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  • Travel

    Interpreting What you Experience While Traveling Abroad

    BY: Maya Kitchens

    I have just gotten back from a two-week trip to Africa. It was very eye-opening. I have been to Africa before. I have been to Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and now on this most recent trip Zanzibar (an island but still part of Tanzania), Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa again. I do travel a lot. Everywhere that I have traveled to has been different. For example, India is different than Ghana, which is different than France, which is different from Brazil. It is common knowledge that America is different from these other countries, but how different really is it?

    The cultures/mannerisms are completely different. Kids are running in the streets at 10 or 11 pm. Traveling is very eye-opening. People sit out on the streets waiting for you to come into their shops. In some parts of Africa, an elephant or a hippopotamus is your next-door neighbor. Where we stayed in Botswana, you had to have an escort walk you back to your tent because there could be elephants or lions on the trail. We are not used to that. I talked to someone who worked at the camp. He grew up in “the bush,” which in Africa is known as the wild. He moved to London as a twenty-one-year-old for college but dropped out and moved back to Botswana because of the culture shock.

    While in Nairobi, Kenya, we visited the largest slum in Africa, Kibera, which has about one million people living there. Our guide, who lived in the slum, said “Kibera is a city within a city.” I saw so many little kids who had very little but had huge smiles on their faces. The roads were filthy with trash everywhere. I honestly did not know what I was stepping in. There were community bathrooms that you had to pay to use that were open from 9:30 am to 6 pm. If you did not have the money, you could not use the facilities. At the highest point in the small part of the slum we were in, you could see the skyline of Nairobi. It was beautiful however, it was hard to enjoy because these people living in Kibera were living so poorly. After being back for a week, I realized that I was only at Kibera for two hours and then left to go back to our nice hotel, fly home, and go back to my normal life. Those people do not leave. Those people’s normal is the possibility of not taking a shower or not having food to put on the table or not having clean water.

    My final thought to share is this: no matter how bad you think your life is, someone is worse off than you.

  • Articles, Travel

    Life Oriented Journey

    Life Oriented Journey

    by Farah Hemdan

    Farah Hemdan is a dreamer, a visionary, and a summer intern with GirlSpring. A native of Egypt, she loves travel and finding new ways to discover herself. 

    My life oriented journey, that didn’t take me to people, cultures or streets, but took me to details, corners, words and seconds.. Seconds of life.

    I spent my last hour in this place reading a book by Rebecca Campbell called Light is the New Black, where she shared her most intimate experience with a 50 year old woman that she can’t even remember the name of and whom she had known for ONLY 5 minutes.

    And that, I was left questioning how seconds and details can change people’s life while others are searching for extremes  just to feed their souls? How a whole city can be built upon corners and people’s worlds can be turned upside down in minutes, while we spend years and cross borders just searching for breathtaking moments that have always been there, within every element of the creation of OUR world.

    But what I remember from this place answers this question.

    I remembered the sudden ear pressure on the road that makes you realize that you’re being uplifted towards the sky, the dust following a maroon jeep car seen through cactus, natives singing for 60 year old couples in the rain, ice cream in coconut shells, the places I’ve visited with no clue till now whether they were houses, restaurants, galleries or studios but regardless any terms of definitions, it was just full of life.

    Every second and corner that participated in shaping my journey in this place is existing in every detail of our world but it’s all about the perspective of visioning , I believe this place need to teach the world how to see life!

    So let me introduce you to world’s best city of 2018! San Miguel D’allende, Mexico.

    The city of details.

  • Travel

    My First Trip Abroad

    BY Sohpie Herrington

    My First Trip Abroad

    My junior year of high school, I became friends with Tella, a foreign exchange student from Gothenburg, Sweden, who spent the year at my school in Mobile, Alabama. We were determined to maintain our close friendship, so she visited Mobile again the next year, and I decided to take my first trip outside of the United States to attend her high school graduation.

    I made it to Sweden to watch my friend graduate on June 7, 2018, and the experience was much different than I anticipated. While graduation in America is a more formal ceremony, Swedish graduation is a 24-hour celebration. Each class at Tella’s school ran along a red carpet onto a stage to dance and celebrate their accomplishment. The students wear white dresses and sailor caps rather than a cap and gown. Family also ties items such as flowers, champagne, and stuffed animals attached to string around her neck. This part of their graduation is called utspring.


    After utspring, Tella and the rest of her classmates are driven around the city cheering before attending parties for the rest of the day. One party is celebrated with family and friends, and the last party of the night is celebrated with all of the graduating classmates.

    Aside from Tella’s graduation, my adventures in Sweden included swimming in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, eating a giant cinnamon roll, visiting the famous amusement park –Liseberg, and many more! We spent my last day on the island, Galterö, which we nicknamed Sheep Island due to its high sheep population. Sheep Island had a notebook in which travelers could write about their personal experiences on the island, and we were happy to contribute our own.

    I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit Tella in Sweden. She has had such a positive impact on my life, so it was important to me that I was able to help her celebrate her graduation. In our friendship, distance has been no more than a physical separation, and we won’t let it keep our relationship stagnant. I highly recommend doing what you can to maintain friendships with the obstacle of a little distance. Tella and I can’t wait to plan another trip together. Here’s to international friendships!


  • Articles, Travel

    What Thanksgiving Looks Like Outside of America

    Emily Bach is a regular staff writer with Girl Spring from Washington, DC.

    As the leaves begin finish falling and the temperatures continue to drop, thanksgiving feels as if it’s right around the corner. For some of us, the holiday feels like a convenient excuse to visit our relatives and eat warm pumpkin pie, but in other regions and cultures celebrations can look wildly different.

    1. Mid-Autumn Festival
    Rooted in Chinese tradition, the Mid-Autumn Festival typically falls in late September, or the 8th month of the lunar calendar. The holiday celebrates the end of the autumn harvest, and is believed to be the day with the brightest shining moon in the lunar year. It’s most widely recognized for its enormous celebrations and mooncakes, which are traditional pastries reserved for the festival. The tradition has since been adapted to other Asian cultures, most notably in Japan and Vietnam. As explained by 15-year-old Morgan Pham, “The Mid-Autumn Festival is a cultural event that holds a special place in my heart. As a minority in this country, traditions that are from Vietnam are hardly noticeable here. Because we live in the US, we basically only get to experience American holidays. Being able to visit family and see that we aren’t alone while celebrating it makes us feel closer to home, especially at a time in this world when foreign ideas or cultures aren’t always welcomed with open arms.”

    2. Erntedankfest
    Traditional to Germany, this festival feels very similar in purpose to American ones. It’s most notably recognized for its grand parades, complete with dancing, crops and music. The celebration begins in a church until it ultimately moves to the streets where the majority of the festivities take place. As a German American, I asked my parents about the significance of the celebration in their lives as children. My mother explained, “Since I largely grew up in America, the presence of the celebration wasn’t as prominent as it would have been in Germany, but we still made an effort every year to recognize it. Sometimes my mom would cook a more authentic meal, other times we would just listen to the music. It wasn’t ever really a true celebration, but it made us all feel a little closer to our roots, which I think in the end is what holidays are meant for anyways.”

    3. l’Action de grâce
    Celebrated by Canadians, the traditional American version of Thanksgiving seems to be one existing in other countries as well. Their holiday began in 1578, when English explorer Martin Frobisher gave thanks for his fleet’s safe travels. Since, it’s celebrated very similarly to ones recognizable in America, and consists of large turkey feasts, accompanied by stuffing, mashed potatoes and cord. It makes sense that the holiday would be so similar, given l’Action de grâce directly translates to, “Thanksgiving”. As explained by former Canadian resident and 16-year-old, Shritha Mandava, “the celebrations in Canada are largely similar to those in America, except that they tend to be a little bit scaled down and consist of some miscellaneous french terms. They’re also less shopping focused, and for obvious reasons celebrate different things.”

  • Articles, Fun, Portfolio, Tips, Travel

    10 Activities to Do This Summer with Your Family

    Ideas for Summertime Adventures with Family

    Summer is the time for unwinding and relaxing. We all love summer because it means no school and no responsibilities for a few months. However, sometimes we may wonder what we can do with all of this time that we now have on our hands. One of the best things you can do this summer is to spend time not only with your friends but also with your family. Here are some activities you can suggest to your family that you can do together this summer. You will have fun and bond with those you love.

    1. Go hiking – This is a fun way to get out of the house and explore nature. You can unplug for a little while and see beautiful sights that you wouldn’t see every day.
    2. Go kayaking – Kayaking is another excellent way to get out into nature. It can be relaxing at times and other times it can be scary and exciting.
    3. Visit your favorite amusement park – Everyone loves amusement parks. It is one of the best places to go as a family.
    4. Go fishing – Warm summer days are the best and most enjoyable times to go fishing with the family.
    5. Visit a museum – Museums aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but, if they are, then going to a museum is the perfect family-friendly activity for the summer. It can be especially fun if you have younger siblings to take with you.
    6. Go on a short road trip – Summertime is the time to get out of the house and explore. Whether it is as far as your backyard or to the beach 6 hours away, getting out and going to places you haven’t been before will create lasting memories.
    7. Go camping – If camping is something you like doing, then summer is the time to do it and enjoy the beauty of nature while doing something you wouldn’t usually do.
    8. Watch a movie at a drive-in movie theater – Whether you are going with family or friends, everyone loves drive-in theaters during the summer. It isn’t expensive and is fun for everyone.
    9. Go swimming – This is the most obvious one, but you can go swimming in more than just a pool. You can go to a river, a lake, or even a waterfall. Everyone loves swimming because it is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer day.
    10. Make s’mores by an outdoor fire – Whatever you decide to do with your summer day, the best way to end it is by a fireside with hot s’mores and friends and family by your side.
  • Articles, Travel

    Women Run the Grand Canyon!

    Since I have just gotten back, I can testify that the Grand Canyon is, in fact, one of the most beautiful natural places in the world. It is full of rich geological history, stunning wildlife, and home to some of the most amazing birds in the world: the peregrine falcon(the fastest bird AND living thing on earth), the raven(the smartest bird on earth), and the condor(the bird with the longest wingspan on earth). A pretty impressive place! What is even more impressive is that I discovered that the Grand Canyon is a place that women have ruled- both in history and in nature!

    Let’s start with the history- with a lady named Mary Colter. Since the field of architecture was thought of as a field that only men could do, Mary Colter was one of the very few female architects in her day. She was the designer of many buildings for the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railroad, her most famous being located in the Grand Canyon National Park. Colter created several astounding works in the Grand Canyon South Rim including the Hopi House, Hermit’s Rest, Lookout Studio, Desert View Watchtower, Bright Angel Lodge, and Phantom Ranch buildings at the bottom of the Canyon. I had the amazing opportunity to go inside of her work Hermit’s Rest; apparently back in the day, c. 1914, it was used as a rest stop for visitors traveling to Hermit’s Camp. She handpicked every rock used in the making of it! Nowadays, it is still a rest stop, but now with an addition of bathrooms, a bar, and a gift shop.

    And now on with nature! As with most aspects of nature, our next female exhibits some qualities that are a little harsh. Our next lady is the female tarantula hawk, and what she does is both gruesome, and a little awesome. Despite the name, tarantula hawks are neither hawks or tarantulas. They actually fall mostly in the wasp family. Male tarantula hawks are rather small and harmless and provide no greater purpose than mating with the female tarantula hawks. The female tarantula hawks, on the other hand, and big and colorful and very aggressive! But what is most unsettling about the female tarantula hawk is how she plants her larvae. She preys upon an unsuspecting tarantula – usually three times her size – and then attacks it, stings it, and paralyzes it. Once the tarantula is paralyzed, she creates a hole in the tarantula’s abdomen, and lays a single egg on it, and flies off. After a few minutes, the tarantula is free to walk around and live again freely, for about a week, until the egg within the abdomen hatches. Once the egg hatches, the larvae within the tarantula eats all organs except the vital ones, to keep the tarantula alive as long as possible. After several weeks of this, the wasp becomes an adult and emerges from the tarantula’s abdomen to continue the life cycle. A terrible end for the tarantula. Many other species in the Grand Canyon exhibit female dominance in the Grand Canyon. For most birds, mammals, and insects, the female sex tends to be the most aggressive, strong, and big in size, which just goes to prove that women run the Ol’ Gran’ Can’!

    I cannot wait to one day return to the Grand Canyon, and discover more of both history and nature’s powerful women!

  • Articles, Health, Healthy Eating, Travel

    My Trip to Italy: An Insight on the Future of Food

    My trip to Italy is one that I will not soon forget! I was exposed to many things – a new culture, a new location, new smells… but most importantly, I was exposed to a new way of viewing food. Most of us in America pop food in our mouths without taking a second to consider where it comes from, what ingredients are in it, if the way it was made damaged the environment at all, or if it could possibly even be making you sick. In Italy, however, things are almost the opposite. For the most part, restaurants and ordinary people in Italy are much more conscious of the details of their food. For example, when we were eating at a place known for their traditional pizzas, we asked the owner where he gets the cheese from. He immediately gave us directions to a local mozzarella farm where his business gets all of their cheese. It was less than 15 miles away! We then went to the mozzarella farm, where we found lots of cows and cheese being made. I immediately noticed a difference in how dairy cows are treated in Italy versus how they are treated in America. At the cheese farm in Italy, the cows were roaming a grassy field, being fed grass and hay; meanwhile, if you visit a dairy farm in America, you are likely to witness cows stuffed back to back in an area that is way too small for them, being fed nothing but corn. All the cheese tasted incredibly fresh- not processed or packaged at all. Imagine if all restaurants and grocery stores in America could tell you exactly where they got their food from.

    Next, we visited an organic lemon grove. This lemon grove produced more than just lemons, however, they also produced oranges, olive oil, and honey. And all of it tasted absolutely divine! None of it tasted like what I was used to it tasting like! It was truly an experience that changed my life. When I asked one of the farmers why they taste this way, he told me it was because their farm refused to put any pesticides onto their plants, and instead use entirely organic methods of farming. When I asked him why they did this, since the alternative was obviously much easier, he simply said that it is because it is healthier for the consumer, and that is the top priority of their farm. He then invited me to eat full slices of lemons – peel and all! I was hesitant at first, but after I did, I immediately went in for another. The lemons were so fresh! And the peels were not bitter and waxy to eat! It really shows you what a little extra care for a crop can change.

    We then later went to a three-day summit where we delved into the problems of food even deeper. We discussed how food affects the environment, culture, technology, health and wellness, and the economy. We then all split into teams and all came up with new innovative ideas to address these problems. It was overall an incredible experience where I learned a lot and changed many perspectives that I had about food. We also had the honor of meeting and listening to three amazing guest speakers – Stephen Ritz, Raj Patel, and Anthony Bourdain. All who had very different and interesting approaches to food. Stephen Ritz, who is a school teacher from the Bronx, noticed how unhealthy his students were becoming. He realized that the environment, and the food options, that his students were growing up with were unacceptable. He decided to take matters into his own hands and created a school garden that the students would help take care of, urging students to make better food choices by eating what they grow, instead of relying on processed “foods”. The results were incredible, more and more students started attending school, and more and more kids were getting healthier instead of becoming sicker. But Mr. Ritz didn’t stop there, he then continued making more and more gardens to install in the rest of the community, making The Bronx look greener, and directly affecting the community’s morale. Just by using the power of plants, Mr. Ritz was able to turn a school that hardly had an attendance, into a community with a goal of making the world greener.

    Our next guest speaker, Raj Patel, was a scholar in public in public affairs, and he has written many books on the topic of food justice. He offered amazing insight on how food problems across the world are all connected by some of the same rooted problems. He told us how in order to solve food problems for the long term, it is going to take more than just shipping food. In order to solve a problem for one issue, it requires attention to all issues. He also has an exciting series of documentaries coming out very shortly that talks about these ideas. One of his quotes that really stuck with me was, “Food will not end hunger. Change to access to food will

    And lastly, our guest speaker Anthony Bourdain is one that is widely known. For those who do not know, Anthony Bourdain is a celebrity chef who is known for his shows “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations”, where he goes to exotic locations and tries the traditional foods of that culture. In his speech, he discussed how food is apart of the culture. About how, when you are going to another country and trying a dish of that area, you are consuming a piece of their culture. Their family. What their grandmother’s made them. And about how dishes that contain foods that we aren’t accustomed to, such as bugs and snakes, are not weird but are just different.

    My favorite quote of his was, “It is easy to go into another country and see something abhorrent by our standards and try to correct them. The conversation ends there.”

    This was truly an experience and an opportunity that I will never forget! The knowledge and realizations that I have gained through this immersive trip are some of the most valuable tools that I will have on changing my community back at home. I cannot wait to bring the people of Birmingham this amazing insight! Si se puede!

    Stephen Ritz’s TedTalk

    Raj Patel’s TedMed Talk

    More Information on Anthony Bourdain