Far From Home


It turns out, I’m not the only foreigner on my own soil here in Auburn, Alabama.


I am not alone in many of the feelings and struggles I’ve experienced, it seems, and I feel so much better and lighter now that I know this.

My friend Jon works at Island Wing Company here in town, and his boss, Carmilla Kosciuszko, is a Hawaiian-born woman who has lived around the country. She’s experienced several different cultures and regions of this nation, and I can relate to her completely about her unsavory views of the South. She is a foreigner on her on soil, and she is far from home – just like me. This is exactly why I chose to do a video story on her.

In her interview, Carmilla told a beautiful story that touched my heart. The most difficult thing about this was getting Broll that fit what we were discussing. Kosciuszko discussed her disdain for the Southern culture, the racist comments people have made to her and how she feels out of place. It was difficult to find Broll or footage of Carmilla doing something that related to the topic. Because of this, I struggled to include all of my subject’s wonderful points because I lacked the footage to put over top of it.

This issue made me have to decide which Broll was relevant, and which Aroll I had to do without because I just didn’t have the Broll to make it work. Lesson learned: It’s always better to have far too much footage to weed through than not enough!

In my next video project, I would be sure to think about the type of Broll I plan to use in my story before I even shoot it. It’s absolutely fine to expand on these ideas, but like I learned the hard way this time, I can’t just go in blind and expect that the Broll ideas will magically present themselves. Next time, I will even discuss Broll ideas with my subject to see what everyday activities he or she carries out that I may have been unaware of. I would have finished my video much faster, and would have been able to include a lot more in it if I had had more sufficient Broll. Though this was difficult this time, it always takes a mistake or two to learn for the future. I definitely feel I will not make this mistake again, and that I significantly improved as an aspiring digital journalist. I’d much rather make these errors now than if when I get a chance to make them in the real world. (Fingers crossed that chance comes my way!)


Finally, check out these videos on cultural differences among people of the same country or background – the topic I’ve been addressing for the past 16 weeks:

Southern India: A Collision of Cultures


Play in Peace


“Ma’am and Sir,” Polite or Insulting?

You might be asking yourself, “How could someone saying ma’am or sir be insulting?”

Three years ago, I asked myself the same question.

Being raised in the North, those are words you might hear five days out of the year when you make a big purchase.

For some reason, the Northern culture just doesn’t raise its kids to say that. So we don’t.


Down here, though, I noticed that “ma’am” or “sir” is one of the first words out of children’s mouths.

At first, I thought this was the greatest thing I’d ever heard. I thought it was so respectful and polite, and how I wished I had been raised, too.

And then, someone called me “ma’am.”

“Here you go ma’am,” a stock boy said at the grocery store as he handed me a can off the top shelf.

I was taken aback.

Ma’am? Who did he think he was talking to? My grandmother?

Do I look that matronly that I deserve a “ma’am” title?

It didn’t bother me per say, but I wasn’t sure if I liked this new identity I was given.

(You might be thinking, “Oh for Pete’s sake, it’s just ‘ma’am,’ get over it!” My reaction should be a clue to you just how rare this is up in Yankeedom.)

Check out this Pennsylvanian’s reaction to the same scenario. And he/she even thought it was a racial issue! Humorous for some, but definitely understandable for me.

The first time someone called me “ma’am” is when I was 19 years of age, so it was a bit of a shocker to my Northern system.

However, my PEERS have also referred to me as “ma’am,” and it actually makes me feel bad and just plain weird.

If I ask my girlfriend from Atlanta, “Did you have a good weekend?” she’ll say, “Yes ma’am!” It’s nice, I guess, but it makes me feel like such an authority figure when I’m far from it. I just don’t understand how when she and I are the same age, I could be a “ma’am” to her.

I’ve heard Southern children tell their mothers “yes ma’am” or their fathers “no sir” in a normal conversation. They weren’t being scolded or anything… they just called them that all the time. I’ve even heard a husband and wife use it with each other. I was at a hotel pool and heard a wife ask her husband, “Do you want to go out tonight for dinner, honey?” and he said, “Yes ma’am, that’d be great.”

From that point on, I changed my tune about my children, or anyone, calling me ma’am.

First, it makes me feel downright old. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to someone referring to me as a ma’am, and I certainly wouldn’t want my family perpetuating the idea now I know how it makes me feel.

Second… Will I really want to keep my family atmosphere that formal all the time? Sure, occasionally it may be necessary or appropriate, but will I always want them to feel that phrase is required? We can be polite with each other without talking like strangers.

If you’re Southern, you probably disagree wholeheartedly, and that’s absolutely understandable. “Ma’am” or “sir” are second nature to you, and it’d be weird to imagine a world without them.

For us Northerners though, it’s just strange.

Because of this discrepancy, I’d like to hear from youse guys, my readers:



This is another thread on the subject that I found fascinating. Essentially, a Northerner asked if, on a job interview in the South, he should adopt saying “ma’am” or “sir” and how should he do it? (I’m not alone here, see)

Many Southerner’s responses said that if he tried to use “the custom”, he wouldn’t be viewed as fitting in. Rather, he’d be viewed as mocking their culture, of sorts. Is that how you Southerners feel? I’d like to know that, too. On more than one occasion, I’ve tried to use the phrases to relate to y’all more, but now I’ve wondered if I’ve been “offensive” and you can tell.

So answer me this:


Have a good day….. sir. 😛

“The Harvard of the South”? Y’all are just TOO kind…

If higher education is important to you, you probably know about the greatest universities in the nation.

Granted, your opinion of this alters depending on where you’re from.


Are you from the North? The Ivies.

The Midwest? The University of Chicago.

The West? Probably Berkeley, or UCLA.


There are incredible universities across our nation. We are extremely fortunate to have a plethora of colleges and prestigious institutions to choose from.

Now last, but certainly not least, let’s go South.

Ask a common Southerner from South Carolina and farther this question: “What is the most prestigious school in this region of the country?”

You might be surprised at the person’s answer.

If the person is unbiased, I have found that nine times out of 10, they will say “AUBURN, of course!”


I had to write about this because of what I heard someone say today.


I was in the library scanning pictures for my article this week at Auburn’s school newspaper “The Plainsman.” While I was there in the archives, I heard a middle-aged man, probably in his mid-50s, say ‘Well of course he wants to go here! Auburn’s the finest school in the Southeast. No, sir, I take that back! Auburn’s the finest institution in the entire NATION! Harvard’s the Auburn of the North!”




Excuse me?

Hahaha, pardon me while I laugh hysterically (I actually did, and I know the poor man could tell I was laughing at him, but he deserved it for THINKING that, let alone saying it out loud).


This man was dead serious. He said this to a fellow man about his age right in the middle of the library. They did not laugh after he finished his ridiculous statement because from what I’ve found, people in Alabama actually believe that their two main universities, Auburn and Alabama, are as prestigious as it gets.

Of course, not everyone in the state of Alabama feels this way, but it’s pretty damn close. Talk to any kid who graduated from an Alabama high school. If they had “the grades” to get into either school, (which honestly, isn’t saying very much), about half go orange and blue, and the other half goes crimson and white.


The majority don’t go anywhere else.


My purpose of this blog post is to set y’all straight:

YES – I believe in Auburn and love it. I am an Auburn student, and while I’ve struggled with the cultural setting my future alma mater is in, I hold nothing against the institution itself. Auburn does things excellently. I’ve always been impressed with it, and for an average middle-class small town girl like me, it was all I was looking for.


HOWEVER, my dears, y’all, we need to have a chat.


Auburn is NOT the Harvard of the South, LET ALONE is Harvard the Auburn of the North!!!!

(If it weren’t so unprofessional, I’d triple the amount of those exclamation points!)

Ever heard of Vanderbilt? Rice? The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill? How about DUKE for heaven’s sake? Or I don’t know… Wake Forest, Emory or Tulane!

They are ALL in the South, and they are LEAPS AND BOUNDS above Auburn University. Unfortunately, none of those are in the state of Alabama, so I see why Auburn is your main prestigious claim to fame.

Since that’s all you guys have in comparison with those greats, I agree. Auburn IS the best!

But please, whatever you do, DO NOT compare Auburn to Harvard – the number one school in the nation.

Take a look at the U.S. News and World Report College Rankings for 2013-2014.

Harvard is ranked number one in the United States.

Auburn is ranked number ninety-one.

Just 90 more places to go, y’all. That’s pretty close, might as well just call it “Harvard.” They probably won’t mind!

Again: I love Auburn. I’m proud to say I go here, and will be very proud of my degree.

But, I am a firm believer in realism.

I did not go to an Ivy. I didn’t even go to a Southern Ivy.

I just wish y’all could realize what exactly you’re saying, and to people who aren’t from around here, how inflated and overrated you make Auburn sound once someone goes to visit it or looks up its statistics.

Auburn’s got great programs, and I will forever shout War Eagle with pride. We’re a good school, but we’re not REALLY a prestigious one or even an excellent one. In the grand scheme of things, we’re eons from a Harvard, and that’s okay. We wouldn’t be the Auburn Family if that’s what we were going for.

If that kind of uppity prestige is who we were, we wouldn’t be able to act like this during football season, and I wouldn’t trade this for the world:


Auburn, you’re perfectly great just the way you are – no better, or worse, mind you, but you’re perfect. WDE.

The Seven Wonders of the Northeast

I’ve been pretty South-heavy with my posts as of late. (Honestly, could you blame me? I had some important things to cover: Rodeo. Fried Apple Pies… Nike Shorts :P)

That’s why I felt it was time to turn my attention to my home: The Nawth, and I wanted to honor it with a map of my picking of the seven wonders of the Northeast.

It was extremely hard to pick just seven, mind you. I had great difficulties picking one location over the other because the Northeast is vastly rich in American history.

As you will see, most of these mapped locations are historical, but a couple of them are purely for the beauty that is the Northeast.

Take a look at my Google Map.

When you click on each point, you will see a description of each wonder, why it’s interesting, why you should visit it and one fun fact about it. You will find similar information in this blog post as well, but in a more elaborated fashion with a link to the official website of each place.

Here are my personal seven wonders of the Northeast. They are ordered from northern most to southern most by location.

1. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park is located in southeastern Maine, and while it’s a hike up there if you’re not from the state, visitors say it’s worth the trip. This national park offers infinite breathtaking views of nature and wildlife from scenic mountain tops to moose in their natural habitat. The park is home to thousands of species of birds, plants and animals, and  is perfect for kids, students and adults alike. Acadia is the ideal park for any nature-lover, or for anyone who wants peace and quiet from the chaotic hustle of life. Each year, tourists love to hike, climb Acadia’s historic peaks, take a relaxing bike ride or just breathe in the refreshing New England air. There are few places in the nation that are so naturally beautiful, and are so perfect to relax.
For more information, visit the park’s official website here.
Did you know? Acadia National Park is 47,000 acres and is the oldest American National Park east of the Mississippi River.

2. Niagara Falls, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

If you’re an American citizen, chances are you’ve heard of Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls is the name of the three waterfalls that straddle the borders of Ontario, Canada and New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge and are a breathtaking sight to behold from both sides of the border. Though they are called “Niagara Falls” as a collection, the three waterfalls have individual names. From largest to smallest, the falls are called the “Horseshoe Falls,” the “American Falls” and the “Bridal Veil Falls.”
Niagara Falls is the perfect place to take a vacation, whether with family and friends, children or alone. There are a wide range of things to see and do from the famed ferry ride beneath the falls to touring the section of the Eerie Canal nearby. For more information, visit Niagara Falls’ tourist information website here. 
Did you know? The three waterfalls combine to produce the highest water flow rate of any waterfall on earth!

3.  Plymouth Rock, Plymouth, Mass.

Chances are, you know the story. When the Mayflower hit land, or literally rock in 1620, by leader William Bradford. The rock that marked land has been known as Plymouth Rock ever since. The stone marks the site of the Pilgrim’s disembarkation and the beginning of the Plymouth Colony. It is a vital symbol of America and American history that every American should experience at least once in a lifetime.

For more information about the beloved rock and Plymouth Colony, visit its destination or tourist site. This tourist site is a popular one, as it sees approximately one million visitors each year.

Did you know? The majority of the members of the original Plymouth Colony died in the winter of 1620 to 1621. This was a few hundred colonists, and they are all buried near the rock! When you visit this monumental artifact of American history, you will also be visiting the graves of the Pilgrims themselves.

4. The Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, N.Y.

Most people have heard of the Statue of Liberty, but few know her story. France gave the beloved statue to the United States in 1886 to recognize the friendship established between Americans and the French after the American Revolution in the 18th century.


Standing 306 feet tall from foot to torch, the statue has been a national symbol of peace, democracy and freedom ever since. Broken shackles lie at Liberty’s feet to symbolize the end of oppression and tyranny. Her beauty and symbolism has had an impact on people across the world, but she is especially beloved in the United States of America. She will remain be one of our nation’s powerful symbols as long as she stands. Anyone would enjoy beholding Lady Liberty’s elegance, beauty and museum to learn more about the national wonder that Americans know and love.

Like everything else on this list, the State of Liberty receives a high number of tourists each year. Currently, the statue receives approximately four million visitors each year. For more information about the great statue’s history, fun facts, pictures and more visit her official website. 

Did you know? The Statue of Liberty was supposed to be a centennial gift in 1876 from France, but it took too long to finance, complete and ship to America. It was dedicated on October 28, 1886 in the New York Harbor ten years “late.”

5. Washington’s Crossing, Pa. (The other side of “Washington’s Crossing” is located in Mercer, N.J.)

On Christmas Day, 1776, George Washington and his Continental Army crossed the Delaware River for a surprise attack on their British opponents. The Continental Army camped on one side of the river while the British remained on the other. It was the dead of winter, and it was extremely blustery, snowy and foggy. The British never expected an attack or battle in these harsh conditions.

As many of us know, George Washington led his army across the Delaware River for a brilliant victory against the British, which gave the American army an upper hand to take back much of New Jersey.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, you’re probably more familiar with this famous painting by Emmanuel Leutze, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (another wonder of the Northeast, I might add):


As a truly brave and pivotal moment in our nation’s history, any American would be moved to see the location where our first president crossed the Delaware River and visit Washington Crossing Historic Park that’s attached to it. You can learn more about the history of the crossing, the park, the war and visiting at the park’s official website.

Did you know? George Washington and his army crossing the Delaware is re-enacted each year on Christmas Day at Washington Crossing. Many of my friends and family from Jersey have been. They say nothing else does it justice than going to see it yourself.

6. The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, Pa.

Like the Statue of Liberty and Plymouth Rock, the Liberty Bell is also an iconic symbol of America. Each of these historic wonders symbolize an American value, but the Liberty Bell stands for the one Americans may cherish most: Independence. Let freedom ring.

The Liberty Bell rang and rang from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pa. on July 8, 1776 to signal the reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon.

The bell was made a national icon when abolitionists adopted it as their symbol in the 19th century to end slavery.

With that being said, the Liberty Bell has ties to both major American wars and like the other wonders on this map, and is an American symbol that any citizen should see for themselves. I remember visiting it myself when I was 10 years old. It is a fantastic way to learn about two historical events in one, and visit the beautiful city of Philadelphia.

You will delight to learn more about the Liberty Bell from history, quotes, trivia and more here at its official website.

Did you know? The bell rang for George Washington’s birthday in 1846, which is what gave it its fatal crack. The Liberty Bell hasn’t rung since.

7. Gettysburg Battlefields, Gettysburg, Pa.

This is a landmark that is close to my heart.

Here’s why:

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That’s right. I’m a Civil War re-enactor. For the Confederacy. 😉

Each year, I attend the Gettysburg re-enactment. There are events all week, and my boyfriend and I always attend. It is a fascinating and moving place to visit.

You can hear the stories of how the Liberty Bell got is crack, or how the Statue of Liberty came to rest in the New York harbor. You can read about them in books or see their pictures.

You can even go see those landmarks, but no one died there. No one spilt blood for the free and independent life you lead today, but they did at Gettysburg.

That’s what makes the Gettysburg battlefields so special. I have walked them dozens of times while re-enacting a battle and have slept in its nearby woods like the soldiers of 150 years ago did, and it still hits me just as powerfully every time.

Every American citizen needs to go to Gettysburg. Read more about how to plan your visit at the Gettysburg Foundation’s website.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1 to 3, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pa between the Union and Confederate soldiers. It is known as the turning point of the American Civil War.

There is nothing like the silence of the battlefield, or hearing the slaps of bullets erupting from a gun while you stand on its territory. I have found few other things that make you as appreciative to our veterans, and grateful for what I have.

Did you know?  More than 30,000 dead and wounded soldiers were left at the end of the third day.


When you stop and think about it, it’s amazing how most of our nation’s treasures or symbols lie in the Northeast. So much of our history took place there, and it’s incredible to consider all that happened on the grounds we often walk on.

That alone makes me so proud to be a Yankee.

No matter where you’re from, you should go and visit these incredible landmarks. I hope this map has given you some background on some of the greatest “wonders” in the Northeast and has shown you a glimpse of how great it is.

State Tax Google Fusion Map: Looks like ‘Bama and NY are equal, folks

One of the reasons my mother and I moved to the South was for its lower cost of living.

For years, the New York State taxes KILLED us.

We were flabbergasted when we arrived in Alabama and our property taxes were a whopping $700…. per year.

In New York, that was far from a quarter’s worth.

Today, after making this interactive map, this data of combined local and state tax rates from 2012 had me thinking that the taxes between my two “home” states is closer than I thought.

Take a look at this chloropleth, or “heat map” I created with Google Fusion Tables. It is an interactive map that, when you click a state, will show you the combined local and state tax rate from two years ago.

Highly interesting. So though it’s no cultural similarity, it always interests me when Alabama and New York have something in common. And here all this time, I thought all Southern states had the cheapest rates across the board.

Honestly, I bet it won’t be too long before all 50 states have “high” tax rates.

As for me though, it’s not looking like I’ll be leaving either high-paying state anytime soon.

Enjoy the interactive map, and if you care to create one yourself for any reason – it’s fairly simple (and pretty awesome, too). Check out this awesome tutorial!

Happy chloropleth-ing 🙂

Well y’all, this WAS my first Rodeo…

Oh, Alpha Psi Rodeo.

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I have never seen such a drunken stupor in my entire life.



^ This poor soul.

Hahaha I seriously couldn’t get over this event.

If y’all couldn’t tell… I’m not a partier.

I went to a frat party my freshman year. Once.

Then I went to Rodeo, and I was BLOWN AWAY.

This wasn’t just a party, this was a big time redneck Southern bash.

As seen in the photo above…. there were hundreds of thousands of cans of beer. Literally.

Obviously there were not that many in this picture alone. But this shot was just one corner of multiple acres of beer-soaked grass, and drunken beer-soaked asses.

Country music blasted from every pickup truck, tent and corner.

And every person there was dressed like trash, and it was okay.


This was me with some of our group:


Check out the gallery from the Alpha Psi Website, though.

You will see what I mean by trashy, slutty and downright redneck.

(Okay, and downright pretty. Auburn has some pretty beautiful people, I will admit).

Rodeo is an Auburn student rite of passage, it also gives you permission to dress a tackily country as possible for 24 hours.

It was freaking crazy.

Unfortunately, it was so crazy that one Auburn student almost died.

Read more on the story and their horrific car crash here.

I’m glad I was able to have fun, but when I hear stories like that I thank God I was kept safe.

Just 12 hours earlier, I was one of 15 people in the bed of a pickup truck just like that girl who was in critical condition.

That could have been me.

I am lucky that nothing happened to me.

I am lucky to be safe.

I am so happy to say I went to my first Rodeo, and honestly?

That craziness was enough for this Yankee.

War damn, y’all.

You Southerners can DRINK.

Don’t get me wrong, us Northerners can too, but I have never seen or even heard of a beer bash with that many thousands of cans of beer.

War eagle to that, and war eagle to graduating.

Call me insane, but I had my one night of fun, and it was enough for me.

I am definitely ready to be an adult now.

I guess you Southerners are a little too much for me to handle.

You win this one, y’all.

War Damn Eagle, War Damn Rodeo.

Here’s Jon and me (aka my best friend who has really turned my semester upside down):


xoxoxoxo Yeeeeeee hawww!

Verdict this week: Southern life is crazy, and I’m alright with it.

“You Can’t Like That. You’re From New York”

Alright y’all.

Yesterday was Auburn’s Alpha Psi Rodeo, as I posted about on Friday.

I will post about the crazy Southern party sometime this week, but in the meantime, I need to address something more specific.

There is always a featured country star that plays at Rodeo. This year it was the one and only Alan Jackson.

I personally love Alan Jackson. I love country music. (Classic or traditional country music, mind you. None of this pop/hip-hop combined modern country crap)

You know what I’m talking about:


(This one by Mr. Aldean isn’t as bad when you first hear it, but go to 0:48 and 1:49 and you’ll see what I’m talking about).


Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, George Strait and Conway Twitty are the truly talented country singers, and are some of my favorites. Yesterday, I made a comment about how excited I was to see Alan Jackson later that night, and a guy said:

Now why in the hell would you want to see Alan Jackson or even like him? You’re from New York.”

I asked “what in the hell” that had to do with anything, and he replied:

“If you’re from the North and you like country music, what are you trying to do, be Southern? How would you have any reason to like someone like Alan Jackson?”


First, New York is freaking HUGE. NYC and its other cities are a small fraction of the state.

The map of the rural areas of NY is pretty overwhelming. See for yourself here. 


When I say this, it’s not by everyone in the country, but there are individuals in every state of this nation that enjoy country music.

Alan Jackson’s tour is nationwide.

Granted, I’m sure most country-music-lovers are from the South, but that doesn’t give Southerns a right to claim it as “theirs.” I’ve honestly never met other Americans who do this. If you came North, and made a statement about liking something that was “Northern,” no one would make a snarky comment and honestly? No one would give two shits.

Here is a similar scenario under the same logic: If you’re from below the Mason Dixon Line and you like Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi… what? Are you trying to be Jersey?

Or, do you like the Beatles? You British phony, you.

That is ridiculous!

NO. I was NOT trying to “be Southern” by liking Alan Jackson and wanting to see him. I am very Yankee, as y’all know, but that aside: I am an individual. I have the right to like whoever I damn well please.

Lastly, this is my boyfriend and me:





We have horses. Our driveway is a quarter of a mile into the woods, and we have to drive a four-wheeler out to the barn, often in 25 degrees below zero.


Under that “need to be country or Southern to like country” mindset, I’d say we have a right to listen to Alan Jackson, dammit.


Where you come from has nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, to do with what music, food or ANYTHING you should or shouldn’t like.


So go listen to whatever y’all or youse guys damn well please. This is America. Last time I checked, we have the freedom to do so.