An Open Letter to the Fall 2014 Pledge Class

Dear new members,

After a strenuous week of parading around campus in heels, smiling your biggest smiles, and shedding a tear or two during preference, I hope you’ve come to find your second home. In your new sorority, you have a new set of sisters to lean on that will support you unconditionally. You might not think you need that support, but there will come a time and your sisters will be there for you like you never imagined.

I hope you ran home on Bid Day to be greeted with love and appreciation by your chapter actives who selected YOU for membership in this national organization. Your unique qualities stood out to your new sisters and you were selected with a purpose. Revel in this idea, because you are appreciated more than you know. Do not take your new membership lightly, however. Your coveted attributes and talents will be put to use to enrich your new sisterhood. You will be expected to contribute and participate actively in chapter activities, academic, philanthropic, and social, if you want your chapter to give back to you.

In just a short time, you will receive your very first letters. Whether stitched onto a jersey or etched into a pencil, your new letters represent this organization locally and nationally. Wearing letters is a privilege that unites us across the country and further promotes solidarity among members. Your actions and attitude while wearing letters should reflect the pride you feel for obtaining membership in this organization. You are not entitled to your letters, they are a gift given graciously to you when you were selected for membership. Should you choose to disrespect the tradition and values of this sisterhood, your letters can be revoked. Be mindful of what you say, do, and promote in and out of your letters because they are now a reflection of more than yourself.

As an active member, I promise you the following things:

A life-changing experience — if you let it. Sorority membership might offer you certain social status on your college campus or networking opportunities in your future career, but most importantly, your pledge to this sisterhood and to your new sisters is a bond for life. Utilizing traditions upheld for hundreds of years, your pledge to this sorority serves as your commitment to preserve history, in addition to joining an empowering organization of collegiate women. Your affiliation with this sisterhood is life-long, and from it you can reap the benefits of support, friendship, prestige, and dedication.

To offer guidance as I see fit. As an older, active member with much more insight and experience with chapter business and workings, I promise to never undermine your age, opinions, or status as a sister. I promise to never call you a “baby” during your pledging process. You are a valuable new member, and beautiful, young adult who will be respected during the new member education period. Although this affiliation may seem foreign at first, I promise to earnestly answer any questions you have and to do my best to lead by positive example.

Opportunity to find your niche. Whether your new chapter has 50 or 300 members, there are responsibilities for everyone. While our organization must answer to Nationals, we operate as a largely independent entity that is internally responsible for our own activities and events. There are numerous leadership positions, both in front of and behind the scenes of chapter members and events that require special women to execute various tasks. In this sisterhood, you have the opportunity to explore various chapter operations and apply your personal strengths as you see fit.

Ultimately, you have been selected for your potential to positively contribute to this sisterhood. You will pay for membership, yes, but your dues fund the local and national maintenance of this organization and contribute to the events hosted by your chapter. As a new sorority affiliate, you have immense responsibility and likewise immense potential to enrich your sisterhood. In your new home, I hope you take the time to learn about the history you are now a part of and are working to preserve. You are embarking on an incredibly unique experience, one that you will share with the other special members of your pledge class. Enjoy this time and take every chance you have to meet older members; their experiences and wisdom may shock you. This membership, though cliche, is certainly more than just four years; it is for a lifetime. With this, I welcome you with open arms to your new family and home away from home.

XOXO,
Your chapter

In loving memory

Of all the frailty and preciousness in the world, we cling to that which serves as a pillar of strength. A steadfast hand, a guarded heart. But when circumstance sheds light on that frailty, we are brought to see weakness, innocence, sincerity. We dance around this visibility until it can be ignored no longer, and then we are left only with what we remember, when we remember to miss it. I am touched, as are you, by that which has been taken from us in due time. Yet, no preparation feels sufficient and each heart breaks in its own way. Quietly, passively, selfishly. We lament only to comfort one another, rather self-serving in our organization. It is not our folly to forget our purpose, but rather our duty to congregate and foster the hearts, broken, vacant, and sinking. We leave ourselves once and once only, leaving in our wake, we hope, counsel, conviction, and most of all, love.

Back to College with Brita®!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Brita for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I can’t believe August is already upon us! College is right around the corner and I just got moved back onto campus for my third year! Thankfully, back-to-school shopping for me hasn’t been too hectic, but there have been a few things I couldn’t live without. I’ve been staking out stores and fighting the crowds for my last minute essentials before move-in day and I think I found some great deals on everything I needed. This year, I purchased a stackable shelving system and a hand-held steamer for my dorm room. These purchases definitely make cramped dorm life much easier and are super convenient when it comes to organization and professionalism. I also couldn’t forget to bring my Brita® products back to the dorm. I have a water bottle and pitcher that makes it so easy to take water to my classes and feel like I’m drinking something clean and healthy even though it came from the dorm room sink! I’ve spent way too much money on plastic water bottles in the past that take up space and are really wasteful in general. With my Brita® pitcher and water bottle, I don’t have any guilt about waste and I know that my water is purified even when I have to fill up at a random sink or water fountain. As a college student, I don’t have tons of money to spend on water bottles and drinks nor do I have time to run out and buy a new drink between classes. Brita® products are affordable and a reusable investment that make college living comfortable! #BritaBackToCollege

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20 Things I Learned in Costa Rica

  1. Locals are called Ticos and Ticas
  2. You can’t flush toilet paper…like ever.
  3. There are 8 digits in a Costa Rican phone number.
  4. If the leading 3 digits of a bar code are 744, the product was made in-country.
  5. Rice and beans are Costa Rican staples and they do not cook with many spices.
  6. Ecotourism stimulates the majority of the Costa Rican economy. You can almost always pay for items in US dollars.
  7. Ice is considered a luxury and is very, very rare.
  8. I did not see one square inch of carpet while in Costa Rica.
  9. Mother’s Day is celebrated in August in Costa Rica, which is coincidentally the middle of their winter and rainy season.
  10. Rum is the cheapest alcoholic beverage available.
  11. You can be in what seems like the most poverty-stricken neighborhood, and every home still has a satellite dish atop its roof.
  12. This country appears to be 5-10 years behind at all times. The mall still sells Aeropostale, Swatches, and Jordache Jeans with great enthusiasm.
  13. Costa Rica has street signs yet they do not use them to give directions. Instead, they use landmarks and cardinal directions to give addresses.
  14. Rainy season is during the summer. You need an umbrella on your person at all times.
  15. Costa Rican currency uses colones and the conversion is approximately 500 colones for every 1 USD.
  16. If you go out to clubs, you will learn to salsa. It’s pretty much a given.
  17. I ate probably 15 fruits I have never heard of before that do not grow outside of this region of Latin America.
  18. There is a national campaign to make every public space accessible to all citizens, including the handicapped.
  19. Costa Rican natural landscapes and national parks are protected by mandates and legislation, and money for upkeep is drawn from steep entrance fees and taxes.
  20. Gratuity is included in all prices in addition to a tip for service. Every meal costs 15-20% more than the list price when all is said and done.

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Life & Literature

La literatura y la vida se entrelazan de manera indefinida. La literatura se deriva de las experiencias de vida y estas experiencias se conservan en las palabras. Las palabras, ensambladas con gracia, relatan nuestros triunfos, nuestros fracasos, nuestras lamentaciones, y nuestros momentos más preciosos. La literatura, entonces, surge cuando estas palabras se transmiten de persona a persona y las emociones, las acciones y las experiencias se registran al estar compartiendo con otros. Creamos la literatura porque los humanos poseen una clara necesidad de explicar toda la formación y las experiencias destructivas que tenemos en la vida. Mientras que la información alimenta el cerebro, la literatura trasciende los modos primitivos de comunicación y nutre nuestras almas con las historias y las experiencias con los que podemos sentir empatía. La literatura abarca las experiencias y los desafíos de la vida privada y pública y la mayoría ofrece las explicaciones a los problemas en las escalas personales y mundiales.

Por otra parte, la literatura actúa como un espejo en el que podemos vernos a nosotros mismos en la actualidad, quienes solíamos ser, o quienes queremos ser en el futuro. Por la crónica de experiencias, archivamos nuestros recuerdos más dolorosos y más valiosos que pueden servir como hitos de progreso a medida que maduramos. A través de la literatura, podemos expresar nuestras más profundas emociones, directa o indirectamente. Del mismo modo, podemos utilizar la literatura para desprendernos de dificultades actuales y perderse en un mundo ficticio. El tema de la literatura puede variar dependiendo del autor y la belleza de esta variedad es que sólo se necesita la reacción de una persona a dar significado y propósito a una obra literaria. En este sentido, la literatura es una forma de arte, y nuestras experiencias vividas proporcionar material de la asignatura y las herramientas con las que podemos moldear la ficción. El concepto de mimesis da la bienvenida a la creatividad y elimina las connotaciones negativas asociadas frecuentemente con las reproducciones de la obra. Las experiencias humanas se superponen de manera significativa, pero son igualmente única como toda la literatura producida como un producto de la mimesis.

Existen la literatura oral y escrita para dar a la gente una variedad de maneras de expresarse y de compartir sus experiencias vividas con otros en numerosos modos comunicativos. Los campos de estudio y de información sobre el rendimiento de investigación que enriquece aún más la literatura y la ficción desarrollado que los lectores acepten como la verdad. La literatura puede ser utilizada para justificar las acciones en retrospectiva o los que aún no se ha ejecutado. Una vez creada, la literatura puede ser una fuente constante de consuelo o un recordatorio constante de dolor o un obstáculo superado. La literatura puede promover el cambio social o motivar a la gente a cambiar sus acciones cotidianas y, por esta razón, la literatura es una herramienta para la organización, la colectivización, y la comunión. La complejidad o la simplicidad del lenguaje en la literatura invita a las personas en todas las etapas de la vida para leer e interiorizar los mensajes y las experiencias. Al convertirse en empatía con las situaciones y experiencias de los demás, la vida, en general, se enriquece y la complejidad del pensamiento y la expresión profunda se amplían. Por lo tanto, la creación perpetua y la preservación de la literatura existente son cruciales para el desarrollo humano y la mejora de la calidad de la vida y el pensamiento.

Good Eats: Costa Rica

Just wanted to give a quick update about all the wonderful foods I’ve had the opportunity to try! Costa Rican cuisine is pretty much everything you can imagine — with a side of rice and beans. These foods serve as the basis for most dishes and are considered Costa Rican staples. In my cooking class, I learned how to make the traditional “gallo pinto”, pictured below, in addition to several sweet treats and side dishes. Other students in my program have already expressed their distaste for rice and beans with every meal, but I cannot get enough! My host mom says Costa Rican food is “good but not for all the time” thus she has made us some delicious pasta dishes and other nontraditional foods. Overall, Costa Rican gastronomy has been flavorful and fresh and I can already feel my body changing as a result of eliminating processed foods from my diet. Most of my meals are eaten at home with my host mom, but several have been at restaurants or “sodas” where they serve fast, delicious meals. The portions are huge, too! In general, I want to try to replicate some of the dishes I’ve tried here with the exception of the numerous random fruits I’ve tried that are incredibly bitter! Over the next two weeks, my final days here, I hope to try more local foods and learn how to prepare them!

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Pura Vida: Costa Rica 2014

I have officially arrived in Costa Rica for my first study abroad experience. I am so fascinated with this beautiful country already. In just three short days, I have stood atop an active volcano, taken a traditional dance and cooking class, and attended my first classes at La Universidad Latina de Heredia. This experience has already been life changing. As anticipated, it has taken some time to adjust to the language, culture, and pace of Costa Rican life. The locals truly embrace the nearly untranslatable phrase “pura vida” which equates to a laid back attitude and stress-free environment. The food is delicious, minus the 10+ fruits I’ve already tried, and I have successfully navigated the city by bus to get to our home that is approximately 30 minutes from the university. Some things are quite different, however, such as the lack of respect for meeting times and deadlines and the fact that you can’t flush toilet paper because they do not have functioning septic systems. Luckily, the water in Heredia is potable and I haven’t experience too many problems with eating and drinking well. My roommate and I are becoming incredibly comfortable moving about the city freely and our host mom, “Mama Tica”, is one of the most loving individuals I have ever encountered. My course in literature is certainly going to be intense and challenging during this next month, but I am excited to be part of such a small class with a fluent student population. I can’t wait to see what this next week has in store!

With love from La Universidad Latina,
Sarah Alexandra

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Fourth of July Look & Fringe Shirt

Independence Day is just 3 short days away! Last year, I spent the Fourth of July in Mexico and didn’t get to properly celebrate! This year, I am blessed with a three-day weekend! In Kentucky, a major attraction on the Fourth is Red, White and Boom, a country music concert hosted in Lexington. Previously, the show had been held on the night of the Fourth at a downtown convention center. Recently, the concert has been moved and expanded and is now held over two days, at a local minor league ball field. This year, Red, White and Boom has 18 acts and will definitely be a blast! This is everyone’s, including this city girl’s, opportunity to let loose, dress fun, and celebrate the USA! This year, I’m going all out with my outfit. Today, I went shopping and got everything shown below for just about $30!

- Old Navy cut off shorts: On clearance for $9
– Xhiliration KIDS cowboy boots: $17 with coupon
– Lynard Skynard tie dye shirt from Walmart: $5

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This outfit will be perfect for the concert and Fourth festivities! I made the shirt a little more unique by adding a fringe to the bottom. Using sharp fabric scissors as shown, I cut about halfway up the shirt so the fringe would start about the same place that my high-waisted shorts begin. Cutting about 1.5 inch fringes, cut all the way around the shirt keeping the length consistent. The width doesn’t have to be perfect — the fabric will naturally draw up. After all fringes are cut, pull on each strand, as shown below, to stretch out the fringes. Finally, cut the hem off each fringe piece and Voila!

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Happy Fourth of July and Independence Day!

With love from the US of A,

Sarah Alexandra

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The Home I Have in Kappa Delta

In August 2012, I began my collegiate journey at the University of Kentucky. I was convinced that I “didn’t need” to join Greek life because, having grown up in Lexington, I knew so many people attending school with me. Over the next year and a half, I learned that I had been right: I didn’t need Greek life. I didn’t need little bags, too many t-shirts, pictures with hand symbols, or an entirely new group of friends. But still I wondered, thousands of students at my university alone are members of sororities and fraternities and are so proud to wear their letters. What was I missing? During this time, my boyfriend became a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and I watched him change and grow, while simultaneously adopting some of the “frat” traditions myself to keep up with him. For a very long time, I thought he felt ashamed of me for not being in a sorority and I can’t lie that when I chose to participate in spring recruitment my sophomore year, I did so because of him. I thought it would solve our problems and that I would finally be the person he wanted me to be.

Last week, my relationship of five years ended and I immediately thought of my initial motivator to join Kappa Delta sorority. I wanted to be bitter because I did it for him, but I couldn’t. In reality, I had gained something for myself that had no connection to my relationship whatsoever. In Kappa Delta, I can actually say that I have met some of the most genuine, strong, and supportive women. I still hate the fact that I have to pay for membership, but the people I have met and the bonds I’ve forged are beyond priceless. During my new member education, I learned the history of Kappa Delta and my chapter and I became enchanted by the idea of upholding tradition that four women began some 117 years ago to unite maturing girls on college campuses. In some ways, it is very conflicting that I am simultaneously a member of a sorority and a Gender and Women’s Studies major because Greek traditions often conflict with ideals and principles of feminism. On the contrary, I’ve found some of the most intelligent, strong-willed, and passionate women on my campus because of this beautiful organization. My Big, my sweet little pledge class, and countless other women in Epsilon Omega chapter have left a mark on my heart forever. Do I personally know each of the 230+ girls in our mega-chapter? Well, no. But those I do know have shown me a love and friendship I never expected to find.

If you’re in doubt about joining a sorority, I understand it’s not for everyone. I can say with certainty, however, that I would’ve been disappointed with myself at graduation had I not at least pursued my curiosity and explored Greek life for myself. Sororities differ from chapter to chapter without question, and joining Kappa Delta has put me in brief financial binds at times, but I’ve chosen to think of it as an investment in myself and in friendships. Kappa Delta has forced introspection in my life and my sorority sisters have rallied around me in some of my greatest times of need like my own personal cheerleaders. No one expects you to click with and adore every member of your chapter, but you will find those special women who you know instantly will be part of your life forever. A true sorority will not take over your life, will not discourage you from outside friendships and relationships, will not give you nothing in return unless you give nothing yourself. Kappa Delta has not only provided me with a unique space on my college campus, but with women I can call on day or night to support my hopes and dreams. Joining a sorority will likely include many hand-painted canvases, screen-printed t-shirts with pockets, and force you to acquire a costume box, but beyond the surface and tangible items that accompany Greek life, I hope you will find solace, strength, and continued support from your new family just as I have. AOT.

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Hard Out Here for a Feminist

What an explosion of conversation this week has brought. My social media feeds have been flooded with discourse that throws around the word feminism, various hashtags, and quotes from the situation at UC Santa Barbara. Honestly, I love to see people talking, but this is where my job gets hard. This is where identifying as a feminist and working toward a degree in Gender and Women’s Studies becomes really damn difficult. I’m boiling over with emotion at the statements women (and men) have released with the hashtags #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen attached and they fill me with such frustration. We’ve started such an important conversation, but we are still not ACTING on these problems we’re so quick to identify. It’s time that something is done so there are no more stories to share. Yet, what can be done? I’m trying my hardest to be one of the movers and shakers I am taught to revere in my major courses, but it’s not an easy job.

I’ve heard plenty of individuals quickly dismiss the snippets of stories shared on Twitter and Facebook and plenty more who deny that the shooting/stabbings in California are related to gender in any way. You have to be joking to actually believe that. Have you watched Elliot Rodger’s video and read excerpts of his “manifesto”? While it is vital to discuss the proper identification, treatment, and handling of mental illness, Rodger’s video revelations DIRECTLY point to societal pressures and the ideas we’ve reproduced until they’ve become norms. His sense of entitlement to women, and their bodies in particular, is disturbing, but has been bred from media reproductions and reinforcement of this notion that men are superior, deserving, and entitled. Please just do me a favor, watch the video and try and explain to me that the comments Rodger makes and the motivating ideas behind his premeditated horror are not espoused daily through music, film, television, magazines, and more. I get a lot of crap for loving Law and Order SVU and chilling, horror films, but nothing has shaken me like listening to Rodger’s words and seeing the aftermath of his actions.

In all honesty, I’m not sure what the answer is here. Would tighter gun control have prevented the bloodshed? Probably not since the weapons were obtained illegally. What is now is that we have thousands of individuals voicing their concerns on a virtual platform. We have celebrities backing the issues, actors pairing with politicians to make commercials, and musicians releasing songs that blatantly challenge other discriminatory media. We are making strides, yes, but until this translates into policy changes and actual legislation promoting gender equality, we are not finished. And may we not forget, equality does not mean women will be elevated above men. It means that policies will one day equally protect all genders, however an individual chooses to identify, and will eliminate sexual and personal-based power violence. There has been discussion of qualifying workplace harassment and other sexual violence against women as hate crimes, but I’m not even sure that would do it. It’s too large of an epidemic and thus may detract from minority groups (sometimes) appropriately protected by hate crime laws. The last thing we need is generalized legislation that will lessen the effects of sentencing and promote the creation of more loopholes to escape prosecution.

In reality, we need allies. The most disappointing thing is having a fellow woman, who may or may not have previously endured similar injustices, say feminism is unnecessary or that you should “let it go.” This morning, a company vendor brought donuts into my office to thank our company for continuing business. As I and my other coworkers crowded the party desk to chat and eat breakfast, a man, assumingly a superintendent of one of our jobs sites who I HAVE NEVER MET, looked directly at me, and the ONE donut hole on my plate, and said, “donut holes don’t fit into bathing suits.” This is why I need feminism. I’m tough when it comes to letting comments roll off my back, but the reality of the situation is that I shouldn’t have to always be the tough one just because I identify as feminist. I need individuals to stop telling me to not take comments like this so seriously, I need people to stop telling me to leave Robin Thicke and that godforsaken music video alone, I need people to listen to my concerns and for it not to be easier for me to excuse derogatory actions and words than to vocally challenge them and stand up for what I believe in.