My Weekend in SF

Luna, Belgium

Day 1

I arrived on Thursday morning at 10 am in the financial district. I reunited with my best friend from Belgium and it was kind of an emotional moment. To catch up and start slowly, we ate brunch in a Starbucks, which was really nice and chill. After dropping my stuff at her house, we went straight into the center of the city where we walked around a little bit and in the evening we went to the cinema and saw The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. We came back home quite early because we needed to have a lot of energy for the next day which was Black Friday!

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Day 2

Black Friday was a really hectic, but super fun, day. We woke up at 5 am so we could start our shopping at 6 am. Our first stop was Urban Outfitters where we found matching Champion sweaters for a really good price. After that, came Sephora where we spent 75$ for an initial value of 240$ ! Then came Westfield which is one of the biggest malls in San Francisco. We went a little crazy and got really good deals at Pacsun, Hollister and Footlocker ! Forever 21 was also a success and overall we managed our time and money really well. We stuck to our plan and it was one of the most successful shopping-sprees. At 7 pm there was the tree-lightning on Union Square which was like a winter wonderland…

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Day 3

We decided that Saturday would be tourist-day! First thing we did when we woke up was take a little walk in the neighborhood because it was really vintage-looking and quiet. After that we visited famous places like : The Painted Ladies, Golden Gate Bridge, Ghirardelli Square, Fishermans Wharf. That took the whole day and in the evening we went back to Union Square and did a really festive activity : ice skating! This was the most magical moment of the whole trip and the whole place really looked like a winter wonderland. After that we went up to Macy’s rooftop because that is where the Cheesecake Factory is located. We ate the most delicious cheesecake, one was tiramisu-flavored and the other one was raspberry-lemon. We called it a day and went back home for a good night sleep.

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Day 4

For our last day together, we really wanted to enjoy each other’s company so we just did what made us happy. In the morning we went to the Golden Gate Park  where we had coffee. We saw amazing buildings and the weather was great, too. For lunch we tried a typical Frisco-dish which was soup in a bread-bowl. Because we are both vegetarians we ordered a tomato soup and it was delicious! The best place to eat this is on Fishermans Wharf at the pier and it is called Boudin Bakery. For desert we tasted a holiday doughnut from Krispy Kreme Doughnut and it was the best doughnut I have ever had … This day passed by quite quickly and it was now time for me to come back to Santa Barbara.

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It was really hard to say goodbye again, but I had the best time with my favorite person in this world. Even though I miss her like crazy I know we will see each other again soon!.Thank you, Lou !

The Effects of Cyber Bullying in Adolescents

Luciana Pesce, Chile

All the teenagers in our society have a mobile phone that allows them to be permanently connected in social networks, but if used incorrectly also can bring serious problems. Nowadays cyber bullying occurs  very frequently with teenagers. This a very substantial problem because this can lead to depression, anxiety, impotence and even suicide. Cyber attacking can be very bad for the person affected by this, because it influences their self-esteem and spreading rumors and intimidation is nothing good. Also this type of bullying is particularly worrying because it is constant, general and very, very public.

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Firstly,  cyber bullying can occur at all times and affect the mental health of adolescents  to have depression and isolate themselves from their responsibilities, family and friends, leaving them helpless to the insults directed towards them. To show that, many teenagers end up committing suicide since they can no longer live with the insults, or being humiliated, and even the harassed cannot afford to rest from the fear when they arrive at home or anywhere else away from the environment of their stalker.

Furthermore, once published, the content shared on social media and instant messaging applications become uncontrollable, making it impossible for the victim to know who the message has reached or if it will be repeated. As a result of this, the harassed person does not know when or by whom he will be bothered, generating anguish and the desire to end everything around him to feel relieved.

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Finally, the victim hides his situation as a result of the shame, until he even think that he is to blame for what is happening to him, and think what they say about him is true. This leads to parents not knowing what is happening to their child, and that they try to solve it without any positive results. If the parents knew, they could solve it with psychological or even legal help, getting beneficial results for their child.

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As I said before, cyber bullying is very bad, but there are some ways to prevent it. The first one is to talk with the kid about what is cyber bullying, if he knows someone who is being bullied and what the child should do if notices acts of bullying. Secondly, parents should monitor social media activity, including Facebook and Instagram, view all text messages, call logs and general online behavior.

There is no simple solution to cyber bullying or the best way to handle a bully, but, since cyber bullying is rarely limited to one or two incidents, it’s far more likely to be a sustained attack over a period of time. But you can handle it with not blaming yourself, do not beat yourself up, try to view bullying from a different perspective. Report the threats of harm.  Do not seek revenge or do not respond to any messages or posts.

Why Danes are The Happiest People on Earth

Louise Mohr, Denmark

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Again this year the Danish people are dominating the World’s Happiness Report and ranks among the top three happiest of 155 countries surveyed. On the other hand, the U.S. is with a four-spot drop, ranked 18th this year.

So why is it that these pastry-loving, LEGO building people are winning the happiness race? And how do they compare to the States?

The Danish welfare state works.

Danes pay some of the highest income tax rates in the world (45% on average), but, in exchange, every Dane gets free health care, free K-college education (the students are paid approx. $900 a month by the government to go to school), highly subsidized child care and generous unemployment benefits.

Some might lift an eyebrow over the high tax-rate, but the Danes don’t look at the tax rate as a burden, but as an investment in our society and quality of life.

If you lose a job in Denmark, it’s not a big deal. Unemployment is built into the system. This is in connection to the “flexibility model”, which, quickly explained, is a system built on freedom for employees. The government programs retrain workers and position them better for the job market. By doing this, we create strong connections and also provide a guaranteed safety net, giving unemployment benefits for up to two years.

The government also has a great retirement system, providing for the elders over 65+ population through a combination of state-founded pension and private employer-funded pension programs. This not only relieves the stress for the elderly, but makes them feel secure about their retirement.

Here’s a video that explains further: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=095ULhvaH5E

The perhaps most important aspect of the Danish culture is “hygge”, which they value as a cultural construct. It refers to high-quality social interactions. It’s used as as a noun, adjective or verb, and events and places can also be “hyggelige” (hygge-like). “Hygge” is most commonly translated as “cozy”, but is more an intentional intimacy, which can happen when you have safe, balanced and harmonious shared experiences.

“Hygge” is the Danish sense of well-being. Although Denmark is a highly individualized country, “hygge” promotes egalitarianism and strengthens the trust between people. It’s fair to say that “hygge” is fully integrated into the Danish culture psyche and culture.

But Denmark is not the only  country that has a concept similar to hygge – the Norwegains have “koselig”, the Swedes “mysig”, the Dutch “gezenlligheid” and the Germans “gemütlichkeit”.

The U.S. also places a high value on individualism, but there’s no real cultural equivalent of “hygge”. Income is generally associated with happiness. Even though the GDP is on the rise and the unemployment has been declining, levels of happiness in the U.S. have been steadily decreasing.

The U.S. income also continues to be an issue. There’s been a marked decrease in interpersonal trust toward institutions like the government as well as the media.

At it’s core, “hygge” is about building trust and intimacy with others. Americans could probably use a little more of that in their lives.

As a Dane in America, i find the the lack of free healthcare the most problematic. The United States reminds to be the only industrialized country in the world that fails to provide universal healthcare for all citizens. The concerns regarding this are significant and continues. Most people here are scared to get sick, and because of the high cost they avoid the doctors. American healthcare is the source of innumerable issues for many, both those withe and without coverage. These issues are not limited to the financial prospect, but has a far-reaching influence on their quality of life, psychological stability, and fundamental happiness for society at large.

After spending 3 months here, i can vouch for the rudimentary differences between America and Denmark. The divergences extend beyond policy, logistics or political agendas. There is a complete different feel to the place, a different tone to the culture on a fundamental level. I truly believe that America could learn something extremely vulnerable form the danish culture, if they had the trust to do so.

How to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Luna, Belgium

Having a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy mindset. You need to be in peace with yourself to be able to have access to that stable lifestyle you want. It’s all about finding that balance between self-care and allowing yourself to have a treat. It is important to know how your body works and how to improve your way of living.

The motivation and will to become healthy comes from within and you are the only person controlling your body. If you really want it, go and get it. It is as simple as that. You have to find certain sources of motivation to keep track of that lifestyle you want to achieve. As long as your mindset is in a good place, you will be, too !

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One of the first things that is crucial to know and that you’ve probably heard a billion of times is drinking water. It makes you feel cleansed 24/7 and it is recommended to drink 180 ml per day. It will keep your system going and your skin clear!

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Eating healthy always sounds so boring and like it’s something you have to endure, but it is way more easy and delicious than it sounds. You can find tons of easy recipes online that are so healthy and really tasty. Another way to achieve health in general is finding healthier options for things like butter, sugar and other harmfull products we might use a little too much. Coconut oil, Agave syrup are way better options for those two examples. Try to include plant-based products as much as you can in your diet because those are the most beneficial food sources you can eat. Vegetables and fruits are really important but, they’re not the only ones out there ; quinoa, all kinds of rice, grains, beans, lentils … are  fibers and protein sources that are so easy to make, way healthier and better for the environment than meat or fish.

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After you get your diet down and decide which kinds of food are working for you and your inner body, you need to focus on your body image. That is where exercise will become part of your routine. Try to find ways you like to exercise because going to the gym is not always a pleasure for everyone. Dancing, hiking, yoga, swimming sounds like fun to me and are really nice activities you can do with other people.

Finally, you need to see this as a better way of living and not a restrictive way of living. You need to enjoy it in order to maintain it. That’s why balance is the most important thing. You should be able to treat yourself, but have a healthy lifestyle in general.

https://www.pickuplimes.com/

 

DIPG Childhood Brain Cancer

Larissa Bufka, Germany

Do you ever feel you can’t control what is about to happen in the future? That’s how many parents feel if their child is diagnosed with Diffuse Instrinsic Pontine Glioma ( DIPG).

Most of the people in the world have never heard of this type of cancer, so what is DIPG?

DIPG is a highly aggressive and difficult to treat brain cancer. Most likely children between the age 1- 14 are diagnosed. The cancer is located in the base of the brain, more specifically the brain-stem (Pons). The pons is located in the middle of the brain and is one of the most important parts. It is responsible for breathing, sleeping, blood pressure and many more.

a graphic diagram of the human brain showing the names of different areas

What causes it?

Many other cancers are influenced and caused  by the environment such as smoking, drinking, drug abuse, radiation and inherited genes from their parents, but there is no link or connection to either one of them to DIPG. There is nothing that parents could have changed. New studies have shown that the brain cancer is connected to the brain development, which suggested that the disease process may be influenced by particular cells that are present in the highest concentrations while the brain is growing and developing. That could also explain why only children get DIPG and not adults. There is not a lot of research yet, so nobody knows what exactly causes the brain tumor.

What are the symptoms?

The tumor is growing really fast, so the symptoms are appearing all of a sudden and get worse really quickly. The tumor is growing in the brainstem and is growing really fast. Because of the location in the middle of the brain, children usually have problems at the beginning with the face muscle and also with the eye movement. Later, one side of the face drops. Children also experience bad headache and vomiting. They have problems chewing, swallowing, and get hearing problems, many children also become deaf.  After a time, the tumor causes limb weakness, difficulty standing or walking, abnormal gaits and unbalanced limb movements.

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Is there a treatment or even a cure?

Surgery 

Doctors can not remove the brain tumor with surgery and there are two reasons. Reason number one is because the pons is located in the middle of the brain. A surgeon could not get to the tumor without damaging the surrounding brain. Damaging the neighboring area could be even more fatal, and would cause neurological damage. The second reason is that, even if the doctor is able to surgically remove the tumor, it would return soon. The reason for that is that the tumor is not a solid tumor, which is a big or small mass of cancer cells which can be removed easily. A DIPG tumor spreads between the healthy brain mass, so it is impossible to remove all of the cancer cells and not damage the healthy part of the brain. The tumor would return immediately.

Radiation

Radiation helps many DIPG patients. It lets the tumor shrink a little and makes the patients feel more comfortable. Many symptoms are not as bad as they could be. But radiation is not strong enough, so the tumor is grows back within month.

Chemotherapy

In the past years many DIPG patients have  tried different kinds of chemotherapy, sometimes alone or sometimes with other drugs, but not one of them has shown any benefit for survival.

Are there any survivors and what is the long-therm outlook?

The advanced medicine has done nothing for the children with DIPG. There has been no change since 1960. A child diagnosed with DIPG gets the same treatment/prognosis as he would have 60 years ago. There is no chance of survival. Some other cancers had a survival chance of 10 % in 1960, but nowadays they have a survival rate of 90% (Wilms tumor) so the survival rate improved by 80 %, which is amazing. Children who get diagnosed with DIPG die usually nine month after the prognosis. In some cases, they survived two years, but it depends how advanced the tumor is. Just 5% survive for five years. No one who has been diagnosed with DIPG has ever survived. The long-therm outlook is to make them feel as comfortable as possible. This type of cancer should get more attention and there should be more test and research to help many families and children in the future.

I choose this subject to bring more awareness about this specific brain cancer and that everyone should be happy to be healthy and alive:)

 

 

 

A Letter to My Future Self

Dear Future Self,

You are probably reading this, maybe ten years later from the day you’ve written it to yourself. You might remember the day you were sitting in class at the EF school in Santa Barbara, and got the assignment to write about something you’d like. Then you came up with the idea to write about the most exciting experience of your life so far, to give yourself something to look back on when you’re older.

When you were only fourteen years old, you first visited the United States. After growing up in such a small country as the Netherlands, coming to the States was a huge eye- opener; it was the real experience of seeing everything big, bigger and biggest. You loved it, and from the first visit on you already knew you’d be coming back to this country one day. That whole plan started to come together during your last year of high school. You really din’t know what to study after your graduation, so you decided to take a year off from school. First a few weeks of hard work to make some money, then off to the USA for three months to take an English language course with EF.

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That’s where we are now. Let’s help you out a little: the day you wrote this letter, was your 12th day in Santa Barbara. The arrival wasn’t completely as expected; you had some struggles with your visa at the border and the welcome in your host family was not what you’d hoped for. Anyways, the first week of school was full of fun activities and you already met lots of new people, so there wasn’t any moment left to actually think about home. The second week you slowly started to settle in; the jetlag was over and you started to get familiar with the everyday school routine. You couldn’t believe that almost two weeks had already passed, and that you’d be flying to Miami Beach in five weeks to stay there for another seven weeks.

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And after that? I can’t tell you yet. I decided to take every day as it comes, and to not worry too much about ‘what will happen next.’ I can only tell you about my hopes. I hope my time in the States will be so memorable, that when you are reading this in the future, you will still look back on this time as the best time of your life. I also hope, that this year off from school helped you to figure out what you wanted to study at university in the next school year, and I hope that this trip helped you to become the person you are today. In this moment, I have already met a lot of people, but I believe there are way more people to get to know, and more beautiful places to be explored. I truly hope that all these new connections will slowly turn into true friendships that will last for a lifetime. How amazing would it be, if you can say that you’re still seeing people you’ve met during your time in the USA? I can only hope for the best.

Lot Steenvoorden, The Netherlands