What I Learned On My Service And Justice Experience

What I Learned On My Service And Justice Experience

How being the "token freshman" is shaping my college experience.

I go to college only about 45 minutes from home. If I want to see my family, I can. So, when my first fall break came around I took the opportunity to go somewhere a little farther away for a change.

During freshman orientation, I heard that Villanova has "Service and Justice Experiences" over fall break through Campus Ministry. Figuring "why not?" I applied without putting too much thought into it. I told my mom I was applying, but that my chances of being chosen weren't great so I would probably be home for break anyway.

Luckily for me, only a few weeks later I received a cryptic, gif-infested email which informed me I was selected for a SJE, and I needed to go to the first meeting to learn the location of my endeavor and to "awkwardly bond while sitting around in a circle." When I attended that first meeting, I had little clue what a huge impact this trip would have on my first semester.

Just like that, I learned I was going on an international service trip to Costa Rica - and it was only a few weeks away!

I was the only freshman in the group, and am honestly still getting use to college as a whole. However, I just sort of jumped in feet first, and definitely didn't regret that decision!

Over fall break, myself and fourteen others ventured to Mastatal, Costa Rica in partnership with Ecoteach, an organization which provides students with hands-on conservation opportunities in the rainforest. We lived on a sustainable ranch called Rancho Mastatal, where we were able to learn about permaculture, natural building, fermentation and other practices integral to a sustainable lifestyle.

The bounty of knowledge and experiences I gained in just one week was incredible. The most impactful facet of the entire endeavor, however, was definitely the people.

There we several different groups of people I got to know throughout the experience, and each gave me a little more perspective into myself.

First, were the people of the ranch. Rancho Mastatal hosts a number of people from all over the world each year who wish to gain insight into what it means to live a permaculture lifestyle - one in which land and people coexist in a mutually-beneficial relationship. Some stay for a year, some for three months, and others dedicate their lives to this project. In doing so, they bestow a wealth of knowledge in each and every person who comes to volunteer. Each night before dinner, they all join hands and give thanks for each success of the day. These people are not indulgent, but rather endlessly give to their environment, yet they still take time each and every day to be thankful for the positives.

The people of Mastatal had much to teach as well. Mastatal is a small rural community in Costa Rica, just seven miles from the Pacific Coast. With only about a hundred and fifty inhabitants, the people of Mastatal have an extremely close bond, both with their environment and one another.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay with a host family for two days of my trip, getting an opportunity to practice my nonexistent Spanish skills and to immerse myself in the rich culture. The people of the community had a lot to teach, for I found they were content with everything they had and didn't need much to be happy.

At one point, our guides Marcos and Jenny were asked where their dream home would be, and they stated that they already live in it - a mindset that greatly reflects the people of the region.

Finally, the other Villanovans with whom I embarked on this journey had a lot to teach me as a well. As the only freshman, and the only person who was new to the college experience, I got a chance to glimpse the future, as well as make new friends I never would have met otherwise.

Thanks to my Service and Justice Experience, I was able to meet people who I know will continue to shape my college experience, both from near and from afar.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Scheuring

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10 Things You Know To Be True If You Live in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn

"Take the B", they said.

For anyone that is currently living in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and or has lived there, you know it's an *interesting* experience. From the various food joints, to the movie theater, everyone's love/hate relationship with Crazy George, Emmons Avenue, the B/Q trains, the new apartment complex that some people love and others completely despise, and everything in-between, there's no other neighborhood that's just like Sheepshead. You know you're from Sheepshead when:

1. You've either spotted Crazy George somewhere out on the streets or in a random location (usually in Dunkin' Donuts).

Don't get me wrong — it's not funny that he appears to have problems, but it's also not ideal that he goes into various stores harassing the workers. He's a one of a kind human being and I do wish the best for him and/or that he does get some help.

2. When it comes to Brennan and Carr and Roll n Roaster, you either love one of them much more than the other.

As much as I love Brennan and Carr's Gargiulo burger, I'm more of a Roll n Roaster person. Their personal pizza is nice and their fries are to die for -- and yes, I want cheese on that, please.

3. You either love or hate that new apartment complex that's in the works.

You know, this one at 1501 Voorhies Ave.

4. You've become used to the B and Q trains either being delayed, messed up, crowded, and or nonexistent.

"Take the B they said. It's express they said." If I told you how many times the B has gone local, out of service, and or on fire in Brooklyn, then maybe you'd hate it just as much as I do at times. Don't even get me started about how crowded it is - especially during rush hour.

"What about the Q train?" The Q's not much better. It has its times where it goes express in Brooklyn as opposed to local, which doesn't help if you're getting on/off at Neck Road or Avenue U.

5. You either go to UA Sheepshead, another movie theater or don't even bother with movie theaters.

Although going to UA Sheepshead is convenient, their prices are very special for just an average movie theater.

6. You either stick to shopping and dining along Sheepshead Bay Road and or Emmons Avenue or go elsewhere either in the neighborhood, other neighborhoods, or to the city.

While they're both convenient parts of Sheepshead Bay, there are other parts of the neighborhood to go to, such as Nostrand Ave. Sometimes, it's easier to flock to other parts of Brooklyn, but there are times where going to the city is worth the commute.

7. You either shop at Cherry Hill or avoid it completely.

While there are other supermarkets in the neighborhood, Cherry Hill is the only one on Emmons that is open 24/7. Their prices might be high for the neighborhood, but their prices could be much worse.

8. You remember when Sheepshead Bay High School was one school...

...and not an educational complex.

9. You're still low-key bothered about how the neighborhood recovered after Sandy.

I'm not going to say that it was the same after the hurricane. Although it didn't take the longest time to recover, that doesn't mean that damage wasn't done.

10. But regardless of how you may feel, by the end of the day, you're probably still super in love with the neighborhood.

It's an incredibly unique neighborhood. You can take someone out of Sheepshead but you can't take the Sheepshead out of someone.

Cover Image Credit: Curbed NY

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Hey United States, Hands off Venezuela

In case you were unaware, the US is committing more human rights violations in South America.


History is repeating itself.

When United States involvement in Vietnam finally ended, there was a sense of great shame on the US armed forces. The most powerful military force in the world was bested by rice farmers.

And now, here we are living in a post-Iraq War world. Unlike Vietnam, our mission in Iraq was successful. We removed Saddam Hussein from power and now he's dead. Great, right?

But there were no weapons of mass destruction. And the Iraqi government had as much to do with 9/11 as Sweden did.

The majority of Americans now agree the war was a mistake. It was expensive and cost millions of lives. The reasons to go were flimsy and proven untrue after the invasion. And as awful as Hussein was, Americans are far more concerned about ISIS, the growth of which is directly linked to US presence in Iraq and Western influence on the Middle East in general.

The reason I mentioned Vietnam before is because it was the Iraq of the 20th century. Afterward, America occupied the role of the humiliated empire. Bested by a much poorer, weaker nation… American pride was at an all-time low.

Then came the rise of the neoconservative "thinkers" with a "realist" worldview. The Nixon and Reagan administrations launched the careers of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and all the rest that would invade Iraq in the next century. Were they any different in the 70s and 80s? No, not at all.

The easiest career after Vietnam was advocating for invading other countries. The Iran-Contra Affair was just the tip of the iceberg. The great Uncle Sam funded right-wing drug dealers, meddled in elections, and toppled the governments in South America and began the process of sucking the soul of the Middle East like a vampire.

Let's take a look at post-Iraq America. We still have a debate every couple months on whether or not we should invade Iran, Obama's actions in Libya remain his administration's greatest failure, and John Bolton is one of the country's highest-ranking national security figures.

Yet, despite all of that, our current president is toying with the idea of invading Venezuela. He has repeatedly pressed the idea at meetings discussing national security.

Trump and his ghouls are looking at Venezuela not because they see it as a threat, but because they want to, on paper at least, "provide aid."

As if occupying a country militarily helps the people in any way.

The unfortunate truth is that the US and the West want to turn the government there into a banana republic, a puppet for western domination. It's modern-day imperialism.

Creating a non-socialist, pro-America regime is something Trump would like to do, likely for access to the oil.

This is simply more proof that the neocons haven't gone away and they hold the ear of yet another Republican president.

Have we learned nothing? Not only would this invasion be illegal and unjustified, but it would also be another Vietnam. The US would be seen as an evil empire invading a country with an inferior military force.

The worst part about this is the reasons why the government of Venezuela is profoundly corrupt and many of the nation's citizens are living in complete poverty. Time to look in the mirror, America.

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