Flirting with Life

My parents are extremely well-traveled. My father was born and raised in Nigeria, where he lived for 15 years, until he and my grandparents moved back to Bangladesh, where my family is originally from. He met my mother in Bangladesh, and from the time they were 23 until two years before I was born, they traveled.

From spending six months in Australia to exploring Ghana for a few weeks to going to college in Denmark, my parents have covered every continent, well with the exception of Antarctica, of course. We have two giant glass display cases filled to the top with different artifacts and proudly representing all of their adventures, in our living room at home. From having a miniature Eiffel Tower to glass windmills from Holland to a replica of Copenhagen’s famous The Little Mermaid statue to Colombian clay pots to intricately-detailed rickshaws to bottled sand from Qatar, our living room could one day be turned into a museum. So it is no shock that I am also affected with wanderlust.

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Now, as my luck would have it, (okay maybe being a broke college student has more to do with this than luck), my international travels have been extremely limited. Although it makes me upset that my parents have seen so much of this world and I haven’t, it also motivates me to research places I want to go, save money rather than spending it on yet another sweater I don’t need, and create a plan to go somewhere new. However, a place that I have been to with my family that I want to talk about is a country that I fell in love with as soon I stepped out of the airport — Turkey.

Last winter, I flew to Istanbul in Turkey with my parents and little brother. Istanbul is probably the most beautiful city I have seen so far. My trip there included a lot of sight-seeing, a lot of walking, and a lot of shopping. Oh yeah, I also found the best McDonald’s there, and coming from me, an avid McDonald’s hater, I can assure you it might actually be the best in the world. 

So I decided to dedicate this blog post to sharing what I did in Turkey, and hopefully one day, you guys can go see this beautiful country yourself firsthand.

The Blue Mosque

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Dated back to the 17th century, this place of worship in Istanbul is free and fully open to visitors. The details of the architecture here were absolutely breathtaking, and this mosque is actually visible from almost anywhere in the city. Luckily, our hotel room balcony had the perfect view of it.

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The Hagia Sophia

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Because photography was not allowed inside, I could not take pictures, but I did pull up this image online to show you the beauty of the outside of the building.

This is a famous historical building that once was an orthodox basilica, then became a mosque, and is now a popular museum in the heart of Istanbul. This building’s architecture reflects that of The Byzantine and Ottoman era’s and this museum had beautiful mosaics, some of which date back to the 13th century.

The Topkapi Palace

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This was by far my favorite place in Istanbul. My family and I spent about five hours there and we still didn’t see everything. Photography is strictly forbidden inside, and I can understand why — the treasures and artifacts contained inside this palace should be seen and appreciated only in person. Every room in the palace took my breath away. I also loved learning the history and culture behind every item, and through that, I got to learn a lot about Istanbul as well as Turkey too.

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My only regret after this trip was that I did not take enough pictures — I would have loved to share all of the things my family and I saw. We spent so much time just observing and learning that we actually lived in the moment rather than feeling the need to Instagram or Snapchat every memory made. There were so many other things to see in Istanbul besides what I listed — these three were just the biggest, must-see stops in my opinion. If you ever get a chance to go to Istanbul, also stop at The Grand Bazaar, which is exactly what it sounds like.

So to sum it up, I will definitely be visiting Turkey again… but maybe in the spring this time. It was FREEZING in January. I urge you all to put Istanbul on your travel bucket list, and keep adding to this list every year, every month, every day. So no, maybe you won’t get to even half of the things on your list, but when you do get the chance to check off one, you will feel so accomplished and rewarded. I truly believe traveling makes you smarter in a way that no book ever will and allows you to broaden your mind, your perspective, and your opinions.

And with that, I leave you with my favorite quote and the warmest wishes to book that plane ticket.

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.”

– Lisa St. Aubin

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Things to Do When Your Friends Visit Rutgers

After two long months of being separated from my younger sister, I finally had a free weekend to spend withher. My sister is currently a freshmen at Temple University and loves it, but was excited to experience some of the things that make Rutgers so great. Here is a list of some things we did this weekend, as well as things I’ve done when friends have visited in the past. It’s hard to show someone how awesome Rutgers is in just one weekend, but here are some suggestions for the next time your friends are visiting New Brunswick:

1. Wander the different campuses.

The fact that five different campuses make up Rutgers New Brunswick, as well as the busses that fly up and down Rt. 18, seem to be such a normal part of life for students here. However, the thought seems strange and overwhelming to non-Rutgers students. One of the first things my sister said after traveling from my dorm on College Ave to visit my cousin on Busch was that she always forgets that there is more to Rutgers than College Ave. I remember feeling a similar way before I became a student here. Show your friends the rest of Rutgers, no matter what campus you live on! Unfortunately, we never made it to Cook/Douglass this weekend, but my sister got walking tours of Busch and Livingston, in addition to our time spent on College Ave. There is no better way for a visitor to experience the sprawling collection of campuses that make up Rutgers New Brunswick.

2. Spend time outside

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Despite the constant construction and proximity of the city of New Brunswick, Rutgers is a truly beautiful school, especially on a perfect October day. From the warm nostalgia I experience as the leaves in Bishop Beach change from green to brilliant shades of red and yellow, to the mirrored image of the sky in the calm surface of Passion Puddle, there is something that every visitor will appreciate here. As my sister said as we walked through Voorhees Mall on our way back from the train station: “Wow there’s so much grass here; it’s so pretty!” I became increasingly thankful for the balance Rutgers has between the city of New Brunswick and the grassy quads and mall areas around the various campuses. Show your guest some of your favorite places to spend time outside next time they are here!

3. Cheer the Knights on at a football game!

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This past weekend was definitely not the best game for my sister to attend, but we still had tons of fun! There is nothing better than cheering on the Scarlet Knights, chanting the entirety of the fight song as loud as you possibly can, and paying way too much money for mediocre chicken fingers and fries. This experience is even better if your visitor has never been to a Big Ten college football game! My sister is in the marching band at Temple, so until this weekend she had never experienced a college football game as nothing more than an excited fan.

4. Try ALL the food!

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The last, but not least, way to have fun with your friends when they visit Rutgers is to show them the very best food that New Brunswick has to offer. From a slice at your favorite pizza shop (mine is PJ’s, but there are so many delicious choices!), to ice cream at Thomas Sweets, you really can’t go wrong with any of the food options on Easton Ave. The most important food for visitors to try, however, is a fat sandwich. Fat sandwiches and the food trucks that create them are a defining and unique part of Rutgers. Unfortunately, my sister and I never made it to a food truck this weekend, but it’s definitely on the list for the next time she catches the train up to New Brunswick!

Recommended Movies to Prep for Halloween!

I find that one of the best ways to take a break and relax is to watch a movie. Here are some movie recommendations that the bloggers and I put together to help you accomplish that goal of relaxation.

1. The Ring

This is one of those classic horror movies, that if you’re a horror fan, you should definitely add to your list of movies-to-watch, if you haven’t seen it already. (Or rewatch it again to prep for Halloween!) This movie was one of my childhood favorites–I watched a lot of horror movies in my teen years–and still remains a good scary movie for me today. It’s about a journalist who has to uncover why people are dying within a week of watching a videotape, back when videotapes were still a thing. It has a few iconic scenes, and some scary pop-ups that I’ll never forget.

2. Hotel Transylvania

If you’re in a Halloween movie mood but scary movies aren’t your thing, you might want to check this one out. Count Drac opens a hotel that only serves monsters to keep his beloved daughter safe from humans. However, when he is throwing a party for his “teenage” daughter’s 118th birthday, a human boy stumbles into the hotel and falls in love with her. Count Drac is then transformed from a scary vampire into an overprotective father. This is a feel-good Halloween movie with lots of funny moments–and you can follow it with Hotel Transylvania 2. Recommended: salted hot chocolate, buttery popcorn, and your favorite fall sweater.

3. Paranorman

Entirely made by stop motion animation, Paranorman is an absolutely gorgeous off-beat movie. The story is both fun and exciting, and the visuals are absolutely amazing–made even more amazing when you find out that none of it is CGI. It follows the story of Norman, who can see ghosts as he tries to take on an old curse to save his town. It’s a very sweet movie, and is all about family and coming to understand each other. I absolutely recommend it for any occasion and with any audience.

4. The Babadook

Often times, I find a lot of American horror lacking in actual horror. This was one of the few I encountered last year that didn’t fall into that trap and was interesting to watch. In this movie, an out-of-control boy, raised by a single mother, fears a monster lurking around the house. After reading a bedtime story with the movie’s namesake, the boy and single mother find that that monster perhaps may not be just simply imagination. It had a moving plot (and a well-written one, I might add) with a surprising ending that had me Wiki it just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. If you want a scary movie that requires slight thought, this movie’s for you.

5. The Conjuring

There was a lot of hype surrounding this movie when it first was released, and I found it safe to say that it wasn’t overhyped. It had a good plot, in which a family with five daughters moves into a house and begins experiencing paranormal activity. They hire paranormal investigators who help them get rid of the spirit in their house, discovering along the way what is haunting them and why. If you want something to watch with friends (that is scary) and scream with them, “DON’T OPEN THE DOOR! DON’T DO IT!” then this is the movie for you.

6. The Sixth Sense

If you’re looking for something that has more drama rather than having scary scenes, this movie is for you. This remains one of my favorite movies to this day. It’s about a boy who can speak to spirits with the help of a child psychologist. They work together to understand the boy’s gift and how to use it. At the same time, the child psychologist has his own issues to work out. I found that movie builds up very well to a poignant ending that left me satisfied.

And these are only some of the movies you can watch! There’s also the Halloweentown series (how could we ever forget those?!), Hocus Pocus, and Rotten Tomatoes’ list of Top 100 Horror Movies to check out here!

Exclusively Cat Lovers

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”― Jean Cocteau

It may seem hard to defend cat virtues when faced with the warm qualities that dogs possess: fierce loyalty, unconditional love, and endearing antics. However, although I love dogs and always will, I am a cat person at heart. I know that people are still taking some midterms (or rather, midterm season has started and won’t end until finals), so I thought I would share some pictures of the creature that is my cat. Maybe this can put a smile on some cat lover’s face!

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Meet Phil, affectionately called Philly. A Scottish Fold and eight years of age, he has been endowed with an exceedingly adorable resting face of discontent. Philly does not like to make new friends, but he is fiercely loyal to his favorite owner Michail. He follows Michail around the house like a lost puppy. He does not scratch or bite, but rather prefers to suffer in silence when faced with too much love from his other owners and their friends. He enjoys long walks in the backyard, watching squirrels through the window, and taking naps in different parts of the house. The location of the nap depends on the season; he takes naps on the third floor to stay cozy in the winter, and the first floor to stay cool in the summer. At night he likes to watch TV from his designated spot on the couch with his oldest owner, Vlad.

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Napping under the covers

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… and over the covers

There are many silly things that Philly likes to do to keep his owners entertained. In the morning, he acts as an alarm clock when his owners forget to wake up and feed him at 7 am. He opens doors with his head and sings the song of his people so his owners absolutely cannot miss his presence and forget to wake up. He likes to take naps while lying on his back, pictured below, and he loves to sit in boxes. His favorite time of the year is the winter because he enjoys sitting under the Christmas tree and pretending that he is a present.

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“Soulja boy” stance

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Sitting in a Hush Puppies box

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Christmas!!!

Philly has mastered a look of absolute horror, which he makes whenever I come home, because he knows that I will pet him every chance that I get. It looks something like this…

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The first time Philly walked in the snow, he got scared and ran back home. Now he goes for walks sometimes with Michail. It makes for a pretty winter scene because he is camouflaged in the snow.

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I love him, but he loves ham. And that’s okay with me, as long as he is content. Here’s to cats and all of the warmth and love they bring to our homes!

The Beginner’s Guide to Podcasts

If you don’t currently listen to any podcasts, I highly recommend picking it up. Educational, funny, and entertaining, they’re great ways to spend time whilst doing something: on a run, cleaning the house, or during traffic at rush hour. However, it can be kind of scary to start: there are hundreds of topics about perhaps every topic you can even think of. Well, below I’ve listed some of my favorite categories and recommendations from each.


News

Admittedly, I don’t listen to a lot of news podcasts to begin with, but I’d universally recommend anything This American Life has come out with. Recently, Serial blew up, even spawning podcasts about that podcast. It details the the true story of an 18-year-old who was committed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in 1999. From beginning to end, the story is absolutely thrilling. As the host, Sarah Koenig, uncovers the details of the decades-old case, you’ll be holding your breath the entire way. It’s filled with so many twists that you’ll come to doubt every person involved and yearn to know who actually killed Hae Min Lee.

Episode to start with: “Episode 1: The Alibi.”

Comedy

Now this is actually my personal favorite genre, as there are tons and tons of hilarious comedians currently involved in the podcast world. If you don’t mind going particularly nerdy, The Adventure Zone consists of three brothers and their father playing a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The story they come up with is in equal parts ingenious and funny. The three characters–a dwarf cleric, human fighter and elf wizard–incompetently tromp their way through a magical land of monsters and artifacts, all of which are trying to kill them.

Episode to Start With: “Ep. 1 Here There Be Gerblins- Chapter 1.”

If that’s a little too nerdy, I’d suggest The Flop House, a bimonthly podcast where three hosts watch a usually recent and almost-always terrible movie. The hosts are knowledgable and experienced, as two of them were comedy writers for The Daily Show and have been running the podcast for years. They’ve been friends for years too, and their banter definitely reflects it. I love listening to their podcasts in lieu of actually watching the movies.

Episode to Start With: “Ep. 161- A Talking Cat?!?”

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Set up as straight documentaries, these actually fictional podcasts are fascinating and creative stories that are absolutely thrilling. By far, my favorite is a relatively new one called Limetown. As the story goes, an entire small town in Tennessee disappears in 2004. Over three hundred people, gone without a trace. A reporter seeks the answers and documents the dark and disturbing twists she finds in this podcast with every episode. I can’t say too much without spoilers, but I highly recommend this.

Episode to start with: “Ep.1 What We Know.”

Informational 

Podcasts are an absolutely fantastic way to learn about something that interests you. There’s definitely a podcast about some subject you find fascinating out there, so you can just jump into that specific category. More generally, Stuff You Should Know is highly informational and really fills in some of the gaps in our knowledge.

Episode to Start With: “That Time Nazis Invaded Florida.”

You Must Remember This is an intricate podcast that researches Hollywood in the 20th century. It’s definitely a fascinating and beautiful exploration of the scandals and stars of Tinsel Town.

Episode to start with: “Charles Manson’s Hollywood Part 1: What We Talk About When We Talk About the Manson Murders.”


If you are already a fan of podcasts, recommend your favorites below!

Fall into a Healthier Semester

It’s about that time of year again where pumpkin spice lattes and midterms fill the air no matter what campus you live on. As a self-proclaimed pumpkin enthusiast, I have very few reservations about indulging in all fall flavored desserts and telling myself that pumpkin cookies are basically a serving of fruit. However, as the weather changes and we start spending more time in the library than at home, eating healthy becomes all the more important. Whether you live in a dorm or off-campus, here are some fall friendly recipes to keep you up and going throughout these next few months.

Breakfast: Cinnamon, Spice, and Everything Nice Oatmeal

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There is nothing quite like waking up to the smell of cinnamon in the morning, which is a common occurrence at our lovely house. As fellow autumn lovers, my housemates and I find comfort in the warmth and deliciousness that is oatmeal. Whether it be steel-cut or rolled, oatmeal is such a great way to start your day because it’s a) filling and b) incredibly customizable. Some of our favorite additions to oatmeal include cinnamon, peanut butter, and bananas (but if you’re feeling really adventurous, add a dash of pumpkin pie spice).

Lunch: A Warm and Toasty Pita Pizza

Brow-Wow

Brow-Wow

This lovely creation was born out of the subterranean kitchen of Brower dining hall on College Ave. Brower is by far one of the most misunderstood eateries on campus and has a lot to offer if you know where to look. This pita pizza is the beautiful child of the salad bar and sandwich station, made up of a whole wheat pita, pesto, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, grilled chicken, and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. In an absence of pita, bundle all these delicious ingredients into a wrap and head over to the panini press for a warm and toasty meal.

Dinner: A harvest of (sweet) potatoes

This final dish is definitely one that would need a kitchen, so I apologize in advance for it not being dining hall-friendly. Anyway, I found this wonderful recipe the other week while browsing meal options for the numerous sweet potatoes that took up a quarter of my shelf in the fridge. Naturally, my phone did not save my personal photo of the dish, so here is the beautiful image supplied by the original blog. This fall-tastic recipe calls for a sweet potato, chickpeas (a good source of fiber and protein), tomatoes, and a delicious sauce made from lemon juice, hummus, garlic and dill (which I innocently traded for parsley because they’re both green, right?). The final product, although not nearly as photogenic, was the closest thing to a healthy comfort food that left me with plenty of leftovers for my busiest days.

So with this, I leave all you hungry, fall-loving people to go out and fill your bellies with some warm, delicious foods this season and to balance out your pumpkin spice desserts and drinks with some healthy meal choices.

Pumpkin Picking: A Classic Autumn Activity

At two o’clock on a Friday, my cousin Sam and I made the easy 30-minute drive down to Von Thun’s Country Farm Market in Monmouth Junction, obediently following Siri’s British-accented directions.

Von Thun’s is a quaint little farm with lots to do: pumpkin picking, apple picking, corn maze, and hay-rides to name a few. It was empty since we were there at an unusual time. It’s most likely busy on the weekends when they have the activities open and running. Since it was our first time there, we weren’t sure where to go, so we wandered between the animal pens. A man saw us and pointed us in the right direction. He was driving a trunk full of pumpkins and jokingly(?) said we could take one straight from the trunk. Because we wanted a genuine pumpkin patch experience (which includes wandering among a field of pumpkins and posing for pictures among all the pumpkins — a must), we did not choose a pumpkin from the truck. Instead, we took the photo opportunity to hop on the back of the truck and awkwardly artistically lounge on the pumpkins. Thankfully, it was not a disaster; we didn’t squish any of the pumpkins and none of them fell off the back of the truck.

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Glamorous

We walked the short distance to one of the pumpkin patches (they have two: one you can walk to and the other you can take a hay ride to). We were tempted to wander through the apple orchard which was right next to the pumpkin patch, but we remained focused on our goal to find the cutest pumpkin. After successfully completing the mission, we headed over to pay for our pumpkins, but of course, not before taking pictures with them.

There were a bunch of wagons near the patch to assist those who wished to buy large pumpkins in getting to the checkout area. Sam and I did what any normal person would do and took turns pulling each other in the wagon. With Sam and the pumpkins in the wagon, I was able to get it moving at a crazy 2.3 mph! Thank you Snapchat mph filter for this knowledge. It may not seem that fast, but when you’re dragging a person in a wagon uphill, it is pretty pathetic impressive.

Ridin Dirty

Ridin Dirty

The checkout area was organized like a little farmer’s market with vegetables, jam, and adorable mini pumpkins for sale. After we picked the perfect pumpkins for my doorstep and for Sam’s desk, we walked back to car, leaving behind the warm smell of kettle corn that floated through the air.

Their little market area

Their little market area

Von Thun’s has fruit and vegetable picking opportunities in the Spring and Summer, which I will definitely check out in the future. If you have a free weekend, spend some time in a pumpkin patch, get lost in a corn maze, or take a pleasant walk/jog around your area before it gets too cold.

If you want to learn more about Von Thun’s Farm, check it out here: http://www.vonthunfarms.com/

Note: we are not affiliated with the links in this post.

Greek Life through International Eyes

As an international student, I could only envisage Greek life in America through books and movies. Back in high school, I remember thinking how amazing it would be to join a sorority one day. The sorority sisters in the movies were so popular, beautiful, and motivated. To me, it was evident that the American college experience would not be complete without joining a sorority.

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Coming from a small international high school, I also remember feeling slightly intimidated when watching movies about Greek life. Being used to small parties where most attendees were my close friends, I was not sure whether I would able to adapt to frat parties.  After watching movies such as “Project X”  or “Neighbours,” I highly doubted that a foreigner would be accepted into the Greek circle.

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When I arrived at Rutgers and saw all the fraternity and sorority houses, I was completely spellbound. I could not help thinking how cool the sorority girls looked walking down College Avenue with their letters imprinted on their shirts. I also recall the excitement I felt after being invited to my first fraternity party. Back home, whenever we would go out to a party, it was normal etiquette to wear a dress or a nice skirt. At the frat party, though, I quickly learned that a complete other wardrobe was necessary to blend in. Thankfully, after a few parties, my international friends and I were quickly able to blend in with the rest of our American peers.

In my sophomore year, I had seriously considered rushing for a sorority. As an international student with no family in the United States, making friends or “sisters for life” was something very appealing. I remember going to a few “Meet the Sisters” events and being touched by how accepting some of the sisters were to the fact that  I was an international student. Unfortunately, due to heavy course loads, I never did officially commit to rushing for a specific sorority. However, even if I am not part of a sorority, I have still been able to partake in a culture that was once accessible to me only through movies.

Although I did not join Greek life, I do believe that it can be a great opportunity for international students trying to get the most out of their time in America. At Rutgers, I have many International friends who ended up joining. One of them, Anusha Kumar, is one of my closest friends here at Rutgers. Although Anusha was born in the United States, she spent most of her life back home in India.  Anusha was kind enough to share a few of her experiences as a sister in Sigma Kappa.

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Just like me, Anusha had learned about Greek life back in high school. When researching for potential universities to apply to, Anusha recounted how a strong Greek presence had been one of the aspects she looked for. When she arrived at Rutgers, she was impressed by the Greek life at the university. After talking to a few sisters in sororities, Anusha pointed out how false the image was of the “typical sorority girl.” The girls she talked to were hardworking, dedicated, and deeply committed to philanthropic initiatives. As Anusha put it, “Some of the sisters were pursuing majors I couldn’t even pronounce! They were so smart and involved in so many extracurricular activities.”

When I asked Anusha what her primary reason was to join a sorority, she replied that it was for the friendships:

“Back in India, my high school was a lot smaller than Rutgers. When I came here, it was amazing how enormous the university was! I only had one friend from high school that I knew here, so I was trying to make new friends and meet new people. Most of the people I know at Rutgers today are through my sorority.”

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Anusha also mentioned that Sigma Kappa is one of the most diverse sororities on campus; however, she is still the most international sister in the sorority. When I asked her whether it was easy for her to integrate into the American culture, she replied that it was, just because her sisters had made sure to help her along the way. Having left the United States at the age of nine, Anusha pointed out that her sisters had, “helped me re-enter the society.”

On a final note, Anusha emphasized the fact that the stereotypes of Greek life are for the most part untrue. In fact, she recounted being falsely stereotyped during her first sorority/frat mixer in Sigma Kappa:

“I remember we were all standing in a circle with a couple of the brothers. As we were dancing, a rap song started playing. I love rap, so I started rapping to it. Then all of a sudden, all the boys were like ‘You know how to rap?’ They didn’t think a sorority girl could rap. And I was like ‘Yeah! This is my jam, this is my song!’ They were so shocked and impressed that I could rap. The common stereotype for a “sorority girl” is just not true. Yes, I rap and that does not make me any less of sorority girl.”

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Greek life is an experience that many international students dream of being part of. As Anusha mentioned, it is a great way to meet new people, which is something very important to students who have left their home countries to come to Rutgers. Being able to wear letters alongside your sisters or brothers is a concept I find very empowering. My college experience here at Rutgers has been amazing so far, and the Greek life presence has played a strong role in that. Back in the Netherlands, we do have Greek life, but it does not play as much of an integral role as it does at Rutgers. Once I go back home to Europe, going to a frat party or taking part in Dance Marathon will all be memories I recount when thinking of my time at Rutgers.

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An Autumn Reading Challenge (+ a Book Recommendation!)

What was the last book you read for fun? Personally, I have to think about the answer to that question for a while before I can come to a conclusion. At this point in the semester, it’s hard to imagine taking any time off of studying for midterms or writing papers to do something as simple as reading when every second counts. However, when my “study breaks” turn into Netflix binges, it’s hard for me to explain the reason that I didn’t pick up one of the old paperbacks I have in my dorm room instead.

But but but... no Netflix??

But but but… no Netflix??

As an English major, I firmly believe that reading is one of the best ways to fill spare time, whether it be a bus ride (if you are one of those lucky souls who can read in a moving vehicle), a meal by yourself, or simply some time between classes. Reading is a way to gain knowledge, and to escape the routine of everyday life through the words on a page. I read plenty of interesting and influential texts—whether it be poetry of prose, or a combination of the two. However, I noticed that despite all of the reading I do for class, I am lacking in the “reading for personal enjoyment” category.

With midterms (hopefully) drawing to a close, I challenge you over the next few months to reach for a bestselling novel when you are about to watch the second (or third, or forth…) episode in your weekly Netflix binge, or to grab a collection of poetry when you are on your way to the dining hall, instead of begging a friend to come along. After all, autumn is the perfect time to curl up with a good book, a fuzzy blanket, and a warm cup of tea. I am going to try and hold myself to the same task, but I can’t guarantee anything.

Books and tea: all I need when the temperature starts to drop

Books and tea: all I need when the temperature starts to drop

If you’re clueless about what to read next, I strongly suggest picking up Sula, by Toni Morrison. I recently read this work of Morrison’s for a class, but don’t let that deter you. Sula is a relatively easy-to-read story about two close friends and their relationship as they grow up and experience life. Morrison weaves a beautifully complicated tapestry of Nel and Sula’s lives, their interactions with one another, and the larger part they play within their community. The novel is written in prose, but like all of the other works I’ve read by Morrison, it reads in an overwhelmingly poetic way. Not only is the story fascinating, but the words themselves, and the way Morrison arranges them on the page, also make the book worth reading.

The amazing book my friends are probably sick of hearing me talk about!

The amazing book my friends are probably sick of hearing me talk about!

So there you go! A challenge for the months that lie ahead: to actually read for fun, to fill up the time spent on useless things with books, and to explore unfamiliar worlds through the words on a page. I’ve even provided a suggestion to get you started! And, by the way, if you have any suggestion for my next “reading for fun” book, let me know!!

If this dog can read for fun, so can you!

If this dog can read for fun, so can you!

Freshman Year vs. Sophomore Year: A Comparison through Gifs

Taking an 8 A.M. Class

Freshman Year:

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After months of both anxiety and excitement, you finally get the email that your schedule is ready to be viewed. You open it excitedly, knowing you are now officially a college student. A quick scan shows you that you have Calculus at 8:10 a.m. You smile. After waking up at 6:00 a.m. for the last four years, you know you’re going to relish those extra hours of sleep.

Sophomore Year:

2BtKaYou laugh at your delusional freshman self as you scroll past every class that meets before 10 a.m. when planning your schedule.

Going Out Every Weekend

Freshman Year:

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Sophomore Year:
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You realize that the world doesn’t stop because you said no to one party. You realize that you don’t need to stay up until four a.m. every day in fear that you’re going to miss out on something.  You also realize you might be more grateful to your parents for paying for your Netflix account than for them paying for your tuition.

Dressing for Class

Freshman Year:

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You dress for class with as much effort as you put in for dressing for a Friday night. Logic? You never know who you’re going to run into or if the Eyewitness News 7 van happens to be driving by.

Sophomore Year:

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You absolutely cannot afford the time or the money required to change your outfit three times a day or wearing all your cute stuff so fast that a laundry day is required every three days. Additionally, your workload is so intense this year that you applaud yourself just for changing out of your pjs and putting on sweatpants to go to class. And as far as looking good for people? Personally, I don’t leave my dorm without sunglasses: fifty percent for its intended purpose and the other fifty so I can avoid making eye contact with people I know and be forced to talk to them. Trust me, I’m actually doing you a favor… you don’t want to talk to me when I’m returning from my four-hour lab on Busch, stuffed in a bus where I can barely breathe.

Taking (and Failing) Your First Exam

Freshman Year:

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You study. You wait for your grade. You call your parents to ask if they can get their deposit back because there is no way you will graduate, let alone even pass the semester.

Sophomore Year:

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You have had enough first exams to know that one bad grade isn’t the end of the world. You know what to expect and you know how to study to succeed. You also know that if you want to do well, you can’t rely on your study-the-night-before-the-test methodology that got you through high school. You now go to office hours, join study groups, and seek out tutors at the learning centers. You force yourself to pick up better study habits because you can no longer use “I didn’t know” as an excuse.

Friends

Freshman Year:

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Coming into college, you know almost no one. Besides a few high school friends scattered among different campuses, you have to start from square one. This can be intimidating at first because who wants to spend their first meal alone at the dining hall? So you befriend everyone. You take selfies with people you will never talk to again, you try to learn everyone’s name on your floor, and you add thirty contacts to your phone the first two weeks of school in fear that you won’t be able to make any friends.

Sophomore Year:

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So maybe you don’t remember the names of all the people in that picture from your first day of college or maybe the people you hung out with the first week of freshman year are now just strangers on the bus. But you have found your group of friends, and you’re holding onto them tightly. You don’t have to go out of your way to impress these people, but rather, you can be your goofy, silly self with no fear. (But it’s still nice to meet new people because then you can reuse old jokes :P)

The Dining Hall

Freshman Year:

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Freshman 15? As if. You have a solid plan ready to defeat all of those rumors. And of course, the dining hall food itself can’t be as bad as everyone says. You are ready to take on the world…a.k.a. Brower. Two hundred fifty-five meal swipe plan, here I come.

Sophomore Year:

candy

Sadly, I have said this line. And I have followed through with it. Sophomore year motto? Reduce your meal plan. Increase your exercise (via means of walking to Chipotle) or bring back the entirety of your mother’s fridge via Tupperware. You don’t expect anything from the dining halls anymore, although you still sometimes visit them. Brower: 1. You: 0.

Buying Textbooks

Freshman Year:

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You rush out to buy every book on every syllabus before classes begin. You think you scored a great deal on Amazon by saving $10 on a $295 textbook. You are so happy to be on top of everything.

Sophomore Year:

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You regret every textbook you bought last year. Now, you wait for classes to begin to see if your professors require textbooks, and if they do, if they will allow old editions, which are always cheaper. Google is your best friend.

Figuring Out Post-Grad Plans

Freshman Year:

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If you came in undecided, you are overwhelmed with the idea that there is so much to explore and that you won’t have enough time. You are pressured by family, friends, peers, and society to tell them exactly what you are going to do these four years, and then afterwards. It overwhelms you. If you came in knowing exactly what classes you will take each semester, when and where you’re going to do your first internship, and what office you will be working in in five years, you might suddenly realize that whatever you had in mind is not what you want to do anymore; it’s not what you thought it would be. Or you might simply be overwhelmed by how hard your chosen major actually is.

Sophomore Year:

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I thought about declaring four different majors within my first three semesters at Rutgers. Every time I thought I figured out what I wanted to do, I found something else that I loved just as much. And I guess that’s the beauty of college: you are always learning, always exploring, if you choose to. And never stop choosing. You’ll never get so much time to explore and truly find your passions. And despite what you think, not every single person walks into college knowing they’re going to be a pediatric nephrologist (My initial reaction was, “Yeah what?” But now I understand that they are specialized doctors working with children with kidney and bladder problems). But by now, you have a sense of direction of what you see yourself doing, what you like doing, what you smile talking about. You have had time to seek out research opportunities or take a class with a professor who makes you fall in love with something you never considered before. So sure, you have moments now where you feel like you are lower than rock bottom and completely directionless, but you’re not; you’re just learning.