Education Abroad at the Defense of the Ignorant American

At the University of Kentucky and far beyond, there is an overall increasing trend to participate in education abroad during both undergraduate and graduate studies. Education abroad, at my home institution, can encompass a variety of opportunities that transcend traditional study abroad experiences and range from student teaching, internships, and research conducted abroad. As an undergraduate nearing graduation and preparing for professional school, a student cannot deny the benefits obtained by being able to say he or she participated in an education abroad program. International experience and cultural immersion will undoubtedly set a student apart from competing résumés. The drama with education abroad arises, however, when students are asked to explain their experiences – particularly in interview or otherwise professional settings. Yes, you took a thousand pictures, climbed a waterfall in Costa Rica, and danced the night away in the Yucatan, but what did you do abroad that contributes to academic and professional goals?

Duration of education abroad programs, without question, influences how much true cultural immersion a given student can experience abroad. In conjunction with social media addictions that provide students opportunities to maintain heightened connections with home and the US, blog posts, quizzes, and other media in popular culture are continuously shaping the notion that education abroad programs are “party city”, a break from your real college education and academics, and an overall easy way to earn credits toward graduation. Sites such as Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and Elite Daily consistently issue quizzes and articles centered on education abroad or where you should have studied abroad based on arbitrary preferences that almost always include alcoholic beverages, food, celebrities, and animals. These quizzes are undoubtedly fun and a guilty pleasure, but they contribute to a mass of media that perpetuates negative American stereotypes regarding international travel.

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If popular media about education abroad is overrun with content that discredits academic and professional components of experiences, how are students ever expected to choose a worthwhile program and, moreover, talk intelligently and eloquently about their experiences in such a way that they will stand out in interviews? I’m not trying to say stress-relieving media, quizzes, and articles should be done away with, rather, I believe that education abroad advisors, professionals, and program coordinators should play a more active role nationwide in recognizing a profound difference in travel and education abroad. Credits earned in courses abroad work toward degree completion for students studying internationally; this credit will appear on transcripts seen by employers and professional school acceptance committees. If students are ill-prepared to discuss their experiences with terms other than “amazing” and “awesome”, education abroad perpetually reflects the image of the ignorant and naïve American tourist whose goal is to collect t-shirts and photos from their destinations. In order to break this cycle, education abroad must continuously evolve as a professional field in which study abroad alumna should seek to work within to build credible institutions that craft worthwhile professional and academic experiences.

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Cross-posted from UKY EnKompass here on March 27, 2015.

Finish the Fight: Relay for Life

Support my Relay for Life team here!

Seven short months ago today, the world lost one of the most influential men in my life. My grandfather, Linvel Jones, was a caring father, brother, grandfather, and nephew who was hardworking and steadfast in his actions. For those who knew him, pretty much anyone would say he had a weakness when it came to me. “Papa”, as I called him, was always quick to pick me up from school, slip me a little money whenever he had some cash, play school with me, and even let me dress him up. Perhaps I’m a little biased, but he basically embodies the “World’s Best Grandpa”. College definitely put a strain on our relationship. Although I was still living in the same city, I didn’t have quite the flexibility in my schedule anymore to stay at my grandparents house on weeknights or go over for dinner after school. It was especially hard for Papa and my grandmother, Anne, to understand why I wanted to study abroad.

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The first time around, in the summer of 2013, I told my grandpa over the phone that I had purchased my plane tickets to spend nearly two months in Mexico. I distinctly remember him pulling out their set of encyclopedias, circa 1979, to look up the regions where I was to study. It was during that trip, however, that I got the phone call that my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. Sitting in my hotel room in Puerto Vallarta, I made the immediate decision to change my flight and come home to be with Papa. I spent the next several weeks helping drive him to and from radiation and chemo treatments. It was so hard to see such a strong man be so down and dependent, but I knew that my support meant the world to him. My grandfather made a remarkable recovery after undergoing fifteen treatments that enabled him to go back to walking in the park and mall and doing his favorite task – yard work.

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In March of 2014, we learned that the cancer had returned, stronger than ever, and had metastasized to his bones and spine. My grandfather was moved from hospital to hospital and eventually to Hospice care at the local VA Hospital where I am proud to say he received some of the best care from the kindest medical professionals. On August 27, 2014, my sweet grandfather passed away after all treatment had been stopped because nothing could prevent the cancer from spreading further. I was with him not even an hour before he took his last breath, and as distraught as I was, I was relieved to know he was finally free from pain. On April 10-11th, I will be participating in Relay for Life at the University of Kentucky. This event is a celebration of life for cancer survivors and a time of remembrance for those we have lost to the disease. The fundraising associated with the event will contribute to cancer research, but also to local patients’ cancer treatment and transportation to and from doctor’s visits. I am so proud of my team that has reached 35% of our goal this far — Kappa Delta is walking on behalf of not only my grandfather, but of other friends and family members who we’ve lost to a disease we’ve yet to cure. Please consider donating to my team, any contribution will help us reach our team goal. With the money raised at our Relay for Life event, in conjunction with numerous others around the country, we can hopefully one day finish the fight — for good.

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My Closet: A Sneak Peek

I can’t actually believe I’ve been a dedicated blogger for almost two years, and have just gotten into using Polyvore! It really is a unique internet tool that can be used from anything such as blogging to organization to school projects. The ability to make digital collages with articles of clothing, home accessories, etc. will definitely increase my use of visuals while posting. Because I am getting a new apartment soon, I’m going to have to condense my wardrobe some to fit in my new space! Judging by my latest creations on Polyvore, it’s proving be a challenging task. Overall, my style is eclectic. Not in the sense of the word that would typically be applied to hipster stylings or grunge-couture. Moreso in the sense that I tend to love neutrals (primarily greys and blacks) or wild patterns such as Lilly Pulitzer. There is no happy medium in my closet. Recently integrated, my exercise wardrobe has increased significantly for the coming season as I prepare to tackle my fitness goals for the year, and I am registered for a Zumba course in the fall semester. Nonetheless, my style is quite a hot mess at times, but I couldn’t think of a better way to showcase it than with Polyvore! See what I mean?

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting…A Puppy!

I’ve taken a huge step in my life and am preparing room for a new little one! I can’t wait to be a mom…dog mom, that is! Since I am preparing to sign my first lease, I have also thought long and hard about getting a puppy. The search process has been long and thorough. Although it was my initial plan, I decided against adoption because in my current position as an undergraduate, I do not believe I am fully prepared for a dog that may have experienced trauma in its past or has no identifiers that could tell me about its parents or potential growth. Because my family has raised one before, I have decided to get a toy poodle from a local breeder. I couldn’t be more ecstatic to take my little boy home! He has a few more weeks with his mother until he can safely be brought home — at this time, he’ll be up-to-date on shots and CKC registered. I understand that caring for an animal is a full-time job and also a financial investment, but it is one I am prepared to make. For the first time in my college career, I will not be going abroad this summer or again (unfortunately) before graduation, thus I see it fit to take on this responsibility. I am so excited to raise him on my own, and for him to have play dates with my sweet Brady and Teddy (his older “brothers”!) In the coming month as the little guy is getting ready to come home, I will be gathering supplies such as a bed, crate, food, and toys to welcome him home with so much love! Although I have my mind close to settled, I decided to create a fun poll with my list of potential names for my friends and family to give their opinions!

Take my poll here!

unnamed (10) unnamed (11)With love from a future dog mom,

Sarah Alexandra

Game Day Style: Bleeding Blue with Garnier Color Styler

Spring Break might be coming to a close, but March Madness has just begun. Being a student at the University of Kentucky, bleeding blue is trait of all Wildcat fans. As temperatures *finally* climb higher and higher, I have been looking for the perfect game outfit! In my experience, basketball is not quite the tailgating event that football season brings in the SEC, so you can leave your sundresses behind. Ideally, I love to wear my favorite pair of blue jean cut-offs and a soft college t-shirt dressed up a bit with a sweater to show my spirit on warmer game days in the spring. Low maintenance school spirit is definitely factored into my outfit of choice. Garnier Color Styler provides another way to take your game day spirit to the next level. With a simple, no-fuss process, Garnier Color Styler was able to give me a unique way to “bleed blue” at an affordable cost without a long-term commitment.

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As someone who has dyed her hair numerous times with both permanent and temporary colors, I am always hesitant to try new products and concerned about how they will react with my color-processed hair. Garnier Color Styler provided exactly the color I anticipated after a quick application process. Moreover, there’s always a worry that temporary color will rub off on your clothes or anything you might brush up against in a crowded game watch party. The Blue Burst color I chose (obviously to support my Cats) was the perfect fit for my game day spirit needs once applied and the color was locked in with a hair dryer. The true test, of course, is also the wash out when I have to return to a professional look for work and school. After just two washes, my hair was back to its original (dyed blonde) color feeling just as soft and healthy as before! It truly is rare to find a product that makes you stand out, but also doesn’t require intense commitment! As UK takes on their next 5 games on the road to an undefeated season and a 9th National Championship title, Garnier Color Styler is helping me be the ultimate true blue fan and to show just how committed the Big Blue Nation is to their team.

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Overall, I was extremely satisfied with my choice to use to Garnier Color Styler as a game day accessory and couldn’t have found a more unique way to define my style in support of my team. Although I am a Wildcat through and through, not all college basketball fans bleed blue. Garnier Color Styler also comes in four other exciting colors including Bronze Attitude, Pink Pop, Purple Mania, and Red Temptation to meet your own game day styling needs. Ready to take your school spirit to the next level? Use Garnier Color Styler in the color of your choosing and this exclusive coupon to save $1 on your purchase! For more information, check out Garnier on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram! #ColorStyler

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This post is sponsored by Garnier and Her Campus Media. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Space, Place & Southern Grace possible!

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Spring Break, Spring Broke?

It has truly been a beautiful week of renewal. Spending my spring break on the shores of Ocean Springs and Biloxi, Mississippi was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. On a budget of $175, I had an amazing beach vacation with some of the sweetest and also most relaxed friends around. With a day trip to New Orleans (my first time ever!), I ate some great food and saw some amazing structures, both natural and man-made. I couldn’t be more thankful for my own decision to take care of myself over this holiday and eat healthy, get tons of rest, and overall stay away from alcohol. I don’t know if I can or I will ever truly be able to say I’ve had a true, wild college Spring Break, but that’s completely alright with me. I’m not at all excited to be heading back to the Bluegrass soon and back to reality and cooler temperatures, but I’m more clear headed than I’ve been in awhile and fully believe in the healing power of the sea. In the coming weeks, as we proceed into the depths of the semester and of March Madness. I will undoubtedly be planning my next adventure to another beautiful spot (with a beach, of course). Until then, adventure on.

With love from a highway in Alabama,

Sarah Alexandra





Psychosis

When you can hardly remember what his voice sounds like,

Thousands of memories collide like a small blip in this continuum.

Then a new caress holds you tenderly and offers you sweet sanctuary from the dark abyss of forgetting.

His touch is fresh, then bitterly cold like swallowing an ice cube.

It melts and ebbs as a tide sweeps over you and warms you to the core.

Does the world stop spinning when I hold your hand?

I could lay my head in your lap for the rest of my life.

When we are nestled together, I don’t need a protector for you are he&she&it&all.

The dark comes back early in the morning.

It crawls and creeps before it becomes all-consuming.

The touch is absent now, there is no light in your eyes or in your heart.

The mouth, the mind is hollow and I no longer recognize you.

It is a facade, one that masks the dark beneath and that steals the new memories made in our private continuum.

You take them and hide them like knives from children.

I’ve got your bullets in my pocket, ammunition I’d never dare to use.

Waiting on a word is more painful than lying here alone.

I hate the cold,

But isn’t a little sad to see the last of the snow melt?

3 Things to Make Your 2015 Happier

Today, we have a guest post on the blog hosted by the Lookbook Store! Not only are they offering helpful tips for making 2015 the best year yet, the store has some great deals on styles for the upcoming season!

Another year to be thankful for. Another year of happiness, hope, and trials to face. Another year that we want to make more memorable and happier. Another year of laughter and smiles to look forward to.

We all want to make 2015 happier than the last year, so let me share some tips!

1. Buy something for yourself

Buy something you’ve always wanted. Indulging yourself with the small things that life can offer can help put a smile on your face. I’m not saying that you should spend all your money on material things; Rather, you should reward yourself once in awhile for hard work.

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2. Go outside

We spend too much time staring at our smart phones that we forget to go outside and take a break. So if this is you, put down your phones and iPads and get out more. Reconnect with your friends and do something fun other than spending most of your time chatting on Skype or Facebook. Plus, spending too much time online can cause potential health risks.

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Go out, take a walk and get some fresh air. There are a lot of things to do outside that are just waiting for you to be discovered.

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3. Spend time with your loved ones

Been thinking about a relative you haven’t heard from for a while? Been thinking about the last time you had a family dinner and get together with your friends? Making and sharing good memories with your family and friends is the best way to make this year memorable. Call them. Send them an e-mail and ask them about their day. Or much better, pay them a visit. Spend time with people who you care a lot about because, as they say, the things that matter in this life are not things.

Hopefully, this year will be an awesome and fabulous one for you. Good luck!

A Generation of Romantics: How Study Abroad is Influencing Millenials

As a twenty-something born in the early 90s, I’ve witnessed no shortage of romance. It is delivered to us in the forms of novels, films, magazines, television, music videos, and more. Young millennials have embraced this notion of romantic love as an idealized goal, and has contributed to widespread “romanticizing” that includes all things material and cultural. We capture these moments of romance in 140 characters or in a square image in the spaces society has constructed for us to share within. Whether it is a snippet of a song lyric shared on Twitter or a love affair with a new pair of boots narrated via Instagram, romance, in numerous forms, is alive and well with our generation.

When it comes to studying abroad, young collegians jump at the chance to catch a plane with close friends, or even complete strangers, and spend time in a foreign destination. Students are encouraged to blog about their experiences abroad, email home, maintain websites, add photos to Instagram, and post continuous updates on Facebook. Such technology, astonishing in itself, permits people all over the world to remain in constant, uninterrupted connection. These images and words provide context to adventures for friends and family at home, and likewise give inspiration to individuals selecting an education abroad experience.

Such connection, however, muddles the purpose of education abroad. All students have differing motivations for choosing to participate in education abroad programs, yet the common denominator is always the opportunity to become immersed in another culture, become proficient in another language, or to develop cultural sensitivity and international experience that will inevitably make an individual stand out as a candidate in professional school applications and job interviews. I struggle with the idea of immersion because of the aforementioned concept of romance. Maybe it isn’t a romantic love, per say, but rather a romanticized fixation on the unknown and what is not presently in front of us. Social media and other revolutionary technological breakthroughs may actually be the downfall of education abroad. While promotion of programs in the field is largely dependent on digital communication, the students are also frequently encouraged to compete in photo or writing competitions in virtual spaces during their time abroad to connect those “at home” with what is taking place in their programs. After all, those who helped finance your education abroad investment want to see what their money has paid for, right?

Ultimately, participating in an education abroad experience is a personal journey that can deconstruct entire frameworks in a student’s mind that have been established by ethnocentrism. The concept of “wanderlust”, likewise, tempts undergraduates with few commitments to pack their things, travel, go, see, and do. Education abroad programs at universities across the world are providing unique and invaluable opportunities to students who want to pursue a thirst of cultural knowledge in an unfamiliar setting. Yet, students must let go of the idea of romantic culture, although it can be quite enchanting and awe-inspiring, in order to be entirely present in the space occupied during an education abroad program. Students should consider the longest program available to them for the opportunity for utmost immersion, and consider limiting social media use, communication with “home”, and other interactions that prevent them from living in their present and from taking in their current surroundings. By fully embracing an education abroad experience for what it is, absent of what you can learn about home on Instagram, students will have a more profound, and ultimately life-changing experience.

Initially posted on UKY Enkompass at http://enkompassuky.com/2015/02/24/a-generation-of-romantics-how-studying-abroad-is-influencing-millennials/ on February 24, 2015.

To Lilly or Not to Lilly?

I pride myself on being a very frugal individual. I am a year from being a college graduate, have two jobs, and no debt. (No debt pushed off on parents/family either) That being said, I have always been very good with my money. I’m careful with how I spend and how I save, but I love shopping and spending money on things that I can actively use. I’ve definitely spent a significant bit of time in a love affair with Lilly Pulitzer. In reality, I can’t fathom paying $100+ for a single article of clothing, but many patterns are incredibly unique, colorful, and just plain fun. Some of the designer’s newest prints are about the only things that will get me to purchase anything that isn’t the color black i.e. Mai Tai! I hate that specific looks and designers have to represent a certain social class or status because that just isn’t the case. I’ve NEVER paid more than $100 (honestly not more than $75) for any piece of Lilly I’ve owned. How? Miraculous sales and second-hand. What’s wrong with a piece that’s been treated with TLC seeing a second owner? Not one thing. eBay, Facebook resale pages, and Tradesy are some of my favorite places to shop second-hand Lilly (and sell too!). Pictured below are some of my most recent purchases — One is new with tags, the other gently used. Both scored for less than $100 combined on eBay.

The real issue I have with Lilly is the implication that you have to be of a certain class rank to obtain and wear it. With Lilly for Target hitting stores in just over a month (April 19th!), the Lilly-wearing community has been more vocal than ever about how Lilly creating a unique line to be sold in Target stores is “lessening the value” and “cheapening” the brand. This is ridiculous. If you wear a piece of clothing to indicate wealth and status, you’ve entirely missed the point of fashion. I think Lilly for Target, although I have not seen any prints, will be remarkable. Not only is the collaboration allowing numerous more Lilly-admiring individuals to obtain looks for a MUCH more affordable price point, the collection is reported to include a variety of household items, party favors, etc. in Lilly themes. I for one am ecstatic about the decision to sell new prints in Target stores. And let’s be real…what major designers haven’t previously collaborated with Target or another major chain to produce more cost-efficient and readily accessible merchandise? Way to go, Lilly Pulitzer!

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