Posts Tagged ‘college’

Why You Should Study Abroad: Leah Zarra, London, UK

Monday, October 27th, 2014

 

Leah Zarra posing in front of a sign for the famous Abbey Road.

Leah Zarra posing in front of a sign for the famous Abbey Road.

 

“I just loved being so independent and being totally immersed in another city,” says Leah Zarra, 22, a Texas native and Drew University graduate.

Zarra participated in a semester-long study abroad program to London through her New Jersey college back in the fall of 2012. “I couldn’t wait to experience another culture,” she says, “even though London isn’t the first to jump to mind when you think ‘foreign’.”

According to Zarra, the full semester trip to London cost the same amount as a regular, on-campus semester. The trip included: tuition, housing in a flat with other people from her college, and a 2-zone Oyster card—similar to a Metrocard, allowing Zarra unlimited access to the Tube (subway) within specified zones.

When it came to financial resources to help fund her trip, Zarra had it covered.

“I had an annual Dean’s award scholarship all through college, so this carried over to my semester abroad,” she explains.

Zarra was able to take classes such as London Literature, British Political Drama, Modern British History and a required colloquium course. She earned 16 credits studying abroad—more credits than she would have earned in one semester staying on campus in the States.

Zarra and her friends riding the Tube.

Zarra and her friends riding the Tube. (Zarra is second from the right.)

When it came to saving money while abroad, Zarra made sure to budget wisely.

“As college students, we all try to be frugal, so we kept our eyes out for free food and events,” she says referring to her study abroad group. “If you’re looking, they’re easy to find. One professor told us about a group of Hare Krishna monks that served free curry every day. Food is a big one to save on.”

When asked if she would recommend her study abroad program to someone else, Zarra responded with a resounding “yes!”

“I learned so much, and not just in the classroom,” she says. “We didn’t just read famous British authors; our professors took us on walking tours around the city to see where Great Expectations took place, [or] where Virginia Woolf walked every day. As cliché as it sounds, I truly found a piece of myself there.”

Sometimes students take out some loans to study abroad and Zarra believes it’s absolutely worth it.

“Go into it with a positive attitude, and appreciate everything you see,” she says. “Make an effort to appreciate the privileges you didn’t realize you had. You will never have another chance like this.”

The famous Big Ben and Westminster Abbey: one of the many pictures Zarra took on her trip.

The famous Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. One of the many photos Zarra took while on her trip.

 

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-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram:slevitz

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College Savings: How to Afford a Study Abroad Trip as a Broke College Student

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Whether my friends ask me if I want to go to the movies or out for an expensive meal, my answer is always the same: “I’m a college student.” This is the universally known phrase meaning, “I’d love to, but I can’t. I’m broke.” College expenses can really weigh down on my desire to have a social life. Between tuition, books, Metrocard fare, and food, there’s really no wiggle room for anything extra and I’m always trying to find college discounts wherever I go. When I learned about study abroad options through CUNY, my friends asked me where I wanted to go. “China,” I replied smiling. “But I’m a college student.”

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Eating a bowl of noodles in Nanjing, China that cost 7¥ (yuan): less than $1.50!

Studying abroad, although costly, is not necessarily as impossible as one might think for the ‘poor’ college student—and it certainly has its perks. One way to help pay for your study abroad trip is to get scholarship money. Just like when you were applying for college, scholarships are diverse, obscure and available to a multitude of people. You just need to be willing to look for them. One great place to start is CEA Scholarships, which are scholarships specifically for students who want to study abroad. There are multiple merit based scholarships available and also financial need based scholarships.

Often times when applying for these scholarships you are required to write a personal essay. In order to get the money you need to make yourself stand out. Write several different essays, share them with your writing major friends, revise, and edit. The more work you put into your essay, the better chance you’ll have at getting that money. Other scholarships to look into for studying abroad are the SIROCS scholarship and the SASA Travel Abroad Scholarship.

You never know when you're going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

You never know when you’re going to stumble upon some interesting souvenir like a Communist Obama Tshirt!

Don’t be afraid to go and contact the financial aid office at your college. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, go anyway. Sometimes the financial aid rules and regulations differ for certain study abroad programs and it never hurts to ask! Taking out student loans might also be a viable option to look into. Loans are a really great way to give yourself some time to save up your money after you take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Start saving up now! Even if you get fully covered by scholarships or financial aid, there’s still the matter of having spending money in a foreign country. Whether you want to buy a cheap bowl of noodles, or a memorable souvenir, you’re going to end up wanting to spend some cash on your trip. In Shenzhen, China I came across an amusement park called Windows of the World. I was definitely glad that I had some cash to pay for the admission. Get a part time job while you wait for the start of your program and put that cash aside. You’ll be happy you did once you get to your new temporary home. You want to be able to take care of yourself while you’re away and have some fun too!

 

 

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

My friends on the train ride at Windows of the World in Shenzhen, China.

-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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College Savings Experience by Studying Abroad

Saturday, September 13th, 2014
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Photo op with some monks my friends and I met on the Great Wall of China.

I like chicken soup. Wǒ xǐhuān jītāng.

It’s probably one of the only phrases I learned to say correctly in Mandarin while studying abroad in China and it still makes me laugh one year later.

No matter what college you go to, even if it’s only a few psychology courses online, everyone should go on a study abroad program at least once in their lifetime. Study abroad is a rite of passage and the college discounts you get is worth the experience. It’s the ability to say that during your young adult life you did something different and learned about a new place. It doesn’t matter what you do or where you go. What’s important is that you get out, see the world, and learn about a country that isn’t America.

One of the best benefits of studying abroad is that your early 20s is the best time to travel. Besides school, and maybe a part-time job, you don’t have that many obligations. Once you’re working the 9-5 grind you’ll find it’s extremely difficult to snag any vacation days right away. Studying abroad provides you with a way to get college credits without sitting in a classroom for an entire semester. Study abroad programs usually offer a variety of courses that range from common core classes to specific credits that can be used towards your major.

Studying abroad through your school is a great way to make friends that will be there after the trip. Most of the people that go on study abroad trips go to the same school. It’s very easy to form close friendships in a short amount of time on these trips. Walking across campus and seeing a familiar face is always a nice surprise in the middle of a hectic day.

 

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New friendships only grow stronger after hours of hiking the Yellow Mountain (Mt. Huangshan) in the southern Anhui province in eastern China.

People don’t just travel because of the boredom from living in the same place. People travel because they thirst to see something new. It’s one thing to see a picture of a famous landmark; it’s quite another to actually see that landmark with your own eyes. Ask anyone that’s ever traveled anywhere, or ask anyone with a smartphone camera; no photo or Instagram filter can truly ever beat the real thing. When you go home and change your profile picture on Facebook to a picture of yourself standing on the Great Wall of China—that’s something to brag about.

To learn about a culture that is foreign from your own is a truly important experience. There are so many different cultures in the world that it is impossible to count. To go through life ignorant of the world around you is a foolish mistake. Hear a different language slide past your lips. Eat a food that you can’t identify. Engross yourself in a way of living that you’ve never experienced.

A study abroad trip is more than just a trip. It’s a chance to take an adventure, fill a scrapbook with memories, and tell stories to your loved ones that will last a lifetime.

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Group picture of the 2013 Summer CUNY China trip in front of the Monk Xuanzang statue in Xi’an, China.

-Sam Levitz is a graduate of Brooklyn College and went on the CUNY Study Abroad trip to China the summer of 2013. Follow her on Instagram: slevitz

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Finding the Perfect Place to Stay

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Accommodations

One of the biggest costs of a trip will always be the housing costs.  Food costs, the second biggest enemy to a wallet, will seem small compared to the daily rent payment to a hotel.  This creates a big issue to all travel plans.  So how can one overcome this obstacle?

Hostels

Being a youth and a college student, hostels and guest houses are the cheap option to hotels.  Hostels and guest houses are cheaper living alternatives which might sometimes include shared rooms and bunk beds.  Shared bathrooms, shared showers, old living quarters and poor guest services are sometimes the tradeoff for a discount living accommodation.  Normally, hotels costs range from $100 to $300 per night while a stay at a hostel or a guest house would only cost 1/3 of that!  Although definitely not as luxurious or as comfortable as a hotel, remember that the goal of travelling is not to live in a luxurious hotel but to rather see a new place.  Check out hostels.com to find all the housing options hostels have to offer!

Hotels and Inns

Hotels and Inns can be a viable an option for many travelling.  Although a little more expensive than hostels, hotels are usually more enjoyable and comfortable.   Sometimes there are discounts and deals which might cut some of the high costs which come along with staying at a hotel.  Search for discount deals and promotions online for great discounts.  Call a hotel beforehand and asking the management if there are such options can open doors for discounts and deals!  There are many low priced hotels, usually ranging from $50 to $70 a night, but risk being a very poor accommodation (bed bugs anyone?).  Of course, if there really is a desire to stay at a hotel while being budget conscious, travelling with a buddy or two can easily cut hotel costs.

Your hotel room won't always look like this

Your hotel room won't always look like this

Staying with Friends

Remember that one Swedish exchange student or that person from California in that Statistics class from a year ago?  Well, go and call them up!  A great option to budget travel includes staying at a friend’s house.   Staying at a friend’s place cuts down on so many costs that sometimes it is downright stealing! Not only that but friends can prove to be very good tour guides.   However, remember to be courteous and not to overstay your welcome.   Be considerate of the friend’s own schedule and remember that they have their own lives to worry about.  Even if a friend offers to provide free lodging, bringing a gift and leaving behind a small token of appreciation (like $20 a night) can make a big difference from being a friend and a great friend.

Couch Surfing

Although I have never actually done this before, another option for the budget conscious traveler is couch surfing.  Couch surfing is a way to stay at homes for free by allowing travelers to “”surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event.”  Usually free of charge, couch surfing is the least stable of most accommodations as there are many risks associated with it.  Conflicting schedules with the host, potential creepiness, awkward situations or unsafe situations might arise with this method.  However, if this is an option for consideration, check it out here.

This couch was probably more expensive than a bed

This couch was probably more expensive than a bed

With these options to consider for a trip, don’t forget to be flexible!  If the stress of living in poor living conditions or urge to sleep on a really comfortable bed does come up, a plan for 4 nights in a hostel and 1 night in a hotel during a week vacation can be an option!  Don’t forget, travelling is an experience, not a chore!

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

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The Costs of Traveling

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Travel Costs and Options: Trading cost for comfort

With a schedule all printed out and plan all prepared, it is time to mark down the expenses.  The first two most important costs will be the travel costs and the accommodation costs.   As a general rule, there is a trade-off between cost and comfort; cheaper options are usually less convenient and less comfortable.

Buses
When travelling within a country, buses are one of the most reliable and cheapest forms of long distance travels.  Although it is not always comfortable, buses are always at least half the cost of other forms of travel.  There is no doubt that trains and cars will always be faster than buses but buses cost much less than other forms of transportation.  Where it would cost at least $100 to travel from Washington D.C. to New York round trip through driving or trains, it only costs about $60 if a bus is taken.  In North America bus companies like Megabus or Greyhound usually have travel deals as well.  If late bus rides are not a problem, there can be even more savings on top of the already low prices!

Peñafrancia Tours and Travel Transport Inc.

An example of a bus company which can take you to far

Car Pooling, Large group discounts

Choosing to travel with a large group can cut the costs of travelling by a huge amount.  Generally the more people there are, the cheaper it becomes to travel.  If there is a good amount of people opting to travel to the same location (usually around 4 people), it can be cheaper to split the gas money and take turns driving.  A trip which would normally cost $100 now becomes $25!  Sometimes, there are bus tours and trips which provide a group discount for larger groups.  Being able to travel with more people provides security and economic safety as well.  However, the more people there are during a trip, the more likely it is for the trip to become disorganized.  Make sure to pick the right people!

Discount Deals-Airplanes

One of the best things about traveling is looking out for some discount travel options.  Once in a while, travel sites such as Expedia.com or Orbitz.com might have discount plane tickets to many often travelled locations in the world.  A round trip from Los Angeles to New York can sometimes only cost $89!  However, the fine prints of these amazing deals come with a fixed flying schedule.  So although there is a cheap ticket option, it severely limits the flexibility of travel dates and forces a schedule around those times.    

Studying Abroad and School Sponsored Programs

Sometimes it is almost impossible to find the funds to travel alone.  That is it can be a great idea to check out what programs a college or school has to offer for travelling!  Colleges often have a multitude of programs which allow students to travel to many different locations for low prices and high security.  Club trips, after school programs, study abroad programs, exchange programs and competitive trips can all be a gateway towards a cheap travel trip!  Although options might be limited on a trip sponsored by an organization, it is still a great option to travel (with accommodations provided) for low costs or sometimes even for free!  For example, I was able to travel to place such as Washington D.C. and Princeton just because I was part of the Mock Trial Team in college.  Not only was it a memorable trip but it was also free!

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage!

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This was written by Gary Chen of Stony Brook University

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Giving Back: Think Outside the Box

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

I would like to take a moment to disclose a secretive piece of advice to you. Are you listening? Okay good. Giving back doesn’t have to involve working with an organization. Now I know you’re thinking, okay cool Sam, thanks for making me read all these articles on different organizations that don’t even matter. Well don’t think that. They do, but there are so many different ways to give back and help mankind. Use your own brain to think of creative outlets to show love every day in the city that never sleeps. But as always, if you need some inspiration, here are some ideas from other students.

 

In 2000, the movie Pay It Forward impacted and challenged viewers to realize the importance and effectiveness of doing good deeds for three people, without expecting anything in return. Although viewers were inspired, this challenge was forgotten once the business of life was piled on them. Don’t let this happen to you. Bring it back! As a person who is addicted to caffeine, I need my coffee fix every time I venture into the city, and maybe you feel the same way. The long lines never bother us as we wait for our delicious treat. But maybe instead of using our racked up Starbucks rewards for ourselves, lets “pay it forward” and use it for the person behind us in line. They don’t need to know it was you, as you slip past them with your coffee in hand and out into the city. The point is to help someone in a little way, that can change his or her whole day. Upsizing from a tall to a grande can change my mood enough. Now, if it was magically paid for, wooaaaah, even better.

 

"I see dead people"....no wait, wrong movie.

Wanna help your friends first before diving into helping others? Okay fine. Invite over friends or coworkers to your place for a homemade dinner. It’s a generous way to show them that you care. I mean forget cooking for them, the fact you clean up your house for visitors is a loving sacrifice in itself, am I right? A good meal and great conversation is a perfect way to show you care for your fellow NYC friends.

 

When I was living in Florida the summers were hot, like super hot, like no one should EVER vacation in Florida when it’s August because you gunna melt. So whenever I saw the Homeless Voice newspaper on the side of the road asking for donations I always felt bad that for 8 hours of work they may only have one drink with them. I began buying water bottles and tried giving them out every day on my way to school. In fact one guy saw me so much he called me “water bottle girl”, I guess I forgot to ever tell him my name. Other than the one time I learned, after giving out some water bottles I left in the car, that the water can become toxic once the plastic overheated, and freaked out that I could be the reason of death to homeless people in south Florida, it was pretty much a success. I mean who doesn’t want free water on a hot day?

 

Because I was handing out water bottles multiple times a week, I saw the same workers for the Homeless Voice every day. This allowed me to spark short stopped-at-a-red-light conversation with them. You never know what you can learn about someone until you speak up. Who knows, I might have been the only one to say something more than a “no thank you”, out the window of the car, or a sympathetic nod. So why not try it yourself. You don’t need to seek out the scariest homeless person in the neighborhood, or go into strange areas to do this, just be aware of who you see every day on your commute. More often than not, you see someone that could use your help. Be creative in how you can help them, whether it’s a water bottle in the summer or coffee in the winter, you can always reach out on your own and help one relationship at a time.

 

One of these water bottles is good, one is toxic. You would think it's the fallen one, but no! It could be either, dun dun DUN!

 

Think outside of the box!  Can you knit scarves? Do you have some extra coupons at a burger joint? There are so many ways to give back that don’t require you to serve in an organization. Start now!

 

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Samantha Bringas

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Giving Back: Where to Connect

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

 

Now that you are prepared, well prepared-ish, we move on to the biggest complaint students have. “Yeah, but how? Where do I go?” You would think that with my whole chapter on research, you would know how simple it is to get connected. But if you do not know where to connect yet, all you need to do is simply seek out clubs at your school. There are clubs of all different subjects, including community service. So to make it even more simplified and handy for you, I’ve compiled a list of different colleges in the New York City area. You will see how easy it is to get involved in a club and serve not only in your community, but also with other classmates your age. The colleges I chose were NYU, Hunter College, Columbia, and Parsons, but don’t close this eBook just yet. What I’ve realized is that the process of finding clubs in colleges is very similar. So if your school is not on this list, don’t feel disheartened. This article can still assist your pursuit.

 

NYU

Without being a student I was able to investigate the available clubs. On the main directory page I simply looked under Community Service. In this section there are so many groups that allow you to give back through various approaches. For example, clubs like Arts in the Community and Make Music encourages students to use their artistic skills in order to help sponsor children in art or music programs who normally don’t have the funds to pursue their dream. Another community service oriented club is CHEFs for School, is a group that stands for “Cheap, Healthy, Eco-friendly Food” which focuses on educating students about proper nutrition and meal preparation. Each club has their own webpage that explains their purpose and provides an email for you to easily contact the club’s leader.

 

Hunter College

The same method can be used here, but this college takes it a step further. Hunter College has a system set up so that after you find a club that peaks your interest, you can see what time the club meets and view other students who are involved. For instance, the Sustainability Project is designed to spread awareness of environmental issues specifically in NYC; they have a whole page with available spots for outside links and photos of their latest events. Because Hunter College created this unique set up, you are able to see current and relevant information about what each organization is doing.

 

Columbia University

Now, this school was a bit harder to research. In order to find more information about the clubs, you need to be logged in. So I can only help you to an extent. Although, during my lurking I saw that they have a group called Community Impact. This club included all sorts of activities like serving at food pantries, working with Habitat for Humanity, completing a Project for the Homeless, and many more.  Seems like this would be the easiest option to get plugged into for some volunteering opportunities right?

 

Parsons

Of course here at the New School of Design, you are able to use your own unique talents to give back, so it doesn’t come as a shock that there are unique clubs on their list. Some ideas I found: the Sisters on the Runway, which is a runway show put on every year to raise money to prevent domestic abuse. The funds raised at this event are donated to shelters that provide job training and keep victims of abuse safe. Of course, if you would rather use your brainpower over designer skills there is a whole group of clubs in the Political Action section. Here you can choose what issue you would prefer to problem-solve in order to restore your community.

 

As you can see, there are many volunteering opportunities just waiting for you at school. If you don’t have friends at home that encourage you to serve, then seek out a new club to join. You will be surrounded with peers who have a similar fired up passion about a specific cause who can encourage you and make serving a fun, exciting, experience. So go join one! With that blazing passion, you’re bound to start a wildfire of kindness! Too cheesy? Okay lets just continue onward…

 

YOUR KINDNESS IS THIS POWERFUL....okay this is actually kind of scary. Moving on!

 

 

Club Directories:

NYU: http://www.osa.nyu.edu/directory/club_directory_cat.php

Hunter: https://hunter-community.symplicity.com/index.php?s=student_group&au=&ck=

Columbia: http://communityimpact.columbia.edu/

Parsons: http://www.newschool.edu/student-services/student-development-and-activities/student-organizations/recognized-organizations/

 

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Samantha Bringas

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Giving Back: Be Prepared

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

 

Now that you have recognized your strengths and passions, and you understand the importance of researching, we should discuss expectations and how to get started. Unless I have become the J.K. Rowling of the “how to” eBook world, which would be an awkward title, you are probably reading this alone. There is no fan club picking this up, so you are probably sitting at home and reading this because 1. I know you and made you, or 2. You have a personal interest in volunteering, but do not have an available organization or club to tell you step-by-step guide on options and expectations. Hopefully these tips will help you feel more comfortable, flexible, and prepared to begin serving in your community.

 

  1. Serving can be more than a soup kitchen
    Nothing is wrong with serving weekly at a soup kitchen. But why is this always in the movies as the most popular hit volunteering opportunity? There is so much more than that! Look back at your skills and personality traits and use those to serve. If you like building and creating with your hands, jump on a Habitat for Humanity project. If you’re artsy, offer to paint or create illustrations for a nonprofit. Love sports? Volunteer to be a children’s soccer coach for a season with children. The more interests you have, the more opportunities you have to serve.

    Don't be Barney Stinson and wait until mandated Community Service to volunteer locally.

  2. Be realistic with your wardrobe
    This should be very obvious. If you are working with children or teenagers, dress in a way that you would want your child to dress. It’s awkward for parents to meet a youth leader and have to worry about “where to look”. If volunteering with a professional organization, dress to impress, despite the fact that you’re not a staff member. If you love volunteering there and they’re hiring, who would they rather hire, an outside candidate or you? More likely than not it’s fine to wear a t-shirt and jeans. Just be smart.
  3. Commitment
    No fancy way to say it, it’s a pretty important trait so there is no three word combo like “commitment ceases conflict”, although that does sound good. When you find an organization you love, you will be on fire to serve. And hopefully when you go, you will enjoy your experience so much that you won’t want to leave. But don’t dive in too deep. Be realistic with your schedule, yet tactful. If you can volunteer once a week, awesome! If you can only commit to once a month, that’s fine too. As time passes you may feel like you’re missing out, and you will find a way to make time in your schedule. Like I stated in a previous article, if you volunteer somewhere you love, it won’t even feel like work.
  4. Practice Flexibility and Patience… what everyone loves to hear!
    That was sarcasm, if you didn’t realize, or is this the first sentence you have ever read by me? It’s preeettty common in my writing. As much as I would like to encourage you to volunteer in a position that you love, the fact of the matter is that specific position may not always be open. But don’t feel discouraged; instead try a different job. As always, you never know: but you might love it. If not, hopefully you can just get your foot in the door for other volunteering opportunities in the future. For example, at my church in Jersey I serve on Sundays helping with young children…like babies… with poop and stuff. It was not my first, or second choice, but I knew the church needed the help. Now not only do I love seeing the same little faces each week, but I’ve talked to others about different serving opportunities that I can use my talents for. And now I am helping with the social media aspect of the church. Because I was willing to help in one way and waited patiently, jumping at other volunteering opportunities, I am not only enjoying working with children but also assisting 140 characters at a time.

 

Awe isn't this such a precious picture of changing a diaper...ABSOLUTELY DECEITFUL...but I will spare you the horrifying details...

 

I hope that you feel a bit more prepared, not to change a diaper, that requires real life experience, but hopefully you feel open and ready to serve where ever you are placed! You are probably still wondering why I haven’t helped you connect with an organization or tips towards that. Well, keep reading.

 

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Samantha Bringas

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Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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Giving Back: Research Organizations

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

In my opinion, working with kids is fun and not usually nerve wracking, so the most stressful step of deciding where to volunteer is the research process. Back in high school, volunteering was easy because teachers seemed to always have good suggestions about organizations, but now that you are out on your own, figuring out where to start can be stressful and confusing.

As I stated before, recognizing your strengths is a critical step towards volunteering, but put that on hold for a minute. Researching: this is THE most important step to volunteering, at least in my humble opinion that you should take, if you want to succeed, ever. Okay maybe not, but a step that most people forget is to research organizations before simply jumping in. We are constantly fed information all day long, what to wear, what to eat, and as much as we think we are rebels (which we clearly are not) we accept the norm. Don’t let this pattern apply to where you choose to volunteer. Research each organization. If you are clueless about where to start, just simply follow these steps to ensure that you will find a trustworthy company.

 

  1. Question Why
    Ever have someone come up to you on the streets of Manhattan asking if you are 21 in order to sign a petition? Of course you have! If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky that you don’t have to lie every time, awkwardly responding with, “nahhhh sorry I’m twenty”, giving your best childlike smile and breaking away. So when a disaster strikes and a number pops up on the screen demanding your donation, put down your phone. Don’t you dare text a dollar amount to that number without researching first. Ask yourself, why? Why should I donate to you? Many people each year become victims to unreliable companies. Last summer CNN teamed up with the Tampa Bay Times in order to investigate “America’s Worst Charities”, charities that waste a huge percentage of their donations on wages and solicitors. During this investigation they discovered that many people were donating to the Kids Wish Network. At first glance you might think, “oh yes I heard of this, they send children to Disney blah blah”- No! That is Make-A-Wish Foundation. Many companies similar to the Kid Wish Network camouflage their name and purpose in order to sound identical to a more popular organization. After CNN posted this article many people who had donated to the Kids Wish Network started retaliating against the group. In the study, CNN realized that the Kids Wish Network only donated 3 cents of every dollar to the cause. This means that when you donate, only 3 percent of your donation goes toward helping children. Which leads me to the next tip.
  2. Question How Much
    When working with an organization you should know where your money is going. Don’t settle for a roundabout answer. Investigate the details of your contribution. Charity Navigator is a company created to assist with this issue. You are able to search for an organization, leaf through the charts and facts to find out where every cent of your donation goes. It even displays feedback from people who have donated to the specific cause and their experience with the company.
  3. Question How Often
    As important as it is to investigate the percentages, sometimes it is just as essential to watch how consistent a company is.  For example, the Red Cross gives about 90% of the donation towards their purpose, but they are not always consistent. After 9/11, the Red Cross was getting backlash from many contributors because the people realized that only one third of their donations were used for the victims in New York. Because of this backlash, the Red Cross made the decision in November 2011 to donate the whole amount to the cause. The issue with donating is, as a contributor you don’t always know what your money is specifically going to, but the positive note, in the Red Cross’ instance, is that the company is so large that it is always under close watch. In order to help eliminate this problem you can donate to specific companies that are based on a fixed amount or product.  For example, the popular One for One program with Toms or the $7 fixed donation at Sevenly. Most people have heard of Toms, but honestly, how many shoes do you need? Sevenly is an organization that sponsors different causes each week. They design t-shirts and posters for customers to grab, and with every purchase you make $7 is donated to the cause. Whether you spend $10 or $35, seven dollars is always donated.

 

If you can't decide on a style just pick a Grab Bag, 3 uniquely designed shirts from earlier causes. Select your size and the price is less than buying 2 shirts!

Obviously, it is vital to stay up-to-date with organizations and find one that fits your passion. Although we are all poor college students, we need clothes. So why not buy clothing with a purpose? Check out Sevenly today or sign up for weekly updates and support an organization that matches your passion! Remember, before you reach for your cash, debit card, or sign in to your PayPal account, ask “Why? How much? And How Often?”

Click here to learn about Sevenly and change up your wardrobe

 

Oh and I forgot to ask, where do YOU like to donate?

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Samantha Bringas

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Giving Back: Discovering your talents

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Being actively involved in youth programs for 4 years, I saw many people dive into the deep end and jump out screaming. Working with teenagers has its joys and struggles. Joys: going on camping trips, watching movies, eating junk food…because it’s socially acceptable. Struggles: the drama, apathy, disrespect, family finance issues, “ADHD” that every kid has, oh and the DRAMA.  Sadly for the most part, it is unacceptable to smack kids across the head, even if you want to.

Me and all my children! Okay not really. This is a picture of me and my husband on our wedding day surrounded by the students in our small group. Probably wanted to smack each of them across the head at one point or another...love them!

 

As fun and rewarding as working with teenagers can be, I’ve noticed that not everyone is wired the same way. Watching youth leaders jump in and out was draining and discouraging not only for the students but also for me.

I can be flexible, if the requirement is to be flexible. Although if I’m set on a goal and someone throws another task at me, I may panic a bit. If someone invites me to a party and I know only one person there, I will dread it and spend the whole day planning an escape route. Yet if I’m playing a game of charades with a group of friends, I am totally down to act out 12 different characters.

Why does this matter? Well, I try as best as I can to really get to know myself. I believe that if I can study myself, my strengths, and my passions, I can serve in a way that utilizes my talents. If you serve at an organization, and you’re given the option of different jobs like working with children, prepping in a soup kitchen, or editing video footage, wouldn’t you like to serve using your gifts?

My point above was not to shame the people who tried to be youth leaders and left, but to encourage you to first look at yourself and your skills then start from there. The saying, “choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”, doesn’t have to simply apply to your career, but also applies to where you volunteer. If you are clueless to what you enjoy, hopefully these ideas below can lead you in the right direction.

  1. Extrovert or Introvert?
    Ah, the lingering question. Am I an extrovert or an introvert? All my life I’ve been a very loud little person, but recently when reading a Huffington Post article called, “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert”, I’ve realized that my personality leans towards introvert. The reason why I find this important to research, is not to label someone as introvert or extrovert, because more cases than not someone isn’t what they seem, but instead to use this tool to understand how your own mind works. It’s comforting to read an article from a fellow introvert and realize, I think that way too! By researching this simple trait you can better understand yourself.
  2. Career /Personality Quizzes
    Figuring out a future career during college is hard enough. Chances are you still won’t know what you want to do until you get actual experience. Why not use the info you received from a career quiz to help figure out what area you would enjoy serving in? There are many ways to serve, so choose something that you feel you can excel at.
  3. Find Your Passion
    Sometimes it’s too hard to just ask yourself, okay, what makes me happy? I always hated that question because I felt that there are so many different hobbies I enjoy doing. So grab a coffee (to get some caffeine to kick in), a pen and paper, and write down what makes you angry. Yes, angry. What do you see in the news, or on the streets that just makes you mad. If you can find an injustice in the world that bothers you to the core, then you have realized what is worth fighting for.
  4. Ask Your Friends
    If all else fails, ask your friends what they think. Close friends know you. They see what makes you happy and what drives you mad. Just before my graduation I made sure to ask my dad what he thought I could do for the rest of my life. Clearly, in my life, a degree is just the beginning. We brainstormed about what I’ve done over the past few years that I’ve enjoyed, which encouraged me to press further and figure out my role in society.

Self-actualization is a simple step that can help you understand your talents before you begin volunteering. Now that you have researched yourself, next you must research organizations.

 

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Samantha Bringas

Follow the Campus Clipper on Twitter and Like us on Facebook!

Interested in more deals for students? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter to get the latest in student discounts and promotions  and follow our Tumblr and Pinterest. For savings on-the-go, download our printable coupon e-book!

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