Year-End Review: Senior Year

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Well, that’s a wrap, folks. I’ve officially completed four years of college and am a college graduate. For a look back in time, check out Year-End Review: Freshmen EditionYear-End Review: Sophomore Edition and Year-End Review: Junior Edition. This year was a wonderful year, full of making last-minute memories, adapting to new changes and preparing for a new chapter in my life.

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August: If you’ve read my blog in the past 9 months, then you know that my senior year started off with a bang. From traveling 4,000+ miles to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to attending the 2016 Summer Olympics and spending three weeks in a different country with great friends, by far my favorite memory from this month was the travel and new opportunities and adventures afforded to me. To top it off, I begun the adventure of senior year and celebrated my 22nd birthday.

 

IMG_9461September: September was all about celebrating and spending time with my sorority sisters in Sigma Kappa. From beginning my second semester as chapter president to participating in my fourth formal recruitment, I enjoyed every second spent with the closest friends I made while at Ball State. Not to mention, I was able to watch one of my closest friends, Rachel, excel at VP of Membership and met a wonderful friend, our chapter Leadership Consultant, Becca Armstrong.

IMG_9649October: One of my favorite memories of senior year was spending a night in Broad Ripple with a few of my best friends and visiting one of my favorite bars, Brick House, for the first time. Also in October, my friends and I participated in my fourth Walk to End Alzheimer’s in downtown Indianapolis and spent an afternoon at Tuttle Orchards. There, we enjoyed apple cider slushies, pumpkin picking and some of the freshest apples I’ve ever tasted.

IMG_0377November: Every year, one of my favorite parts of November is the memories I make with my family. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday (though many people ask me why that is) for the fact that it’s all about spending time with family and friends without expecting anything in return. This year, the best part of Thanksgiving may have been nearly drinking an entire punch bowl of whisky with my cousin, Sabrina, and drinking one-too-many fireball shots the day after at Four Day Ray Brewing in Fishers.

IMG_0429December: Moving into my favorite month of the year, December was filled with a lot of sweet memories, too. From participating in my first Dittoe PR Christmas bar crawl to Christmas celebrations with my family to New Year’s Eve festivities with my best friend, Megan, I was ready to welcome in 2017. Like every NYE, it’s always saddening to see such a wonderful year go, I knew that this new year would definitely be one of the best yet (and it hasn’t proven itself wrong yet, either).
January: Processed with VSCO with c1 presetJanuary, like it is every year, proved itself to be a somewhat boring month. Despite beginning my last semester at Ball State, nothing out of the ordinary happened this month. I was able to spend more quality time with my friends and even got to enjoy some warm weather (which reaffirmed my belief in global warming, to my dismay). Coming off the high that was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s (collectively my favorite time of the year), I would still say all-in-all it was a great month. I also spent some time curled up on my couch in my new blanket watching some of my favorite TV shows and movies on Netflix.

IMG_0072February: Unlike the month before, this month was somewhat more exciting. For one, I spent Valentine’s Day with two of my best friends, where we made a special dinner of baked spaghetti, wine and dessert. I had the opportunity to travel to Sigma Kappa National Headquarters and meet 20+ sisters from across the nation. Finally, and most importantly, I received the greatest honor of my collegiate career: I was awarded the Greek Life Chapter President of the Year award at our annual “grand chapter” awards ceremony. It was such a honor to be recognized for my hard work in 2016 and to represent Sigma Kappa in front of BSU.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetMarch: March brought a much-needed month of relaxation and surprises. Kicking off the month, I went on a five-day cruise with one of my best friends, Rachel. Not only was it my first cruise, but it was also my first time in the Bahamas and Key West. Additionally, I was extended a full-time job offer as an Account Coordinator with Dittoe Public Relations, where I had been interning for the past year.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetApril: I began the last full month as a college student with a bang. From my final sorority formal to fun nights out with friends to a trip to Washington, D.C., this month was by far one of my favorite of senior year. I also spent a fun day with my family at a winery and out to lunch at the Fashion Mall. By the time May rolled around, I was definitely sad to see this month go but grateful for such a wonderful year!

 

 

Gowns, Paychecks and Other Changes

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Senior year of high school (2012) to senior year of college (2016)

Well, it’s official: I’ve been terrible keeping up with blog posts this semester.

In my defense, I’ve been soaking up and enjoying the last four months of my collegiate career (and my youth, depending on who you ask). I’ve always been a person who appreciates each day (or at least I feel that way) so I can’t be too upset about enjoying my days and the little things rather than getting wrapped up in writing blog posts. Though, I do have several drafts that never quite made it published so, hey, at least I tried? I promise I’ll get better now that I’m an almost-boring-adult.

Nevertheless, I have a lot of exciting changes happening in the next 30 days.

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My decorated cap for my upcoming graduation.

For one, I’ll be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations on May 6. After four long, grueling but amazing years, I will finally have a diploma to prove all of my hard work. It’s hard to believe how fast four years flew by (check out ‘Changes’ a blog post I wrote almost 4 years ago exactly that is eerily similar to this one) and how difficult it is going to be to say goodbye to the best school, friends and memories I could have ever asked for. However, I know that my sadness is no more than a testament to how great my time has been.

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Mom and Dad during their Ball State years. Ever since I could remember, I knew I wanted to attend BSU.

 

The craziest part about graduating to me is that it is finally happening. It’s one of those things I never spent a lot of time thinking about (as everyone says college is the best time of your life, so why would I think about leaving?) so it’s weird to know that in just a few weeks, it WILL be real. I’ll finally get to join my parents in saying I’m an alumna of Ball State University, almost 30 years exactly after they did.

I’ll also be starting a full-time job at Dittoe Public Relations mid-May as an Account Coordinator. By far, this is the most exciting part about the newest chapter in my life. I’m excited to take the first step in my professional career and join a company that I love so much.

Another change for me will be moving back home with my mom and dad, or as I now affectionally call them, my roommates. I’m also guessing this new change in particular will warrant a blog post or two. Regardless, I’m thankful that I have a place and people who will let me move back in (temporarily) to save up some money until I can land on my own two feet.

Most importantly, I’m thankful for all of the opportunities and experiences I’ve been afforded throughout the years. The great and fond memories I have only make me more excited for all of the amazing things that I know lie ahead of me. So, here’s to the future and taking my first “big” leap. I’ll leave with my all-time favorite quote:

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind” – C.S. Lewis

Cheers!

Sammi

Dear (Future) Daughter: Here’s why I marched for you

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Last week, I read a blog post called “Dear Daughter: Here’s why I didn’t march for you“. If you saw my Facebook post in reaction to it, then you’ll know I was immediately infuriated by such post. So, as a writer, what do I decide to do? Write a reaction to the post, of course.

I could say a lot of things about this post. I could go on and on about how infuriating it was to read all of the ways this women believes there is gender equality. I could discuss how my fury heightened when this author explained why she believes women are paid less than men. However, I won’t – because that is what my Facebook post was for. You see, for me this isn’t about politics, it’s about equality. It’s about equality for all women – for all people – to have the freedom to choose what they want to do, who they want to be and what they want to believe in, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, political party, socioeconomic status, etc.

So, instead of getting angry, I wrote a letter. Much like the author from the blog post did, I wrote a letter to my future daughter, but this time, explaining why I did march for her.

Dear (future) daughter, 

At this moment, it’s hard for me to imagine who you are. I don’t know what your name is, what you look like, or who you are. In fact, I’m just a 22-year-old who, when thinks of becoming a parent one day, struggles to imagine what that would even be like (and wonders how I will even manage to survive the pains of child birth). However, whoever you are or whoever you become, there are a few things that I want you to know.

Women are not equal. They say we are. They say we can do anything that a man can. They say that if we work hard, dream big and never quit, we’ll reach the same levels that any man can. But they aren’t right. Yes, women can vote. Yes, women can obtain a post-secondary education, secure a corporate-level job at a Fortune 500 company and even become the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company. Women can even run for president – in fact, one did just a few months ago. But what they are missing is that women aren’t equal to men. 

You see, a woman only makes 80 cents on every dollar that a man makes. Only 4% of CEOS are female in the United States. We live in a world where, if a woman is raped, she is asked how much she had to drink that night, or how short her skirt is. But when a man rapes and is charged with the crime, his sentence is shortened because he has a “bright future” ahead of him (begging the question; did the woman he raped not have a future ahead of her?). We live in a world where more people would prefer voting for a male sex predator than a woman. 

Yes, we live in a world where women can “do anything we want” – unless it includes our bodies, of course. When we get angry, we are asked if we are on our periods, as if our feelings are not valid enough. When we look “nice”, we are asked if we did it for a man, as if we could never look this way for ourselves. When we choose to have children, we are told our “time off” (as if it is some vacation) may not be covered by our company, leaving us without pay and financial means to take care of our families.

Yet, being a woman is a privilege. I’ll teach you one day that not every person has that privilege. You may someday ask me why the girl in your class used to be a boy, and now wears dresses. I’ll teach you that every person is different, and that we can’t judge them for not being the same as us. You may ask why some people have two moms or two dads, but that you have one of each. I’ll tell you about that, too. I’ll teach you that being a woman is great because not everyone has the freedoms that you and I do.

I’ll teach you about all of the great women in history who have moved mountains and made great strides in equality. Of course, I’ll tell you about the Women’s March of 2017, the one where I was just a 22-year-old without a clue of what direction I was going to take my life in, but the time when I watched with amazement as millions of women around the world stood up for what is right. By the time you read this, I can only hope that the world is different. Maybe you’ll even ask what the word “feminist” is , and when I tell you, you’ll say: but isn’t everyone a feminist, Mom? 

You see, I was apart of the Women’s March movement, not because I, myself, face immense amounts of discrimination, inequality or disdain on a daily basis, but because other women do. I have insurance and can afford to see my doctors on a regular basis, so I may not be as heavily impacted if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded, but I can tell you that thousands of other women would be. I am a minority in that I am a woman, but not in my sexual orientation, race or religion. In those, I am about as “privileged” as they come, but not all women are. You see, society tells us that if we dress racy, we are “sluts”, but when Muslim women practice modesty, they are told they are terrorists. The bottom line is that some women may feel equal, but not all women are.

What I’m trying to say is that when I marched, I didn’t do it for myself, rather, I did it for all women. For future women. For past women. I marched for those who marched in 1920 for women’s voting rights. I marched for those women who marched in 1973 for the right to choose. I marched for the women who may march 20 years from now for reasons we don’t know yet. I marched not because I feel women have no rights, but because we don’t have full rights. I marched because I want all people of all different backgrounds to be equal. 

More importantly, I marched for you. I marched for my future daughter(s), so that one day, you don’t have to.

Reverse Bucket List: 5 Things I’ve Already Done

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I have a very long, like extremely long, laundry list of things I want to do in my life – a bucket list, if you will. I aspire to visit all 50 states, publish a book, have my writing published for a national magazine/outlet, obtain my Master’s Degree, become a Vice President (or higher!) of a company and, of course, a whole lot of other things.

Regardless, I think it’s important to be able to look back and reflect on the things you have accomplished as you work your way towards the things you want to accomplish. While I have not done everything, I hope to be able to one day. So, here’s a look back at a few things I’ve already accomplished in my 22 years.

1. Attended the Olympics 

I can’t begin the list and not start off by mentioning my most amazing, international (and sometimes, still unbelievable) adventure. About 5 months ago, I set sail (or really, boarded an airplane) to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to spend 3 weeks in the 2016 Summer Olympics host city. I was afforded this opportunity by my university, and was able to both immerse myself in the culture and the city of Brazil, while also taking part in the fun that was the Olympics. I was able to visit Brazilian landmarks, such as Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer, as well as three Olympic games.

Not only was this my first trip outside of the United States, but it was my first Olympics, my first South American adventure and my first multi-week-long trip. While I’m sure I’ll do plenty more interesting things in my life, this may always be the best. If you want to hear more about my Rio adventures, check out my blog post on the experience!

2. Obtained my Bachelor’s Degree 

So, technically, I’m don’t have my Bachelor’s Degree yet, but I’m only four months shy of it. Therefore, I’ve already put in the bulk of the work. Not to mention, my application to graduate has also already been approved.

I decided to include this milestone because, as I quickly approach my degree, I’ve increasingly found how impressive it truly is to be able to graduate from college. Growing up, I never thought much of a college degree. Where I’m from, it’s something that you simply do, not always something that you work towards. However, as the years have gone on, and the more I’ve realized how many people don’t have the opportunity to attend college or simply don’t finish their degree, I’ve grown to appreciate and value my education more. I think finishing my Bachelor’s Degree in 4 years – without ever once changing my major or minor – is a pretty impressive feat.

3. Wrote the president (and got a response!) 

When I was nine in third grade, our class read a book on the president of the United States. In this book, it discussed how American citizens could write the president. With a pencil and a piece of paper, I wrote a letter to President George W. Buh at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Though I have no idea what was in that letter, to my surprise, I received a response from the president just a few months later. This was only the beginning of my love for government and civic duty.

4. Graduated high school at an NFL stadium 

I don’t think many people can say they graduated high school at the same stadium their favorite NFL team plays at every Sunday. However, I certainly can! My high school graduation was held at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts. While high school graduation is already an accomplishment and excitement in itself, I have to say it was pretty awesome to be able to walk out onto the field feeling like Andrew Luck (with a little less of a crowd). If you want to read a really old, but still well-written post, check out “Changes”, a blog post I wrote a few weeks after high school graduation.

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June 8, 2013. Graduation at Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts!) 

5. Had dinner with the 48th Vice President of the United States

My senior year of high school I was apart of a government debate team of sorts called “We the People”. Like many other students who found themselves in that class, I was interested in government and found myself wanting to learn more about our Constitution. Appropriately, my time in this organization fell during the 2012 Presidential Election, also the first time I could legally vote.

That year, congressperson Mike Pence was running for Governor of Indiana. He and his family relocated from Washington, D.C. to Indianapolis for his gubernatorial race. So, my senior year, his daughter, Audrey, enrolled in my high school, as well as my “We the People” class. Political beliefs aside, that year during his election, Mike Pence visited our weekly practices and even mentored my team one-on-one at one practice. After our competition season was over, Mike Pence and his family had our entire class over for dinner in the Governor’s Mansion he had recently moved in to.

Though I can’t say I agree with the things that Vice President Elect, Mike Pence, does, I did think it was pretty cool when he became our next Vice President and I realized I once had dinner at his home. (Strangely enough – I didn’t get a picture with VP Pence. However, you can see a bit of his head in the background in the second picture). You can also check out my experience with Mike Pence by reading this old blog post, “Sweet Home Indiana”.

Good Luck Traditions to Start Your New Year

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If you know me, you know how much I love holidays. I frequently warn people that I tell everyone, “(insert any holiday) is my favorite holiday”, oftentimes confusing others. However, I really, truly do love almost every holiday out there. I think what I like so much about these special days are the traditions that come with them.

For my family, I like to think that we are tradition-heavy, with quite a few quirky things we always do for the holidays. One of them is our New Year’s Day dinner. For as long as I can remember, my maternal grandmother would host my family at her place for a dinner of corned beef and cabbage. Of course, throughout the years, we’ve added a few other side dishes, like mashed potatoes, carrots and wine (lots and lots of it).

img_8301Though not the least bit Irish in any way, our family has latched onto this Irish holiday to say the least. According to Irish folklore, eating corned beef and cabbage on New Year’s Day brings good luck and prosperity to the new year. For me, it brings a full and happy stomach from a favorite meal I only get to eat once a year.

Apparently, eating pork or beef on the start of the new year is good luck because those animals do not scratch in the dirt for the food. Moreover, these ancient folklores say that eating chicken on New Year’s Day is unlikely, as you are “setting your destiny” for the new year to scratching in the dirt for your survival (yikes).

According to my local newspaper, The Indy Star, there are quite a few other foods to bring prosperity into the new year. Ring-shaped food, such as donuts and bagels, signify the year coming full circle and are said to be lucky foods. Never would’ve thought that simply eating your breakfast favorites would bring good fortune to the new year, did ya?

Whole fish are apparently good luck, too. Though, that’s a dish probably NSFH (not safe for home) and one to venture out to a restaurant for if that’s your choosing of lucky foods, as are black eyed peas and any type of pork.

Whatever your choice of lucky foods are this new year, all the “real” luck you’ll need this year are a few solid goals, a positive mindset and determination to make change in your life (re: “5 Secrets to Having the Best Year Ever”). What are your personal favorite traditions for the New Year? Share below!

And don’t forget, follow Sammi Says on Bloglovin’ to stay up-to-date with all of my blog posts!

 

5 Secrets to Having the Best Year Ever

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A new year right around the corner means time for resolutions, goals and milestones. For many, a new year means a fresh start. While some scoff at the idea of a New Year’s resolution (re: my 2015 post “This Year, Ditch Your Resolutions”), I can’t deny that there is nothing I love more than an opportunity to begin again. Not to mention, I absolutely can’t pass up the opportunity to set new goals for myself. So this year, I’m sharing 5 secrets for you to implement into your life in 2017 in order to truly have the best year ever.

1. Define your goals

Whatever your goals may be, make sure you define them. If you want a great year, you’ll need great goals to accompany it. You may want to choose one main, overarching goal or 5-7 smaller goals for your year. The key to accomplishing your goals is to set goals that make you excited. What areas of your life need the most attention? What have you been putting off for some time now? I’ve found that passion is my main motivator, so aspire to accomplish the things you are most passionate about.

However, if you don’t achieve your goals, I think it’s important to note that you shouldn’t beat yourself up over any “failed” accomplishments. The important thing is that you find ways to then accomplish those goals, or you learn from them. Bottom line: if you don’t accomplish something, don’t beat yourself up over it.

2. Put the past behind you 

A fresh start means no baggage. To truly make this year great, don’t hold onto “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve” or anything from the past that is holding you back from accomplishing greatness. This year, commit to not letting your past resurface into your life. One way to accomplish this is every time you start to think of that one (or two) thing from your past that is always coming back to haunt you, start thinking about something else. Don’t let it control you. The past is the past, so let it stay there.

3. Take time out of each day just for you 

Ultimately, one of the best things you could ever do for yourself is to take time out of each day just for you. I’m definitely one of those people who needs some “me” time every day, though even if you are a person who thrives on the company of others, consider doing something just for yourself each day. Not only will this potentially help you reach some of those goals you set for yourself, but it will also help you to clear your mind and just relax. With the chaos and busyness of the world, we all need a little time to just do whatever makes us happy and forget about our worries (if only for a second).

4. Integrate healthy habits

Trust me, I am no health guru. However, I do realize that implementing healthy habits into your life will help make you happier, and therefore make your year happier. Oftentimes, we accomplish and realize other things when we are able to take care of ourselves first. Maybe this means implementing a new exercise plan into your daily life, cutting out junk food, taking a multivitamin daily, or even learning to take care of your skin.

5. Focus on the positive

Ultimately, the best secret I can give you to have the best year ever, is to focus on the positive and force any negative distractions out of your life. We all have bad things happen to us, but when has being negative ever gotten someone far? Whatever you have to do to remain positive, do it. Maybe it means writing down three things you are thankful for at the end of each day/each week. Or maybe it means putting a positive spin on the bad things that happen to you.

Good luck, and have the best year ever!

Also, please feel free to share this post with your friends & family and don’t forget to follow me on Bloglovin!

8 Things Being a Sorority President Taught Me

06Last time I wrote, I was still in Brazil experiencing the Olympics and acting like a semi-important person (after all, that’s how people made me feel when they found out where I was!) These days, my life isn’t quite as adventurous. However, I’m busy as ever. Between classes, my internship and student organizations, I sometimes wonder if I have time to breathe, though my Netflix account begs to differ (it says I have too much free time).

One aspect of my life that has kept me the busiest is my position as chapter president of my sorority, Sigma Kappa. For the past year, I have been serving as the 2016 president of the Gamma Eta chapter of Sigma Kappa Sorority. Just a few short days ago, I passed down the gavel and installed my successor into her new role as 2017 chapter president. Though I am eternally sad to see this position come to an end, I can’t help but be so incredibly thankful for this opportunity my sisters gave me to become their fearless leader this year.

So, as my time as president comes to an end, I thought I’d share with you all the 14 things I learned this year:

1 – The ability to problem solve is one of the best skills that you can have

Whether you believe you are a good problem-solver or not, this is undoubtedly one of the best skills we can possess as humans, regardless of our intended future careers or family lives. We come into problems and conflicts on almost a daily basis. Learning how to make decisions (and sometimes very quickly) as well as finding solutions to problems is one of the best things my presidency has given me. I know this will be a skill I will carry into my future, regardless of what I choose to do.

2 – If being a leader was easy, then everyone would do it

Though I’m not sure who said this quote, it is something that has really resonated with me. It is also something that I’ve said to myself (almost daily) since taking over the presidency last January. I’ve faced difficult decisions, animosity and sometimes backlash. However, whenever I hear this quote I am instantly put at ease. Being a leader isn’t easy, but it is well-worth it. You can’t make everyone like you or your decisions, but if you lead in an ethical and determined manner, then you can make changes that many will appreciate.

3 – Making the “right” choices is rarely easy 

Building off my last point, doing the right thing is hardly ever “easy”. This is a skill that I believe also sets leaders apart from others. It’s never easy, nor is it fun, to make that difficult decision and become the “bad guy”. However, I’ve learned how to be able to make these choices even when they seem impossible to make.

4 – Learning to delegate is one of the best things you can do for yourself 

This is something that has always been hard for me, whether that be in a job, student organization or even a group project. I like to have control over the situation and always take things upon myself, knowing full well that I can get the job done and get it done right. However, this isn’t always healthy, nor is it fair to other people you may be working with. This year has pushed me outside of my comfort zone to learn how to delegate and trust others to handle the situation.

5 – Confidence is key 

My involvement as president has also pushed me to become a more confident individual. I think that whenever you are in a position of leadership you are forced to inherently become more confident. After all, if you aren’t confident in yourself, your abilities and your actions, why would anyone else be?

6 – Never settle for complacency 

I think one of the greatest things a leader and a person can do is to always strive to become better. When I think back on my year, pushing forward and always finding ways to improve is something that I definitely think I have excelled in as president. However, it’s something that’s been a long time in coming. This experience has taught me that I should never settle for “good enough”, whether that be professionally or personally.

7 – Most things come to an end, so help to build strong successors and leaders

Unfortunately, most things in life come to an end. Rarely does one person ever hold the same position/title forever. So, it is extremely important that, as individuals, we find ways to cultivate leaders and build up those who will one day take over for us. I think this is a very difficult concept to grasp for many, as sometimes, we’re more focused on control and power than the good of the future. Nevertheless, I believe in this past year, I’ve learned how important it is to instill confidence and necessary skills in those who will one day take over the future. While being a mentee is wonderful, serving as a mentor is an undeniably important skill to possess.

8 – Work hard, celebrate your accomplishments and never give up! 

Lastly, one of the most important things we can do as leaders and individuals, I believe, is to work hard and never give up, and at the end, take time to celebrate our accomplishments. There is nothing wrong with taking pride in the work that we do. After all, accomplishments are what make hard work well worth it.

Caipirinhas, Portuguese Phrases and 4 Other Things I’ve Learned in Brazil

 

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Seven short days ago, I had never seen land outside of the United States. I often joked with others that the closest I had come to leaving the country was wading in the waters of southern Florida.

Nevertheless, today I can proudly say that I’ve (finally) left my home country and begun to experience life and culture outside of my comfort zone. I’ve tasted the caipirinhas, the Brazilian national drink – which, by the way, is nothing but pure sugar, limes and alcohol – learned a few phrases in Portuguese and been abandoned by my Uber a time or two already.

There are so many things that I could say about my trip so far – despite the fact that it’s only been a mere five days since I boarded my flight for Brazil, but still, I feel as if I’ve already learned and experienced so much. So, to give you a glimpse of my life here as a pseudo-Brazilian, here are a few things that I’ve learned while in Brazil:

1. The media tends to hype up the negative and downplay the positive

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The picture I took from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio near sunset. We rode cable cars up to the top of the mountain. This shot really embodies how beautiful the city is – a mix of both mountains, city and ocean. Christ the Redeemer can also be seen in the background.

I won’t lie to you, prior to leaving for Brazil, I was scared out of my mind. For months leading up to my trip, all I heard about were all of the negative aspects of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Each time I informed someone I would be visiting Rio, I opened an unwanted can of worms, listening to them ramble on and on about a city they had never traveled to, and things they probably didn’t know about. I was even frequently told, “Rio should have never hosted the Olympics.” Way to encourage my trip, I would think…

However, despite harsh criticism, I made my way to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and (not) to my surprise, it’s been great so far. A few day into the Olympics, and I’m hoping that the media is starting to refocus their energy on yet another great Olympics.

2. People outside of the United States tend to be a whole lot nicer than us

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My friend, Allison, and myself with a Canadian man we met trading pins with at the Olympic Park in Rio. He had been to countless Olympics throughout the years and told us he likes to take pictures with the people he trades pins with so that he can remember them.

I could go on an endless rant about this topic. When non-citizens visit the United States, people often scoff and ridicule visitors who visit our country who cannot speak our language. Yet, as Americans, we visit other countries and get upset when they can’t speak the same language as us (even though we’re in their country).

However, what I’ve seen in Brazil is that any person who speaks English is eager to help translate. On several instances, Brazilians have seen me struggling to communicate with a person and came up to translate. A few days ago, I was at Christ the Redeemer and ordering a drink from the bartender. We were having a lot of difficulty communicating due to our language barrier, and a woman came up and stayed until I had pay just to make sure I was able to communicate with the bartender. That was something I thought was so incredible and kind that I do not think would happen necessarily in the United States.

3. Opportunity is everywhere

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At the Coca Cola center in the Olympic Park, I had the opportunity to hold one of the official Olympic torches. It’s not every day that this happens.

Walking around Rio, I have learned that opportunity really is everywhere. From all of the people I have randomly met at the Olympic venues – even learning that one person I coincidentally met taught at the school district only 20 minutes away from me – to holding an Olympic torch to attending the International Paralympic Committee press conference, I have already been given so many opportunities while here in Rio – both professionally and personally.

I believe that life is simply a series of choices and, sometimes, we have to create our own opportunity. However, you don’t always have to travel 5,000 miles away from home like I did. Sometimes, the best opportunities are right on your doorstep.

4. Traveling teaches us that the world is much smaller than we think

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My fellow students and I with a middle school teacher we met from Westfield, Ind. We just happened upon her at the Olympic Park while watching the Men’s Gymnastics Event on Saturday, August 6, 2016.

Whenever I think about the physical size of the world, I am mesmerized. I am even more mesmerized when I realize how many people are in this world. But what is truly even more amazing is the fact that no matter where you are in the world, there is a great chance that you’ll meet someone you have a connection to.

Already while in Brazil, I have met countless people from the United States – which should be of no surprise considering I am currently at the Olympics, the largest athletic event in the world. However, when I met Kelly Day, a middle school teacher from just the town over from me, I was so astonished that I so coincidentally happened upon someone who lives so close to me. Not only is it a reminder that the world really is smaller than we all think it is, but it is also a good reminder of home – no matter how far away I am.

How I see my future: As told by an almost 22-year-old college senior

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As I realized my final summer break was coming to a close, I began thinking about everything that I’ve accomplished this summer and past year- but also, everything I have to look forward to in the future. In such a short amount of time, I think I’ve had an epiphany of sorts (but we’ll get to that later).

When 2016 started, I was not a happy camper. I wasn’t excited about entering the year that I turn 22 (still not excited) and I was in the midst of what I called my “mid-life crisis”. With graduation only a year out, I wasn’t really sure where I saw myself post-graduation and if I was even ready to enter a new chapter in my life. After all, I was comfortable in the one that I was in.

However, a few things happened that changed my outlook on the future.

First, a professor encouraged me to consider working at an agency post-graduation. After spending time in her class, she told me she thought I would be cut out for that type of work. I can’t thank her enough for the encouragement. You see, at this point in the year I was feeling conflicted about what I wanted to do career-wise. I hadn’t been seeking her advice on careers, I had actually been there to talk about a group project I was feeling dissatisfied with. That’s when she took time out to get to know me and offered those words of advice.

So, the advice of my professor led me to apply to a few PR agencies for the summer. After interviewing and praying that something would work out so that I wouldn’t have to do something I hated all summer long, I was offered a full-time summer internship with Dittoe Public Relations.

If you’ve spoken with me in the past few months, you probably know that I loved my internship. In my three months there, I learned more than I had ever learned in a classroom. I was getting real-world experience and working with real clients, under some great mentors. It was by far the greatest experience I could have asked for and then so much more.

Now, as I leave my internship to finish my senior year of college, I feel like I’m ready to see a chapter in my life close and a new one start. Although the future is filled with so many uncertainties, I feel certain that I picked the right career choice for me, which is a very rewarding feeling. I’m one of the few lucky college students who never once changed majors. I came in as a public relations major, and out I will go.

Nonetheless, I am excited to get back to school and spend my final year in school with my friends and enjoying one last year of “freedom”. I am also excited to get back to school and be reunited with my sorority. I will also be finishing out my second term as chapter president, and I can’t wait to participate in recruitment, knowing that the sisters we recruit will be the ones who will one day be in the same shoes as I am.

Lastly, my summer isn’t quite over yet – I am about to embark on a very exciting journey. On Tuesday, I will be heading out (on a very long flight) to Rio de Janiero, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. This will be my first time out of the country and I couldn’t be more excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

So, future I’m ready for you and not quite as scared as I used to be.

21 certainties every twentysomething should know

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When it comes to being a twentysomething, I don’t think anyone has it figured out. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning, let alone what my plan for post-graduation is. All I know is that Thursday night $2 double wells at Brothers is far more worth is than its Saturday night $5 counterpart–despite only a $3 difference. Hey, a college student’s gotta eat, ya know? That extra $3 can almost get me my favorite $4 meal at Wendy’s. I’m going to spare every cent I can.

Regardless, I did my best to come up with a few certainties that all us twentysomethings should know.

1. No one really has it all figured out, no matter what they might say.

And that’s okay. We’ll get to that when we turn 30.

2. It’s all going to work out.

I mean, when was the last time it didn’t? Life always has a funny way of working itself out.

3. No matter what your self esteem tells you, this is probably the best you’re ever going to look – so embrace it.

4. Standing on a scale every morning probably isn’t going to get you anywhere.

We all want to lose a few pounds. So, either be proactive or stop obsessing over something that isn’t going to make you feel any better (trust me, this one is easier said than done).

5. Don’t confine your life to a definitive plan.

Life is amazing, wonderful and also unpredictable. So plan for the worst, hope for the best, but don’t force your life to follow a strict path you set for yourself when you were 19.

6. Laying in bed until 4 p.m. and binge watching your favorite Netflix series isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

So what if you didn’t get dressed today and spent most of the day laying in bed, watching Netflix and reeling from your hangover from last night? One day when you’re a real adult with a family and responsibilities you won’t be able to do that anymore. Enjoy it while you can.

7. Your twenties are the most wide-reaching and vast decade of you life. Don’t compare where your at in this decade with where others are at – not all of life’s big moments happen for everyone at the same time.

Some people are married at twenty with a kid on the way, while others may be 29 and still looking for that certain someone. Others graduate on a strict 4-year plan, while some may take a little longer. Don’t compare where you’re at with where someone else is at, just as long as you are taking the appropriate steps to do something meaningful with your life and working hard at it. After all, that’s about all we can really do.

8. Saying no to a new opportunity may be more damaging than you may think.

Just don’t say no. You never know what that door may lead to.

9. It’s okay to date around.

It doesn’t make you a bad person. Just be careful about who you let into your life.

10. Speaking of bad people, don’t be afraid to cut toxic ones out of your life.

11. Being alone doesn’t mean that you are lonely.

Spending time by yourself can teach you more than you think. Don’t be afraid to go out to eat, see a movie or volunteer alone. Just because you do things alone sometimes doesn’t mean that you are a lonely person – it actually means that you are comfortable with who you are, on your own.

12. Drinking can be fun, but it can also be dangerous, too.

Go out, spend time with friends and have fun. But err on the side of caution. Have a game plan to get home – never get behind the wheel after drinking, even if you “feel fine”. Implement a buddy system with your friends – don’t wander off on your own, especially in an unfamiliar place. And never be afraid to take a drink away from a friend if it’s becoming a hazard to her health. They’ll forgive you in the morning.

13. Settling will never be worth it.

Don’t settle for the significant other who makes you feel just okay and not incredible. Don’t settle for a job that you like but don’t love. Don’t compromise your dreams, ethics and values for someone or something that just aren’t worth it.

14. Mom & dad will (almost) always be right.

And we hate that about them.

15. You’ll regret rushing through life. Enjoy each moment while you can.

16. Taking care of your body at twenty is far more important than you think.

Don’t forget to brush your teeth, quit bad habits and regularly schedule doctors appointments. Don’t take your health for granted just because your young, and don’t purposefully ignore good health practices – trust me, older you will be glad you took care of yourself while you were young.

17. Carefree > Careless

Go with the flow, enjoy life’s little moments. But don’t purposefully be stupid and end up in a bad situation.

18. Choosing passion over paycheck will be worth it.

If you’re going to have to spend the next fifty years doing something, make sure you don’t dread going into work each morning. The average American spends over 109,000 hours at work in their lifetime. Try to make those hours at least worthwhile and stimulating.

19. Never underestimate the power of a kind word, positive thought and a nightly prayer.

20. Happy thoughts will create a happy life.

21. Without a doubt, your twenties will be some of your favorite years. So, make the most of them while you still can.