All Posts By:

Shruti Sathish

  • Articles, Book Review, Books, GirlSpring.com, Human Trafficking

    Review: Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

    Half the Sky

    I read the nonfiction work Half the Sky a couple of years ago as a part of a summer reading assignment. Its content blew my mind. Husband and wife team of journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn touch on the many injustices faced by women internationally, a subject I was only briefly aware of prior to reading. 

    Raised in a safe community with trustworthy parents and adults surrounding me, I haven’t personally experienced many of the situations and lifestyles that the authors detail in the novel. However, I feel that it is important for everyone to learn about the oppression that many women worldwide experience. Awareness allows us to work together and end these injustices. 

    What I Loved

    My favorite aspects of the book were the nature in which the authors gathered information and the structure of the writing. Kristof and WuDunn not only did extensive literary research on the topics they investigated, but they actually traveled to several third world countries and interacted with the women there. The book is a series of interwoven essays and anecdotes that discuss the authors’ observations during their travels. It also highlights the personal stories that they gathered from the women they spoke to. In my opinion, the first-person narrative and anecdotal evidence were what made this book so stimulating and captivating.

    Half the Sky is divided into three main parts. The first third of the book focuses on sexual abuses faced by women around the globe. Then, the second third focuses on childbirth and family planning. Finally, the last third is all about education, micro-businesses, and the actions readers can take to help. Each section is filled with small anecdotes, commentary, and additional research that captivate readers as they make their way through the book. 

    The Book’s First Part: Human Trafficking

    In the first third of the book, readers are taken to a small village in Cambodia. Here, the harrowing realities of human trafficking are unveiled. I was shocked and heartbroken to hear that in this part of the world (and in several other countries), it is commonplace for girls as young as eight or nine years old to be captured and traded. These girls are stuck in a very abusive environment for a large portion of their lives. They must obey their master’s commands and remain completely shut away from their families and the rest of society.

    For many of these women, the contraction of HIV/AIDS is common and equivalent to a death sentence. For others, getting kicked out after youthfulness fades is customary. They are then left to fend for themselves in society. This is an incredibly difficult task given that they have been taken far from their families and the communities they grew up in. To make matters worse, they usually have minimal education since they were captured at such a young age.

    Kristof and WuDunn interviewed several young girls, and their stories are included. These personal anecdotes are an absolute must-read and are so incredibly emotional and intriguing. In this section, I also loved learning about organizations that help save the lives of women who have been trafficked through monetary, educational, and other forms of support.

    The Second Part of the Book: Limited Medical Access

    In the second part, the lack of doctors and medical personnel in third world countries is highlighted. One anecdote that stood out to me was that of a woman from Cameroon who was unable to give birth due to a blocked cervix. The birthing attendant decided that sitting on the woman’s stomach and jumping up and down would help. This ruptured the woman’s uterus, causing more problems. Living in the United States, many of us trust our health care providers and receive quality care from trained professionals. It was mind-opening to learn about the consequences of a lack of education. This section of the book taught me many important lessons about the power and value of humanity.

    The Final Section: Micro-Businesses

    The final section of the book was, in my opinion, the most optimistic. I learned about the concept of micro-businesses. Within these, women are given a small amount of money from a donor that they then use as an investment to start their own business. They are very powerful because they allow women to rebuild their lives and feel empowered after hard experiences such as trafficking and childbirth issues. Additionally, organizations that are offering resources for women are mentioned and several actions readers can take are detailed.

    Final thoughts

    Half the Sky was overall a very informative and thought-provoking read. This book really helps garner a better understanding of the oppression and injustices that some women around the world experience on a day-to-day basis. I highly recommend that everyone read this at some point in their life. If you are interested in learning more and/or taking action, visit http://www.halftheskymovement.org/.

    To learn more about Human Trafficking click here. If you or someone that you know is a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.

  • Articles, College, GirlSpring.com, School

    Deciding What to Study in College

    what to study in college

    Throughout our childhood and into our high school and college years, many of us are asked the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

    In first grade, I probably answered this question with, “I want to be an artist!” because I loved spending hours after school each day creating “masterpieces” using my markers and colored pencils. However, as I started middle school, I soon realized that I was very interested in science. I loved how applicable it was to real life, and the fact that there was so much still to be discovered intrigued me. By the end of middle school, I was pretty confident that I wanted to be a doctor one day. I was fascinated with medicine and loved listening to others and offering advice.

    This didn’t change in high school, and it made choosing a major when applying to college fairly easy for me. I took several STEM courses over my high school years, and I pursued my medical interests through my extracurricular activities (in addition to exploring other areas of interest as well). Although this process was fairly straightforward for me, I can’t say it was the same for some of my peers.

    For many, high school offers a small introduction to the vast array of opportunities out there in the world.

    Most elementary and middle schools only offer the four basic subjects: math, science, social studies, and English. This is good, but very broad. In high school, students have the opportunity to take more specialized courses within each of these subject areas. There are courses like psychology, computer science, economics, and foreign languages. These can give individuals interested in pursuing a college education a better idea of what they might want to study in the future. In addition, through a multitude of clubs and extracurricular opportunities available, high school students can get involved in activities that allow them to further explore and develop their passions. Although high school gives students an opportunity to explore a variety of subject areas and experiences, I feel that it is still tough for some students to be certain of what they want to study in college since high school is mostly a time of exploration.

    Nowadays, most colleges don’t require an individual to commit to the major they list on their application (which I think is great).

    In fact, many colleges don’t require a student to declare a major until the end of their sophomore year. This gives a student time during college to explore their passions and interests and decide accordingly. Some colleges might ask students to simply list broad subject areas they may be interested in studying, which lets students know that they are not committing themselves to something they are interested in at the moment for the entirety of college.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 80% of college students change their major at least once. With such a high statistic, it is important to realize that many students are unsure of what they would like to study or do with their lives. Most haven’t had the opportunity to truly interact with and understand everything available to them until they’re in college. Today, many people stress the importance of setting goals and developing a detailed life plan from early on. Although this methodology is useful and may be beneficial for some individuals, it is not the best for everyone. Life is about having new experiences and doing things that make one happy. If this is a process that takes time for an individual, it shouldn’t automatically be considered unproductive or bad.

    Students are encouraged to make quick decisions. For many, I feel that it would be more helpful if they slowed down and took time to truly interact with the opportunities available to them. That way, they can make a more educated decision on what they want to study.

    Ultimately, I think it is most important for students to not feel stressed out or feel “behind”

    Just because you haven’t decided what you want to do with your life doesn’t mean you aren’t where you need to be. Each individual is unique, and we all have our own pace in which we go about doing things.

    My recommendation for high school students is as follows: this the time to explore opportunities available to you and chase your passions. When applying to college, reflect on what you enjoyed learning and doing in high school. This could be an indication of what you may be interested in studying. Use your first year of college (as I will also do this upcoming school year!) to decide whether you are enjoying the program you indicated interest in or would like to study something else. Overall, make sure you are finding value and enjoyment in what you are putting your time and effort towards.

    When you’re in high school, it’s always a good idea to keep college in the back of your mind. Here is some college advice geared to upcoming high school freshmen.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Money

    The Importance of Financial Literacy

    importance of financial literacy

    In high school, one of the most useful classes I took was Personal Financial Planning.

    An online, single semester course, PFP was an engaging class that covered a lot of important and relevant material. From learning conceptual information using EVERFI’s financial literacy modules to participating in an online stock market simulation with my classmates, I liked that my teacher used multiple learning tools to help students understand the content.

    I thought my personal finance class was fairly straightforward, and it took a few hours each week to complete the assignments and assessments. The class was well-organized, interesting, and very applicable and useful for my life. Many of my peers who have taken a personal finance class in a traditional classroom setting or online (like me) have also had a positive experience, and they tell me that they definitely felt that the class was worthwhile.

    Personal finance is important and useful

    I feel that in high school, certain courses that students take aren’t as easily applicable to daily life. For example, calculus isn’t something most individuals in the real-world use on a day-to-day basis. However, personal finance is definitely important. Through this class, I learned many useful skills, including how to create a budget, the basics of filing taxes, how to deal with student debt, and even what factors to consider when buying my own vehicle someday. As myself and many other students my age go off to college or other post-secondary opportunities soon, these skills will become more and more useful. I think all high schoolers need to be taught personal finance in some sort of school setting because these are real-life skills that will come in handy in the future. Nowadays, many young people make unwise financial decisions and have to deal with the consequences—sometimes for the rest of their lives. Many times, this happens simply because they didn’t fully understand what they were getting themselves into. Having an understanding (even if it’s just a very simple, basic understanding) of financial concepts and ideas before graduating high school would be so helpful and beneficial for success in the real world.

    Schools are starting to make personal finance a requirement

    Although taking a personal finance class wasn’t a graduation requirement for me personally, my high school very recently made it a requirement for students beginning next year. This isn’t a change just in my high school; in fact, many high schools across the nation are requiring students to take a personal finance classes, and the U.S. Treasury has recently called for mandatory financial literacy courses for college students because of concerns regarding student debt. It’s really no wonder that such high significance has been given to financial education for high school and college students in recent years; currently, U.S. student debt is at a record high of more than $1.5 trillion. There has been a lot of concern that students and families are taking on debt without realizing the long-term impact it could have.

    Thinking about college

    With college tuition and related expenses currently at exceptionally high rates (and only rising year-to-year), it is important for families to really consider their finances and think through the implications of debt before making college and other educational decisions. Having a good understanding of debt and its effects will only make it easier for students to have productive conversations with their families about important topics like this, and it may allow students to view a situation from multiple perspectives and make an educated decision with their family that takes multiple factors, including prestige, finances, resources available, etc, into consideration.

    When making a college decision a few months ago, I had a lot to consider, and I think having a good understanding of personal finance really helped me see my options from multiple perspectives. I was able to think beyond just the next four years and really consider how I wanted my life to look in the long-run.

    Personal finance was a high-impact class that was both simple and interesting. Even if your high school doesn’t require students to take it, I still recommend that you take the class if it is offered to you. If you are not able to take personal finance as a class through your school, I would encourage you to look into online options such as EVERFI and just go through the modules during your free time. These courses are usually very easy to understand and don’t require very much time or effort. I was able to get a better understanding of many important financial concepts and topics, and I definitely think I am better prepared for college and life in general because I took a personal finance class.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Health

    Importance of Maintaining a Regular Sleep Schedule During Summer Break

    sleep schedule

    Without the daily structure of school, summertime signals late bedtimes for many teenagers.

    Most high schoolers have commitments for at least part of the summer (if not for the majority of it), such as jobs, internships, and camps, and late bedtimes often result in an insufficient amount of sleep as they continue to wake up early to attend to their activities. It’s common for teenagers to go to bed past midnight, only to wake up exhausted early the next morning as they grudgingly get ready for the day ahead of them. This results in a screwed up sleep schedule.

    After some time, receiving an insufficient amount of sleep each night can affect an individual’s mood and health. Some people may try to offset this lack of sleep by taking a nap later on in the day. Although this may seem like a good idea, it isn’t because napping can mess with an already-altered sleep schedule. This results in even later bedtimes and even less sleep. Additionally, going to bed late and waking up late the next morning gets them accustomed to a new sleep schedule. Then it’s difficult to readjust once it is time to go back to their regular school schedule.

    Maintaining a balanced sleep schedule where you’re able to receive an adequate amount of sleep is essential to maintain good health and a positive attitude!

    If you’re unsure of whether or not you’re getting enough ZZZs, check out this slideshow from WebMD.

    Here are some recommendations on what you can do to maintain a healthy sleep schedule:

    1. Set a good bedtime. Set a bedtime that is early enough for you to be getting at least 7 hours of sleep. Your bedtime is when lights are turned off and you are in bed trying to sleep.
    2. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. For many teenagers, electronic devices are the number one thing keeping them up at night. Although binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix and Snapchatting your friends is fun (and sometimes kind of important!), sleep is valuable and should take priority. Remember, you can always be on your electronics during the day and should use nighttime to rest and get re-energized. Turn off electronics and put them in a different room if you think you’ll be tempted to use them. Use the time you have before you go to bed to read a book, listen to music, or do another activity that is calming and doesn’t involve the use of an electronic device that could potentially distract you and keep you up at night.
    3. Eat dinner at a decent time. For many individuals, a 6-6:30 pm dinner time is the most ideal. Sleep schedules get thrown off when dinner time is later in the evening, causing additional problems. I would recommend maintaining the same dinner time as during the school year. If you choose to stay up later, eat something healthy to satisfy your hunger and keep yourself energized.
    4. Create a bedtime ritual. For some people, creating a daily bedtime ritual allows them to stay organized and feel calm; better preparing them for receiving a good night’s sleep. Activities on your ritual could include anything from cleansing your face to reading a book before going to bed. Figure out what makes you feel happy and relaxed, and create a thirty-minute to an hour ritual for yourself incorporating those activities! Do you need ideas for before bed activities? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to a Self Care Routine.
    5. Be comfortable. When you feel comfortable in your room, you’re going to have a much easier time sticking to your sleep schedule! Make sure your bed is comfortable. If you care about the temperature, do your best to keep it at one that is optimal for your sleep! Some summer nights, it can get very hot and may be difficult for you to fall asleep. I would recommend getting a fan for your room if you don’t already have one.
    6. Exercise daily: For some people, this isn’t something to even worry about. Their summers are spent enjoying the nice weather outdoors and being active. However, for others who aren’t very active, making the effort to get some exercise in is important. Doctors recommend exercise or doing something active for at least 60 minutes each day. Going on a run, taking a walk around the neighborhood, or playing sports are some examples of ways one can stay active during the summertime. Exercising helps individuals get a good night’s sleep, making it is very important and something you shouldn’t neglect!
  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Health, Mental Health, Tips

    Why is a Positive Attitude so Important?

    positive attitude

    I’m not going to lie; there have been moments in my life where I’ve been a negative person. From being convinced that I could never get my driver’s license because of my terrible parking ability to complaining about my confusing math proof assignments, I have had my fair share of frustrating experiences that I’ve let myself get far too carried away with.

    Through all these experiences, however, I have learned that negativity has never led to positive outcomes.

    Having a negative attitude has prevented me from being able to face my challenges head-on. It’s also caused others around me, like my parents, to not be as supportive because they do not appreciate the way I am choosing to handle my problems. Positivity is key to accomplishing anything good in life. Therefore, it is very important to always try to stay positive- even in times when things aren’t looking so great. Here are eight reasons why a positive attitude is so important:

    1. Energetic, Active Mind: It is a fact that people who maintain a positive attitude are more curious and aware of the world around them. These individuals can see past themselves and gain a better understanding of the way life around them operates. Therefore, they are able to be better thinkers and are more creative.
    2. Ability to Develop Meaningful Relationships: People like being around positive people. Individuals who radiate positivity are able to make themselves and others feel good about them. I always love when my friends are positive about both themselves and about others. It lets me know that they are confident and proud of who they are, and are able to appreciate others. It is a good balance, and I think this type of outlook is important for any good relationship.
    3. Better Mood: When an individual has positive thoughts, Cortisol levels decrease and the brain produces the neurotransmitter Serotonin. This helps boost mood by creating a feeling of well-being and safety. Having a good mood makes everything seems to go well. This motivates people to continue to work toward doing positive things.
    4. Better Health: People who have a positive attitude tend to have lower stress levels and other issues in their lives. They stay healthier and maintain a better sense of well-being because they see taking care of themselves and seeking out a good life that they are satisfied with as important.
    5. Better at Overcoming Obstacles: People with positive attitudes are able to view obstacles as regular parts of life that everyone goes through. A positive attitude allows individuals to overcome these difficulties in life and increases people’s ability to persevere. As the saying goes “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” True to that, having a positive attitude can help an individual face anything that comes their way with good spirit.
    6. Increased Productivity: When individuals have a positive attitude, they are able to set goals for themselves and work towards achieving them. Staying positive allows an individual to believe in themselves and their abilities, and work towards overcoming obstacles as they come. This reduces procrastination and leads to more productivity.
    7. People See You As Valuable: In today’s hyper-competitive, stressful world, nearly everyone appreciates positivity. When someone shows that they are able to stay positive in tough times, they will be considered valuable by potential employers. An employee with a positive attitude is a great asset because they can get along with others and be productive.
    8. Greater Satisfaction With Life: With positivity, people are able to appreciate themselves and the things around them better. Individuals with positive attitudes are able to take a greater amount of self-control over their lives, and they are able to live their lives the way they want. This would allow them to follow their dreams and achieve their definition of success. What is life if it’s not worth living?

    Sometimes, you need a little bit of a push to be more positive. That’s where “Perfect to Me” by Anne Marie comes in. Check out the song and instantly feel uplifted about yourself and the journey you’re going through.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Health

    My Experiences With Health Care as an 18-Year-Old

    health care

    When I turned eighteen, many of my friends asked me how it felt to officially be an adult. To be completely honest, it didn’t feel any different from being seventeen. I for sure didn’t look any different and wasn’t necessarily treated any differently by my parents, teachers, or peers. Life seemed to go normally without any major changes until I realized that I was due for a doctor’s visit.

    I was on medication, and my doctor wanted me to come back and see her after my treatment was complete to make sure things were going well. The appointment wasn’t scheduled, so I asked my parents to call the doctor’s office and schedule an appointment for me, as they had done all these years.

    Here came one of the first big changes in my life.

    The receptionist said that since I was eighteen, my parents couldn’t schedule appointments for me; I had to call the office myself. It felt weird to pick up the phone and schedule an appointment on my own. I realize that it was ultimately just a phone call, and I have spoken to people over the phone many times before, but it felt unsettling and nerve-wracking. Did I know the name of my health insurance provider? Did I know important information regarding my family’s medical history? The receptionist was nice, and the phone call went fine, and, yes, I did actually know the answers to the questions I was asked. After the call ended, I felt relieved. It felt good to know that I had a little more responsibility. I learned to successfully schedule my own appointments, and although it doesn’t seem like a really big deal in hindsight, it felt pretty good at the time!

    The second big change came at the actual appointment.

    When the nurse called me to go into the doctor’s office, my mom accompanied me as she usually does. However, unlike all the other times I had visited the doctor, I was asked if I wanted my mom to be in the room with me. I make medical decisions with my parents, so I definitely wanted my mom with me, but it was an interesting feeling to know that it was my choice if I wanted my mom with me or not.

    Finally, during the appointment, almost all the questions were directed at me, rather than at my mom. I was controlling my appointment, which was strange and different. Being a bit of an introvert around people I don’t know well, I was comfortable with my mom asking all the questions and doing most of the talking for me, but now, I am learning how to handle things on my own. I had to make eye contact with the doctor, answer her questions, and ask any follow-up questions I had. It wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be because of the open environment that my doctor created. I could tell that my mom had sensed the change too when she muttered, “You’re going to have to learn to do a lot on your own now…” when we left the office after the appointment that day.

    Sometimes doctor’s visits aren’t as helpful as they could be, especially if you don’t know what questions to ask (or if you even should ask questions), if you need to eat and drink before you go, etc. It’s a lot to remember! So this article should help you get the most out of your doctor’s visit.

    More changes to come

    Although I am still on my parents’ health insurance plan, a lot of responsibility regarding my health care will start falling on me. Already, I have learned to schedule my own appointments, check my health records on the patient portal online, and talk to doctors completely on my own. This isn’t stuff that is taught in school, but it is still important for real life. Many teenagers go off to college unsure of how to manage their own health care and use the resources available to them to take care of themselves. It’s crucial for them to acquire these skills early on so they can develop independence and personal freedom as new adults. I know I will have to get some orthodontic work done when I am in college, so I will have to be seeing an orthodontist every few months. This and a lot of other things are going to be new because I am going to school in a different state.

    I have realized that it is important for me to take control of things from early on. I hope I am able to do that next year and pave a good path for a smooth four years ahead in terms of managing my health care.

    Making your own doctor appointments is just one part of being an adult, here are some other tips that make the transition from young to young adult a little easier.

  • Articles, Food, GirlSpring.com, Health, Healthy Eating

    My Experience as a Lifelong Vegetarian

    Whenever people find out that I’m a vegetarian, I usually receive a series of similar questions and comments. These remarks can range from “Isn’t it so hard to survive? By the way, you’re totally missing out on bacon!” to “Wait, so you still eat fish, right? Gotta get that protein somehow!”

    I’ve been vegetarian forever

    I always love talking about my experience as a vegetarian because I have been one my entire life. A vegetarian, by definition, is someone who abstains from the consumption of meat. There are multiple forms of vegetarianism, and I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian (the most common type). This means that while I do not eat any type of meat, I do consume dairy and egg products. I, however, personally try to limit my consumption of eggs just to baked goods/other items that include them as an ingredient. I have found it easy to be vegetarian because I grew up as one, and I plan to practice vegetarianism for the rest of my life.

    My parents are from India, a country where a good portion of the population is vegetarian. My parents and extended family are vegetarian because of ideological reasons. So, it is only natural for me to be a vegetarian, too. Although I was born and brought up in the United States, I have grown up with South-Indian vegetarian delicacies prepared by my mother, such as bisibelebath, a lentil-based rice dish, and masala dosa, a rice pancake filled with a spiced vegetable filling. Being a vegetarian is easy since home-cooked meals are meat-free, and my family and I go out to restaurants with vegetarian options (other than salad). I feel that as a vegetarian, I’ve also been able to make healthy food choices very easily, and that makes me happy.

    Thinking about becoming vegetarian? Here is where to start!

    What comes with being vegetarian

    Being a vegetarian my whole life, I cannot imagine NOT being one. I didn’t really have much of a say in the decision to be one but I am glad that my parents brought me up this way. Over the years, I have learned about the several benefits of vegetarianism, ranging from health benefits to animal rights and protection. As a vegetarian, I always think about an animal’s feelings and the pain that was potentially imposed on it when I see meat. It’s my automatic mindset. It has to do with how I was raised and videos I’ve watched about animal cruelty in the meat industry. I don’t want to hurt animals, and I will have this in the back of my mind. If I am ever encouraged to try meat in the future, I will remain a vegetarian.

    Although vegetarianism can come with health benefits, vegetarians must always be particularly aware of their nutrient intake. I’ve always made sure to get an adequate amount of certain nutrients—especially vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc, and protein— which are often more easily found in animal meat/products. I take vitamins each day to ensure that I am getting sufficient vitamin intake, and my parents have always made sure to prepare meals that have a good amount of protein and are healthy.

    Being vegetarian on my own

    Going from my senior year of high school to my freshman year of college will be a huge transition because I will be on my own and will have to take greater responsibility for my health and well-being. I know I will have to be more watchful of what I eat and always make sure I am eating balanced meals that have enough of all the necessary nutrients. Additionally, I won’t be able to regularly eat my mom’s home-cooked vegetarian meals, so I will have to try new vegetarian foods and/or learn how to do some basic cooking on my own in the years to come.

    I have friends who have become vegan in college (although this probably is not going to be me — I love dairy products too much!) and others who have massively expanded on their cooking skills, making all sorts of vegetarian recipes. I am excited to see where my vegetarianism takes me in the next few years!

    Thinking about becoming vegetarian or even vegan? Look at our interview with two vegan athletes and get some more perspective!