Monday, April 21, 2014

Visiting Europe has almost become a staple on every American’s bucket list. This summer my best friend and I fulfilled every American college kids dream. For a month we studied in Barcelona and after the program ended we packed our one backpack each and traveled around to eight other countries in Europe bouncing around from city to city with nothing but a lists of things we wanted to see and a slight plan of where we were going next.

When I started to tell people that I would be living out of a backpack for a month, showering in community showers and sleeping in cabins and 16 person bunkrooms, they laughed in my face. One of my friends asked me how I was going to pack the entire salon’s worth of facial products I have in my bathroom. Another friend commented on how my suitcase for a week long spring break trip was bigger than the backpack I would be carrying a month’s worth of clothes in. As far as most things go, I’m a pretty easy going person, but I have been coined as high maintenance from time to time. Does that mean that I couldn’t be just as good of a backpacker as anyone else? Better yet, could I prove all the books and blogs and TV shows wrong and still be a well maintained, girly, but practical backpacker?

There was definitely no guide book for two sorority girls from Alabama backpacking through Europe by themselves. In fact, female backpackers were in very low numbers compared to male backpackers in general. I believe this is not because of lack of ability, but because of lack of the right guidance and motivation.
So, fear no more you girly, maybe a little prissy young woman who has been too apprehensive about the idea of not washing your clothes and the rumors of gross hostels and ill European hygiene, I’m here to tell you that you can eat your cake and have it too. Because who said backpacking was only for the makeup-less and outdoorsy types?

So here it is, how the “high maintenance” girl survived Europe and tips to help you be a sassy backpacker too.

Pick a Hair Tool

You might be like my best friend Caroline, who I traveled with, and have incredible hair that you can wash and sleep on and wake up looking like a Garnier Fructis model. I however, was not blessed with these genes. Without a blow dryer and straighter, or a curler I look like Anne Hathaway in the beginning of Princess Diaries, but I knew two to three full sized hair tools weren’t going to cut it.

Pick one! If you’re someone who would absolutely die without your straighter, bring that. Although not ideal, you can always air dry your hair and worry about straightening it after. I bought a travel-sized blow dryer that folded in half and took up about the amount of space as a water bottle. Most backpacking guides will tell you to lose the hair tools-I say why sacrifice good hair.

The Demi Bun

While studying in Barcelona Caroline and I met Demi, this gorgeous little fashion blogger from California who looked like a model and was always dressed to perfection except for one thing..she always had her hair in a messy bun. always. In class, out to dinner, at the clubs. This was such a foreign concept to us because we’ve always associated looking nice with doing our hair. Having said that, Demi could rock that messy bun.

Now I know this is contradictory to my first tip, but believe it or not there are times when we couldn’t get to a shower, stayed out all night and had to catch a train in the morning or decided to save our money staying on a camp ground with no outlets instead of an actual hostel. This is where the “Demi Bun” comes in. I love a good messy bun just as much as the next girl, but the inner diva inside me was cringing as I walked around Venice with an unwashed bun on top of my head. The point is, own it. Don’t second guess it or worry about it, whatever you missed that shower for was probably worth it. So throw a cute sundress on, plop your hair on your head and rock your bun like Demi.

Travel-sized toiletries are your best friend

While we were still in the study portion of our summer Caroline and I decided to take a weekend trip to Morocco, Africa. This required us taking a very small, cheap flight where we were only allowed one carry-on bag and like any plane, we could not pack any liquids. I’m not really sure why we didn’t think about this before, but this posed a bit of a problem when we showed up to our Moroccan hotel hours out from civilization with no shampoo, soap or face wash.

Learn from our mistakes. Travel-size soaps are crucial! No, they’re not your favorite shampoo brand and they take up a little more room in your bag, but you can bring them on any plane, have them with you for any emergency situation, and unlike big soaps and shampoos, they rarely ever open and spill in your bag.

Febreze saves lives

We washed our clothes exactly two times in the month we were backpacking. Sounds a little gross right? Unfortunately there are no washers and dryers in hostels and even if there were, who has time to spend doing laundry when there’s all of Europe to explore! Laundry mats are expensive and hard to find, don’t waste precious sight-seeing on washing your clothes every week.

At the end of every day Caroline and I sprayed the clothes we wore that day with Febreze and hung them up for the night. Thanks to our great packing skills we really only wore everything 2-3 times, but Febreze saved us from smelling like a sweaty Parisian on a hot summer day.

The packing cube/military roll combo

Out of all the things I had to limit, stop using or get rid of before we left for our trip I have to say choosing a backpacks worth of clothes that I would be wearing for a month was the hardest. Guide books will tell you to pack minimal amount of necessary clothing that’s versatile and comfortable. Although I agree with that, minimal amount of clothing just wasn’t going to work for me. I wanted options and to be prepared for every situation with the right outfit.

Solution: Packing cubes and rolling the clothes. The mesh packing cubes we bought not only enabled us to organize and categorize our clothing, but the mesh kept the clothes aired out and made it easy for us to find what we needed. Instead of folding everything inside the packing cubes roll them up. This helps eliminates wrinkles and gives you at least double the amount of room to put more clothes.

The midnight shower run

Believe it or not there are things worse than a community shower in a European hostel. A dirty community shower in a European hostel that you have to wait a line for and rush/have cold water once you are in there.

I don’t want to scare you, this won’t be the case in most places you go, but just to be on the cautious side there’s an easy tactic to avoid this nightmare of a shower situation. Shower in the middle of the night. Might sound a little creepy, but you’ll get hot water and some privacy and be able to do your whole night time regiment without sharing the bathroom with a bunch of randos.

Maxi Skirts and Sundresses

A lot of places in Europe such as museums, churches and bars have dress codes. This gets a little complicated with a limited wardrobe. Caroline and I lived off of maxi skirts and sun dresses, which are stylish and versatile. They don’t take up a lot of packing room, they’re cute, they’re formal enough to get into almost everywhere and they’re comfortable.

Now is the time ladies. Take your sass and your new backpacking knowledge and go travel the world.

Carlye Poljacik
AU Senior

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring Break Re-Do

Now that it is officially more than a week out of spring break we all are wishing we could go back. If you are anything like us then you would make some minor adjustments before planning your next trip. We all complain about how we want a longer break but in reality, one week is plenty of time. Most people can agree with me when I recall saying “By Wednesday I could’ve gone home”. You quickly become tired and drained from a constant go and your twin bed back in Auburn never sounded so good. We have learned that sometimes it is just unnecessary to be gone the whole week. You actually end up needing a break from your break…what’s the point of that? So please work in some rest days, it will help keep you sane and have a more relaxing spring break.

Our biggest trip advice would be to choose your friends wisely. Make sure you are travelling with a group of girls you get along with and that will respect you and the house, hotel, wherever it is you are staying. Each one of us returned with nightmare stories of either traveling with too many girls (in my case eighteen), travelling with girls who get into trouble or girls who are just disrespectful (leaving trash around and not cleaning up).

It is hard to admit that not all your friends are good people to vacation with but you must remind yourself of it. Our last piece of advice whether you are going on a cruise, going to Destin or flying home for the break is to make sure you keep your belongings safe. I personally recommend not even bringing any expensive jewelry, sunglasses, or purses with you. Things get lost in the mixing, people you don’t know come in and out of houses and it just is hard to keep track of all the things you brought. Especially if you are heading to the beach watch out for your pricey iPhones, getting those wet will really put a damper on your week. If you can last a week without those prized possessions leave it tucked away back in Auburn, you will thank yourself later.

Hanna Bjork

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Auburn's WRC Woman of the Month

Katie Brown is a sophomore here at Auburn, originally from Wellington, AL earning a degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduation she hopes to become a doctor and serve underdeveloped communities in third world countries. Katie is Executive Chair of the Sexual Assault Awareness Task Force and in the process of planning the first ever Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Music Fest for this April.

What brought you to auburn?
“I chose Auburn because I fell in love the second I stepped on campus. The atmosphere is friendly, the academics are competitive and it just feels like home. Auburn wins by a long shot when it comes to comparing colleges. War Eagle!”

What inspires you?
“My inspiration is those in need. I wouldn't be in my major, or involved with any of my organizations without knowing that what I am doing is benefitting/will benefit those in need.”

When and why did I get involved in SAAM?
“I was in the Women In Science and Engineering Learning Community, instructed by Bonnie Wilson. In this class, we learned about sexual assault, how it affected the victim, and what we could do to help. Immediately, I contacted Bonnie and wanted to get involved. I wanted to become a Safe Harbor advocate, which provides victims with a confidant and appropriate resources, but since I am an undergraduate this was not an option. Then she put me in contact with the advisor for SAAM, and I jumped in. I think that SAAM was the better option for me anyways, considering you can prevent a sexual assault, but you cannot take back what someone else has already done. Safe Harbor is a great, effective resource for victims, but it does not address the societal issue of why the assault happened in the first place. SAAM calls bystanders to action, because prevention is key.”

Who do you look up to and why?
“I look up to my Aunt Laura. She is a circuit judge in Calhoun County and has dedicated her life to improving other's lives. She handles domestic cases and truly sees the worst of the worst. She continues to fight the uphill battle for victims of domestic violence and for children with desperate situations. Having implemented several programs to help the victims she comes in contact with, she has established an effective system to handle the delicate situations she encounters. She keeps her work separate from her home life and loves spending time with her wonderful husband and beautiful daughter. She has found the balance between devoting her life to service by addressing serious social issues, and establishing a satisfying personal life. If I could picture my life in the future, I would hope it has the same structure and boundaries as hers. My Aunt Laura is truly an inspirational, strong woman.”

Would you have done anything differently?
“Absolutely not. I am not perfect by any means, but I have learned more from my failures than my successes, so I don't regret a thing.”

Is there any change you’d like to see on Auburns campus?
“While I love Auburn, I also see the issues that the campus, as a whole, is not addressing. Auburn students feel safe and sometimes aren't challenged to look past their own problems to see the bigger picture. There are a lot of social issues that the student body seems to be indifferent to, sexual assault included. Unless the students are impacted by the issue themselves, they tend to disregard the cause. This is a real problem. The Auburn Creed states, "I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all." Essentially, if an issue affects one member of our Auburn Family, we should all feel the need to intervene and stand up against what injustice is being done. Ideally, Auburn students would be more aware of the issues that affect the student body and would do what they could to address the issues promptly and effectively.”

Favorite quote?
"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Be sure to keep an eye out for all of the events Katie has been planning for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April including the SAAM Music Fest! Keep up the good work, Katie!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Week 4 of Training

Week four of training for my half marathon has begun. I have finally reached the six mile mark and it only goes up from here. This Saturday was a beyond beautiful day and happened to be the day I go on my long run, allowing the anticipation of running for an hour to not be as treacherous as it initially sounded. I put on some running shorts and a tank, got my country music playing and set off. Uncertainty of where to run in order to reach my goal distance resulted in me running without a plan. I explored Auburn, passing by farms, going through woods, and ended with running through campus.

Fortunately for me, these runs fall on a Saturday where I essentially have all the time in the world, to go and explore wherever I want. During the week that is not the case. The biggest struggle I have come across is finding the time during the week days. Monday through Thursday I have one thing after another, and if I do have some down time it is used studying or if I am lucky, eating lunch. Most days the only chunk of time I have to exercise is late at night. Thankfully for me the gym is open until midnight. My friends think I am crazy when they see me heading to the gym at ten o’clock at night, but I made the commitment to do this and I’m not going to back off just because of time constraints. I actually find it relaxing to have my runs at night. It gives me an opportunity to release all the stress of the day and to just think. Not thinking about tests or people I am frustrated with, but think about the things that I have to look forward to and to realize how incredibly lucky I am to be where I am and doing the things I am able to do.

Every day I have a scheduled goal of how many miles I need to complete, at times it seems impossible because let’s be honest life gets in the way, but it’s the big goal I need to remind myself to look at. Reaching miles is just a smidgen of it, it is the big goal of accomplishing something I told myself “you can’t do” that will make all this effort worth it.

Hanna Bjork
Auburn University

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Good Reads
If you’re looking for a good read or a new book, here are some top rated inspiring and empowering books for women. Hope you enjoy!

The Vagina Monologues
By Eve Ensler
The Vagina Monologues is made up of a varying number of monologues read by a varying number of women and each of the monologues deals with an aspect of the feminine experience. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. Every year a new monologue is added to highlight a current issue affecting women around the world. Every Valentine’s day thousands of local benefit productions are staged to raise funds for local groups, shelters, crisis centers working to end violence against women.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
By Sheryl Sandberg

Thirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.
Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and is ranked on Fortune’s list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business and as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.” She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home.

Written with both humor and wisdom, Sandberg’s book is an inspiring call to action and a blueprint for individual growth. Lean In is destined to change the conversation from what women can’t do to what they can.

The Help
By Kathryn Stockett
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Trying to pursue her writing career, Skeeter has the idea of writing about the relationships between whites and their black help, especially as the black-maid raised children eventually take on the attitudes of their parents when they become adults. The maids are very reluctant to cooperate, afraid of retribution from their employers, but eventually she convinces two maids, Aibileen and Minny, to coporate
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women - mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends - view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
By Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

Written by two fiercely moral voices, this book is a passionate call to arms against our era’s most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women and girls in the developing world.

With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as our guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Auburn's WRC Woman of the Month

Meet Mary-Catherine Anderson. A senior here at Auburn University, she boasts a perfect 4.0 and her resume just got even sweeter. Mary-Catherine, originally from Huntsville, AL, has been named a finalist for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship to do post-graduate work at the University of Cambridge in the UK. Set to finish her undergrad degree in May, Mary-Catherine hopes to earn her master’s degree in biological anthropology if awarded the prestigious scholarship that is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates through the Gates Cambridge Fund. In her free time, Mary-Catherine enjoys playing music for the residents of Magnolia Place Assisted Living Home and volunteering at Bonaparte’s Retreat, a dog rescue facility in Nashville, TN.

What brought you to Auburn?
“Both of my parents are Auburn graduates so I was raised to be an Auburn Tiger! Actually, Auburn was the only place I applied.”

What is the biggest piece of advice you’d give other Auburn students?
“Find what interests you and pursue it wholeheartedly. It's easy to get caught up in the organizations you think you're "supposed" to join, but it's most important to find what excites you and explore that because you never know what opportunities will come your way! Also, it makes for a much more enjoyable undergraduate experience when you are passionate about your activities.”

What inspires/motivates you?
“Bettering the world. I know that sounds incredibly cliche, but I think that as human beings, it's our duty to utilize our gifts to improve the lives of those around us.”

What is something people don’t know about you?
“I think my teachers and classmates would be surprised to find out that I'm a bluegrass musician. I grew up occasionally playing fiddle in my dad's bluegrass band but now I mostly focus on songwriting. I co-produced an extended play album of my original songs in 2012.”

Who do you look up to, and why?
“I look up to my dad. He is the smartest man I know and he knows how to laugh at himself and never take himself too seriously. He handles difficult situations with grace and composure and never lets stress get the better of him. Most importantly, he puts the needs of others ahead of himself. He is the most graceful person I know, and I hope I can be half the parent he has been to me one day.”

What is your favorite Auburn moment?
“Hands down, my favorite Auburn moment was our unbelievable Iron Bowl victory this year!”

What is something you’d like to see change on Auburn’s campus?
“PARKING! We need more of it. Also, less ticketing and more love from Parking Services. Seriously, though. Especially during finals week.”

We chose Mary-Catherine as our first Auburn Woman of the Month because her hard work and dedication is inspiring and she embodies everything an Auburn Women should be. We wish Mary-Catherine the best of luck in her pursuit of her dreams. We will be rooting for you Mary-Catherine! War Eagle.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Celebrating the Heroic Women of 2013

This commercial gave me chills last night when it was played during the Grammys.
These heroic women are incredibly inspiring and demonstrate how far we've come in the fight for equality.