The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Change at the Local Level

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Change at the Local Level

         The Syrian Refugee Crisis has been a globally controversial topic as a surge of newcomers are seeking asylum in developed countries, with some having a hard time settling and adjusting into their new environment. Because of the magnitude of this problem, our group decided to help Syrian refugees in our own way by starting a clothing drive for individuals within our local community. Continue reading

UMBC Gender Inclusive Housing

When we first started this project, we knew very little about UMBC’s Gender Inclusive housing option. The information available on it was scarce and outdated. In addition, both our individual experiences and the experiences we’d heard about from others who had applied for Gender Inclusive Housing (GIH) in the past made us concerned for the situation. We’d heard that RAs and those in Living Learning Communities were not allowed to participate in Gender Inclusive Housing. We experienced being assigned an apartment instead of getting to choose where we live like those in standard housing. We were told that someone’s Gender Inclusive Housing application was denied. It seemed to us as though many aspects of the Gender Inclusive housing process were at best, inconvenient, and at worst, outright discriminatory. Continue reading

The UMBC Counseling Center

For my activism, I hoped to investigate an issue that has bothered me for a while. I felt as if mental health services were not accessible enough to UMBC students. My sophomore, I was going through a hard time, and I really thought it was time to reach out to the UMBC counseling center. However, when it came down to it, it took me over a week to build up the courage to make an appointment. Why? Because a phone call is the only option student have to make an appointment. I couldn’t wrap my head around this because nowadays everything is done over email or some app. One thing I’ve found with everyone I know with anxiety is that they hate talking on the phone. I know I do. When people with anxiety need the counseling services, they may feel as if they’re inaccessible because there is not a service that caters to their needs. So when I got the opportunity for this activism project, I wanted to do something that mattered to me.

Originally I wanted to do some type of campaign to encourage the counseling center to create an online appointment service. However, eventually it occurred to me that if they don’t have one yet there must be a reason. Here, I decided that the best course of action would be to talk to the director, Dr. Bruce Herman. After weeks of trying to find an appointment slot that work for the both of us, we finally had a very productive talk. I wanted to know about the counseling center as a whole. Dr. Herman also told me that he thinks people are starting to utilize the center’s services more now. Finally, we got to talk about the appointment services. It was really eye opening.

Now, I was facing another challenge. Dr. Herman and I discussed the pros and cons of implementing an online appointment making service. He told me that the main reason such a service doesn’t exist currently is because they would be unable to determine the severity of the situation. With phone calls or in person interaction, the employees at the counseling center are able to provide more prompt help. However, I brought up to him my experience with social anxiety. I was happy to see that he took this seriously. I remembered how, in class, we talked about how sometimes you have to work with your enemy to make change. Not to say that Dr. Herman or the counseling center was my enemy, but I never would have found out the reason why they decided against online services up to this point.

I also never would have found out that the center with be revamping their website to make it more user-friendly. Dr. Herman mentioned that he appreciated me bringing his attention to some things that they may have not considered originally. Now, they may be considering incorporating an online appointment service when the new website is implemented.

The biggest thing I learned from this project is that activism can be small. I kept reminding myself of the definition we came up with in class: that activism is living your beliefs. I fought my own anxiety (and my overwhelming school and work schedule); this was activism for me. Also, I got to sit down and talk about something that mattered to me: making mental health services more accessible to my peers. Though I may not have made the difference this semester, I hope that my views will be taken into consideration in the future of the counseling center after I’m gone. The project was a little more small-scale than I had originally hoped, but I still think I made a difference by simply implanting an idea.

I also encourage everyone to checkout the services that are already available online: http://counseling.umbc.edu/services/

Also, keep an eye out for the new-and-improved site that will also be more entwined with University Health Services (UHS).

Activist Project: Am I An Activist?

In early March I attended the National Young Feminist Leadership Conference. There I networked, learned how to utilize media in activist campaigns, and gained more knowledge about discourse. But was attending NYFLC activism? It didn’t feel like it. I had thought surrounding myself with activists would achieve something. I don’t know what that something was, but maybe that was enough? I doubted it.

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(An inspiration to us all)

Anxiety and depression played a part in this mediocrity. I don’t have much energy and motivation is rare. However, my friend Xixi attended the conference with me. She also acted as my motivation, dragging, or inviting me, to events on campus in April. She mollified my anxiety so that I could have fun at the conference and at on-campus events.

Two of the events she took me to were held by the Women’s Center; “Telling Their Stories” and “Take Back the Night”. It was great to see women of color dance, sing, and recite poetry at “Telling Their Stories”. A large crowd gathered in the Commons for TBTN to hear the stories of survivors of sexual violence. Everyone was respectful; each moment, even in silence, felt sacred. It was a spiritual experience.

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(TBTN)

But what affected me the most was the march held later that evening for TBTN. I never expected that I would ever be holding up a sign while loudly chanting and marching around campus. But I did it, and it made me feel that, in a small way, I was doing activism. I’m not a loud person, but it was comforting to be in a group so that I wasn’t the only one yelling in public.

Holding up painted cardboard and screaming was the most powerful experience I have had on this journey towards activism. It wasn’t a part of my original plan, but I think that’s a good thing, as the activism happened naturally. Overall, I feel my project is successful; I’ve learned activism can be impactful at a micro level.

I discovered that I have it in me to be an activist even if it’s a struggle. I aim to participate more in the future, look out for more events, and become more comfortable with myself. This is a never ending project; I can never stop learning about feminism and activism.

 

When No One Is Looking

When No One Is Looking

WNOIL is about unrestrained expression. It is intended to give a voice to an issue that is silently felt and shared amongst women. Today we live in a culture that objectifies and sexualizes women daily. One main symptom of the internalization of these attitudes is self-monitoring. To put it simply, because we are taught that our bodies are objects to be viewed and consumed, women are often caught in the daily struggle of ensuring that the way we look, walk, talk, smell, eat or even sit is “up to par” with the expectations of others. Often we can be limited in what we do by the fear of judgment and criticism. Because of this WNOIL has been created. It is a safe space to showcase our talent, skill, passion. Our uniqueness. It is a space to be who we are When No One is Looking. Continue reading

Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

Hannah Wilcove and Callie VanAntwerp

For our project, we made a zine focusing on the how mental illness affects the LGBTQ+ community. Initially, we hoped to make and distribute copies of the zine around UMBC’s campus, but due to time and logistical constraints, we switched to uploading and posting it digitally (a few excerpts of it are featured below). In either case, the zine’s focus on intersectionality is very important because LGBTQ+ individuals face significantly higher rates of mental illness than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Therefore, we found it especially important to provide resources for members of this community, particularly individuals at UMBC. Continue reading

Razan Zaitouneh: A True Syrian Hero

Razan Zaitouneh: A True Syrian Hero

 

Razan ZaitounehFor my history project I chose to focus on Razan Zaitouneh (Image Below). The reason I chose to cover Razan Zaitouneh to be the pinnacle of my history project is because I am a first generation Arab-American originally from Syrian descent and with the civil war going on in Syria I thought it was important to explain some important nuggets of information about Syria. It was a bit difficult to find information on Razan Zaitouneh as she led a life in a world that was much different than ours here in the U.S. However, it was more of a surprising thought that her story is not really told to many in this part of the world.

Continue reading