Is Purple the New Peach?

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By: Lauren Sloan

Athens, Georgia – Although election polls predicted a deadlock race in Georgia in 2016, Republican nominee, Donald Trump, won the state 51-45, but political experts still agree the peach state is on a path toward purple.

Georgia has not “gone blue” since Southern Democrat, Bill Clinton, took office back in 1992, making 2016 polls rare and enticing. But Ryan Williamson, a PhD candidate studying elections, warns to take election polls with a grain of salt.

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“Polling is really finicky,” Williamson admitted. “Polling is exciting, but at the same time I think it can be misleading sometimes too.”

Dr. Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, knows this all too well. Many of the earlier polls were conducted right after the Democratic National Convention, he noted, thereby giving Clinton a deceptive advantage. He also mentioned speculation occurring in the political science world known as “the bashful Trump voter.” The phenomenon assumes Trump supporters were less likely to respond candidly to the polls, if they even agreed to respond at all. Moreover, Bullock warned that people may not have necessarily voted for Trump, but it may have just been a vote against Clinton.

The 2016 Candidates

“Hillary Clinton is not a good candidate.” Bullock admitted. “She’s not charismatic, she’s not inspiring, and so if she had to compete against, say Marco Rubio or John Kasich, I think she’d have been blown away.”

Dr. Barry Hollander, a professor at the University of Georgia teaching an undergraduate course on public opinion, agrees. Clinton was not an exciting candidate, he said, and noted her inability to galvanize voters in a way that got them to the voting booth. She had the experience, he said, but that was part of the problem. The people wanted change and the 2016 exit polls proved it. In fact, this year’s exit polls showed that 4 in 10 Georgians thought the most important quality in a candidate was his or her ability to bring about change. Of those voters, over 80% voted for Trump.

“I think Trump was the right message at the exact right time,” Hollander said. “There was a large chunk of society that wanted change. They’re tired of the status quo. They’re tired of the gridlock in DC,  they’re tired of nothing ever getting done….that isn’t the American way. The american way is to get stuff done.”

Trump’s message resonated with many Americans that felt left out, Dr. Hollander explained, especially those in the white, working class. In fact, even after Trump’s crude and misogynistic comments, exit polls showed Trump was still able to secure 70% of the white women vote in Georgia, a whopping 44% higher than Clinton.

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Though some of the exit poll results may seem surprising, Hollander admitted, with hindsight they are not that hard to believe. People have an incredible way of looking past things, he noted.

“I think it’s always been the case in American politics that jobs beat everything. Paying your bills beats everything. Sending your kids to school beats everything, putting food on the table beats everything,” Hollander said.  “And so they can look past his stuff about women.”

Geography

Despite this year’s results, not all hope should be lost for Georgian Democrats, Bullock admitted. Just twelve years ago, he said, there were only 3 blue counties in Metro-Atlanta: Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton. Obama added three more to it in 2008, he said, and this year, both Cobb and Gwinnett went blue as well. It was the mountain counties where Trump got the victory, Bullock admitted.

“The state itself will turn blue or turn purple when the urban vote outnumbers the rural vote,” Bullock predicted. “I think we will start seeing that in the 2020’s.”

Demographics

Although exit polls show Clinton won 89% of the black vote, and 67% of the Latino vote in Georgia, the two minorities only make up 34% of the state’s overall population. However, according to a PEW Research Center study, Georgia’s demographics are changing. The organization found a gradual increase in Georgia’s minority populations while showing a steady decrease in the state’s overall white population.

Jamie Carson, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who specializes in American politics, said that these demographic shifts are not usually mirrored in the voting booth. The issue, he explained, is that the demographics of the state are actually quite different than the voters of the state.

“Demographics are improving for the Democrats, but the turnout still reflects more of a Republican pattern,” Carson said. “You’d have to increase voter registration rates and participation rates among African Americans and Hispanics–and then they all have to turn out.”

In fact, Ryan Williamson, a PhD candidate studying American elections at the University of Georgia, said that lower income voters, minority voters, and younger voters are all significantly less likely to show up at the polls than their more conservative counterparts. However, he still believes that these demographic shifts will mix Georgia’s red and blue voters together in the future.

“Demographic shifts are contributing to a more purple-ish Georgia,” Williamson admitted. “But that appearance is being exaggerated by the presence of Trump. I don’t know that we’d see that close of a race with a more popular Republican candidate.”

For more, click here to watch a video about this story or watch below.

 

*If you would like to view this story which has been published on Grady Newsource website, click here.*

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Is Purple the New Peach?

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Although summer polls suggested Georgia might lose its red state-reign this 2016 election year, political experts agree that Georgia is not becoming blue, but is on a path toward purple.

In more recent peach state polls, Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has only been able to garner a very moderate GOP hold in Georgia, which is rare considering the state has not voted Democratic in almost 25 years. In fact, Georgia has only voted for two Democratic presidential candidates in the past 40 years: Bill Clinton back in 1992 and its very own Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980. Barry Hollander, a professor at the University of Georgia, teaching an undergraduate course on public opinion, believes Trump’s continuous, controversial remarks might explain why Georgia seems to be swinging this election cycle.

“The easy answer is Trump,” Hollander said. “It’s like barnacles on the bottom of the ship that accumulate and slow down that boat. Trump has all these barnacles growing on his campaign, the things he’s said, the people he’s pissed off, that is hurting him among enough traditional Republican voters that he’s doing less well than he should be.”

Trump’s contentious remarks about womenrace, and religion have even caused Republicans such George W. Bush and John McCain to withdraw their support. However, data has shown there might be more to the equation than just Trump himself. According to a PEW Research Center study, Georgia’s demographics are changing, and point to a steady increase in the state’s minority populations, all of whom tend to vote more liberally. Jamie Carson, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who specializes in American politics, does not expect to see these demographic shifts mirrored in the voting booth. The issue, he explained, is that the demographics of the state are actually quite different than the voters of the state.

“Demographics are improving for the Democrats, but turnout still reflects more of a Republican pattern,” Dr. Carson said. “You’d have to increase voter registration rates and participation rates among African Americans and Hispanics…and then they all have to turn out.”

In fact, Ryan Williamson, a PhD candidate studying American elections at the University of Georgia, said that lower income voters, minority voters, and younger voters are all significantly less likely to show up at the polls than their more conservative counterparts. However, he still believes that these demographic shifts could mix Georgia’s red and blue voters together in 2016.

“Demographic shifts are contributing to a more purple-ish GA,” Williamson admitted. “But that appearance is being exaggerated by the presence of Trump. I don’t know that we’d see that close of a race with a more popular Republican candidate.”

Both Williamson and Carson believe the peach state is still at least decade or two away from being a true swing state like that of Florida or North Carolina. The two agree demographic shifts take years to happen, let alone for them to change the entire outcome of a presidential election.

Words of Wisdom, Let it be

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This summer, I sat down with Jane Williams, Executive Vice President of Television at Cox Media Group. Williams has this saying, a motto, if you will; one that embodies who she is as a person and shows how she has risen to such prominence today.

So, what’s this motto, you ask? One that she even hung up on her wall. It goes a little something like this:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.” -Maya Angelou 

And boy, is it true. Though the girls won’t forget what Mrs. Williams said (they took detailed notes, of course) they definitely won’t ever forget how empowered she made them feel, especially as two young women entering the work force (no notes needed there).

Here’s what I learned:

  • Always do the right thing

What’s the difference between managers and leaders? Managers do things right. But leaders do the right thing. There’s a difference there, and that difference is key.

  • Never run from conflict

Don’t be afraid of conflict. Address the problem head-on; there’s no point in running from the inevitable, you’re going to have to deal with the issue eventually. Even if you simply agree to disagree, at least you’re not avoiding the problem.

  • A good sense of humor can go a long way

When faced with difficult situations or discussions, Williams likes to use her humor to diffuse the situation and lighten the mood. The opportunity to make someone smile is priceless, she says. And what better way to do that than laughter.

  • Life’s a dance

Some people say life’s not a destination, it’s a journey. But Jane has a different saying: life’s a dance. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t have a great time while dancing? Exactly… So dance everyday; enjoy it.

  • Focus on making your boss look good **Hey Alex, YOU’RE THE BEST!!!**

Yup, that’s her philosophy. But you see, the trick is you can’t do it for a promotion; you need to do it because you genuinely care. Eventually, your hard work and good morale will give you a good name in the industry. And before you know it, people will be tapping on your shoulder asking you to make them look that good. So really it’s a win, win.

 

Thank you, Jane Williams, for being a true inspiration for the future of the business.

-Lauren Sloan, NewsON Intern

Problems to Peace

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By: Lauren Sloan

Debbie Dix was reluctant for her son to serve in the Peace Corps, especially given all of the beheadings and chaos in the region at the time. She wanted her son to come back with his head—a reasonable request from any mother, let alone a Jewish one. But in 2005 her tall, dark-eyed son was off to Uzbekistan, and so she supported him nonetheless. When he came home from his service in 2007, he not only returned with his head, but he also brought back the experience of a lifetime.

Uzbekistan was different than anything Josh Dix had ever experienced before.

“Imagine a thousand Arabian nights with Soviet infrastructure everywhere,” Josh explained. “That’s basically Uzbekistan.”

Culture shock would be an understatement. Uzbekistan was Josh’s first trip to a Muslim country; a country where he was advised to keep his faith a secret from some of his own students; a place where he wasn’t Jewish, he was strictly American. But there was a problem: he was Jewish. Actually, he was very Jewish.

Growing up in the suburbs of East Cobb, Georgia, Dix was raised religious, where he attended synagogue regularly and went to Hebrew school. Judaism was, and still is, an integral part of his life.

Though the culture in Uzbekistan was quite different than what Josh grew up with, he managed to find some familiarity within the country.

“If you could believe it, there was a Hillel in Uzbekistan,” he admitted with a smile. “There’s a pretty big Jewish community left in Uzbekistan.”

Though 88% of the country’s population is Muslim, over 4,000 Jews still call Uzbekistan their home. These surprising numbers are remnants of communist times, says Rabbi Michoel Refson, co-director of Chabad at the University of Georgia, when thousands of Jews fled the former USSR in order to keep their religion safe.

Despite the Jews’ presence in the country, however, they were still a minority, and found themselves to be slightly misunderstood. For example, while the Christian volunteers were permitted time off for holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the local Peace Corps preferred that Josh worked on important holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. He refused; he insisted on observing his holy days, regardless of other’s opinions.

“It’s not that they weren’t accepting,” Dix admits. “It’s just that they didn’t understand it.”

Moldova wasn’t much different. When civil unrest forced Josh out of Uzbekistan just six months after he started his service, he was transferred to Moldova. He quickly realized this country carried misconceptions about his faith as well.

Moldova was a country affected by the pogroms, Dix recalled; there are still some misconceptions and anti-Semitism left in the country.

Josh experienced these misjudgments firsthand while teaching at a local University in Moldova, Comrat State University. To demonstrate the liberties that come with freedom of speech, Josh decided to talk about the Muhammad cartoons; it was a stupid idea, even he admits it. The students started screaming and shouting in Turkish and Josh completely lost control of the class.

“Basically this guy was in the process of convincing everybody that I was a Jewish spy sent from Israel to convert them and to tear them away from Islam,” Josh said with surprise.

His students never came to class again—until the day of the final. They asked Josh why he hated them and why he said those awful things about Muhammad. Josh sat down. The questions kept coming like cannons. Is it true you eat the flesh of babies? Do you know every Jew in the world? Is it true you own Nokia? Do you really have horns?

Textbooks and television fed them these fallacies, but Josh spoke the truth. For three hours he answered question after question, dispelled myth after myth until they could ask no more. They realized they had misjudged him.

That following year, these students became his strongest class. They attended every lecture and participated in every discussion; they loved him.

“Had I told Peace Corps about what had happened, they would have probably moved me to another site,” Josh said. “And that group of kids would not understand what freedom of speech actually is… and they would’ve carried those misconceptions about Jews their entire lives.”

But he didn’t tell Peace Corps. Thank goodness he didn’t tell the Peace Corps.

 

How To Travel Alone in your Twenties

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By: Lauren Sloan

While your friends are off planning their future families and careers, all you seem to plan is your next adventure—alone. But don’t fret; Carolyn Crist, an avid traveler and teacher’s assistant for the University of Georgia’s study abroad program has some helpful hints to help you sojourn solo.

1. Budget

“The biggest thing to think about is budget,” she says. “I think a lot of young or new travelers forget to budget extra for things like meals that you don’t anticipate are going to be more.” Have your funds ready ahead of time—souvenirs, food, water and entertainment add up.

2. Be smart

“Especially when you’re alone, just keep a watchful eye on things,” Crist advises. Stay in well-lit, public areas, plan ahead and always keep your head about you.

3. Stay in hostels

“Hostels are great,” she admits, “especially in Europe.” Not to mention they’re a cheap and easy way to meet people. Try and look at ratings and reviews ahead of time on websites such as Hostelworld.com to ensure you have a clean, respectable place to stay after a long day of exploring.

4. Stay Calm

When you inevitably get lost, don’t panic; stay calm and take a second to regroup. “Duck into a store, bathroom or restaurant,” suggests Crist. “Pause, be inconspicuous and figure out where you’re going.”

5. Try new modes of transportation

Trying unique modes of transportation such as bullet trains or ferries is a great way to step out of your comfort zone while stepping into new sites and cities.

6. Don’t be afraid to talk to people

When in public places, listen for English and make friends by introducing yourself. You may have started the journey solo, but you definitely don’t have to end that way.

7. Enjoy!

Traveling alone can be the perfect time for self-discovery, personal growth and wonder. So pack your bags, grab your passport and hit the road.

 

 

 

Prague Articles

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By: Lauren Sloan

Even with the horrific scenes of the Holocaust still fresh in many European’s memories, hateful attacks against the Jews continue to take place across the region. Between the fatal shootings in Belgium and the deadly attacks in France, the safety of European Jews seems to be in danger once again.

But the situation in Czech Republic is different, says Rabbi Barash, director of Chabad Maharal Center in Prague.

“This is a place where Jews feel safe—and we’re very lucky.”

International headlines warn of soaring anti-Semitism rates in the Czech Republic. Despite such claims, however, the rabbi says Czech Jews feel an overwhelming sense of acceptance and security within the country’s borders.

Though the Annual Report on Anti-Semitism indicates more than a 200 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents within the past year, numbers of actual offenses remain scarce. Thirty-seven cases including anti-Semitic, letters, messages and verbal attacks were reported in 2014, according to the annual account, an increase from the nine cases in the previous year.

“The numbers are very, very low,” said Tomas Kraus, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic. “In this country, we don’t feel it at all.”

Rabbi Barash agrees. He has lived in Prague for more than twenty years, running his business and raising his seven children without even a passing glare.

“You can go out with the star of David,” Barash said. “You don’t have to hide it.”

The Czechs are tolerant, liberal, and most importantly, atheist, the rabbi explains. With a lack of religious citizens, the country is able to create a more accepting environment and harmonious community. This atheist society is what the rabbi attributes to the Czech Republic’s low number of anti-Semitic offenses.

“Wherever there are more religious church goers” Barash said, “They still have that old-fashion anti-Semitism.” But “the Czechs,” he reassures, “are very liberal people, they are not religious people and they just want to live peacefully.”

The low numbers may also come from the long history of Jewish residents within the country. Prague’s vibrant and well-preserved Jewish Quarter is something the Czechs are actually quite proud of according to the rabbi. With so many generations of assimilation, the rabbi says Jewish blood is present in many Czech families as well.

“The Jews are well established here,” said Pavel Sládek, an assistant professor at the Institute of Near Eastern and African Studies at Charles University in Prague. “They blend in and do not cause trouble, so they are not bothered or the target for hatred or attacks.”

Instead, many believe the intolerance is shifting to other minorities such as the Roma, who are seen as different and therefore become victims to hatred and intolerance.

“I think that the anti-Tsiganism serves as a channel for xenophobia,” Sladek said. “And if the number of anti-Jewish acts is rather low, the level of hatred toward the ‘other’ can be in reality much higher.”

Czech Republic President Milos Zenman’s support for Israel in his speech at Terezin concentration camp and his appearance at AIPAIC could be another contributing factor to the overall low levels of anti-Semitism in the country.

“There is much sympathy for Israel because this is a small nation surrounded by big neighbors fighting for survival, exactly the same as the Czechs,” Kraus said.

Kraus is not alone. Rabbi Barash agrees, stating that the Czech Republic has a long, good history with Israel. He notes the Czech’s great support for the little middle eastern country, and uses Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s words when calling the two countries “best friends.”

Despite the tolerance towards Israel and the Jews, numbers in the Czech Republic still point to an increase in intolerant acts. One such explanation according to a recent article from the Jewish Telegraph Agency, can be attributed to the events in Israeli-Palestinian conflict in summer 2014. Reports indicate that incidents of anti-Semitism found online rose from 156 offenses to 191, a 20 percent increase from last year.

“We did a report about 2014, which was released two weeks ago, showing that there is of course an increase, in percentage,” Kraus said. “If you look at that, it would be a disaster,” he warns when looking at the report’s numbers.

With only one physical attack reported in 2014 and five incidents of property damage, the incredibly high statistics are simply because numbers were so low in the first place.

With only 5,000 Jews in Prague, according to the rabbi, the statistics naturally rise and fall dramatically. The skyrocketing increase fails to mirror the safety the Jewish people feel here in the city’s capital.

“Anti-Semitism in this country, even according to statistics, is absolutely lowest all over Europe,” Kraus said.

Anti-Semitism in the Czech Republic is not something Jews are worried about. It is other European countries, and threats from abroad, that worries them, says the rabbi. Not anti-Semitism.

“An anti-Semite is someone who hates the Jew more than the Jew should be hated. That’s what they used to say in the shtetl,” Barash explained.

“But the Czechs,” he said with a smile, “they love us more than we should be loved.”

 

**My other article from Prague highlights Czech culture, traditional Czech food and famous landmarks in the country’s capital. Read the full story here.

The Adventures of WWOOFing

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By: Lauren Sloan

From Serbia to Spain the idea of WWOOFing is becoming increasingly popular especially for younger students who are looking for a unique way of traveling the world while expanding their mind. But wait, WWOOFing? What is that? Though its name is a bit bewildering, WWOOF’s concept is fairly simple: connect hardworking volunteers with friendly hosts who are willing to provide food, accommodation and knowledge about organic farming to their guests in exchange for hands-on help. Yes, that’s WWOOFing—but oh, is it so much more.

WWOOF originally got its name from the acronym Working Weekends on Organic Farms, when Sue Coppard thought of the idea while visiting Sussex, England in 1971. Since then, the idea has expanded exponentially with 60 national WWOOF organizations worldwide and an additional 55 countries hosting without formal association with WWOOF. Given its universal success and growth, the organization has gained a new acronym: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. And it’s not just “Aggies” who are getting into the WWOOFing world. Lauren Miller is but one example.

”I don’t have any experience farming,” the recent graduate of the University of Georgia, admitted before embarking on her WWOOFing journey to New Zealand this past November. “I decided to do it because it just sounded like a good opportunity.”

The young yoga teacher and nurse-to-be was enthralled by the idea of going anywhere in the world for relatively no cost, whether that be a few hours away or on the other side of the world, she knew WWOOFing was an experience she just could not ignore.

Rachel Ehlingher, a fourth-year geography major at the University of Georgia shared Lauren’s thoughts and excitement about WWOOFing as well.

“Mostly, I wanted to do this because living is free,” she admitted. “It’s one of the cheapest ways to travel.”

And for travel bugs like Rachel, that small little fact means the world—literally. With a round-trip ticket as her only necessary expense, Rachel, like so many others, found WWOOFing to be a wonderful way to see the world without breaking the bank.

And these girls aren’t alone in their thought process. Over 80,000 volunteers WWOOFed in just 2010 alone, and the numbers are only growing. Although reasons for embarking on the journey may vary, one thing is for sure: the idea is spreading.

Though there are various WWOOF organizations worldwide, there is not an international institution as of yet. Therefore, since WWOOFing is set up on a national level, it absolutely essential for volunteers to decide which country they want to visit first. After selecting a location, volunteers must pay a small membership fee of around $25 and create a bio page filled with their skill sets. Once paid and filled out, members will gain access to a list of hosts and work opportunities within that specific country. Members can customize their experience to suit their needs to include activities as diverse as wine making, cheese making or even pig rearing. The opportunities are endless, and they are just a quick email away.

“Make sure to contact [hosts] beforehand to work out plans because they might already have WWOOFers and may not need assistance or room for you,” Jessica Chudnik, the University of Georgia’s Sustainable Agriculture Program Assistant suggested while recalling her various experiences WWOOFing around the world.

Though Jessica has had wonderful adventures while WWOOFing, she warns that every WWOOF situation is set up a little differently so research is absolutely essential before departure. Not only that, but it’s also important to know the responsibilities of being a volunteer; some hosts have been known to take advantage of the free labor, so reading the reviews and doing a bit of homework is highly advised.

Durations of trips vary; there is not standard period for WWOOFing. Volunteers have been known to stay for only few short days while others have lived on the same farm for over six months, it all just depends on the situation. Since there is no set time, volunteers must coordinate schedules and talk to their hosts prior to departure. The only real restriction WWOOF possesses is that most WWOOF groups require volunteers to be at least 18 years old, though some countries have different rules and regulations.

With over 2,000 organic farms just within the WWOOF-USA Host Farm Directory alone, finding the perfect farm might not be as easy as it seems. First-year Environmental Economics and Management major Mallory Warren can attest to that fact.

“I talked to maybe five farms before I found one that was best for us,” she confessed shyly while recollecting her WWOOFing experience in Lompoc, California this past summer with her boyfriend. “We wanted to find a farm that had a lot of other WWOOFers there too so that we could meet people. At one point, I think there were 11 other WWOOFers besides me and my boyfriend.”

And just as Mallory experienced, other WWOOFers can add an entirely new layer to the WWOOFing experience: cultural exchange. In fact, this interchange comes quite naturally with the territory due to the way the system is set up, living with host families and other workers. Volunteers get to see the daily lives of others, mix with people from far and near, and pick up different languages, ideas, and cultures. This creates an environment of exchange and acceptance that Mallory, along with so many others, found to be their favorite part of the entire experience.

“It was really cool because there were so many different people from all over; there was a guy from Brazil, a girl from Finland, a guy from Scotland and another girl from Belgium,” Mallory remembered with a joy. “The hosts always had dinner with all of us at a big farm table outside every night, so that was really nice; we got to know the people pretty well… We’re Facebook friends now!”

Rachel Ehlinger had a similar experience while WWOOFing in Ireland; she met two girls from France while working and made a very deep connection with them along the way.

“I learned so much French and we went all over Ireland together,” she admitted giddily. “We were like the three musketeers.”

The friendship and connections don’t have to stop when the WWOOFing does. In fact, Ehlingher and her two French friends are planning on seeing each other next fall and continue to talk regularly even to this day, almost a year after their WWOOFing experience together. Rachel praises the WWOOF system for connecting her to others from around the world and realized how beneficial WWOOFing can be for networking with others from around the world.

But WWOOFing isn’t all fun and games; day-to-day tasks are tiring, exhausting and, indeed, work.

“Some students have never even picked up a shovel, so how to dig a hole is a concept they have to figure out,” the experienced WWOOFer Jessica Chudnik explained. “You’re going to get dirty and sweaty.”

Mallory Warren agreed. When thinking back on her experience in California, she warned others of the daunting realities of the hard work that comes with working on a farm.

“If you don’t enjoy being outdoors and hard work, then you probably wouldn’t like it,” she cautioned. “Because it is work.”

And she’s not just saying that. In fact, according to centerforsustainability.org, organic farming typically requires 2.5 times more labor than conventional farming, so the volunteers must know exactly what they are signing up for before committing to the job.

Daily tasks are hard and require a lot of physical and manual labor. Volunteers are expected to work at least 4-6 hours a day—and the day usually starts early.

Jessica Chudnik explained her daily routine during her WWOOFing trip in New Zealand just a few years back.

“Some of us were on the early crew: milking, going to get the cows, setting up the equipment, milking at 5:00 A.M.” Chudnik explained. “Then there was the later crew: some of us were chopping wood to prepare for the winter time.”

Mallory’s experience was similar. Though work requirements differ from farm to farm, Malloy’s average was about 30 hours a week, six hours a day, and five days a week.

Her normal day on the farm began at 8:00 A.M. with tasks such as feeding the chickens, cleaning the stalls, and working with the family’s pigs, rabbits and ducks. After lunch, volunteers would move out to the garden where work ranged from weeding and harvesting to trellising the beans or tomatoes. Each morning, her hosts would tell her the tasks for the day and explain how and why this work needed to be done. She gained a vast knowledge about gardening and farming and always felt comfortable asking questions.

The experience on the farm not only helped Mallory with her gardening skills, but it also helped her in her career path as well.

“I think I will probably do something that relates to food production,” the freshman admitted. “I was planning on doing that before but it just reinforced what I wanted to do.”

Whether you plan on pursing a career in the agricultural field like Mallory, or you’d simply like to have a garden someday like Lauren Miller, WWOOFing has proved to be quite the experience for all.

“One thing I know is that everyone eats,” Jessica Chudnik pointed out. “So everyone should know where their food comes from and how hard it is to grow it, raise it and produce it.”

And that’s not even half of it; past WWOOFers agree that the experience teaches so much more than just agricultural knowledge.

“It’s really about learning about other people,” Chudnik explained. “No matter if you’re going into banking or farming, learning how to be self-sufficient and work harder are always skills that are good to learn.” 

In addition to new farming knowledge, Mallory learned about her surroundings in ways she never thought of before her WWOOFing journey.

“I feel like I understand the way food can have an impact on the community and the people around you, especially since you’re working all day around food and plants,” the freshman admitted.

Another thing Jessica pointed out was the idea of practicing and learning humility and respect while on the farm. Volunteers are living in someone else’s home; therefore respect for others, regardless of one’s own thoughts or ideas is essential.

“Sometimes you will have a five-year-old teach you what you’re supposed to be doing because they know what’s going on and you don’t,” Jessica Chudnik explained. “Your knowledge base could be no more advance than a five-year-old when it comes to living on that farm at times.” Some might struggle with such a concept, but that’s exactly point; the trip can have the power to alter perceptions and people’s characters along the way.

For indeed, past WWOOFers, like Jessica and Rachel, rave about their experiences on the farm and encourage others to take a chance and give WWOOFing a try.

“I’d recommend it to anybody,” Jessica said with a smile. “Not only can it cut down on your costs for travel, but you’re going to have a hoot of a time.”

Though Mallory agrees WWOOFing is a wonderful experience, she had a slightly different idea when it came to recommendations; she doesn’t think WWOOFing its for everyone. She would recommend it for those interested in agriculture and sustainability, or for people who want to learn more about local culture in specific cities, for WWOOFing is a fantastic way to immerse within a foreign culture. If someone is not interested in any of those factors, she thinks the experience would not necessarily be right for him or her.

Nevertheless, according to the United Nations, over 40% of today’s global population works in agriculture, making it the largest business in the world. But sadly, not all of those farms are organic; factory farms produce a great danger to not only society, but to the environment as well. National Geographic reports find that factory farms cause erosion, deforestation, depleted and contaminated soil and water resources, loss of biodiversity, labor abuses, and the decline of family farms. This fact means that organic farming is in higher demand and more important than ever before—WWOOFing without a doubt then plays an important role and is something people should look into if are interested in such an opportunity; many of those who go love the experience so much, they dream of returning.

 “I’m actually planning on doing it again this July with my friend,” Mallory confessed with glee at just the mere thought of returning to the fields. “We’re looking to go to either Oregon or Washington… going for a month again; not too long and not too short either, it’s perfect.”

And so the adventure continues.

Speech Story

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In a study conducted by the National Press Photographers Association, researchers found that participants were able to distinguish professional photographs from amateur photographs 90 percent of the time.
Sara Quinn, the head researcher, disclosed the results from this research during a speech on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at 3:45 p.m. in Studio 100 at the University of Georgia.
The study was conducted last May at the University of Minnesota where 52 participants were shown 200 photographs.
Of the 200 photographs, half of the images were professionally created while the other half were taken by the general public and published by some outlet.
“Professional photojournalists took each of the 25 photographs rated highest from the collection of 200,” Quinn said.
The use of an eyetracking device also showed that professionally shot images were viewed longer than the user-generated photographs.
The eyetracking device was used to record eye movement of the participants, showing researchers where the participants looked, how long they looked for and if they read the captions.
“People look first at faces,” Quinn, said.
The eyetracking technology showed that most people are drawn to faces and interactions, making them feel connected to the subjects within the photograph.
The study also found that more attention was given to longer captions, and that the user-generated captions were typically underdeveloped.
Participants also filled out a survey rating the quality of the photographs from 1 to 5 along with their likelihood of sharing the image.
The professional photographs were not only rated the highest but were also more likely to be shared than the user-generated images.
Many participants also said that they enjoyed the feeling of special access the pictures were able to generate as well as storytelling elements within the frame.
“It was interesting to see the how the latest technology is showing how much photographs matter,” Charles Boll, a photojournalism student at the University of Georgia said.
Mark Dolan, the president of the NPPA, said that he was not sure how the project would turn out but is pleased with the results.
Photojournalists will also be happy with the results, proving professional photographs are still valued even in a time where most people have access to some type of camera.
Quinn’s speech was part of a series celebrating the NPPA’s move to Grady College at the University of Georgia.
She is also planning on sharing the findings of this research with advertisers for online news publications.