Friday, June 28, 2013

Learning to Love Life After College

Loving life after college, is that even possible?

My friends who recently graduated are quick to ask me: "So do you like life after college?",  "Do you ever miss being in college?"  And I can honestly say that yes I do like my life post-college and no I don't miss being in college.  Let me repeat.  I really, really like being a college graduate.

But don't take this as meaning that my transition into my 'new' life was seamless.  Last year I postponed my post-grad blues by traveling for the summer, but upon my return (and seeing my younger friends still in college) I had quite the case of blues.  I was mourning my time in college being over and feeling like I didn't even know who I was anymore.  For all of my young life I had been able to define myself as a student.  As a college graduate I couldn't introduce myself as 'an elementary education major,' but I wasn't quite a teacher who was I?
A few months ago I wrote a post about surviving life after college, and I can honestly say that it is more than possible to not only survive but thrive in your new life after college.  If you're having a hard time adjusting to this huge change, here are some awesome reasons I've found from my first year after graduation of why you should start loving your life after college:

You're Beginning to Define the Real You

You're no longer a student or an aspiring author/nurse/doctor/psychologist/engineer/teacher.  Instead you are becoming that author, nurse, or teacher.  You are constantly defining yourself with every decision and opportunity you take, and how you deal with the experiences you are dealt.  Maybe you don't have your dream job yet, but what are you doing to work towards that goal?  Great opportunities and experiences may not always be job opportunities and your job does not define you.  Consider: volunteering, interning, taking courses, picking up a new hobby, learning something new, travel.  When it comes down to it do you want to be defined as the person sitting at home on the couch, or putting themselves out there and making the best out of your new life?

I may not have my dream teaching job, but I haven't let it get me down.  Instead I found a way to gain some kind of experience in my field networking and build connections.  Now I'll even be moving abroad to experience and learn about another culture (lucky for me it's teaching English and is still in my chosen field of education!).  So while I may not have the title of 'teacher' to define me, I'm finding that I've had the freedom post-college to be who I really want to be.

You Can Do What Interests You

I may work seemingly non-stop, but I've found that outside of college I still have way more free time to pursue what interests me.  No one is telling me I need to squeeze in extra courses to graduate on time, I don't have to write papers, take exams, or do excessive amounts of homework.  Instead, I can learn and do what I want to.  When I was in college I can't remember the last time I was able to read something just for my enjoyment, usually it would have to wait for one of my vacation periods.  Now I can finally catch up on my reading list (subsequently full of books and novels on/about Spain), work on my knitting skills, improve my foreign language proficiency, and pursue many of the things that I just never had time for in college.


Now I don't pretend that I have complete independence at the moment, but definitely more than in college.  I do live at home with my mom, but I must help clean more than just my own dorm space, help cook family meals, take care of my finances, etc. and I love it all.  I love cooking my own food and have become a much better cook because of it.  I can whip up my own sauces, can make things from scratch, and know how to balance healthy meals.  Also, taking care of my student loans on my own has given me a sense of independence.  Keeping track of payments and making sure they're always paid on time has really been empowering, letting me know that yes I can do it myself.

Many recent college graduates may be forced to move back home with their families, but it doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your independence.  If you find yourself in this situation talk with your family.  Discuss the boundaries you all want and what you each need from each other.  As I plan to move abroad in the Fall I definitely feel more prepared coming with a year out of college under my belt, even if I was living at home.

I Finally Have Some Money (keyword. some.)

I'm definitely not rich (haha rich, that's a joke right?), but working full-time and not having to pay all those college fees anymore means for once I actually have some money.  Granted it's all going to me being in Spain next year...but at least I have it, right?  The point is that even if you have to work multiple (often poorly paying) part-time jobs you can still make ends meet.  If you're like most college graduates, you won't be wealthy straight out of the gate, but once you're out of college and working full time you absolutely can work your way up to financial stability.  It all depends on how willing you are to work your butt off, if you have a budget that works for your life and needs, and if you know the ins and outs of your student loans/debt.  Even if your dream also happens to be working abroad and traveling the world (which can be affordable to all!).

My Tips for Loving Your Life After College (From Experience):

Spend Time With Friends

College friends, high school friends, new friends.  It doesn't matter.  You don't have to sacrifice a social life to be an 'adult.'  Keep in mind though that: no not all of your friends will stay when you move onto this next stage of your life and yes it's much harder to make friends out of college.  Instead you will find out who's worth keeping in your life; maybe you won't have tons of friends but you'll keep the handful that matters.  And while it may be more difficult to make new friends, it's not impossible.  Put yourself out there, get involved, and try knew experiences where you can meet potential new friends.

Get Involved

Always a beautiful night at WaterFire,
If you're feeling lonely in your new life get involved in your community and organizations that you feel passionate about.  When your job has group activities for bonding try to go for the experience.  If that's not your thing or you don't work with employees your own age, research how you can get involved through community groups or volunteering.  I volunteer with WaterFire Providence because keeping the arts alive is something I feel passionate about.  Getting involved in something interesting/important to you can: help make your life rewarding, help make networking connections, look great on resumes, and help you in your quest to build new friendships.

Learn Something New

Improved my knitting and taught myself to crochet.
Just because you are done with college doesn't mean you should stop learning!  Visit your local library and browse the stacks for something that has always interested you.  Want to learn a new language?  Look at what resources you can find to become bilingual, or even multilingual!  Attend public lectures at your local university, see what community courses you can take, pick up a hobby, etc.  If you're looking to broaden your horizons and continue enriching your life, then the possibilities are endless.

Fit in Exercise

What's a better workout than sledding?
Always try to make time for exercise in your life.  Try to create a regular workout routine because keeping physically active in the long run will make you healthier and happier.  I personally find it easier to workout right when I get out of work in the evening because I'm much more motivated when I'm already out of my house and moving.  What has also helped me establish a routine has been taking a scheduled exercise class where I'm expected on a weekly basis.  Making physical activity a regular part of my life has not only made me happy and healthy, but in the best shape I've ever been.  There's always a way to sneak physical activity into your routine, whether it be parking further away and taking the stairs or hitting up the gym.

Learn How to Cook Healthy Meals

Delicious home-cooked
Spanish food

This is something I feel very strongly about, because not only will learning how to cook save you so much money, but knowing how to cook healthy, well-balanced meals is an invaluable skill that you will use for the rest of your life.  Thanks to the internet there are so many free resources at your fingertips you can use to get creative with recipes and cater to the tastes you prefer.  Your body, taste buds, and health will all thank you for learning how to make some delicious wholesome home-cooked meals.  (Not to mention it's a great way to impress your friends and family!)

Chocolate cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting from scratch...
ok this isn't that healthy, but it's delicious!

Live it Up-Always Look to Expand Your Horizons

Never think that just because you graduated college that your life is over.  No matter what your age, it's never too late to expand your horizons and live your life to the fullest.  If you're truly unsatisfied with your life, don't settle.  If you want something different, make that change.  Life is short and it's not worth wasting it being unhappy.  My grandmother always told me: "When one door closes, another opens."  College may be over, but you have this new wonderful door opening up to the rest of your life.  It all depends on what you do when you step outside.

How have you learned to love your life after college?  What advice do you have for new graduates?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The First Goodbyes

Well the day finally came, the day I had to start my goodbyes before leaving for Spain.  Yesterday was the last day of school, and my last day with my students in the after-school program I've worked at for the past ten months. 
Pumpkins we carved in the fall.
Over the past ten months I've grown really close with all of the kids we watched.  Most of them I had the experience of working with them in school as their substitute teacher, as well as out of school in the after-school program.  And despite all the long days, all the times I wanted to pull my hair out because no one was following directions, I never actually thought the day would come when I would have to say goodbye to these amazing children and their wonderful families.

The delicious donut cake we bought them

Part of me still thinks that I'll just see their bright, shining faces tomorrow; yelling my name down the hallway and running over to give me a hug.  But the worst part is when they tell me they can't wait to see me again in the fall.  Because I've told them all, and their families, my plans.  I have had those talks explaining that "Miss Lauren found a job in Spain,  it's across the ocean so I won't be here next year with all of you."  But they're young and most don't even know what Europe is, so they look up at me with those big, eager eyes "But you'll visit us, right?"  And cue my heart melting...

As we said our goodbyes I had to remind them that I don't know if I'll see them again.  Most still didn't comprehend that it was the end of my time there, a few even said they would see me tomorrow.  One of my favorite little girls almost walked out without giving me a final hug until her dad gently reminded her.  You could see it hit her as she dropped all of her stuff and jumped into my arms for a final hug; this very well could be the last time we saw each other.  A few of the children I did give my address to so we could write each other.  And while this promise of keeping in touch softened the blow to my already sensitive personality, I didn't realize goodbye would be so hard.  I had not prepared myself for this first set of goodbyes...I didn't think I would have to start so soon!
"My favorite thing about School's Out is the teachers"
I'm proud of how much these little ones have grown and glad I've gotten to share the year with them and their wonderful families.  The cards some of the families gave me were so touching; knowing I have their appreciation is worth more than any gift I could ever be given.  The chance to have a small part in the lives of their children has been so fulfilling and has made my first year after college so much more rewarding.  I do hope I can stay in touch with the few families who I have exchanged addresses with, because (and maybe this is just because I'm an emotional mush-ball) these children have all weaseled their way into my heart.  

Ah so cute, breaking my heart!

Saying my first goodbyes have made me realize that rest are not far behind.  Before I know it, it will be time to leave all of the people I love here...  But I'll try not to worry about those for now. It's bittersweet enough saying good-bye to the bright little faces I've gotten to spend time with for the past ten months.  Bittersweet having the last day of of silly pictures, bear hugs, making 'boo-boos' better, and little voices expressing their love.  Now we're both on our own new journeys, and I feel blessed that I've gotten to play a even small part in who they are and who they will become.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spainless Summer

With summertime right around the corner (or you know, officially today...) I'm having a hard time coming to terms with my current summer plans.  For the past two summers I have been lucky enough to call Spain 'home.'   But not this summer. *insert sad face*  My boyfriend is finishing up his semester studying abroad in China and will be traveling around Asia before he returns home to Spain in August.  Not to mention I'll be working throughout the summer saving up the last bits of money I can scrape together before I move to Spain sometime in September.
Puerto Chico, Santander

Parque de la Magdalena
So next Monday when public schools end here and I am finished working with the kids, it's official.  I will begin my "Spainless Summer."  But you may ask, "but aren't you going to Spain for a full year?!"  Yes I am, but it's just not the same as summertime in Spain!  There's just something entirely different and beautiful about being in Spain in the summer months.  Especially in the northern regions of Spain known as 'Green Spain.'

While it truly is wondrously green in this region of Spain, it gets that way by raining quite frequently throughout the year.  Until the magical summer months where from June through August, at least in Santander, it is its driest.  This is when everyone flocks to the beautiful local beaches, enjoys the festivals and fairs, drinks in the streets, and basks in the generally glorious summer weather.  Here are some pictures of the beautiful coastline throughout the summer (in case you didn't believe me):

Llanes, Asturias

But why would I miss the coastline of Spain so much when I live in the 'Ocean State?' Well the summer is a wonderful time for traveling in northern Spain and I miss the culture and history you constantly encounter.  In the summer there are so many local festivals and many of the people are very in tune with their local history and customs.  It was not uncommon to stumble upon a festival and see people dressed in the traditional clothes of their region.  This is so unlike anything here because most of us have a mixed heritage and don't often celebrate where we came from in such a distinct way.

Oh you know, just exploring a stone church

As for history, my town back home was only founded in the early 19th century, before that there were no permanent settlements in the area. Santander however has existed since the 12th century, even though it wasn't officially recognized as a 'city' until the late 18th century and like many cities in Europe, you don't have to travel very far to see some ancient ruins. Everywhere you go in Spain you are reminded by how 'old' Europe really is; many of the countries, structures, customs, and cultures have been in place for centuries.  I remember my Spanish friends dismissively introducing me to the 'new' part of the city by saying, "Oh, it's only been here for a few hundred years. It's really new." Back home anything that is a few hundred years old is practically considered ancient! Most cities in Europe are have been around longer than our country has even existed.

Not to mention it's so easy to travel between countries when in Europe. Visiting Spain in the summer has allowed me to easily country hop and see different sites in Europe. Traveling in the United States is quite different because it's so much larger and everything is more spread out. A five hour drive in Spain gets me from Santander to Madrid, here that would only be from Rhode Island to Maine.
Casually in some Roman ruins...

But the biggest thing I will miss during my 'Spainless Summer' is my wonderful friends across the pond.  By the time I arrive in Spain it will be a full year since I have seen them all.  They have been a huge part it what has made these past two summers wonderful; from the first day I met them all at the airport with a banner welcoming me to Spain, to the last time I left with tears in my eyes.  They may have started out as my boyfriend's friends, but they have become some of my dearest friends.  They patiently encourage force me to practice my Spanish and always make sure I feel comfortable and included.

In Spain I got to see them every day and I've come to define summer as being my time with them.  I'll miss the backyard barbecues, the lazy beach days, the late night kebabs, the spontaneous adventures, and the laughs we shared.  More than a group of friends, they've become my family when I'm thousands of miles away from my own and everything I know.  Last summer I spent my birthday at Sanfermines and they surprised me with a wheel of cheese and sang happy birthday in the middle of the park.  Then threw me a surprise party back in Santander.  Their constant care and consideration has made my visits to Spain more than a trip to Europe, but a visit to my second family.  And not having them this surrounding me this summer will be the most difficult thing to come to terms with.
I'm so lucky to have them all!

 Now that it's officially first day of summer, I must come to terms with the fact that I will not being going to my 'summer home.'  In my mind part of me still thinks I'll be on the plane in a week or two and see those lovely faces inviting me to some tapas and cañas.  But I won't be spending my summer enjoying the free beaches of Santander, or having my ice cream buddy Pedro convince me that we need more llaollao, or going shopping with my girls, or having Julio yet again try to teach Spanish games (sorry Julio, I'll remember how to play one day!), or any of the other things I have come to associate with summer.  There really is no denying that I've been incredibly lucky to have had all of these experiences for two summers in a row.
Basking in Parque del Retiro, Madrid


Perhaps a trip to Block Island with my Dad
to visit my Great-Aunt...
I'm not moping around about my 'Spainless Summer.'  I mean I'll be there for a whole year starting in the fall making memories and this summer gives me the chance to spend time with my family and friends before I leave.  I'll be babysitting two wonderful kids who I will miss so much in the Fall, enjoying my last tastes of home, and it also doesn't hurt that summertime in Rhode Island happens to be gorgeous.  My 'Spainless Summer' means I'll get to enjoy the Fourth of July for the first time in a few years, have a real blazing campfire perfect for some s'mores roasting, go crazy on all the rides at the Washington County State Fair, and takes some long awaited road trips.

Or a road trip to my friend in Maine.
Overall, it means I'll get the chance to do many things I love about RI in the summertime, but haven't gotten to do because I haven't been here.  It may not be the kind of summer I've gotten used to, but it's the kind of summer I have grown up on and love with all my heart.  This could very well be one of my last summers I'll get to enjoy in the 'Ocean State, ' depending on where the wind takes my boyfriend and I with future work offers.  So I want to enjoy every second of it, even if it means having to fork over $60 for a beach pass... *ugh*

There's so much I want to do and so many people I want to see before I leave for Spain.  I have many amazing friends right here whom I love dearly and have been there for me for many years.  Spending this summer at home has turned into a blessing in disguise, giving me the means to say goodbye to everything and everyone I love before I take this next step in my life.  I may not know where I'm going, but I know where I came from.  And it's a pretty great place.

I plan on volunteering with WaterFire as much as I can...
Roasting some marshmallows...
Enjoying RI's beautiful beaches...
Or taking in a baseball game. (GO RED SOX/PAW SOX!)
I want to put some more miles on my kayak...
Devour delicious, delicious wings...

Have you ever had a 'second home' for the summer?  Do you have any summer plans so far?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How Can YOU Afford to Travel?

When I talk about traveling and my plans for moving abroad in the fall everyone always asks me: "How can you afford to travel so much?"


In my case, I've been really lucky.  My boyfriend's family is so incredibly kind and have opened up their home to me the past couple of years to visit.  Thanks to their generosity, I have been able to travel to Europe without a huge chunk of living expenses most travelers have to pay.  Despite my own luck, the reality is that travel really doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg.  In fact, it's quite possible to have your travels be affordable.  Here are some of my tips I've learned from my personal experiences on how you can make traveling affordable for you and your lifestyle, even if you're a broke college graduate.

Work Hard

Coming from a low-middle class family, with the responsibility of figuring out how to pay 90% of my college education, I always thought travel was out of the question for me.  Maybe splurging for a few trips here and there throughout my life, but traveling the world?  Never.  So I would pore over travel magazines, collections of maps, and my history books until I realized I wasn't going to be satisfied until I experience the 'real thing.'  So I worked my butt off.  I'm talking multiple jobs during college, six hour work weeks, and currently three part-time jobs.

Now I'm not saying work should take precedent over everything else in your life because not only will you be burned out and miserable, but you would be missing out on so much of your life that is passing you by.  If you want to travel but don't have a vast pool of money just lying around, then you will have to work hard, but never at the expense of your day to day happiness.

Research and Book Wisely

For the actual traveling, also research and book your trip wisely.  Researching for your trip, no matter where you're going, is always a smart thing to do.  Here is some of my advice I have found from my travels:

When searching for your for flights, always clear your search history and cookies.  You can be shown more expensive results based on what you have previously bought/searched for (also, try searching on a PC because Macs can also return more expensive results).  Search on multiple sites, but be wary of booking flights on sites like orbitz or travelocity because they can make it difficult/expensive to cancel or change plans.  In those cases, it may be best to find your flights there but book on the actual airlines' websites.  I've had great success using and have heard good things about Student Universe.  Also, know the baggage regulations and fees for the airlines you are booking with.  Most domestic flights now charge for checked bags and have size/weight restrictions.  Here is an article I read recently about: "How to Find Affordable European Flights for the Summer;" for those not going to Europe, much of the advice is applicable to travel fares in general.
Researching where you will be staying is also very important.  Always look at the location: is it safe?, is it touristic?, is there public transportation?, is it close to what you want to see/do?  Look at many things before making a final decision.  Does it have various pictures?  Does the advertised price include taxes and fees? Most people will tell you to look at the stars of a hotel/hostel, but I think it can often be even more important to look at the reviews.  I am far more willing to trust the actual experience of a person than to believe what the establishment itself has posted.

While sometimes these things can be best decided upon spontaneously, it is nice to look into options to anticipate how much you plan on spending and how you can fit in everything you may want to see.  Check out some travel blogs and forums, search a little on the web, see what people are recommending for some good local eats and unique places to visit.  If in doubt when choosing a place to eat, I always use advice my dad once gave me: if you go to a restaurant during a normal meal time (this is culturally dependent, for example lunch time in Spain is around 2/3pm and dinner is closer to 10pm) and it's empty, then it may not have the best food.  Another indicator, is who is eating at a restaurant.  If you're in a foreign country and it's just tourists, then you may want to wander a little bit more for something more authentic.  As for entertainment, research any passes you can get if you don't qualify for discounts offered wherever you may be visiting.  In Paris I got the Museum Pass and it saved me a lot of money!
Take Advantage of Discounts
If you can manage to travel off season, see if you can.  Often flights, hotels, and sometimes entertainment will be much cheaper.  When I flew to Spain in February last year my flight was only $690 round-trip and this past January when my boyfriend flew here to visit me it was only $630 round-trip (as opposed to my flight to Spain in July last summer that was a whopping $1000, but I was there two months so it wasn't so bad considering).  And if you happen to be a student, or in the case of Europe under 26, you could qualify for some major discounts.  Wherever you travel see if you meet the requirements for any discounts whether it be with your school ID, an international student card, AAA membership, or the likes.  You can get some great deals on anything from museums to trains, and in the long run this could save you a lot of money!

Budget Accordingly

No matter how hard you might work, it's all for nothing if you don't budget accordingly.  Another part of the reason I've been able to travel so frequently, is because I budget all of the money I earn.  First things first, look at all of that research you have done: where do you want to travel, how long do you want to go for, what to you want to do/see, and how much will it all cost.  Once you have a working idea of your travel plans, create a budget of how much you can afford to spend on the trip. This great website has a free travel budget planner that can help you get started on travel budget.  With your estimated travel costs, see how you can afford to make your plans a reality.
My personal advice then would be to also have a non-travel budget that takes into account your regular payments and monthly salary.  As I discussed in my previous post Budgeting Life After College, this would help you know your biggest expenses and set your financial priorities.  That way you can start saving up for your travel fund without A) Putting yourself in debt or B) Making it impossible to pay off the debt you may already have.  The money you save for travel should not interfere with the bills or other necessary payments you need to make on time.  I use the travel budget to estimate my travel costs and then apply it to my regular budget to see how much I need to/can afford to save per month.

Live Within Your Means

Something that goes hand and hand with budgeting is living within your means.  Between all my jobs I probably barely make a measly $14,000/year, yet I have already managed to save up enough for my flight to Spain, three months of living expenses in Madrid, and two years worth of my student loan payments.  How did I do?  Because along with keeping my budget, I know how to purchase wisely and do without.
To save money this year: I have been living at home, I drive my mom's old car, and I limit my spending.  I rarely go out to eat or drink, instead my friend's often opt to stay in and cook for ourselves and enjoy some drinks.  When I do go out, still a couple times a month, I always look for drink or meal specials (this is when it really helps living only fifteen minutes away from a major University, I love all the local cheap eats).  And while I do love clothes I frequent: sales racks, thrift stores, and seasonal sales.  I have become a master at revamping my wardrobe without spending a fortune, and I think I dress pretty darn well!  The point is, that yes, you may have to sacrifice some of those fancy new 'things' all your friends seem to have (and when have material objects brought as much happiness as actual experiences anyway?), but you don't have to sacrifice enjoying your life to be able to afford to traveling.

Look at How You Can Work/Study Abroad

Another great way to do some traveling is to work, study, or even volunteer abroad.  What's great about these options is that some may offer a stipend, scholarships, or even opportunity for room and board.  The program I'm doing next year is offered through the Spanish government and I am given a monthly stipend for teaching English in a public elementary school.  You can look at studying abroad through your university, or look into language academies if you only have a couple months to spare (generally they don't give you visas to study there so your time will be limited).  Here are some options I have seen posted through my own university or via articles I have read about:
Jobs Abroad-Work Abroad
Transitions Abroad-Guide to Work, Study, Travel and Living Abroad
Aupair World

Spain Related Work:
Auxiliares Ministry Program
Au Pair in Spain

Global Volunteers
Global Aware-Adventures in Service
Earthwatch Institute
10 Volunteer Programs for Budget Travelers
10 Volunteer Opportunities for Free Travel


What tips do you have on being able to afford travel?  How have you managed to travel on your budget?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why You Should Be a WaterFire Volunteer

What exactly is WaterFire?

WaterFire is the brainchild of artist Barnaby Evans.  It is a sculpture that is run by WaterFire Providence, a non-profit organization that promotes the arts, culture, and community of Providence, Rhode Island.  Throughout the late Spring to the early Fall, the rivers of Providence are lit up by seventy-nine braziers nearly every other weekend.

The very first WaterFire was intended to just be a part of the ten-year anniversary of Providence's New Year's Eve "First Night" celebration in 1994 in the movement to help revitalize the city.  It started with only eleven braziers and now, almost twenty years later, has become a Rhode Island mainstay.  In fact, WaterFire has attracted over 10 million visitors to Providence since its creation; drawing an average crowd of 40,000 per lighting.

The TD Ballroom at WaterFire, source
And to the surprise of most audience members unfamiliar with the organization, WaterFire is not just about the fires on the rivers.  During the various lightings there are often living statues, a ballroom open to the public with local dancers or bands,  interactive art displays, ethnically diverse sponsors or performances, and often celebrated members of the local Providence and Rhode Island communities.  It is a spectacle that brings together the arts and community of Providence.  And WaterFire has gone global, with fires brought to Ohio, Missouri, Singapore, Venice, and even Rome.

WaterFire is free and open to the public, but as a non-profit relies on donations, grants, merchandise sales, and sponsors for over 75% of its funding.  To put this into perspective, one year-long season of WaterFire costs around 1.6 million dollars.
2011 September 11th Tribute Lighting, source
So why exactly should you become a part of WaterFire?

WaterFire Providence only has a regular staff of about twenty and that's where we volunteers come in.  Many may not realize it, but there are so many ways to become a WaterFire volunteer!

2011 Gloria Gemma Lighting, source
There are the wood-boats, access boat, and VIP boats that visitors see on the river, but there is also a huge need for help on-shore.  Volunteers are always needed to help in the Merchandise Tent, fundraising with Ribbons of Light or Starry, Starry Night, and participating in Special Ops where you can partake in anything from a torch procession to guiding special guests through an event.

For just one full lighting it takes around 200 volunteers to help run everything necessary to put on this spectacular event.  And that number is only for the lighting itself, not including the hours of work that goes on in the WaterFire studio during the week to repair and create what is needed for the lightings.  Or the 'Woodpile Workouts' where volunteers meet to stack and refill the wood needed for each event.

All of the hundreds of volunteers are an invaluable part of the WaterFire family.  This is my fourth season as a WaterFire volunteer, and from the very beginning I have never been treated so kindly and welcomed so warmly from a group of 'strangers' then I have from the WaterFire staff and volunteer family.  I may be one of the younger volunteers, but everyone has always been quite clear that I am equally a part of the WaterFire community.

The Wood-Boats line up; as Barnaby
says, we are like Prometheus
bringing fire to mankind, source
While WaterFire lightings may be beautiful to watch, I think they are also beautifully symbolic.  WaterFire showcases both the fragility of life, as fires are suspended over the water of the rivers, as well as the celebration of community. The volunteers all dress in black, and as a community we work together anonymously to tend the fires and support our organization.  However, our faces always remain visible showing that even though we are working together as a singular community unit, we still retain our individual identities as we support something that is greater than all of us on our own

As a volunteer with WaterFire you are involved in something bigger than yourself, and it's all about coming together to celebrate the unity and spirit of Providence as well as an appreciation for the arts.

This amazing organization vividly displays the beauty that happens when the Rhode Island community comes and works together to support the arts, our state, and each other.  If you don't believe me, join the WaterFire family for yourself and help to keep the fires burning in Providence.


Find out more about WaterFire Providence here: