186 South College

grab your coffee, sit back and hang out with the UD Honors Program for a while

Off the Grid

Living for the summer in the world’s pickpocket capital, I’m actually surprised I went two weeks without someone stealing my belongings. However, lo and behold, my final six weeks in Barcelona I was phoneless. Yes, going through Instagram withdrawal was excruciating, but thankfully I lived to tell this tale.

Honestly, the worst part about not having a phone was realizing how much I used technology as a crutch in my daily life. I always used to joke about being directionally challenged, but now I know that I literally have zero sense of direction; it’s as if I was born without one. Before leaving my apartment to meet up with friends I would study my Google Maps route and even write down turn by turn directions on a PostIt notes, but I would get lost each and every time. Coming out of the metro there are small maps with the general area posted at the exit, and I would inevitably choose the wrong direction every. single. time. Meeting up with friends proved extremely difficult, as well. Not only did I have to make sure I was on time (a nearly impossible task for me) but I also had to time the metro trips perfectly in order to make sure my journey was actually twenty five minutes, not forty five or fifty. After this experience, I learned that it’s best to pick an obscure landmark to meet at such as the giant block structure on Barceloneta Beach or Botero’s fat cat sculpture rather than just “meet ya at the metro!”

On the other hand, being disconnected from technology (aside from at work) for almost two months was actually quite nice. While strolling through the Gothic Quarter or meandering through La Boqueria fruit market I was able to fully take in my surroundings rather than worry about which Instagram filter would look best with the photo I just took. I even attended a music festival for the first time without constantly recording videos and taking pictures for my Snapchat and let me tell you, the experience was ten times better. I was able to actually sit in a cafe and write articles for my internship without the constant distraction of a buzzing iPhone. I was able to enjoy the live Spanish guitar in the park without wondering if I could connect to WiFi somehow. I was able to get acquainted with my Canon Rebel instead of relying on my phone for photographs. I was fully in the now, and that is something I don’t think I would have been able to do had I been glued to my cellphone the entire trip.

Of course I wish that someone hadn’t stolen my phone because now I need to take a sledgehammer to my piggy bank, but reflecting upon the situation, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. When I get home, I’ll know that I can turn my phone off for a few hours while studying for a test, while catching up with a friend from freshman year over coffee, or during a movie night with my roommates, and I will survive. If I go for a hike through White Clay Creek or go out to the Green to catch some rays, I’ll opt to leave my phone at home. Everyone tells our generation to “unplug” a little bit, but no one really takes that suggestion seriously. Although it wasn’t necessarily my choice to go without a phone, I’ll now take that advice to heart. Give your thumbs a break and give it a try, you just might like it.

Honoring the Past and Marching Toward the Future

As I looked across the Green at the rainbow of flags waving in the wind, I couldn’t help but smile. What I had been working so hard on all semester was finally here and it was everything that I had hoped it would be.

This year I was accepted to be the Holocaust Education Intern at UD Hillel. My main duty was to organize Holocaust Education Week, and while I felt honored to receive the position, I was nervous about how I would be able to accomplish this task. I had planned events before, but never a whole week of events! Yet, I was able to push these daunting thoughts out of my mind by focusing on why it was so important to me. Last year I wrote a blog post about my experience on the March of the Living, a two-week trip to Poland and Israel where I walked through the concentration camps that still stand today. That trip instilled in me such a deep appreciation for my religion and desire to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten. That is why I decided to put all of my efforts into creating a meaningful week of Holocaust remembrance this year.

I think that this goal was definitely met. I worked with Hillel to organize many events throughout the week that focused on the untold stories and perspectives from the Holocaust. However, I think that the flag display that we set up on the Green generated the largest impact on our campus. Throughout the week we set up 1,100 colored flags outside Memorial Hall to signify the 11 million people who were murdered in the Holocaust. Each color represented a different minority group that was listed on yard signs by the flag display; we wanted to ensure that this memorial honored all victims, not just Jewish people. It felt amazing to hear students and faculty members tell me about how much they had learned from simply observing the flag display and how much meaning they had taken away from it. Walking by the flags on my way to my classes I would notice more and more people stopping to read the yard signs, taking a moment to think and process what they had just witnessed. There is no greater feeling than knowing that you have impacted someone else in a meaningful way.

That week I also learned that education and remembrance is the first step, but we also need to think about what we can do to prevent genocide like this from happening in the future. We haven’t done a very good job at this – places like Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur have all experienced some type of genocide since the Holocaust happened. It is a shame that humanity can create so much evil, but also that we can sit by and watch it happen without taking any action. I urge you to no longer be a bystander. Educate yourself, educate others, and take action, for there is no knowing what the future may hold if we don’t.

~Heather Brody

Is Some Internet Better Than No Internet?

As an American, I enjoy many rights. When you think about these rights, you probably jump straight to those mentioned in the Constitution, or the famous rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” in the Declaration of Independence. But in the twenty-first century, do people have the right to Internet access? Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg thinks so, and his latest project is addressing this topic.

The creation, entitled Internet.org, aims to “connect the two-thirds of the world that don’t have Internet access”, according to the website’s “About” section. A BBC article reports that the site would utilize a “zero-rating” policy, where telecommunications providers do not pass on the costs of handling data traffic onto the consumer. This process is not the same here in the U.S., and this policy would allow for hundreds of millions of poorer people in developing countries who have no Internet access at all to finally be able to connect.

Critics of this practice argue that it limits the amount of competition present on the site. Telecommunications providers that can’t afford to not pass data traffic costs onto consumers would be unable to access Internet.org. Zuckerberg’s response to these criticisms is that, “if someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have access than none at all.”

I would like to take a moment to reflect on this statement. The concept of the Digital Divide – or the gap between those who can afford to and have Internet access, and those who cannot afford it and do not have access – has been a topic that has been discussed a lot in my Digital Technology & Politics course. For me, this issue seems to be a no-brainer; in today’s day and age, Internet accessibility is increasingly becoming a right that everybody deserves to have. So many of the opportunities that I have would not be possible with the Internet. My college education would be poor because I wouldn’t have the ability to research topics or find information that I had questions about. I would be unable to vote because as an out-of-state college student, I am unable to get to my polling place on Election Day, and so I rely on the absentee ballot (whose application is, you guessed it, online). And finally, I would be unable to stay in touch with my family. The Internet allows me to share my life’s musings with those that I love, both across the United States as well as my relatives around the world. The Internet allows me to exercise my other rights, and I believe that this should not be an exclusive club that only a fraction of the world is able to enjoy.

But, the Internet access that I enjoy, and the Internet access that Internet.org will bring, are two different Internets. I can fortunately afford to access all of the Internet’s websites. Internet.org will only allow users to connect with sites that have the ability to not pass any costs onto the consumer. The number of sites that have the means to do this are very small, and I ask myself: is some access better than no access?

I’m going to end up agreeing with Zuckerberg on this. While it is not a perfect situation, millions of people will be able to tap into more of the Internet than they currently can. Additionally, as more time passes, more and more sites will have the ability and the resources to not have to pass any costs onto the users, which will allow more sites to join Internet.org.

I can confidently say that the Internet has influenced by life for the better. So many opportunities that I have had would not have been possible without the Internet, and I cannot wait to see what new comes from it. Innovations such as Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org will allow more people to exercise their inherent right to have access to all that the Internet has to offer. A right that, I believe, is absolutely essential to have in a twenty-first century world.

~Scott Eisenhart

The Law of Averages

The first time I remember receiving a genuine compliment, I was five years old. My neighbor told me I was really good at braiding hair (which I had been practicing for weeks on the heads of unsuspecting Barbie dolls). My neighbor was in no way related to me or otherwise obligated to bolster my kindergarten self-esteem. I knew that she meant what she said.

That’s the first time I remember thinking that I was really good at something. Something tangible. Something unique. Something that warranted honest compliments. I was a better-than-average braider of hair.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I’m slightly above average in a number of ways. I’m a pretty good stick-shift driver. I’m a gifted list-maker. I’m an expert orange peeler. But age has also brought with it a sense of inadequacy. There are days when I feel overwhelmingly average, when I wonder why I haven’t founded a non-profit yet or invested in the stock market. Days when I conclude that my life has no true direction. Days when I can sense my own anonymity, when I can feel my smallness, when I realize that despite my best efforts I am no more important than a speck of dust in this grand universe.

The truth of the matter is that I am exceptionally average. It’s not a statement of self-deprecation. It’s just a fact. There are seven billion people who live on this planet. To think that I am somehow above average would be to deny statistics altogether, to deny the greatness of thousands of millions of others that I will likely never meet.

I’m average. And there’s a pretty good chance you are too. You are also a speck of dust in this grand universe. That’s life. Part of being human is exercising imperfection, understanding that you can never be good at the summation of all talents, abilities, or skills. You are destined to be good at some things and bad at others. You will average out.

“Average”, however, is not to be confused with “inadequate”. Being average doesn’t make you a less gifted individual or a less productive member of society. It makes you flawed and it makes you interesting, but most importantly, it makes you human. You are one of seven billion other seemingly average souls, all of whom have strengths and weaknesses. I haven’t founded my own non-profit or invested in the stock market and my direction is lacking. But I can drive stick and make lists and peel oranges. I can braid hair. I can learn to accept the fact that there will be someone who is smarter than me or more charming than me or funnier than me. Because at the end of the day, they’re probably average too. And that’s life.

~Erin Dugan

The Madness of March

Simply put, March is a weird month. It is not really winter, and while technically spring, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The end of it is spring break, but it’s a few stressful weeks before getting there.

While I could surely do without all of the crazy weather and midterms, I would not be able to do with out March Madness. The three weeks of basketball, crazy upsets, bracket pools, and glory, what’s not to love?

I am obsessed with making tournament brackets. If I’m being completely honest, I made seven last year alone. Granted, they are not always the most successful. I have learned over the years not to put too much thought into my decisions. For instance, a few years ago, I made selections solely on the name and mascot of the school. The school with the more unique name and mascot always made it into the next round. So, schools like Gonzaga went far. Using this highly technical strategy, I somehow won my family’s bracket pool. However, last year, when I actually tried to make decisions based on the skills of the teams, I ended up coming in last place. And, I don’t like to lose.

So this year, I have changed my strategy. I tried to make smart, quick decisions. No over-thinking or lingering on a certain matchup, just picking what ever team stood out to me. Right now, my bracket is doing decently and I certainly hope it continues that way throughout the rest of the tournament. This year, I am not playing for anything but glory and that is certainly enough for me.

While I love brackets, my favorite part of the tournament is the upsets. Every year, there are teams that win against all odds. I love these upsets because they truly demonstrate that anything is possible. Nobody expects anything of these teams; few pick them to win in their bracket; they are truly underdogs. But somehow, they manage to play their hearts out and win. For me, there is nothing like watching the pure joy on the faces of the players as they win a game that nobody thought they could.

For instance, the Georgia State vs. Baylor game that happened the other day. Georgia State (the lower seeded team) won the game with a three pointer in the last 4 seconds. Not only was America surprised, but Georgia State’s own coach literally fell out of his chair. (If you have not watched a video of that ending, you should do it now).

March Madness is exciting, nerve-wracking, and by far the best part of March. These games prove that anything is possible, although I am hoping that the only outcomes are the ones that I predicted in my bracket.

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