EducationSkills

It may seem strange to consider that as adults we need to set goals. Aren’t paying bills, going to work, washing laundry, trying to exercise, and eat healthy all goals we already set for ourselves? Technically yes, but they are also the things we have to do to keep the gears of our life turning. Ever since graduating from college this past winter I’ve been searching for a system that will help me organize, prioritize, and improve myself in ways that extend beyond these necessities. This hasn’t been easy, and what I’ve come to realize very recently is that I don’t have to reinvent a brand new plan. What I am going to do is re-use the program I followed as a teenager and student and apply it to my life as an adult.

When I was 15 I registered for the Congressional Award program. This meant that for many years I was involved in four different program areas: physical fitness, personal development, volunteerism, and exploration or an expedition. I would create goals in each program area with my mentor, and together we would develop challenging goals and ways to work towards achieving them. For a long time I had a very specific reason to improve myself (earning a Gold Medal from Congress while simultaneously building my self-worth by doing things I loved). But once I graduated from college and earned that medal I realized that I haven’t been as ambitious or excited about improving myself as I used to be.

I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt the Congressional Award program model again and apply to this new chapter in my life. Instead of playing for my high school tennis team or training for a half marathon like I did as a student, I am going to set a goal to go to the gym at least four times a week and limit my eating out to two times a week for physical fitness. For personal development I am going to use Rosetta Stone to learn a new language and maintain my speaking skills from what I used to study. For volunteerism I am going to reconnect with an animal shelter I worked for in high school and get retrained as a volunteer. Every time I go somewhere new my goal is to read a book and do research on that location before I get on the plane.

What I learned about setting goals from when I was still a student is that they need to be realistic but challenging. I am not going to challenge myself to go to the gym seven days a week for two hours a day, because I know that given my work schedule that simply will not work. I also know my body and understand that burning out and being exhausted only leads to injuries and frustration. When setting new goals after being rusty for a while, it’s crucial that you be kind to yourself. Set goals, map out how you can achieve them, but don’t burden yourself with self-hate if you don’t achieve them perfectly every single day. Forgive yourself for not being perfect, and move on. Take baby steps and eventually you’ll have walked more miles than you realize.

Image: Life of Pix

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

CultureVolunteerism

I didn’t know the meaning of life until I gave myself over to a cause that was so much bigger than me. I can tell you to find the nearest food bank or Red Cross or any nearby organization that is looking for volunteers. I can tell you to give up your time and do service. But none of what I tell you to do will mean anything unless I also tell you the value of being a part of something that isn’t about you.

This past weekend, I attended my third THON. I know that there are other universities with their own philanthropic efforts but at Penn State, we have something called THON (otherwise known as the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon). It’s a yearlong effort to raise money to help find a cure for pediatric cancer. Every year, there is an actual dance marathon that happens one weekend in February. More than 700 people stand for 46 hours while spectators look on, standing and dancing with them. It’s an experience that I can’t effectively put into words. Its equal parts wonderful and fun, and at other times it is sad and painful. But every hour you stand there, dancing and singing along to the music, you are reminded why you are there.

Anyone can attend THON. Anyone can stand, whether it’s for six or twenty or forty hours. The effort you put into standing means so much more when you stand out in the cold and the rain and (sometimes the snow) with your cans, asking for donations. It means so much more when you help fundraise and you spread the word about the cause to your family and friends. Again, THON is something that I have been involved with for three years. I didn’t know much about it my freshman year. I didn’t even think it would impact me as much as it does now.

I went to my first THON without knowing what it truly means to do an act of service. Sure, I had fundraised and done many other things to help raise money in the past, but I didn’t know what it really meant. I didn’t know the extent of how important service is to Seizing My Youth until I actually stood for what I believed in.

I am telling you about my experiences with THON to let you know that there is so much more to volunteering than ‘doing a good deed.’ Volunteering is about helping people. It’s about seeing smiles on people’s faces and making a difference in any way that you can. Many people might disagree with this but I believe that we all have a duty to each other. We separate each other and get so caught up in politics, that we forget that we are all humans and that we all have two hands. Hands can be used for many things but they can always be used to help.

Even if it’s something as ‘tiny’ as helping your elderly neighbors around the house or picking up trash around your community, you can make a difference. If one domino can cause all of the other ones to fall, then you can be the spark that ignites the fire of change. When people see that you care, they are more likely to start caring too.

Movements need actions in order to get started. Don’t ever underestimate just how inspiring your existence is. Don’t underestimate your ability to be a catalyst for change. We are energy and hope and dreams all wrapped up into one body. And we don’t need to be anything more than that to make a difference.

It doesn’t take a special kind of person to volunteer. We are all capable of paying it forward and lending a helping hand in any way that we can. You just have to find the cause you believe in; the one you want to fight for. I know that there will be people who will read this and not think twice about volunteering. And that’s completely fine. I shared my experience simply because I believe that service has given me something. Volunteering doesn’t give you any awards of monetary value, but it does give you strength. It gives you hope. It empowers and inspires you and it puts a smile on your face even when you don’t really feel like you have anything to smile for.

Volunteering teaches you so much about yourself. It taught me many things about myself that I didn’t even know. I’ll share one of those lessons learned with you right now: I am tiny. Compared to the rest of the world and life itself, I am miniscule. Not many people know I exist or even know my name. And the change I hope to make? I might not even get to see it even though I wish for it every day. But you want to know something? The beauty of youth is that we don’t let our smallness keep us from knowing that we are and that we can be something bigger than ourselves.

Because at the end of the day, we are what we do. THON involves a lot of people but it is a reflection of me. What I believe in and what I fight for. Find that something for you. It might take some time or it might not, but once you find the thing you want to commit your time and service to, I promise you that it’ll make your life more beautiful than it already is.

Image: Pexels

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

We are thrilled to introduce you to Melissa Minton, a full-time student at the George Washington University, President of GWU’s Epsilon Sigma Alpha chapter, Her Campus Correspondent and Co-Editor-in-Chief of GWU Branch, and content intern at Birchbox and Birchbox Man. Whew. We know that’s a lot to get through, but that’s what makes Melissa so awesome – she keeps herself open to opportunities and then utilizes them when she has the chance.

It’s certainly not easy being a full-time student and juggling a handful of other pressing responsibilities, so we asked Melissa to provide us with some insight into how she does it all and still has time for herself! If you want to find out organization tips, learn more about securing incredible internships (Melissa has previously interned at the National Press Club, ELLE Magazine, and De*Nada Design, to name a few), or be inspired by this multi-tasking master, read on!

Name: Melissa Minton
Age: 20
Education: B.A. from the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in the School of Media and Public Affairs from George Washington University
Follow: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest

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

MM: I think seizing your youth means actively searching for new experiences and opportunities. Nothing is going to be handed to you unless you’re going out and searching for it. Even if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, just be open. And if there is an opportunity that falls in your lap, say yes. Always say yes until you have to say no.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 13 year old self?

MM: Don’t downplay your passions and don’t worry about what other people think. I would probably still need to follow the latter even today, but when I was 13 I thought that reading and writing and fashion were just hobbies. It wasn’t until I realized that putting my three passions together could make for a great career that I started to really hone in on that. Also, I wish my 13 year old self knew that bangs aren’t a good look for me.

CJ: What is the benefit or downfall of having such different internship experiences?

MM: I think that in today’s work environment, you need variety. Especially in the media industry you have to be able to do everything yourself. I chose the internships that I’ve had because they all have to do with media, but I learned about different facets of the industry with each experience. You’re never going to be able to explore your interests as thoroughly as when you have different internships, so I think it’s a major benefit to have unique experiences. However, it could be seen as a downfall for the future if you don’t sell your skills in an interview, so before you start an internship you should always know what you want to get out of it.

CJ: What three traits do you think make an outstanding intern?

MM: Willingness to do anything, thinking ahead for your boss, and enthusiasm.

CJ: If you could pinpoint one common thread through all of the work you’ve done to secure your internships, what would it be?

MM: In order to secure internships, being really professional and thorough in every contact you have with your potential future employer is key, whether that be email, phone, or in person. You want to come off as friendly, but I think employers respect professionalism in a young person. If you’re able to point out what skills you’ve used in the past that will be useful to them in an eloquent way, you’ll never be rejected. I like to think that I’ve done that for all the internships I’ve secured.
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CJ: You are a student at the School of Media and Pubic Affairs at GWU. What does your major involve and how did you decide what to study?

MM: My major is Journalism and Mass Communications and I am absolutely in love with it. I didn’t discover the program until my sophomore year after trying out classes that interested me. I was taking classes focused on culture and thought I might go into American Studies, but ultimately figured out that I wanted a more real world perspective rather than analytical. As a Journalism major I learn about not only many theories behind how the media industry works, but also skills such as video editing, and lots of writing in different styles. It’s a very hands-on major but also backed up by knowledge of theories.

CJ: What have you learned from your experience as a Her Campus Co-EIC?

MM: I think one of the biggest take-aways for me is that writing is very personal, but the entire process takes a village. From coming up with ideas, weeding through the good and bad, drafting, editing, posting, promoting on social, the process is in constant motion and no one person can lay claim to all of that work.

CJ: What kind of responsibilities do you have as President of ESA?

MM: As President of ESA, I am essentially the brain that works all of the different appendages. I use what I’ve learned in my past years on the executive board of ESA to map out our future, our goals, and objectives, then trust my e-board members to do the muscle work. I’m pretty type A when it comes to organization, so I task myself with mapping out timelines and due dates and checking in on progress. There are lots of nitty gritty details, but basically I get to conceptualize what I want the organization to look and feel like, which is really satisfying.

CJ: Did you choose to study abroad in college? Why or why not?

MM: Unfortunately, with the requirements of my major, I wasn’t able to do a semester abroad, but I was happy that I found a short term study abroad option. I took a class called “Globalization in Media” in which the class met on campus during the semester, and then went to Paris for 10 days of spring break and had lots of amazing speakers and seminars. I’m so happy that at least I was able to experience that. Not going abroad for an entire semester is definitely my biggest regret!

CJ: You are a student, an organization leader, an intern with multiple groups – How do you create a strong work-life balance (socially and personally balanced with professional goals)?

MM: I think that’s a challenge for everyone and I’d be lying if I said I had achieved it. One of my role models, Ann Shoket, said in an interview with The Every Girl that “There is no balance. You have to embrace the mess.” I think that’s true. I try to do everything in moderation and on a schedule. I like to do recurring tasks on the same day at the same time weekly so that I won’t forget. But, flexibility is also key. Sometimes you’re too tired to do extra work, and sometimes you need to push and get something done instead of relax. I think the balance between regiment and flexibility is the key to balance between personal and work priorities. That’s a long way of saying that I try to embrace the mess.melissa CJ 3

CJ: What are your best organization tips?

MM: I’m always trying to find new apps or programs I can use to be more productive and organize, but it always goes back to pretty simple things for me. To do lists and iCal are my best friends. If every night you write down all of the things you have to do the next day you’ll wake up feeling more in control and ready to cross things off the list. I’m also crazy about color coding and timelines.

CJ: Would you have done anything differently during your college experience looking back with 20/20 hindsight?

MM: I do wish that I had found the School of Media and Public Affairs sooner, but I probably would not have been able to take some of the really cool classes I took freshman year. I think every upperclassmen wishes they took advantage of their freshmen year more, but that’s what it’s for – to be a buffer time between high school and real college work. I always wish that I had gone abroad for a semester as well, that is one thing I am sad about.

CJ: What motivates you?

MM: I’m motivated by the strong women that have the jobs I want. Seeing someone else doing what you want to do is the best way to motivate yourself to get there eventually.

CJ: Where do you see yourself going next?

MM: Hopefully after I graduate I’ll be in New York City.

CJ: When you aren’t busy working and studying, what do you enjoy doing?

MM: Recently I’ve gotten really into painting and drawing and I want to learn how to throw pottery. I like anything creative. Also, watching reality TV will always be my un-guilty pleasure.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

MM: If You Have to Cry, Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone

CJ: What is the best piece of college related advice you would give to your 18-year-old self?

MM: Don’t do anything just because everyone else is. And conversely, just because no one is doing something doesn’t mean you should stay away from that either. Do whatever you want to do.

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