Friday, December 12, 2014

How to detox after finals - by Alex

We’re all hitting the point in our school year where we’re either taking end of semester finals or big tests before winter break. The stress from endless studying and pulling all-nighters has finally caught up to us. Here are a few ways you can relieve some of the post-final stress.

1.  Eat. Eat. And eat some more.
You know thats the first thing you wanted to do after you turned your last test in. Food has always been there for you when you’ve been stressed and needed help. This is the perfect time to rekindle your love. No need to feel guilty either because you just aced your finals!

2.  Binge watch a Netflix series
Theres that one series on Netflix that you didn’t get to start watching or you had to stop watching to study endlessly. Start it now! You have somewhere between 3 and 4 weeks of break, so you might as well utilize your free time and finish what you started (or are about to start).

3.  25 Days of Christmas?
Don’t lie, you have a guilty pleasure Christmas or winter movie that you watch every winter without fail. Nows the perfect time to put it on the TV and cuddle up by the fireplace with a big cup of hot cocoa.

4.  Hang out with your friends
Lame, I know. You’re probably more than sick of those weirdos by now, but this is the only time that you get to hang out with them without having to worry about homework. Do all the odd things that over the last semester you said you wanted to do but didn't have the time to.

5. Family time
Another kind of lame one. But if you’ve been away at college like I have, you actually start to miss your family, super weird! Have a game night or just watch TV togetherAnything that gets all of you in the same room at the same time!

Alex Grady is a college freshman at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Early Childhood Education. Originally from Iowa City, IowaAlex was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Iowa for 2014. Learn more about Alex here!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Always Blessed, Never Less - by Jacqueline

This week marks the end of my first quarter of college, but the idea that I am now a full time college student is still hard to grasp. A year ago, right around this time, I was frantically applying for colleges, having no idea where I wanted to end up or what I wanted to do. But, the promise of college being the best years of my life was what kept me motivated.

I’m happy to say, however, that all that work was well worth it. Sitting at my desk well past 2 a.m., stressed beyond belief with a million crumpled essay drafts sitting in the trashcan? Worth it. Visiting college after college (yes, that means red eye flights for the east coast ones) and barraging current students with questions to help me find my perfect fit? Worth it. Beating out senioritis (well, kind of) to better prepare me for college? Worth it.

So far, college has lived up to its hype and so much more. I think in retrospect, the high points of my experience so far have far outweighed the low points, so it’s easy to think that the transition into college was smooth sailing and easy. But, I’d like to reflect on the low points today. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met the most amazing people here, people who are driven and multitalented yet humble, people who can engage me in hours of conversation on topics that they are passionate about, people who, cheesy as it sounds, inspire me with what I know they will contribute to the world.

So, what prompted me to reflect on the low points today was a phone call from back home, one that reminded me of a phrase I was taught to live by: “Always Blessed, Never Less.” Whether you’re religious or not, I think this mantra can be relevant to everyone. For me personally, it means praising God in every situation, especially the ones where I feel overwhelmed, because I have to remember that even if I don’t understand why I’m stuck in a seemingly insurmountable trial, my Father in heaven is still sovereign, still faithful. To paraphrase a sermon from my high school pastor: “We trust Him not because He promises to end every storm in our lives; we trust him because He is good.”

At times, it’s difficult to remember that being “blessed” isn’t a term reserved for the times when everything is good. Low points can be blessings in disguise, learning experiences that I don’t understand the purpose of in the moment, but will come to appreciate in hindsight. Although I’m happy where I’m at right now, I think I could’ve saved myself a lot of hair-pulling and anxiety if I’d kept this in mind earlier on. Within the first few weeks of college I found myself overwhelmed by the rigor of academics, the pressure to already have a career path drawn out, and of course, the expectation of still making time for extracurricular activities and a social life. I felt that I didn’t measure up to the caliber of everyone else here, and worried that I wouldn’t be able to succeed.

Of course, these things are still things I work at. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t fall into the trap of comparing myself with other people occasionally, but remembering that these obstacles serve a purpose has given me a lot more peace as of late. After all, I didn’t think I would make it out of my first quarter alive, yet here I am. I think when you remember that struggles are blessings too, you’re able to calmly take things one step at a time instead of stressing, believing that things will work themselves out for the better, and that when they do, you’ll understand why you went through the things you did.

Jacqueline Wibowo is a college freshman at Stanford University in Stanford, California. Originally from San Diego, CaliforniaJacqueline was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of California for 2014. Learn more about Jacqueline here!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Distinguished Roommates - by Astha

On a dark and probably freezing day in snowy suburbia in Wisconsin, there sat a girl contemplating how to handle moving to the heart of Baltimore in the faraway land of  “the East Coast”, where she did not know a single soul.  Okay, you caught me – that girl was me. Now this girl sits in a much warmer climate on a beautiful campus with some of the most genuinely beautiful people she – I – have ever met. See, Distinguished Young Woman gave me a multitude of opportunities and experiences, helped me with scholarships for college, and allowed me to meet the most amazing friends, including the lovely Distinguished Young Woman of Lee County in Alabama, but I normally just call her Vicki, my roommate.

But back to that dark and freezing day – I was sitting on my laptop doing a very important job - scrolling through Facebook. No really, I promise it was super important because it was time to look for roommates.  I had two options – try my chances with a random roommate or look for one myself via Facebook.  I decided to try the latter (spoiler alert – it worked.  Disclaimer – this doesn’t work for everybody!  I know random roommates that have also come to be best friends.)

Sitting on my bed, I was thinking about how excited I was for the upcoming future – graduation, National Finals for Distinguished Young Woman, and then college.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I did know that going forth I wanted to keep my motto the same:  Be Your Best Self.

At this point, I had a mini middle-of-halfway-through-Senior-year-spring-semester crisis.  It’s like the mid-life crisis, but lesser known and far more consuming.  It is at that point when you need to find a roommate and write a post in the roommate search that you step back and think to yourself, “Gosh, who even am I???”  I stared at the screen for at least half an hour, beginning to type out words and then instantly going back and deleting everything.  I would start typing again and then delete.  I wanted a great roommate with whom I would feel comfortable and become close friends, but how could I just say that?  How could I portray myself honestly and accurately so that I could find just the right person?  I pondered.

I texted my friends and I asked them, “Who am I?”  One of my best friends from my state program said that I was a Distinguished Young Woman who loved Nutella and baking and making people’s day.  Okay, but I wanted to figure out some more.

I thought about it some more and I realized that a few of these words do not make up who you are.  Simplifying yourself down to a short paragraph can be incredibly difficult, but I did know that I wanted to find a roommate with similar values.  Somebody who valued schoolwork (studious), would go on walks with me to exercise (healthy), would love extracurricular activities (Involved), was motivated (ambitious), and would be a responsible roommate.  Notice a pattern? Yes, it’s the pillars of “Be Your Best Self!”  I wanted a roommate that tried to be her best self, but would also encourage me to do the same, and I cannot believe how lucky I got.

Just for you, dear reader, I went back and found my post on the roommate search – it was rather long and honestly quite quirky, but it was honest and I wanted to be myself.  I mentioned the things stated above but I also said things like, “I enjoy long walks on the beach....or to the fridge. Or the library you know, whichever. I just really like walks.” (Luckily a lot of my friends here at Hopkins do too! So we get plenty of exercise and deep talk time while exploring the beautiful campus!) And also “Frozen Yogurt = life. Also Nutella is swell.” (See? I did include it!)

For some reason a few people messaged me right away, including this one girl named Victoria.  She saw that I had Distinguished Young Woman on my Facebook page and mentioned that she had also done the program.  We talked some more, but long story short, we found out that we had a lot in common and as Distinguished Young Women, we had a lot of experiences to which we could relate and valued a lot of the same things.  Within the hour, she asked me if I wanted to be roommates and we sealed the deal.

By the time that Nationals rolled around, Victoria, who was from Alabama, drove several hours to come and support myself and the Distinguished Young Woman of Alabama at the National Finals.  I was absolutely ecstatic to meet her and we talked almost every single day leading up to move in day.  Once we did move in, we were inseperable throughout orientation and every night we would come back to the room and talk for hours on literally any given subject.  As the year progressed, we became lab partners in chemistry, joined the Hopkins Hosting Society together, and went on numerous adventures over the weekends from Girls’ Night Outs to the mall to music festivals and concerts to a Haunted House.  My days were certainly brighter with someone so full of light and energy and I am so happy to be able to call her my roommate.

When I got very sick a few weeks into school she was there for me to take my temperature and make sure that I got rest.  Then, when she got sick I was able to help her.  To me, that was far more of an embodiment of a Distinguished Young Woman than anything I would see her do on stage.  Yes, her push-ups are amazing and she plays the piano beautifully but those aren’t what make her distinguished.  She is there to help me when I get stuck on a Calculus problem – it’s not that she knows how to solve it, but that she knows I’m struggling.  It’s not that I couldn’t get tea myself, but that she showed the kindness to help me out.

She encourages me to be my best and together, I think we can take on Hopkins together in a distinguished manner – as anyone can! We have a whole group of friends called World War II.  We each have an assigned country because one of our friends is a history buff.  Every single person on World War II – guy and girl – is distinguished to me.  They reach out and encourage us to reach out every Thursday for our personal Deep Talk Thursdays.  On our group chat, we make plans to work out together nearly every day and try healthier options at the cafĂ©. Every night, we all get together to be studious – answering each others questions and solving problems together.  Each of them tries to be their best self and be distinguished. Being distinguished is not reflected by a medallion, but by actions exceeding expectations not because you have to but because you want to.

Astha Berry is a college freshman at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland majoring in Neuroscience and Writing Seminars. Originally from Franklin, WisconsinAstha was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin for 2014. Learn more about Astha here!

Friday, December 5, 2014

A 3-Ingredient, Foolproof Recipe for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Brazilian Truffles - by Amy

Oh, the holidays. Based on some meticulous and highly scientific fieldwork, I’ve concluded that December is basically fair game for everything: binging on cookies, overspending at the mall, singing with reckless abandon, squeezing in final hurrahs for all the things that will be strictly and absolutely prohibited in the New Year—let’s just say, the spirit is in the air.

Spending December in the southern hemisphere, with its 80-90 degree weather, is a little strange, to say the least. While I’m still planning to bake cookies and build gingerbread houses (to an extensive holiday playlist, of course), I’m also excited to experience a Brazilian holiday season. Here’s a recipe for one Brazilian treat that’s as incredibly easy to make as it is delicious.

Brigadeiro is a very common Brazilian sweet, and is always served at birthdays. It’s rich, smooth, and chewy, with a bit of a crunch from the sprinkles. The exact origin of the name is unknown, though one popular story attributes the name to Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, a politician and military figure from Rio de Janeiro. Typically made with chocolate powder and covered in chocolate sprinkles, my favorite thing about brigadeiro is its versatility. You can be as creative as you want and, regardless of what you do, you’ll probably end up with something extremely tasty. Other than the condensed milk, which is conveniently pre-measured, all of the ingredients and steps can be “eyeballed.” If you don’t feel like rolling it, you can even eat the brigadeiro straight out of the pan with a spoon. No shame—I’m right there with you.

(cook time: 15 minutes, ready in: 1 hour)
While this is a good starting point, keep in mind that part of the fun of brigadeiro is finding your own perfect recipe! Experiment! My favorite flavors so far are coconut and coffee.

— 1 can of condensed milk (14 ounces or 395 grams)
— 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
— 7 heaping tablespoons chocolate powder like Nesquik or 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, to taste (chocolate powder is sweeter, and you may prefer a combination of both)
— chocolate sprinkles, for rolling (optional)

— Melt the butter or margarine in a medium saucepan or pot over medium heat. Add condensed milk and chocolate/cocoa powder. Cook, stirring constantly so none of the brigadeiro burns, until mixture thickens enough to show pan bottom while stirring and pulls away from pan when tilted (if you lift and invert the spoon, the mixture should hold for an instant before running down), about 10-15 minutes.
— Pour mixture into a dish and let cool. To speed up cooling, place in refrigerator.
— Grease hands and roll the brigadeiro into small balls.
— Roll balls in chocolate sprinkles (they are often then placed in mini baking cups).
— Refrigerate until fully chilled and moderately firm.
— Enjoy!

Possible variations:
— beijinho (no chocolate, shredded coconut, rolled in shredded coconut)
— coffee (with or without chocolate, coffee or coffee powder)
— nuts (in mixture or for rolling)
— crushed cookies or pretzels for rolling
— peanut butter or nutella
— white chocolate
— white chocolate and lime zest



Amy Liu is a college freshman at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey majoring in Chemical Engineering. Originally from Princeton, New JerseyAmy was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of New Jersey for 2014. Learn more about Amy here!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Big Move - by Alex

You step onto the Quad for your first day of class. You have your schedule in your hand and you’re trying hard not to be “that freshman” as you check your campus map to find out where your first class is. Campus looks like a foreign place with so many unfamiliar faces. Everyone seems to already know each other for some reason, smiling and hugging on the Quad after a long summer apart. You take a moment to look around and question if you’ve made the right choice in colleges. You try to clear that thought out of your head and make your trek to your first class.
That was me on my first day of college. I moved 12 hours away to attend the University of Alabama, and I can honestly tell you that my first day of class was the scariest day of my life. I had just gotten into a sorority and barely knew anyone from that. I walked alone on my first day of class and for some reason it felt like everyone around me knew each other, while I was alone. None of my friends from high school came to the University with me, and in that moment before my class started I felt truly alone. College is a scary step to take, no matter where you go. I had been warned about that, but I never really believed people when they said that.
Oh my, how my experience has changed. In that first week I questioned my choice to move so far away, but now I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve made some of the best friends that I could ask for and I’ve had so many great experiences that I never would have been able to have if I had stayed in Iowa for college. Moving has made me a stronger person in so many different ways. It’s tested me, pushed me to come out of my shell, and allowed me to become more open minded. We learned the word niche in my Human Development class -  basically it’s a position particularly suitable for the person occupying it. I’ve found my niche here, a place where I can truly be happy and excited about my next steps in life.

When you’re touring colleges, I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone and go to that college you’ve always dreamed of going to. No matter how far away it is. They say that when you tour your future college you will truly feel at home. You can see yourself walking around to class and making memories there. It sounds so cheesy, I know because that’s exactly what I thought when I first heard that, but it couldn’t be more right. You will feel at home at the college that you’re supposed to go to.  Who cares if it’s 10 minutes away or 12 hours, if it’s where you’re supposed to be, you’ll end up there. It’s going to be scary no matter what - college is a scary transition - but you’ll find your niche. Don’t stress about your decision, and for goodness sake, don’t let anyone else make the decision for you. It’s your life and your four years, your memories and your future. No one can control that decision for you, make it for yourself, and remember: College is the best 4 years of your life!

Alex Grady is a college freshman at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Early Childhood Education. Originally from Iowa City, IowaAlex was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Iowa for 2014. Learn more about Alex here!

Taming the Monster of Stress - by Abbie

It is getting pretty late, and you have been studying for a test, finalizing a project, or practicing a presentation for over three hours now. You can’t seem to focus, and nothing seems to be helping- not the soda, coffee, or candy. You try to relax and watch some TV, but you know that the test, project, or presentation is not leaving your mind; it will be stuck there until you know you are finished. This is a familiar situation, isn’t it?

Stress is something we normally associate with school, especially during this time of year when final exams are creeping up. As seems to be the “norm” by most girls, we get very stressed out over everything! (or maybe that is just me…) There are some things that I have learned over the past 4 or 5 years that might help you while dealing with school, a sticky situation, or any other time you feel overwhelmed by stress.

First, I have to say that studying and preparing for you schoolwork is very important! It is always good, though, to take a break. If you’re hungry, get something to eat. (Notice I say something, because if you are like me you really would rather just eat the whole pantry.) If you are tired, take a nap. After studying for a while, I actually recommend a nap. For me, sleeping helps the information soak into my head. Yes, I know that sounds a little odd, but your brain needs time to process the material you are cramming into it. So after a nice long study session, naps are a must! Whatever helps you unwind (reading, dancing, crafting), do it! Just take some time to let your brain relax. I promise, when you start studying again, it will be a lot easier to focus and retain the material.

Another way I keep my stress levels low is by staying organized. During a hectic and stressful week, I make lots of lists. Anyone who knows me, knows that I always have my calendar with me along with colored pens and post-it notes. When organizing my week, I always start with a clean piece of loose leaf; I write all of the things that need to get done- projects, papers, tests, extracurricular activities, or any tasks (literally everything). Then, I go down the list and write which day I would like each task done. This gives me a timeline, which is extremely helpful with planning when to do what. Next, I take out my calendar and write down the task on the day(s) I want to complete it (sometimes you need to break them into sections if they are large). Now I have a schedule of what I need to do and when I need to do it all. The most rewarding part is completing a task and marking it off. There is no better feeling then marking a solid “x” on top of the dash next to an item on my calendar! Now, I get this trait from my mom, but some people do not benefit from this. I would try it, but if it does not work try to do something else to keep yourself organized. For example, maybe setting an alarm on your phone with a different thing to do every couple hours would be beneficial. Or maybe making a stack of books, flashcards, or outlines in order of the topics you need to study is better. Anything that works for your learning style or preference is great!

Another thing I have learned is to not worry over the little things. This tip can apply to all kinds of situations, not just school. There are some things in life you just cannot control, and that is perfectly fine. All you perfectionists out there, this is going to be hard for you to accept (believe me), but I promise once you let go of the petty things it makes life so much more enjoyable and manageable. While studying for a test, I have no clue what material is actually going to be on there, so why worry about my grade before even taking the test? All I can do is work hard to understand all that I possibly can. The key to this? Knowing that you can control only so much. Doing your best is all you can possibly do, so do not stress about the things you cannot change or fix.

Lastly, always try to be confident and relaxed when you take a test, give a presentation, or whatever the case might be. If you go into the classroom with a smile on your face, knowing that you have prepared all you can, you will be so much more relaxed while taking the test or presenting. This is definitely a hard one for me, because I like to cram as much as I can before going in to take a final exam, but I have found that doing that only makes me more anxious and nervous. Instead, I listen to music or talk with a friend before a test. It really helps me forget about the situation and calm myself. This, in turn, helps me stay focused while actually taking the test.

I hope these few tips help you stay organized, remain relaxed, and keep focused in these stressful weeks that are approaching!

I found this great quote about stress that I must share, because I agree whole-heartedly.
“The key to winning is poise under stress.” ~Paul Brown

Stay confident and tame the Abominable Stress Man!

Abbie Hebron is a college freshman at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri majoring in Dietetics. Originally from O'Fallon, MissouriAbbie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Missouri for 2014. Learn more about Abbie here!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What If? - by Madeline

“What if?” is the best and worst question to ask yourself. What if you had taken that chance? Or what if you had never taken that risk? 

Two years ago, I had convinced myself I wasn’t going to participate in the Distinguished Young Woman Program because I thought I wouldn’t win. I looked at the task laid before me and thought “what if I fail?” Thankfully, I had a best friend to convince me that “what if I fail” is not the question that should define my life. It’s not always about winning. Sometimes it’s just about trying. It’s about dedicating yourself to hard work in order to eliminate those fears. This program brought so much to my life in the form of friends, my own personal development, and scholarship dollars, but the greatest rewards have not come with a dollar sign in front of them.

One of my favorite movies, Letters to Juliet, touches on the power of the “what if”…

“What” and “if”, two words as non-threatening as words come. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: “What if?”…

Looking back, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t participated in Distinguished Young Women. Now I find myself asking, what if I hadn’t taken the chance? The answer to that question is much scarier than any fears of failure I had entering this program. If I hadn’t taken this chance, I wouldn’t have friends in my life now that have changed my life so drastically. I would never have gotten the chance to learn so much about myself. Thankfully, I never have to wonder what the answer to that question is. I took the chance to push against the possibility of failure. Even though I didn’t fail, if I had not won a single award, I would have much preferred a “yes” to the question “what if I fail?” than an “I don’t know.” It wouldn’t be failure at all because at least I would have had a definitive answer to my question. I would have succeeded at eliminating a “what if” from my life. I wouldn’t be wondering about what could have been. I have given my best effort, and I have discovered, as I think you will too if given the chance, that the “what if I succeed?” is a much more credible question than “what if I fail?” That’s what it takes to grow. The ability to push yourself beyond the fear of failure is not an ability easily learned. The Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2013, Nicole Renard, started a #dostuff initiative. She encouraged people to simply do the stuff that they loved or wanted to do. It takes a simple decision to do stuff. All it takes is a “yes” to eliminate one “what if” from your life. All it takes is accepting the “what if I succeed” into your life. All that matters if you’ve taken control of your life from the “what if?”. And if you do your best, if you do all that you can to be your best self, no “what if” will ever stand in your way.

Madeline Powell is a college freshman at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama majoring in Biology. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Madeline was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Alabama for 2014. Learn more about Madeline here!