not be causing me to have withdrawals. Social media helps me keep in touch with my friends at school, as well as my friends and family at home. Being without easy access to all my social media sites has made it a lot more difficult for me to stay up-to-date on everyone’s lives.

4. Nature

Though being without a phone has given me my share of hardships, it has also helped me to realize how beautiful my campus truly is. Instead of scrolling through my feeds while walking to class, instead I look around and notice the beautiful flowers, trees, and architecture that I so easily took for granted.

5. Friends

My relationships with those who are my true friends, as well as my family, clearly deepened without a phone involved. It brought back emailing and direct messaging on Twitter, which although may be annoying, shows me who my true friends are when having to make an effort. It has also pushed me to spend more time talking to my friends and family face-to-face rather than texting them 24/7. Not having a phone has allowed me to be more social and have better relationships in general.

Though having a phone is a great thing that many of us take for granted, it’s also important to acknowledge the little things that we overlook when we’re absorbed in our screens.

Image: Jonathan Velasquez

Culture

These days, Thanksgiving is known for its big meal and is otherwise swallowed up by the rest of the holiday season. However, when we think of it like that, we miss a lot of joy that comes from the holiday itself. It is a day that brings family and friends together and makes them take stock of the goodness in their lives. Everyone has their own role to play in this. Even if Thanksgiving is not your favorite holiday, it has values you can celebrate all year long.

1. The holiday motivates us to keep in touch.

With social media, it’s easy to see what your loved ones are up to throughout the year, but it’s hard to make plans to see each other. People really make the effort to be together on holidays but you don’t need a holiday as an excuse to get together. When you miss someone you love, make a plan to see them. I know work and school can be hectic. However, in the last year, I’ve made the effort to spend more time with my extended family and I’m grateful for it. We know each other in a new way now and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

2. Thanksgiving allows you to forge a bond through food.

We all know everyone has to eat. Thanksgiving is a food holiday, but also one steeped in tradition. People work together in their kitchens to keep old traditions alive or create some new concoction. I love to eat and to cook. Throughout my childhood, I was a last minute helper. I had to contribute in my own small way. Now that I am adult, I do most of the cooking myself. On Thanksgiving, preparing food is not just cooking, it is carrying on tradition. Everyone contributes to the meal. We are brought up on recipes that we learn to make ourselves. It’s a group bonding activity that does not have to be one day of the year. I frequently help my family cook. It takes away some of the work after a long day. Take some time throughout the year to share recipes with others or to cook together. It is a fun way to pass the time with people you care about.

3. Thanksgiving is one of the biggest volunteering days of the year.

Remembering what we have now reminds us to help others less fortunate. A lot of charities put out food for families and the ill on this holiday but people need to eat all year round. Why wait to volunteer one day of the year? There are many worthy causes looking for help during the year. Try one.

4. Think about what you are thankful for.

We are in the ‘now generation.’ We tweet, Instagram, and Facebook to talk about what we are doing in the moment. Most of the time, it’s important to keep moving forward and be present. That said, it does not hurt to realize all that you have going for you. It also never hurts to remember all the people in your life who make your life better. Let them know what they do for you. Again, this doesn’t have to happen one day of the year. When you appreciate someone in your life, tell him or her.

Holidays are a time to celebrate events that happen year after year. However, we don’t have to only bring out these values one day of the year. We can get closer to our loved ones, work together, give back, and appreciate all that life has to offer. All you have to do is remember to try. I told you some ways that I celebrate. Think of how you want to contribute this year.

What Thanksgiving lessons do you implement throughout the year? Share in the comments below or tweet to us!

Image: Lee

CultureLearn

Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different but related things. The media sometimes confuses them and it makes it hard for high school and college students to really understand it. Everyone has their own preference of who they like and how they see themselves.

Let’s clear it up a bit as to what is what.

Gender Identity

It is about you. It is about how you see yourself. Do you think you are male, female, both, neither, or sometimes one or the other? Are you being okay being called he, she, or they, or ze? There are more than the ones listed here, but the ones that have been in the media lately have been a­gender, genderqueer, transgender, pan­gender, and gender fluid.

There is no wrong answer. There is no permanent answer. You are allowed to change your view of yourself according to how comfortable you are with it. If you do not feel comfortable being defined or you are unsure, that is okay too.

Sexual Orientation

It is about who you like. Do you like men, women, both, neither, or one or the other just sometimes? What do you like in someone? What characteristics do you find attractive in someone? The ones that have been in the media have been the lesbian, gay, and bisexual. There is also asexual and pansexual and heterosexual and demisexual. There are more than these here and they can be similar. You aren’t defined by your sexual orientation and you aren’t defined by your gender identity, either. These are just things that help you better understand yourself and it is up to you whether or not it is useful.

Sometimes gender identity affects sexual orientation, and sometimes it is the other way around. Everybody has their own understanding of who they are and how they came to be that way. Maybe you are pangender and pansexual. Maybe you identify as gender neutral and asexual. There are many ways a person can love and many ways people can see themselves. Both are decided by you and only you. Both can change.

My experience with these topics has gone from heterosexual to bisexual to demisexual. I’ve also come to feel comfortable with being gender fluid, but I have no problem being called she. It was kind of confusing, but I was surrounded by understanding and patient people and that made it easier. If you’re in a place that isn’t very open about this type of thing, that’s okay. There will always be people who are willing to listen, understand, and help in the future, if not now. As you grow and understand the world and meet new people and learn about yourself, you will find that your perspective may change, too.

Resources

Everyoneisgay.com is a place with advice and resources on sexual orientation, gender identity, and pretty much life itself. I’ve been following them on Tumblr for years and I have found the two co-owners to be open-minded, positive, and funny. They understand the difficulty of family pressure, the confusion and insecurity of being alone, and the joys of being supported and supportive of others in the community. They’re easy to access from various media platforms and you can spend hours scrolling through relatable content.

Embrace the change and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Just be you!

Image: lgbtq.missouri.edu

CultureTravel

“Where are you from?” she asked with a confidence that rapidly dwindled into embarrassment when I responded, “I was born here.” The awkward pause that causes eyes to wander, skin to prickle, and blood to rush is quickly relieved by the “but my parents are Colombian.” She seems to breathe again and feel the comfort she was familiar with six seconds before she had asked me the line-drawing question. My parents were born and raised in Colombia, but I was born and raised in Weston, a Fort Lauderdale suburb. Answering the following questions almost makes me feel like an actor rehearsing my lines for the millionth time. Yes, I am bilingual; yes, I have traveled to Colombia; in fact, I visit every summer and my profound attachment to the country has made the declaring of myself “American” unfit, yet, classification of myself “Colombian” slightly uncomfortable.

I knew I couldn’t be the only one with this dilemma, and it became an even more prevalent confusion in my junior year of high school when I chose “White” on my answer sheet through the process of elimination. I am not Indian, Asian, African or biracial, and choosing “other” at the time seemed more like giving up in how to identify myself rather than making a statement; leaving “white” as my last option. But I asked myself, “Do they mean ‘skin-color-white’? Or ‘I-was-born- in-America- white’?” I justified my answer by reminding myself that my father has white skin and green eyes, so, I chose “white” when, in reality, I have dark olive/tan skin. While I could have easily bubbled-in “Other,” at that moment, I chose to identify with my American self. But this was not always the case.

I have spent years trying to decipher this mystery. Am I both? Am I neither? What am I and where am I really from? For years I have felt absolutely uneasy with the idea of trying to label myself one or the other. However, being raised in South Florida has made it much easier to answer the black-or-white-question, “where are you from,” in a grey form. If the U.S. is a melting pot, South Florida is a recycled city bench. The amount of South American, Central American, European, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern communities in that region is astounding. More specifically, in my particular city, Venezuelans and Colombians are even more heavily concentrated. Most of my friends and people of association were either fully American or first or second generation immigrants from Colombia or Venezuela.

In light of this, to those who were first generation immigrants, I was an “American” and those who were second generation immigrants like me thought of me as “Colombian.” Likewise, I am considered Hispanic in this country but considered Gringa, or American, in Colombia – or any other country for that matter. This points directly to how easily others can perceive you, and many times, it may not be in correlation with how you see yourself. It all depends on adaptation and just how much those who have foreign-born parents or immigrants themselves have accustomed to the very-American, semi-American, or in my case, almost Hispanic-colonial-based culture. It has to do with what exactly the person has chosen to integrate into their lives, and what they reject as something they don’t want in their lives. In other words, it is very possible to create one’s own culture, per say, and develop one’s own identification.

Having parents from a different country than the one I was born and raised in means I have Carlos Vives and Frank Sinatra downloaded onto my iPod. It means I am the vegetarian that gets confused looks when I order only a side of red beans with rice and a pandebono at Colombian restaurants. It means that I speak the truly convenient and creative Spanglish language with my friends and US-born-family members, yet, jot down any unfamiliar English word in my agenda to look up and learn later. It means that when I am in the U.S., I will miss Juan Valdez Coffee and when in Colombia, I will think of how many free Starbucks drinks I am missing out on every 12 days. It means I chose to stuff my luggage with a stash of home-made frozen arepas to cook for breakfast instead of swiping my ID card at the college dining hall every morning. It means I criticize both American and Colombian governments and societies. It means I felt the knife in my heart that Saturday afternoon when I abandoned my unfinished homework to protest for a better Venezuelan government in snowy Boston. It means I had to unwillingly part from my cousin at the airport only to wait two hours for her because owning a blue passport unshackles me from having to bear the immigration process. It means that I am a daughter of the breath-taking mountainous rock that veins Colombia and a daughter of the Miami concrete jungle that is arranged as an unending labyrinth. It means many, many things, but it most importantly means that I am a little bit of both cultures and I find my balance in what I create it to be.

Figuring out just where to draw the line in your opinions, practices, and beliefs is where that balance is created. The next time somebody asks you where you are from, strapping yourself to one label is unnecessary; even when you find yourself surrounded by people who are of a certain nation or have decided their ethos, you can craft your own identification through a medium of what you have been exposed to.