Category Archives: 28 Day Blogging Challenge

Reflection on the #28DayChallenge, and my first vlog

First, I’ve got to thank Scott Bishop for kicking my and others’ butts into gear this past month with this challenge. It’s been an awesome and rewarding experience, so thanks Scott! Second, you get to see me in my very best at-home mode – sweats and my tireless Peru hat, that I wear everywhere, especially to cover up bad hair days like yesterday.

And now, for the rest of my thoughts looking back on this month, watch me struggle through stage fright and verbal pauses galore.

[Note: If you’re trying to watch around midnight on March 1, the video may still be processing on YouTube. Patience is a virtue (that I rarely possess) but if you come back later all should be well.]

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What do you hear around you today as you work?

Today’s post is inspired by the awesome Web site, The Mindfulist, which I came across today and am completely obsessed with.

I’ve spent the majority of my Saturday working on homework and watching for updates on the Chilean earthquake and its aftermath at the Memorial Union. This is by far one of my favorite buildings on the UW campus. It used to be a hotel, so it has tons of unique spaces. The Great Hall on the fourth floor is a beautiful ballroom where they held huge galas back in the day, and lately musical talent like Girl Talk and the Ying-Yang Twins play there.

Today I chose it because I knew I’d be doing work all day, but the library gets pretty depressing after a few solo hours, believe it or not. I don’t study well with others (chronic conversationalist, or chatty cathy, whichever you prefer) so the Union was a good blend of solitary study time and background noise, thanks to the people passing through during the day.

So far, I have heard…

  • A few different languages being spoken. Madison has a pretty diverse community, and hearing the sounds of other languages makes me really happy that so many people co-exist here.
  • Beautiful live piano music. I’m in a small library equipped with armchairs and tables that is just off of the Main Lounge, a large room filled with more armchairs, tables and, best of all, a baby grand piano. On weekdays you’re not allowed to play until 5 p.m., but today someone started playing around 2:30 and it’s been beautiful live music ever since. This woman has talent, and I’m thinking it might be just as therapeutic for me listening as it is for her playing.
  • Other people typing away. The nice thing about this room is it’s not like the silent rooms at the libraries where you get stares every time you open your backpack or type too loudly. Everyone here is in their zone, and we’re coexisting quite nicely.

So tomorrow is the last day of the 28 Day Challenge! Some posts have definitely been more of a struggle than others, and tomorrow I will take some time to reflect on it during my last post of the challenge.

What did you hear around you today as you worked?

La Union del Pueblo Entero

Today I got some exciting news: I got accepted to an alternative spring break in San Juan, Texas working with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), a non-profit community organization founded by the same man who started United Farm Workers movement, César Chávez.

During that week, we’ll be helping out in the local community made up of many recent immigrants, which will be a welcome opportunity to speak Spanish (!!!) and learn about Mexican culture. I’ve missed Spanish so much and every time I overhear a native speaker my heart skips a beat and I feel a little more at home.

A little more information on LUPE
From my understanding, you build a community of conscience by responding to people’s needs, investing in self-development, and transforming the community and its members through advocacy.

If you think about it, those are all fundamental strategies of community-building both online and off: You respond to each others’ needs; you try to better and strengthen yourself, and encourage others to do the same; you advocate for the community so it will grow. How can a community not flourish around principles like that? And it’s clearly working, since LUPE has grown in power and popularity since its founding twenty years ago.

I’m SO excited to get down there and learn from the people who apply these strategies to their lives in order to keep their community strong and successful.

What are some sources of leadership and community building you’ve taken inspiration from?

Love letter to Madison, WI

Rather than adventure, today has been about finding happiness in happenstantial details.
Laurence Sterne

Today the happenstantial details that brought me happiness and inspiration were from the community I live in: Madison, WI.

I’ve got a lot of school pride, and though sometimes my neighbors and other characters on campus drive me crazy, today I was feeling unlimited love toward my fellow Madisonians. Just wanted to share a few things that I think are awesome about this city:

It’s the most progressive environment I’ve ever lived in.
Today I saw a lesbian couple kiss each other good-bye and although that’s normal here, it made me realize what a different atmosphere this is from the fairly homogenous (white, Christian, conservative) area I grew up in. Madison is such a beautiful, accepting city and it’s been really inspiring to see people from so many different backgrounds make their homes here.

School pride.
Buses roll by my street every twenty minutes and their front ticker signs alternate between the route number and “Go Badgers!” My poli sci professor already confessed that next month will be rough not only for students going through midterms, but him, too, as he agonizes over the Badgers’ performance in March Madness. Many of my teachers have taught here for a long time and have no plans to leave, others came here because they heard about how enthusiastic our student body is. It’s a privilege to be part of such an amazing (university) community.

It’s so damn beautiful.
This one is debatable depending on the month. It’s undeniable that the winter here is brutal, unpredictable, and endless. But once I got past the wheezing hardship of making the trek up Bascom Hill on a daily basis, I began to appreciate the view from the top. Standing atop Bascom Hill, you’re faced with 180 degrees of beauty: Lake Mendota to your left, Library Mall, State Street and the Capitol straight ahead, and some historical campus buildings to your right. And summer in Madison is absolutely unbeatable: The Terrace, Concerts on the Square, and the Farmers Market cannot be missed.

It’s a l i v e.
I come from a pretty sleepy little town where not a lot happens. I can’t remember the last time my hometown was in the news for anything. As soon as I step foot in Madison, I feel a difference. I get this energy and excitement that I never experienced before. There’s awlays a buzz in the air, whether it’s because it’s a Friday, or there’s a Badgers game, or big legislations are being passed up at the Capitol. When I’m here, I know I’m in a place where the wheels are in motion, change is happening, and I’m lucky enough to be a part of it. It’s a great feeling.

Thanks, Madison, for being a great home for the last few years, and here’s to a few more good ones!

Love, your happy inhabitant,
Leia

PS: What makes you love your city?

Life is so much bigger

I looked at him and thought of our realities – intersecting momentarily, but probably never again – and I knew that’s where I was meant to be.

This was a thought that crossed my mind several times during the last week of my semester in Peru. Volunteer work had never been a major priority, after all the trip was about me: Me learning more Spanish, me traveling a new country, me making new friends, me growing as a person. Me, me, me.

Anyone who tells you their study abroad experience was not somewhat self-centered is probably lying. Sure, there are some service-based experiences, but this is one of the few times in life when it’s socially acceptable to take out a big fat loan and escape real life for a finite amount of time, discovering a new part of the world and going through some self-examination in the process.

One of several vacations on vacation - Huanchaco, Peru

Long story short, my fulfilling, awesome, but me-centered experience led to a money shortage at the end of my trip. I came across a place called the Villa La Paz Foundation when searching for places to volunteer at. After being accepted to spend the week there, I forgot about it until the day I got back from Machu Picchu, two days before volunteering began.

It took two buses and two hours to get me to the center, and when I arrived in Chaclacayo (chah-kla-KIGH-oh) I couldn’t believe I was still in Lima. Chaclacayo is a pretty district on the outskirts of Lima where wealthy Limeños own second homes, but it’s sandwiched between much poorer districts. And at a big hogar on Calle de los Giranios (Geranium Street), I found my new home.

Walking into the hogar made me see children in a whole new way. Everyone there had an injury – some were burn victims, some had cerebral palsy, others had mental disabilities – so I felt like the odd one out. At first I couldn’t stop staring, but it wasn’t long before I passed other children on the street and immediately searched them for an ailment or disability. Seeing all of the things that could go wrong in a child’s life, then seeing one with twenty working fingers and toes, a capable mind and body, I began to see kids outside the hogar as little walking miracles.

Then I realized that really, the ones inside the house were the miraculous ones. The ones who learned to sprint around a house with one working limb, the ones who learned to eat with their good hand because the other one was too burned to use – they had the best attitudes in the world, and they also had a lot more adversity working against them than I ever will.

There’s no way to capture that week in words. All I’m trying to say is that, now, when I’m starting to feel annoyed or indignant or a little bit self-important, I think of that simple life when little things didn’t matter. For a week, the only needs that mattered were those fifty-some little kids’, and for a week, I spent much more time meeting their needs than my own. When schoolwork or critical comments start to get me down, I think about how life is so much bigger than me, my schoolwork, my blog, my petty concerns.

Though I only spent a week in that house, it changed my perspective forever. I will always remember those little people, even though I was just passing through the house along with many other volunteers. A blip on their radar, at best, I’ll never forget what they taught me. They are what I’m thinking of tonight, and what will get me through a few challenging upcoming weeks.

Undergraduate networking

Tonight I attended the kickoff for the Madison Social Media Club. A good, sweaty time was had by all on the second floor of Brocach’s (200? people showed and we quickly got very close – literally). It was awesome getting to meet some of Madison’s best and brightest in person, and I was lucky to have my friend Peter by my side so we could network together.

James Moreau asked us an interesting question: What’s it like being a college student at a networking event with primarily adult professionals? We received mixed reception each time people asked us what we did and we answered that we’re J-School students at UW. Sometimes people would take that as a cue to dispense career advice, and others got more introspective and asked us about our post-grad plans and aspirations.

James told us, in his experience, it’s better emphasize freelancing, or the professional position you hold while going to school, as opposed to just the student part. Letting people know that there’s more to your identity than being a student is a good thing. It says that you’re able to multitask, you have a variety of interests, and you can time manage.

I also got a chance to meet another UW student, Zack, who interns for Brazen Careerist. We talked about being two of very few students in a perfect setting to meet professionals from the area. It was an awesome opportunity to talk with potential employers in a social environment, where we could be ourselves and share our ideas without the confinements of an office setting. I’m sure more students will begin to pop up at these meeting/socials as the SMC gets more popular, but it was fun to get a look at Madison’s professional world in a less formal setting.

What are your best networking tips? If you’re part of a similar club, what’s one good ice-breaker question that works like a charm on everyone?

Is being “stupid” worth the risk?

I know I’m late to this party, but today Diesel’s “Be Stupid” campaign popped into my head. Diesel’s latest campaign has had a mixed reception: On the positive side, Ken Carbone says, “Twisted logic aside, I agree with the basic premise that risk and failure can be enormously energizing, if not essential, to the creative process,” but others ask, “Why would I want to buy a company that believes in stupidity?”

The whole campaign got me thinking about the risks you take in order to succeed. From the series, this ad in particular spoke to me, because it’s true – anyone can be a critic, but it takes a bit of pride-swallowing and risk-taking to create something all your own and put it out there for others to critique.

A lot of people write about this, and in my eyes, many of them have already succeeded: They’re contributing. They are putting themselves out there. You really can’t criticize other people’s efforts when you don’t have any to show for yourself.

This is a pretty big leap for someone like me, a bit of a perfectionist who has trouble accepting mistakes. But I’m going to come right out and say it: I think stupid is a good thing. Risks are a good thing. Writing on this blog and contributing my own opinion on others’ has been a risky but rewarding endeavor.

Putting this blog up was a good first step for me, but sticking with it was quite another. I feel really lucky to have a group to hold myself accountable to, because it’s making my dedication to this – something I’ve wanted to do for a while – much greater.

I’m not writing this because I feel attacked, or because I feel I can’t take unwarranted criticism. Today that campaign popped into my head and for all the alternating criticism/praise it’s received, I think Diesel gained a ton more brand awareness than a simple campaign about which people have no opinion and never think again.

So what’s your opinion on the Diesel campaign? Love it? Hate it?