Signs of Depression & How You Can Help

Depression has recently made headlines with the passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Since their suicides, many people have been speaking out about signs of depression and ways those depressed can seek help. If you have kept up with my blog, you know that I too suffer from depression and anxiety. I have written about dealing with depression during study abroad and the issue with the dramatization of depression in media.

With the recent spike in suicides after the news of the two celebrity deaths broke, I thought I might share some signs of depression that some people may display, but are not often recognized as symptoms by the lay-person. Some of these I have experienced and others I have not. Depression manifests itself differently in everyone. Some people may display one symptom, several symptoms, or none. However, it is important as friends and family members that we be aware of signs so we can better address the needs of our loved ones.

Fatigue

If I could describe my depression in one word, it would be fatigue. Although I am on medication, this is one of the symptoms that has not seemed to dissipate. Fatigue can manifest itself in several ways. For instance, you may have a friend who always seems mentally drained. Or they may be sleeping for 12 hours each night. Do they have the energy to clean their room? Brush their teeth? Take a shower? Normally, it should be pretty simple to do these daily tasks. If they cannot, it could be depression.

 

Eating Habits

Another sign of depression is a change in eating habits. For me, this means stuffing my face with any food that can be eaten in bed until I gain 10 pounds. For one of my friends, this means not eating at all because she can’t stand the thought of food. If you have noticed that a loved one has a change in eating habits, you might talk to them about what is on their mind.

 

Social Habits

Depression can make the smallest interaction seem like the largest mountain in the world to climb. I get it. I’ve been there. Sometimes, no matter how much someone with depression wants to hang out with friends or visit family, the interaction may be too much to handle. Check on your friends. If they are staying in bed all day, not returning phone calls, not leaving the house, not doing things that they once enjoyed, maybe something is up.

I think something we often miss with this symptom of depression is spotting the difference between the symptom and laziness or introverted-ness. I remember my first year with depression. I could barely make it to my internship and to class. I felt so embarrassed around professors and people who I looked up to because I knew they were judging me for my lack of accountability. In fact, I was battling depression that made getting out of the door each morning the most terrifying task. If someone had asked me if I was okay instead of assuming that I was lazy or irresponsible, would I have said something about my depression? Probably not. But it is so important to ASK. The proof of this was demonstrated to me in my last semester of undergrad. There was a girl in my capstone class who hadn’t shown up in three weeks (which is a lot to miss for a once-a-week capstone). My friend reached out to her over text to make sure she was alright. In fact, she was battling major depression which made it difficult to attend class. My friend was the first person who had reached out to her. Be that person. Reach out.

 

Substance Abuse

I hate writing this on a public blog, but I endeavor to keep it real, especially when it comes to representing the reality of depression. In my darkest times of depression, there was always a bottle of alcohol on my bedside table. This may seem really strange and destructive, but I have had multiple people tell me that they practiced the same behavior when they were having a tough time with depression. Do you have a friend who is drinking a lot? Using drugs? What is their behavior like when they are on a substance? My behavior during alcohol induced drunkenness when I was depressed can only be described in two words: HOT MESS. I would vomit, sob, cry, scream, run away. Describe the worst drunk person in the world? That was me.

This behavior is not normal. Substance abuse is not healthy in the first place, but, combined with depression, it actually worsens symptoms. If you know someone in your life who is practicing substance abuse, or someone who isn’t abusing substances but is acting the way I described above when they are under the influence, THEY NEED HELP. Talk to them about their behavior. I have the most wonderful friends who have helped me through those trying times, and I am alive today because of them. Not only that, but I understand the danger of alcohol consumption in combination with depression. Don’t stand by and allow your friend to practice this behavior. See the signs and say something.

 

Mood

Mood swings or mood changes are a common sign of depression. Unfortunately, some people assume that being sad is the only mood that indicates depression. In fact, any drastic change can be an indicator. If you have a friend who is unusually snappy or rude, they could be dealing with a mental health issue. Lack of mood is also a sign. If someone you know is less reactive than normal or more even-tempered, it could be that depressed has caused a lack of emotion. Obviously, sadness is also a symptom. Pay close attention if the sadness lasts for a long time or if the sadness they are experiencing seems to affect their everyday activities.

 

Physical Pain

Depression can also manifest itself into aches and pains. This could be anything from a stomach ache or headache to back pain. It isn’t the same for everyone. However, it is a good way to spot depression before a friend may even realize they have it.

 

What can you do?

So, what can you do if you notice someone may be suffering from depression? So often, we hand out hotlines and offer assistance without being proactive. For those suffering from depression, reaching out may not always be feasible. It often takes someone else reaching out personally to make a difference. Below are a few things you can do to help someone in need.

Reach out, even if you’re not close to that person. Do you notice that they have any of the symptoms listed above or that they haven’t been showing up? Say hello. Offer a hand. Let them know that they are noticed.

Listen to what they need. Too often, we think that the answer to depression is some big show by dragging someone depressed out of the house and into the sunshine or making them visit a psychologist. The truth is, people with depression are just that: people. They know what they need. Don’t assume. Ask. Listen. The simplest things make a huge difference.

Along with listening, be proactive. If you notice your friend with depression hasn’t been eating well lately, cook them something. If they haven’t been outside in awhile, ask if they want to go for a walk or open the windows in the house. Have they been skipping class? Ask if they need you to write an email to their professor.

Finally, serious depression is not something to mess with. If you know someone with depression has threatened to harm themselves or harm others, they are not in the right frame of mind. There are so many resources out there for them, but they might not be mentally sound enough to reach out. If you are with them, stay with them until you know they are alright. If they are a student, most universities have counseling resource centers and after hours resources for people contemplating self harm. If you have to, contact the authorities or contact a closer friend/family member. It does not matter if they are angry with you for helping, you are saving a life.

I hope you learned somethings reading a little about depression and what you can watch out for/do to help those of us who have it. Below, I have listed some resources. Share them, save them, know them.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741

Goddard Counseling Services (OU): (405) 325-2911

Behavioral Intervention Team Anonymous Reporting Form (OU): https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?UnivofOklahoma&layout_id=3

 

xoxo

Starting a Non-Profit

Never in a million years did I think I would be starting a non-profit at the young age of 21. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a news anchor, not an entrepreneur. It comes with the territory, I guess. When you’re a person who loves helping other people, you will find a way to make a difference. I’ve been scheming over the past four years. I have had giant ideas with many excuses as to why they wouldn’t work: I don’t have time, I don’t have money, I don’t have motivation.

I don’t know why I waited so long to make my dreams come true. I firmly believe in God’s timing. Maybe these past let-downs and ideas with no traction just weren’t meant to be. But, with graduation quickly approaching, I am taking the steps to launch the Leola Foundation.

Leola happens to be my great-grandmother and was a force on this planet. Although I was not alive during her years at W.R.A.P., I remember her fondly. She was always wearing her Sunday best (big church hat included) and smelled strongly of perfume. She had gentle hands and the smoothest skin. I remember her kind hugs and laughter. Leola passed away in 2008 right after the win of President Elect (at that time) Barack Obama. Although her passing was a great loss, I was happy she was able to see the election of a black president. Leola herself was an advocate for the black community. In the 1960s, she was the host of a 25 minute homemaker’s radio show “Around the Town.” She provided a great outlet for black women to get involved. Leola rose in the ranks of W.R.A.P. even meeting President and First Lady Lyndon B. Johnson and President and First Lady John F. Kennedy.

Her work is what inspired me to formally start the Leola Foundation. The Leola Foundation is an empowerment platform encouraging minority women to be leaders within their communities. We fund and provide consultation to local projects meant to positively impact the community. Although we are in the planning stages and have a lot of work ahead of us, I am so excited to see what comes of Leola. This week I apply for non-profit status through the Oklahoma Secretary of State. Next comes 501(c)3 registration with the IRS and then with the state AGAIN for charitable solicitations. Everyone says how much work it takes to start a non-profit, but no one tells you how much of it is a waiting game. Keep checking back here for updates on the Leola Foundation. And check out the website to read more: https://leola.org/

 

xo

Ivey

Mental Health and Study Abroad

At the University of Oklahoma there is a goal set by President Boren that fifty percent of students will study abroad. Although this goal has not been met, there are a large number of students who study abroad through the University. During my two study abroad journeys I was suffering both from anxiety and depression. A lot of people talk about the joy of study abroad and also the difficulties, but mental health seems pretty uncharted. Sure, we were given resources for if we were having trouble adjusting, but what about those of us suffering from long-term mental health disorders?

The problems I faced were a lot smaller during my first study abroad venture in Italy. There, I was given everything I needed to succeed: American friends, tours of the city by faculty and staff, many people looking out for my well being. I never once had an issue with my mental health. I never once called home crying.

Fast-forward a semester and I am in London for my second study abroad adventure. This one was different. Before going to London, I had been prescribed a new medication meant to supplement my anxiety meds. It really had no effect on me during the first few weeks. However, the program itself was enough to do me harm. The Summer School Program at the London School of Economics is one of the only study abroad programs where credits can be transferred back to Ivy League universities. That being said, the classes were intense with three weeks spent learning from top scholars of the school. I was prepared for another study abroad experience like the one I had in Arezzo: close friends and many Americans having fun and learning about culture.

I want to preface by saying that the LSE program was phenomenal. I learned so much and met new friends from around the world. I was able to learn how to survive on my own in a foreign country and large city. However, I was not ready for the toll the experience would take on my mental health.

The second week started with a trip to Paris where, as I described in an earlier post, my new medication caused a mental breakdown which included drinking, crying, vomiting, and being sexually assaulted. It was then that I realized I needed help. The next morning I texted a Canadian mental health hotline describing what had happened. I thought I needed to be in a mental institution. The study abroad experience did not help quell my ever increasing depression. I would walk down the street suffocating under the overwhelming feeling that I was not okay. I thought about jumping in front of cars and throwing myself off bridges. Even if pictures on social media proved otherwise, I didn’t feel normal.

With this came crushing guilt. I was at one of the best universities in the world in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My parents had paid almost all of the $10,000 it took for me to have the experience. How could I be unhappy here? How could I be so ungrateful?

So I continued to stuff down the feelings. I was isolated and afraid, but I didn’t let it show. As the weeks went on, I lost friends who completed their classes and headed back to their respective countries. In the final weeks, I laid in bed for days on end, only getting up to use the restroom. I didn’t eat and slept for 12 hours at a time, sometimes more. I was taking my medication regularly, but nothing helped. This did not ruin my experience, but it opened my eyes to this issue that people do not really talk about.

There are so many students in this world that spend time abroad. This means that there are probably many students suffering from mental health problems that take those problems with them around the world. Depression does not stop when we begin our adventures. It will always be with us. This article is written not to criticize institutions for their lack of help for students with mental health issues. That is not reality. Most universities provide many resources for students like me. Alternatively, I am writing this to draw attention to the fact that studying abroad is not always glamorous. Despite what many people may post and share, there is difficulty, especially for those who have a mental health disorder. We may feel uncomfortable talking about it. We may only share the good stuff. We may feel guilt for time wasted abroad because of our disorder. But, other people can be there to help if they know the signs. Below are links to websites for people seeking help and for those who may not know the signs of depression:

Symptoms

Hotline

Thanks y’all for reading!

 

xoxo

Ivey

What’s in a game?

I’ve never been much of a sports fan or, for that matter, a sports player. This can be proven by my extensive childhood career of dance, theater, music, and any combination of the three. However, at a young age, I was tossed in, as every child is, to every sport imaginable just to see how I would fair. Would I be the next Serena Williams? Was I more of a Misty May Treanor? A soccer game at the age of 4 would prove that I was no sports star. My parents sat in lawn chairs on the soccer field under the beating sun just to see me sit on the field picking daisies and talking about horses with my other 4-year-old pal. This type of behavior continued as I got older. Walking during basketball, singing in the dugout – I just wasn’t meant to play sports.

This behavior would catch up with me in the form of ultimate frisbee nickname: “D-Picker” or daisy picker in long-form. It was not until high school that I really found a sport I loved (not to play myself of course). My father’s love of the University of Oklahoma football program had increased my interest in football throughout my life. As a young child I would poke fun at fans of our rival team, Oklahoma State, by calling them “OSU: Old Stinky Underwear.” At the time, I didn’t really understand how the game worked. I would hide when my dad’s friends came over to watch football games, listening to their commentary from afar. It was always a momentous occasion that required lots of Bud Light, Tostitos, and bean dip – typical American sustenance. One of my fondest memories is crying to my mother about falling in the toilet because, during one of the football gatherings, one of the guys forgot to put the toilet seat down. Still, as I matured, I understood more of how the game worked. Obviously I did not have the most thorough knowledge. I still sometimes would cheer with the rest of the onlookers at a game only to ask ten seconds later,”So what happened?” I also lacked knowledge of players and teams and ranks and sports news. My knowledge was limited to what I saw on the OU football field. I knew a touchdown when I saw one. I knew a first-down. I knew a field goal. I knew a win. Something that I did not realize until studying abroad, was the global interest in soccer – or, as I like to call it, the “real” football.

My first experience with football was at an Irish pub in Rome.

It was my first time in the city and a few students and I had decided to have a drink and see if we could catch the Oklahoma football game. The pub had a promise posted on their front door that they would stream any game available as long as you asked. I, for one, was not about to miss out on an OU football game if I could prevent it. So, we marched into the pub around 7pm that evening to find ourselves almost unable to enter. The pub was packed wall to wall with men and women large and small holding a pint in one hand and gesturing at the television screens with the other. The shouts we heard came in English, so, I assumed the game was English. Intrigued, my friends and I ended our night, after a failed OU football streaming attempt, watching both rugby and the end of the football game, screaming with the fans and laughing at how out of place we felt. After that day, I gained a new interest in football. I looked up information on some of the best players in the world (and yes I took a lot of time studying the perfect features of Cristiano Ronaldo). I began playing small indoor football games with the Italian children I tutored and asking them about the local team on which they played. Their eyes lit up when I talked about football. Even in broken English, I could understand how much they loved it. This fervor for the sport was not limited just to them. I saw the craze in every European city I visited: high-priced jerseys in shop windows, pub nights dedicated to games, children playing in the streets. This obsession followed me back to the United States where I began watching late night football and rugby through Sky Sports. There, I slowly began to understand the hype surrounding the sport. Football connects all nations in one universal game. The minor leagues bring small communities together which I learned at the Barnet football game in the Hive stadium during my time in London. Bigger leagues bring together whole cities. FIFA allows people from all over the world to feel a sense of national pride through sport. Even better is the ability that everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, has to play football. All that’s needed is a ball and teams.

The sport circles the globe.

Yet, coming back to the states permanently (as far as I know) has lead to the disappearance of football in my life. Recently at dinner, I was excited about the USA vs Costa Rica game where we lost miserably. The people I was with were confused. “This is America,” they said. And they were right. The sport just is not as revered in the states. American football takes precedent. That does not mean that there are not pockets of fans. Go on Reddit and you’ll find a thread about soccer within the first five minutes. But the hype does not reach European levels as I experienced. Does it make me sad that football isn’t big in America? Yeah. It brings people together in a way that American football can’t. But that does not mean that I cannot enjoy it by myself. I plan on sharing with anyone who will listen about the joy that is “real” football. Maybe they will be able to enjoy it just as much as I do.

Depression is not an accessory

There is an Eiffel Tower keychain that sits on my bedside, a trinket from my most recent trip to Paris. It should be a reminder of fun, of sunshine, of flowers, of laughing with my best friend and eating escargot for the first time. It should remind me of my first time in Paris when I experienced the beauty of the city from the top of the Arc. It should bring back the smell of delicious baguettes and cheese from the Saturday market and the feel of the breeze off of the river.

Instead it bears a more grim memory.

I suffer from depression and anxiety, probably due to genetics as it runs through generations of my family. It is the most difficult barrier that I have to a normal life. Yet, despite the many struggles that I and many others in this world face due to depression, I have been floored by the recent glorification of mental health disorders through main stream media in shows like 13 Reasons Why and To The Bone. There is largely debate on whether these shows are doing the right thing by bringing attention to issues that are largely taboo in our society. Some writers have insisted that, by allowing younger people to watch these shows, they feel more comfortable talking about these issues with their parents or peers. This may be true for some. As a teenager, I read 13 Reasons Why and really loved it. It was truly a sad story about a girl named Hannah who told the backstory of her suicide by sending tapes to different people in her life who contributed to her suicide. However, as an adult I see it much differently. I understand the selfishness of the main character as she blames others for her suicide. I see how the plot focuses on an almost-revenge. Hannah died, but she is able to put the burden on others by blaming them for her own decision. The reality is that depression is much more complicated. It is a disease that seems to be simplified in these television shows. Depression is not a pretty girl that makes tapes and then kills herself. Depression is a journey with ugly consequences that will never be shown in popular media. It continues to be whittled down to its most basic form, suicide and tears – an accessory to draw in an audience.

Depression is not an accessory.

It is not something that can be experienced through watching a television show. It is not something that makes a show revolutionary. Depression is not always suicide. Depression is not merely sadness.

Depression is a disease. It eats away at your brain until you can’t fight back any longer. Depression is a cage – as much as you want to break free, there is no way out. Depression is vomiting in front of tourists under the Eiffel Tower because your new medication does not mix with wine. It is sobbing while screaming that you want to die as your best friend holds you back from running. It is laying in bed for days at a time with no shower, the smell of three-day-old bad breath and the feeling of tangled hair at the nape of your neck. It is losing friends because you cannot bear to speak or to see the light of day. Depression is drinking beyond memory and cutting beyond pain. Depression is failure. It is the numbness from buckets of medication. Depression is being in the most beautiful city on earth surrounded by millions yet feeling alone. It has good days and it has bad days. It is everything and nothing at the same time. It affects 350 million people on the planet yet it still comes with a stigma that is hard to break.

By allowing television shows to represent one person’s version of mental health disorder, we continue to perpetuate the idea that all depressed people are the same. All of us commit suicide. All of us are moody and constantly tragic. But the reality is so much more. Depression is not an accessory. Yes, it affects everyday life, but there are millions of people currently functioning day to day with the disease. There are so many of us that have had times where we almost took our own lives and yet there are some of us who have never tried. There are some of us who will never have to be on medication and there are some of us who take what seems like hundreds of pills each day. There are some of us that suffer and are not diagnosed and there are some of us who have known since we were young. There are great days where we can function on normal amounts of sleep and can laugh with our best friends. We can climb mountains. We can go to work and take care of our children and go on a date. Then there are times when the physical symptoms make putting a cup of coffee to our lips unbearable.

Television wants to make it seem like depression is the same for everyone. It wants death to seem like the only option.

I am here to defend those of us who do not fit that mold. I am here to say that depression is not the same for everyone. It goes so much deeper than a 14 episode show can allow a viewer to understand.

Depression is not an accessory. It is not always suicide. It is not always pretty. It is not always ugly. Depression is normality for some of us. And that should be defended.

Gearing Up for My Next Adventure

This summer I will be traveling to….

LONDON!!!!

I know. I know. I did Europe. So, why am I going back?

This summer I have been accepted to the London School of Economics summer program to study Genocide, Democracy Building, and Politics of International Development. This program is honestly a dream-come-true as I have never been to the United Kingdom before. In a blog post I wrote last year, I mentioned 21 things I wanted to do before I turned 21. Most of the things on the list I was able to complete. However, there were obviously things I was not able to finish in the short 365 day span and (as my birthday is next week) I don’t see them getting done any time soon. A lot of those yet-to-be-checked- off things can be completed in the good ole UK. So, without further ado, here is my:

London Bucket List

Sky Dive

maxresdefaultThis is something I was never able to complete due to insufficient funds (please give me money) and I have been wanting to do it for YEARS. Who’s to say that this year, 2017, won’t be my time?

Send a Message in a Bottle

message-in-a-bottle-1200Okay. This isn’t much of a London thing as it is just a thing in general. But the UK is surrounded by water, why shouldn’t I take advantage of that? Here’s to hoping my message in a bottle is picked up by someone who will actually read it.

Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Hogwarts Express BW

Harry Potter World obviously isn’t in London. But you know what is? The studios where Harry Potter was filmed, the pub where J.K. wrote the books, and platform 9 and 3/4. I am expecting this summer to be an amalgamation of me realizing that the places I’m seeing have all been featured in a Harry Potter film.

Visit Scotland

crossraguel-abbey-bw2e

Something definitely on my weekend travel list is visit Scotland. Castles, greenery, ocean, hills – what more could a girl need? Hopefully, a few of the friends I make will want to take a train up to the land of pubs and beauty.

Now that I have my list, I’m ready to be on my way. Luckily, I won’t be leaving until halfway through June so I have plenty of time to add more things to do. Let me know in the comments if you have any must-dos for the British Isles.

 

XO

Forum on Democracy

Amid controversy about the travel ban by President Trump and then struck down by a Seattle court and later by two federal judges, the University of Okahoma hosted a “Forum on Democracy” which was headed by the College of International Studies. The Forum was a collection of individual academics and panelists speaking about a range of issues from corruption, populism, checks and balances, public schools, and many other topics. I was able to attend a talk by presenter Dr. Meta Carstarphen focusing on journalism and then the panel discussion afterwards. The journal consisted of Dr. Carstarphen, Rick Tepker (OU Law), Dr. Justin Wert (Political Science), and Dr. Waleed Mahdi (historian). What most interested me of all of the programming was the question and answer portion that was held directly after the panelists finished their talks. A nice young woman went up to the microphone and said, “I’m of the school of thought that there needs to be destruction before real change can be made…”

I’m not sure what she said after that because I tuned it out. I’m not one for anarchy, and this girl had already begun her sentence with a statement that was cause for concern. Apparently, the panelists felt the same way I did. Dr. Mahdi stepped up to answer her question. But then he began speaking about my generation of Americans. He spoke about growing up in Yemen surrounded by war. He talked about how, children that have grown into adults without having to experience conflicts, especially in places such as the United States that have a representative democracy, begin to forget the values of freedom and democracy because they do not know a time without it. They do not know real destruction. He spoke about how that ideology of destruction and then rebuilding is dangerous to the preservation of democracy. And, although what he said might have been hurtful to the girl brave enough to ask questions, I couldn’t help but side with him. There reason we learn about history in school is so that we will not repeat the atrocities of the past. However, there is a difference between reading about atrocities in a book and experiencing them first hand. If we do not emphasize the good that comes from our current system, then we will forget about what we have and long for destruction. This ideology is dangerous in the wrong hands. It can lead to civil wars and terrorism and pain. If we do not continue to educate people daily on why the United States runs on a democratic system (as flawed as it may be) then we will fall into the trap of allowing history to repeat itself.

 

Arabic Flagship Talent Show

I have been a member of the Arabic Flagship for about three years now. At this point, I have become acquainted with performing at the annual talent show. At the end of every spring semester, the talent show commemorates what each club has worked on throughout the year. Fortunately, I did not have to do a live singing or bellydance performance this year. My Egyptian colloquial class got together to create a wonderful rendition of “Arab’s Got Talent.” Attached is the video of our creation. For my talent portion, I sang “Akhbarak Eh.” I have performed this song before for a talent show, but never in this singing style. Watch the video to view my cringeworthy talent.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1fQ1Ny48Jsvb3ZPbHM0TmJLSmc/view?usp=sharing

The College Girl’s Guide To: Radical Right Populism

Populism. It’s not the study of popularity or a famous pimple popping compilation. It’s not anything fun at all actually. Some would say it’s a political ideology. Some would say it’s a mobilization mechanism. Others might call it a political style. One thing that populism truly is? On the rise in the West.

I first gained insight on populism during my time studying Fascism in Italy. A portion of my studies was focused upon researching women in radical right populist parties. Something I noticed from my work was that there are really no ways to compare populist parties that are gaining political traction. Many of them have different ideologies and issues that bind them. However, the leaders of these parties all have one thing in common: they are loud, outspoken, and target the common working man, the “forgotten people.”

To brush up on my knowledge of populism in the year 2017, I decided to attend “Into the Mainstream” a lesson on the radical right populism sweeping over the world. The talk was given by Reinhard Heinisch, a professor from the University of Salzburg. Although he specialized in Austrian studies, Dr. Heinisch gave excellent perspectives on how to categorize and understand populism. His lessons are as follows:

In the early 2000s, populism concentrated in two or three European countries, namely France. It gradually spread to rest of Europe in different manifestations. These days populism takes on two main looks:

  1. Parties that call principles of liberal democracies into question (checks and balances, judiciary, media, etc)
  2. Parties that break taboos, discriminate against political minority, nativist/nationalist

These parties tend to draw in young, male, blue-collar voters. These voters are susceptible to populist ideology because of the potential economic losses they see from immigrants taking their blue collar jobs. Furthermore, women are less likely to support these parties because of the anti-feminist language that the parties boast. However, this does not mean they are not without leadership. There are many populist parties that have female leaders, people like Marine Le Pen who just recently lost the French Presidential Election. These parties tend to prioritize security, whether that means protecting their nation from immigrants (Western Europe) or protecting themselves from radical Western ideals (Eastern Europe). Even more interesting to note, is that Russia is funding many of these movements in ways that it cannot support mainstream parties. These mainstream parties are too afraid of the repercussions that come with having Russia back them. However, populist parties are all about breaking taboos, not only in speech, but also in behavior.

The talk by Heinisch gave an overall picture of what populism looks like in the West. But each party is unique in its views and thus takes lots of research to understand. Because of that, I have linked some articles below that give further insight into the political issue that is radical right populism:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/11/europe/uk-election-labour-manifesto/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/populism-what-is-it-explained-rise-donald-trump-marine-le-pen-politics-economics-a7704196.html

 

The Impact of Study Abroad

As I write this final blog post, I am sitting on a train watching the sun set illuminate the Tuscan mountains as we fly by. This place is beautiful, not only because of the scenery, but also because of the memories I will forever share with this place. It’s all so bittersweet. It’s like the saying, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” And for every tear I have shed this past week and for the ones I know are to come in the spirit of nostalgia, there were many more laughs and tons more smiles. So, as hard as it is for me to write this post, here are all the ways studying abroad has made an impact in my life.

Friendship

A place is only as great as the people in it. That is what has made Italy so special for me. Every day I was able to wake up with endless possibilities about what Italian-ism I would learn that day all the while knowing that there was a support group of people there to back me up or scream at the top of my lungs with or binge watch Stranger Things. Those people I got scammed with in Paris, those people who were lost in Berlin with me at three in the morning. Those people who traversed a fun house in Amsterdam with me like children. Those are the people that made this place so special and noteworthy. It would not have been the same experience without them.

Thankfulness

I did not get here on my own. I realize fully that me being here is fully through God. He laid a path and he has a plan for what this will do to my life. He spoke to those people who gave me words of encouragement or funding to get me through the semester. Every night walking home from babysitting, I would just ponder over the amazing state of my life. I would wonder how God could make something as small as babysitting children have an impact on me. I would wonder how he could create such beautiful oceans and mountains and cityscapes. The most breath-taking moments I had were realizing how thankful I was to get to see the world. I am so grateful and humbled to have had this experience.

Ethnocentrism

I know this may come as a surprise to some people, but America just is not the best. Now, I’m not saying it’s horrible (that would be a polar opposite instead of a logical opposite – LSAT where you at?) but there is just such a big wide world out there with so many different great ideas. There are so many things I will miss from Europe that I just cannot get back home. That being said, there are so many things and people I missed from back home that I could never get in Europe. You win some and you lose some. My point being, open-mindedness is essential. It is so important to appreciate the world and different cultures for what they are. Comparison is the killer of progress. Near the beginning of this trip, I had a difficult time adjusting to Italian life because I kept thinking about life back home and wondering which I liked better. You know what? Neither place is best. I just had to accept Italy the way it is and I am so glad I did.

Be Present

We live in a finite world. Our lives are precious. Every second that passes is one more that we should be thankful to be on this gorgeous planet with incredible people. But we do not always see that because we grow complacent. I’m that way. There are so many times that I have stayed in bed all day just because I can. But that leaves me with one more day gone away from my very finite life. Study abroad gave me a timeline. I was given four months to explore Europe and learn more about myself. Something I learned in the very beginning of this journey is the importance of taking it slow. Instead of looking forward to the coming day, I was able to relax and just enjoy the present. I was able to take in my surroundings and get to know people and try new things.

Calling

The most nagging feelings I had while abroad was the suspension that I do not deserve any of this. I still wonder if I do. It is hard to feel comfortable being truly happy knowing that there are people out in this world starving or people who will never be able to afford going to college let alone study abroad. And maybe it is non-PC for me to feel guilty. I’m really not sure. But I do know that privilege got me here. That being said, the realization that my privilege plays an integral part in my life really made me understand that it is important to make a difference. Today I might be a broke college student, but tomorrow I could be a lawyer helping defend human rights or the mom of a child that was left without a home. The possibilities are endless. But knowing this privilege and seeing it in action, whether it was passing refugee families in the street or seeing men struggling to sell roses just to get by, really shows me that I cannot be complacent. I came to Italy to learn more about the world. Now I can go make a difference.

 

And that is all folks. My time in Arezzo has come to a close. To see more about my adventures, follow me on Instagram or give me an email shout out.

Arrivederci!