I made it to ‘Rini!

OMG I’m blogging again! It must mean that…yep…grad school is over! It was a tough last few weeks but very much worth the five ten years I’ll be in debt.

I’m not one to get too high up on my horse so to speak, but I do have to say that I’m proud of myself for actually doing what I said I would do. I wrote this post a year and a half ago, stating that I would go to grad school and travel, even making a special nod to going to a place I’ve always wanted to see – Santorini, Greece. Well I’m proud to say I’ve done everything I wrote I would do. May 22-June 6 was a whirlwind – graduation/job searching/packing and moving home and then heading to..yep – Santorini!

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My close friend Brea and I decided back in December that we were going to do something for ourselves and since we already knew we travel so well together (London 2008 study abroad shambles!), I had free Delta benefits, and my great aunt lives in Athens, Greece we decided to hop across the pond. We spent three days in Athens admiring the ancient theaters & temples, the delicious souvlaki and the charming (and incredibly attractive) Greek men. My aunt was incredibly hospitable and it was neat to learn more about that side of my family from her.

Then we headed down to the islands. I wish we had more time to see more islands, but Santorini itself was perfect. It was the most romantic place I’ve ever been (note: we had to give several disclaimers that, no, we were not on our honeymoon and no, we were not dating, but just single straight friends who wanted to travel) and it was literally breathtaking. The water is so clear you can see through it and the city built into the cliffs is a vision of white-washed grandeur. We spent our time riding donkeys down to the port, laying out by the hotel pool, hiking the 8+ miles of the caldera trail from one side of the island to the other and indulging in the most delicious food we’ve ever had.

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Greece was a personal achievement for me – not just that I finally made it to a lifelong wanderlusted location but that I made it in general. OK, that sounds morbid. What I mean is I didn’t make any excuses for once. I could have blamed not having the money or the time. Brea could have too. But we chose to indulge for ourselves and I can say we are better people for it. We decided that we will continue the Brea & Laura Travels segment every year (budget/health etc. willing). Next up: Italy! I feel lucky to have a close friend I travel with so well with and it’s something that’s important to both of us.

So here goes, 2014: the year (yes, I know it’s half over) of trying to make fewer excuses. I’m going to attribute this goal as well to my recent motivation to join Weight Watchers to lost these stubborn 15 lbs. that refuse to come off, but that’s a blog post for a different time. I will be moving to Raleigh in two weeks for a new job (anyone need a roommate? Seriously, I’m desperate), but more on that to come later too.

Thanks for reading! Happy Summer!

 

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6 weeks to master’s

Hello, world. Again, I promise I haven’t died. While I consider myself an expert multi-tasker with the ability to get 1,000 things done at once, my personal blog has had to take a backseat. So here’s a quick update:

1. Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 3.42.20 PMWe have six weeks left until our capstone exhibition and graduation. You can read more about my capstone project here, but essentially I decided I want to focus on something that’s really interested (and saddened me): cyberbullying. Having been bullied a bit as a kid, it’s a topic that’s always been close to my heart, but I’m fascinated with the trend that’s been thrown in the mix recently, which is taking bullying to the Internet. So I decided to create a website for parents, kids, teens and educators on the dangers of cyberbullying with an interactive story, interactive charts and graphs and a social media guide for parents. I’m in the production phase of building the website and its been interesting conducting interviews within the local school system. Let’s just say, I do NOT want to be in middle school or high school again.

2. I’m applying to jobs. Having not done the cyclical process of applications, rejection, no word etc. in three years, it’s been a bit stressful getting back into it. But luckily this market is hot with opportunities and I full intend to take advantage of it. I’m looking in Baltimore, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Raleigh/Durham and Charleston.

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Kelly and I before her bridal shower in March

3. And that’s literally it. I’m gearing up for the three weddings I’m in this summer (thanks, ladies, for getting engaged when I’m in school and have no money…kidding…kinda….love you!) and looking forward to what’s next. And if you know of any job leads in content strategy and/or UX/UI design, send ’em my way!

Oh, check out my new online portfolio too!

What I really learned in Cuba

Last night I got back to the States from spending a week in Cuba. Cuba?, you ask. Yes. For the iMedia program, 5 groups of about 8 students travel to a foreign, Spanish-speaking country to gather video, audio, photography and interviews to create a project for the public good. In our case we got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Cuba to put together a project on the physical restoration of Old Havana. What we found though is that it’s not just the physical buildings that need to be restored. It’s the lifestyle of the people.

I’m writing this from my personal blog since my experience there had a pretty deep impact on me in ways I wasn’t expecting. I’ll save all the professional stuff for our group’s blog post. When we arrived in Havana one of the first things I noticed was most of the public restrooms did not have toilet paper, soap and sometimes the ability to flush. The upper middle-class privileged person in me was angered by this. “This is unsanitary!” “This is disgusting!” “Have they no care for their bodies and germs?” What I quickly discovered was that the reason behind this “madness” was the fact that these people are too poor to afford even soap or toilet paper. So if they do have it, you have to pay a peso or so to use the bathroom. I’ve never seen poverty like this. I’ve seen it on TV but actually being put into that environment is unlike anything the television screen can try and convince you.

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Besides what looked to be a 6-year-old boy begging for just one single dollar (a peso) and candy, what really struck me was an interview we did with a local who had to close his door and curtains during the process in fear of being caught talking ill about the government. I have yet to see the footage yet but from what my teammates tell me, it was intense. He spoke of growing up without parents after his father was killed in the Revolution and mother died shortly after. Since the government rations the food, he struggles to eat, as I assume the dog he had with him the whole time did too. He couldn’t afford a leash, so he uses a belt to walk his canine friend. Most of the dogs in the city are strays but this one was his companion.

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Havana is definitely doing a lot to restore itself, as we learned from the Office of the Historian, in terms of the social programs being implemented. But we learned it’s still not enough. Roofs are caving in, beautiful architecture is being degraded and the people, who are kind-hearted and friendly, just want to be free from their dictatorship. I got back last night, made a bubble bath and downed a whole bag of M&Ms (they don’t really have chocolate in Cuba) and my first thought was how much I deserved this from what I had the past week. But that’s not true at all. I don’t deserve it, I did nothing to deserve it. I woke up this morning and saw my fan circling above my bed keeping me cool. They don’t even have air conditioning. I looked at my half marathon medal on my dresser. I “deserved” that for running 13.1 miles. I don’t deserve crap. These people deserve just to eat and wash with clean soap and have a roof over their heads. That’s what they deserve.

An eye-opening trip. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the mojitos, delicious fresh seafood and beautiful excursions to the mountains. But I also saw the other side to Havana. The side the government wants to convince its people doesn’t exist. I think it’s changed me and I hope I always keep that realization of just how lucky I am with me.

Leap List

Hi everyone.

No, I’m not dead. I’ve been in North Carolina exactly two months today and in three days, I will have been in graduate school classes for two months. And I’m FINALLY getting around to writing a personal blog post. Enjoy this, because it might be the last one you’ll see for another two months. Yes, they’re keeping us THAT busy. But I’m loving it. And so excited for where I might be in eight months. After just 8 weeks I can already build a (rough) website, create a simple logo, give you lots of communication theories and produce a pretty good photo story.

So being here and realizing where I am compared to where I was 9 months ago (at a sucky job and even suckier relationship), it’s gotten me thinking that I really can make anything happen if I put my mind to it. Corny, I know. But I’ve been wanting to write my “leap” list (because a bucket list is just too damn depressing) for awhile. So here goes! Some of these have already been crossed off.

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1. Travel to: Greece, Australia, Italy, South Africa and anywhere else the world might take me! (Currently kicking myself since I have a Delta buddy pass, but just don’t have the time or money to use it to go anywhere international. I know I’ll regret that one day).

2. Run a half marathon

3. Run a full marathon

4. Go to grad school

5. Become fluent in Spanish

6. Save a life (interpret this however you want)

7. Adopt a dog (or 5)

8. Skydive

9. Be an extra in a movie

10.  Attend a major fashion show or movie premiere

11. Win a Pulitzer or Peabody (a stretch, I know)

12. Study abroad

13. Fall in love (damnit, sure, I’ll admit it)

14. Have a career I love

15.  Get married

16. Become a parent

17. Buy a car

18. Buy a house

19. Buy a pair of stupidly expensive Christian Louboutins

20. Write and publish a book (I will take this in replacement of the Pulitzer; one will do 🙂 )

21. Ride an elephant

22. Go on a cross-country road trip

I know I’ll have more to add!

Same school, new chapter

As of next Monday, I will be a graduate student and on my way to getting a Masters in Interactive Media (aka being a nerd for life). No I’m not moving to New York or California or Paris. I’m going back to my alma mater, Elon University, right outside of Raleigh, N.C.

imedia-elements-025When I was researching programs (which are few and far between for this field), I noticed that most of them were based on gaming and virtual reality creation. No offense to the guys at Halo, but video games and I have never been great friends.

What I love about Elon’s program is the fact that it’s based around all the industries I want to be in (and need to decide which on exactly that is). With this program I’ll learn CSS, Java (did I mention nerd for life?), graphic design, photo editing, multimedia reporting and interactive writing. For someone who wants to be a graphic designer, a social media marketer AND an interactive journalist, I’d say this program is going to be a good step into discovering what I want to do and what I’m good at.

Is it going to be weird going back to the place where I pulled all-nighters in the Pendulum office? Where I took the pledge to be an AOII? Where I drank one too many Sparks than I would like to admit? Sure. I think it’s going to be a bit tough to readjust to life as a 26-year-old at Elon vs. a 21-year-old. But it’s going to be great too.

Not sure where I’ll be after that. Maybe Chicago. Maybe Boston. Maybe back to Atlanta. Maybe packing up my life for the West Coast for a stellar job at Apple or Google (HA! yeah right). But I’m excited for where this new chapter may take me.  So here’s to new adventures and old stomping grounds!

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As of late

So I feel like I’ve been putting out some depressing posts lately. So since it’s Friday and it was a short 4-day week, I’m feeling positive and thus, feel like I should transcribe it to paper…err I mean a computer screen.

I have exciting news but I can’t share it yet to the free world (OK, I shared it on Facebook, but my blog is much more publicly accessible) so for now, I will update you with the latest musings.

1) I stuck to my word and used my new found Delta freedom (read about it here) and did some traveling. Ran my second half marathon in San Francisco in April and fell in love with the City by the Bay (anyone need a writer/designer/marketer in the area??). I visited a close high school friend in Louisville and experienced my first Kentucky Derby, 40 degree rainy weather and all. Oh and drank my first ($11) mint julep. The next weekend I flew to New York City and finally got to visit a few friends/sorority sisters I hadn’t seen in three years.

Let’s call it “Eat Pray Love, United States Style.”

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge was definitely one of those "I'll never forget it" moments.
Running across the Golden Gate Bridge was definitely one of those “I’ll never forget it” moments.
The hills were bitches, but I completed the race in 2:22!
The hills were bitches, but I completed the race in 2:22!
Full House houses!
Full House houses!
Hats are the best.
Hats are the best.
Freezing and rainy but happy to be there.
Freezing and rainy but happy to be there.
Soo touristy
Soo touristy
Love them!
Love them!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
Let’s see, what else? Ugh OK, that’s probably it considering all the other updates are associated with THE BIG NEWS (no, I’m not engaged, married or prego but thanks for letting that mull around in your brain for a sec… -_- )

OH! I just finished reading Tina Fey’s “Bossypants.” Freaking hilarious. Go buy it, like right now. But don’t read in public because you will laugh out loud. And probably snort.

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In support of Disney

I’ve got something to say. And most of you probably won’t like it.

Today I came across this article. Quick summary: Photographer mom thinks Barbie and Disney set unrealistic expectations for young girls, so instead of photographing her 5-year-old daughter in princess gowns and magic wands, she shoots her dressed up as five different influential women throughout history: Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel, Susan B Anthony, Helen Keller and Jane Goodall.

She described her project saying “Let’s set aside the Barbie Dolls and the Disney Princesses. . . and show our girls the REAL women they can be.” Otherwise knows as the “Disney Princess Effect.”

burningquestions-merida630-jpg_213828I can’t say I disagree with Jamie Moore. After all, I am a size 8, sometimes semi-frizzy haired, acne-prone woman – nowhere near as “attractive” as Barbie or “Cinderella.” I agree with her that these companies do not emulate their characters as the “average” woman. And I do see what A Mighty Girl means when they described Disney’s makeover of Merida from the movie “Brave” as being oversexualized and inappropriate.

However, what I’m not OK with is the “wussification of America” that we seem to be dealing with so often these days. (You can read more about this notion on my favorite radio show’s website). Basically, this country is becoming too PC. Yes…me…Laura Smith…big time liberal…just said this. A few months ago a high school in Massachusetts considered cancelling its honors night so it wouldn’t offend those kids who didn’t make honors. WAIT, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

I see this same trend in what’s going on with this mother. Yes, young girls should be taught they can do anything. Yes, they should be taught they don’t have to be a size 2 to be beautiful. But should they be stripped of their innocence in something as simple as watching “Snow White” or “The Little Mermaid” all because of what they will think society will look at them as? I’ve got news for you: the only thing a 5-year-old girl is thinking when she is watching Cinderella is how fun it would be to talk to animals and whether or not her mom will let her go get some ice cream from the kitchen.

disney-princesses11“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was Disney’s first animated movie and subsequently, the first “Disney princess” movie. It was released in 1937. Which means for the past 76 years, little girls have been watching movies about handsome princes, kissing frogs and talking squirrels. My grandmother watched these movies. My mom watched these movies. I watched these movies. And guess what, never for a second have I EVER thought, “damnit, I need to look like Ariel, she is PERFECT.” I also have never thought “Man, that Cinderella won’t amount to anything because she didn’t have a job” (go with me on this one – this movie was set in the 17th century when women didn’t work). Plus, they make career-woman Barbie now! What’s your argument on that one??

GALIA-BARBIEWould I like to lose 10 pounds? Sure. Do I want to do it because Princess Jasmine was a skinny you-know-what? Or because Skipper would have a 18″ waist if she were a real person? No. Do I want to become a successful career woman? Duh. I want that more than I want a handsome prince right now (no, really). While I do argue that society has made us feel inferior to others (no thanks to jerk Mike Jeffries and his lovely statements on what makes you “cool” this week) thanks to the fashion industry and the tabloid media, I don’t think watching a Disney princess movie or playing with a Barbie doll is going to make these young girls feel as though they won’t be able to accomplish anything or have to look a certain way. I watched a Disney movie every week from about age 5-8 and played with Barbies every day and I can tell you, I sure as hell want to conquer the world. And don’t need to be a size 2 to do it either.