The Impact of Yoga

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline that originated in India, speculated to date back to pre-Vedic times. Yoga comprises of a disciplined method for attaining a goal, and has techniques of controlling the body and the mind. It is a great way to exercise as it increases muscle flexibility, body strength, and improves respiratory and circulatory health. Eventually, yoga was introduced to the Western countries by Indian yoga gurus, following the footsteps of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was the first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience, and visited Europe and the United States in the 1890s for the same.

yoga1.jpg(Source)

The rapid spread of yoga throughout the Western world is news to no one, but its impact on emerging nations is something to take note of. According to numerous studies and extensive research, it has been predicted that if the emerging nations aim to obtain the wealth and technology they desire, it is likely they will eventually discover the same shocking revelation that Americans have discovered: They are still not happy.

It has often been said that Americans are depressed and stressed out. What can be deduced from this is that our careers, cars, smart phones, and even our flat-screen TVs will not ultimately make us happy, healthy, or feel like we live a meaning life.

One of the great hopes in all this is that in the past decade there has been a huge upsurge in people embarking on self-examination. People are again asking the big question, “What is this life about?” And no matter how hard we may try to deny it, the answer we are left facing is a spiritual one.

Because of this reawakening, thousands of people are accepting yoga not only as exercise, but also as an alternative to the experience of a spiritual gathering they cannot find elsewhere. Perhaps the reason for this lies in the chief difference between religion and Western-style yoga, and that is that yoga is usually offered in a non-dogmatic format, which makes it inclusive to many more people. Because of its message of healing, unity and a simpler life, yoga may be one of the great rays of hope for our future. Why? Because worldwide, yoga is being embraced primarily by college students, the upper middle class section, and businesspeople in positions of power – the very strata of society that has the power to make the changes this world so desperately needs.

There is one organization based in Worcester which is doing exemplary work in the field of yoga. Ivy Child International is a non-profit organization that provides cross-cultural health education and psychological services for children, families, and communities. It offers free yoga classes during the summer for people of all ages! The very popular event called Yoga in the Park has been running every summer for about 4 years now.

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Participants doing yoga at Fuller Family Park last year

(Source: Ivy Child International)

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People of all ages participate! Many pregnant ladies are seen doing yoga as well, since it is beneficial for health.

(Source: Ivy Child International)

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A few members of the volunteer team who helped organize the event.

(Source: Ivy Child International)

This year, Yoga in the Park will be held every Wednesday and Saturday beginning June 1st, 2016 in the Worcester Commons. On Wednesdays, the event is from 12-1pm and on Saturdays it will be form 10-11am. All the yoga classes will be uniquely themed each time to keep the interest and the momentum going. The Ivy Child team will provide free water, sell some merchandise, and host a face painting booth for kids as well.

The team also plans to distribute short surveys to access the value and demand for this event so that they can tailor future events better suited to what the community members want.

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As we all know, Clark students who stay back in Worcester for jobs and internships often need some recreational activities to keep them occupied during the summer days! Ivy Child’s Yoga in the Park is a great way to connect with nature while exercising. I hope to see some of you there!

-Nidhi

Cover photo source: Jano India

 

 

 

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A year at Clark from my eyes

What a year has passed by!!!

The year has ended in a blink of an eye. Everything flew by so fast. For a whole year, I have learned and met a lot of people. Thanks to them, I became more attached to Clark, my second home. Clark has handed me a chance to experience so many new things. In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where I am from, all year round is summer. The weather is always hot and humid. In Clark or Worcester, every season is so different, and I can feel that every time I walk out of my dorm.

My story began in the summer when I first arrived at Clark during Orientation. The weather is nice and hot, but not as hot as Vietnam’s. My peer advisors and the people I met at Clark were so friendly; they guided me in every way I needed to get adapted to a new place, which is so far away from home. I was lost at first, and never knew where I belong to until I met some people who would later become my best friends.

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The photo was taken during the first week of Orientation

Before school started, I took a ride around Worcester with two new people I made friend with. We rode to City Hall and the area around. Worcester is old and historic, which clarifies the fact of being near Boston, one of the oldest cities in the United States that witnessed many revolutions. Worcester draws a picture of an old city on the way to innovation. There are sites under construction around, but the majority of the buildings wear an antique reddish color of the bricks. I was surprised and a little disappointed when I compared those sites with other scenes filmed at nice cities from some Hollywood movies I have watched all my life. The reality is different.

However, I did not spend much time on thinking about it as classes began. I was occupied with homework and clubs. Every start demanded effort to become used to the routine of going to classes, clubs, and even school. I made more friends, and we did many activities together. Time flew as the wind blows when fall came and went, leaving my friends and I special holidays so that we had time to understand each other more. We planned on trips together to New York and Boston on Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. The times outside school strengthened our relationships when we experienced new things together. To some of us coming from Asian countries, snow is something really special because we have never seen this before. Like children, we played with snow and built snowmen. However, somewhere in my deep soul, I felt a tingle of sadness as this time is for family gathering. I started to miss home, and friends are people I sought during those times.

With some snow showers at the beginning of the year followed by rainy days, spring has come to this land bringing new promises. Work at school became less stressful as I got used to the way Clark worked during the fall semester. I was more active in class and hung out more often with friends. I might have done more things, but to what I remember now, Spree Day was another amazing day as it marked the end of this school year. It was great to have a day off and the school turned into a recreational park with inflatable games, food, and music.

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Then, finals came and we never had much time to play until our last exam finished. It‘s too fast!

It all ended in the same place it started. I said goodbye to my friend and this year at Clark at this summer. My whole year is like a full cup filled with both joy and sadness. Everyone took a different route in the summer, but we understand that “All good things must come to an end”. However, in our heart, we know that it is just a beginning of our long distance relationship with Facebook and Skype and we will soon reunite.

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I saw my friend off when she was about to took off to the airport 

– Anh

All photos were provided by the author.

In Conversation with Dr. Ramon Borges-Mendez

Professor Ramon Borges-Mendez is an Associate Professor of IDCE and of Community Development and Planning at Clark. I had the opportunity to be a part of one of his FYI courses and then later be a Peer-Learning Assistant for the same. He has an extensive background when it comes to engaging and advocating for diversity. His work spans over a myriad of issues such as immigration, Latinos in the U.S. and labour force and workforce development, et cetera.

The Things That Matter team is trying to reach out to the larger Clark community, especially to individuals who are culturally active and around. In this effort I reached out to Professor Borges-Mendez for an interview. This is how the conversation turned out:

  1. When did you first come to the USA and what were your first impressions?

I first came to the in 1982 as a student to UMass Amherst. While the US wasn’t foreign to me coming from Puerto Rico, my first year here, it was difficult to adapt to the cold and the rural area. I missed just going to the corner shop and grabbing a coke.

  1. What do you miss the most about home?

The beach. I loved to sit on the beach and write; the water here doesn’t get warm till North Carolina. Beaches and tropical weather is my comfort zone and I miss that.

  1. How did you start working at Clark?

When I left college, I already had a family. I first moved to Chile for 5 years, followed by Washington D.C. Then moving onto Boston. Back in the day, getting tenure was really difficult. It was almost like Clark chose, I knew some people here, they knew off me and it was like a match made in heaven.

  1. What Classes are you teaching this semester, or in the upcoming academic year?

I have been on sabbatical this past year but next fall I am teaching 5 classes, Including a First-year Intensive class that I taught you and 4 other classes that range from, workforce and urban development to local and regional food systems. It is a lot on my plate for next semester but I don’t have much to worry about next semester.

  1. Do you think Clarkies are different from students of other institutions?

Yes, definitely. At Clark, the students are very self-selective; they come looking for specific things such as interaction with the outside world, interdisciplinary studies, potential for interacting with professors etc. They are also not very pretentious and are very authentic, not trying to impress anybody. Another advantage of having such students is that when you’re teaching a class, they actually want to be in the class because they are interested not because they are forced to be there.

  1. How do you think Clark fairs when it comes to Diversity?

Clark is amazing when it comes to other places I have worked at, but then again there is a generation gap. I think about diversity differently, I like to talk about it from a perspective of empowerment, the baby boom generation was very active about diversity throughout the whole career. There was a big change in ideology with Gen. The millenials, my children including, always have arguments about topics such as how can we talk about fluidity in cultural diversity. I believe that Change begins with you and the extent to which you connect. The millenials need to move beyond social media, to tangible change. There are places where people don’t have access to the things you have. My challenge to the millenials is to use tools but don’t have blind faith in them, connect beyond the medium.

 7.How do you think Clark as an entity can improve?

I haven’t seen the use of art and connectivity to forward the idea of equity and diversity at Clark. A lot of activism is driven by a lot of complaining. As a student or leader, one needs to understand that the fight for equity is going to be uphill. The changes happening nowadays have come at the expense of lot of discussion and sacrifice.

8.Have you faced stereotypes/ discrimination?

Oh yeah, in Worcester and on campus, everyday, I just have learnt to deal with it. It’s about not losing the focus and focus on the bigger picture and problems. Once I got invited to speak at an event, in the program all the other speakers were referred to Doctors but they just assumed I wasn’t one. I don’t assume anything; I have been pleasantly surprised in environments, which I was expecting to be bad outcomes from and vice versa. People are afraid of asking the questions. People get afraid and touchy about dialogue, instead of talking about it. It’s about learning and managing assumptions. Create a respectful dialogue. Focus on new forms of embracing diversity.

  1. On a lighter note what are some of your favourite Clark events you’ve been to?

I go to a lot of events such as Gala, Asian New Year, sports games, all sorts of lectures, academic spree day. I enjoy looking the work students are doing.

– Radhika

 

 

 

Weekdays in Worcester

Anh earlier posed the question: “How do you spend the weekend?” in her first piece on our blog. In this post, I pose you another question: How do you spend the weekday?!

I’ll tell you mine. I spend it on the Clark campus, usually running around between Jefferson, JC, the gym, and the library. With my relationship with the cold (we don’t get along well), I try my best to minimize my trips from here to there. You’ll find it hard to make me leave home once I’ve settled in.

Although I had set a goal for myself since first year to push beyond the gates of Clark, success proved harder to obtain than expected. Many events and opportunities are shared through the LEEP or Innovation and Entrepreneurship department emails, but I hardly make it to any. With the International Gala happening one week and the Variant Dance show the next weekend, I was almost not sure if I would make it to the talk by Muhammad Yunus on Tuesday, April 5th.

But life had been feeling a little dry, and I thought why not? If not now, then when? And so I somehow worked it out and found a ride to Mechanics Hall in the evening of April 5th.

For those of you who don’t know him, Muhammad Yunus is the founder of the globally acclaimed Grameen Bank (“Village Bank”) in Bangladesh. He pioneered the idea of micro-finance through reaching out to small villages and offering small loans to poor communities. For this project, Yunus received various awards and prizes, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Why, you might ask, would a Nobel Laureate come speak in Worcester? I was wondering the same thing. It turns out that our friend Becker College is opening up a branch of Muhammad Yunus’s Yunus Social Business Center at its campus. This Center will be the first of its kind in the United States, and the fifteenth in the world. Yunus’s visit serves as a celebration of the opening of the Center’s doors.

Meeting global leaders, for me, has always been exciting. It’s exciting to put a human presence to a name, to realize that the accomplishments that seem out of the world were brought by another human being with a brain and a heart just like anyone else’s. His story itself was very inspirational. The bank had started when he, a professor in a university in Bangladesh, felt frustrated at the disconnect between the discipline of economics and the reality of poverty around him. It was specifically the famine in 1974 that pushed him to make small loans to families from low-income communities. This, then, grew into the bank. His story includes various points of obstacles, and how he overcame it with creativity.

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(Photo by author)

The end of his talk brought all of us to stand up and applaud him for his work. Despite that cheery mood, the Q&A session brought about some critical thoughts. I myself wished he would have spoken more about the role of the government, and how his model could create better forms of governance. At the beginning of the talk, he had noted that social business is necessary to combat government failures. However, I am skeptical that business alone can solve our society’s problems.

After the talk, I looked up some criticisms that Yunus and his micro-finance models have received. An article by The Guardian published back in 2011 referenced a study that essentially concluded that “the enthusiasm for micro finance has been rooted in the myth of the heroic individual entrepreneur, the rags to riches fairytales, Dick Whittington style.”  Indeed, various points during Yunus’s speech were so well told that I felt like I was listening to a self-discovery story rather than learning about a solution to a major world problem. It was almost too optimistic and simplistic, the way he glided over the limitations of his solution. The plot flew with no interruptions. Human ingenuity could solve everything.

Yet while I am inclined to disclaim his solution, I can’t. While this judgment may mean little, his presence seemed kind and well-intentioned. Can you really judge a person for trying? I mean, at least they’re doing something!

I am again reminded of how challenging convention and being critical all the time can be depressing and limiting. That day, I was outside the iron gates – I might as well let myself be fooled and optimistic for some time.

In her post, Anh talked about how weekends can get boring if you only stay on campus. Well, the mind can get trapped if you only spend weekdays on campus, too. Just a little change in scenario and crowd here and there can be quite rejuvenating.

In fact, once you get started, it’s almost hard to stop. On Thursday April 14th, I headed to the DCU Center for the Worcester Woman’s Leadership Conference. As usual, I could almost hear the skeptic go off in my head as I learned that one of the keynote speakers had worked at Fox News. Yet her words were so inspiring, and resonated with me in a way I hadn’t been for a while (Check out Mel Robbins’ How to stop screwing yourself TEDx talk). I then allowed myself to forget the politics and enjoy the moment.

It made me think that you really can’t rationalize everything. Not everything is supposed to be debated, to be argued, to be criticized. Many times, it’s best just to feel and empathize.

After all, that’s how you have hope.

-Charis

(Cover image by author)

Clark Profile: Greg Doerschler

“I always liked nature, open space, and the outdoors, and the fact that our open lands are nearby. I couldn’t imagine myself living in the middle of a large city without natural spaces around me.”

“I think those spaces are very important in protecting nature. When folks come to Clark, they usually think of the outdoors as the White Mountains up in New Hampshire, the Green Mountains in Vermont, and the Adirondacks in New York. Those are wonderful places, but there are also other places that are 10 minutes away. They are there because the people such as folks in the Greater Worcester Land Trust (GWLT) care about protecting open spaces. If we do not protect these spaces, as cities and communities develop they will be swallowed up by development. Protecting lands enhances the quality of life for everyone around us.”- Greg Doerschler.

I had a chance to talk with Greg Doerschler at his office on a sunlit morning. His room is small, but really pleasant because of its lively environment, with many photos of happy faces from many outdoor trips hanging on the walls. Greg is a senior analyst in Clark’s Office of Institutional Research and the adviser to Clark’s Outing Club. I am sure that many of you have at least heard of this club, or are on its mailing list, or have taken part in one of its trips. Greg came to Clark in April 2000, and started advising the Outing Club in 2002. He is from Connecticut, but attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and since then has chosen to reside in Worcester.

I knew Greg from being involved and becoming a member in the Outing Club. I thought he was a very active and passionate adviser in the club, so I wanted to know more about him through this interview. As I got to know him better, it turned out to be a very nice talk.

His job at Clark is within Clark’s administration – he works with numbers and survey data pertaining to the Clark student body. If I had not talked to him, I would not have known that every college has an Institutional Research Office. The aim of this office is to collect, maintain, analyze and share data about Clark, such as the information you see in College Guidebooks and websites like U.S. News. He said that in order to improve educational policy, college administrators need evidence to see whether their decisions are effective. The responsibility of the Institutional Research Office is to measure the results and provide necessary information for the creation of better policies.

Besides working in the office, Greg is also engaged in the business of the Outing Club. He loves to lead and organize Nature Connection trips for Clark students. He is most excited about reaching out to those who are not predisposed to hiking to go up a mountain. “Yeah, I will give it a try”—one of the students signing up for a trip might say, and they end up falling in love with the hike.

Greg gains his joy by creating enjoyable moments for others. He does not want Clarkies to think that Main Street is all there is to Worcester. After seeing The Cascades – a 300 foot waterfall in Worcester – and the lands protected by the GWLT, many Clark students have decided to do volunteer work, internships, and LEEP projects with GWLT. Their first connection with the GWLT and its properties is often through an Outing Club trip.

As a last question, I asked Greg whether he would want to see any changes at Clark in the future. He said that he loves Clark the way it is right now, and hopes its mission does not change. He wants the character of the student body to remain. He wishes to see the student body as individuals who always feel at home at Clark, and connected with everyone. And he hopes the choice which students make to be at Clark is not based solely on affordability, or good financial package, but because you find Clark’s small but friendly environment to be a good fit. You like the LEEP model of education at Clark, and you choose the school because you want to make good things happen and challenge convention. You pick a school not just because you want to be able to earn a good salary, but because you yearn for a better education to be able to pursue your passion to thrive.

“Being with the students is the way I get my energy.” Greg likes to mention his experience with the Outing Club to explain how he has changed and learned many things by being an adviser. I want to say thank you to Greg as his way of thinking changed my perspectives about Clark’s mission, and his ideal inspires my love for nature. His passion is amazing, and his contribution to the love of nature in the Clark community is worth recognizing.

Check out this Facebook page about Outing Club trips, and you will have an idea of what a trip is like. I hope to see you on one of our trips!

-Anh 

(Cover photo by author)

The Gala Effect

This year, the International Students Association (ISA) is introducing a new component to its widely anticipated, annually held International Gala – community awareness. Although Gala has always had attendants from the Worcester community, it has not actually created connections with local Worcester organizations. With the scale that Gala has expanded and grown into since its first time, ISA is then reaching out towards community organisations in the hopes of continuing to celebrate and appreciate diversity and cultural differences.

I was fortunate enough to be a part of the ISA team initiating this exciting collaboration. Just last week, we visited the African Community Education Program (ACE) and the Southeast Asian Coalition (SEAC) to talk to them about their attendance at Gala and film their daily programs.

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(Source: ACE)

ACE is located in the basement of the Fanning Building near by City Hall. We were welcomed by a cheerful Brianna, who is actually a Clark alumni herself. She showed us the after school program, where we were greeted by curious students. These kids come from all over Africa, from Liberia to Uganda, and have had life experiences beyond their ages. ACE serves as a valuable space for them to connect and make friends with people of similar stories, and to receive support for their transitions into life in the US. Besides the tutoring program, we also witnessed games being played in the gym and leadership skill-building activities.

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(Source: ACE)

SEAC is located even closer to Clark, in the Denholm Building just across City Hall. I visited SEAC on a Friday evening, and was surprised to see the space completely packed. A wide room was full of kids in little suits, learning a form of martial arts. There were 3-4 elderly people following an older woman’s Tai Chi moves. SEAC’s programs, like ACE’s, are directed to assisting immigrants, refugees, and other residents to transition into the Worcester community. Its educational activities include, among many, English as a second language (ESL) classes for students aged 13-87, SAT prep, and tutoring sessions. As it was a Friday evening, the atmosphere was more laid back. We got to casually talk to a couple of older kids and watch them practice a certain performance (that you will see if you come to Gala, tonight! [April 1st at the Kneller Athletic Center]).

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(Photo by author, Charis Smuthkochorn)

As a Southeast Asian, I can share with you firsthand how it feels to have a space like this – it feels like home. To be honest, I hardly expected to feel like that because I have had quite an international background (I went to an international school in Bangkok and have been studying outside Thailand for several years now). Yet being surrounded with people of faces similar to yours does create quite the effect. An old lady who ran the program, and commutes to Boston every day to help out, actually reminded me a lot of my grandmother. The kids especially made me miss my siblings.

And of course, it really wasn’t just the faces. It was also the way the kids treated the adults and the kinds of jokes they said. It made me miss home, but it also gave me a feeling of warmth to realize that spaces like these can exist thousands of miles away.

It is not hard, then, to imagine how valuable these spaces are for those who have not had preparation as I did to move out of their country, or those who didn’t even have the choice to do so. Community-based spaces like these constitute and foster the diversity of the Worcester community. In both ACE and SEAC, I heard students tell me of the friendships they got to make in these organizations.

Tonight [April 1st], we welcome ACE, SEAC, and CENTRO to our campus. They will be sharing their stories, as well as tabling and telling us of potential opportunities to help them fulfill their missions to serve the community. I highly encourage you all to attend the event and/or visit their website. The opportunity to help others should be considered a privilege, and we are in this case extremely privileged to be living so close to these opportunities.

Although I didn’t get to visit CENTRO, other ISA members visited it this week and I am sure it is fostering the kind of positive community-building that ACE and SEAC are doing as well. CENTRO is, in fact, the largest minority led nonprofit organisation in Central Massachusetts. Although it was first established by Puerto Ricans for Puerto Ricans, its work today serves clients all the way from the Americas to Asia.

See you at Gala!

– Charis

How do you spend the weekend?

“Worcester is small”

“Yeah, it is too small to do anything. It is boring.”

“Any plans for the weekend?”

“Sleep”

“Study”

When I first came to Clark, I asked my friends those questions, and their answers were the same. We are in the middle of nowhere. How can Worcester possibly be the second largest city in Massachusetts? I do not know what to do. During the weekends, all I can think of is to stay in my dorm the whole time. As I was bored, I thought of every way to transfer to another area.

Is Worcester that monotonous? Surely, it is not.

Let me tell you how I have come to truly enjoy my weekend. First, I came across the club called AKOG—All Kinds of Girls, that happens to be at Atwood. It was pretty easy to get in, so I signed up to be a mentor just to kill some time with someone. However, my first intention changed as I got to know more about this organization. Our mission is to help middle to high school girls to recognize their strengths, and find ways to express them by having mentors and girls get together for some enjoyable activities. Each Saturday has a theme, such as ‘I have a dream day’, V-day (Valentine Day, Violence Prevention Day), and Science Day.

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A day at Atwood (Photo provided by Madilyn Jacobsen) 

This is a good way to make connections between ages, and make friends with other mentors on a very fun and relaxing Saturday. I find the activity really helpful when we can stay in the same setting, and hang out with little girls. I feel like a part of a community, and I am doing something to change these girls into better empowered people, listen to their stories and feel happy for their achievements, or be supportive for their bad days. Seeing these girls change every day and become more open to mentors makes my work enjoyable.

And do not worry if you aren’t females. There is something else in store if you want to work with children. Worcester Refugee Assistant Project (WRAP) also needs volunteers on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Together, we are committed to assisting refugees from Burma as well as other Asian countries by providing support, mentoring, and tutoring their kids. On Saturdays, the organization has theme days for the kids. I go there on Mondays to help the kids with their homework. I also go on some Saturdays, and sometimes, they also have plans on Sundays. If you are interested in this project, you can check out the link at http://www.worcesterrefugees.org/about-wrap.html.

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In case you are really tired from your weekdays, and would rather relax, you can sign up to go on trips organized by the Outing Club at Clark. You should plan ahead, as the space fills up pretty quickly.

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I have come to find Worcester as home as I tried to discover the parts of it. It is not as glorious as Boston with skyscrapers and lights all around the city. Instead, it brings you a peaceful and silent beauty. Keep exploring, and you will find the things you feel you belonged to. A walk around the Worcester Common at the City Center, or at the park near campus are sometimes enough to bring my feelings up.

Overall, I just want to say that if we want to do something and make a meaningful weekend, there are plenty of ways. I hope you find one of these activities interesting to engage with.

-Anh 

(Cover photo source) 

*Note from the editor: Anh Mai Nhu is a first year student at Clark University. This is her first blog post for The Things That Matter. Welcome to the crew, Anh!