Outside My Window: College Through my Panes

The Finished Chapter and the Now Open Window

Posted in Uncategorized by ssnyd17 on February 6, 2014

Well, I finally proved that I neglected the one (and only) consistent thing I’ve had in the past four years of college: my blog. And oh well! What can you do when you are living life and that life just keeps rolling by without blog posts. But it’s time to say goodbye to this chapter of my life. College was great, but employment is even better. Here’s a list of the amazing things that made the last few years/ months at GW and in DC everything I could have hoped for and more: 

1. Friends from Freshman to Senior Year: Everyone says your freshman friends stay in freshman year. Not for me. They just happen to be some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. What a pleasure to share this journey. 

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2. Hall-mates turned friends turned family: Fulbright. How could we ever forget you. From your small, smelly rooms to your pathetic cracked ceilings, what a gem you were to live in. You sure did have a true knack for helping to create a family. (And help me find a boyfriend too). 

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3. Internships: Only in retrospection could I have realized that having six throughout my college career was a bit excessive. But to the one that fulfilled a childhood dream, here’s to my internship at National Geographic during my final semester. I didn’t know at the time that I would eventually be hired, but the opportunity to see the way you make people care about the planet since 1888 is inspiring. I could not be more grateful to learn and grow here. Because even my craziest ideas seemed like the next perfect adventure. 

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4. My mentors: Where would I possibly be without the amazing people who reminded me of my goals and worked just as hard to make them become a reality. Jason Osder, thanks for always knowing when I needed smacked down and lifted up. And for putting up with the countless hours sitting in your office brainstorming. Robert McRuer, for helping me think outside the box. Kerric Harvey, thanks for reminding me to always think deeply and passionately. Frank Sesno, for reminding me that this industry is unforgiving and brutal but always worth it. David Legg, for instilling a passion for communicating that only lit my fire and encouraged it to never burn out. 

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5. My film: A creative piece I had dreamed about doing for years. The biggest challenge, yet most satisfying reward thus far. NYC will always and forever be my creative vacation. 

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6. MSC (now the MSCC): The club I started my senior year. A place to really show my leadership potential and find the amazing people who will keep SMPA kicking long after my time is up. A real reality check at the bureaucracy at our lovely school. 

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7. My senior thesis- Damn, what a project. What a privilege to study and learn any thing I wanted. Maybe if I didn’t have to write it in 4 days it would have been more enjoyable. But at least it’s a good story to tell now, huh?

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8. Graduation- The official back cover to this thing we call college. A week of fun and remembering that these 4 years were as good as you made them. And damn, I think I did good! A much needed and perfect celebration. 

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9. My trip to Africa- A realization that for the first time ever, I’m a paid journalist. And one that gets to go to Africa in that! One hell of a way to kick off this employment thing. And a sure sign I’ll be back to travel and cover more of the world. 

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10. My family- Up, down, thick and thin. One of the major reasons I can be the crazy person I’ve always wanted to be. Supportive, loving, and a reason I am me!

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So the last post in this blog. I feel good. But soon, there will be a new one. Ready for adventures, new experiences, crazy ideas. And most of all will be a little mixture of all of me!

 

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No Better Place to Call Home: What It Means to Be SMPA Proud

Posted in Uncategorized by ssnyd17 on May 9, 2013

 

The end of last week marked the biggest and one of the final steps in my GW career as a graduating Political Communication major. I hosted my very first documentary preview screening for my film, “Verge of Existence.” The piece, funded by the first ever Manheim-Sterling Undergraduate Research Prize, looks into the lives of LGBTQ homeless youth living in New York City. As I spent hours last week in the edit bays of the 5th floor, I couldn’t help but realize that these may be some of the last moments I would edit here. And as the hours ticked by, I felt a strange sense of nostalgia for the many hours I had already spent in SMPA over the last four years.

While I may have been the kid who knew from the minute I stepped onto GW’s campus that I wanted to come here, I couldn’t have predicted the amazing opportunities and path I would take as an SMPA student. Thinking I was going to be a political reporter, I pursued my first internship with a local government as their communications intern. Almost as soon as I had signed on, I was ready to be done with this whole government thing. And this experience left me quickly without a dream job.

But with the support of some of the best SMPA faculty and the Internship Database, I began to find my footing right where my heart had been set the entire time. My mini-documentary from Jason Osder’s class landed in the National Film Festival for Talented Youth in 2011, and I got to sit on a panel called “Out of the Closet, Onto the Screen” as an ‘expert’ student filmmaker. I traveled to Chattanooga, TN with Bridgett Lynn to see what made the newest Volkswagen Plant the first LEED Platinum Auto Plant in the world. I did all of this while interning with amazing companies like Prime Movers Media, Planet Forward, Spark Media, Believe Out Loud and National Geographic Society.

But none of these opportunities would have meant anything without having incredible peers in both Political Communication and Journalism who pushed me to be my best. Production partners, classmates, friends and colleagues have been some of my greatest collaborators, toughest critics and most loyal fans that I have grown to respect and admire. By the time you take Senior Seminar, it is no longer just a class but a weekly family gathering.

When the lights went down and the music started playing from my film, I was overwhelmed by how many familiar faces filled my audience. I have felt so much love and support from my classmates and all of the amazing professors that helped me reach my full potential in this program.

I have never felt more proud to be part of a community like SMPA. People always say that SMPA majors have more SMPA pride than GW pride, and I can certainly say that I’ve felt that last week. There is no place I have been more proud to call home than the School of Media and Public Affairs.

My First Official 5K Race

Posted in Editorial and Persuasive Writing by ssnyd17 on November 26, 2012

I’m not a runner. I’ve never been, nor do I want to be. I dread the moment I have to push myself through shin splits and inhales I cannot grab to cross a finish line. What’s the point of a race when you are in pain for most of it anyways?

I played soccer in high school, so naturally that came with doing a few sprints now and again. Luckily, I played goalie, so when we did the timed two-mile run, it didn’t matter how long it took me, so long as it was completed.

I like to be in good shape. Dancing has always been my passion and favorite way to do so. Yoga, intramural sports and the elliptical do what I need them to do. But I avoid the treadmill at all costs.

When my sister suggested we run a 5K Turkey Trot before the meal on Thanksgiving Day, to say I was hesitant would be an understatement. Let’s see, we would be running; I’m already not a fan. Then getting up early on a break from school; obviously not favorable. The race would happen in November, so it is probably going to be cold. Now, I had checked out before even signing up.

But I feared disappointing my sister more. She wanted so desperately to do a family bonding activity. Even though I hate running, how could I resist?

Here we are: Thanksgiving morning. Thursday, November 22nd at 7:20 am came much sooner than expected. After suiting up in my new purple running outfit, we were on our way to downtown Pittsburgh. The car thermometer read 35 degrees. Brrrr.

Driving around the block multiple times in attempts to find a parking spot only added to my feeling of not wanting to get out of the car. Soon enough, I’m lined up at the start with nearly 5,000 other runners. The gun sounds and we are off.

My expectation was to be the slow one. My sister had been training over a month for this race while I simply played two to three soccer games a week for kicks and giggles. We round the first bend, I jump ahead to get in front of a few women walking. My sister fails to follow; now I’m on my own.

Keeping a steady pace, I pass a few other racers and let a few pass me. I see the first mile marker off of the 7th Street Bridge and shockingly, I feel great. In only a few minutes I notice the second one, then the third. I spend most of the race following the crowd and daydreaming. In what felt like 10 minutes, but is a short half an hour later, I finished.

A bit sore from the cold and cramped muscles, here’s what this three-mile race taught me: 1. Stop complaining and start doing. If you think you can finish, you will. 2. You can be anything you choose to be. 3. Maybe training would help make me a better runner.

The Organic Food Eating, Yoga- doing, Granola Crunching Type

Posted in Editorial and Persuasive Writing by ssnyd17 on November 26, 2012

This isn’t the 1960s. We all didn’t just get back from Woodstock. Or a protest about ‘Nam. So what’s the deal with this whole ‘hippie’ wellness behavior?

While some of us may be trying to be one with the Earth, a new trend in diet and exercise has brought out the best in American city dwellers.

Eating organic, local food has become a rising trend around major urban areas in the U.S. With access to higher-end grocery stores, like Whole Foods, getting quality produce has become easier and easier. Local farmers markets are, too, more popular. The current number of farmers markets registered with the USDA is 7,864. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in early August that the number of farmer’s markets has increased by nearly 10% in the past year. The most successful states stretch from coast to coast with California and New York leading the way. In Washington, D.C. there is nearly one every other day during the spring and summer. As a city dweller myself, I can get fresh fruits and vegetables for my weekly meals. And when they aren’t there, you ask? Well buy extra for the winter and stick them in the freezer.

Sometimes it’s about following the lead of our ancestors. Back in the day people like George Washington used to salt their fresh meat for storage and make jam out of their leftover fruits. Smart preservation let them eat healthier with fresh ingredients even during off seasons.

But of course with easy access comes a higher price. Organic foods take more time and care than non-organic products. Organic products cost anywhere between 20% and 100% more than their non-organic counterparts, according to Fox News. With the disparities in wealth, a large segment of individuals within a city are unable to access these products, regardless of the improved health standard.

This new journey for a healthy mind and body does not just end with what you consume. It has to do with exercise too. So, let’s talk about yoga. A physical activity that teaches you mind and body control. The exercise focuses on the individual success and confidence. With our American ideals, no wonder it has become so popular. Americans have to be in control. And now us urbanites like toned, shaped muscles too.

And this granola-crunching adjective has been around for far too long. While it used to mean eating granola and recycling every plastic bottle, it now has transitioned to mean being in touch with nature. Hiking, fishing, and climbing have gained some serious traction both on the East and West coasts. High-energy activities fit right along in with this ‘hippie’ attitude.

While America may still be the most overweight and out of shape country in the world, this new energy may be the solution to our problem. While we are far short from losing all of our fat as a nation, our city dwellers are developing habits that should be mimicked in the rest of the lifestyles across from the country. So give into this ‘hippie’ lifestyle. Maybe the energy of the 1960s will return right along with it.

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Wasted Energy

Posted in Editorial and Persuasive Writing by ssnyd17 on November 26, 2012

An eerie, queasy feeling fills my stomach when bills arrive in the mailbox. Those dreaded numbers printed in black ink spell out the future for my bank account. I can see the green dollar bills disappearing right before my eyes.

The most unpredictable one, the electric bill, usually stares blankly at me from my kitchen table for almost three days until I decide to reveal my fate. Slowly, steadily, I rip open the sealed envelope. Pull the folded paper from its cover. And see, what the print out has in store for me.

To great surprise, this one only reads $63.79. In a whole month, I spent about $16 a week on utilities.  In this current economy, every penny saved makes a great deal of difference.

But besides the money disappearing before my eyes, paying per kilowatt of energy used had made me aware of how much electricity is truly wasted. The average electric bill for Washington, D.C is $3,314.57, according the U.S. Department of Energy. Despite some of the differences between the type of homes  that use it, we ranked as the highest spender compared to other major areas around the country. What does that mean?

We are wasteful. Air conditioning blasts out of the vents while no one is home. Lights remain on throughout the night. Heated water is left running in excess before we hop into the shower.

Let’s think about if any or all of it disappeared. It did for many individuals during the recent Hurricane Sandy. No lights. No water. No heat during the winter. No air conditioning during the summer. Besides being mildly unpleasant, this is a very real reality that we may need to face in the near future.

The sources used to create electricity are not free either. With coal as the leading source of power, it produces 44% of our electricity and is the single largest air polluter says the Union of Concerned Scientists. I’m not advocating for clean energy or even finding a new source of power. I’m suggesting we start using the energy we have in smarter ways. Despite the abundance and easy access to coal, it is not a renewable resource. What we use now cannot be replaced for later.

But solving this problem is much easier than you think.  Use what you need then turn it off. We live a country that thrives on electricity. Not using it would be foolish and down right impossible. But using less is definitely a feasible solution. Turn the lights off when you are not in the room and turn the central heating off when you leave. These small changes will make a difference in your energy consumption and on your wallet.

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The Interview As An Art

Posted in Editorial and Persuasive Writing by ssnyd17 on November 26, 2012

Shy has never been an adjective used to describe me. Loud, chatty, bold. Those are a bit more accurate. When I was asked to apply for the Senior Interviewer Program at the George Washington University, I could not resist.

If there was ever an activity that I was meant to do, it would be this one. Maybe besides being a tour guide, there is no better fit. My job has been to interview perspective freshmen to see if he or she is a good match for the university. With only a few training sessions, I have the ability to shape a conversation with these students and decide if they should be my replacement after I graduate.

Even though I thought I would enjoy this, I still severely underestimated how much fun I would really have. In doing two interviews a week, I get to meet students from across the country and hear about the cool things they are doing in their communities. It is their stories that make me excited.

But capturing their narratives can be tricky. As the interviewer, I can navigate the conversation to every corner of the room and unlock doors into his or her secrets. When I ask a question, they are free to answer as they wish. Directly at it, dancing around it, or switching to another related topic give me insight into their personality and their confidence. The key is to be direct and specific. But the mystery behind each door still remains.

Until now, I never realized the true art of an interview. While I grew up watching the news and seeing how lead reporters captured the stories of their guests, it never occurred to me that there was a technique to the conversation. Talking, to me, was natural. And while it may be a skill for most who get the chance to be an interviewer, understanding what makes a person tick in a short amount of time takes talent.

My only hope is that through my talkative personality, I can give the floor to my interviewee for them to share their experiences. After all, its their moment to shine.

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Dozing Off is a Distant Dream

Posted in Editorial and Persuasive Writing by ssnyd17 on November 26, 2012

As any good college student with endless assignments and a hefty load of finals slowly approaching, sleep is a memory from Thanksgiving break that sped by way too fast. I almost forget already what it feels like to be completely rested and without black and blue circles beneath my eyes.

No matter how hard I try, sleep is the one activity that gets neglected. Even when I think I have a balanced course load, and I’m on top of all of my work, it still happens. But it seems that I may not be the first or last college student with this problem.

A simple Google search can help soothe any tireless mind on the effects of minimal sleep. Article after article states that without sleep, stress levels reach magnitudes that are too difficult to manage. Lower grade point averages wreak havoc upon the tired eyes. In the infographic attached below, the average GPA of a night owl is a 2. 65 out of a 4.0 scale, while those students who are rested receive on average a 3.05 out of 4.0. Even though .4 points is not a huge stretch, a few more hours under the covers every night may help every student to focus and have a more productive day.

But it is not just grades. Health is affected too. Over 70% of college students report to have some kind of illness at least once a year. Most of these minor ailments could have been prevented with a full eight hours of rest.  With 80% of students complaining that they do not get enough sleep, something has got to change.

Much is expected from students these days. Organizing and participating in multiple clubs, internships, sports, having a part-time job and maintaining a full course load may be a bit excessive. While being busy is the name of the game,  being overwhelmed is not.

Abundant sleep may only be three weeks away, yet a consistent sleep schedule may do wonders for me, especially during finals time. With some quality rest, tackling one of my last semesters in college should be as easy as counting sheep.

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Updated Technology

Posted in Editorial and Persuasive Writing by ssnyd17 on November 26, 2012

Music is playing. The smells of fresh, homemade food overtake the house.  The noise level elevates as guests continue to arrive.

Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is here. Family and friends gather round the ever-stretching table, filling themselves to the limit. And year after year, the tradition continues.

But this year, the generational gap between me, my parents and my grandparents seemed to be stretched more than usual. Without a doubt, that gap can be filled with the ‘new gizmos’ that wiz, spin, and have their own brain. In other words, technology.

As new gadgets continue to come out, the understanding between generations on how to use these things grows wider and wider. The countless moments this weekend where I had to explain to my grandmother that a text message is similar to an email but on her phone, and her responding with “but no one is there,” were limitless. Or how about trying to tell my dad that a playlist on his iPod (which I created for him) was made just for the tunes he likes to listen to during dinner. What about when my sister, boyfriend and I sat around watching our favorite TV show, Dexter, from a computer that streamed to the TV with a HDMI cord. It’s these little moments that are nearly laughable to anyone of the millennial generation.

But it does make sense. When my dad was growing up, he listened to music off of one 8-track deck at a time. My grandmother understands that the only way to reach someone was by knocking on their door or calling them on the telephone. She obviously would have to manually remember the number then twist her phone dial to reach the numbers she wanted, where I learned that looking a friend up in my ‘contacts’ section of my phone was how you made a call.

Times have changed and with that, so has technology. The ways we connect with each other and watch TV, read books, magazines and newspapers have changed. And will continue to do so. We do not have to sit in a restaurant not knowing where Boyd and Blair vodka came from; we can look it up on the Internet within the next minute. And when we write an article for class we can post it online and add links so our readers can understand what we are talking about.

It is not about trying to hide where we are from, like my grandmother thinks. It’s about embracing where we are headed. And as much as she might try to say that her email does not work and she would rather find out the weather in the ‘dead-tree’ version of the paper, she slowly embraces technology without even noticing it.

“Hey Denise, I love the brussels sprouts. You should put the recipe on Facebook,” my grandmother uttered for the entire family to hear at the yearly feast. 

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

Posted in Editorial and Persuasive Writing by ssnyd17 on November 26, 2012

If there’s one thing that’s good about the holiday season, it is that most people try to be nice. Regardless of whether the guilt of being negative during the rest of the year is finally weighing down upon them or it is their usual behavior, the energy from a crowd of cheerful people is contagious.

Yet, there is one activity that constantly brings about a feeling of stress, anxiety, and misery no matter what time of year it is: traveling.

During the holiday season, the pains of traveling are worse than usual. Longer lines, overly crowded transportation, extra security pat downs, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and lost luggage illustrate this part of the holidays. Trying to get together with family and friends for a peaceful gathering is a vision of the past.

As if the ‘travel’ part of traveling wasn’t bad enough, everything costs more too. Train, bus, and airline tickets are almost twice as expensive as they would in a low season.   By the end of this year, airlines will collect a total of $36 billion just from fees like baggage, change of flights, and travel insurance, according to CBS Morning News.

Cost or not, this is not stopping us resilient Americans. AAA recorded that 43.6 million Americans will travel somewhere for the Thanksgiving holiday.  That’s a 0.7% increase from last year.

No matter the hassle and headache travel may bring, it is obvious that we will still do it.  Winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza should be celebrated with family. The feeling of togetherness cannot be stopped by high costs and perpetual irritation.

So here’s a small piece of advice: try to use some of your holiday joy while traveling. While this may seem like a ridiculous and nearly impossible request to fulfill, I think it is possible.

Stop honking your car horns and let people into your lanes. Stop pushing in line and patiently wait your turn. Stop over packing your suitcase and learn to bring a small bag. These simple tips will uplift your attitude and make getting to your destination much smoother.

And help each other out once in a while. On a recent train home from New Jersey, a woman having difficulty lifting her bag into the overhead storage area. A nice gentleman helped her, instead of watching her struggle. This is the kind of attitude everyone should have during his or her holiday travels. After all, this is the “season to be jolly.”

Stories on Stories on Stories

Posted in Uncategorized by ssnyd17 on October 13, 2012

Here are a few links to blog posts I wrote for my internship for Believe Out Loud:

1. A Baptist church in Virginia is being kicked out of one of the ‘governing bodies’ of all Baptist churches because they elected a gay clergy member: “Storm Coming as Baptist Church Kicked Out”

2. This article examines a Pew Study on Religion and Millennials: Young Voters with a Religious Passion

3.  Even in churches there are politics: Bishop Marc Andrus Denied Entrance to Installation Mass of Roman Catholic Archbishop

With the final push for marriage equality the main four states are running serious campaigns to make the vote count:

4. Religious leaders in Washington state speak their mind on the issue: Religious Leaders Support Marriage Equality in WA

5. Catholic Parents Talk About Marriage Equality in Minnesota

6. Firefighters stand up for their LGBTQ counterparts in Maine: Extra Muscle for Marriage Equality in Maine

7. Reverend Lang speaks to WA state about marriage: Marriage Equality in WA

Stay tuned for more updates!