Tag Archives: college

The Eyes of Black Students Are Upon You

Amid this revolutionary movement occurring around the world, it is going to take a lot more than statements and videos to show that Black Lives Matter. 

On Memorial Day George Floyd, an African American man, was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. In the wake of Floyd’s death, celebrities, politicians, companies, and institutions rushed to get out their statements supporting the fight against racism. I was looking for one in particular; from our beloved, The University of Texas at Austin.

On May 30, the UT Austin Twitter account quoted a tweet from the Big 12 account saying “We stand with our Big 12 schools against all acts of racism and violence.”

“We say, “what starts here changes the world,” UT Interim President Jay Hartzell said. “Those starts don’t just happen. They are the results of actions – large and small, as individuals and in teams.”

To no surprise, black students, including myself, were not having it. Yes, the interim president said change comes from action, but we have yet to see UT do anything more than put out a well-crafted statement.

They say they are against racism but have buildings named after racist men who had ties to the confederacy.

They say they are against racism, but the school song, “The Eyes of Texas”, has racist origins. First performed by John Sinclair, who was a member of the Varsity Minstrel Show, in 1903. These shows were full of derogatory images of Black people aimed to make fun of them.

UT is not an activist, it is a performance activist. They’re saying, but they’re not doing.

I find it hard to believe you mean these words when there are instances that say otherwise.

Black students find it hard to feel they belong on UT’s campus. When I walk into a classroom and see more than two black people I am surprised. I’m going to be a senior next semester, and I have had one black professor for a class that centered around the African American community.

UT is a great school, but in this fight against racism, it’s simply not doing enough. Black students need more. We need true action.

Previously, the UTPD, who has been accused of targeting Black people in the past, made a deal with students: report an incident and get a free pizza. Presenting a risk of false reports on Black people. 

When given the opportunity to show support for the protests, instead of attending one of the public downtown protests. UTPD made what felt like a propaganda video of students and law enforcement walking around campus. 

If UT is truly against racism, prove it to me. Prove it to the black students, who desperately wish they could call this campus a safe place.

Black Lives Matter is not a trend. It is a continuous fight that has only just begun. Your work is not finished because you wrote three paragraphs and posted it on Twitter. Black students will be watching UT next semester and if very little is done, it will speak volumes — more than any statement of solidarity sent out in a mass email.

Donate to Black Lives Matter organizations around Austin.

Educate your white students on the racist history of the campus, and how to use their privilege to amplify the voices of the less privileged.

If the Student Activity Center and the College of Liberal Arts buildings can be renamed, then surely the same can be done to T.S. Painter Hall and Robert Lee Moore Hall.

Enough saying, more doing. Then I will start to believe that Black Lives Matter at UT Austin.

UT PETITION: http://chng.it/b97h6pwb

Things to Do While Social Distancing

The past few weeks have been a difficult and often scary time. Between UT’s shift to online classes and the continuously changing state of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel anxious or hopeless. One thing that we all can do to help slow the spread, or “flatten the curve,” is to take part in social distancing.

 Social distancing can look a bit different for everyone, but basically it boils down to limiting interactions with people and keeping a distance between you of at least six feet when you can’t go without that interaction entirely. It can be tempting to want to go out and socialize or still take part in spring break plans, but this issue is beyond us as individuals. For the sake of public health, we need to do our part and stay home. Obviously, this can get boring pretty quickly. Here are things to do to fight boredom while practicing social distancing.

Start Your Spring Cleaning

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I’d like to think everyone else has a drawer that is always a junk drawer. Whether you have old clothes sitting in your closet or a dresser that needs dusting, though, cleaning is both a time consuming and productive thing to do. If you have a big area to cover, try breaking it up into pieces to conquer throughout the week. Even if you aren’t one of those people who find it relaxing (I certainly don’t), there’s likely to be a sense of accomplishment when it’s all said and done. 

Make a Vision Board

Photo by Courtney Smith

A vision board is a great way to set intentions and put your desires onto something tangible. The great thing about this activity is that it can be as elaborate or simple as you want it to be. I already have a large vision board made of a cork board, scrapbook paper, and magazine images, but I decided to make a smaller one to add to it. As individuals we are always changing, so this is an activity that can be done multiple times whether you’ve made it with long term goals and dreams or short term ideas. All you need is a surface such as a piece of paper/poster board/cork board, magazines or internet images to cut out, and glue/thumb tacks to secure the images. If you’re artsy you could even add paint or drawings to your vision board. This is also a great way to take your mind off of the craziness of the day and think about things you’d like to do for yourself. 

Host a FaceTime Party

Photo courtesy of Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Even if you’re social distancing with your roommates or family members, it can still feel lonely and dull. For those having to leave the dorms or other living arrangements near campus, it can feel like you’re being ripped away from your friends, support system, and overall routine. Luckily we have technology at our fingertips that can help us reconnect. Text your friends/family and set up a FaceTime date. Grab some snacks, get comfortable, make sure your device is charged, and keep each other company! You could also try playing a game or watching a movie “together” if catching up feels repetitive.

Get Outdoors

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Avoid getting stir crazy by making it a point to go outside everyday. According to this Time article, going outside can lower stress, decrease blood pressure, and improve your overall mood. Walking your dog, going for a morning/evening walk, visiting a spacious park, drinking your coffee outside, opening up a window, having a picnic in your backyard, outdoor yoga, going for a run, or riding a bike are just a small sample of things you can do to get outside.

Workout for Free (and at home) with YouTube

YouTube

Instead of going to the gym, try something new from the comfort of your home. YouTube is a great way to get fit for free and there are literally hundreds of channels to choose from. If you’re looking for a quick, high energy workout, I recommend the Body Coach TV. Joe Wicks is the “Body Coach” and is probably the only person who can make me smile while doing a plank. His specialty is HIIT workouts and he has a huge variety of videos to try. For pilates or yoga, checkout Boho Beautiful or Yoga With Adriene. The Boho Beautiful videos are always in a unique destination that can either give you some future travel inspiration or help you pretend like you’re in Bali. Adriene from Yoga With Adriene is Austin based, so you can support a local yogi by watching her videos.

Bake

Photo courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Baking is another way to pass time that is productive, entertaining, and (hopefully) delicious. Whether you fancy yourself a future Food Network star or barely know what a whisk is, now is a great time to get cooking. Try and use what you have to avoid going out in crowds. If you don’t have a favorite recipe to whip up, these cookie recipes by Tasty can be made using cake mix and are both easy and delicious. Wanting to make something from scratch? This chocolate cake recipe or these pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are two of my absolute favorite recipes. 

Start a New Show/Book

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Although the adrenaline rush of binge watching a series when you have an exam coming up may not be there, it’s still a great time to start a new series or begin reading a book. It doesn’t have to be actually “new,” either. Never understood the hype of The Office because you’ve never seen it? Now’s your chance. Wanted to read Michelle Obama’s book but didn’t have the time? Well, now you do. 

Journal

Photo courtesy of Plush Design Studio from Pexels

Journaling can be both a creative outlet as well as a therapeutic release during times of stress or uncertainty. It can sometimes be difficult to keep up with a traditional journal or know what to write so if that isn’t your thing, try using a bullet journal or a prompting/list journal. I love this reflections and intentions journal because it has fill in the blank prompts for things like gratitudes, reflections, and mood while being flexible enough so if you miss a day it is no big deal. Plus, it’s designed to be used in the morning and again at night, making it more of an activity that you can add into your new routine. A bullet journal can be bought online for relatively cheap and is a great option for those looking to tailor the journaling experience with a bit more creativity and freedom to doodle. There is a ton of inspiration for bullet journals on Instagram and Pinterest, too!

Social distancing is an important part of slowing the spread of the Coronavirus, but it can be difficult emotionally. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone and, while it may not always seem like it, staying home is one of the biggest ways you can contribute right now. It’s also important to recognize that while getting things done while at home can feel like a valuable way to pass time, it’s okay if you aren’t “productive.” Taking care of your mental health is just as important and that can look different for everyone.

 If you’re struggling with finding things to do while staying in, try the tips above or come up with some ideas of your own and don’t forget to let us know on social media how you’re social distancing! 

Featured image courtesy of Alessio Cesario from Pexels

Things to do, see, & eat in colorado springs

Colorado is gaining popularity as both an ideal place to live as well as an Instagram worthy travel destination. Not only is Colorado absolutely gorgeous (I mean come on- it inspired the song “America the Beautiful” by Katharine Lee Bates) but it also has something for outdoor enthusiasts, shoppers, and foodies alike. This summer I was lucky enough to go on a road trip through Colorado and stopped in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Boulder. Since Colorado Springs was my personal favorite and first stop, this guide will focus on what this scenic, vibrant city has to offer. Keep reading for some major travel inspiration and tips.

Things to Do & See

Hike at Garden of the Gods

Photo by Courtney Smith

Garden of the Gods is home to stunning sandstone formations and boasts an array of activities from hiking to Jeep tours. While there is no wrong way to explore this famous national landmark, hiking it is a truly special experience. Upon entering the park are some of the tallest formations that create impressive views both up close and far away as you venture onto different trails. The Perkins Center Garden Trail begins at the main parking lot and is an easy 1 ½ mile round trip journey that is paved and accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. If you don’t have time for much exploring at least do that trail to get up close and personal with some beautiful formations. Other great trails to take include the Palmer Trail (3 miles and away from traffic) as well as the Buckskin Charlie Trail (dramatic distance views). The park is free admission and parking so on top of being a classic Colorado Springs activity it’s easy on the wallet.

Visit the Manitou Cliff Dwellings 

Photo by Courtney Smith

Manitou Springs is located across the highway from Colorado Springs and is an adorable, culturally rich mountain town. It’s also home to Native American architecture known as the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. You are allowed to go inside the dwellings as well as touch them which makes it a really unique and interactive place to visit. Unless you’re a total history junkie the Cliff Dwellings are a pretty quick place to visit and go through which makes this an easy thing to fit into your trip. The cost is only $10 for adults and is free to those in wheelchairs.

Shop in Downtown/Historic Manitou Springs

Photo by Courtney Smith

Downtown Manitou Springs is home to many interesting shops that both locals and tourists can enjoy. Parking is not too hard to find and everything is quite close together which makes this an easy thing to do to fill up a morning or afternoon. The storefronts range from new to old and have a ton of character so it’s never difficult to find a picture-worthy spot or a fascinating store. Mixed in amongst the unique shops are souvenir shops that also allow you to pick up any souvenirs you want or promised to others. The Penny Arcade is a fun stop where you can play old fashioned arcade games for low prices and for all ages.

Drive to the Pikes Peak Summit

Photo by Courtney Smith

Pikes Peak has an elevation of a little over 14,000 feet and has been a Colorado travel staple for years. The drive to the summit includes breathtaking views, places to stop and shop/eat, photo opportunities, and hiking trails. It is extremely chilly at the top (it was 32 degrees when I went in June) so be sure to bring a jacket and dress in layers. Right now there is some construction so there is a park and shuttle system that is explained as you make your way to the top. This is an absolute must while in Colorado Springs and costs $15 per adult.

Challenge Yourself and Hike the Manitou Incline

Photo by Courtney Smith

The Manitou Incline is rated as “difficult” and isn’t for the faint of heart. With 2,744 steps and a 2,000 foot incline in slightly less than a mile, it takes some serious grit. Reaching the summit depends on fitness level and crowdedness on the incline but usually takes around an hour. It can get very steep so if you’re short (like me) or want some extra stability, I recommend hiking poles and good shoes. There are places along the incline to pull off to rest, refuel, and take pictures. The views are incredible and you definitely feel accomplished after reaching the top. After you climb the steps you follow the famous Barr Trail down to the parking lot for about 4 ½ miles. Plan on taking plenty of water, snacks, and a charged phone. There is a shuttle system to take you from Hiawatha Gardens building parking lot to the base of the incline for free. I did this and it was easier than finding a meter. Admission to the incline is also free. Good luck!

Places to Eat

Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe

Photo by Courtney Smith

Not only is this the perfect stop on the way to the park itself but it has an incredibly nice aesthetic inside. If you’ve ever been to Magnolia Table in Waco, Texas, this cafe has a similar feel. It’s light, airy, and perfect for brunch. The menu has a lot of tasty options and includes things like a daily quiche (my selection), hash, pancakes, french toast- basically all of your brunch essentials. Pricing is definitely moderate (about $13 per plate) but the quality and quantity of the food is well worth it. 

Urban Steam

Photo by Courtney Smith

Okay…maybe I’m brunch obsessed, but maybe Colorado Springs has an awesome brunch scene. Urban steam describes itself as selling “espresso, waffles, whiskey, [and] good times.” While it isn’t in the heart of downtown and you will need to drive or Uber it still packs a major brunch punch. The waffles were some of the best I have ever had and the coffee was smooth and delicious. With menu item names like “monkey-wrench” and “greasy granny” you know it’s going to be good. My waffles came with Nutella, bananas, whipped cream, walnuts, caramel sauce, and chocolate sauce. Needless to say it was an easy 10/10. Urban Steam also offers plenty of other items and cocktails to make it worth your while.

Sahara Cafe

Photo by Courtney Smith

Located in Manitou Springs, Sahara Cafe serves up tasty Middle Eastern cuisine. They feature all of the classic items you’d expect such as falafel, gyro, delicious salads, hummus plates, and chicken/beef shawarma. Pricing is really affordable here- make any sandwich a combo for $10.99 including a drink and a side. Portions are great for fueling your day or for sharing. It’s conveniently located near all of the shopping and sightseeing to do downtown as well.

Josh & John’s Ice Cream

Photo by Courtney Smith

What’s better than ice cream that’s slow churned with high quality ingredients? Nothing. Literally nothing. Josh & John’s Ice Cream is full of satisfying, dense flavor- but be prepared to wait if you go at a peak time. Locals love this place and once you have their Colorado Cookies and Cream or other signature flavor, you’ll be hooked too. 

Colorado Springs is a perfect destination for those looking to beat the Texas heat, get out in nature, do a little shopping, or explore a tasty local food scene. While Colorado is the perfect road trip destination, flight costs aren’t bad either, making it a solid choice for spring or summer travel on a college budget.

What To Do About Holiday Blues

Ah, Christmas; the most wonderful (chaotic) time of the year. We blast carols the whole month of December as the days grow shorter, consumerism skyrockets, and the pressure of social gatherings thickens. On top of that, for students, finals loom over the horizon. Term papers, group projects, and that honors thesis are all due in less than a week. By the time Christmas rolls around, most of us haven’t even caught our breath in time to appreciate the holiday. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This time of year can also pain us for a variety of other reasons. Perhaps we just lost someone dear to us, or we struggle with a mental illness. Some of us may be international students separated from our families for the holidays, or we might be dealing with a tough financial situation. Whatever the case may be, although we’re dreaming of white Christmas, we may be experiencing a blue one. 

So, what do we do?

Maybe we should practice some self care; take a small break from all the commotion, a quick pause from the endless rush of life. But this time around, a cup of tea and a hot bath don’t seem like they’re going to cut it.

Kathryn Redd, an associate director at the University of Texas at Austin’s Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC), has a different perspective on self care. She debunks the generalization of self care as a cure-all and offers an alternate perspective.

“There’s times when going to the gym and eating enough fruits and vegetables is not going to help if I get the flu; it’s not going to help if I break a bone,” Redd said. “I think the same is true for mental health. Putting in place a practice to keep ourselves mentally well is fantastic. And then there are times when that’s not enough or it’s not the right thing in that moment. So like taking a bath is not going to cure depression.”

If self care is just a supplementary practice, then what should we do if our situation becomes more severe? Redd suggests visiting a therapist or a psychiatrist, but the solution isn’t the same for everyone. Sometimes, it’s enough to simply be mindful of what changes we may need to make in our lives. 

“Not everyone needs to see a therapist… it’s not the cure for everything,” Redd said. “Reflect on yourself and your life experience and recognize when you need to switch routes.”

Maybe we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves before we gear up for the holidays. The pressure to plaster on a smile can make it difficult to face the truth of our situation; we want to put on a happy face for the benefit of those around us. The expectation that Christmas has to be a happy time, however, is extremely toxic.

“The holidays can be really hard for people because I think there’s this pressure to be happy and jolly and jovial but that’s not always the reality,” Redd said.

It’s important to accept other emotions that may arise during the holidays, whether they be grief, sadness, frustration, anger, etc. By giving ourselves permission to feel these emotions, rather than suppressing them, we have the opportunity to find closure, experience catharsis, or simply gain self acceptance. After all, there’s nothing wrong with feeling these emotions.

“It’s not the emotions that are bad, in themselves they are neutral, it’s what we do with those emotions,” Redd explains. 

So what if we channel these emotions in a more constructive way?

“I tend to think one of the things that embodies the Christmas spirit is giving, like sharing time with others and giving of yourself,” Redd said. “One of the things we know that is actually also beneficial for mental health is volunteering. You don’t have to feel it- Maybe the goal isn’t to get into the holiday spirit; maybe the goal is to use yourself in a way that benefits others.”

Zoe Sugg, one of my favorite YouTubers, encompasses this giving spirit through her annual VlogMas series. Unlike previous years, on December 1st, Zoe did not put out a video to kickstart her daily vlogs in December leading up to Christmas Day. On December 2nd, she decided to record a precursor to her Vlogmas series explaining why.

“Recently I’ve just not been feeling great mental health wise, and what’s annoying is that I didn’t really want to say that,” Sugg explained.

As a YouTuber who so passionately represents holiday cheer as an integrated part of her brand, Sugg felt ashamed of her struggle during the holidays.

“Everyone knows how much I love Christmas; I can’t start a Vlogmas crying into the abyss,” she said.

However, instead of shoving these emotions under the rug, she took the opportunity to advocate for mental health and express some truths that are consistent with Redd’s advice.

“It’s far more common than you think; 1 in 4 people have mental health issues. Vlogmas isn’t always going to be twinkly lights and smiley, happy faces. It might be, sometimes… but this is my real life and I didn’t start Vlogmas yesterday because I just had a really awful day. I needed that day to do nothing and cry a bit,” Sugg said.

As Redd suggested, what helped Sugg feel better is to give some of her time for others.

“I know how much Vlogmas means to a lot of people, and I know for the people that are having a crappy day, whatever I upload is what makes you feel better. I think filming will make me feel better… sometimes filming makes me feel better.”

For some people, the theme of giving is an effective way to navigate the holiday blues. But the solution is different for everyone.

“What helps me cut through the chaos is to say what’s important about this time? For me it’s important to spend time with my family and it’s important to have experiences together,” Redd said. “What is the theme for you of the holiday season? What’s the word or the theme that you can really rally around? That’s what you hold on to; just let all the other stuff fade away.”

If you are feeling stressed this holiday season, here are a few resources:

UT Counseling & Mental Health Center: https://cmhc.utexas.edu/

24/7 Crisis Hotline (UT Students Only): 512-471-2255

Navigating the Holidays and Mental Health (our article & guide): http://www.burntx.com/2019/12/06/navigating-the-holidays-and-mental-health/

Image by Annie Spratt from Pixabay

Affordable Graduation Gifts

Graduation is the next big step in adulting. Once students cross the stage they go on to do a number of things: some will go off to a new place to work, some may travel, some will get married, and others may head back home. Four (give or take) years of lectures and finals pay off with the diploma and it’s an overall exciting time for both the graduate and their loved ones. Usually this also leads to something nearly equally as exciting for the graduate- gifts! If you have someone close to you graduating and want to get them something without breaking the bank, these ideas are for you based on their plans (or lack thereof) after walking the stage.

If They’re Moving…

Monogram Mug

Photo courtesy of Target

Help add a personal touch to the graduate’s new home without giving them something too big that makes it hard for them to show their own style in the new space. A mug is a classic go-to, especially for coffee or tea enthusiasts, and is aesthetic enough on its own. This mug is only $5.99 at Target, but similar styles could be found elsewhere too. If they aren’t much for flowers there are also similar more minimal designs. Bonus? Add a gift card to Target or another home store to help them out a bit.

Succulent/House Plant

Photo courtesy of Etsy

Nothing says trendy like a succulent gift for a new apartment. These plants are low maintenance and can be purchased alone at an outdoor or grocery store for $5 or less. If you have a bit more room in the budget you can get them a cool planter like this sloth one for $18 or a personalized gift box for only $22 that you can check out here.

If They’re Traveling/”Finding Themselves,” etc…

Travel Size World Scratch Map

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Help the new explorer track their travels with a travel sized world map that they can scratch off after visiting each country. If they’re staying local, US maps are also available. Either way, this gift comes in at under $20 and is both thoughtful and aesthetic.

DIY Option: Travel Must Have Set

Photo courtesy of Amazon

To keep your gift personal and low budget, try this cool DIY option. Basically, find a cute travel sized bag/pouch (think the size of a makeup bag or wallet) and fill it with a few travel goodies like gum, candy, bandaids, travel charger, sleeping mask, whatever suits your fancy. You can make it as basic or as unique as you want. If they love Starbucks or McDonald’s there’s practically one everywhere so you could even put a $5 gift card in there to get them a drink/meal. These sets  can also be purchased, but I think it’s a cuter gift when it’s done personally.

Mini Backpack

Photo courtesy of Target

This travel essential is not only trendy, but super useful. Mini backpacks offer all of the same features as a regular sized one (including compartments to tuck away valuables) but with less of the bulkiness. They may not be the number one pick for an avid hiker, but if someone is just out exploring a few new cities, it’s a perfect pick. Prices vary on these tremendously, but you can purchase this one (either white or black) at Target for $20. I also recommend looking in-store at places like Urban Outfitters and American Eagle to shop their sale rack!

If They’re Moving Back Home…

A Book

Photo courtesy of Barnes & Noble

Hear me out! It isn’t super exciting, but books can be super helpful and a nice motivator or de-stressor. Finding a job is tough and even if they have one but have opted to live with their parents again, it is a big adjustment. “Almost Adulting” by Arden Rose has everything from sex to traveling alone to making friends, which sounds useful no matter what stage of life anyone is in, tbh. You can purchase it at a local bookstore or on Amazon here. Another great pick is Unfu*k Yourself by Gary John Bishop. It’s basically about…well what it sounds like. Pick up a copy here.

Lap Desk

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Whether it’s for job hunting, freelancing, or watching Netflix- a lap desk comes in handy for hours spent on the go and at home. I personally recommend going to HomeGoods or something similar to find a good deal, but a reasonably priced one can be found here.

Lush

Photo courtesy of Lush

Give the gift of relaxation after a long four years and go with a classic, vegan friendly option: Lush! They have gifts for both guys and girls alike and are super affordable. This “Happiness” gift set comes in at $19.95 and “Bath Art” is slightly cheaper at $18.95.

No matter what your budget or the graduate’s after college plans, there is definitely a thoughtful and useful gift you can give them. Especially if you’re having to buy multiple gifts, this list can be a life saver. Happy shopping!

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.