We're Just Getting Started

I co-wrote this article with Debbie Johnston for the publication "Virginia Capitol Connections".

They need a chance

by Julia Eldred

Virginia has over 4,800 children in foster care including over 850 who are available for adoption. Good homes are needed for our children whether they be foster or adoptive. Although children in foster care share the similarity of having experienced trauma, they are extremely diverse. They are of all ages, all ethnicities, all backgrounds, and all religions. Each child has unique and individual needs. The job of a foster or adoptive parent is to fill those needs and make sure a child is happy and most importantly healthy.

Children in foster care commonly suffer from many types of illnesses and disabilities. These can be a direct result of the reason they were removed from their biological home in the first place. The trauma from abuse or neglect can cause not only physical illness or injury, but also mental and emotional disorders. Children with medical concerns carry a very specific set of needs. A caring, patient, and determined person is essential to providing adequate and effective care for these children.

The commitment of caring for children with specialized needs can be daunting. For this reason, these children many times have difficulty finding permanency. We believe caring and willing parents are out there and ready to help. We just fear that awareness might not be strong enough for them to know that this dire need exists. While these children wait for a forever family, they live in a world of instability that does nothing to improve any problems they may face.

Caring for children with illnesses, disabilities, or disorders is truly challenging, but the reward that comes from helping a child is indescribable. Being invested in a child’s future and providing them with the support they so desperately need provides the opportunity to change a child’s life. The good that is done by helping one child meet their potential is immeasurable. More than just the individual child, our overall community benefits.

Children in these situations deserve the opportunity to have health and happiness. They just need to be given the chance.

Struggling Radio Station Seeks Help From Student Body

By Julia Eldred

A 50-year-old tradition at the University of Richmond is attempting to restore its significance in campus culture. Radio station WDCE 90.1 FM needs major improvements to continue operating and it’s looking to the student body for support.

“After the move to North Court, day-to-day interactions with fellow students has become difficult”, said Ray Googe, the WDCE general manager. The radio station formerly resided in Tyler Hanes Commons, but was relocated to the North Court dorm basement in early 2009– an event that has negatively effected the station, Googe said.

At the completion of last semester, student disc jockeys became a minority of the station’s more than 100 members. They were eclipsed by community disc jockeys whose proportion has grown since the 2009 move. These DJs consist of University of Richmond alumni and local residents. Considered a student organization by the University, WDCE needs to increase student participation to at least 50 percent to avoid possible termination.

“We are fighting for the tradition of independent broadcast radio and all of the benefits that brings to our campus,” said Marielle Jones, WDCE promotions director. WDCE is one of few college radio stations in the nation that stream online while continuing to transmit over radio waves.

“There is an educational component behind what we do, not only in the diverse range of music and talk radio available in our programing, but in a traditional form of media,” said Tim Barney, faculty advisor for WDCE and current show host, “The experience is a value to students that they would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.”

The radio station is reaching out to offices across campus including University of Richmond Athletics, the Modlin Center for the Arts as well as the music and journalism departments. “We are hoping that partnerships with these organizations will attract more students to the station,” Jones said.

Increasing student numbers is just the first step for WDCE’s revival, Googe said. The radio station is also in need of extra funding to repair or replace outdated radio broadcasting equipment. It will need to be raised by the organization itself as University resources are already being spent on daily operations.

Members of WDCE’s executive staff are in the process of organizing a fundraising event to help with upcoming costs and to increase awareness. “Keep a look out for that,” Jones said, “An exciting announcement is coming soon.”

Any students interested in becoming involved with the station may contact Ray Googe at ray.googe@richmond.edu. To listen to WDCE, tune into 90.1 FM or stream live at www.wdce.org. Check the website for current programming and weekly schedule.

JULIA IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Blog for the Office of International Education at the University of Richmond

See full blog here.

ANTICIPATION.

August 24, 2011

Summer 2011 has been the longest summer of my life. Not just because an amazing experience is waiting at the end, but quite literally. My break started in the middle of May and will last until the middle of September – a full 4 month summer. As all my friends begin returning to school and starting the new semester, I still have almost a month of summer… to endure. The pure anticipation is excruciating. I want to be there. I want the experience to start.

Having lived in Richmond for half my life, I only have a simple 10 minute drive to visit friends on campus. Some of which are returning from Europe themselves (from summer abroad programs). Hearing stories from my friend Marielle who studied German in Austria only intensified my excitement. She made great friends and traveled to amazing places. She wished her trip would not end.

When September 18th rolls around, I will FINALLY board a plane heading to Derry, Northern Ireland – which is what this blog is all about. Hi, I’m Julia, by the way. I am a junior at UR studying Business Administration (with a concentration in Marketing) and Studio Art. This is a strange combination, I know, but it has a purpose. My dream job (for now) is something in the advertising/graphic design industry. So, at the University of Ulster, I will be taking graphic design classes… hopefully. At the University of Ulster (and many other European universities) registration begins upon arrival. Having been pampered by the luxuries of BannerWeb, I am terrified to attempt registering on paper. I have a list of classes that I want to take, but we’ll see how that goes.

As for other preparations for the trip, I’m still working on that. I have made travel arrangements (including 3 connecting flights, 2 layovers, and and a 2 hour bus ride) plus I have a place to live. I will stay in an apartment in Duncreggan Student Village. I know I am living with some roommates, but I guess I will meet them when I get there. My passport and other important documents are stapled and neatly sitting in a folder ready to go. It is almost impossible to walk across my room due to the numerous piles of stuff I plan to take. I definitely need to start weeding some items out. More important, however, is my mental preparation. Right now I am fine – calmly excited. I assume the freak-out will begin when I cross the threshold of the airplane and take my seat. But for now, the wait continues…

PLANS, PLANS, PLANS.

September 14, 2011

I am about a week and a half away from the big day now. Everything is starting to be squared away. All the loose ends are being tied up. I could probably muster up a couple more cliches about preparedness, but I think those will do. In short, we are almost there, people.

This trip has been basically my sole topic of conversation over the last 4 or 5 months and in that time, I have made a number of plans… in my head. Knowing me, by writing them down, I will greatly increase the probability of me actually following through with them. There are so many wonderful things to do in Europe; I just want to make sure I don’t miss out on anything. On my iPod, I have created a list entitled “Places to Visit in Europe”. The list includes Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, and Paris. Paris may be a long shot for me, but hey, I can dream. Mostly, I plan to stay within the UK and Ireland (Northern Ireland is part of the UK). I want to avoid overextending myself by trying to see too much. I also really would like to get to know the city I will be living in – Londonderry. It is the oldest city in N. Ireland, so it is obviously highly concentrated with history.

While exploring this country, I want to visit a castle. Yes, a castle — authentic stone edifices that are paramount to so many fairy-tales. These great pieces of architecture just don’t exist in America. Which is probably part of the reason they are so appealing to me. Our whole country is significantly younger than these buildings. I will be living every little girl’s dream. And, from what I’ve read, there is no shortage of castles in Northern Ireland. Going along with this magical theme… one of the reasons I would like to visit Scotland, is to see Lake Loch Ness.  Spotting ol’ Nessy would make that trip worthwhile.

I hope that part of my adventures includes understanding the people of Northern Ireland. I know that many times, when students study overseas, they tend to be drawn to other international students (because they are living in similar circumstances). Sure, I would love to meet other people who are attempting to operate in a foreign environment, but I don’t want to spend time with them exclusively. I need to make it a goal of mine to have Irish friends as well. There is no better way to learn about a culture than to be educated by a friend who lives it. Which is essentially what I am doing with this blog — educating you about what studying abroad is like. Which is why I have decided to add a “fun fact” to the end of each blog, because, to my knowledge, American college kids don’t know much about Northern Ireland (no offense). So, here goes…

Fun Fact #1: The singer-songwriter/musician Van Morrison (wrote the song Brown Eyed Girl), actor Liam Neeson (of Schindler’s List and Taken), as well as this summer’s winner of The Glee Project Damian McGinty were all born and raised in Northern Ireland.

A ROUGH START.

September 26, 2011

Traveling to Derry was quite an adventure, to say the least. Physically getting myself from within the United States past the borders of the UK and finally to my flat in Derry took much longer than was originally expected. The trip from my driveway to the doorway of my apartment took a “wee bit” under 24 hours. I won’t bore you with the extraneous details, but here’s a short recap of my trip:

I arrived at Richmond International Airport with plenty of time to make my first flight out to Newark. See my photo below of New York from the air!  There, it took about 45 minutes to find an open gate before we were allowed to exit the plane. So, once I was finally able to get off the plane, I basically sprinted to my next gate, only to find that the flight had been delayed and passengers were not yet boarding.

And then I arrived in London. Here is where all the fun begins. See, Heathrow Airport is separated into different “terminals” which are essentially mini-airports connected only by a 10 minute bus ride. I had 2 hours to get from one terminal to another to catch my final flight to Belfast. Little did I know, transferring terminals requires you to go through customs and security. I made it through and to the ticket counter (to receive my last boarding “card”) with 30 minutes to get to the gate. However, according the the airline rep, my bags hadn’t made it to the airplane yet. I was on time, but my bags were not. Apparently, if your luggage hasn’t made it to the plane, you can’t be checked in. So, I needed to catch the next flight out. Which, conveniently, happened to be 4 hours later.  Here’s a picture of London from the air – also pretty impressive!

I finally made it to Belfast (the capital city of Northern Ireland). But, guess what… my 2 bags weren’t with me. How, I must ask, was I checked into the next flight if my bags weren’t on it? This whole story is very contradictory. The baggage claim lady at the Belfast Airport finally told me that because I switched airlines at London (from Continental to Aer Lingus), I should have grabbed my bags at Continental’s luggage carousel and then transport them to the next airline. Who knew?!

Finally, I met a University of Ulster representative at the airport who arranged for some other international students and myself to catch the 2 hour bus ride to Derry. Although exhausted, slightly homesick, and minus 2 bags, I was definitely excited to step into my new room.

Okay, that explanation of my travels was not very brief, but such a lengthy journey deserves a full paragraph or two. I arrived on Monday night. It is now Wednesday afternoon and my bags have been delivered. Other than my baggage debacle, transitioning into this new culture has been quite smooth. I haven’t been to the center of town yet, but I’ve gone to some shops and have taken a few taxis. So far, the Irish people have been extremely nice and helpful. My first week here is all about orientation and getting prepared to register for classes (which will not be as difficult as I originally thought!). Next week all of the Irish students will return to campus, and classes start. There are definitely more adventures to come and I am ready.

Fun Fact #2: Irish people refer to ATM machines as “cash points” or “holes in the wall”. They also call plastic page protectors “poly pockets”.