Spring Festivals Around the World and Where In NYC You Can Go to Celebrate

Winter is finally about to end, and here are a few interesting ways that people around the world celebrate the beginning of Spring. While you may not be able to travel halfway across the world for a festival during the semester, there are many amazing ways to experience these festivals throughout New York City.

BOSNIA

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Cimburijada is informally known as the “Festival of Scrambled Eggs.” Eggs mark the beginning of new life, and people make enormous amounts of scrambled eggs to feed the masses for free. While there may not be any major Cimburijada Festivals happening nearby, an egg-themed pop-up installation is coming to Lower East Side of New York City on April 7. The Egg House will take visitors on a sensory tour art and technology inspired by eggs, and follows the story of Ellis the Egg. Local vendors will also be on location for you to indulge in your egg cravings!

THAILAND

Songkran Festival

The Songkran Festival in Thailand is going to be celebrated from April 13 to April 15 this year. Natives clean their houses and wear colorful attire to welcome the coming of the new year. They also prepare meals for monks and offer a requiem to their ancestors. After this, the festival essentially turns into a three-day water fight. Everyone takes to the streets with buckets, water guns, and hoses to soak their neighbors and any passerbys. There is a Songkran Festival that happens in Los Angeles every year, and this year it is happening on April 22. Major attractions include beauty pageants, folk dances, fruit carving demonstrations, and even a Thai wedding ceremony. LA definitely requires a plane ticket, but many Thai restaurants in NYC have special deals and menu options during the week of the festival.

INDIA

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Holi is a Hindu holiday that marks the triumph of good over evil and is celebrated the day after the first full moon in March. On the eve of the holiday, Hindus light religious bonfires and apply ash from the bonfires to their foreheads as protection from evil. This year, Holi took place on March 2, but celebrations in America continue later into the season as it starts to get warmer. Holi will be celebrated on April 28 in Brooklyn and on May 12 on Governor’s Island. If you can’t get yourself to NYC, the Rutgers Hindu Students Council  will be throwing a Holi Moli event on April 13 on Livingston Campus.

JAPAN

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Hanami is a custom of viewing Japanese cherry blossoms, and today, many Japanese people have outdoor parties and picnics under the flowers during the two weeks that they are in season. The celebrations include good food and traditional music, and at night the gardens are illuminated with lanterns. You can experience a local version of this tradition at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on April 28 and 29

I hope you have a great spring and take advantage of the amazing experiences that are just a quick train ride away!

Here’s to My Future Self

So now that I am almost done with my second year of college (I can’t believe how time flies), I still don’t know what I want to be when I get older. And hopefully other people can relate to this. So I decided to write a letter to myself to remind myself of the type of person that I want to be in the future. So here it is.

Dear Future Me,

I am 20 years old as I write this. Here is what  I want for the future.

I want a life filled with happiness. This past year has definitely had its ups and downs. There is so much that I wish I could change and so much that I wish I could have done. Focusing on school was hard at times, and I wish I could have had a better GPA. Not knowing what I wanted to do in the future really stressed me out, and I often let that get in the way of my happiness. I want to change that. In the future, I want to be happy and content with my life.

I also want to make a difference. If I could choose any way of life, I would love to just volunteer and be around people. Unfortunately, the reality is that I also need money to pay the bills. So I want a career in which I can help people and make a change. I want to be able to tell other people that they are loved and that they have a purpose in life. I believe that this could help those with depression and mental illness.

I want to be grateful for everything that I have. I think that gratitude is the first step to happiness and success. We have to always remember that we are humble and remember the people in our lives. We have to remember all the people who made us who we are. We have to remember all the teachers who believed in me and my family who will always be there.

I want a life filled with adventure. This doesn’t necessarily mean traveling the world or sky diving and eating exotic foods. I want a life that isn’t boring and I want to live each day to the fullest.

I also want to take care of myself. The past two years of college have been difficult. It’s important to remember that you should always talk about how you are feeling. Our emotions are never invalid and they always have a greater purpose. We can’t just shut down our emotions because then we will never remember the happy times. But taking care of myself also means taking care of my body. That means exercising, sleeping, and eating healthy foods. We only have one body that provides us with energy and confidence, so remember to fuel it!

And most of all I want to be authentic and real. I am not perfect nor will I pretend to have all the wisdom in the world. But at the very least, I can own my flaws and not run away from them.

This is my wish for the future.

-Akhila

The Perfect Study Session

Something that I have noticed about myself is that it is really hard for me to be productive if I don’t have the pressure of an exam or a deadline to push me to get work done in advance. I’ve procrastinated more than usual on important assignments recently because I just could not get into the “study mode.” If I am not in the “mode,” I either take a much longer time to get work done, or I don’t fully understand what I am working on. And that is just a huge waste of time! So I made a list of some of the things that I do to help myself get into that study zone and be more productive during a study session!

1. Get a drink and snacks

Hunger is my biggest distraction while I am studying. There is nothing worse than getting in the “study zone” only to feel hungry and realize that I didn’t bring any snacks with me. And that has actually happened to me multiple times. So now, I make sure to bring granola bars or fruits with me when I study. I personally like nuts, grapes, blueberries, or other small snacks that I can continually pop into my mouth whenever I feel the hunger. I also make sure to always have water with me, or if I am at home, I make a cup of tea!

2. Put on some study music

Study music is the second most important thing for me when it comes to creating a perfect study atmosphere. It depends on how I feel that day, but I usually either listen to movie instrumentals or white noise. I don’t want the music to distract me, but at the same time, I get distracted when it is too quiet. My favorite instrumental soundtracks include Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Guardians of the Galaxy. Such music tends to keep me awake and helps me focus. If I don’t feel like listening to actual music, I play Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings ASMR on YouTube.

3. Gather all of your tools

It may sound self-explanatory to prepare all of your tools before you study, but you would be surprised at how many times I have forgotten something essential. I like to take elaborate notes, so I always have to make sure that I have my highlighters, colored pens, post-its, and white out with me, otherwise, I can’t take my notes the way I want to take them. It may sound unnecessary, but sometimes, taking the time to make pretty notes helps you to study more effectively. I have found that when I make my notes colorful, I am able to better remember the information later on, and it is more fun to study those notes before the exam!

4. Light a scented candle (if you are studying at home)

I have recently started using an apple scented candle while I study, and it really does make a difference! The smell instantly makes me feel good and takes away some of the stress that is usually accompanied with a study session. I recently read this article about how smells can help enhance memory recall, and I think its an interesting concept that I would like to try!

These are some of the essentials that I have noticed make a huge difference when I am trying to create a productive study environment. I hope they can help anyone who has trouble getting into or staying in the study zone!

A Bumpy Ride

Hello! My name is Raaga and I am 18 years old. Seeing I am nearing the end of my teenage years, I thought I’d take a ride down memory lane and relive the bumps and excitement that my adolescence brought along.

As I stepped onto the rollercoaster, I had not the slightest clue of the journey I was about to embark upon; a ride that began as a slow trek accompanied with a few bumps – one that I could sustain without fear nor anxiety; I became consumed with my surroundings as my eyes pedaled from the distance to the immediate view- the vibrant skyline, the pretty trees, the tiny people – and then unexpectedly, I’d felt a jerk!

The cart commenced on the incredibly long journey to the peak; my heart began to race, my palms started to sweat, and I clenched my fists in anticipation of what lay on the other side.  The cart stopped for a second at the peak and I closed my eyes. ZOOP! The cart descended to the depths of Earth; my body fell forwards and my heart dropped- it almost skipped a beat. Just as I thought it was all over, I realized that this was only the first obstacle in this seemingly endless ride: my adolescence.

Before I had moved past one challenge, another had already begun. New worries and feelings knocked on my door without invitation. I constantly felt that I was in inner turmoil with myself. Where was I headed? What did I believe in? Who was I? If only I could make my way back to the carousel, the bumper cars, the Ferris wheel – anything to bring back my childhood.

As teenagers, we live in a society in which perfection is valued above all.  People are driven to showcase their beauty, accomplishments, experiences, and popularity to the world. The biggest victims of this race are adolescents.

Our timelines are flooded with endless pictures on social media.

Young adults are determined to display their greatest moments to hide their everyday, mundane lives.  Our constant need to be accepted by society and embody this vague definition of what constitutes “normal” and “cool” fuels much of the angst and anxiety experienced in this era.  

The hardest part about being a teenager is the constant worry about what others think of me. Even though in my heart, I know that it is so silly to want to be evaluated by others, I cannot seem to get rid of it. I do not know what to blame: my changing hormones or the predetermined standards and expectations of society.  

Undoubtedly, society has triggered insecurity and doubt within me. In particular, beauty standards have caused many women to feel unconfident and self-conscious. While my feelings of consciousness and doubt do persist, day by day, I am becoming more and more comfortable being with others. I understand that not everyone is staring at my flaws, but rather, people are interested in genuine talks.  As I grow older, I know that while there are people who are judgemental and critical, most of the world is dealing with the same exact insecurities that I deal with. They may not be the same, but everyone has some flaw, some shortcoming, or some baggage. My imperfections only stand out to me because I am exaggerating them. While I am tormenting myself on the inside, the rest of the world is dealing with its own problems.  

Society has created this perception that everyone needs to be perfect, but such an ideal does not exist in reality.

If I could give any advice to any preteen about to embark on this tiresome and overwhelming ride, I would tell them to embrace themselves, and all of their little quirks. When I meet people, I am not attracted to their features or their lavish lifestyles, but their personality and how they make me feel.  

Although the fear and doubt seem near impossible to deal with, it is only one part of an incredible journey.  After all, every ride has its bumps and pitfalls. For me, adolescence is not simply the era between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, but a worthwhile transformation from angsty juveniles to experienced adults. 

My Spring Break Experience: Thailand

As I stare out my bedroom window into my backyard, I think about Narnia. Yes, the first day of Spring was just a few days ago, but looking outside, I am expecting the White Witch to draw me in with Turkish Delights any second now…

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Having just experienced a snow day, it’s crazy to think that just six days ago, I was laying on a sandy beach, with my toes in turquoise water, basking in the 95 degree heat. While I sit here reminiscing about where I was two weeks ago, let me take you with me on my journey to Thailand, where I spent my Spring Break.

I spent a week in Thailand, splitting my time among basically every landscape this country had to offer. I spent the first few days of my trip in Bangkok, which is the capital of Thailand. Bangkok is a bustling city, one in which you will never run out of things to do. From endless markets to bazaars to nightlife to visiting temples, I could have easily just spent one week in Bangkok. But unfortunately, as my time was limited, here is what I did in Bangkok:

  1. The Grand Palace – 
  2. Wat Arun – Also known as the Temple of Dawn, I was lucky enough to have a hotel room right across from this beautiful temple. Honestly, neither words nor pictures can do the intricate, beautiful design of this temple justice – you have to just see it for yourself. (And if you do, take me on your flight to Thailand please!)

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    Here I am at the base of War Arun!

  3. Wat Pho – Another temple complex in Bangkok, that is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. You want to know why? Well, because it houses a reclining Buddha that is 150 feet long and is covered in gold leaf! Also, the temple is considered the first public university of Thailand, and has a school for traditional medicine and message. I, of course, had to check out the famed Thai massages myself, and I got one here – let me tell you, I could have stayed at that massage center for my entire trip. It definitely soothed me of all of my exam stress that I had.

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    Can you believe that it is 150 feet long?

  4. LOTS OF SHOPPING AND EATING – I don’t even know if this part of my trip needs an explanation. Bangkok is bustling with market after market and had the best street food I have ever eaten in my life. Honestly, I think I ate the equivalent of six meals a day, because I just wanted to experience everything. But all of the shopping and haggling (which is expected) that I did definitely burned off all of those delicious calories. After all, Deborah Cater said it best: you have to taste a culture to understand it.

Next, I flew to northern Thailand, where I stayed at the smaller, more rural city of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai was beautiful as it is situated amongst the highest mountains in the country so I always had breathtaking views. The highlight of my trip to Chiang Mai was visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuarywhich is a joint initiative between members of the Karen hill-tribes and Chiang Mai locals who were concerned about the welfare of elephants in Thailand. Their mission is to provide as many elephants as possible with the good health, freedom and happiness that they deserve by raising awareness, providing miles and miles of land for them to roam on, and helping create a future where elephants are not ridden, poached, overworked or abused. Honestly, while many people may be doubtful of these sanctuaries, I could tell that the elephants here were very loved and looked after; you could visibly see the bonds created amongst the elephants and the caretakers. Additionally, this sanctuary provides many Karen people with employment, education and financial support. My day with the elephants included learning about their history, learning about the sanctuary, having a delicious Thai lunch, bathing in the river with the elephants, and something I could never say I expected to enjoy, taking a mud bath with the elephants!

(In case you were wondering, I also ate a lot in Chiang Mai. Just assume from hereon that I ate a lot of everything and I ate it everywhere.)

For the last leg of my journey, I flew to Phuket, which is one of the southern provinces of Thailand. Phuket consists of the island of Phuket, which is the country’s largest island, and another 32 smaller islands. From Phuket, I took a ferry to the Phi Phi Islands, where I went on various boat trips exploring the many islands of Thailand. I absolutely loved my experience in southern Thailand as I was able to swim in the beautiful Andaman Sea, canoe in caves, see the legendary James Bond Island, learn about a historical Muslim Floating Village, and hang out with monkeys. There’s definitely too much to write about for this part of my journey, but hopefully these pictures will give you a glimpse of my relaxing few days in southern Thailand.

Overall, Thailand was one of the best experiences of my life. The people were so friendly – I was always greeted with a smile or a head bow (unless I was haggling for a souvenir…my bargaining antics were not always met with a smile). The food was delicious. Truly, if you go to Thailand for anything, go to eat. I can’t stop raving about the food because everything was amazing, from street food to restaurants to the food found on floating markets that you had to eat in the boat. The views were breathtaking and I am thankful I was able to experience multiple sceneries, from the view of Bangkok from the steps of a temple to the views of the mountains in Chiang Mai to the most amazing sunset I have seen in Phuket. If you ever have a free week or honestly, a free couple of weeks so you can really see everything, book your flight to Thailand. This post and these pictures don’t do it justice – you really have to see it for yourself.

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Bye Bye Toys R Us

Walking down the aisles of toys and games, I am lost and confused about what to buy. But before making a decision, I spend an hour playing with the balls and Legos and other items that are open to be used. Within a couple months, I find myself buying my bicycle with awesome flames on the side and a little bell (no training wheels even!). And after another year or so, the first and only place I rush to as I enter the store is the video game section. Checking out all the new GameCube and Playstation 2 games and waiting for the kid to get off the game console so I can play!

I believe a majority of students at Rutgers right now had this experience growing up at their local Toys “R” Us. A magical kingdom where we our dreams become reality. But as we all have probably heard, last year Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy and will soon be closing all of its stores worldwide.

I have had so many memories of this place while growing up. Before I moved to Edison, I used to live 2 minutes away from my local Toys “R” Us. I used to go every weekend just to play and see all the cool toys available. My favorite memory was when my father used to bring my little sister who LOVED Toys “R” Us (she bought so many toys from there when we were young) and after allowing her to spend time in the store brought her back home without buying anything LOL! She used to be so disappointed haha! Good times.

But as time passed, Toys “R” Us also became history for a lot of growing kids and teens. The addiction of video games attracted more and more people to Gamestop and services like Gamefly. And the widespread use of smartphones and tablets further took away small kids from the Toys “R” Us stores. Toys “R” Us had quickly become a memory for a lot of people and even ancient for the tablet/Ipad addicted new generation.

Even though it was the biggest toy store company in the world for a long time, the fate of Toys “R” Us was almost too predictable. Why might I say that? One word. Amazon. Amazon (and other companies such as Walmart and Target) has made purchasing toys much easier and smoother. Free shipping and easy returns are much more attractive. And prices are much much more affordable. One of the big reason I myself stopped going to Toys “R” Us when I was young was because I could get the same item for cheaper somewhere else.

So will I miss Toys “R” Us? Um… Well, hearing the news about its closing will bring me back to memory lane. It will remind me of my childhood and all the memories linked to Toys “R” Us. But otherwise, to be honest, I have barely thought about it during the past 5-8. I guess as an adult, Toys “R” Us doesn’t really have any meaning to me. But that’s how history works. Things will come and go. Maybe Amazon even in the next 50-100 years will become ancient like Toys “R” Us. Who knows? The only constant thing in life is change.

Rest in Peace Toys “R” Us. 1948-2018.

The Importance of Self-Care

Occasionally, because I’m weird like that, I like to look up news about millennials because I’m curious about what industries we’re destroying today. So far it seems we’re destroying chain restaurants, diamonds, homeownership (though I would argue that’s not our fault), movie theaters and cable, and cereal. Keep up the good work guys, our plans to bring about the fall of society and the end of all things is right on schedule. I say we go after the lampshade industry next. They’ve had it too good for too long.

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Fairly Odd Parents is under-utilized in the current meme market.

(In case you’re not entirely sure what a millennial is: do not worry, you’re not the only one. The dictionary says that a millennial is someone who is reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century, which is incredibly vague.  Some people say millennials were born between 1970 to the 2000s, which would make me a millennial. Others make the cutoff 1996, which would not make me a millennial. It’s very confusing. My philosophy is that you know a millennial when you see one and you know a gen-z kid when you see one and anyone born between 1997-2000 is in some sort of uncomfortable middle, which accurately describes my current state in life so I’m cool with that definition.)

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However, one industry millennials don’t seem to be killing is the self-care industry, which doesn’t sound like a real industry, to be totally honest. It just kind of sounds like Lush, chocolate companies, ice cream companies, and candle companies just got together one day and said, “We’re an industry now, I guess.”

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Also apparently self-care is a generational thing and, along with avocado toast, is just another sign that millennials are just a bunch of raging, entitled narcissists, as if previous generations never just took a day to relax in their entire lives.

In my mind, that’s what self-care is. Just taking a day, or even just doing little things, to make our lives a little less stressful before we all lose our minds. You could make a day of it, just sit in your pajamas and eat ice and watch a movie, but the idea of doing nothing for a whole day when there are things I need to be doing gives my anxieties anxiety, so usually I stick to the little things. Things like getting something from the vending machine or getting a coffee/tea and thinking, “You know my day’s been kind of sucky. I deserve this.” Self-care is not ignoring all of my responsibilities because working hard doesn’t get me a participation trophy or whatever it is baby boomers think millennials do in between destroying capitalism and life as we know it.

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Life can get stressful sometimes. For a college student, sometimes life is stress. It’s unfortunate, but unavoidable. It means you care about what you’re doing. We’re all working to create the future we want to live and if that means taking a horrible class with a horrible professor, that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make. But just because you’re trying to create a better tomorrow, doesn’t mean you can’t take care of yourself today.

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So in honor of the one industry millennials were actually able to create, do something nice for yourself today. Buy a cookie! Light a candle! Watch just one more episode of that TV show! Go get that avocado toast! It’s not like we were ever going to be able to buy a house anyway!

St. Patrick’s Day History

Hi everyone! Since St. Patrick’s day was Saturday,  I thought it would be the perfect post to go over some history behind this holiday. So, here it is. I hope you have learned something new! Enjoy!

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St. Patrick’s day is commemorating the death of St.Patrick, a patron saint.  Did you know that, in the 17th century, this commemoration involved a feast? Today, evidently, the celebratory practices have expanded far from a simple feast.  More interestingly, Marion Casey, a clinical assistant professor of Irish studies at New York University, claimed that St.Patrick was actually a Roman citizen who was kidnapped, enslaved, and brought to Ireland at age sixteen. St. Patrick escaped to a monastery in Gaul, France. It is said that Patrick may not have been the actual name of this man; he may have been born with the name Maewyn Succat. However, once he became a priest, Succat may have changed his name to Patricius which is “father figure” in Latin.  As a priest, he returned back to Ireland where he converted Druids to Christianity by terminating their pagan rites. Druids are a class of learned Celts that were often judges, priests, and teachers.

 

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The next 35 years, St. Patrick day celebrations proliferated in amongst the Irish American immigrants. “Irish Aid” societies like Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick and the Hibernian Society spurred up.

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There are many symbols that we often associate with St.Patrick’s day. One of which is the well-known shamrock. Legend says that in his conversion endeavors, St. Patrick explained Christianity by using the shamrock. Chicago first dyed its river green in 1962. How did this bizarre idea even arise? Well, the Chicago city pollutant officers used dyes to track illegal sewage discharges, and soon realized that the green dye could actually be used to show a little bit of St. Patrick’s day spirit! That time, they dumped 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river to keep the river green for a week! Now, only 40 pounds is immersed in order to decrease the environmental damage. The river stays green for a couple hours. While Chicago may claim the dyeing was its original idea, Savannah, Georgia claims that it was their original idea. In 1961, a city restaurant owner named Tom Woolley convinced city officials to dye the Savannah River green. However, the river turned out to be only slightly green and didn’t really work out as planned. They never tried it again. Corn beef and cabbage also became a starring dish in the St.Patrick day celebrations. In the past, this was one of the staple foods the poor Irish could afford.  There are more than a hundred parades in America alone! New York and Boston are two of the most celebratory places in America!

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The most riveting fact is that the first parade ever held to celebrate St. Patrick’s day was in America, not Ireland! On March 17, 1762,  after the Revolutionary War, in New York, Irish soldiers celebrated St. Patrick’s day by hosting the first-ever parade. This was their method of connecting with their Irish heritage.

I hope you enjoyed reading this!