All Posts By:

Shruti Sathish

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, School, Tips

    Learning a New Language

    learning a new language

    Learning a new language can be both fun and challenging. In my experience, it has been extremely rewarding to know how to speak more than one language, and these skills let me communicate with a wider range of individuals and have broadened my understanding of different cultures and ways of life. 

    I have been bilingual for most of my life, and I enjoyed learning a third language, Spanish, in middle school and high school. I am definitely not fluent yet, but over the years, I feel like I’ve gained a good grasp of the language. I love it when I hear people speaking Spanish in public and can understand their conversation, or when I’m listening to a Spanish song and can understand the lyrics. I’ve enjoyed my language classes in school, and being exposed to a different language and putting effort into learning it has been an exciting process.

    However, learning a language is not just book work like learning tends to be in many other classes. It requires a lot of interpersonal communication practice and exposure to the language in formats like cultural activities, podcasts, and music- not just your standard writing and grammar exercises.

    Here is a list of ways to gain a better grasp of the language you are trying to learn:

    Find People to Talk to Using the Language:

    The best way to improve your speaking skills is to practice speaking the language! If you are taking a class in a traditional school setting, you will have to communicate with your teacher and classmates using the language multiple times (if not daily) during the course. Take advantage of these opportunities!

    The beauty of being in a language class is that everyone is there to learn and no one is an expert. So don’t be afraid of making mistakes! Make the best of these opportunities, and always know that it is okay to mess up. Not only are you learning from your errors, but your classmates will be learning from them too.

    If you are not taking a course on the language, or it isn’t a traditional course in a classroom setting, find speaking opportunities for yourself so you can practice the language. I would recommend finding a friend who either knows the language or is learning it too. That way you can speak to them in the language on a regular basis to get better at these skills.

    If you aren’t able to find such a person or don’t feel comfortable practicing with someone you know, go to your local library or get in contact with local community centers so they can connect you with resources and opportunities where you can practice these skills. I know students who’ve volunteered in classrooms at local elementary schools with Spanish speaking students and have been able to immensely improve their speaking and communication skills.

    Attend Cultural Events and Take Advantage of Opportunities Nearby:

    Whether it’s visiting a traditional restaurant and speaking to your server in the language or attending festival celebrations, it’s always a good idea to get involved culturally. These opportunities will not only give you an outlet to practice speaking the language. They allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the language by expanding your cultural knowledge and perspectives. This will further motivate you to learn the language since you are able to place it in a cultural context. In addition, you will get to know more people and broaden your social network. This is can come in handy if you are looking to gain experience in the future.

    Finally, if you are given an opportunity to travel abroad and are able to do so, I highly encourage it! Being in a setting where you are able to experience a culture and practice a language at the same time is super nice, and is a very fun and helpful way to quickly pick up and get better at a language.

    Listen to Podcasts or TV/Radio Broadcasts:

    Listening to podcasts and TV/radio broadcasts gives you exposure to the conversational dialects of your selected language . Oftentimes, when languages are taught in a classroom setting, skills are taught in a traditional manner. However, this isn’t always the way the language is commonly spoken. Additionally, you will probably notice that people speak faster in podcasts and TV/radio broadcasts than you are used to when listening to audios in class.

    Do a simple Youtube search to find options or visit this website for potential resources that may help you.

    The great thing about podcasts and TV/radio broadcasts is that you can do other things while listening to them. That is, if you are still able to follow along with what the audio is saying. If you aren’t at this level yet, allocate time in your schedule to listen without distractions.

    Books/Music:

    If you are able to find picture books or chapter books and/or simple songs in the language you are trying to learn, I would highly recommend doing so! These are really good resources for helping you practice your reading and listening skills. In terms of books, I would recommend doing a Google search to find books that professionals who teach the language you are learning would recommend for different levels. Often times, these books will have readers’ resources, such as keywords defined in English or a simple summary of each chapter, so you are able to get a general idea of what is going on in the story even though you may not be able to understand every single word and sentence.

    As for music, Youtube and Spotify will help you. Start off with slower songs and move to faster ones as your listening skills improve and you are able to better comprehend what is being sung.

  • Articles, Environment, GirlSpring.com

    Reducing Plastic Use

    reduce plastic

    When I visited Disney World a couple of years ago, I used my first paper straw. After a fun afternoon exploring Animal Kingdom, my friends and I decided to escape the heat and cool off with Starbucks. When I received my Frappuccino, I noticed that instead of the usual plastic straw, I was given a paper straw. The straw was very sturdy, and I honestly didn’t notice much of a difference when using it. Starbucks locations in Disney World get thousands of customers each day, and by switching over to paper straws, a lot of plastic waste is being reduced.

    Small Things Make A Difference

    I am glad that Disney and other companies have made efforts to reduce their use of plastic in recent years. Plastic is bad for the environment for a multitude of reasons. Many people focus on the issue of plastic contaminating oceans (and entering the environment as waste and endangering wildlife). However, the process of making plastic is in itself bad for the environment. Made from fossil fuels, which pose environmental risks in its extraction and transportation, plastic production involves chemical processing plants that emit pollutants into the air.

    It is unreasonable to try to completely eliminate plastic in the next few years. But, individuals can start reducing their use of plastic to work towards a “greener” and more sustainable world. It is great that some companies are attempting to do their part and take control of this issue. The reduction of plastic straws at restaurants is one way that many of us are seeing this change. In the United States, Disney has switched to paper straws in Disneyland along with Joffrey’s & Starbucks locations in Walt Disney World. Companies such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Hyatt have committed to reducing plastic and developing more eco-friendly options in the future.

    Get a Metal Straw

    Although some companies are attempting to reduce plastic straw usage, consumers can do their part by investing in metal straws. Since most beverage shops and restaurants still only supply plastic straws, purchasing a reusable metal straw is a great option. These straws are durable, cost-effective, and can fit very easily into pockets or bags. Once used, these metal straws simply need to be rinsed, and then can be reused over and over again.

    Other Ways to Use Less Plastic

    Individuals have the power to reduce their plastic usage in other ways too. Many stores still offer plastic bags to customers. Individuals can store cloth bags in their vehicles and use them instead when shopping. Reusable water bottles are also a great choice. Bottled water should not be one’s regular method of consuming water– and not only because it makes a great deal of plastic waste.

    When these bottles are left out in warm temperatures, the plastic can get hot and leach chemicals into the water. This can be poisonous, and the chemicals may also be carcinogenic. Therefore, plastic water bottles are not only environmentally unfriendly, but they can pose health risks for individuals as well. Finally, avoid purchasing frozen foods. It’s helpful for both the environment and for personal health. Packaging for frozen foods is mostly plastic, while this is not usually the case when it comes to fresh produce. By purchasing more fresh produce, individuals can reduce their plastic use and be more healthy.

    Change must start with the young people in this world, so it is very important for teens and young adults to not only actively do their part to reduce their use of plastic, but to also use their voice and encourage others around them to do so as well. By working together, real change be made.

    Another way to help the environment is knowing what to do with food waste, here are some tips on how to reduce your food footprint. If you want to try and reduce your plastic waste even more, here are more ways to do that.

  • Articles

    Creating a Work Space to Increase Productivity

    work space productivity

    Often, the environment you are working in can have a big impact on how productive you are. Over the years, I have learned that a quiet space with natural light and limited social media is optimal for me, whether it comes to getting school work done or studying for exams. However, each individual is different, and people have various preferences when it comes to limiting distractions and staying focused.

    Here, I have outlined several common elements that make up individuals’ study/work environments. Keep in mind that a workspace should be where you get work done, but also where you feel relaxed and can think freely. I urge you to read on, and if something seems like it might work for you, try it out! A productive environment is composed of several factors, so put together the aspects that work for you.

    Desk:

    I think this is the most important part of a workspace! Although it may be more comfortable to do work on the couch or in bed, studies have shown that people are more productive when they sit at a desk to complete their work. If you don’t already use a desk, I would highly recommend getting one and using it regularly. You will be amazed at how much more attentive and focused you will be on your work.

    Sufficient Natural Light:

    Studies have shown that health and productivity go hand-in-hand. When exposed to natural light, individuals experience better sleep, receive more vitamin D, and tend to have more energy during the day. Therefore, it makes sense that they are able to be productive! My recommendation is to create a study space near large windows so you get the most out of the natural light during the day time. Also, go outside and study when you can! Getting some air is helpful for feeling fresh and can help you focus on getting your work done!

    Place for Electronic Devices:

    If you’re like me, it’s really difficult for you to get any work done when your phone is around you. I would recommend finding a different place for this, and any other distraction, while you work. For example, I frequently use my laptop to complete assignments, and since I don’t use it to check social media, I keep it on my desk when I work. On the other hand, I put my other electronic devices in a space in the corner of my room. That way, I don’t feel tempted to constantly keep checking them. I would recommend finding a place for electronic devices if you’re like me and get easily distracted.

    Music/No Music:

    I personally prefer working in a quiet environment and cannot focus when there are noises around me, including music. However, I have many friends who find it easier to concentrate in louder spaces or when there is music playing. I think this is mainly personal preference, so implement what works best for you into your space.

    Or if you like sound, but can’t have music playing try white noise!

    Plants and Other Decorations:

    Some individuals like to decorate their workspace with things they like. Think plants, inspirational quotes, and other types of decor. Items like pictures, mementos, or other significant objects can also be helpful to have.

    Water/Snacks:

    I always have a water bottle with me when I’m trying to get work done. Staying hydrated is very important! Water helps with cognitive processes, so it’s really no wonder that people are more productive when they are hydrated. If you can eat while you work (and still be productive!), having snacks at your workspace may be helpful.

    Desk lamp:

    We all have days when we have to work on things late into the night, and it’s sometimes easier to see if you have a desk lamp. I’ve heard this is pretty common, so if you don’t already have a desk lamp and think brighter lighting over your desk may be helpful, consider buying one!

    Basic Office Supplies Easily Accessible:

    Having items like writing utensils, erasers, tape, and a stapler easily accessible in your workspace can come in handy. Most of us use these supplies on a regular basis when we’re trying to get school work (or other work) done, so it always saves time to have them at hand when working. Using bins to organize these items can be helpful as well.

    Fan/Heater:

    Although most individuals have a heating/cooling system in their house, it may sometimes feel more comfortable to work in a particular temperature. I prefer to work in a cool room, so using the fan is always very helpful during the summertime. It is key to feel comfortable in your workspace, so finding a temperature that you work best in is very helpful.

    Space to Get Up and Walk Around:

    Taking breaks is also very important and is known to increase productivity. It’s good to have room to stretch/walk around a little in your work environment. If you don’t have much space available to you, I would recommend making an effort to leave your workspace to go outside every once in a while. This can help clear your mind and will allow you to return to your task feeling more refreshed, allowing you to be more productive in the long run.

    If you loved these tips, check out this one on how to be more productive!

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Health

    Making the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

    doctor's visit

    It is a fact that a large proportion of teenagers in the United States miss their annual doctor’s checkups and do not see their primary care physician regularly. For some teenagers, seeing a doctor may feel like an unnecessary part of their schedule; they may feel that they are healthy and are having to give up valuable time just to see their doctor. For others, seeing a doctor may feel like a stressful experience that should be avoided.

    Talking about serious issues concerning sexual, mental, and physical health is a huge challenge for many teenagers. They may feel uncomfortable or even shameful to admit certain information about their health to their health care provider. Some teens may also be afraid that their health information will be shared with their parents, and for others, costs associated with visiting the doctor can be a concern too.

    Teens Need to See Their Doctor

    Regardless of the reason, this is a big issue. It is very important for teenagers to see a doctor regularly because they can be going through issues with not very apparent symptoms that need to be addressed. Therefore, it is crucial for doctors and patients to have good relationships with effective communication. Teenagers should try to see their primary care physician at least once a year for an annual check-up. These are the visits where the doctor can keep track of changes in one’s development and offer lifestyle advice.

    In order for a doctor’s visit to be successful, there are obvious things that a health care provider should be doing: creating a safe environment, listening to patients, and offering helpful, relevant advice. But, there are also things that you can do as a teenager to make the most of your doctor’s visit.

    How to Make the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

    Understand Confidentiality

    For starters, understanding confidentiality can be very helpful. Confidentiality is the concept of keeping certain medical information private between a patient and their health care providers. Something that many teens do not know is that they have a right to confidential health care. Most health care providers are trained to outline their confidentiality policies with their patients at the beginning of each visit. However, if your health care provider doesn’t do this, definitely ask them to. It is very important for you to know what you are able to share confidentially and give consent to. For example, all fifty states allow teens to give consent to STI services and some also allow them to give consent to reproductive and prenatal care. Hearing your rights from your health care provider is very helpful and can help you better manage your health care.

    Additionally, not everything that is shared during a doctor’s visit can be kept confidential. Health care providers are mandated reporters, which means that that they are bound by law to report to authorities when abuse is suspected or observed. Understanding the concept of mandated reporting is very important.

    Many health care providers also start allocating time alone with patients starting during the pre-teen years. This is a good time to share information with your provider that you may want to discuss individually with them. If you feel like you want more one-on-one time with your provider, be sure to let them know. That way, they can plan ahead and cut out some extra time during your next visit. Additionally, if you’re calling to schedule your own appointments, it’s smart to let whoever is taking the call know beforehand too.

    Coming Prepared to Appointments

    Next, it is important to come prepared for the appointment. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming when a doctor is asking you questions about your health and lifestyle. This may cause you to forget to touch on certain details that you were planning on discussing with your provider. It’s helpful to take time before your visit to clarify what you want to talk with your provider about. For some individuals, writing things down and coming to the appointment with pen and paper is beneficial. This shows a health care provider that you are interested in your health and are taking responsibility for it. It also allows you to remember what you wanted to discuss and lets you take notes during the visit (which is helpful for remembering important information later on).

    Be Honest

    It is also important to be honest. Sometimes, it can be embarrassing or may even feel awkward to admit certain information to your health care provider. But it is important to realize that they are there to help you. When you give incorrect information, doctors can’t provide you with necessary care because they don’t fully know what’s going on. Health care providers aren’t mind readers and they cannot force you to tell the truth. It is your job to be as truthful as you can be. This does not mean that you need to share every single thing; use your best judgment and help out your doctor by being honest with them.

    Ask Questions

    If there is anything you are unsure about— like a medical term or accessing your online health portal— be sure to talk to your health care provider about it. Most providers love when their teen patients ask questions, and it is always important to do so. Asking questions ensure you can understand any possible next steps. This is your health that is being discussed, so no question is a bad question. 

    Get a Visit Recap

    Before you leave, it is always a good idea to kindly ask your health care provider to summarize what you discussed during the appointment. Although most providers give patients an after-visit summary sheet to read and follow at home, it is helpful to hear a brief version of those instructions out loud. This will allow you to better remember what next steps you need to take. It will also give you a final opportunity to ask any last-minute questions that may arise as your doctor summarizes what was discussed. This will also further motivate you to actually follow through on your doctor’s advice and instructions, which is something you should always be doing!

    Seeing a doctor regularly is very important during the teenage years. Take these recommendations into consideration when attending your next visit so you can make the most of the experience!

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Health

    Health Care: Teens Have Rights Too!

    teen health care rights

    One big misconception I had about the health care system up until my senior year of high school was that my parents had full control over my medical care. Being someone who prefers to make medical decisions with her parents, this was fine with me at the time. However, I know that there are many teens who would prefer to have more freedom and control over their healthcare, and it is important to educate teens about the rights they have.

    When individuals are under the age of eighteen and live with a parent, the parent must give consent for many types of care. However, most teens don’t know that they have rights too. These usually aren’t discussed in health classes at school, so it’s important for teens to learn about these rights early on so they can use these resources to their benefit. Although laws may vary state to state, most of them are pretty standard and should apply wherever you’re from. There are no federal regulations that specify a teen’s rights regarding medical care, so you should look up your state medical board’s regulations to learn the specifics.

    Here are some common rights that minor teens have in many states:

    Mental Health. In many states, individuals above the age of twelve or thirteen can consent to receive outpatient mental health services, if approved by their health care provider. In some cases, notice must be provided to the parent, but a teen is allowed to provide consent for themselves.

    Substance Abuse. Some states allow teens over a certain age to receive outpatient substance abuse treatment services by a licensed provider. Many inpatient options require parental consent. So, if you are considering receiving this type of service, definitely look into your state’s guidelines to learn more.

    Sexual/Reproductive Health. In many states, regardless of age, birth control, family planning, and pregnancy care can be administered to a patient without parental consent or informing a parent that their child is undergoing such care. Testing and providing diagnoses and treatments for STDs and STIs are also allowed in some states if the teen if over a specific age. Additionally, abortion services are available in some states for individuals and do not require parental consent. This link includes a list of some states and their specific abortion laws. If your state isn’t on this list, go to its medical board website to find the exact rules and regulations.

    If your provider isn’t providing the reproductive or sexual health care that you are looking for without parental consent, and you would like to consent for yourself, organizations such as Planned Parenthood may be able to help you. Exact laws will vary depending on the state you live in, so you should do some research and look into these rules if you are interested.

    Now, you know your rights!

    These are just a few of the most common rights minor teens have in most states when it comes to their medical care. Always do additional research and ask around to learn about all the rights and resources available to you in your specific state. Teens have power, and although it may not seem like very much depending on where you live, you should always stay educated so you can exercise your rights in medical situations that may come your way.

  • 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.