“Pensamientos Aleatorios” – El Salvador Day 12/15

I have had MANY experience on this trip that do not necessarily fit into a day’s blog post, so because I did the exact same service project today as yesterday, I dedicated this post to some aspects of this trip that don’t necessarily fit into other blogs, but nonetheless are quite interesting and educational.


The first is how the city is structured and built. There are many different styles of living in El Salvador (ES). The rural Santa Marta is very open to nature with how the homes and rooms are built. However, San Salvador (where my Hotel Oasis is) has a more modern look in terms of traffic, buildings, etc.


To elaborate on the city structure, ES has one of the best highway/road systems in Central America. Even though ES is considered a two thirds world country, it is important to remember it has modern aspects of what we consider “modern”, which is essentially just social construction. I thought this photo of construction workers nicely captures this notion.


The food here is so great and flavorful–chicken, fish, beef, every meat I’ve had is just delicious! Fruits and veggies are another highly eaten item and avocado (and lime) is great in almost anything. Plantains can be fried like potato chips to make a tasty snack and I bought many of them! Pupusas (a thin bread folded in meat, beans, and/or cheese) are another great food and I learned how to make them.


Street life is always busy in the urban areas, with people selling food, items, hanging around, or the rare sight of street performers. A single photo does not do this guy justice, though nevertheless here’s a glimpse of his show.


In the United States I’m used to security guards and the occasional police offices, but in ES there is the national civilian police paid by the government. They carry many different guns (simi-automatics, handgun, shotguns, etc.) and it took some getting used to being so close to them because they patrol many areas we frequent. They do smile.


The last day at Programa Velasco, my service site, was similar to yesterday. The highlight though was I was able to sponsor Axel, who’s almost 3 years old and is just an awesome little guy. I have always wanted to support a child in a different country and it felt so right to do so. Hopefully this will ensure Axel makes it to the 1st grade and lives a happy, safe life. I’m already looking forward to getting some mailed updates from him!


Move-In ✔ List (What NOT to Take to College)

All colleges and universities have a list of recommended items to bring during freshman or transfer move-in. A few of these are allowed appliances, classroom supplies, clothes and bedding items. It’s usually straightforward and easy to follow.  However, the list that is typically ignored is the ‘What NOT to Bring’ list. This list is important because it outlines what isn’t necessary to have the very best college experience and build the best character perception for classmates, professors and dorm mates. Below, in no specific order, is a description of four examples of what should not be taken to college with you.

What The College Does Not Allow

Most colleges have a list of items that are not allowed within the campus residence areas. These items are usually not allowed to prevent fire and electrical hazards, such as candles and  high-watt appliances respectively. Any student can do without these so they should not hinder the new living experience. Additionally, there are usually alternatives to what is not allowed. For example, a low-watt microwave is often acceptable, while plug-in air fresheners can substitute for candles. (That is what the candles are used for, right?)


In some cases, many students can transfer applicable credentials from high school to college. These range from (Advanced Placement) AP credits, testing out college classes, and Honors recognition based on their transferring GPA .  These are nice additions that boost a new college student’s new resumé and transcript.  However, previous achievements such as valedictorian, class president and other similar merits no longer matter and should not be used to pull rank. This includes that 4.0 high school GPA after it was applied to a scholarship or class placement. College is all about starting over fresh and getting involved within the campus is the key to building up a new resume–a resume that can be used to obtain future employment. This includes academics; a college students’s college GPA is way more relevant than their previous high school equivalent.

Fixed Expectations

The media displays and plays on a specific angle toward many archetypes–and college students are a main one. Expecting the ‘okay’ to skip class whenever (regardless of the attendance policy), disregard studying (regardless of minimum academic expectation) and drink underage and/or drugs use (regardless of the law) only sets students up to fail with short-term contentment and long-term frustration. Damaged transcripts and records never go away and only prevents employment, which defeats the purpose of attend college in the first place. Furthermore, fixed expectations on other college related categories also needed to be dispelled. For example, the fraternities and sororities at Grand Valley State University value service work and community development entirely, meaning if a student followed the media’s label of “sex, drugs and hazing” they could miss out on a great opportunity to get involved, build their resumé and support their community.

Fixed Values

Everyone has developed traits and character that defines them as individuals–that make us who we are. Personal quirks, habits, and knowledge also helps define us. This is how most make friends and maybe avoid others who clash or contradict with our standards. It is perfectly okay to define and develop our inner circle this way. However, without respect it is not. Diversity is a gift reminiscent to treasure–opened with the key we all have and should be valued like diamonds. With that said, it is okay to disagree with another point of view. It isnot okay to highlight that difference and discriminate in a malicious way. Be constructive, not destructive; build others up, don’t tear them down. College is a place where many different ideas come together, so respect and understanding are very important. Extreme cases aside, this could just mean being opening to trying something new, like sushi perhaps. (Spicy Salmon & Yellowtail Rolls)


What else shouldn’t you bring to college and why?


Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

RA 4 West A

If you’re reading this, then you’re either one of my friends or one of my residents.  Though I’ll keep the intros about myself short, it’ll answer the “Who is this guy that’s my college RA” question. I’m Mario, though I go by Ari here at Grand Valley, and I’m one of the three Resident Assistants (aka RAs) for the West A Living Center. I have an identical twin brother who is definitely similar to me and my home town is Detroit, MI. I’ll start this fall in my senior year and I’m psyched to hang out with all the new incoming freshmen assigned to West A (and the surrounding dorms) and help with the transition from high school to college—and I know about that very well myself.

I was home schooled since the 6th grade and it still stands as one of the best experiences of my life. The only ‘negative’ aspect of getting home schooled to me was my twin and I could never switch classes (I mean, the most we could do was switch seats and what fun is that?) Also, I could never skip school, because, well, it was like running away from home… (Again, not something worth doing).  Those aside it was THEE koolest experience. I graduated not knowing my major so I enrolled into Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) and graduated from their Honors Program and with an Associates of Arts degree. My time at GRCC helped define my major after transferring to GVSU and this RA position of mine helps it even further. That means if you guys don’t come to me for anything I’m going to be very bored! Heh, well not really but my future master degree program is College Students Affairs Leadership M.Ed, to connect all this together.

All that said, I’m here for any and all new students so keep me posted with any questions and all of us RAs will be sure to provide you guys with all the information you need and relevant programming.