Summer Doldrums

By Gina Samec

While some of your friends may be vacationing in Italy or Mexico,  with the pictures on Facebook to prove it, others, like me, are stuck at home with less desirable things to do. I truly wish I could be writing an article about my trip to Spain but that is not the case. Summer is moving at a snail pace for me which is a shift from my summers as a kid where they never seemed to be long enough. I never travel, I don’t have a driver’s license, and oftentimes distance and schedules make hanging out with friends challenging. Due to these misfortunes, I have resorted to other means of keeping myself entertained. If you find yourself in the same boat, hopefully some of these suggestions will help you pass the time.

This first suggestion may seem very obvious but it is no small feat for some of us. Read a book! I know many people who detest reading and would rather watch paint dry. Although I don’t dislike reading, I haven’t been reading as many books for fun as I used to. I realized recently that I miss that feeling I had as a kid, when I could not bear to put my book down because I was so engrossed in the story. Though it falls lower on my list of summer activities, I decided to pick up a nonfiction book last month. I promise you will feel a sense of accomplishment after finishing a book, not to mention, if you’re reading in English, you’ll be practicing the language. Here is a list of popular English language novels that are great for second language learners. 

If you truly hate reading, try making a list of movies you’ve always been meaning to see. I did this and ended up discovering some of my current favorite movies. I mention movies over television shows because it’s only two hours of commitment. If you can’t think of what to watch, choosing from AFI’s or IMDB’s best movies of all time lists are good places to start.

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Exploring Migration in the EU   

By Arianna Babraj

This summer, I am spending six weeks in Paris, France, where I am taking a Public Policy in the European Union course through the American University of Paris. I have been in Paris for 3 weeks now and I am so grateful for all of my experiences and for all of the amazing people that I have met here thus far. I selected this course because I saw that it would cover migration in the EU, a concept which interests me given recent events. Since being here, we have talked about models of integration and governance, citizenship, and the concept of belonging for specific groups within Europe, like Roma and refugee populations.

After I finish this course, I will be traveling throughout Italy to conduct independent research on people’s opinions of immigrants in light of the recent elections. While I have been here in Paris, I have kept up with the current situation in Italy. The most alarming event thus far has been the newly elected government’s choice to begin turning NGO boats carrying immigrants in life threatening situations away from Italian ports. During the same period, we have seen the US immigration policy take a dark turn with the President’s decision to separate families at the border.

Unfortunately, more and more countries, particularly within the EU, are choosing to close doors instead of open them. Politicians with anti-immigration stances often ignore the positive impacts that immigrants have had on their countries, economically and otherwise, and, instead, push rhetoric fueled by emotional reactions related to isolated cases that show immigrants in a negative light, resolutely bypassing statistics that display the positive impacts because these facts negate their wayward position.

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Witnessing the American Landscape through my Car Window

By Amber Heldreth-Miller

The United States is a large country in terms of physical size. Many countries throughout the world, especially in Europe, are small and you can drive from one side to another in a single day–but not America. Not only is it physically large, but there are many different cultures, ways of living, and people scattered across the land.

The summer before last, I drove cross country from the West Coast to the East Coast, an experience that gave me the opportunity to see the vast change in landscape throughout the country, visit small towns and large cities, and really see the country that I live in. It was a long drive that I did in five days, so I did not have much time to explore each place that I visited, but I got a glimpse of the country through my car window.

We started in Arizona where it is hot–hotter than LA most days–and where saguaros (tall green cacti) sprinkle the desert with their beauty. From there, we drove east towards New Mexico and then headed north to the city of Santa Fe. It was crazy how even this relatively small distance took us from a view of saguaros as far as the eye could see to their sudden disappearance as the land became more rocky. When we reached Santa Fe it was like being in a whole new world–even though we were technically still in the desert, we were now viewing evergreen covered mountains instead of cactus country. We then drove east again on small little roads that felt like we were in the middle of nowhere (that is how many of the roads in the middle of the country made me feel.)

We drove through northern Texas, where it was flat dirt and farms, and then into Oklahoma, where more flat dirt made way to flat grass. Then, all of a sudden, small hills and trees started to appear and, for the rest of the trip, there were big trees lining all the roads. In Oklahoma, we passed through many Indian Nations, which is another example of different cultures that make up this melting pot of the US.

East we drove on, through Arkansas and Tennessee. Since we were on the highway and we were not driving through towns–we were surrounded by wilderness for most of the way. Trees and trees filled my vision in the car.

My favorite part of the entire trip was driving from Tennessee to North Carolina through the beautiful Smoky Mountains, a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains. We literally drove through the mountains, with the road winding back and forth surrounded by the beauty of nature. We stopped in Ashville for the night, which is a beautiful, hilly, artistic town in North Carolina. I ate the most amazing shrimp and grits I have ever had in my life–actually it was the first time I have ever had it–but it is a specialty of many southern states. I highly recommend it!

We continued our journey through West Virginia and through Maryland and then Washington DC. For most of the country, there was wilderness surrounding the area. As soon as we drove to Washington DC, and through Delaware and New Jersey–the roads became much more crowded with cars and the trees and, just like that, the wilderness gave way to houses and supermarkets. New Jersey is the state in the US with the most population density, a fact made apparent from just driving through it.

Even though I was not able to spend a lot of time in each city that I passed through, driving across the country was an incredible experience where I was able to see all the terrain and diversity that the US has.

Amber is from southern Arizona but she spent the last year and a half in upstate New York. Even though Amber is from the desert, she loves the ocean and hopes to one day live on the beach. She is studying environmental science and hopes to minor in the dramatic arts, as she is interested in creating films, especially for social change. Amber love cats, eating food, swimming, sleeping and laying in the grass and staring at the clouds. She loves traveling and exploring the world– so far, she has traveled to Costa Rica, Canada, and all over Europe.

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