Category: Ashley Bostwick (page 1 of 4)

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.

A Break from the Traditional Break

This past spring break, I decided to veer away from the sunny beaches of Florida and apply for a UDaB trip, which is UD’s alternative break program for those who are unfamiliar with the infamous acronym. Originally, when I applied for UDaB, I envisioned going halfway across the country to New Orleans, or even traveling somewhere outside of the United States. So when I found out I would be spending my highly anticipated spring break working with Habitat for Humanity in Vineland, New Jersey, I was pretty bummed that I would be staying the week in my home state. As the days leading up to the trip passed, I actually became less and less excited about going because I just could not fathom why everyone was so crazy about UDaB. Little did I know that the day we departed for Cumberland County would be the start of my absolute favorite days of college thus far.

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 11.21.08 AM The first time I saw the house that we would be working on for the week, I was a little disillusioned simply because it appeared almost finished from the outside. When I used to think of Habitat for Humanity, I would think of literally erecting a house from nothing within one week, not just putting the finishing touches on one that is already basically complete. After spending just ten minutes inside the house, I quickly realized that there is a lot of work that goes into the most miniscule of details. For instance, two other girls and I worked on one window frame for an entire afternoon! Although getting the measurements wrong one or two (or five) times was extremely frustrating, the outcome was something that made us prouder than any ‘A’ that we could have earned on even the most brutal of exams.

I have to admit, on the first day, as our three vans traveled just a measly hour across the Delaware border, I found myself wondering if I would even make any friends within the group of 19 students who were selected for the trip; everyone just seemed so quiet and reserved at first. However, by the end of the first night at our lodge, I’ve never seen a group of strangers have such an amazing time together. I have no idea how it happened, but the group just meshed so perfectly it was astounding. Needless to say, there were innumerable tears at the end of the week when we had to return to real life and split from our newfound group of tightknit friendship.

Not only did we return to UD with some pretty handy hard skills, but we also learned a lot about ourselves along the way. I honestly did not think I would even go near a power saw over the course of the trip because I’m usually too afraid to use machinery, but after just the first day I ended up being the one that my fellow volunteers would turn to in order to have a piece of wood or siding cut for them.  By the end of the week, I even rapped in front of the entire group (and if you know me, you know I would NEVER do that). The bottom line is, going on this UDaB Habitat for Humanity trip taught me not only how to be confident around others, but how to be confident internally, and that is something that cannot be taught in any classroom.

Navigating an Unknown Territory: The Residence Hall Kitchen

Whether it’s for my sorority, for a friend’s birthday, or just because my roommates and I are in the mood for chocolate chip cookies, I’ve had to resort to using the kitchen in my residence hall time and time again. While the actual kitchen itself is equipped with a full refrigerator, a stove, a sink, and an oven, none of the above is useful unless you have other kitchen necessities handy, including bowls, trays, and the like. If you’re anything like my friends and I, we bought next to nothing for the kitchen when we were shopping for college supplies since our residence hall requires us to purchase a meal plan. After much brainstorming and innumerable burnt cookies, I’ve come up with a few tips to help all of the students lacking a kitchen of their own. IMG_3048

Every time I want to make a cake or brownies, I only purchase the mix and somehow manage to completely forget about the oil and eggs that are necessary to make these baked goods actually come out the way they are supposed to. Once I’m back in my warm dorm there is no way I’m going to trek to the grocery store all over again, so I usually try the POD. To my surprise, they always seem to have just what I need. Although we typically think of the POD as just a place to buy Doritos or Oreos, it does carry most of the kitchen necessities that are easily forgotten.

After mixing all of the ingredients in a Tupperware container, it’s always a struggle finding something to actually bake the cookies on. Of course most of us don’t have a metal tray lying around in our dorm room, so we need an alternative. Aluminum foil, something that almost everyone has, works surprisingly well for baking cookies. The fact that aluminum foil doesn’t need to be washed in the tiny bathroom sink after it’s used is also a plus. I highly recommend this method.

While it seems like a feat to bake something decent in the residence hall kitchen, it’s not so difficult once you overcome the minor obstacles. Sometimes we all just need a warm late night snack to aid in our studying, so why not take advantage of the underrated kitchens that our residence halls have to offer?

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.

Send a Smile

 

When was the last time you received a letter in the mail? Perhaps it was on your birthday or around a holiday. Regardless of when it was, you can probably remember the last time because letters come so rarely. Even though it may not be a big deal to some people, when I see a letter in my mailbox I’m absolutely elated. Just knowing that someone took the time to physically write me a note makes my day.

What is it about letters that makes them so special? To me, seeing someone’s handwriting makes all the difference. Yes, we can customize font via email or add emojis to a text message, but thanks to the backspace key we never see the mistakes that the writer makes along the way. The scribbles and eraser marks that often come with a letter remind us that no one is perfect in communication and that reminder simply does not translate through technology.

Letters are a fantastic way to make sure to stay in touch with those who you do not have a chance to see very often in manner that is much more personal than writing on a Facebook wall. My best friend from middle school goes to school in Massachusetts and spends most of the year there, so we hardly see each other. Every once in a while we send each other surprise letters to keep each
other updated on our classes, our friends, and our lives in general. Seeing her handwriting makes me feel like we’re still close, even though we’re eight hours away from each other.

As a Communication major, I’ve learned that there is so much more to communicating than the actual words that we say. There are facial expressions, nonverbal messages, and body language cues that are conveyed each time we talk to someone face-to-face. While we certainly cannot replicate these additions to communication in letter writing, I like to think that handwriting comes with its own “body language”, from the curve of a “y” to the loop of a cursive “L” to the angle of a “k”. To me, handwritten letters tell a lot about the writer beyond the words without the writer even realizing it.

Texts and emails are deleted with the click of a button, but letters are a tangible reminder of how much someone cares. The next time you’re thinking of someone, sit down and write them a note. All it takes is a piece of paper, an envelope, and a stamp to make someone’s day so much brighter.

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