Tag Archives: Opinion

With Maturity Comes Despair

23 Feb

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.”

*Jane Austen

Opinion: Study abroad is not about being on vacation

8 Sep

“Study abroad is not about being on vacation”

by Molly McSweyn via “UPBeacon”


I tossed over in bed, uncomfortable and although exhausted, unable to fully fall asleep. My phone sat beside me, vibrating from texts. I heard movement outside of my door, quick steps, and feet hitting the staircase. My frustration grew, knowing I had to be up in a few hours to drive to Slovenia for the weekend. I finally sat up, trying to see if my roommate was having trouble sleeping as well. She wasn’t in her bed. I quickly slipped on a sweatshirt and made my way downstairs.

Turning the corner into our living space I saw almost half of the people in my program huddled together around our TV. No one spoke, no one even saw me enter the room. They watched the shaky cameras, the nervous newscasters, the pictures of horrified people. They watched as Paris officials reported the numbers: 130 dead, hundreds wounded.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was too young to understand the gravity of the situation when thousands of Americans were killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. But at 20 years old, sitting among my peers and witnessing destruction in a city I had left just a week before, I understood. We sat for hours. Other than texting loved ones back home to reassure them that we weren’t in France anymore, we hardly spoke, but we sat together in solitude and shock.

As the night crept towards morning I asked the group I was supposed to travel with about Slovenia. If we were going to go we had to sleep, to get rest to wake up early. A few outright said they wouldn’t travel. A couple more said their parents didn’t want them to go. And the others just seemed confused about a course of action. We ultimately decided to cancel and all retreated to our beds.

But again, I tossed and turned. I thought of sitting beneath the Eiffel Tower, swaying in a hammock and eating lavender macaroons. I thought of sipping a Moscow Mule and dancing until 2 a.m. in a nightclub off of the Champs Elysees. I thought of the Louvre, the crepes and the winding streets. And I thought of the horrendous loss of 130 people.

But I also thought of fear. I thought of terrorism, a term that had always brought to mind images of dark rooms, closed doors, and hatred. And I thought of the goal of the people who had just torn through Paris. A terrorist’s goal is to terrorize and by not traveling we were allowing them, in some ways, to win.

I spent over five more months in Europe traveling to countless countries with my friends and experiencing some of the most incredible moments of my life. Study abroad is so much more than country hopping, pub-crawls and voluntourism. Study abroad is not just about being on vacation.

The terrorism did not end in Paris. It spread to the tourism hotspots of Belgium and Istanbul and continues daily throughout the Middle East. At times, I wondered about our safety as students abroad. We live in a world where I cannot make my way through a full day without hearing about another death or attack or bombing, stretching around the entire world. I am not saying we have to abandon caution or rational action, but we must find a balance. We must find a middle line to walk, between safety and living life to the fullest without letting fear inhibit us. . . . . .


Airline Reviews: American Airlines

20 Feb





American Airlines (AA)–Domestic (1 flight).  


Boeing 737

Pre-flight Interactions:

This is where everything went VERY wrong on the part of American Airlines.  I ordered the tickets via CheapTickets.com, so the process was fairly simple.  They didn’t show up on the AA list before my flight though, so I had to have the email confirmation in hand.


I was coming in from Seoul, South Korea and originally planned a three hour changeover from Korean Air international to a domestic American Airlines flight at LAX.   When the Korean Air flight had to go north to avoid a pretty large storm, it changed my changeover window to 1.5 hours. 

Still, according to the airline website, you need to arrive about 1-1.5 hours ahead of time for a domestic flight anyway, so I wasn’t actually late at all.  Since AA had access to my itinerary and the flight records, they would have known that my planed would arrive in time.  Figuring everything was okay, I showed up at the check-in counter only to be told I’m not on the flight list.  You can imagine the trauma that brought forth–my bags were scheduled to be put on the plane, my family was waiting on the other end for me to arrive, and suddenly I’m not there.  

Immediately I start asking questions; I had the confirmation number, I had the itinerary, I was on top of things. So what the heck went wrong?  I was shuffled off to a customer service kiosk,fwhere I waited in line 10 minutes trying to explain to VERY RUDE employees that I was now in a hurry.  They told me to just “wait my turn young lady” (very condescending btw), and then informed me that I had been deleted from the system. It wasn’t an accident at all–AA deleted me on purpose. Unable to answer my questions or resolve the issue, they sent me across the building to another kiosk with less than 45 minutes remaining before my plane left. After another 10 minute wait, I’m told that since my flight was late, they  had removed me from the roster. LATE?!?!?!  Since when?!?!?  I had a whole hour (as recommended by their directions) before I was supposed to leave on the AA plane! The only reason I was late now is because someone took me off the roster!  I was FURIOUS with them; they had no right to give away my seat when I showed up on time according to their own guidelines.   Finally, they said they thought they might be able to slide me in last minute, but I’d have to run and I wouldn’t get the seat I’d chosen. I was left with 20 minutes to get through security and run to the gate.  No apologies were offered, no discount, nothing to make up for the stress.  I arrived as the last people got on. While I made it onto the flight, this is one of the worst examples of service I have seen with an airline.

Baggage Allowance:

First/Business Class customers get 3 free checked bags all the time, but it differs for economy depending on your destination. You can find all the rules here, but generally you get a personal item (I always make it a backpack because it counts as a purse but is bigger) and a carry-on.  If you want a checked bag, they cost around $30 each for the first 2. I prefer airlines with at least 1 free checked bag.


Yet again of the bad.  I arrived at the desk rushing up to ask if I had been added or not, and was yelled at because “you should have been here earlier, we’re boarding now, so you need to hurry up if you want to board”  (not the most polite response I’ve ever gotten).  Realizing that if I wasn’t on the flight, my bags might not be on the flight I attempted to ask about my luggage. Their response “Ma’am you need to get in line now.” Finally, I was obviously upset and a lovely cleaner woman stopped and asked if I was okay. After explaining my problem, she patted me on the shoulder and hurried off to stop the pilot walking by. She brought him over and he informed me that it should be okay (Thank you both if you read this; you saved me a great deal of grief).

In Flight:

I’ve yet to be impressed with AA flight attendants–their concept of customer service is one of the worst I’ve experienced. Food is horrid and there is little of it; drinks are hard to come by. There are few amenities, and the only entertainment was a tiny tv at the front that you couldn’t really see and the microphones were broken.  Trying to sleep didn’t work because the flight was cramped; and I ended up crushed in the middle when I wanted an aisle seat.  We still arrived late.

Only positive–for the first time since I’ve been flying with them, the AA plane had a fairly smooth ride.

Luggage Retrieval:  

My luggage wasn’t where I was told, and no one was available to tell us where to go.  I was happy though to find out it arrived on the plane.

Overall Conclusions

HORRIBLEThis airline was extremely and unnecessarily problematic due to bad business  practice on the part of American Airlines.  Given the significant issue over my retracted ticket, I would have expected at the least helpful kindness and patience from their staff. That was not forthcoming.   I was also expected some kind of apology or reparations for my aggravation, and they acted like I was the problem and that I should be grateful they were working with me to fix it.  

For Comparison’s sake, I once arrived at a Korean Air flight check-in fifteen minutes before boarding.  They rushed me through check-in, grabbed my bags, and hurried me through to my flight with 2 minutes to spare. Plus, they were exceedingly polite in the process.  AA FAILED. I will avoid them in the future.

Get Over It!

8 Feb

Okay people, I’m getting pretty tired of all the negative commentary on the Olympic games in Sochi.  I mean, come on!  For 4, 8, 12 years some of these athletes have been dreaming, and wishing, and hoping, and praying for the opportunity to join these games.  For all those years, they worked and sacrificed for this very moment.  It’s the crowning peak of their lives.  Some of them may never again reach a moment like this.  

And all anyone can talk about is a few run-down hotels, an anti-gay law, and a broken light fixture.  Seriously?

 If  you can’t suffer through some bad hotels, then you shouldn’t travel.  I’ve been to five-star hotels in the US that sucked pretty badly too.  Missing internet in Russia? Talk about filled condoms on the sheets, pubic hair in the showers, AND broken internet in the US–all in one room.  Get over it!   These things just give you stories to tell to your grandchildren.  I once slept sans pillow and blankets on the floor, washed my teeth in a sink shared with 70 other women, and lived in the same clothes three days in a row when I was supposed to have a lovely hotel room.  That’s life! Continue reading

I Support the Liberty University Family

19 Nov

Many of you know that I am a Liberty University graduate, and a proud one at that.  After reading the articles and the comments coming out, I wanted to say a couple things.


We like to quote Bible verses and pithy sayings at moments like these, but none of that really meets this kind of situation.  Except one: “Jesus Wept.”  After what happened today, our hearts are breaking for both of you. Liberty is supposed to be a safe place, a home where people are blessed indeed.  Nothing like this is ever supposed to happen.  There are no explanations we can offer, no excuses, no reasons.  This incident is all the more horrific for that, and I have no idea how to even begin to express the strength of our sorrow for you.  Just know  that our thoughts and prayers go with you. I know this school; I know these students. They are good people, and they are thinking of and supporting you, even if you can’t see them.  I know that they are all praying (many on their knees) for you and for your loss.   As parts of the Liberty family, they are extended members of our personal families, and we grieve with you.  


First, remember that this isn’t the time to take sides or to start spouting Continue reading

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