Outfit of the Day: Sunday Funday

Today, the weather desperately wanted to be spring, although it ended up feeling more like fall. With temperatures in the 50s, this breezy outfit was perfect for the mall and the Lexington-area blogger event I was able to attend at Dillard’s hosted by Belle Badgley Mischka.

Get the look:

Grey top // Sammydress // $6

Black leggings // Target // $8

Tan sweater // Forever 21 // $18

Boots // Frye // $330

Bracelets // Pandora

Eyeglasses // Warby Parker

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Know Yourself, Know Your Worth: Your Image Abroad

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“Tell me a little about yourself.”

Although these might sound like words from an employer in a job interview, these words also comprise a phrase you’re likely to hear during any extent of time abroad. Whether you’re getting to know a host family for the first time or you’re meeting some new friends downtown, you are surely going to be asked to share a little bit about your personal life and identities with international acquaintances. So, what are you like? What do you believe in? What words or traits represent you? However you identify, it’s crucial to be aware of how you are going to be received abroad. While you are likely to be accepted, remember that other cultures do not necessarily value the same identities or lend the amount of privilege you might be accustomed to, and that you are always a reflection of identity groups you align with, organizations you represent, and the United States at large.

How do you think we arrived at the stereotypical image of the “ignorant American” abroad? When Americans go abroad, be it for pleasure, travel, education, etc., we serve as ambassadors for ourselves and beyond. As unfortunate as it is, you might come to realize that the whole world does not “bleed blue” like University of Kentucky Wildcat fans, or that wearing your sorority letters makes you stand out tremendously in your destination. Ultimately, presentations of yourself and your identities, conveyed both verbally and physically, can be directly related to your reception and experience abroad, as well as your safety and security.

  1. Be mindful of cultural differences.

Before you go abroad, do yourself a favor and research your host country. Regardless of the duration of your time abroad, you will encounter individuals who will want to know about you and about your home. Think about how you want to express yourself and how you will articulate and represent your identities and organizations. Know what is commonplace in your destination, and know how you might handle adversity if someone questions you based on your identities or affiliations.

  1. Pack simple.

In this case, less is not always more. ‘Simple’ in this context means consider packing clothing appropriate for the literal and social climate of your host country. Thus, if wearing flamboyant patterns or brand names and logos sprawled across your chest is considered a fashion faux pas abroad, consider packing inconspicuous clothing that helps you to blend in in your new setting. Likewise, know what cuts of clothing are considering appropriate so you can respectfully enter establishments abroad.

  1. When in doubt, mum can be the word.

Ever worked your way into a discussion you can’t back out of? Topics spoken about freely in the United States may arouse foreign opinions or thoughts on the issue that you have never heard, conflict with your own, or leave you speechless. While you should serve as an advocate for yourself and identities, know your own comfort level and overall safety before interjecting unpopular (or unwelcome) perspectives or opinions!

Being mindful of customs in your destination will undoubtedly save you from social blunders abroad, and is likely to help you adjust upon arriving. Keeping safety in mind, you can learn about yourself in addition to others abroad by thoughtfully sharing your identities and listening to and learning about those of others.

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Black Sunday: Lilly for Target Launch

If shoppers learned anything yesterday, it’s that we all can’t be winners. As Target stores across the country opened their doors yesterday at 8am, the Lilly for Target release went virtually unseen. With items completely selling out and flying off shelves in less than 10 minutes at my local Target, you have to wonder what strategy was actually employed in this collaboration. In my eyes, Lilly for Target was a smart partnership in which Target, an affordable, decent quality brand, paired with Lilly Pulitzer, a beach-inspired, high-end designer, to create an appropriate middle ground between low-cost, mass-produced clothing and the seemingly inaccessible look, feel, and cost of elite fashion. Not a surprise, I find most Lilly Pulitzer patterns repulsive – something that you’d be forced to wear on Easter Sunday in the 90s or what you’d sit on at a picnic. A few patterns, however, have come along that have caught my eye and truly do not compare to other cuts, color combinations, and textures on the market. Thus, I have splurged occasionally on sale items and ISO (in search of) items on re-sale pages.  While I wasn’t head over heels for the Lilly for Target line, the Nosie Posey pattern, in particular, got my attention.

In reality, however, it is not as though my interest in the new line mattered – all items were swept off shelves in minutes and the online site crashed and sold out also within a matter of hours, with no intention of being restocked. Sure, Lilly Pulitzer likely only signed this contract with Target with the intention of producing a limited number of items, but it goes without saying that the two companies KNEW consumers would act in such a way. Such a way meaning lining up outside of Target stores hours before opening, re-sellers taking armfuls off racks to mark up on eBay, and generating TONS of digital media and buzz on the topic. All this noise leads me to believe that the launch of Lilly for Target was truly NOT about making designer items accessible for individuals without bottomless wallets, but rather a SMART business move on behalf of these companies to gross millions of dollars in a matter of a few hours. Essentially, without the chance of restocking, Lilly for Target is almost just as exclusive and unreachable as the Lilly Pulitzer brand itself. Can’t say I blame them – but that doesn’t mean I’m not bitter that I didn’t get a piece of the action.

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Just for fun, I perused some eBay listings (upwards of 20,000…) this morning to see what some of the items on my wish list were selling for. One top in the Nosie Posey print that I really wanted was being listed for $100 or more when it retailed for $22. Ultimately, consumers could end up paying more for the Lilly for Target brand than actual Lilly Pulitzer items, regardless of the difference in quality of materials and manufacture. I’ll definitely continue to browse resale Facebook pages in the coming weeks to see if I can get my hands on a few items for the price for which they were intended to be sold…

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A Culture of Violence: A Continued Dialogue

22. Male. White. College student. Fraternity member. Arguably one of the most privileged and protected demographics in America. Last night, an individual of these identities lost his youth and his life in a fatal shooting that occurred around 2 A.M. in Lexington, Kentucky. The media and university have released his name; Jonathan Krueger died at the scene of an alleged armed robbery on the perimeter of the University of Kentucky’s campus. As he was a student active in various social and academic university organizations, campus is somber this morning as students cope with such an unforeseen and tragic loss.

Fact. An arrest has been made based upon a vehicle matching the description of another surviving victim.

Fact. The university made swift, yet vague, action when notifying students of an emergency situation, that later revealed the fatality of a student.

Reality. In the coming days, parents will have bury their barely 22 year old son, and friends, brothers, acquaintances, and students will mourn the death of a young man who was robbed of his life overnight.

Crimes occur on college campuses throughout the country on a daily basis. Some of those crimes do, indeed, reflect deaths of students and other individuals. Sometimes these events are swept under the rug to avoid tarnishing a university name. In others, the victim is elevated to bring justice and closure to the community. It is presently unclear why this specific incident occurred, and may never be brought to light. Was Jon a target? Was he in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was his death related to any of his identities? These are all questions that will be inevitably wrestled with in seeking an understanding of how a bright 22 year old could lose his life.

While we must leave arrests and our concept of “justice” to the police, we must begin an important conversation. Gun violence is a prominent problem EVERYWHERE. Whether it is connected to a college campus or not, unregulated access to and misuse of firearms are causing individuals to be harmed or even lose their lives, such as Jonathan has, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, time, ability, or geographic location. In spaces where we are entitled to feel safe (our neighborhoods) not just as college students, but as HUMAN BEINGS, we must recognize that we are not safe nor too careful. Violence, though perpetrated by a motivated individual, is not random. Violence is not created by a specific demographic. Though it may not be explicitly rooted in a victim’s identities, violence is taught and learned. Not that we want to or should have to live our lives in fear, the reality is that individuals (our classmates) are LOSING their lives because of perpetuated ideologies about violence. In the media and beyond, images of cyclical poverty, tropes of power and wealth, and displays of violence espouse the misuse of weapons and force. We are desensitized to such violence seen in films and on television until it becomes a reality in our backyards.

Where do we begin to eliminate gun violence and the misuse of physical power? Dialogue is the most critical element to change deeply rooted ideologies on the subject. Dialogue between state and national leaders? Yes. Moreover, dialogue between individuals in authority of various identities must be instigated to personalize violence and bring negotiations between communities to create safe spaces for EVERYONE in our country, as humans. The revoking of gun rights will not solve this problem. While stricter regulations may affect the circulation of firearms, the discussion must be centered on the use of weapons. In the United States, weapons are symbolic of safety and security. That symbol is voided, however, when individuals encroach on the safety and security of another human, particularly one that is in no way threatening. Desensitization on the issue of gun violence and the reality of tragedies sparked by the misuse of weapons must be brought into conversation in our communities. Likewise, the notion of community must be challenged and broadened. Until neighborhoods, universities, cities, and states accept various identities and appropriately confront identities that marginalize others, we will be unable to have a true community and the violence will not cease.

As a member of Kappa Delta sorority, I have had the privilege to meet and work alongside Jonathan, who was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Despite the discrediting of Greek communities nationwide that have been guilty of perpetuating stereotypes and instigating violence themselves at times, I know no better example of a community that has mobilized to support its members and beyond, and to mourn the loss of Jonathan Krueger. Jon’s death will transcend the Greek community at the University of Kentucky and impact classmates, organization members, faculty, and others alike as we try to make sense of the situation.

What’s In a Name? Choosing an Education Abroad Program

When I knew I wanted to study abroad, I had no idea where to start. I was a Spanish major with a certain interest in further developing my Spanish language proficiency and getting credit towards my degree. Little to my surprise, my university offered literally hundreds of programs that fit my needs. I spent days on end looking through my school’s education abroad portfolio online that features program information and also through packets and brochures acquired in the Education Abroad Office.  Only slightly overwhelmed with information, I sat myself down and a list of my priorities that looked a bit like this…

  1. Cost
    • Can I afford this program? I have 1 summer scholarship that is guaranteed, and the potential to apply for many more. I am not willing to take out a loan for my education abroad experience, nor do I want to deplete my personal savings. How can I get the most time abroad and best immersion for my money?
  2. Credit Offered
    • Do the courses offered by the program meet my needs for graduation? I have one course left to complete my Spanish degree, and it needs to be at the senior level.
  3. Time Frame
    • I want to be gone for a substantial amount of time in the summer, but I want time either at the beginning or end of the summer to work and rebuild some of my savings in consideration of how much I am personally spending on the program.
  4. Host family opportunity
    • I certainly would like the opportunity to live with a host family abroad to guarantee the most cultural immersion, and to give me the most opportunities to use Spanish and further build my proficiency outside of the course I will be taking.
  5. Program Itinerary
    • What is included in the overall program fee? Are meals and transportation included? Are there any included excursions to cultural sites, landmarks, or other cities? I want to make sure I selective a program with a comprehensive itinerary that will limit additional spending I will have to budget for after paying the program fee.

By focusing my energy into making a list of my goals and needs associated with education abroad, I was immediately less stressed and able to approach the search process in a much more reasonable manner. When I looked at a given program, I could then see which of my needs were met and which were not, and was thus able to make the most sensible solution for me. I ultimately selected a program with SOL Education Abroad, a third party organization that facilitates comprehensive Spanish language study abroad programs. In the span of a month and within my personal budget, I was able to see the country of Costa Rica from coast to coast and meet almost all of my desires in this one program! Furthermore, this experience was an academic and professional investment in myself and my future that will not only continue to benefit my language proficiency for years to come, but also my communication style and personal independence! Education abroad can be right for YOU too with just a little planning!

Verdict’s In: Lilly Pulitzer for Target Look Book

So after months of anticipation, the collaboration between Target and Lilly Pulitzer has been revealed. Previously, I referenced what a collaboration such as this would do for the brand and for accessibility to consumers. I still stand by what I said, but sadly, I can’t say I’m completely in love with the new line seen via the Look Book on Target’s website. Of the 14 exclusive prints being offered, I wasn’t overjoyed with any one in particular. If I had to choose a personal favorite, it would definitely be Nosie Posey shown below. I am, however, excited by a few of the cuts of the tops and dresses, and by the home accessory line considering I am in the process of furnishing a new apartment! Check out all the prints! I am also very pleased with the reasonable pricing of the line. I’m curious how quality of items will compare…

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Overall, I expected a little more variety and vibrant colors and patterns from this line. After all, wearing Lilly Pulitzer is a statement wherever you go. The bold colors and patterns captivate attention at events and really draw attention to personal appearance. I could imagine that Lilly for Target has released a relatively tame line considering the items will be produced and sold in bulk, thus making Lilly patterns visible in many more spaces. Although it isn’t the Lilly I fell in love with, I do think it is an appropriate business decision to make such style a reality for individuals with smaller budgets. Check out some of the pieces I’m pretty excited for below! I can’t decided if I want to make a pilgrimage to my local Target on the 19th and fight the crowds, or attempt to order online from the comfort of my bed. My budget won’t permit me to order all of these pieces, but this is what I have my eyes on!

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With love from my wallet,

Sarah Alexandra

Education Abroad and 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.