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

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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.