186 South College

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

Month: January 2014 (page 1 of 3)

Why D.C. is Cooler Than You Think

I spent the month of January in Washington, D.C. Not Spain or Chile or Tanzania. Washington D.C.


On paper, my winter session trip selection seems rather lame. I didn’t perfect a foreign language or add any new vaccines to my medical record. I didn’t visit sacred tribal lands or ancient temples. I was literally 90 minutes from campus.

In reality however, D.C. was awesome. Just. Awesome. After spending nearly a month in such a metropolis, I have come to the conclusion that our nation’s capital is entirely underrated and to remedy this situation, I have composed a list.

photo-3Why D.C. is Cooler Than You Think it is: A List

  1. Free stuff. All of the Smithsonian museums (the Air and Space Museum, the American History Museum, the Portrait Gallery, the ever-exciting Postal Museum) are free. So is the National Zoo. So are all of the monuments. Essentially, it’s a poor college student’s paradise. You can spend all day at a mall without ever extracting your wallet.
  2. Senate and House hearings. If you are willing to have your bag scanned and enter through a metal detector, you can go to any open hearing in the Senate or the House. I know- it’s nerdy, but if you like politics or want to be able to say something like “Yes, John McCain looks quite old in real life,” then you really should attend. Hearing schedules are available online and based on my personal experience, anything that involves global warming is sure to be highly entertaining.
  3. Food. My time in D.C. was characterized by a great deal of food-oriented gluttony. I regret nothing. In Georgetown, the desserts are on point. We hit Baked and Wired for punny and mouthwatering brownies and cupcakes; Pie Sisters for pie (obviously); and Olivia Macaroon for you guessed it, macaroons. 8th Street, near the Eastern Market metro stop, is a haven for new-American cuisine, bakeries, and international delights like Thai and Cuban food. And anyone who knows anything eats at Good Stuff Eatery, home of the greatest cholesterol-raising gourmet burgers, milkshakes, and French fries. My one universal piece of advice for eating is to do it with friends. That way, you can share (take food off their plates) in order to sample everything a certain restaurant is known for.
  4. Bag taxes. When I realized that this was a thing in the District of Columbia, my hippie heart rejoiced. D.C. charges you $0.05 for every plastic bag you use when you buy groceries, nail polish remover, clothing, anything with a price tag, encouraging citizens to utilize reusable bags for all of their shopping excursions. In my personal opinion, it’s a brilliant source of revenue.
  5. Young people. Not to dismiss my elders, but D.C. is home to a plethora of young folks from every area of the country. Jobs on “The Hill” are high stress and high energy, meaning that if you aren’t an actual Senator or Representative, you are likely to be under the age of 35. If you can hide any socially awkward tendencies for at least the first two hours after an introduction, you might make a friend.

Erin Dugan

No, I Do NOT Want to Build a Snowman: A Review of Disney’s Frozen

Your friends won’t stop singing the same songs over and over again. Your Facebook newsfeed is filled with links and statuses about some animated snowman. That’s right, Disney came out with a new movie. I am a huge Disney fan, so once I heard about their newest animated film, Frozen, which was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, I just HAD to see it! However, once the movie ended and the lights turned on, I felt… disappointed. Now, hear me out! I do not want to upset anyone! Like I said, I love Disney. However, I felt that Frozen did not live up to all the hype that had been generated around it.Frozen

First of all, I thought the movie was very rushed. The story and characters need time to grow and develop! I understand that it is a movie and it is supposed to be relatively short, but I felt like other Disney movies were less rushed than Frozen was.

I also felt like some characters should have had larger roles.

  • First, I thought the movie should have focused more on Elsa than Anna. Anna didn’t really do anything except find her sister and fall in love with some guy! It would have been more interesting to see Elsa learning to control her powers and empower herself.
  • Next, there were the trolls, who were funny, adorable, and barely in the movie. The trolls are the only characters in the movie who understand Elsa’s powers and could have helped her control them. I felt like making the trolls such minor characters was definitely a missed opportunity.
  • Finally, the villain, Hans, who Anna falls in love with in one night, was a bit disappointing. We discover that he is evil only at the end of the movie (which really wasn’t that surprising), so he really does not even have a chance to do much evil! I felt like he should have been more prominent in the movie, being the evil villain.

My last note is about the animation. I did not notice this personally, but I have heard people complain that the animation was sloppy at some points. One thing I love about Disney is the attention to detail that is shown in each film. In Disney’s Brave, the animators worked so hard just to make Merida’s hair perfect! There should have been an equal amount of effort put into Frozen’s animation; every detail should be perfect. An animated movie should not have problems with the actual animation.

Hopefully I haven’t made anyone too angry… There were aspects of the movie that I really liked, so I want to touch on that as well.

  • First of all, I loved Elsa’s character. She was awesome, not only because of her ice powers, but also because she was a strong, independent woman who cared for her family and kingdom so much that she hid her true self in order to protect them. I also loved how she told Anna that she couldn’t marry a man that she just met the same night. Thank you, Disney!
  • Next, while there were some sloppy animation errors, there were parts in the animation that really impressed me, like the gorgeous ice castle that Elsa creates. You could see the detail in each icicle, which really showed how much effort was put into creating the ice castle.
  • Also, while some songs were a bit forgettable, I loved the song “Let It Go.” Idina Menzel, who plays Elsa, has such a beautiful voice and the song was very catchy and empowering. It was so great to see Elsa letting go and finally feeling free.
  • Finally, there were moments in Frozen that were actually pretty funny. I really appreciated those bits of humor sprinkled throughout the movie, especially with Olaf the talking snowman.

So, those were my thoughts on Disney’s Frozen! I will forever be a Disney lover, and cannot wait for what movies they will create in the future.

Mi Casa es Su Casa: Living with a Host Family

For those of you who don’t know, I’m currently studying abroad at the Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile. I can’t even put into words how amazing my trip has been so far, from the cute cafés on every street corner, to the hustle and bustle of city life, to the picture-perfect view of the Andes from just about anywhere. All breathtaking scenery aside, one of my favorite aspects of studying abroad is the opportunity to live with a Chilean host family.

My host mother’s name is Enriqueta and she is hands-down the sweetest little lady I have ever met. Each morning she calls us to the breakfast table where she’s set out cereal, assorted fruit, crackers with homemade strawberry jam, and tea. She always explains situations or events to us in terms that we can understand, but if we ever have a problem she readily whips out a dictionary to make sure that we are never at a loss for words.

A glimpse inside my Chilean home.

A glimpse inside my Chilean home.

While I have very little to complain about regarding my living situation in Chile, there are a few things that took some getting used to. The way Chileans live in general is very different than Americans for a variety of reasons, especially concerning the amount of people in one house. Right now there are eight people sharing one bathroom, so I think it’s safe to say that the quarters are pretty close. Also, you can’t just turn on hot water here. There is a big white box above the kitchen sink that we have to insert a match into in order to light an unidentified object on fire. Then we turn a knob for precisely fifteen seconds and this somehow brings about hot water. When in a foreign country, sometimes it’s better to just do things rather than to ask why.

I personally prefer living with a host family rather than in a hotel for a variety of reasons, but the most important of all is the fact that I have to use Spanish to communicate whether I like it or not. I’m very shy when it comes to speaking Spanish, so I think it’s beneficial to be forced into speaking the language in order to talk to my host family. Other than a few random English words here and there, my family speaks only Spanish, therefore I have no choice but to improve; that is why I am in Chile, after all.

For anyone who is on the fence about applying to study abroad, my advice to you is to go for it! Hey, it doesn’t hurt to be sitting outside in 85 degree weather while Newark is bracing itself against a massive snowstorm! Living in a foreign country for a month (or more) is an opportunity that you will probably never have again after college, so take advantage of it while it’s at your fingertips.

When Panama Gives You Papaya…Then You Eat the Papaya

Context regarding the title: well, I’m in Panama. And almost every morning since my arrival on January 5th, my host mom has given me and my roommate papaya for breakfast. I had never tasted papaya before this trip, but I thought I would like it, being the fruit connoisseur that I am. The first morning that I tasted papaya, I detected a slight cat-food flavor (no, I wouldn’t know exactly, but it did have a strange aftertaste and is the color of salmon). I now find the taste to be better than I originally anticipated – kind of like my experience so far in Panama. At first, I had no idea what to think.

I wrote a draft of this blog twice already, first while on a break from classes at the Universidad Technológica de Panamá. The draft was on actual lined paper, scribbled out in pencil. Then I read over my writing…and realized that I absolutely had to start over from scratch. I physically and metaphorically crumpled those two pages up into a tiny ball and threw them in the trash.

Here’s the thing: I’m studying abroad in Panama, right? You know, Panama: the land of the infamous canal? Well, as a result, I’m sure the expectations associated with a post about my experiences thus far involve wide-eyed, travelling wonder. Umm…not exactly.

The problem, which is occurring yet again even in this third draft, is that I’m trying to strike the right tone. For the sake of complete honesty, my trip has been a series of ups and downs. So, yeah, there have been wonderfully positive experiences thus far…but there have also been some not-so-perfect things.

In defense of anyone who hesitates before describing a previous study abroad experience: I believe that there is a stigma associated with anyone who voices that he/she did not absolutely love his/her time abroad. I think that travelers everywhere should be allowed to voice their candid opinions and stories, whether amazing or not-so-amazing.

Pros so far:

(1) The beaches are breathtaking.

(2) The Panama Canal really is all that it’s cracked up to be. Side note: this is the 100-year anniversary of the Panama Canal. (You go, Panama Canal.)

My real, in-the flesh, sloth buddy.

My real, in-the flesh, sloth buddy.

(3) I saw a sloth. (On an emotional scale, I was an eleven.)

(4) I think that my Spanish is improving slowly but steadily (very turtle-like if this was a tortoise and the hare type race), which was the whole aim of this trip.

A few different things:

(1) The lack of AC in 90-plus degree weather is still unfamiliar. As are the cold showers – hot water does not exist in my host home.

(2) This is a big one: I wish the people were friendlier. Every Panamanian outside of my professors and host mom seems to dislike Americans with a strong passion, as evidenced by their frequent, cold stares and constant use of the not-so-nice term, “gringo/a.” I also suspect that it doesn’t help that Panama /U.S. relations have a somewhat bloody history, with Panamanian university students killed at the hands of the U.S. soldiers in the 1960’s. My group was in Panamá for the national day honoring those murders. Awkward.

With two full weeks left, I’m most looking forward to Bocas Del Toro, which is rumored to be a gorgeous-beyond-belief travel destination. Who knows what those next two weeks will have in store? I’m optimistic that the next 17 or so days will be filled with more interesting, eye-opening cultural experiences. And maybe more sloths. And definitely more papaya.

“No Name-Calling”

Today is a special day. For some, today marks a break from a grueling 8-hour workday or a four-hour long winter session class. For those less fortunate, stuck at home for the endless wintery abyss that is winter session, today marks an extra hustle and bustle as parents who are normally out at work interrupt your seventeen-hour marathon of The Office. Whether you’re enjoying a relaxing day curled up by the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa or surviving a house that is entirely too overcrowded for a Monday morning, keep in mind the real reason for the season (or, rather, day): Martin Luther King Jr.

All throughout our childhood, we’ve been taught to play nice. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had school assemblies on tolerance, guest speakers who spoke out against racism and sexism, and enough anti-bullying public service announcements to make me start to seriously question Hillary Duff’s career aspirations. We were told that everyone is important and deserves respect. We were taught that being a bystander to hate is just as awful as enacting hate itself, that it’s mankind’s responsibility to rise up and speak out against bigotry and prejudice, whether it be through institutionalized racism or a bully in a middle school hallway. We had these lessons drilled into us hour after hour, day after day, and I just have to wonder: did they stick?

words-can-hurtI was out and about on campus for only about twenty-five minutes today. In that time, I overheard multiple derogatory terms used by passerby over eighty times. It has become a part of our vernacular, girls and guys alike, to tear down those who aren’t afraid to express their opinions or who are comfortable enough with themselves to love freely. Somehow, despite every lesson that we have been taught, misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia have become critical to our daily lives. And it needs to end.

Now, it’s important to remember that nobody’s perfect. Even the best of us occasionally fall prey to the perverse allures of petty insults and talking behind people’s backs, and that’s to be expected. This isn’t a problem that’s limited to UD, either. Our generation has a duty to ourselves to learn from our parents’ and grandparents’ mistakes and stand up to put a stop to such rampant bigotry. We have to help curb hate.

So where do we start? How can we rebel against prejudices that are so deeply ingrained in our societies and in ourselves? This isn’t something that can be eradicated overnight, or even in a lifetime, but if we never try, nothing will ever change.

I’m asking each and every one of you to join me in a pledge. Today marks the beginning of “No Name-Calling Week” by GLSEN. For this week, I will not use any derogatory language or slurs, nor will I tolerate my friends using them. I will be a model of what I hope our world will one day become, and I will contribute to the creation of a safer society. Stand with me this Martin Luther King Jr. day and continue the fight against bigotry and intolerance. Fight for our future.

(For more information on GLSEN’s “No Name-Calling Week,” please visit: http://glsen.org/nonamecallingweek/planning-resources)

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