Humanizing The Refugee Crisis

Humanizing The Refugee Crisis

Why I'll be supporting the refugee team during the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The summer 2016 Olympics is a big first in many categories: Rio de Janeiro will be the first South American city to host the Olympics. And for the first time in the history of the Olympics, a refugee team not representing any one country is competing.

The refugee crisis stems from civilians trying to escape the escalating violence from political unrest in Syria and other countries in the Middle East and Africa by any means possible. The athletes on the refugee team are from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Republic of the Congo. These athletes have endured unspeakable horrors and hardships including separation from and the deaths of family and friends, life in refugee camps with little to no personal belongings, escaping in crowded unsafe boats and by hiding in the wilderness, the possibility of being recruited as a child soldier, and arguably the most difficult, starting their lives over again in a foreign country. Their names are Popole Misenga (judo), Yolande Bukasa Mabika (judo), Anjelina Lohalith (1,500 meter run), Yonas Kinde (marathon), Paulo Lokoro (1,500 meter run), Yiech Pur Biel (800 meter run), James Chiengjiek (400 meter run), Yusra Mardini (100 meter freestyle and 100 meter butterfly), Rose Lokonyen (800 meter run), and Rami Anis (100 meter butterfly).

The presence of the refugee team in Rio de Janeiro is monumental and an inspiration to us all. These athletes went from escaping with their lives and little else to competing in the most prestigious international sports competition. They prove that anything is possible. When asked for what advice she would give other refugees, Yusra Mardini from Syria said,

“I want them (the refugees) to not give up. I want everyone to think of their dreams because a lot of people there forgot their dreams. A lot of things happened, and it was really bad. You remember that life will not stop for you. At some point, you have to move on."

Yursa and the rest of the team represent the plight and the experiences of the more than 4.7 million displaced refugees and civilians in Syria and elsewhere. The visibility the Olympic refugee team has earned is crucial to understanding the refugee crisis and humanitarian issues civilians in Syria and other affected countries face. This team of people who have escaped and rebuilt their lives will be in the Olympic opening ceremony. They will compete and possibly win their respective events. They are becoming household names due to their bravery and accomplishments. For example, swimmer Yursa Mardini is hailed as a hero for helping push her boat full of refugees to shore and save them all from drowning. The media coverage of the refugee team humanizes the struggles associated with being a refugee and will hopefully lead to countries to be more accepting of refugees who want nothing other than stability and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. The coverage gives faces to the refugee crisis and highlights stories that have occurred time and time again over the past 5 years. Therefore, I will be rooting for the refugee team during this historic summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. For their resilience in the face of difficulty and their commitment to athleticism despite many roadblocks, the refugee team is truly admirable. They represent the international community in a way that no single country can and they espouse the ideals needed to be a world-class Olympian.

Cover Image Credit: SuperUber

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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I Wouldn't Trade My DII Experience To Play DI Athletics Any Day

I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.


As a high school athlete, the only goal is to play your varsity sport at the Division 1 level in college.

No one in high school talks about going to a Division 2 or 3 school, it's as if the only chance you have at playing college athletics is at the DI level. However, there are so many amazing opportunities to play a varsity sport at the DII and DIII level that are equally fun and competitive as playing for a division 1 team.

As a college athlete at the DII level, I hear so many DI athletes wishing they had played at the DII or DIII level. Because the fact of the matter is this: the division you play in really doesn't matter.

The problem is that DII and DIII sports aren't as celebrated as Division 1 athletics. You don't see the National Championships of Division 2 and 3 teams being broadcasted or followed by the entire country. It's sad because the highest levels of competition at the DII and DIII level are competing against some of the Division 1 teams widely celebrated across the country. Yet DII and DIII teams don't receive the recognition that DI athletics do.

Not everyone can be a DI athlete but that doesn't mean it's easy to be a DII or DIII athlete. The competition is just as tough as it is at the top for DII and DIII athletes. Maybe the stakes are higher for these athletes because they have to prove they are just as good as DI athletes. Division 2 and 3 athletes have just as much grit and determination as Division 1 athletes, without the glorified title of being "a division 1 athlete."

Also, playing at the DII or DIII level grants more opportunities to make your college experience your own, not your coach's.

I have heard countless horror stories in athletics over the course of my four-year journey however, the most heartbreaking come from athletes who lose their drive to compete because of the increased pressure from coaches or program. Division 1 athletics are historically tougher programs than Division 2 or 3 programs, making an athlete's college experience from one division to another significantly different.

The best part of not going to a division 1 school is knowing that even though my team doesn't have "DI" attached to it, we still have the opportunity to do something unique every time we arrive at an event. Just because we aren't "DI" athletes, we still have the drive and competitive spirit to go to an event and win. We are great players, and we have broken countless records as a team.

That's something we all have done together, and it's something we can take with us for the rest of our lives.

We each have our own mission when it comes to our college athletic careers, however together we prove to be resilient in the fight for the title. Giving it all when we practice and play is important, but the memories we have made behind the scenes as a team makes it all worth it, too.

The best part of being apart of college athletics is being able to be passionate about your sport with teammates that embody that same mindset. It's an added benefit to having teammates who become your best friends because it makes your victories even more victorious, and your defeats easier to bare.

No matter what level an athlete is playing at in college, it's important that all the hours spent at practice and on the road should be enjoyed with teammates that make the ride worthwhile. The experiences athletes have at any level are going to vary, but the teammates I have and the success we've had together is something I cherish and will take with me forever. I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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