186 South College

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

Month: October 2013 (page 1 of 6)

Home Is Whenever I’m With Brew

In September of my freshman year at the University of Delaware, I received my first package. I was ecstatic when I got the email specifying times for package pickup, at the time an oddly lonely and somewhat out of place freshman, hoping for a signal from the homeland. My Aunt Sally had sent me a coffee mug. Covering the sides of the mug were images of my home state, red rock formations, a skier swiftly making his way down a mountain side, and “Utah” written where one bottom lip meets the outside. It was from Starbucks.

There are three things one must know about my godmother and Aunt: she is one of the most perfect representations of the term “Type A”, she has a very serious relationship with the infamous, controversial, world power known as Starbucks, and biology aside, we are the two most similar members of our family. We specify every item on our Christmas lists (size, color, retailer, item number). Any remotely competitive activity will bring out a very frightening side of our personality. We don’t understand emotions. Perfectly clean houses soothe us and spontaneity makes us anxious. Despite our best judgments, we still think perfection is attainable. We live for to-do lists, control, and coffee.

Under the supervision of my greatest mentor, I was exposed to the greatness of a mermaid symbol and paper cups. As embarrassing as it may be, I find the dark wood and the plush purple chairs stylish and oddly unique, the smell of Pike Place roast coffee and heavily processed baked goods delicious. However, the thing I love most about Starbucks is getting the chance to watch my Aunt Sally order, flipping her blond hair over the shoulder opposite of her briefcase, rewarding her regular barista at the franchise near her office and repeating her specifications for Starbucks employees from southern California to Connecticut. No matter where we are in the world, the time of day or the season, she orders a venti sugar-free vanilla soy latte, no foam, extra hot.

Most days of the year, I am far from my Aunt Sally. I can’t argue with her over the most mundane of topics, I can’t get her feedback on the organization of my Google calendar or the LSATs. I can’t make lists with her or shop for all things beige and black with her. I can’t go to Starbucks with her. I am far from home and far from the comfort of familiarity.

My Aunt’s decision to send me that coffee mug in my first tumultuous month away from home demonstrates her infinite wisdom and understanding. The mug, with its depiction of the landscape I know so well and the gift card tucked inside, served as a reminder of our solidarity and similarity. I took it as a symbol of her love and pride and I have poured coffee into it everyday since. It’s a daily dose of comfort, a reminder of my favorite relative, and a perfect, eye-catching receptacle for my favorite beverage.

 

Home isn’t always about sleeping in your own bed or being able to eat a home cooked meal. It’s about familiarity. It’s about waking up every morning and drinking from a mug that was a gift from someone who loves you, placing an order at a coffee shop that makes you smile because it reminds you of where you came from. In number of miles and hours of travel, I am very far from home. But when I drink coffee, I don’t feel that way. Home is wherever I have a Utah coffee mug. Home is the knowledge that no matter how far I wander, I will likely be able to find a Starbucks.

Make your Halloween Slave-Free

Have you ever heard the term “fair trade?” The UD International Justice Mission (IJM) club explained what fair trade products are at their Fair Trade Friday last week: “If a product is “fair trade certified,” it means that it features fair prices for the farmers, hired workers, artisans, and other producers; the workers on the farms, factories, or plantations that produce the good are subject to fair and safe labor conditions; the producers invest premiums in social development projects like youth scholarship programs; and there are no harmful agrochemicals in the product.”

So, why is this important? Well, you may not know this, but there are slaves all over the world today. Yes, slavery does still exist despite the fact that it is illegal. Modern-day slavery, also known as human trafficking, is when a person is coerced and forced by their trafficker to work in horrible conditions with little or no pay and no freedom. There are many different types of slavery, ranging from forced labor to sex trafficking. And it does not only occur in third world, poverty-stricken countries; there is human trafficking right here in the United States. It can really happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Fair trade certification helps ensure that people who are working to create different products are being treated fairly, not as slaves.

What can we do to stop this from happening? It may seem like there is not much we can do, but that is not true! In my opinion, the most important action to take is education. There are a lot of people who are not aware that slavery still exists and it is our job to spread the word and shine a light on this issue.

“But how can I do that, Heather?” I’m glad you asked my lovely reader! I have something simple that you can do to educate others this Halloween! The Equal Exchange website sells mini fair trade chocolates that you can hand out to trick-or-treaters this Halloween. If they ask about the chocolate, you can explain to them the importance of fair trade products! Fair trade chocolate is also delicious, so everybody wins here!

So, I hope you are up to my challenge this Halloween! If you are interested in learning more about human trafficking, educating other students on campus, and attempting to make the University of Delaware serve more fair trade certified products, then join the UD chapter of the IJM! To get involved, like us on Facebook at IJMatUD and follow us on Twitter at @IJMatUD.

If you see any of the following labels on a product, then it is fair trade certified!

~Heather Brody

 

What the Kids are up to Today (Social Media)

Our generation has been called, among other titles, “the social media generation.” It’s hard to dispute this label, because most of us spent a good deal of time with accounts on social networking sites in our formative teenage years. However, the social media landscape seems to have shifted, and here’s what I think about the three dominant social networks right now.

Facebook:

Maybe it’s just me projecting my own hopes, but I feel that as we grow up, we start to realize that it’s not beneficial to spend so much time crafting a purposefully modified version of ourselves. We realize it’s equally detrimental to form a perception of others based on their online profiles, rather than their real-life personalities. To Mark Zuckerberg and the vast majority of college students who use Facebook, I hope this doesn’t offend. I’m currently off Facebook, but I’ll admit I haven’t deleted my profile, just deactivated it. I guess that makes me a hypocrite! And don’t get me wrong, I think Facebook can be a great medium for keeping in touch with friends, planning events, advertising, etc. However, on the person-to-person level, I do feel like Facebook has become a social network dominated by proclaimed achievements, one that makes it too easy for users (myself included) to sit and criticize people they knew years ago in high school. Wow, that rant made me feel old.

Twitter:

I have mixed feelings about Twitter. I personally don’t tweet very often- maybe once a week, and usually that is a retweet of something I found important and funny. I actually prefer to use it to follow interesting people, entertainers, news sources, etc. It’s a great forum for, say, the rapper Macklemore to post information about his new music videos, concert tickets, appearances, and more.

However, Twitter makes it easy to post thoughts instantly, which has the ability to offend people or make the tweeters themselves look thoughtless. Also, while Twitter is a useful way to inform the public about stories as information becomes available, I do think it has increased the media’s tendency to report on stories before they even have the basic facts, out of an urge to be the first to “break the story.” This really damages their credibility.

Instagram:

My inspiration for this post came from a conversation with a friend. He’s just a year older than me, and we were discussing how people our age generally still have Facebook profiles, but don’t use them nearly as much as they used to. Then he told me that of the freshman high school boys he leads in a church group, just 2 of 15 have a Facebook profile at all – their preferred social network is instead Instagram. I found this really interesting, especially since I just set up my own Instagram account a few months ago. I personally prefer this social media site to all others because it is simpler and less cluttered with advertisements, and visually it’s more appealing to look at photographs (many enhanced with the infamous filters) than photographs amidst tons of text. Of course, there’s the fact that hardly anyone posts a photo depicting something awful that happened to them that day or the particularly unappetizing meal they had for dinner. In my opinion, social media will always lack authenticity, but then there are posts like these that make you realize its ability to portray almost any aspect of the human experience:

~Ruby Harrington

Halfway There

74,880. That is (approximately) how many minutes I have been in Spain. For those of you who don’t feel like doing the math or don’t have a calculator handy, that amounts to 52 days.  And, having been here for 52 days, I am quickly approaching the halfway point to my study abroad experience. After an initial rough adjustment to a new way of life, the time has been flying. I cannot believe that my experience is almost half over, but I am very satisfied with what I have experienced and learned in the last 52 days.

First and foremost, I am proud of the improvement of my Spanish abilities. Now, I can fully understand my host mother and there are a lot less blank looks (on my part) at the dinner table. Additionally, the mealtime conversations have thankfully gotten much less awkward, I even find myself thinking in Spanish a large majority of the time.

A view of the city of Toledo

I am thankful for the many experiences that I have had over the past 52 days. I have had the chance to familiarize myself with the city of Granada through long walks and exploring countless museums. I have also travelled to the beaches of Portugal and spent time soaking up the sun and surveying the unique grottoes that line the shores of the Atlantic. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Madrid and Toledo. In these cities, I delved deeper into the culture of Spain by visiting the royal palace, spending time in art museums, and enjoying authentic Spanish food. Perhaps my favorite cultural experience was attending a Real Madrid soccer game. It was an incredible experience to witness such passion for soccer firsthand!

But perhaps the most important thing that I have learned over the past 7 weeks is the importance of time. First and foremost, I have learned how imperative it is to budget time. With homework, classes, traveling and wanting to make the most out of this experience, time management is essential. For me, this means watching less online television. But, I will have plenty of time over winter session to catch up!

I have also learned how fast time flies. It seems crazy to me that my time in Europe is half over. While I do miss many things about home (ice cream, my bed, giving tours at UD, fall, and my family and friends), I know that I will be home before I know it. I am looking forward to the next 57 days (82,080 minutes, in case you were curious) and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for me! So while the next two months will be busy, I know that I will have many great stories to tell and pictures to show when I return home in December.

~Rebecca Jaeger

How UD Transformed Me into a Spanish Enthusiast

Spanish: you know it exists, and you’ve most likely heard it at least once in your life.  You might even be able to rattle off some words.  Hola, taco, and ¡gooooolllll! may be part of your vocabulary.  But knowing how to read it, write it, speak it, or even understand it is a whole different story.  When I first came to UD, I had taken high school Spanish, but I really didn’t understand much about the language.  However, I am slowly building up my confidence and increasing my comprehension of the structure of the language as well as improving my fluency.  This transformation was initially catalyzed by the quality of the Foreign Languages Department, but kicked into high gear by my participation in the Spanish Language Partners program.  Run by UD’s English Language Institute, the program paired me up with a Colombian girl to help her better understand the English language and American culture.

Initially, I thought I could handle the language barrier.  However, once the conversation between her and I began, I quickly became overwhelmed.  “Should I use the subjunctive form, or the present perfect form?”, “How do I conjugate that verb again?”, and “Oh no, how do you say that word in Spanish?” were just some of the thoughts that were racing through my head.  Within a short while, the communication between us broke down, and we were at a stalemate.  I couldn’t understand her, and she couldn’t understand me.  I was about to call it quits when an idea popped into my head: ¿Por qué no los dos? (Why not both?).  She knew broken English, and I knew broken Spanish.  If we combined them, perhaps we could communicate.

Cautiously, I started by using only the most basic vocabulary from both languages and she responded in a similar manner.  Soon enough, we had broken through the initial stalemate, and were conversing quite efficiently.  This encounter taught me a valuable life skill: if you’re in a pinch and need to communicate a basic phrase, blending the two languages is a completely doable option.

Scott with his Spanish Language Partners; they’ve learned so much from each other!

Don’t think that it is impossible for you to learn a new language, or even part of one.  You can utilize certain vernacular dialects and “unofficial” methods of communicating such as Spanglish or you can take some foreign language courses provided by UD.  The Foreign Languages Department professors are quite knowledgeable and have a gift for conveying the potentially difficult grammar rules and subtle idiosyncrasies of a foreign language to students in a presentable and easy-to-understand manner.

I initially planned on only taking enough foreign language courses to satisfy the university breadth requirements.  Now, I’m a declared Spanish minor, and I am about to pack my bags and fly to sunny, Spanish-speaking Costa Rica for my first experience with studying abroad this winter.  I love the Spanish language, and I cannot wait to see what amazing opportunities it will hold for me in the future.

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