Stress Free Living

With finals over and winter break finally here it feels good to just sit back and relax. However while sitting back and relaxing, my mind keeps going to South Africa and how soon our adventure begins! In the past couple of weeks due to my busy final schedule I have not had a chance to write about the new things that have arose in the topic of South Africa.

First, we received our partners for the week! My wonderful partner is Jessica Patel! The cool thing about this is Jess and I went on a previous service trip together to North Carolina. There we worked with Chatham Habitat for Humanity. The trip allowed us to give back to a community and brought us closer together. Another interesting fact is that we are in the same sorority- Alpha Delta Pi! I am so excited to work with her at the Holiday Camp and to meet our campers for the week. It will be interesting to see how this trip brings us together and of course to see how the campers impact our lives.

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Secondly, we received the itinerary or “the bible” for the two weeks we are spending in South Africa. This is what really got me excited about the upcoming trip. Knowing exactly what we have in store for us has my imagination running wild. However, what I am still most excited about is meeting the campers we are going to be working with for the week. I have questions all throughout my mind such as “Are they going to like me?” “Will they open up to me?”. I really hope that my questions all turn into realities of truth!

Although these questions run through my mind I still cannot wait to board the plane on January 4th. I am excited to be home for winter break and grateful to spend time with my family and friends but on the same hand I just can’t wait to be in South Africa!

Hope to see you all there as you join our journey!

Giving the Greatest Gift of All

The snow is piling up on my lawn, and people are counting down how many shopping days are left before Christmas. It’s crazy to think that it is already this time of year again, but I’m not complaining.

I refuse to buy winter coats, snow boots or mittens thick enough to face the New England winter. I hate the cold, even though I have an incredible tolerance of it.

Despite that, this time of year is one of my favorites because, at least for me, it is a reminder of what matters — love, honesty and selflessness. The temperature doesn’t change how you should feel.

Though sometimes it is hard to do, the wintery atmosphere reminds us the value of opening ourselves up to feel love and to be generous in our sharing of it. We all face our own hesitancies when it comes down to being vulnerable, but always, the rewards outweighs the risk.

nelson-mandela-1I was reminded of this after Nelson Mandela’s passing. He changed so much with love. In the face of pain that I will never know, Mandela kept a mantra of peace. To the people who had so wronged him and the people of South Africa, he did not show a cold heart, a vengeful one looking to get even. He showed love and compassion.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”   — Nelson Mandela

We are closer than ever to seeing the places Mandela fought for equality, and on our itinerary is a trip to Robben Island. This means more with each passing day.

Mandela’s death impacted me more than I ever thought it would. This semester was spent learning about the culture of South Africa and its history, and it is impossible to learn about such things without learning about Nelson Mandela. To know that people like him exist in this world is a relief. With the news covering wars and shootings at the mall, often times, I think how it could be me in uniform or holding a shopping bag to witness the worst of humankind. It can be anyone.

But now, because of Nelson Mandela and what I have learned before this trip, I realized that the peacemaker can also be anyone. One of the greatest messages Mandela left with the world is that anyone is capable of tolerance. Anyone can give peace, you just need to choose it. It is easier for the heart to love, but in times of pain, the ability to do so becomes harder yet more needed.

I’ve done my best to take this in my daily life. If I, and others can take a breath to slow the world down and to show love when it would be easier to lash out, Mandela and the other peaceful minds of our time will live on.

In the face of adversity, we must love. Inner peace reflects outward, and anger only creates a cycle of hatred that can never be beaten with more hatred.

And as our trip becomes more of a reality and less of a dream, I am thankful for the reminder that the most important present that can be given or received is too large to fit in any gift bag.

 
 

A Lot To Be Thankful For…

Hi again!

It’s that time of year where people look at their lives and think about what they are thankful for. I have family visiting, gathering around the dinner table for Thanksgiving and birthdays, engagement announcements, and soon enough Christmas! The winter has always been the craziest time of year for my family so to be able to sit down and see everyone in my family, healthy and together let’s me realize how lucky I truly am. My parents might be separated and we have had some family members move away but it is always this time of year when we come together and able to catch up and enjoy the holidays in each other’s company.

In preparation for this trip, I have come to realize just how much I have to be grateful for.
First off, the most obvious, I go to a school where going to South Africa and doing what we are doing, helping the people we are, is something possible. But when learning the history and culture of the country, and the conditions of the lives of the kids we will be meeting, there are so many more things I have thought about and started to appreciate.
We have been doing fundraisers, meetings, spending a couple hours a week with each other. After the meetings some of the girls go get food to hang out and talk about some of the things that we hope to happen or want to experience while we are there. I have never been in a group of people that have clicked so quickly and have gotten along so well.  I have come to get to know everyone that I will be sharing such an amazing experience and it is strange to think that I didn’t know some of these people I now consider such good friends. I am so happy to share with them such an amazing experience that was able to bring us all together.
The semester has come to a close and we are less than 3 weeks away from departure. I have friends graduating early, friends getting job offers for next year, and friends who have already graduated visiting me and telling me how much they love what they are doing. Since my sophomore year, I have come to a self-realization that I really have no idea what I am going to do. I have always loved traveling and have had the dream for as long as I can remember to travel Europe using trains and bikes with nothing but a backpack. But then I have always wanted to teach English, it didn’t matter where or how old but literature has always been something to hold my attention and has inspired my love of reading. I have always had such dedicated teachers that have inspired me to take my love for literature and wanting to be a teacher somewhere else, somewhere that needs it more. But my passion of soccer just doesn’t seem to be something that dims once my career at Quinnipiac is over. So where do I go from there?
I’ve sat down over the past year or so and realized what I want to do. I plan on working and saving up for a couple of months after I graduate and going to Europe and do the trip that I have always wanted to go on- but with a little twist. With every country I go to, I want to find a women’s soccer team to train with, hoping they like the player I am and if not, finding an international school I would be able to teach at whether it being the english language or literature. I have mapped out the countries I plan on going to, talking to friends that I have in many of them and talking about my chances or possibly renting their couch for a couple of days.
I have no idea of how I am going to do it but that’s when Peter gave us an interesting article about a man who experiences his life as fully as he can and reflects back on his 20s. What I took from it is the why and not the how. I want to see the world and try to help people along the way. From the traveling I have done so far, the community service, and what I am expecting to get out of this upcoming trip – I have grown so much and all of it has shaped the person I am. I want these experiences to help me to continue to grow and evolve the person I hope to become. And my biggest move yet, what I hope influences me the most, starts January 4th.
Until then,
Taylor

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” Nelson Mandela

This Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for all that I have. Going on this trip in less than a month has reminded me to reflect on how lucky I am to have all the opportunities I do. I attend a great school, have supportive friends and family, and am very fortunate to be going on this trip to South Africa. My dad always tells me that I am lucky where it counts, and he is absolutely right. When thinking about the services we will be providing for the children in South Africa, it makes me appreciate the little things that I am fortunate to have. I am very lucky, even though at times when I may have my bad days, I have to remember I have so much to be grateful for.

 With our trip being only a month away, I am becoming more excited than ever. Last meeting, Peter assigned us to read an influential article written by Adam Braun who is the founder of Pencils of Promise, a non-profit organization. The article was about what he learned in his twenties. Reading this article, I realized how much his words relate to my experiences that I encounter in my twenties. As we are so close to embarking on this journey, it isn’t just an educational trip that can help land you a job one day, it is something that we are doing in hope to change the world. Going on this trip means to set goals and achieve them as we make an impact on the world and change ourselves for the better. This trip is just going to be the beginning of ways I make a change in the world. It isn’t just a trip that I blog about and forget about once its over, it’s something that I hope to carry on and spread awareness when I return back from the trip.

Adam wrote,

No matter how hard I worked, or how far I traveled, I always wanted more”.

This is the feeling I know I am going to experience when I get back from South Africa. After fundraising for months to reach our goal of $4,000.00, traveled 16+ hours and did an incredible service for those in need, there are still so many more issues that need to be addressed in this world. After successfully reaching so many goals, I know how capable I am to make more of a change in the world.

nelson-mandelaA year ago I could never imagine myself in the position I am in now; a month away from a changing lives in South Africa. But as Nelson Mandela once said, “it always seems impossible until its done”. And here I am, making the thought I once thought as impossible, possible.

Counting down

Well as Thanksgiving passes, it is one less event for me to countdown from until we begin on our adventure. A few classes, a few exams and then I am on a plane home to New Zealand. I will get acclimatized in the 16 days that I am home and then I will hop back on a plane to the East coast of the United States to then fly out a day and a half later to South Africa. I wouldn’t say that’s a little bit of travel, but it takes me places I want to go, so I’m not complaining.

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Over Thanksgiving break, I watched Invictus. What a movie it is! Very inspirational and insightful into the effect rugby had on the country and it was just amazing to see the way that Nelson Mandela went about things when he began his reign as President of South Africa. The one thing that stood out to me was the breaking down of boundaries and making whites and blacks work together because that was now the way it was and it was the way forward for the country. There are still many of these boundaries in current society, not just racial, and this was a great example of forcing people to get over boundaries and become better people.

At the last meeting, we saw most of the equipment and gear that we are planning to take to these children, and the idea that Peter gave us for this blog was to talk about something we are grateful for, however, it is them that are going to feel grateful for all of the materials we give. We also have to look at all the materials and think to ourselves that we ourselves are grateful to have such easy access to all of these materials.

It will be an experience like no other, and the best part about this experience is we are getting to know the country and its history before seeing it, so we understand what we see once we are there. My Dad is a tour guide in New Zealand and his slogan is “Know the country, rather than just see it”. And this is exactly what we are doing, getting to know the country by immersing ourselves in the thick of it.

Next time you hear from me, the experience will be less than a few days away and the excitement and nerves will certainly show.

I just cant wait.
Erik

“See More, Do More, Become More”

Time is a scary thing and as each of us gets older, it seems to go by faster than we could have ever imagined.  Each and every one of you can probably agree with that.

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Blessed to attend this absolutely perfect university!

I was always told to “enjoy my four years of college…they go fast but they’re the most amazing four years of your life!”  I could never wrap my head around why every single person I ran into said the same thing…until I actually went.

I spent almost the entire month prior to my freshman year here at Quinnipiac having panic attacks and mental breakdowns, thinking I couldn’t do it.  I was reassured by friends and family on nearly a daily basis that I was going to be fine and that when I get there, I’m not going to want to leave.

Well…they were right…here I am, a senior at QU wishing I could turn back the hands of time and start over as a freshman.  Not because I would change anything…everything that has happened to me these past few years happened for a reason.  It is simply just because I do not want it to end.

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Having been an active Division 1 athlete for three years, I had to make a lot of sacrifices.  My social life was not like the rest of the Quinnipiac population and I often times found myself struggling to catch up on class materials that I missed due to traveling.  There have been many times where I think back to myself and wonder what it would have been like if I never played field hockey.  Would I have gone to a different school? (Probably…$$$) Would I have gotten to become friends with others just like the ones I’m friends with now? Would my grades be better?

All my life, my time was dedicated to athletics and excelling in them.  While many others got to hang out and have a huge get together after prom, I went home and went to bed because I had to be up for practice in the morning.  While fellow classmates discussed getting together to study for tomorrow’s huge exam I had to opt out because I had some sort of practice to go to and then I had to go do “this,” “that,” and “the other thing.”

I never had a job throughout high school. Some may look at that as lazy or unmotivated, but to be honest, if half the kids my age were doing everything I was at the time, they wouldn’t have had a job either.  My parents and I came to the agreement that if I did all I could in order to gain an athletic scholarship to a university, then I would not have to get a job.  That is exactly what I did. I worked my butt off all throughout high school and went out to a recruiting showcase in Palm Springs, California and came home to a ton of letters from interested coaches-  one of which was Quinnipiac University. I decided to visit QU and meet with the coaching staff.  Coming out of that meeting was as if the stars just all aligned and everything made perfect sense.  QU was the place for me. I knew it the second I stepped on to campus.  The coaches offered me a jaw-dropping scholarship and at that moment I couldn’t help but be thankful for all the pain, misery, and hard work that I had gone through nearly my entire life.

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So why did I just rant on and on and on about my life prior to QU? The answer is simple…from a young age, without knowing it, I was paving a road to success for myself.  When I look back on it today I honestly don’t know how I had the mental or physical capacity to do all that I did, but at the same time I am so fortunate to have done so.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to look back on past years and think to myself, “I wonder if my life would be different had I not been an athlete”?

Athletes tend to relate many things in regards to life back to their sports.  The average person may not quite understand why we do it…but we know perfectly well why.  We have developed from children to young adults WAY faster than any other simply because of the the things we go through.  We learn to stay poised at a young age.  We develop a better sense of respect (as we have coaches that more often than not scare the crap out of us).  We learn how to work with others and how to confront one another when necessary.  Going in for individual meetings with the coaching staff has shaped us to grow as confident, independent women (or men).  These settings have also prepared us for future interviews with companies.

I don’t know about others, but going in for a meeting with my coaches was one of the things I hated most.  I found myself crying mid meeting and shaking out of sheer nervousness. I look back on them now, however, and all I can do is thank my coaches for making us do that as I do not think it is possible for me to meet anyone more intimidating in my life.  I am hopeful that any other meeting or interview I have in the future will be a lot easier for me because of this.

People may read this and think “Jeeze, I’m not an athlete, but I developed the same way.” I’m going to be completely honest when I say this…YOU MOST DEFINITELY DID NOT! And I’m sorry if anyone took that offensively, but the way athletes live their lives is completely different than anyone else…typically a lot more difficult too.

Anyways, this leads me to our trip that is creeping up on us! When I go to South Africa, I don’t want to be there just to say I went.  I don’t want to be there because someone told me it would be a good thing to do.  I want to be there for myself and my personal well being.  I want to help people.  I want to make a difference in the lives of others…but most importantly, I want to look back on this journey and have no regrets.  If I find myself 10 years from now thinking back to this trip and beating myself up over something I may have missed out on while there, I probably won’t be able to let it go…at least for a long time.

For many, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but I hope that this is just the beginning of the end for me.  I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunities life has given me and the amazing people that surround me each and every day.  I would not be half the person I am without the influencers I’ve had throughout my life and I hope that as the years go on I will continue to develop into a powerful, heartfelt woman.

…But on a more “serious” note…DO I REALLY HAVE TO GRADUATE IN MAY?! 😦

Britt : )

QU South Africa Students Print Shirts for Vaatjie Holiday Camp (PHOTOS & VIDEOS)

On Saturday, December 7, 2013, the QU South Africa Alternative Winter Break students took a break from studying for finals to screen print close to 250 t-shirts for the QU South Africa Vaatjie Holiday Camp.

A special THANK YOU to Ted Zuse from Zuse in Guilford, CT for allowing us to make the t-shirts, donating the ink, and all of your help!

A special THANK YOU to Buck Larkins for donating all of the t-shirts!

A special THANK YOU to Cristina Weigel for the t-shirt design!

“Every Little Thing is Gonna be Alright”

Hey everyone!

Guess what?!? T-minus less than 30 days until we set off for South Africa !!!

Going home after finals week means that I only have one semester left of college, but it’s hard to be sad about that when I am so excited to travel to South Africa, meet Tamarin and host the Holiday Camp for the kids!

At our group meeting two weeks ago, we found out our partners for all the activities. Mine is….. *drumroll please* DANIELLE SCANLON.

Danielle and I in Chatham, NC for Habitat for Humanity!

Danielle and I in Chatham, NC for Habitat for Humanity!

Not only is Danielle one of my Alpha Delta Pi sisters, but we also traveled to North Carolina together for a Habitat for Humanity Alternative Spring Break trip last semester! Our group for the camp will consist of 18 third graders!! I hope we can show these children the same love and that we form a connection that will last with the both of us.

I wanted to share this article that came across my newsfeed earlier. It’s called “19 Signs You’re Doing Better Than You Think”. With the holiday season right around the corner, I like to take a step back and think of everything I am grateful for. This list hit it spot on.

I can see the beauty the world has to offer.

I can read and write.

I can hear.

I did not go to sleep hungry last night.

I have a roof over my head.

I am healthy.

I have access to clean drinking water and medical care if I need it.

And I have the freedom to make my own decisions without having to fear for my life.

It’s okay if we don’t have all the answers, it’s going to be alright because we have the drive and means to make our dreams come true without people telling us we can’t.  I hope we can give hope to the children and give them advice on how to make some of their dreams come true as well.

Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright

Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright

I know with the “dreaded finals” next week, students and teachers alike are stressing out over all the work they have to do. But, we have to keep in mind how unbelievably lucky we are to even be stressed out because of our studies. Some people do not get this opportunity and would love to be in our shoes right now.

When I reflect on everything else I am grateful for, my friends come to mind as well. I am beyond blessed to have friends who are always there for me whatever time of the night and vise versa. I trust them with anything and they support me in my goals, are always there to make me laugh and never judge. I respect that honesty and I can tell already that some of those friendships are forming with the students in this group.

Until next time,

Jess

Just Around the Corner

With exactly 5 weeks left to go, (not like I’m counting or anything!), I’m becoming more anxious than ever. I constantly find myself thinking of ways I can enhance this camp for these kids, ways I can make it more meaningful for them. The unexpected is always somewhat anxiety-provoking; I really don’t want to leave with any regrets. On the other hand, I don’t think any of us realize how life-changing this experience is going to be.

Last meeting, Peter had us read an article written by Adam Braun, founder of a non-profit organization, Pencils of Promise. The article discussed what Braun learned throughout his twenties, and gave advice to those younger than he. One of the most powerful quotes I took from his writing was:

“…the people who succeed are those who dust themselves off and keep going because they’re not motivated by hitting their goals. They’re motivated by getting to a place where they can set new goals that seem just as unreasonable as the ones before them once did.”

I believe everyone participating in our trip, or any similar trip for that matter, can uncover a vital lesson from Braun here. Don’t participate in these kinds of excursions to put it on your resume. Don’t go through an interview process, well knowing that you just want to cross a country off of your bucket list. Set goals for yourself, yes, but assure yourself that achieving these goals will allow you to emerge, a better, stronger individual. Make sure that with everything you do, you’re not finished. The most inspiring and dedicated people are those that never reach the finish line.

With our upcoming journey, we need to bear in mind that this trip does NOT end once we fly home to New York. If it did, we have not done our job. New goals need to be set and obtained; never slow down so much that you stop setting unimaginable goals. 

How many times have you said to yourself, “wow, that person is crazy” or “I can’t believe he/she did that!” The truth is, I’m sure no great achiever believed that they could, either. Set goals that seem just too far out of reach, step outside of your comfort zone, and you’ll be amazed at how far you can push yourself. You’ll be amazed at the person you find within you.

I can’t wait to see what I’ve got within me this time.

Did You Have a Nice Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is not just a well-awaited break for us college students; it is a time to reflect on our own lives, our own blessings, and our own personal struggles whatever they may be. This Thanksgiving I found myself more aware and appreciative of the little things that happen each day as well as the opportunities that I have. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to travel to South Africa with other QU students. I have traveled to Europe and across our own country, but I have never travelled to such a different country and culture with such a fraught history as South Africa.  I am excited about the opportunity to witness the strength of culture and character possessed by South Africans in a land of such opposing beauty and harshness. I am excited to finally be on my way to a country I have only read about.

My mind is wrapped around South Africa. So when I needed to pick a country to research for a group project in Health Care Essentials… I chose South Africa. The research topic is a sad one- identify the top 3 causes of death in the country. Having taken a look at the history, politics, and economics of South Africa – all tragically marred by racism, I figured it was time to look at some of the health issues of the country.

The top causes of death in South Africa are HIV/AIDS, influenza and pneumonia, and diarrheal diseases, once again mirroring racial lines inequitably.

The causes of death were not a surprise to me, but the numbers of deaths due to the particular diseases was overwhelmingly heartbreaking. As I dove deeper into the environmental situation, I was struck by the role poor nutrition and unsanitary conditions play in the spread of disease in South Africa. The spread of these diseases are preventable!

This knowledge was really striking as I debated my second helping of turkey and stuffing in my warm, comfortable home decorated for the holidays (and particularly so as my sister did something as simple as fill the water glasses). I thought about the fact that some of the money we raised for our trip will be going towards food for the campers, but almost more importantly, the money is also being used to provide clean water. I originally assumed that the money we raised for this trip would be used for activities supplies and hopefully some cool shirts to give the campers to remind them of our time together. But their needs are so much more basic than that.

They need clean water!

That is something we certainly take for granted here in the U.S. We also expect houses in the United States to have sewage pipes – a necessity for sanitary conditions. It turns out that my Health Care Essentials class reinforced the need to recognize the different realities individuals face based on their environment and the serious implications of a lack of sanitary conditions and nutrition.

Soon it is time to get the dreaded vaccinations I need to travel to South Africa to protect me from getting ill. I take it for granted that they are available to me. Yet there are so many individuals in South Africa with preventable diseases who do not stand a fighting chance against illness, who do not have clean water, nutritious meals, and sanitary conditions. There is so much that can be done to prevent even just one child from contracting a disease, and its heartbreaking to me that some of those things are such basic human needs that are just not being met.

December 1st was World AIDS Day. Hopefully awareness is the beginning of meeting basic human health needs, but my project tells me there is so much to do for so many. Thank goodness for organizations like The Tippy Toes Foundation who are not deterred by the enormous task they face, but who truly believe one person, one day at a time can make a difference.

I am anxious to try.