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Trilingual, Bilingual and American

Trilingual, Bilingual and American

LanguageLandon cafeteria is where I met Amin, a North African native who shared his booth with me as the cafeteria quickly became over capacitated.

Amin, without a prompt, dove into how many languages – three, to be exact — he is fluent in. I lifted my head from my lunch to see why a stranger was gloating about his multi-lingual traits. He proceeded to ask me, like we had been friends forever, three questions.

Amin: What does trilingual mean?

Me: Fluent in three languages.

Amin: Yes, what does bilingual mean?

Me: Fluent in two languages.

Amin: Yes, what does unilingual mean?

Me: Fluent in a single language.

Amin: No, it means American.

Naturally, I reacted with a joyful laugh, and said something like ‘so true.’

But then I had a moment to reflect on his humor, or lack thereof, while back in line for seconds.

Was that the perception of Americans? Was speaking one language, even in rhetoric manner, really that shameful?

After that encounter with Amin, whom has remained a close friend, I was inspired to discover if learning an alternate language was profitable to one’s future.

Clearly, adding any language to your arsenal will prove viable, but is it necessary to spend thousands of dollars, let alone put in the time? Two years ago, I ultimately decided against the extra workload.  

My plan was to get a journalism degree as swiftly as possible, then begin my career. Signing up for a French, German or Spanish class sounded like unwarranted stress, effort.

Now, I’m kicking myself for making those excuses. A second language is critical for any area of study, and would turn heads in all job interviews.  

Derek Wallbank is the First Word breaking news team leader at Bloomberg News, one of the largest, most prolific media organizations in the world. Wallbank says potential applicants who are bilingual are not only a higher priority, but filling into positions faster and getting paid sooner, also. Wallbank went on to list just a few languages that are an asset in business situations.

“Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and German are all extremely helpful,” Wallbank said. “If it’s something you really want to do, there is no harm in starting whenever. Dual languages are huge for us.”  

Opting out of a second language will not render a student jobless, however. Jeffery Hogan, the editor at The County Press in Lapeer Michigan speaks English only, and has progressed substantially. Hogan did say that, if he had done anything differently, it would have been to study Spanish. But he did further say that sticking to your native language will not be the death of your career.

An additional language can come in handy not just for the future, but while attending college as well.

Any student with aspirations to study abroad should consider taking courses on the predominant language spoken in the country of choice. Getting a cultural leg-up prior to an international trip will surely make the experience more dynamic. Preparations include, but are not limited to, taking classes, studying online, utilizing a tutor, or listening to a podcast.

By the time the student returns from an international voyage, along with the preceding education, he or she will be practically fluent.   

If learning a new language doesn’t suit you, then I advise you to become mindful of the scores of extracurricular opportunities Michigan State offers.  

As you’re walking to class, take five minutes to recognize the fliers on the walls eliciting volunteers, hiring interns or promoting school clubs. Those seemingly trivial opportunities will be advantageous to building a resume. Not to mention make the Spartan experience more fulfilling.

Michigan State has a driven faculty that want to help all students become involved. The earlier a student takes advantage of after school opportunities, the quicker he or she will be primed for life after MSU.




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How to avoid the Freshman 15

How to avoid the Freshman 15

The Freshman 15 haunts every student attending his or her first year of college. Although this does not apply to everyone, some students experience weight gain during the first year, or any year of college.

One in four college freshmen gain 10 pounds within the first semester, according to a report by WebMD. So, what are the reasons that college freshmen tend to gain weight? Why are students aware of the potential 15 pounds, yet so many experience it?

It could be the cafeterias all-access policy, a change in schedule, minimal aid in meal planning or too many nights out. Whatever the reason, The Big Green has eight tips to help you avoid the Freshman 15.

1. Walk to class

Riding the CATA bus is tempting for some people, particularly throughout winter, and especially when you paid for a semester pass. Walking to class instead is a great way to sustain energy throughout the school year. Plus, by walking the campus, you will be able to experience the beautiful nature that Michigan State University has to offer.

2. Take advantage of the free group exercise classes at MSU

Provided by Live On, MSU offers free group exercise classes in each neighborhood on campus throughout the week. Check out when yoga, cardiokickboxing or zumba will be in your neighborhood here.

3. Go to the gym at least three times a week

Take a study break and go to the gym. MSU has full-year and one-semester gym memberships that are available for purchase at any time.

You don’t have to buy a membership to have the opportunity to work out at a gym, however. Some halls have gym equipment located within the building. This is a free alternative! The only requirement is you have to be a resident. See if there is a gym provided in your building here. Another tip is to get a gym buddy! Meeting a friend, and pushing each other through a workout makes going to the gym simple.

4. Eat in moderation

Try some healthy alternative meals to avoid the Freshman 15. Photo via Creative Commons.

Try some healthy alternative meals to avoid the Freshman 15. Photo via Creative Commons.

It might be hard to turn down the cafeteria, especially if you have one in your building. The best advice to avoid eating too much in the cafeteria is to eat in moderation or practice portion control. MSU provides a portion size chart to help students eat the right amounts of foods, take a look at it here.

5. Avoid late night meals

It is tempting to indulge in Conrad’s, Menna’s Joint, Taco Bell or delivery after a night out with friends. Try to avoid eating after 9 p.m. If the cravings persist, choose a healthier snack before bed to tame the hunger.

6. Don’t drink your calories

Pop and alcohol have empty calories that can simply be avoided if you drink them in moderation or cut them out of your diet completely. As a substitution, try drinking water more. Water fused with lemons or berries can taste more appetizing.

7. Take a class

MSU offers Kinesiology courses at many different levels. Most fitness based KIN courses follow a pass/fail criteria.To earn credit for the class, you have to get up and be active!

8. NetNutrition

The cafeteria is possibly the only source of food you have on campus. Eat at State provides a campus cafeteria calorie counter, NetNutrition. This format allows you to select items from MSU menus, build a meal, then quantify the nutrition. You can also insert in your allergies to know which foods to avoid. Check it out!

A little bit of weight gain is okay! It happens to the best of us. By following these tips, you can bust the Freshman 15 standard and have a little more control on how it affects your body.


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Hooked on hooking up: the damages of hookup culture

Hooked on hooking up: the damages of hookup culture

Red solo cups litter the ground as young hormonal-infused 20-year-olds shuffle into a house with strobe lights filling every dark corner of the bigger rooms. Students attempt to avoid the spills of sticky unknown substances as they make their way past groups of party goers.

Hazy conversations and nameless interactions fill the air from the front door to the bathroom line, where dozens of kids look to relieve themselves for the third time of the night. But none of this late night conversing compares to the kind of physical foreplay going on in the basement.

A man dressed in a flannel and khakis, eager for the night to go somewhere exciting, spots a girl wearing high wasted shorts and a crop top. She is alone and clearly not dancing with anyone… this is his opportunity. He inches behind her and slowly moves his hips with hers. It takes just one ambitious sway from the man against his female counterpart’s waist before they are in sync, linked together for the next couple of songs.

“Casual hookups are such a big part of the social part of college,” said sophomore Will Reider.

Well known to incoming freshmen, hookup culture holds heavy weight in the social pressures that accompany students enrolled at universities.

“It’s an inevitable part of college as well as our generation,” Rieder said. “People go out, knowing they aren’t going to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, just have some fun.”

The concept of dating changes from high school to college—suddenly relationships are stressful, taking up time and keeping people from the “college experience.” Hooking up can provide an opportunity to fill the void for physical pleasure while rooting out the issue of emotional commitment.

“There is a lot more dishonesty when it comes to hooking up,” Rieder said. “People will say or do anything to get with someone. If you want to go out with someone, you need to be honest and some people don’t want that.”

So why does the mentality of sexual freedom change so much when welcome week rolls around? Stephanie Amada, a faculty member in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures at Michigan State University, has conducted extensive research on hookup culture and its enablers and consequences.

“Alcohol is the obvious one, [hookup culture] wouldn’t exist without it,” Amada said. “I believe a vast majority of hooking up takes place when it’s present.”

This liquid courage is a common trend among late-teen and early 20 year olds.

Amada said she believes alcohol provides people with the bravery to approach someone they think is cute.

“Some drink it intentionally so when they find themselves in the process, it’s okay,” said Amada. “They feel less inhibited and use it as an excuse.”

In addition to alcohol, Amada believes there to be a much bigger less obvious influence surrounding the lives of sexually active students.

“The media is the biggest one,” said Amada. “A lot of TV shows give the message that [hookup culture] is the norm and expected kind of behavior.”

Amada also finds the availability of tools such as plan B and condoms seem to be emphasizing what the media and alcohol already say is okay. Universities may not want to promote the culture, but they still retain a responsibility to reiterate practicing safe sex. It’s almost like posting on every dorm room: “Don’t do it, but if you do, use these.”

“They’re everywhere, ever-present,” said Amada. “They are being given the message it’s okay because of how readily available.”

A common theme that trails many random sexual crusades students embark upon is the promise of anonymity. When two kids meet up on the dance floor, this is very likely a spontaneous meeting between two unknown parties.

“Remaining anonymous is important for people hooking up,” said sophomore Alicia Geniac. “No one has to know. People can get drunk at parties, hook up then go home without ever knowing the person.”

Geniac also noted a darker side to a students attempt to remain unknown in their endeavors.

“Risk is created with people meeting on Tinder,” she said.

The smartphone application has been a contributing factor for anonymous hookups. After making an account featuring only their first name and five of their favorite self-flattering photos, users can swipe right or left on profiles of the preferred gender they are interested in meeting.

There aren’t many assumptions that can be drawn from ones profile besides their looks and the short bio they have the option of writing. If two people both show a mutual interest in one another, they can become “matched” and a message thread opens where they can get to know each other further.

“A barrier is created that I don’t think people mind having,” said Geniac. “It makes it easier and there are fewer pressures for it to go anywhere. But it’s still very dangerous.”

This barrier has led to ample opportunity for anyone seeking out an exclusively physical relationship. For some, the consequences are minor after a hook up.

“One of my frat brothers had been with a girl the night before when we saw him walking around the house,” said Rieder. “He looked like he had been attacked by a vampire just be looking at the purple bruise on the side of his neck.”

Facing the uglier side of this culture, there are plenty of chances for these kinds of engagements to make a student regret everything they had done in the recent past.

“There was a first year student who got pregnant by the first two weeks of college,” said Amada. “She had been with three different guys and therefore didn’t know who the father was.”

In truth, many don’t consider a potential pregnancy or colorful hickey being the result of the night. Students in the heat of passion, wrapped up in each other with alcohol buzzing in their brains and promiscuous thoughts traveling their minds, there isn’t much else teenagers are going to consider.

“We have become a more openly sexualized generation,” said Geniac. “Now people are more shy about asking people on dates, less about physical activity. It’s coming first, the physical activity is more common, less get to knowing.”

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Mono — What is it and how to identify it

Mono — What is it and how to identify it


Mononucleosis is commonly nicknamed the “kissing disease” on college campuses. As it turns out, the name isn’t that far from the truth.

“I always hear about people who say they got mono in college,” said human development and family studies freshman Claire Lynch.

The seemingly elusive illness is transmitted through the exchanging of saliva – which includes sharing drinks, eating utensils, lipstick or lip gloss—and yes, even kissing. Its symptoms vary in commonality from person-to-person, making it difficult to identify.

“Typical symptoms of infectious Mononucleosis include fever, sore throat, swollen lymph glands in neck and fatigue,” said Dr. Suman Kashyap, Associate Director of Clinical Affairs from Olin Health Center at Michigan State University.

Kashyap said mono is most common in young adults starting at age fifteen. The illness can be erratic on a college campus where the average age group ranges from 17 to early twenties.

The earliest indicators include fever, nausea or loss of appetite and headaches. The appearance of these symptoms ranges from four to six weeks after initial exposure, according to a brochure from the American College Health Association, which is given to students at Olin Health Center following a diagnosis of mono.

Michigan State senior Lauren Starr has been experiencing symptoms of mono for about five weeks. She described the illness in one word—exhausting.

“My worst symptoms have been my extreme exhaustion and fatigue as well as the symptoms I experienced just after getting diagnosed, which included a persistent fever, sore throat, and swollen glands in my neck and spleen,” said Starr.

Starr said that mono has kept her from carrying out her normal routine. Her biggest battle—not being able to be physically active.

“I have not been able to work out which is something that I am used to doing every day,” Starr said. “There is potential for the spleen to rupture if it is hit or aggravated when someone has mono, which can be life threatening if it were to rupture.”

Dr. Kashyap reinforced Starr’s statement, saying it is a physician’s recommendation to wait at least four to six weeks after initial diagnosis before continuing with normal physical activity.

When it comes to a full recovery, not many medications are able to combat the illness—it takes more than a simple prescription to recover.

“Maintenance of adequate fluids and nutrition is important,” Dr. Kashyap said. “It is advised to get extra rest, but bed rest is unnecessary. Some medications may be required only if complications develop.”

Olin Health Center sees an average of 180 to 200 cases of mono in a year. It doesn’t occur more frequently in one season over another, so transmission of the illness can occur year-round.

According to the American College Health Association, if you have symptoms that are similar to those stated above, it might not mean you have mono, but it is encouraged to see a health care professional to be evaluated.

“Mono has affected every aspect of my life and I can’t wait until I am back to normal health,” said Starr.

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Hot and Healthy September: The perfect breakfast scramble

Hot and Healthy September: The perfect breakfast scramble

It’s been proven that there is no better way to start your day than with a solid breakfast. It will help you pay attention better, give you more energy and help you kick the rest of your day in the butt. But there are so many breakfast options—the fried egg, the burrito, the omelet…what do you choose?

Chop your potatoes into even cubes

Most likely if you’ve made a scramble, you tried to make an omelet and you screwed up. At this point, I’ve screwed up enough times to know that I should just go straight for the scramble. It makes an extremely filling breakfast that will make you start your day feeling like you can do anything (except for maybe flipping an omelet).

Ingredients in a scramble are up to you (or up to what you have in your fridge). I usually just stick with the basics:

1 potato (leave the skin on)
2 Oz Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage
2 eggs
Shredded cheese
Frank’s Red Hot Original (optional)

Begin by cutting the potato into cubes. Then put the cubes in a frying pan with some olive oil. Add a little bit more than a quarter-sized drop of oil so that the potatoes will get nice and crispy. Stir those around, put them on a medium heat and cover with a lid.

Potatoes before they’re cooked and after. Add salt and pepper to season as well.

The lid will help heat the potatoes up faster. You will want to stir them every once in a while so that they don’t burn, but leave the lid on as much as possible. Once they turn from a clear color to a more opaque white, they are done and you can move on. But don’t be stingy with this—good potatoes can take about 10 minutes to cook. And there is nothing worse than crunchy potatoes in a scramble.

Next, add your sausage to the pan and cook it until it’s brown. Try to break it up into pieces that are similar to the sizes of your potatoes.

After that, add in the eggs and stir until they’re cooked. Turn off the heat and mix in some shredded cheese, and your scramble is complete.

This scramble is best served with Frank’s Red Hot on top and accompanied by a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice. You can also add any sort of vegetable or meat to spice it up.

But no matter what, this breakfast will leave you ready to tackle whatever the day has in store and maybe even train you so some day, you can flip that omelet.

Bon appétit!

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College hookup culture leads to vague relationship statuses

College hookup culture leads to vague relationship statuses

College students’ social lives include more hookups and casual hangouts than official dates. With new technology and vague terminology, it’s difficult to define what dating is on college campuses today.

“I thought things would be different in college—more responsible and mature—and it’s not,” said Megan Haugh, Michigan State University international relations major. “I feel like it’s just creating a society where it’s easier to hook up with random people.”

The term hookup can encompass anything from kissing to sex, according to the journal article Sexual Hookup Culture: A Review. Students talking to each other about hooking up leave the listener to interpret the word how they will; therefore people never really know how far their acquaintance went with their hookup.

Other vague terminology such as “hanging out” can have different meanings for different people.

“One guy last year kept saying, ‘You want to hang out?’ and I was like, ‘Are we dating? Is this a thing right now?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, we’re sort of together, I guess.’ That’s so weird. You can’t just assume we’re dating,” Haugh said.

Many people think the word date implies a committed relationship, but if there is no clear communication, others are left confused.

Hooking up has become the normal relationship on campus, according to the journal article Hooking Up in Young Adulthood. Some college campuses even host relationship seminars to discuss the topic. Beatty Cohan, a psychotherapist, author and radio host, has given a presentation called “Rate Your Mate BEFORE It’s Too Late.”

Cohan said in an interview that she encourages women to set rules and parameters because they have a stake in what happens.

“If some guy came up to me and said, ‘Would you like to hang out?’ I would say ‘I would very much like to see you, but I would appreciate if you called me several days in advance, and I’d love to go out on a date,” Cohan said.

In that interaction, the dynamic is changed, and the asker now knows what the other person wants is a date.

“How else is the guy going to know that this casual hookup isn’t working, if all the girls are going along with it?” Cohan said.

Cohan said she doesn’t place all the responsibility for starting relationships on men; she is a strong advocate in women taking risks and initiating conversations with people they don’t know.

“We have to put ourselves out there; no one’s going to find us sitting in a dorm room,” Cohan said.

Haugh said she regards herself as old-fashioned—she would prefer that boys ask her out.

“Honestly, if a guy comes up to me face-to-face and asked me out, I’d always say yes to the first date. I actually feel like guys expect girls to ask them out now,” Haugh said.

Generations who experienced casual dating in their youth are sometimes confused by the lack of casual dating.

“I told my mom not to be surprised if I don’t get married. I’ll give her a grand-puppy,” Haugh said.

Although marriage rates are at historic lows, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cohan said she thinks people should stop looking at statistics and focus on their own relationships.

“You look at statistics that start with ‘everybody’s miserable,’ but that’s not true,” Cohan said. “ I think that even though larger culture certainly has changed and is changing, there’s no reason why you can’t find the things that are important to you in a relationship with someone.”

Many students rely heavily on texting, social media and dating apps to get to know their potential romantic interests. Years ago, people had to go on dates to find out a person’s favorite movie or where they went to college. Now, if their privacy settings aren’t strict, a quick search on Google or Facebook can reveal the desired information.

Joseph Walther, a telecommunication, information studies and media professor at Michigan State University, said people romanticize or reject others based on their social media profiles.

“People tend to present themselves online in pretty idealized ways. Sometimes they get an intense spiral of attraction that way,” Walther said.

Although there are a number of studies that suggest people lie online, Walther said none of those studies have demonstrated that people lie more online than they would offline. Walter said that people just display favorable aspects of themselves—like they would in a job interview. He said that people are able to make messages more attractive via texting and chatting.

“Nothing is an accident when you send it. I think you get a lot of uncontrolled communication when you meet face-to-face, and sometimes that can be a disappointment,” Walther said.

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First comes marriage? A look into the relationships defying marriage trends

First comes marriage? A look into the relationships defying marriage trends

Jessica Clough has heard it all before.

She knows the rate of success (or rather, rate of failure) for young marriages. She’s heard all of the divorce statistics, the personal stories about long distance relationships that have failed, and unsolicited accounts of financial struggles faced by young married couples by complete strangers. None of it is deterring her from her dream wedding to her fiance Mike on June 21, 2014.

Clough is only 21, still in her final semester of undergrad at Western Michigan University. She met her fiance, 23, at a party when their sorority and fraternity were paired up for Greek Week three years ago, and their engagement followed two years later in 2013 (“We need to come up with a more creative story of how we met,” she jokes). The pair are proof that despite national trends indicating otherwise, young people are still taking the big leap towards the altar.

During a time when women the average age for a first marriage for women has moved to the late twenties, young brides-to-be like Clough have become exceptions to the rule. In 1960, the average age was 20 years old. Today, that number has moved up to 27, a bump from 23 in 1990. A recent influx of studies has shown that marrying later pays off for women – literally.

The average annual personal income for a college-educated woman in her mid-30s who married after 30 is nearly twenty-thousand dollars more than that of her counterpart who married in her early twenties. The numbers mirror the reasons given by many women who cite a desire for higher education, career stability, and financial security as motivation to wait to walk down the aisle.

Clough says it’s not that she and her finance don’t want those things – they just don’t see how marriage will hinder the process. She believes her decision to finish school while being engaged doesn’t give her any fewer opportunities than someone who graduates unattached.

“I would be lying if I told you I didn’t ever considering dropping out of school and taking a year off to go with him so we could be together, but I didn’t,” she said. “Getting married is something that takes a lot of maturity and to me, giving up a degree that has a lot to offer me and my family in the future to follow my then boyfriend isn’t mature.”

Though her fiance graduated a semester earlier than her and has a good-paying job in Memphis, she is not relying on him for financial security. She is in the process of of interviewing with Fortune 500 companies in Memphis, where she plans to move.

“I would never compromise my dreams and aspirations to get married, nor would I even want to get married to someone who did just so they could get married to me. Marriage takes two people giving their all to each other and to me, you can’t give your whole self when you compromised yourself already.”

The struggle to maintain independence when planning a life together is one many young women juggling wedding planning and school face. Like Clough, Danielle Ledford, 21, has had to overcome the obstacle that distance has placed in her marriage. She married her husband Zak, also 21, in December of 2012. Zak’s service in the United States Marine Corps has caused them to be apart for months at a time, and resulted in her moving from Michigan to North Carolina to build a home for themselves while he was deployed. She is currently attending a community college there and is planning to transfer to a University when her husband gets his new assignment location.

She says some family and friends were hesitant about the couple tying the knot, which she understood due to their age. However, she thinks transitioning from boyfriend and girlfriend to husband and wife brought new responsibilities that caused them both to grow up.

“If I weren’t married, I’d be living with my parents or in a dorm. Now, I need to pay bills on my own, take care of the house, go to work as well as school, and go grocery shopping – all on my own, when Zak is deployed.. I now need to think about what I am spending my money on and actually think if I really need it or if I should hold off and wait until we have extra spending money,” said Ledford.  “It is a lot more than just playing house.”

Financial struggles are common among young marriages. As individuals, young millennials have found themselves graduating into an economy that doesn’t seem to have a lot of room for them. Student loans, rent, and utility bills stack up quickly for those who don’t have much experience budgeting, nor a lot of extra money to spend. The prospect of having to finance a life for two isn’t as daunting as it seems to outsiders, according to Tonya Guidry, 20.

Guidry has been engaged to her fiance James, 23, since December 2013, and the two plan to have a small, intimate ceremony in late June. The two met while attending a college bible study course, though they’ve attended the same church since they were young. Their religion does not allow for them to live together prior to marriage, so they will begin their life together after saying their “I dos.”

While she is currently enrolled at Macomb Community College in metro Detroit, Guidry’s fiance has “a very concrete and steady job with benefits, retirement fund, and can provide plenty for us to live off of without counting my income.” She says a perk to sharing their lives is integrating costs.

“He wants me to finish school and get a career in the field that I wish to. He is actually helping pay for part of my schooling once we are married so that I can finish and complete my goal,” she said. “I want to be a teacher, which doesn’t pay much. It is nice to know that I won’t have to worry about not being able to do my dream job.”

Clough, Guidry, and Ledford all say that the support of their families have lessened financial stresses as well, particularly when it came to wedding planning.

In a society saturated with images of lavish weddings complete with Pinterest-perfect decorations, dresses, and cakes, the average wedding cost has come to about $25,000. For cash-strapped students, the support of family has meant they can afford to make fewer sacrifices for the weddings (and honeymoons) of their dreams.

“Were planning the wedding to be beach front on Little Traverse Bay, and the reception will be held in the golf club his family belongs to up there, so both were very budget friendly and meaningful to the both of us,” said Jessica Clough, who’s fiance’s family is funding a “good portion” of the wedding. She says that both her and her fiance are the first of their generation to get married within their families, so their families are “experiencing the same wedding fever we have.”

She adds that the pair were coming to terms with the idea of postponing their honeymoon due to a tight budget, but both sets of her fiance’s grandparents offered honeymoons in the timeshares they had.

“We’re relaxing on Longboat Key immediately following the wedding, and his [Mike’s] other grandmother gave us her timeshare in Paris for next spring as another honeymoon.”

She acknowledges that they are extremely fortunate because of their family’s contributions.

“We’re a little spoiled.”

Danielle Ledford says her wedding was made possible by dividing the cost into three parts, with the couple paying a third on their own and each of their respective families pitching in.

“We initially set a budget of $9,000.00 and split it evenly three ways, but since we had to push our wedding up sooner than expected, my parents stepped up and took some of the burden away since his family could not get the amount we agreed on at that time.”

The couple did not plan a honeymoon due to Zak’s deployment, so their budget allowed for more at the actual wedding.

“I don’t think we had to sacrifice anything we wanted due to budget.”

Guidry does not anticipate having to give up anything she wants for her big day either.

“We’re both very lucky and our parents are covering the cost of our wedding. The only thing that we had to pay for was the invitations and my dress. Making the invitations only cost us $70 and my dress only cost $200, so it wasn’t a very big cost to us.”

To many, marriage is a financial investment as much as it is an emotional one. The return on investment for young couples isn’t too promising; the highest rate of divorce in the United States is of those who marry between the ages of 20 to 24, according to the CDC. Similarly, 20 percent of marriages end in divorce within five years. Clearly, the honeymoon doesn’t last forever. While young women like Clough, Guidry, and Ledford are fortunate to have supportive families who believe in their union, the question of whether a young marriage will last can cause tension between some couples and their families.

Victoria Vanderzeil, 20, and her fiance Edward, 18, have been together for over four years, but have found their engagement hasn’t garnered support from all of their family members, particularly when it comes to putting money down on the wedding.

“My sister explained to me that the bride’s family is supposed to pay for certain things and the groom’s family is suppose to pay for other things, which has caused some drama,” said Vanderzeil. “My parents have decided not to pay for anything – not out of disapproval, but because my dad will be retiring – so that cost falls on us.”

She adds that the guest list for the pending nuptials have become an issue as well.

“My mother is refusing to attend due to her dislike of some of the people that will be invited to the wedding.”

Despite the obstacles she is already facing, Vanderzeil says she is looking forward to actually being married, which she says won’t likely happen until 2016 after she’s graduated from Michigan State.

“I’m ready to have people take our relationship seriously,” she said. “When you are young and you tell people you are in a relationship it’s seen as temporary.”

The other women echo these sentiments, each noting that assumptions made by strangers can put a damper on their engagement. Instead of celebrating, they find themselves explaining.

“When my mother-in-law was telling all of her friends that Zak proposed she always had to start out by saying, ‘Danielle’s not pregnant,’” said Ledford. “That’s usually their first assumption when they hear how young we are.”

Guidry has faced similar whisperings from members of her church.

“People assumed that I could be pregnant, that we are acting out of feelings and not thinking about our decision, or possibly that we are rushing our marriage so that we can live together sooner,” said Guidry.

“Overall, James and I have gotten many strange looks and reactions when we tell them we are getting married,” she said. “Both of us also look younger than we are, so that doesn’t help us very much either.”

Clough says that she has gone as far as to stop referring to her husband-to-be as her fiance around certain people, choosing to simply call him her boyfriend instead.

“ I know I should always own up to my choices and by no means does this mean that I’m not confident in my choice, but there are days that I just can’t handle being told divorce rates, or marriage horror stories, or why I should dump him and hang out with this random guy they think I’d mesh well with.”

She is most bothered by what she believes to be a double standard between people’s perceptions of men getting married young when she compares it with her experiences as a woman.

“The number one reaction I get when people see my ring or hear I’m engaged is ‘How old are you?!’ since apparently when you’re engaged it’s suddenly socially acceptable to ask a woman her age,” she said. “[I’ve had] people question my commitment to him, because I chose to stay and finish my degree while he’s in Memphis.”

She says she constantly receives links to stories discouraging young marriage or discussing the failures of a young couple from those who believe they are doing her a favor. A recent viral post entitled “23 Things To Do Instead Of Getting Engaged When You’re 23” made multiple appearances on her Facebook wall. She notes that Mike, her fiance, has not had to put up with similar responses.

“I think it is just because he’s in the corporate world where marriage is more common so people aren’t as concerned about his age,” she continues. “But I definitely see it as a double standard, like his intentions must ALWAYS be good while I’m just some gold digger mooching off his salary.”

She is determined to not let the naysayers get to her. Despite the statistics, the women all believe in their relationships.

“Do we doubt it sometimes? Yes. But for every time of doubt there other person was there to remind us why we made this commitment to each other,” said Clough. “We both have been there for each other during hard times to support each other, and celebrated during the best of times.”

Ledford says the first year of her marriage has gone smoothly, despite missing her husband when he is deployed. She does not regret her decision.

“When you find the right one, why should you wait?,” she said.  “I can understand waiting so you can finish and graduate school, but you can still get engaged. That does not mean you are going to get married tomorrow. In my case I had no reason to wait, we knew we wanted to be together and get married.”

Guidry says she is can’t wait to finally be able to integrate her life with her husband.

“I am looking forward to most is being able to wake up next to him each morning and get to know him even better,” she said.

She recognizes that because they are still young, they have growing to do as individuals.

“Some things may be difficult and some might change, but I also believe it will be an interesting learning moment for both of us to grow closer to each other.”

For Vanderzeil, the concept of true love is more than a Cinderella story of happily ever after.

“I think because we have been together for so long and because we don’t overly romanticize relationships, we don’t have to worry as much about,” she said.

“Relationships aren’t about finding the one and only perfect person, they’re about finding the one you can argue with and still love.”

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Stay healthier during this winter’s cold months

Stay healthier during this winter’s cold months

You probably already know you should get a flu shot, stay home when you’re sick and bundle in layers for your long trek to class in the snow. But here’s a few more things you could be doing to fight off winter’s nasty side effects and make you healthier during the cold.

Limit hot showers

Sorry folks–we know cooler temperatures can make long showers in the hottest water you can get sound extra appealing, but the short-term comfort can lead to long-term dry skin. Extremely hot water can strip away your skin’s natural oils, making it feel dry and flakey. Dry skin leads to cracked skin. That being said…


Dry skin is one of the biggest pet peeves for many people during the winter months (those days with a 20 degree wind chill don’t exactly bode well for healthy skin). If you feel like your skin is taking a beating every time you step outside, it’s time to moisturize. The two places most likely to become a hassle are your hands and face, but consider getting separate lotions. Some body lotions are too heavy for the delicate skin on your face, which can lead to breakouts. And if you’re not a fan of cracked, bleeding lips, it’s time for you to make lip balm your best friend.

Wash your hands. Please.

Stocking up on hand sanitizer to stay healthy? Then you’ll really want to add a hand lotion to the mix. Antibacterials are great for fighting cold and flu germs, but it can dry out your hands like crazy. Good old soap and water is sometimes more effective when it comes to staying healthy.

Speaking of cold and flu…

At the risk of sounding like a nagging mother, you should really be drinking water. And yes, we’re talking a few glasses a day. You may not be as thirsty as you are in the warmer months, but staying hydrated helps you ward off illness and makes you look better physically (it helps you look less tired and have better skin). You may already know that alcohol dehydrates you, but coffee and tea (anything with caffeine, really) have the same effect, so try to have a glass of water with every glass of your favorite pick-me-up.

Use a humidifier.

The cold air outside wreaks havoc on your skin, but the heat indoors can make waking up with a dry, sore throat a common occurrence even when you aren’t sick. Solution? Consider using a humidifier. It adds moisture back into the air, which keeps you feeling hydrated and more alert. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and quiet enough that you’ll hardly notice them when you’re sleeping.

Static, shmatic.

Good news – your skin isn’t the only part of your appearance that can take a hit during the winter. Hair has a tendency to dry out, frizz and face more static than a balloon in a science experiment. Much like your skin, the way you take care of your hair can make a huge difference. If you can manage, try to cut back on heat-treating your hair with straighteners and blow dryers (they’re bad for your hair year round anyway). In the colder months hair gets weaker, meaning brittle hair is more likely to split or break. Consider using a deep conditioning treatment to restore natural oils and moisture, and try to cover hair with a hat or scarf out in chilly temperatures.

Don’t let the weather overwhelm you.

Stress levels, along with anxiety and depression, skyrocket in the winter months. Mental health is just as important as physical health, so if you find constant snow and grey skies seeming to drain you of energy or you feel like you’re suffering form cabin fever, make time to exercise. Whether in a gym, with friends, or in a class, staying active gives you more energy and can significantly improve your mood. Similarly, making an effort to not go overboard on comfort foods is wise – they’ll make you tired and can result in weight gain, neither of which do much for stress.

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An exploration of online dating

An exploration of online dating

The Internet cracks me up.

The same piece of technology that drove us to seclusion has us desperately begging on our hands and knees to help aid our search for companionship. There are nearly 54,250,000 single people in the U.S. and 41,250,000 of those singles have attempted online dating, and only 20% of online daters wind up in relationships. Even more astonishingly, the online dating industry annually rakes in a whopping $1,249,000,000.

Yeah, that’s right—online dating corporations have found a way to capitalize on our fear of loneliness. Genius.

Over the past month I signed up for several online dating apps popular among young adults to see what all the hype was about. Could a computer really match me with my potential “soul mate”?

It actually made me feel a more disconnected from myself, and in turn, disinterested in the women that I had been matched with. Now, I don’t want to lead you to believe that I’m too “good” for online dating, or that it is not a useful tool, because Lord knows I need as much help as I can get in the dating department. The whole thing just made me feel a little phony.

The girls on the receiving end cannot smell the overflowing garbage in my apartment, or witness the mound of dishes in the sink accompanied by the dozens of empty beer cans scattered around. But, I can tell you what they do see: a carefully constructed collage of my most flattering pictures conjoined with a calculated description of my best qualities, all in order to prostitute an idealistic version of myself via the internet.

Tinder, one of the most popular dating platforms for college students, allows users to flip through pictures of singles in the area for potential hookups.

Tinder on an iPhone

Based on the persons looks, mutual friends, and shared likes on Facebook you rate them in a “hot or not” fashion with the click of a “like” or “nope” button. When someone also finds you attractive, Tinder alerts you of your new match where the two of you can start a conversation; mind you, both parties have the same goal in mind—sex.

A wise man by the name of Jack Kerouac once said, “Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk.”

Kerouac might as well have just been talking about Tinder. The hookup app is essentially a way to window shop for sexual partners with little indication of the individual’s true character or personality. On the other hand, if you are just looking for a quick roll in the hay, Tinder is the app for you.

Some of the more serious dating sites like OK Cupid are pretty good as long as you are honest and you know what you want out of the people you are matched with.

Ok Cupid asks you a series of personal questions, and based on your responses you are matched with people on a friend vs. enemy percentage. If you find someone interesting, message him or her and see what comes of it. They might be someone worth spending some time with.

The most absurd dating app on the market right now is called Carrot Dating. It is basically a sugar daddy/momma dating app. When a user stumbles across someone that is attractive, he or she may bribe that person with material objects. The more expensive the bribe the more likely he or she will go on a date with you.

Simple enough, right? Check out founder Brandon Wade’s explain of his app in more detail. It is offensive and unsettlingly hilarious. He compares women to dogs…

Don’t let my cynicisms get you down about online dating. It might actually be the future—just look at the movie “Her”. We might all end up dating our computers for a while. I just hope that online dating evolves to include more personality and less accepting bribes.

So if you’re into it, give it a shot—if it works for you, great. I sincerely wish you the best of luck on your cyber dating endeavors, but for now, I’m going to stay in the real world.

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Hot and Healthy December: Tortilla Soup

Hot and Healthy December: Tortilla Soup

My biggest problems cooking for myself are as follows:

  1. I’m busy and don’t have time to cook.
  2. When I’m not busy, I’m lazy. Pizza rolls, egg sandwiches, and bagels are not an uncommon dinner.

However, turns out that when I actually have time to cook, I can successfully make foods such as this soup.  Mom’s tortilla soup was a favorite meal of mine growing up and while I didn’t make it just like hers, I think I came pretty darn close.


Heart healthy tortilla soup. Photo: Alex Tekip

Heart Healthy Tortilla Soup


  • 1 can (16 oz.) fat-free refried beans
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) low-fat or fat-free chicken broth
  • 1 can (5 oz.) 94 percent fat-free chunk chicken, drained or broiled chicken breast (or  do what I did just rip apart a store-bought rotisserie chicken, it’s a little nasty but it’s easy…plus it leaves you with leftovers)
  • 1 can (11oz.) whole kernel corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) black or navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup chunky salsa OR 1 can of diced tomatoes (or even a combination of both)
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 2 cups (1 bag) light shredded cheese
  • Tortilla chips 

Although I was initially scared by the list of ingredients, it proved to be highly unintimidating. Plus the preparation that followed was super quick and much easier than I thought.

  1. Combine the first seven ingredients in an appropriately sized pot.
  2. Bring the soup to a boil over medium height stirring until the refried beans have completely melted and mixed with all of the other ingredients.
  3. Turn the heat to low and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes. Be sure to check on the soup and stir it occasionally during this time.
  4. Add 1 cup (1/2 the bag) of shredded cheese into the soup and stir until melted.
  5. To serve, crush a handful or tortilla chips and places them at the bottom of the bowl. Pour soup into bowl and sprinkle some shredded cheese on top if desired.

I had only intended on making this dinner to share with one of my friends, but a bunch unexpectedly showed up and to my surprise, everyone ended up loving the soup! One friend told me he was bummed I didn’t leave any extra for him and the other two told me they couldn’t stop talking about how good it was…three days after I had made it. I felt like a real chef, if only for a day. Heart healthy tortilla soup is not only a quick and easy dinner, but also a great way to impress friends. Heat, re-heat, and enjoy!

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