SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We’re very excited to introduce you to our Travel and Culture Columnist, Aysia Woods. You’ve likely seen her work all over our website (and if not, check them all out here). Currently a graduate student at The George Washington University, Aysia has a passion for all things travel. She has explored many corners of the globe, and we’re lucky enough to get a peek into her adventures through her articles.

We are inspired by Aysia’s honesty, optimism, and determination. Passionate about helping others and living a balanced life, Aysia is someone who 100% seizes her youth. Get to know Aysia, her top travel tips, and how she overcomes struggles below!

Name: Aysia Woods
Education: Graduate student at The George Washington University studying Anthropology and Journalism 
Follow: Twitter: @AysiaWoods | Instagram: @FloralGumbo
Location: Washington, D.C.

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Aysia Woods: I define it as taking advantage of all youthfulness has to offer – energy, creativity, and adaptability. These characteristics are at their peak in our early years, so I think it is extremely important to nurture them now, rather than later.

CJ: As the travel columnist for Carpe Juvenis, you share your insights and explorations with our community. What inspires you to travel?

AW: I think it’s just in my blood. My parents and the majority of my family grew up all over the world because they were in the military, and they’ve definitely taught me the value of travel at young age. I get restless very easily and exploring is the only thing that quenches that sensation. The fascinating people I meet along the way and those moments where you think, “I can’t believe this is my life,” are what inspire me the most. For example (true story), walking at 1 a.m. along a boardwalk near Cape Town, South Africa, with three European friends, and then happily stumbling upon a club full of Australian tourists hosting their “Latin Fiesta night.” Perfectly random, uniting moments like this are so priceless and inexplicable. I honestly believe if people traveled more often, there would be less conflict because there would be more understanding. The world would be a happier place.

CJ: You recently graduated from college. What has been one of the most surprising changes you’ve dealt with so far being in the “real world”?

AW: I can’t say it was surprising, but I’m still learning just how much self-motivation it takes being the “real world.” Going from being told what to do from teachers the past 18 years with rigid daily schedules to complete independence is definitely a learning curve. Because no one is forcing you to do anything, I think the key to curbing complacency is forcing yourself to stick to a strict agenda and maintain those short-term goals.

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CJ: If you could give yourself a piece of advice the day before you started college as a freshman, what would it be?

AW: Start networking long before you graduate. Connections are everything.

CJ: You just started graduate school at the George Washington University – congratulations!  What factors influenced you in your decision to both apply to and attend graduate school directly out of college?

AW: Thank you! I am actually in a combined 5-year B.A./M.A. program for Anthropology, so I started my first graduate classes during my senior undergraduate year and now I have just a year left. Because my major had this option, I decided applying to its 5-year program would be a logical choice because it would allow me to save money and time getting a master’s degree elsewhere. Working on a master’s thesis right after graduation isn’t so easy when all you want is the typical post-college Euro trip, but I know it will be so worth it!

CJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received so far?

AW: “Treat everyone like they are special,” which is from my dad. The best advice I get is always from him.

CJ: How do you measure success?

AW: I measure success in positive influence and overcoming challenges. I like to say this rather than something like “100% pure happiness” or “supporting my family” because I think a lot of the time, those are not realistic. It doesn’t matter if someone is a middle school teacher, trash man, CEO, or unemployed. The most successful people, in my eyes, are those who spread joy to others and are resilient.

CJ: You were part of the college club George Washington Women in Business (GWWIB). What was an important lesson you learned through participation in that group?

AW: GWWIB taught me so much about teamwork and the importance of personal branding, which I am forever grateful for. I was mostly involved in their Annual Spring Conferences, which was a great way to learn how to work with a large group, and also an opportunity to learn from and interact with successful professional women. The opportunities that exist in this organization are wonderful and should be taken advantage of. For anyone reading this, I urge you to get involved with GWWIB (men are welcome, too)!

CJ: What is your dream job?

AW: Having a massive family-owned company that publishes a travel magazine and has an accompanying travel agency, opening a few trendy lounges around the world, and eventually opening a retail store. That would be amazing.

CJ: You dedicate a lot of your time to community service. Why is this and would you recommend other young adults get involved in volunteerism as well?

AW: I believe giving back is an integral part of being a good citizen and overall person. If all we do is take from the world, we are leaving behind a void, rather than a legacy. I absolutely recommend other young people get involved in volunteerism. Two organizations I am familiar with are Global Vision International and D.C. Central Kitchen; they both do amazing work in their local communities. There are so many amazing programs – you just have to find one with a cause you are passionate about.

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CJ: Where did your interest in food justice and sustainable living come from? What advice would you give to someone new to developing on a healthier lifestyle?

AW: I always knew I was interested in food, but it was my Introduction to Sustainability class I took as a sophomore that truly opened my eyes. In one of the classes, I learned about food deserts for the first time and remember feeling so upset. I couldn’t image growing up with such limited access to fresh produce and not having the power to change it.

From that point, I quickly declared a sustainability minor and loved learning about the relationship between humans and our environment. I feel like the topics covered in this discourse should be taught to everyone! For someone new to developing a healthier lifestyle, I would say try to live a balanced life. To me, healthy living is equal parts nutritious food, physical activity, and mindfulness of your lifestyle.

CJ: How do you deal with difficult days and move past them? What have you learned about overcoming struggles?

AW: This is an embarrassing question for me, but I’ll answer honestly. My first response to a difficult situation is to get a moment to myself and cry it out. At this point in my life, I have learned to just accept shedding some tears as my natural reaction and not fight it. I think that is what overcoming struggles is all about – letting yourself be momentarily upset, de-stressing however works best for you, then finding a solution. Overcoming struggles is a constant in life, so figuring out how you deal with them early on gives you the upper hand for the difficult days in your future.

CJ: What are a few travel tips you always use?

AW: I like to always bring a fuzzy pair of socks in my carry-on for those freezing flights, keep chew-able Pepto Bismol in my pocket at all times (you just never know), and take notes. It’s so sad when you’re back home and trying to remember that song you heard on the radio or that cool shop you are meaning to go back too, but can’t. So, I always type little notes on my phone or whatever scrap of paper I have lying around.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

AW: The Big Sea: An Autobiography by Langston Hughes.

CJ: What advice would you give your 14 year-old-self?

AW: You are on the right path, so don’t try and follow behind anyone else telling you otherwise!

Aysia Woods Qs

Images by Aysia Woods

CollegeEducationLearn

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do after you graduate from college. Some people will jump right into the workforce directly after the college, but the rest of us are planning to continue our educational careers by going to grad school or law school immediately after we graduate. I know a lot of people might not want to think about the next phase of their journeys just yet but it’s important, if you haven’t already, to come up with a list of schools you want to apply to after taking the LSAT, the GRE, and for the future doctors out there, the MCAT. I’m not planning on taking the LSAT until June, but knowing what schools I want to aim for gives me an incentive to study hard so that I can get a good score on my test. We’ll talk about preparing for the test another day, but for now let’s stay on the topic of picking a school to attend.

For the most part, I already have my list of universities written down. This list used to be about a page and a half long but after thinking more about what I want out of a law school, I was able to narrow the choices down. For people who are considering going to graduate school, these tips can still be useful to you, especially if you have a long list and aren’t sure how to shorten it.

One of the most important things to be when making your list is realistic. Keep your GPA and the score you get on your test in mind when researching schools. For example, if I have a 3.0 grade point average and I score a 152 on the LSAT, I’m not going to chance applying to Harvard Law. This is mostly because I know that my grades and my test score aren’t high enough and it would be a waste of money to apply to a school I most likely will not get into. Since application fees aren’t cheap, being honest with yourself will keep you from going broke. I’m not saying that it is impossible for someone who has those scores to get into an Ivy League like Harvard or that they shouldn’t apply, but it’s much more realistic to look at schools that you can get into before shooting for the ones that are much more difficult to get accepted into.

You can easily find the test score and GPA range for all of the universities you’re thinking of applying to online. Just use Google or visit the university’s website and you’ll find all the information you need. Once you have all of that information written down and you’ve figured out what schools you could get into and which ones might be a little more difficult, now it’s time to weed out the right ones in that list.

Many people look at the rankings to determine which school is the best, but really, it’s up to you to make that decision for yourself. Only you know what you want out of the law, graduate, or med school you want to attend. If you’re not sure what it is you want just yet, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a clue, it just means that you need some help figuring it out.

When thinking about law school, I initially didn’t know where I wanted to go. Then I started thinking about location. Where would I enjoy going to graduate school? Do I want to stay in my home state or try living somewhere new? Once I had a list of the places I wouldn’t mind living, I started thinking about the cost. Graduate school isn’t cheap, but there are some that are less expensive than others. You don’t have to shy away from the super expensive schools because, chances are, you can get scholarship money and grants to help you out.

This leads into the next thing you should look at when making your list – how much money in scholarships does the university give away each year? Once you’ve narrowed your list down by taking out the schools in the places where you know you don’t want to go and you’ve decided what schools are in your budget and offer the most scholarship money to its students, you can start looking into things such as class size, campus environment, programs offered, etc. If you’re going to law school, check to see if they have the clinics that you’d want, and if you know for sure you want to specialize in a particular law, research the classes they have to see if what offer will prepare you for your career.

Other things to consider that are really important are employment rates. Many universities provide information on where their graduates went on to work or if they got jobs at all. If a school has a high percentage of unemployed graduates, then that’s something that you’re going to have to think about. Really, I can’t tell you what school is best for you. Only you know how to answer that question. If you need more help, speak with an advisor and try to visit the schools on your list, if you can. Go to graduate, med, and law school fairs. Ask the university representatives questions and look at countless websites of different universities. It isn’t just the academics that makes a school good, but the campus environment is extremely important as well. If you want a school that’s huge or one that’s small, that’s something else to factor into your search. If you value approachable faculty members, diversity, or anything else you can think of, then take the time to find the schools that fit that criterion because those schools exist. In fact, they’re waiting for you right now. What are you waiting for?

Image: Brent Hoard, cropped