Hyperventilating causes bursts of air bubbles to stream north around the side of your mask. It is 48 degrees in these Atlantic waters and no matter how hard you rub the plastic of your mask, the clear image of jaws is imminently approaching you in open waters. Hyperventilating causes short gasps of breaths that might happen when you drop off a 10 foot cliff in nothing but a plastic six man raft. It is 37 degrees in these Alaskan waters and the torrential down pour of rain on your face is 45 degrees yet the image of class 4 rapids is trapping you for miles. Hyperventilating can be caused from an overwhelming emotional psychological state that will occur when bearing witness to helpless and orphaned children. It is 88 degrees outside but the humidity is 99% and unbearable. Breathing is hard, but watching barefoot children play with mud outside their hut homes is even harder. Hyperventilating, for some, occurs a lot during your college years due to stress. Whether it is from unreasonable deadlines, missed homework assignments, cramming for tests, failed exams, unyielding professors, sleep deprivation, caffeine overloads, noisy neighbors, clashing diversity, or maybe just the basic struggle of finding yourself can all take a toll on your motivation to remain steadfast towards a degree. Adding to all the anxiety, three University of South Carolina students challenge themselves by tackling all of those college hardships in order to quench the thirst of their own personal convictions.
Before most students have time to pack a small bag to head home during spring and summer breaks, junior Alek Dinesen isn’t even close to campus. The jet setter leaves Columbia faster than professors can assign over the break homework. By then, Dinesen will be well on his way to JFK international airport where he hops on a nonstop flight to Cape Town, South Africa. “Africa is not every college students first pick to spend the seemingly student marked holidays, but it’s the only place in the world I’d want to be” says Dinesen, who goes to Africa every chance he gets. The plane ticket is funded by his parents if he has a certain GPA, which he is driven to reach every semester. Daringly enough, that is the only planned thing his entire trip. Once he gets to Cape Town, he and his best friend since birth take the backpackers route and find hostels to stay at. As far as transportation goes, they walk, hitch hike or find buses to get them to the coast where they barter with chartered diving boats to take them shark diving. They came across a dive company called Picses who offered to charter them for a few dives to the Atlantic side of the Cape of Good Hope. The dives were specific for seven gill sharks, a shark that normally resides in deep waters. However, this is the one place on earth they can be seen at less than 100 meters. “The dives were like the fourth Harry Potter movie, with kelp forests and aerie waters,” says Dinesen. Seven gill sharks are pack hunters so they were multiple times that the two boys came into contact with up to 12 sharks at one time. “They weren’t too aggressive and it was hard to pay much attention in the 48 degree water we poorly planned for,” he mentions they had forgotten to pack wetsuits. After that diving adventure, they moved around South Africa quite a bit but found themselves settled in Gansbaai, South Africa where they were lucky enough to meet up with Chris Fallows, the world’s leading great white shark enthusiast. Tagging along with Fallows, Dinesen and his friend spent weeks waking up early and heading out with a boat full of chum and a team of researchers. The research wasn’t of as much importance to the two boys; they were more concerned with when they were going to get their next big rush while diving with the most majestic creatures known to man. Soon they discovered the beauty and docility of the great white shark. They spent time chumming the waters and watching from the boat as they forced them to breech the water to give them a free sea world type show. Soon they rolled out the cages and spent time monitoring them from a somewhat safer distance. The adrenaline rushes kept getting topped and topped the more the two shark obsessed boys dived. After a few days of cage diving, they figured they wanted the whole experience; it was time to get out of the cage. No longer chumming at the same spot for diving, they would just leak blood into the water and then drift a bit and hop in the water in nothing but a wetsuit, mask, and oxygen tank. “The water on the Pacific side of South Africa is considerably warmer and being free in the water with great white sharks, it is easy to warm yourself up personally,” laughs Dinesen. With only a few close calls with sharks getting too close, the two boys spent almost all of summer 2011 back and forth between South Africa and Fiji. In Fiji, Dinesen dived with over sixty bull sharks in the water at a time, “that experience was a little bit more overwhelming than the one with great white sharks.” In addition to following his dream of diving with sharks, while he was in South Africa, Dinesen found himself squeezed on a bus with a safari research organization that stopped in Siyafunda in the sub-Saharan area of South Africa. They were en route to a children’s orphanage and Dinesen figured he had a few extra days leftover, might as well absorb every experience thrown his way. “It was the best time of my life, diving with God’s most feared predator. Sharks have always been an obsession of mine since I was a kid. The feeling of knowing I have fulfilled that to the maximum is unreal and it is what you have to do with every aspect of your life.”
Well a lot of students have a hard time balancing studying with a social life, sophomore Justin Baxley distinctly doesn’t compromise that. Every break, Baxley, along with five other friends, get onto a bus that takes them to the airport in Atlanta, Georgia. From there, they get on a nonstop flight to Anchorage, Alaska. “There are usually delays, but airports are always the most difficult part of traveling,” says Baxley, “I just have to remind myself it is just a speed bump on the way to awesomeness! This ‘awesomeness’ that Baxley is speaking of is Alaska itself and all the adventures he is about to have in the stunning state. Towards the end of his 7.5 hour flight, he looks out his window and sees some of the most breathtaking mountain peaks in all of North America. There is always a certain spot in the flight that he knows when to look out the window and within minutes he’ll overlook the Prince William Sound and have the most breathtaking view ever. The plane descends shortly after that and Baxley and his friend unload outside and retrieve their own luggage from the plane. At this time, it is 9 o’clock and the sun is still up and 40 degrees lower than in South Carolina. During the summer, the sun never sets in Alaska, “I got sunburnt at 10 o’clock!” While applying coats of aloe to his burns, Baxley and friends set out for his real destination, North Pole, Alaska, a town on the outskirt of Fairbanks. There, Baxley and his friends meet up with four other groups of friends. Two are from Alaska, one from Texas, and the other one Nevada. The groups have known each other for years through church youth mission trips and decided to get together on their own. The four groups head for a church in town that was in dire need of a new roof. The church was a small, one story church that sat on a small, yet gorgeous, river. For five days, all the groups work from dawn until dusk restoring everything they could on the church, including the roof. Once they completed everything, Baxley and the groups headed back towards Anchorage to do the second most exciting thing they went there to do, white water rafting. All the groups had met through served mission trips, and also all conveniently have an appetite for the raging rapids. Baxley and the boys got a rafting company to rent them the rafts for an all-day expedition down the Nenana River. It was August and the water was at warmest 37 degrees. There was a down pour of rain that day and “it felt like little icicles beating on your body making it numb.” Before the groups suited up for the rapids, Baxley recalls shivering so severely while trying to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, long before he had touched toes in the river. “Once you enter the raft, you have to be on your guard, you never turn your back on the river, you have to have a 360 degree view constantly or it will end badly,” says Baxley after having the unfortunate experience of nearly going over board, “thank goodness for life jackets!” The entire thrill of this white knuckle sport is using all your senses. “You’re in a constantly state of pushing yourself mentally and physically to your limit, battling nature.” After hours of battling intense class 4, almost freezing rapids, Baxley noticed during a calm part in the river that he had grape jelly completely coating the entire inside of one of his arms on his wetsuit. “I guess those sorts of things happen, but if I have to fix a roof and deal with a little food being plastered to my body for hours doing what I love, then life is good.”
College is about proving yourself to the real world. Proving you can earn the grades and balance extracurricular activities on top of that. Most college experiences require students having internships or part-time jobs, and a lot have volunteer work. For junior Taylen McEntire, it was no sweat incorporating all those things together. McEntire has been wholeheartedly captivated by the needs and demands of social work for years and has known she one day wants to make a career out of it. Her first spark happened years before when she was younger, on a church mission trip around America one summer. She went with her church every year but this year she missed it do to an internship. Feeling unfilled, McEntire decided to fund her own trip to Africa, and she would do so unaccompanied. “I have heard many people in my church talk about their experiences with Africa, and something just came over me and said ‘just make it happen Taylen!’” Her churched ended up helping her fundraise and she was able to go for free. Once in Africa, she contacted a group of medical researchers from the United States, who had ties within her church to another member. So she wouldn’t be totally isolated on a foreign continent, she chose to tag along with them. “I basically just absorbed the culture, went hut to hut sharing my testimony. It wasn’t about going to Africa because it sounds good; it was me wanting to see firsthand what so many other people had told me about. When other people have spoken about it, they tear up and say you just don’t understand until you go, I wanted to know!” McEntire spent 15 days in Uganda, staying in a local motel with the medical researchers, going with them from village to village. “I danced with them, showed them some sign language, traded clothes and jewelry, spoke, shared ideas, they showed me their daily lives. All I could think about when one kid would smile or hold my hand is how innocent and protected they are from the world almost, yet they have nothing.” It would feel unbearably hot outside and McEntire would have to consciously remind herself not to complain about it. “It was weird to come home and hear friends say, “Yeah, so anyways, did you see on Facebook?” I just felt, unconnected with my former realty after seeing their reality.” McEntire returned with a tearful testimony and vowed to herself that she would do a mission trip every year of her life. “It doesn’t have to be something as big as Africa of course, that wouldn’t be the point, the point is to help out others, like I could even spend a week in Columbia in lower income school districts and volunteer, it’s just about doing something that is bigger than yourself.”
College, for some, is the best four years of your life- or so the cliché goes. For many, it is their first time going “away” to college, living on or off campus, discovering things outside the realm of their homes. You meet new and fascinating people and keep them as lifelong friends. You discover things you didn’t know about yourself, like your likes, dislikes, new interests, and all things that help you grow into an adult. You also can’t forget there the newfound freedom and desire to explore. A lot of people never want these years to end because it beats the daily grind of a full time job. But what if the enjoyment you received during your college years could follow you into a career and throughout life? Well these three students at the University of South Carolina have discovered a way through channeling together opportunity and determination make that sensation of happiness last passed their college years. Every student, every person, has some desire that drives them. The college years are about finding yourself, and doing what makes you happy for you. And if along the way, you get bitten by a shark, have grape jelly on your clothes, or a tear on your sleeve, remember, at least you followed your heart.
Being Cautious on the Concrete
For USC Girl Runners
Shawana McFarland is a senior in the nursing program at the University of South Carolina and a die-hard runner. “Nothing is more liberating of stress then to pound pavement,” says McFarland, “it is also good to know that my biggest source of stress relieve also serves as my exercise, so I feel like I am being productive with my time!” McFarland has been running since her high school years and after nursing school she aims to race competitively. “As of right now, it is hard to train for a race because I am so busy in nursing school, but it is also hard to want to run in the Columbia area,” she stated. Like so many other young college girls, McFarland likes to stay healthy and active. However, it is hard to do so in a major metropolitan area. “It isn’t exactly ideal to run thirty seconds to then have to stop for 2 minutes at a light when you are pressed for time. It also throws off your momentum!” In addition to the annoying hassle of traffic lights, McFarland also mentioned that she didn’t feel ‘exactly secure’ running outside in downtown Columbia. The University of South Carolina is located smack dab in the heart of the state capitol city and in Columbia, the chances of the individual becoming the victim of a violent crime are 1 in 113 (neighborhoodscout). “I always take into account of my surrounds, but sometimes it is hard to always be on your guard especially when running is such an easy sport to detox your mind with.” So where can girls, like McFarland, run safely in Columbia without the constant worry of being the next potential victim of a senseless crime? There are five rules that girl runners should be follow at all times.
Rule number one about being a girl runner: Be aware of your surroundings. Whether you are a boy or a girl, you should never just go for a jog and hope for the best. Crime happens everywhere and the University of South Carolina Law Enforcement knows that. At USC, the Division of Law Enforcement and Safety does everything they can to protect all of its students. On the university’s website, the law enforcement office has a very helpful website that provides information for not just runners, but to all students about campus safety. “There are roughly 130,000 people in Columbia and around 30,000 students on the main campus, it is a given that crime is going to happen,” says junior Danielle Barrineau, who has grown up in the Columbia area and is also an avid runner. “I run around campus all the time because it is so beautiful and has nice pathways that aren’t in sketchy downtown areas,” she adds, “I really feel better knowing there are emergency button towers all around campus so if I ever run at night without a phone, all I have to do is run to one of those and know someone will come help me.” Another useful fact is that the USC Law Enforcement and Safety officers have as much jurisdiction as a South Carolina state trooper. So if anyone ever feels uncomfortable with their surroundings not just on campus, but in the Columbia area, students can always call them and they will gladly pick up them up and take them home.
Rule number two about being a girl runner: Carry some protection! No that doesn’t mean a gun by any means, if you feel the need to carry a concealed weapon where you run, you should probably not be running in that area in the first place! The simplest thing to have with you if you are a girl runner is some mace, invest! Running specialty stores carry mace that fit comfortably in your hand that are light weight so you do not even notice them, they even come in pink! If that is even too much for you, carry a key in your hand and grip it tightly between your fingers that way you have an advantage if you have the unfortunate need to throw a right hook at a potential predator. Also, be a weapon yourself! Take some self-defense classes. Strom and Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center offer martial arts classes with a focus on self-defense every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4:30-6:30.
Rule number three about being a girl runner: Know your limitations as a female. Not to raise the bar on a sexist scale, however, it is a fact that women are built with smaller frames than men. A harsh reality sets in knowing and accepting that women are the more feeble of the two sexes (when was the last time anyone has heard of an instance where a man was raped by a woman?). If you are anything like McFarland, she likes to run alone. “It would be nice to have a girl running partner, but being so busy with school, I just don’t have the luxury of planning around another schedule!” Ideally, everyone should run in pairs, however, the hustle and bustle of life gets in the way. As a female runner, it is best to plan your runs during the day. Crime is less likely to happen during daylight hours versus night hours.
Rule number four about being a girl runner: Lock in a location. Junior Danielle Barrineau discovered second semester of her freshman year the scenic pathways of the Riverwalk after running around aimlessly all over Columbia for three months. “I got bored of the location, every runner needs to switch it up, but at River walk, I can run the pathways a couple times and get long runs in without worrying about mapping my run!” The Riverwalk pathways are located a grand total of two minutes from campus on the corner of Alexander Road and at the end of the Gervais Street bridge. The pathways are monitored closely by a light police force that constantly drives on golf carts up and down the pathway. There are several park benches and picnic tables along the 8 mile stretch of pavement with a beautiful view of the river. The pathway is completely family oriented and full of runners. “It is the safest outside environment to run in I have found in all of Columbia, it is my sacred haven!” Also, girl runners should consider USC’s Strom and Thurmond Wellness and Fitness center for days they cannot fit their runs in during the day. The gym provides over twenty treadmills and a large three lane track that when lapped only seven times makes a mile. Any die hard runner looks at running inside as a death sentence, but sometimes the craving for concrete has to take a back seat to safety.
Rule number five about being a girl runner: Trust your instincts. As a female, we all have a sort of sixth sense of intuition. Sometimes it is being aware when other girls are talking about you, when a guy likes you, or maybe even when there is chocolate within a five mile radius. However, as a girl runner, one needs to learn to channel that intuition into helpful hints for the road. Limit distractions. In a lot of disappearing girl runner cases, girls were nabbed from behind. According to one online journal, one way to prevent this is to lose the iPod (Luff). If you absolutely cannot run without it, try just using one ear so you can hear if there is someone coming up from behind. After all, no beat is worth your heartbeat.
All of these rules are simply guidelines to help out the female student runners. All this article seeks to do is commend the admirable and ambitious girl runners that incorporate health and happiness into their hectic and hard-working daily lives with some helpful hints to safe running. There are so many tips on running outside, from wearing bright colored and reflective clothing to carrying identification at all times. Words of wisdom from a follow runner: Keep up to date with all new gadgets that a girl runner can carry on her. Practice self-defense maneuvers with a friend on the regular. Never run at night alone, there are always alternatives. Program the schools law enforcement number into your cell phone. And last but not least, always tell someone where you are going. Whether it is leaving a note, or texting a friend, make sure at least one soul knows where you are and how long you will be gone. All off these things can keep a runner from running into trouble on the trail. Happy running to all ladies!