Evince Magazine July 2016: 20th Anniversary Edition

Interview, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

I had the opportunity to intern this past summer with Evince Magazine. Evince Magazine is a monthly news magazine covering the arts, entertainment, education, economic development, and lifestyle in Danville, Virginia and the surrounding areas. Evince Magazine is printed and distributed free of charge. Check out one of my stories from the July 2016 issue, titled “Mark & Wendy Hermann: Seeing Potential and Realizing Dreams.” It was featured on the cover of the magazine for that month’s issue. You can also read the article down below.

Dr. Mark Hermann attended college at Emory University in Atlanta, received his medical degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and completed his orthopedic residency training in Charlotte, North Carolina. The next move for Mark, wife Wendy, and newborn daughter Mackenzie was to Danville. He explains why, “The practice [Danville Orthopedic Clinic] and the town seemed like it had a lot of opportunity for growth. I felt like it was small enough that I could be part of change, but large enough to be significant and exciting.” Wendy shares similar sentiments, “We were impressed with the kindness of the people we interviewed and sensed it would be a great place to raise a family.”

During the two-and-a-half decades that the Hermanns have lived in Danville, their family grew. Joining first-born Mackenzie, who is now 26 and works in commercial real estate in Denver, is a sister, Chelsea, 24, who works in New York City, and a brother, Gavin, 22, a senior at Western State Colorado University. During their children’s younger years, the family spent a lot of time together. Their love of the outdoors included cycling, camping, mountain climbing and kayaking. “Our favorite memories with our family are those spent cycling in Italy, rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho, mountaineering in Ecuador and spending time at Bald Head Island,” comments Wendy. Mark interjects, “We have always felt that providing our children with the opportunity to travel and experience new and unfamiliar people and cultures was far more important than material possessions. By doing this as a family, we have watched our children grow to be independent yet value our collective memories. Whenever we would go camping or do anything outdoors, any conflict they had would disappear.”

The children are adults now and there is more time to focus on other pursuits. For Mark, that is Spectrum Medical Center formerly known as Danville Orthopedic Clinic. Not only did the organization’s name change in April, but the new location for the clinic in the River District is currently undergoing extensive rehabilitation. Mark is the president and managing partner of a 10-member group consisting of six medical partners and four local businessmen who are developing the River District Tower at the corner of Main and Bridge Streets. When the renovations on the historic building are complete in early 2017, the top two floors will be home to Spectrum Medical. Danville Regional Medical Center will occupy the second floor and the ground floor will contain mixed commercial tenant space. The north annex will become the site of a new dining venue including an outdoor deck overlooking the Dan River.

This renovation project has encountered many obstacles over the past six years and Mark admits that rehabbing an historic building is not for the faint of heart. He explains why the development group accepted the challenge, “We chose to renovate because we were excited about the possibilities of this building and its impact on the future of the community.  It was a choice that met many challenges, but will offer a final product that is unique and exciting.  It is far easier to build new, however, and thus it (rehabbing) is a choice that many abandon.  Historic rehab facilities are incredibly interesting and have a special place in preserving history, but it is difficult for private groups to make this workable.  I am glad we were able to succeed.” With the finish almost in sight, Mark remains optimistic about what the future holds.

Medicine is extremely challenging in so many ways, in terms of the way it is delivered and the economics of it. It can be spirit-breaking,” he admits, but quickly adds, “However, this move and our name change is our chance to energize our entire practice. It is an opportunity for us to realize the dreams and goals we all have shared.” And with that statement, a smile appears on Mark Hermann’s face. He knows the best is yet to come, and that is why that move to Danville in 1990 was fortunate for all of us.

  • Spectrum Medical provides a full range of musculoskeletal services including general orthopedics and surgery, physical therapy, clinical research, rheumatology, pain management, spinal surgery, sports rehab, and sports medicine. Offices in Danville are at 125 Executive Drive and 800 Memorial Drive and at 1075 Spruce Street in Martinsville. The new River District Tower will bring all their clinical operations in Danville under one roof. For more information, visit http://www.spectrummed.com or call 434.793.4711 in Danville and 276.790.3233 in Martinsville.

  • The building at 201 Bridge Street, the new home for Spectrum Medical, contains within its 1915 and 1920 façade, the 1882 Mill #1 of Riverside Cotton Mills, which became Dan River Mills in 1946. It was the only textile mill within the Tobacco Warehouse District and was last used by the Dan River Mills Research Division.

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Evince Magazine July Issue 2016: What Happened in 1996

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

I had the opportunity to intern in Summer 2016 with Evince Magazine. Evince Magazine is a monthly news magazine covering the arts, entertainment, education, economic development, and lifestyle in Danville, Virginia and the surrounding areas. Evince Magazine is printed and distributed free of charge. Check out one of my stories from the July 2016 issue, titled “What Else Happened in 1996?” You can also read the article down below.

What Else Happened in 1996?

In addition to Evince being printed for the first time, here are some of the major stories in the Danville area 20 years ago.

The Blizzard of ’96:

During the first weekend of January, a major winter storm hit Danville. About one foot of snow fell in the city while almost twice that amount covered areas just outside the city limits. Local schools were closed for a week.

George Washington High School Wins Basketball State Championship:

In March, the Eagles defeated Hopewell in the state finals in Lynchburg. The team finished the season ranked #4 in the USA Today Final Poll with a record of 28-0. The victory also marked the end GW coach Harry Johnson’s 20 year career.

Hurricane Fran Caused $50 Million In Damage:

Hurricane Fran caused $50 million in damage across Southside and Caswell County, North Carolina in early September. Heavy rain from Fran added to previous precipitation and brought the Dan River out of its banks. Official feared that the Dan River would reach record flood level but luckily that didn’t happen. Trees were uprooted and power lines fell. Thousands of people lost power, some from more than a week.

Twin Springs Elementary School and Gretna Elementary School Opened:

In September, two new local elementary schools opened: Twin Springs Elementary, in Mount Hermon, and Gretna Elementary. The schools were built with funds from a $23.5 million bond issue that was approved by country voters in May 1993.

The Danville Science Center Enjoyed Its First Full Year:

After opening in late December 1995 amid much fan-fare, the Danville Science Center really blossomed during its first full year. In 1996 alone, more than 400 local members signed up to support the facility, more than 100 people volunteered their time in varying capacities, and that May alone, about 1,800 school children toured the center.

Milton, N.C. Celebrated Its 200th Birthday:

The town of 216 people celebrated its bicentennial with proclamations, music and lights. The town was chartered by the state on Dec. 23, 1796, “to establish a Town and inspection of Tobacco and flour in Caswell County, near the mouth of Country Line creek on the land of Asa Thomas,” according to the town’s charter.

 

Erasing Race from The Oscars… Again

Lifestyle, Pop Culture

Oscars

(This article was originally written for The American Word)

Who will take home a gold statue at this year’s Academy Awards? This question is usually debated at length, but the focus this year will be on who won’t be taking home an award.

The Problem

In the weeks since the Oscar nominations were announced, the lack of diversity in this year’s acting field has dominated the conversation. For the second year in a row, all 20 of the actors nominated in the lead and supporting categories are white. Before 2015, this had not happened since 1998. BroadwayBlack.com managing editor April Reign created the trending Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite as a response to last year’s omissions, and the popular hashtag was revived this year.

Based on the amount of praise and awards that movies such as “Creed” and “Straight Outta Compton” received, many expected these movies to get multiple Oscar nominations. However, each movie only received one Oscar nomination each. Sylvester Stallone received the supporting actor nomination for “Creed,” and Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff received the screenwriting nomination for “Straight Outta Compton.” The problem? They are all white. Many were also shocked to see that “Beasts of No Nation” was shut out from the nominations entirely – Idris Elba, who won a Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in the film, was expected to receive a nomination for supporting actor.

The History of the Oscars’ Lack of Diversity

Only 14 black actors have won an Academy Award in the show’s 88-year history. The first to win was Hattie McDaniel for “Gone With the Wind” in 1940, and the most recent was Lupita Nyong’o for “12 Years a Slave” in 2014.

For other minorities, there are even less Academy Award winners. Only five Latino actors and three Asian actors have ever won an Oscar.

Looking at past viewership data, the lack of diversity in nominees has had a noticeably negative effect on the Oscars’ ratings.

The Daily Beast did a study on this topic using ratings data that broke Oscars viewership down by race. They found that the largest percentage of non-white viewers tuned in to the Academy Awards in years when the most nominees of color and films featuring people of color were nominated.

They also found the years with the highest percentages of non-white viewers also had the highest rated Oscars telecasts overall, which means that people of color have been a major force in providing big ratings for the Oscars.

One example noted by The Daily Beast was the 2005 Oscars telecast. This specific telecast had the highest ratings among black viewers, with 5.3 million people tuning in, amounting to 12.5 percent of 2005’s total viewers. It was also one of the highest rated Oscars ceremonies in the years that The Daily Beast writers examined, with 42 million total viewers. Six nominees were actors of color that year: Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda”), Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Catalina Sandino Moreno (“Maria Full of Grace”), and Jamie Foxx, who won for “Ray” and was also nominated for “Collateral.”

Simply put: history has shown that the more diverse the nominees are, the better the Oscars’ ratings will be.

What To Expect At This Year’s Show

At this year’s ceremony, there will be some notable absences from some of Hollywood’s most famous black actors. Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Tyrese Gibson are among the African American stars who will not be attending this year’s event.

Will Smith, on a recent Good Morning America appearance, called diversity “the American superpower” and said that attending the Oscars, given the lack of diversity among the nominees, would be “awkward.”

“[There are] so many different people from so many different places adding their ideas to this beautiful American gumbo,” Smith said. “At its best, Hollywood represents and creates the imagery for that beauty. But for my part, I think I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country, and make our Hollywood community, great.”

But, there are also unknowns as to what will happen at this year’s ceremony. Will the winners address the controversy in acceptance speeches? Will curiosity attract a whole new crowd of viewers who might not typically tune in?

However, it’s what Oscars host Chris Rock does that might turn out to be the most exciting part of the night. Many people have speculated about how Rock will address the controversy during this year’s telecast.

Rock, who is one of the sharpest comedians when it comes to race observations, previously wrote an essay about Hollywood’s race problem. In December 2014, he wrote, “It’s a white industry. Just as the NBA is a black industry. I’m not even saying it’s a bad thing. It just is… But how many black men have you met working in Hollywood? They don’t really hire black men. A black man with bass in his voice and maybe a little hint of facial hair? Not going to happen. It is what it is. I’m a guy who’s accepted it all.”

Should People Care?

The question is simple: Should people care that there are no actors of color nominated for the Oscars in the acting categories?

Russell Williams, a professor of Film and Media Arts in AU’s School of Communication and a two-time Academy Award winner for his sound work on “Glory” and “Dances with Wolves,” said that the response to the Oscar nominations is not without merit.

“The tone seems to imply, if not explicitly state, that the only reason these actors were nominated is because they are white and not talented,” he said. “Even with the handful of roles that were played by diverse cast members, there were of course even more ‘non-diverse’ actors whose names weren’t called that morning either: Tom Hanks being one of them, for example.” In other words, there were also other white actors who were deserving of a nomination but ultimately left off the ballot.

Many people would argue that the Oscars’ struggles with diversity are important because of the issue of representation. Roger Streitmatter, a Journalism professor in the School of Communication, said that the biggest problem with having no nominees of color is what that means for young people.

“Movies are enormously important in this country, as well as around the world,” he said. “If you’re a young African American girl or Latino boy and you’re sent the message that all the best actors in Hollywood are white, that pretty much says that this isn’t a field for you.”

Williams, a voting member of the Academy himself, agreed. “As the commercial, artistic and entertainment worlds have blended seamlessly, many viewers and listeners take their cues from these various presentations to evaluate their own self-image,” he said. “If this ‘looking glass’ does not appear to value your contributions to society, it can have a negative influence on how you see yourself.”

However, Williams said he does not favor having more diverse stories on screen just to have them on screen; they have to be told as well as other stories.

Although receiving acclaim through awards and nominations is a part of representation, it is important to remember that the biggest issue within the industry is not the number of nominations but the number of opportunities that minority actors and filmmakers actually get in order to be nominated in the first place.

There is only one way for there to be better representation for people of color when it comes to award season: making more movies by, with and about people of color.

It is also important to remember that the issue of lack of representation and opportunity is not something that only matters during awards season; it is a problem 365 days of the year.

So this outcry, anger and rage will only be useful if there is some kind of action behind the emotions year-round and not just in the form of Oscars boycotts.

Solutions?

After the enormous amount of backlash that the governing body of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which officiates the Oscars, has received, they knew that they needed to take action, and take it quickly.

They recently announced plans for a “sweeping series of substantive changes” to help increase diversity among its members.

The board said in a statement that their goal was “to commit to doubling the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.” The changes also include 10-year limits on the voting abilities of new members of the Academy, which will be removed if the member is not “active in motion pictures” in the intervening time.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who herself is African American, said in a statement. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

But, is it enough?

“That’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Streitmatter.

However, many also believe that there needs to be additional changes because of the increasing role of diversity in American society.

One potential change is to bring back the Black Oscars.

Officially, this ceremony was called the Tree of Life Awards, but most people remember it by its informal name, “The Black Oscars.” This annual event was launched in 1981, a time when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rarely recognized black achievements. By 1981, only 27 African Americans had been nominated in the 52-year history of the Oscars, with only three winners.

The Black Oscars became a way for black actors ignored by the Academy to receive acknowledgment of their talents and accomplishments. In addition to the The Black Oscar nominees, many other important and influential members of the black community were also attended. The Tree of Life Awards ended in 2007.

However, Streitmatter believes that one solution is as simple as making choices to see certain films.

“Hollywood is all about the bottom line,” he said. “If we go see movies that feature actors of color, more movies with actors of color will be made.”

Williams echoed similar sentiments: “None of this is sustainable though if the audience doesn’t show up.”

Gearing Up for Summer

Lifestyle

Summer

(This article was one I originally wrote for The American Word)

The days of sleeping in, working to earn money, and staying up late to watch Netflix are upon us. Summer is rapidly approaching and your life slowly will start to become less chaotic. That is exactly why summer is the perfect time to maintain, and maybe even improve, your health. Here are a few ways to make your summer as healthy as possible.

1. Protect yourself from UVA rays.
A little bit of sunlight can be good for you. It provides Vitamin D and can also enhance your mood. But too much UV radiation can be harmful for your body. To protect yourself, apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30 even if its a cloudy, overcast day to avoid getting burnt. Also to prevent getting burnt, don’t sit in the sun between the peak hours of 10am and 4pm. If you are planning to be out in the sun for a long period of time, reapply sunscreen every two to three hours.

2. Drink plenty of water.
During these hot summer months, the heat combined with your sweat can leave your body dehydrated. Therefore, it is incredibly important to maintain a healthy balance by drinking at least eight to nine glasses of water a day.

3. Protect your hair.
While you might not think about it, your hair suffers a lot during the summer between the constant sun, humidity, and chlorine damage. If you plan to swim a lot, use an anti-chlorine shampoo afterwards to help neutralize the chlorine from your hair. Also, minimizing your use of hairdryers, straighteners, and other heating products will help keep your natural, beachy waves intact.

4. Exfoliate your skin.
Summer leads to an increase of dead skin cell which causes your face to look dull and dry. For this reason, exfoliating your skin is extremely important. If you exfoliate one to three times a week, you will be able to maintain healthy, glowing summer skin.

5. Don’t just sit around, go out and exercise.
As college kids, this is probably the hardest for us to accomplish. We would definitely prefer to sit on the couch inside in our air conditioned rooms with our Netflix queue then to go outside and be active. However, engaging in some physical activities would be the healthier option. Start an exercise program or even go outside for some hiking or swimming. Not only is it healthy for your body, but it benefits your mind as well.

Letter to the Freshmen

Lifestyle, School
(This article was one I originally wrote for The American Word)
 

Dear Freshmen,

Welcome to American University. Or, as I heard it referred to more than a hundred times during my freshman year, your home away from home. The following are things I wish I had known or had been reminded of when I got to college my freshman year; I hope this letter helps you.

The American University/DC experience:

First, don’t feel like you have to have an internship right away, especially one on Capitol Hill. While these internships might make you feel important, you are still getting adjusted to a new environment. You should take the time to learn your way around. Next, don’t forget about the Washington, D.C. tourist attractions. You might think you have the next four years to do it and you do. But, you also don’t want to be that senior who still hasn’t been to Georgetown or seen the Washington Monument. In terms of WMATA, never stand on the left side of the escalator. Know that the escalators at the Tenleytown-AU stop break down and break down often. Learn the bus routes. All of these things will make your traveling experience much easier. Lastly, in order to survive at AU, you need to make sure you always have a supply of food. You’ll need it for the weekend when nothing is open, when Subway runs out of everything possible and the many snow days we’re bound to have this school year.

General college advice:

First, be responsible and know your limits. If you feel like you’re in trouble, call Public Safety or 911. Next, there are plenty of events with free food happening around campus. Find them and love them. Speaking of events – go to as many as possible. There is always a variety of things going on from athletic games to speeches to concerts. You should take advantage of all the opportunities. Next, don’t forget about your campus resources. Your RAs are great people to go to for advice. Also, your biggest resources are your professors. Go to their office hours and use them as mentors; that is what they are here for. If you’re still looking for a way to get involved, join a club. I joined two my freshman year and they have had a great impact on me and my college experience so far. You should also make sure you help keep your hall clean. Your floor mates and RA will thank you for sticking to those community standards and not having to have extra meetings throughout the year. Next, don’t spend money that you don’t have; be frugal and spend your money wisely. Check your bank account so that you can know what you have and you don’t have. Lastly, the most important thing to remember is to go to class. Learn what you can. Put in the effort and you will be rewarded. Don’t procrastinate your work and get behind because nobody benefits from that. This is the purpose of you’re being at AU, after all.

I’ll leave you with some basic reminders to keep with you during these next four years.

Remember to ask for help if you need it. I could probably bet that you are not alone. It’s also okay to be homesick every now and then; everybody is at some point whether they admit it or not. Eventually, it will go away.

This is the best time to embrace who you are. You should take the time to be selfish because this time is solely about you.

Breathe. Everything will be okay. These are the best four years of your life. Have fun.

Love,

Bryna a.k.a. someone who has been there before

The Best “Off the Beaten Path” Vacations

Lifestyle

(This article was one I originally wrote for The American Word)

Summer is rapidly approaching and with it comes the age old tradition: the summer vacation. Many people take trips to the classic vacation destinations – Disney, Hawaii, New York City, etc. But why would you want to be smothered by some creep in a giant Mickey costume, fight tooth and nail for a single square inch on an over-crowded beach, or try to appear on every morning show possible when you could take a chance on visiting one of these places instead? Here is a listed of the most off the beaten path places in the United States you should visit this summer.

Sightseeing: Marfa, Texas

A small town with 2,000 people in the middle-of-nowhere Texas is not usually what comes to mind when you think of sightseeing. However, over the past few decades Marfa, Texas has become nothing short of a destination for art lovers from all over the world to come and see. In 1971, renowned artist Donald Judd moved to Marfa from the Big Apple with the intention of permanently installing his art, putting the town on the map in terms of the art world. He transformed the decommissioned army base into art spaces, which eventually inspired the cultural center for contemporary artists and artisans that it is today. One of the more well-known pieces in Marfa is a pop art exhibit done by the Scandinavian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset called Prada Marfa, which is located about 35 miles from town. The only way to truly experience this town is by visiting it. The Marfa Visitor Center literature says the town is, “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here, you get it.”

Nature: North Cascades Park, Washington

Washington’s North Cascades Park gives nature lovers a combination of two very different experiences. In the park complex, you will find glacier-clad peaks rising almost vertically from thickly forested valleys and temperate rainforests. The result of such varying landscapes is a variety of plants and animals. But despite being called the American Alps, the North Cascades Park is one of the least-visited parks in the entire country. The wildness and ruggedness of the park is especially what lures hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers to visit each year. While that might turn off some casual outdoorsmen, the ones willing to try it out will get the rare experience of spotting bald eagles and hearing the numerous waterfalls that give the park its name.

Beach: Anna Maria Island, Florida

One of the best parts of the summer season is visiting the beach. However, for some, the usual crowds in popular beach towns like Miami are a big turn-off. If you’re looking for a beach vacation that is much more low-key, check out Anna Maria Island. Located on the west coast of Florida and just south of Tampa, the island is a coveted destination for Floridians, beach-goers and global travelers alike. The seven mile long, less than a mile wide island has arguably the whitest and most pristine beaches in all of the US. Anna Maria Island is committed to restricting development on the island. Not a single building on the island is over three stories tall and you will not find any fast food, wi-fi hotspots or familiar chain establishments there. If you love being able to unplug from the world or the “Old Florida” feel, Anna Maria Island is perfect for you.

Museums: National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN

A motel is not a typical location for a museum. However, for the National Civil Rights Museum, it makes sense. Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel was where Martin Luther King Jr. stood before he was assassinated. The site marks the center of a cultural revolution that changed the course of United States History. The museum was reconstructed in 2014 and now allows the entire museum to be inside the former motel. However, you would hardly know it as the exterior of the motel remains pretty much as it once was. The museum gives you the chance to look at the civil rights movement through the eyes of the people who gave it life.

Rest and Relaxation: Newport, Rhode Island

Sometimes it’s nice to go on a vacation solely just to get away for a little rest and relaxation. If that is what you are looking to do, consider visiting Newport, Rhode Island. ABC News said that the little New England harbor town “represents life the way it should be”. Newport is well-known for its beautiful landscapes, filled with breathtaking shorelines, gorgeous sunsets, and sparkling waters. The town’s harbor is home to America’s Cup sailboats, yachts and everything in between. Some other possible activities you can do to relax during your visit include shopping, eating fresh from the ocean seafood, visiting the Tennis Hall of Fame, and viewing mansions of American royalty. The combination of Newport’s beauty and relaxing atmosphere is a constant and simple reminder that you should enjoy life’s little pleasures.

Staycation: Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C.

Can’t afford to leave Washington, D.C. this summer but still want to avoid all of the tourists down on the National Mall? Visit Rock Creek Park! D.C. is lucky to have a unit of the National Park System right here in our own backyard. Located in northwestern D.C. and not that far from AU, it’s a great place for jogging, biking, picnicking, or whatever you desire. The park closes some streets to auto traffic on weekends and holidays, which creates peaceful paths that make you feel even more removed from the busy world of government and business that are just around the corner. Rock Creek Park completely fulfills its 1890 mandate to be “a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of the United States” by being more than just a public park, but offering a nature center, a planetarium, historical exhibits, and even a concert venue. It is definitely a must visit place in D.C. that does not get as much credit as it deserves.

Yakking About The New College Trend

Lifestyle

yik-yak-web-logo

(This article was one I originally wrote for The American Word)

I heard about Yik Yak for the first time in the beginning of the semester. I was on a weekend retreat in Maryland with a group of fellow students. I was surprised to see so many people checking their phones during the two days we were gone from campus. It turns out everybody was using this new app called Yik Yak. They were checking out, for the most part, what happened at the different fraternity parties the night before. Some people were checking on their own parties while others were looking at the ones their friends had gone to. I had only just heard of it, but I could already tell what role it was starting to play on college campuses.

Yik Yak is a new app. Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington, two college graduates from Furman University, created it in November 2013.

The way it works is pretty simple. The app allows people to make anonymous posts, also known as “yaks.” Then, the posts are either upvoted or downvoted and commented on. The users earn reputation points, or “yakarma”, with the more upvotes they get. It also works based on location meaning you can only see other “yaks” that are within 1.5 miles of your location.

Yik Yak’s target audience is us; Yik Yak aims their app at college students. Their number of users grows daily and currently it is on more than 1,000 college campuses worldwide.

It has had a huge effect on college campuses even though it hasn’t been around for that long. A lot of college students like to use Yik Yak to get a sense of the community they belong to. TDR even embraced this idea a few weeks ago. They printed out screen shots of different yaks students had posted about TDR.

The effect of Yik Yak’s power has had many different reactions. Some colleges have actually reached out to Yik Yak to see how they can better use it on campus.

But, the power it has is also part of the problem with Yik Yak. The anonymous posts lead to the possibility of cyberbullying and has already seen threats of violence, sex crimes and hate crimes. Many colleges such as Kenyon College and Colgate University want to ban it from their campuses. Norwich University in Vermont has already blocked access to Yik Yak on their college computer network.

Yik Yak has recognized the problems and is working to put more safety measures in place.

Thus, the question is: should I download Yik Yak? Is it worth all of the buzz? I’ll admit, it is fun. I downloaded it to try it out for writing this article. But it was fun only for a while. It has a lot of funny posts, but the jokes are unoriginal. I liked that it allows you to access an entire campus. So, unlike with Twitter, you don’t have to spend the time building a follower base. I also liked that Yik Yak is much more of a community forum than previous anonymous sites. However, I didn’t think it was worth the hype or worth downloading.

Studying Abroad “Brought Out the Best in Me”

Interview, Lifestyle, School

Andrea Study Abroad 2

(This article was one I originally wrote for The American Word)

Many students choose to study abroad during their time at college, which is definitely the case here at American University. According to American University’s website, 60 percent of the Class of 2013 studied abroad during their time as an undergraduate. However, no one person’s experience studying abroad is the same. These experiences come in all different shapes and sizes; each country, city, and study abroad program offers each student a different experience.

Meet Andrea Fenster, a senior here at AU. She studied abroad in Spring 2015 at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Denmark with about 30 other students from AU. She talked to The American Word about her personal experience with studying abroad at DIS.

Fenster is a Law and Society major with two minors in Sociology, and Public Policy. She is also graduating this December. So she knew that if she wanted to study abroad that she needed to find the right program, one that would fit in with her studies and still allow her to graduate early. She started looking at the typical study abroad locations, like London, but immediately decided against it. “It seemed like a safe and boring choice,” she said.

The reason she ultimately chose DIS was because of a “core class” she found out about when initially researching the program. “Core classes are kind of like a UC here at AU,” Fenster described. The particular course Fenster discovered was called Prostitution and the Sex Trade. After learning about this class online, she says that she immediately was “stuck” on taking this class and studying at DIS. So, she went through the application process and found out she got accepted.

After she accepted and put her deposit down, Fenster freaked out a little bit. She had no idea as to what she had just gotten herself into. “All I really knew about Denmark before I left was that it was cold and rainy,” she said. She did a little bit of research on Denmark before she left, but ultimately chose to go with the flow. “I didn’t set any particular goals for myself while I was abroad. I knew I wanted to have a great time and learn about Danish life and culture.”

Fenster found some similarities to AU in her experience as a student at DIS. She took five classes while she was abroad and they were taught in a way that was similar to AU. She also said that like AU, DIS emphasized experiential learning and taking advantage of the city where you are located.

However, she also found a lot of differences in her experience abroad. In terms of the campus, Fenster likened it to GW; you had to take a bus to class and the campus itself was located in the middle of Copenhagen. One of the biggest differences between AU and DIS that she noticed was the work itself. At DIS, they emphasized different types of learning. Fenster recalled that her professors pushed personal creativity and incorporating your own views in your work. They didn’t always want her to have research in her assignments and “they loved first person.”

Traveling is usually a big part of studying abroad and it was definitely the case in Fenster’s experience at DIS. DIS encourages its students to travel to other countries and cities while they study. They even provide their students with three week-long travel breaks. Fenster spent part of one of her travel breaks with her core class, but otherwise, was free to travel wherever she wanted. “My friends and I wanted to make the most of these breaks, so we usually made it to three countries in each break,” she said. Some of the places she visited on her breaks included Prague, Vienna, Amsterdam, Paris, Nice, Marseille, and Barcelona. In total, she was able to visit 12 different countries.

When asked if she had come back from study abroad having learned a lot about herself or feeling like she was a completely different person, Fenster didn’t feel like she had in any noticeable way. But she did notice that study abroad brought out the best version of herself. “I was very happy and content while I was abroad. I was responsible and adaptable in new countries and I loved every minute of it.”

Even though every person has a different study abroad experience, Fenster did have one piece advice that could be for anyone who is getting ready to study abroad, whether they are going to DIS or a different continent entirely. She said to make sure to say yes to anything and everything, whether it is traveling to a new country or going to a new wine bar down the street. This is the time, she said, when you should go explore and do as much as you possibly can. “It’s the same thing I told myself at summer camp: don’t let being tired stop you from having fun. You can sleep when you are back at home.”