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  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Lifestyle, Travel

    Volunteering this Summer Changed My Life

    volunteering

    by Zoe Zahariadis

    This summer I am volunteering in two different refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece. Kara Tepe, the first camp I volunteered at, is a camp for families only. It hosts over 1,000 people from primarily Afghanistan.

    My Experience at Kara Tepe

    Kara Tepe provides a community atmosphere for its residents, meaning that its staff and volunteers are comprised of both international volunteers, local staff and residents themselves. The homes are not described in terms such as “section” rather than “area” and the refugees are called “residents”. For the first two weeks, I volunteered with Movement on the Ground (MOTG), a nonprofit located in the camp, to put up shading between the 200 plus homes in the camp. Shading was extremely hard work because I was in the sun on the roof for hours a day, but I really learned a lot about the structure of an NGO (non-governmental organization) and the importance of working together as a community. I worked alongside residents from across the world and was able to communicate and work efficiently, through the awkward language barriers, through it all.

    After working with MOTG, I worked with SOS Villages teaching English to children ages 7-13. It was a really great experience to learn about working with children from a different culture that also speak a different language. 

    Some of the words we taught to children
    Crafts that the children made

    My Experience at the Moria Refugee Camp

    After working at Kara Tepe, I became a French translator for Kitrinos Healthcare, a medical NGO in Moria refugee camp. Moria is the most notorious camp on the island, equated to concentration camps and prison. Working in Moria is extremely heartbreaking. In the medical clinic, we see victims of war, torture, and just overall sickness. It is so hard to have to see people break down in front of you.

    Being a translator makes you a conduit for language and understanding because at times you are the only one who can listen. It’s such a difficult place to navigate as an unbiased listener. Sometimes you just want to buy their medicine yourself or take them back to a doctor back home, but you can’t. And with very limited options at the camp, the doctors do their best. There just comes a point when you can’t do much with the small supplies we have and it is really heartbreaking.

    This work has made me grow as a person to understand more complex issues on a deep, personal level. I am so beyond thankful to have had this opportunity to learn from the community in Moria and Kara Tepe. 

    You can change the world with as little time as a summer or with more time like a gap year. Check out how Alexandra took a year off and became an activist!

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Tips, Travel

    Packing Hacks

    packing hacks

    Do you find yourself, moments before you have to leave for the airport, cramming things into your suitcase, jumping and sitting on it, just praying that it’ll zip up? 

    Well, I do. In fact, more often than I’d like to admit. I travel pretty frequently and almost every time I find myself in this situation. Not only do I tend to overpack but I also tend to put the chore off as late as possible. The outcome of my packing procrastination is almost never good with forgotten necessities, wrinkled clothes, and popped zippers. 

    Soon I’ll be leaving for a three-week-long trip. For this trip, I have decided to push myself to break these packing habits. In order to do so, I am planning out my packing with lists of everything I need to bring, giving myself plenty of time, and testing and utilizing several packing life hacks I found online. 

    Packing Checklist

    The Hack:  Create your own checklist or Google a checklist online.

    My Opinion: This was super easy. All I did was Google a packing list. Being able to visualize everything that I pack is super helpful. I got to feel satisfied as I completed the checklist and make sure that I packed everything that I needed. (Here’s a really great one!)

    Packing Cubes

    The Hack: Essentially, these are containers that help organize your suitcase by compartmentalizing all of your belongings. 

    My Opinion: I really enjoy these because they allow me to stay super organized while traveling. The cubes make locating everything in my suitcase super fast and simple. Also, unpacking the cubes is super convenient. Additionally, the cubes help to use up every bit of space in my suitcase, so I can maximize the amount of stuff I pack. In short, I will use these for my trip.

    Here is a tutorial on how to use them:


    Rolling Your Clothes

    The Hack: Roll your clothes like burritos instead of folding them. 

    My Opinion: I quite like this hack because it seems to save a bit of space as well as prevent wrinkles that folding can cause. I plan to use this hack in combination with the packing cubes. 

     Plastic Wrap On Toiletry Bottles

    The Hack: Place plastic wrap over the opening of your bottles/containers then recap the bottle. 

    My Opinion: I have been using this hack for a while now and it definitely is effective in preventing the contents of the bottles from leaking out everywhere. Although, I would prefer a hack that is more environmentally friendly and can be reused.
    If you like this idea, here are some other ways you can use plastic wrap while traveling.

    Travel Size Toiletry Bottles

    The Hack: Reusable bottles that can hold your toiletries.

    My Opinion: I like these a lot because they are reusable and come in a size that is TSA-approved. Transferring more viscous substances, such as lotion or moisturizer, into these bottles is tricky but possible. I recommend the bottles without sharp corners because the product tends to get trapped in those corners. Also, I recommend labeling the bottles. 

    Dryer Sheets

    The Hack: Place dryer sheets in your luggage to prevent odors.

    My Opinion: I found that the dryer sheets helped to keep my clothes smelling nice and fresh. Also, by placing a couple of sheets with my shoes, any odors from my shoes were kept in check and not transferred to my other belongings.

    Final Thoughts

    In conclusion, packing under a reasonable time frame and with optimal organization makes the whole experience way more enjoyable. Traveling is definitely a stressful experience, but the stress can be reduced with proper time management and preparedness. 

  • College, Lifestyle, Travel

    Simple Tips For A Hassle-free Asian Gap Year

    Gap Year Travel

    Simple Tips For A Hassle-free Asian Gap Year

    In 2016, Malia Obama, daughter of then-president Barack Obama, decided that she would take a gap year before attending Harvard University in the fall of the following year as a member of the Class of 2021. Over recent years, taking a gap year after graduating from high school has become increasingly popular among Americans, with approximately 40,000 teens engaging in the practice every year. While destinations such as Australia, New Zealand and Peru remain hot favorites among adventurous youngsters looking to explore the world before settling down in college, there is one destination that possesses a mystical appeal like none other: Asia. Traveling to such a far-off destination may initially seem harrowing for a teen girl, especially as far as funding the expedition is concerned, but a few simple guidelines will make it easy to plan a memorable gap year in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

    Decide on your destination and draw up a budget

    The first thing you need to do after deciding on taking a gap year in Asia is to pick a destination. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore are all exquisite, and can offer a girl an exceptional gap year experience. Whether you remain in one place or travel the entire continent is entirely up to you. Just make sure you plan your route and draw up your budget accordingly. Take into consideration everything from your plane tickets and accommodation to your food and other basic living expenses, and ensure you will have some extra money at your disposal should an emergency arise.

    Find cheap flights

    Your flights will more than likely be the biggest expense you incur when traveling to Asia for your gap year. Whether you’re looking to book a simple two-way ticket or plan to travel extensively and make use of multiple flights, make the effort to search for the most affordable flights available. Be flexible when booking your flights, and make use of a reliable fare finder tool to find the best deals available. If you travel frequently, you can also benefit from making use of a credit card that will reward you with airline miles, which will take the pressure off significantly.

    Making money in Asia

    Unless you’re extremely wealthy, chances are you will have to find a way to fund your gap year while abroad. Thankfully, living and traveling in Asia is typically very affordable, which means you can make your money last for longer. If, however, you want to extend your stay or have more spending money at your disposal, there are a number of ways you can earn extra money while exploring the continent. If you have a way with words, you may want to consider becoming a digital nomad and start your own blog that documents your travels. You can also offer other online services, such as web page and logo design, copywriting, and online editing that will enable you to earn money while traveling. If you consider yourself to be eloquent, why not take up a job teaching English as a foreign language? You can offer this service either online or wherever you’re staying, depending on how frequently you’re planning to change your location. 

    There is something distinctly magical about Asia that makes it the perfect gap year destination for adventurous girls. As long as you plan your trip properly, there’s no reason why your year abroad couldn’t become the most memorable time in your life.

  • Articles, GirlSpring.com, Goals, School, Travel

    Everyone Has Their Own Story to Tell

    study abroad at cambridge

    The trouble with being adventurous and taking risks is you will never know what is going to happen until it surrounds you.  Some are born adventurous, while others have to learn. Personally, I am independent, and, despite usually finding success, I am rarely optimistic about the outcome of new situations. Recently, I learned that taking risks isn’t as scary as it seems, you just have to trust yourself and be open-minded.

    cambridge

    Going on my own adventure across the pond

    In the summer of 2018, I had the invaluable opportunity to study abroad at Cambridge University. It still feels like a dream, honestly. I studied medical science and psychology, with two of the most amazing professors. My classmates were all from different countries around the world. Each student brought a different perspective and opinion. We were able to discuss and make compromises, simply because everyone was respectful. Everyone came into the program with the intention of studying abroad to prepare for future careers, but we didn’t expect that we would be so close or grow so much. I spent a lot of my time studying, as the academics were more rigorous than anything I’d ever experienced before. In my free time, I chose to explore my new environment.

    Want to have your own adventure at Cambridge? Check out some more information here, https://oxbridgeprograms.com

    cambridge

    For months, leading up to the trip, I wondered. What will the town be like? Where will my classmates be from? Will I even enjoy studying abroad? The time finally came and I arrived in England. After getting settled in my dorm, I decided to go for a walk, and in no time, this became a habit. I walked through the park between classes, and downtown after class. Every day, I saw something or met someone new. The diversity within the program, and in the town, was simply beautiful. Kids from all around the world, coming to learn about their passions, surrounded by people in the town who were welcoming and supportive. Allowing myself to be inquisitive and vulnerable allowed me to go on my own little adventures. I learned not to be afraid of the unknown, just to be curious.

    cambridge

    At Cambridge, I learned about more than just medicine

    Obviously, my knowledge of medicine expanded immensely, while at Cambridge, but I also grew tremendously as a person. I’ve found that you learn a lot about yourself while learning about what you love, especially when you are in a new environment. I learned how to trust myself. I studied at Cambridge, as a 15-year-old, and I did extremely well in my classes. I’m usually so quick to doubt that I will succeed, but this experience boosted my confidence. I am proud of what I have accomplished, what I learned, and how much I grew. Most importantly, I realized that accomplishments shouldn’t be labeled by what others find impressive, but rather based on personal growth and experience.

    cambridge

    Stepping out of our comfort zones is something we should all do more frequently because it makes us grow. I am extremely grateful and fortunate for the opportunity I had to study and learn at Cambridge. Every day, I use something I learned during my time there. Remember to have an open heart and an open mind, because every person has a different story to tell. Whether you are across the ocean, or down the street, if you open your eyes and mind you can always learn something new.

    Aubrey is summer blogging intern that also stepped out of her comfort zone and learned lots about herself along the way. Check out more articles like this, Portrait of a Gap Year.

     

  • Articles, Fun, GirlSpring.com, Music, Travel

    Summer Cooldown Playlist

    ocean view

    Summer, perhaps the most widely anticipated season, has finally arrived! With school out and the weather warming up, people are bound to go out and soak in some sunshine. After a long day on the beach or an active workout, it’s nice to take the time to cool down and relax with some music.

    I compiled a playlist of chill and calming tunes that you can wind down to. 

    Songs:

    • Vanille fraise – L’Impératrice
    • Summertime Magic – Childish Gambino
    • You and Me – Shallou
    • Line of Sight (feat. WYNNE & Mansionair) – ODESZA, WYNNE, Mansionair
    • Peach – Broods
    • Better Not (feat. Wafia) – Louis the Child, Wafia
    • Till We’re in the Sea – RKCB
    • Beige- Yoke Lore
    • Love on the Weekend – John Mayer
    • World on Fire – Louis the Child
    • STAY – BLACKPINK
    • Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
    • Come Home – BAYNK, Shallou
    • Tired (feat. Sophie Meiers) – Medasin, Sophie Meiers
    • Ocean – Ella Vos
    • Intro (Slow) – Quinn XCII
    • Stay With Me – ayokay, Jeremy Zucker
    • Crush Culture – Conan Gray
    • Music Sounds Better With You – NEIL FRANCES
    • delicate creature – iogi 
    • Ramen – Medasin
    • Stargazing – Slushii 
    • Zoom Out – Moods, MALIA
    • Schools Out – MEMBA
    • Hearts – Tourist

    Listen to the playlist on Spotify:

    Summer is all about having fun and doing the things you love, but remember to take a break and wind down from time to time! Enjoy these songs and have a wonderful summer!

    Need some ideas on what to do this summer? Check out some of our suggestions here!

    Finished this playlist and want more? Check out one of our past playlists: Top 20 Road Trip Songs

  • Travel

    Top 20 Road Trip Songs

    School’s almost out and the holiday season is upon us. It’s that time of year again where most of you will be traveling with family or traveling home to family. I have a list of Top 20 songs to help get you through some of your trip.

    Let’s start with our ladies of the 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s:

    1. Ariana Grande—Side to Side
    2. Britney Spears—Piece of Me
    3. Bonnie McKee—American Girl
    4. Miley Cyrus—We Can’t Stop
    5. Charlie XCX (ft. Troy Sivan)—1999
    6. Zara Larson—Lush Life
    7. Hailee Steinfeld—You’re Such A
    8. Little Mix (ft. Stormzy)—Power
    9. Kesha—Tik Tok
    10. Anne-Marie—2002
    11. Fifth Harmony—BO$$
    12. Demi Lovato—La La Land
    13. Spice Girls—Wannabe
    14. Taylor Swift—…Ready for It?
    15. Meghan Trainor—NO
    16. Natasha Bedingfield—These Words

    For the last few songs we have some guys (and Fergi) from the 90’s, 00’s, and 10’s:

    1. Panic! At the Disco—Death of a Bachelor
    2. My House—Flo Rida
    3. Black Eyed Peas—Let’s Get it Started
    4. One Direction—Drag Me Down

    This list is only some of the more upbeat tunes from each artist. They boast a playfulness that keeps everyone in the car singing along. You could always slip in a Disney song or two, but nothing beats older hits and Pop music.

    I could have gone on all day adding songs, but at some point, you have to stop yourself and let someone else give it a try. Be generous with the radio and let whoever is traveling with you add a few songs. I’ll link the playlist down below, but feel free to write in the comments some songs you would have added. Maybe they’ll end up on it! Be safe traveling and a happy holiday!

    Spotify Top 20 Road Trip Songs Playlist:

    https://open.spotify.com/user/baberuth94/playlist/6NRdplbJy4dAqRQaXkI6cT?si=RMusTJYsS6-Eo3GChyrwRA

  • Travel

    Driving Offensively and Defensively

    If you have your driver’s license, then you know how scary the roads can be when you are not the only one responsible for keeping yourself and your passengers alive. It comes down to how each person on the road drives. I had an experience in my sophomore year of high school where I was riding with a friend to school, and we were struck by a large truck. The whole experience could have been prevented if everyone had worked together to create a safe driving environment.

    My friend and I had stopped at a local gas station before heading out to class one morning. A supply truck had parked parallel to the highway, which blocked the view from an oncoming curve of cars. Other vehicles had parked illegally next to the road, blocking the view from the other direction of the highway. As my friend pulled the car forward towards the road, we waited patiently until we thought the road was clear. We had been blocked in so there was no way to back up and go out a different entrance. Our only option was to wait and miss class or take a chance and pull out onto the road.

    We should have waited until the truck, or the other vehicles had left. It would have been worth missing the first few minutes of class to avoid being hit by another car. There were different ways to avoid being hit, we just felt cornered and chose poorly.

    As soon as we pulled onto the road, a large Ford F-150 truck punched through the driver’s side of the car. My friend and the other passengers exited the vehicles to get out of the road. There was now an oncoming eighteen-wheeled truck nearing my side of the car. My seatbelt and door were jammed. Everyone had to move out of the way to keep anyone else from getting hurt. Fortunately, the eighteen-wheeled truck was able to move onto someone’s driveway to avoid hitting me.

    Had the second truck not taken measures into his hands to avoid hitting me, then I would probably not be here today. Had my friend and I waited to pull onto the road, we would not have caused the wreck in the first place. Had the other drivers not parked irresponsibly, then it could have also been avoided.

    My point is that paying attention to your surroundings and not relying on the other drivers’ ability to drive responsibly can be the difference between having an accident and not. Here are some ways to drive both offensively and defensively:

    • When merging into another lane, check your mirrors and through the windows, multiple times. Let your blink go for more than a few seconds to be sure that no one from another lane is merging at the same time. Merge slowly.
    • Do NOT break check people. If someone is riding too close to your bumper, slow down to below the speed limit. They will likely get the message. Do NOT ride close to anyone’s bumper. A car length space between you and the other vehicle is the law.
    • The far-left lane on the interstate is the “passing lane.” It is illegal to drive on this side of the road unless passing other vehicles. If someone is driving on your tail or is flashing their lights at you, move into another lane.
    • Driving Safety Tips: https://www.nationwide.com/driving-safety-tips.jsp