Applications, Anxieties, and Birthday Bonfires – An End Means Another Beginning

Well, I’ve done it.  My Common Application is done, my transcripts have been submitted, and my supplemental essays are written.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling incredibly relieved, but I imagined the feelings, my ‘light shoulders’, and my nearly empty planner to stay as such for a little bit longer.

I guess it just goes to show that the applications themselves are just the beginning, while application anxiety, doesn’t set in until you hit the final confirmation button.  Nevertheless, I’m determined to maintain an open mind; if I attempt to stay relatively neutral in my preferences, I’ll be happy wherever I end up!  Though easier said than done, I’m doing my best.  Now, all I can do is sit back and wait a while, trying to stay patient as admission letters aren’t near as speedy as I would like.

Otherwise, I’ve just turned 18! And what an inauguration it was!  I was surrounded by well-wishes and love from family and friends, and a great sleepover!

Last Saturday, my friends and I spent the night in a big (but very cold) tent, after a bohemian bonfire and great dinner!  I’m so thankful to everyone who helped set up, clean up, and who came to have fun!  It was a great night and I’ll remember it forever!

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-Finally a ‘real adult’

Game Changers Forum, attended by ISI Social Justice Club

“It was an incredible opportunity to enrich our global awareness in regards to human rights and domestic violence through the different perspectives given to us by global figures such as Josina Z Machel.  It was an inspiration and reminder to continue to not take our rights for granted, as well as to keep advocating for the progress of our society.” -Coco Bentaieb

On Monday, October 3rd, the ISI Social Justice Club, lead by Mady Neal, Sonia DiOrio, and Juliette Barrere had the privilege to attend the Game Changers Forum, hosted by the Desmond Tutu Center and SOHO (Saving Orphans through Healthcare and Outreach).  Upon arrival, the 7 students had the opportunity to hear poignant discussions by Josina Z Machel, stepdaughter to Nelson Mandela as she related her personal struggles combating domestic abuse and getting justice for her own story, as well as Gail Masondo, a spiritual leader and psychologist who deals with cases of sexual assault and domestic abuse against women and girls daily.  

Club leaders, (left to right) Juliette Barrere, Mady Neal, and Sonia DiOrio.  Photo included in Indy Star article.

This once in a lifetime event had a pivotal impact on all representatives of the social justice club.  As Felice Brokaw, a senior stated: “The meeting was heartbreaking and eye opening.  One of the most effective ways to spread a message is by being upfront and honest to the point of discomfort… I feel like that is why this forum was so effective, and why those involved will be able  to make a true difference in the world.” Not only did these students have thoughtful conversations between themselves, but they had access to other community involvement and spoke with representatives of various organizations around Indianapolis and the world.  In her interview with the Indianapolis Star, Sonia DiOrio (also a senior) said “these speakers have shown me I can do something. We have a voice.”  And a voice no doubt that will transcend class activities and make a broader difference in the ISI community.  


As I myself have learned, there is hope to a seemingly endless cycle of sexism and belittlement and abuse against women, girls, and men (though afforded even less

Selfie with Josina Machel, guest speaker at Game Changers Forum.  With (from left to right) Mady Neal, Coco Bentaieb, Sonia DiOrio, and Juliette Barrere.

publicity than that of women and girls).  Through events such as these, in which like-minded individuals join together and learn not only of the efforts already being done, but how to get involved on our own; a reassuring feat for those of us entering the collegiate realm that poses many more dangers to women even than high school.  

The Social Justice Club, prompted by the inspirational efforts of Masonda, Machel, and countless other community leaders in the eradication of sexual assault and domestic abuse, is committed to making a change in our high school, and prompting club members and classmates to make the positive difference we aspire to as global citizens.   

I was so thankful to be part of this event, and learned so much about the various organizations that support women and men in difficult situations.

“Student Mady Neal gets a hug from Josina Machel, speaker at the Game Changers Forum.” Photo taken by Suraj Choudhary and included in Indy Star article.


One of the most fascinating topics the panelists discussed was related to the #HeforShe initiative (most famously known for its outspoken figurehead, Emma Watson), and suggested that though women compose half of the world’s population, abuse and domestic assault impacts human beings of all genders and sexes, and we cannot hope to entirely eradicate sexual abuse and domestic assault without the help of men and boys.

Overall, it was quite the experience and I would like to say a huge thank you to my fellow club leaders, Sonia DiOrio and Juliette Barrere, to our club supervisor, Mrs. Detrick, and to the club members that took the entire day to take part in this once in a lifetime event.

Picture of Social Justice Club with Gail Masondo and Josina Machel.  From left to right, Sam Wittman, Felice Brokaw, Juliette Barrere, Gail Masondo, Josina Machel, Sonia DiOrio, Coco Bentaieb, and Edmond Kaela.

For more information, click here, to see the Indy Star article!

*Note, some pictures were taken from the Indy Star article, as stated in those pictures’ captions.

“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”- Moose Tracks Trail & Swift Current Chairlift!

Today was our last day in Big Sky, Montana, and we had a nice relaxing morning and afternoon- a good change in pace after yesterday’s splashing adventure!

After sleeping in a bit this morning, we got up and took the beautifully long chairlift ride about halfway up the slope of the Lone Mountain Peak.  The view was just gorgeous as we rose about 9,175 feet in elevation!  When we got to the top of the Swift Current Line, we disembarked, and after looking around at the incredible town below us, we soon located the Moose Tracks Trailhead and were on our way!  The walk down the slope was about 2.4 miles (one way) and I was continuously thankful that we had ridden up instead of trying to hike up AND down!  It wasn’t difficult to imagine a Moose or even a bear traipsing through the woods just in front of us, but unfortunately, we didn’t see any wildlife aside the occasional pika (a pika is a squirrel-like rodent that looks kind of like a chipmunk).

Nevertheless, it was a beautiful hike and after a nice lunch in the room, a long visit to the hot tub downstairs, then some time well-spent in the gift shop, here I sit, admittedly a little drowsy, and looking forward to a great rest of the day in Montana!


There and Back Again- A Human’s Tale Of Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Big Sky, Montana.

This week I’ve been in Montana and, as I’m sure you can guess from my not so subtle allusion to J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous work, the scenery here is beyond words!  From the mountains, to the valleys, and even the car ride from the airport to the hotel, I have felt like I was in the scenery right out of the LOTR movies or (perhaps more likely) A River Run’s Through It.

The first day, we arrived at the airport at around noon local time, and drove about 40 minutes to our hotel.  When we got there, after staring around in awe, we checked into a suite!  We visited the little gift shop and began talking with the woman Juli.  She told us about the best hiking trails around town, including the lovely (and easy) Ousel Falls trail, and Beehive Basin.

Ousel Falls Trail (2 miles round trip) led us down around a creek, and then up a little ways to the top of a waterfall!  Check out some pictures below!

The next day, we visited Beehive Basin, a 7.1 mile round trip hike to the top of a mountain!  Now, no one would ever accuse me of being athletic, but I did my best!  And boy was it a challenge!  The last mile especially was difficult- the upward grade was pretty intense; it seemed to me that it was more aptly described as ‘climbing’ than ‘walking/hiking’.  However, despite the pain, it was definitely worth it!  At the top of our trek, we found a gorgeous lake in a valley, surrounded by steep mountains.  It was such a beautiful sight that we sat and admired for a long time (once I could breathe again, that is).

On both Tuesday and Wednesday, we took the scenic drive to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park.  Both were unforgettably gorgeous, and we got to see bison and elk!  We learned so much about the potential benefits to the wildfires in the 1980s, as well as all the conservation efforts that were made to ensure great future experiences for both the future generations of humans and wildlife alike!  Besides seeing all the wildlife (and desperately hoping to see a bear!), my favorite part of both expeditions was definitely the hike at Jenny Lake in Grant Teton.  It was a stunning lake, with about a 2 mile (roundtrip) hike to Inspiration Point, which was a little cliff that overlooked the whole entire lake!

Which brings us to today!  Today we had an adventure as we went to Montana Whitewater for whitewater rafting!  Dad and I were put on a small 4-person boat with a very grandfather-grandson duo and a guide named Walker!  We swerved about through various rapids, boulders, and freezing water!  Because the boat was so small, our guide lead us to do various tricks.  Most notably one called ‘bath tub-ing the boat’ which consisted of rowing upriver straight into a rapid that began to dump all its water into the boat.  Once it seemed like we had practically sunk the boat, with water up to our waists, the rapid threw us backwards and with some skillful maneuverings from Walker, we were soon righted, the water drained itself, and we were on our way again!  It was really a great experience despite the cold water!  I was nearly drenched at the end and dad was even worse off than I was, because he FELL IN!  As we glided by a series of rocks, we hit a small one that dad was note bracing for and in an instant, out of the boat he went!  The look of panic on his face and the shock he no doubt experienced at being fully dipped into 55 degree water, said it all!  Still, no harm no foul- dad soon dried off in the warm sun and we ended with quite a story to tell!  If you are ever in Montana, I would highly recommend Montana Whitewater, if you’re interested in a fun adventure!

Tomorrow is our last day here in Montana!  We plan on taking one last hike and relaxing poolside!

Life Update- 07/26/2016


Hello everyone!

I’m so sorry that I’ve been void of any new posts as of late (it seems as if this blog is almost entirely composed of apologies for my lack of ‘correspondence’)!  So, to make up for the time that has passed since my last post, I’ve decided to write a short life update!

What I’ve Been Reading 

Since summer began, I’ve been doing the best I can to read more- I find that at least for me, I’m my healthiest and happiest when I’m thinking about a good book!  My ‘book boast’ is that I’ve finally accomplished one of my longest goals; to read Moby-Dick!  Due to its intimidating size and worldwide rapport, I’ve avoided reading it until now.  I’m glad that I did read it though, it was definitely a fascinating read!  Up next is Anna Karenina, another monster that has been on my shelf (and beckoning to me) for quite a while.  I’m about 150 pages in and so far, I’m enjoying it!  To see what else I’ve been reading, click here!

What I’ve Been Doing

Three words: Senior. Year. Prep.  This involves a plethora of things that I think can be broken down to the following:

-College visits and ‘investigations’

-Summer reading, paper-editing, and overall studying

-And…trying not to panic.

Aside the above everyday tasks, I got to go to a Panic! At the Disco concert, which was a FANTASTIC experience!  Brendon Urie and the rest of the band really know how to put on a show; from back-flipping off of the stage to drum battles between the lead singer and the drummer, I didn’t stop laughing, singing, and cheering.  I’m so glad I got to go with my friend Addy and be a part of something so fun!

Where I’ve Been Going 

All of next week I will be in Big Sky, Montana, enjoying the sights, smells, and hopefully getting to meet a bear or two!  After a lot of early mornings at work as well as keeping up on my school work, I can definitely say that I’m looking forward to getting to hike some mountains, snap some pictures of the stunning state parks we plan on visiting, and relaxing!  Make sure you check back here for more updates on my travel adventures!


What Movie I’ve Been Watching 

I’m sure I’m really late to the party, but I just discovered the movie When Harry Met Sally.  Since I first saw it, I’ve already insisted on re-watching it 3 more times (sorry Mom, I know you’re getting tired of it)!  Its an hilarious mix of wit, laughs, and karaoke machines (Surrey with the Fringe on Top, no less)!  I laughed, I cried, I laughed and cried at the same time- a really odd mix that I’m still not sure how I feel about.

What I’m Excited For 

I suppose it would be a lie to say that I’m not at all excited for senior year, although I am really nervous for all that this next year has in store for me (*cough, cough* I’m talking to you, IB exams).

What I AM simply excited for is my 18th birthday, the Gilmore Girls REVIVAL, and my college decision, just to name a few.

Thanks for reading, kind-readers-who-aren’t-exasperated-with-me-for-not-posting-enough!  Check back here later for blog posts (I promise!) about my trip and more life updates!

Back Home Again in Indiana

Gooood morning hoosiers (and inhabitants of America alike!)  Never did I think I would be up this early after a long day of travels…but I suppose it makes sense, as I went to bed last night at approximately 8:01 pm.

I am safe and sound at home, with several more fun travel stories to tell; which I will devote this blog post to.

The long plane ride from London to Toronto was about 7h30min, so slightly longer the way back than the way there.  Everything was fine, and going smoothly until about the last 30 minutes of the ride, when out of nowhere, sirens start blaring.  A few passengers immediately begin to panic; strapping themselves in, grabbing the hands of their travel companions, etc.  Surprisingly, the flight attendants also got a little panicked; 4 of them rushed forward and one of them took the phone to make the announcement “We need backup!” All seemed to be coming to a dramatic head, until I realized that the sirens were coming from one of the lavatories.  A sheepish looking passenger walks out of the door, holding up some sort of e-cigarette, exclaiming as he did so “I didn’t know the no smoking rule applied to e-cigarettes!” (…not the sharpest tool on the shed…News flash: anything that smokes will set off the fire alarms!)

He sat back down in his seat, being mocked by his 6 buddies, before receiving a stern talking-to by the flight attendants, who also let him know that he could have been arrested for what he had done.

Not thinking much of it, it did seem a little strange when, before we could exit the plane, there was an announcement that everyone must retake their seats and pull their bags out of the aisle (easier said then done when you have a carry on suitcase stuffed to the brim with souvenirs).

On came border control, with three armed officers who surrounded the man with the e-cigarette (in case he should decide to make a run for it), and escorted him off the plane; much to the irritation of his friends.

I foresee a hefty fine in his future!

On our flight from Toronto to Indianapolis, about 10 minutes before we descended into the Indianapolis International Airport, we were struck by lightning!

Mom and I were sitting in the front row, having a chat with the flight attendant when there is a flash of white light (which wasn’t heavenly, I can assure you) and the sound of an explosion!  It looked like it had come from the cabin door, which of course made everyone worried that the door had lost its pressurization.  I thought something had blown  up in the cabin, which I think the flight attendant was worried about too because he hurried to the back of the plane and made a call to the captains.  They assured him it was ‘nothing to worry about, just a lightning strike’.

On my part, I’m kind of proud to say I witnessed a lightning strike- I wasn’t too scared after about 20 seconds (when I had made sure that the plane wasn’t nose-diving toward the ground).

But, we made it alive and well to Indianapolis where Michael picked us up and took us home.

What an exciting end to an exciting trip!  Between having to sleep in the airport on the way there, watch a guy get escorted off the plane by border control, and getting struck by lightning, I’d say I’ve almost seen it all (but wouldn’t necessarily be sorry not to witness anything else exciting on plane rides)!

Thank you one more time for reading this blog as I posted everyday- your support really means a lot!

The End.

London Trip- Day 8. Last Day in London

So, it looks like my fabulous Spring Break trip has come to an end.  And what an amazing trip it was!

Today we had a laid-back day.  We went this morning to Oxford Street again to look for prom dresses.  I tried on some nice dresses at a place called Coast, but the two dresses that I really loved didn’t fit quite right- so it looks like my prom search has been extended until I get back home.

After our morning of shopping, we had a quick bite to eat and then we made our way to Her Majesty’s Theatre to see Phantom of the Opera.  There are not accurate words in my vocabulary to express how incredible that show was; maybe I’ll try again later when I’ve had time to process the extraordinary production I’ve just seen.

In the words of my mom (and I agree), typically in Broadway productions you always forget about the men because they’re overshadowed by their female counterparts.  In this case, though the actress playing Christine was amazing on her own, the Phantom and Raoul certainly held their own with her (and in fact, were my favorites).

Such a great way to end my great experience here in London.  And, though I’d admittedly rather stay just a little while longer, I couldn’t have asked for a better time here.

I’ve got to go for now, to begin the packing process in preparation for my early alarm at 4:30 am  (11:30 pm home time) but before I do, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who read my blog and who made this trip possible in the first place.

Until tomorrow (when I’ll try to keep you abreast of my travel plans).