Women in STEM Work Toward Gender Equality

This article appeared in Wake Forest University’s Old Gold and Black newspaper.

When the #MeToo movement formally started in early 2006, it focused on sexual harassment and assault among women around the globe, but it also opened a door for working professionals from all different backgrounds, disciplines and educational levels to express their dissatisfaction with the climate of gender inequality among their respective fields. Founded and formalized by Vanderbilt Professor BethAnn McLaughlin, the #MeTooSTEM movement provides a digital space for female scientists and mathematicians to share their experiences with gender disparity and harassment, while brainstorming ways to change it.

This virtual community touched the hearts and minds of accomplished women throughout the STEM field at all different professional levels, including Wake Forest Biology Professor Regina Cordy.

“A number of people on social media were raising concerns about gender and ethnic disparities in science,” Cordy said. “This eventually led a group of us young assistant professors to write a letter to the NIH [National Institutes of Health] to address the problem.”

Shortly after this group of professors voiced their concerns, the NIH listened.

In 2018, the NIH formed a working group on changing the culture to end sexual harassment, made up of professors, students, PhD candidates, provosts and Cordy.

The group is charged with identifying the current state of sexual harassment in the STEM field while determining steps that the NIH and other major scientific organizations can take towards improving the working environment for both men and women. They met once in Washington, D.C., this past February and discussed topics on accountability, providing clear channels of communication with the NIH and incorporating victims testimonials into future action.

Awareness and demand for change within STEM recently reached a turning point after the the National Academy of Sciences “Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine” report was published last year. Over 300 pages of data, diagrams and references to scientific literature statistically reinforced the presence of gender disparities within the STEM workplace and at universities.

“Scientists trusted this report more because it spoke their language in the form of data and statistics,” Cordy said.

Among other similar studies in the report, the University of Texas system conducted a survey which revealed that 20 percent of female science students, more than a quarter of female engineering students, and more than 40 percent of female medicals students experienced sexual harassment from faculty or staff. Many universities, including Wake Forest, are starting to crack down on gender inequality within STEM and are making strides towards improving learning environments, but still struggle in some aspects.

“I have been pretty lucky because the Wake Forest Department of Biology is a very inclusive space,” said Stephanie Bilodeau, a Masters student studying marine ecology. “But at times it is difficult to find women as mentors within my field because there are not enough female professors in ecology.”

The biology department has a relatively balanced staff of men and women, including a female department chair, but women in academia are typically warned of the difficulties of obtaining tenure and starting a family.

“You don’t think about it being weird until you have been here for two years and realize you have only been taught by male professors,” said Julia Haines, a senior with a double major in computer science and statistics.

A gender imbalance is not only recognizable among professors in certain faculties, but in the student STEM community, as well. Particularly in the math department, apart from statistics, there is a wide gap between the number of male and female undergraduate majors, with few females enrolled in into upper-level classes each year.

“Growing up in small-town Georgia I had to fight to get into math classes because it was just accepted that the boys would fill them,” said Camille Wixon, a senior math and economics double major.

In her economics classes, Wixon noted how vocal the professors are about wanting more female majors, but data has shown that only 35 percemt of undergraduate economics majors are women, a number that has barely increased since the early 1980s according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. So, the question that many educators and scientists are asking is: how do we fix this?

One of the major problems many students recognized is that women are struggling to find enough female mentors within the field as they work to pursue a STEM career. Without seeing a model of what could happen for a female if she continues with a scientific education, some students lack the ambition or optimism to attempt to achieve a higher position in these careers.

However, clubs on campus like Women in STEM are working hard to provide this mentorship to the next generation. Members of this club visit students at Northwest Middle School in Winston-Salem to show them that studying STEM in higher education is possible for women.

“A lot of rhetoric is thrown around like ‘I like science, but I don’t think I could get there’ or ‘I am not smart enough,’” said Yassmin Shaltout, a junior and president of the Women in STEM club. “We teach them science lessons that are fun and interactive to maintain interest in these younger females.”

The two main goals of this club, and many organizations throughout the United States and Europe, are raising awareness of the problem and providing outreach to help solve it. Although the formalized movement against sexual harassment and gender disparities is relatively new in the STEM field, it is gaining traction within organizations like the NIH that have a wide reach and enough resources to make an impact.

“Women are here. They are doing science. And they are awesome at it,” Shaltout said.

The Biology Behind Fear

This article appeared in Wake Forest University’s Old Gold and Black Newspaper.

According to a study done at the University of Westminster, watching a 90-minute horror movie can burn up to 113 calories. Why? Well, let’s go through the typical experience of viewing a haunted flick.

As the archetypal horror movie starts, it introduces a happy family moving into a new house on a crisp and sunny autumn day. You quickly grow attached to this family; however, you can’t help but feel an innate foreboding, knowing that you chose this movie for its chilling description.

Then, the first note of creepy violin music punctuates a scene and your heartbeat picks up as fast as the rate of the beat in this terrifying score.

All of a sudden, a ghoulish apparition appears on the screen and the protagonist’s screams jolt your body into a moment of extreme stress, in something called a “jump-scare moment.”

By the end of the movie, you will have completely worked off that piece of comforting chocolate that soothed your nerves before the ghoul inevitably possessed your favorite character.

From the outside, it may seem like nothing really happened, except that you are a little more sweaty than normal, but on the inside of your body a host of mechanisms are occurring.

When an event catalyzes fear, whether that be a demonic figure or simply someone yelling “boo” from behind a door, your body reacts with something called the “Fight or Flight Response.”

This response is activated by the parts of your brain called the amygdalae, which trigger the release of a cascade of chemicals into your body that initiate different physiological mechanisms. The first thing to activate is your body’s sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is part of your autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions that are not consciously supervised such as your breathing, heartbeat and digestive capabilities.

As the sympathetic nervous system takes over, a surge of a hormone called adrenaline is released into the body and causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, along with an inhibition of insulin secretion and digestive systems.

Your immune system and digestive turn off and are no longer utilizing excess energy, while veins in the skin constrict so that blood is able to get to your muscles more quickly and oxygen can reach your lungs at a faster rate.

To ensure a higher quality of vision, your pupils will dilate so that your eyes can take in more light.

“Your body will begin to take in stored energy from glycogen and give you the sugar you need to run away,” said Biochemistry Professor Gloria Muday, who studies hormone action and signaling. “When you are given a signal to fight or run away, you need the energy to do that.”

In essence, your body is working hard to make sure that you can compete at peak performance and protect yourself from harm’s way.

This self-preservative physiological mechanism is extremely helpful in dangerous situations, but sometimes your bodily systems can go wrong.

When someone has a panic attack, they begin to experience many of the same symptoms that come along with basic fear. However, in this case, symptoms can last for up to 30 minutes straight.

“A panic attack is a prolonged epinephrine signal that doesn’t turn off,” Muday said. “Typically there are mechanisms your body uses to turn that signal on and off, but in this case the fear just doesn’t go away.”

The body is not meant to experience fear for such long durations of time and it can increase risk of depression, nausea, and breathing problems.

Moral of the story: watching scary movies can burn over 100 calories, but fear should not be your primary workout method.

Ecology monks in Thailand seek to end environmental suffering

This story appeared in Mongabay, Pacific Standard, Asian Correspondent, Yale News, and the Thai Embassy Newsletter.

As development in Thailand is increasing, so is deforestation. Acres of forests are cleared for contract farming, habitats are torn down to make room for new factories, and soil is eroded, causing massive flooding during the rainy season.

But amid the environmental wreckage, some trees remain untouched. These trees are wrapped in iconic bright orange robes and deemed sacred, protected from harm and destruction. These trees have been ordained as monks.

At a time when Pope Francis is calling upon religious leaders to step up as environmental advocates, Thai Buddhist monks are answering the call. Through rituals like tree ordinations, some monks in Thailand are integrating Buddhist principles into the environmental movement in order to garner support from their followers and encourage sustainable practices.

Dr. Susan Darlington, professor of anthropology and Asian studies at Hampshire College in the U.S. and author of the book The Ordination of a Tree, explains that protecting trees is a form of merit-making, an important practice in Buddhism. By accumulating merit through performing good deeds, Buddhists are ensuring a better next life and taking a step closer to reaching enlightenment and, ultimately, Nirvana.

ordained tree

An ordained tree wrapped in the orange robes of a Buddhist monk found in a forest of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“Making merit is extremely important for Thai Buddhists,” Dr. Darlington said. “They see [tree ordination ceremonies] as an act of making merit, which can help with rebirth and, in some cases, having a better life now.”

One of the primary goals in the Buddhist religion is to end suffering, and the forests of Thailand are certainly suffering.

“There are places in Northern Thailand, particularly in Nan Province, where there has been a lot of deforestation, so the watersheds areas fill the water with mud, silt, and pesticide runoff causing more severe flooding in the rainy season and more severe drought in the dry season,” said Gordon Congdon, the Conservation Program Manager for WWF-Thailand. “In many ways, climate change is amplifying problems that are already existing.”

Leaders of Society

With over 90 percent of the Thai population practicing Buddhism, monks hold an influential role as leaders to whom people look for guidance in all aspects of life.

“They become the leader that people would trust,” said Dr. Chaya Vaddhanaphuti, a geography professor at Chiang Mai University whose PhD studies focused on climate change. “If I asked the farmers who they would choose to trust between government officers and the monks, they would choose the latter.”

thai girl.jpg

A young Thai girl follows three novice monks in the collection of the morning alms, in which they accept donations of food and drink to the temple from residents throughout the village of Chonburi. 

With such an immense amount of influence in villages throughout Thailand, monks are utilizing their position to add a unique moral dimension to the environmental movement. However, rituals alone are not enough.

Although Buddhism is typically a religion famed for its detachment from society, ecology monks believe that their religion is inherently tied to nature. Buddhist monks like Phrakhu Ajan Somkit, who is based in Nan Province in northern Thailand where deforestation is an issue of major concern, are entering the political sphere to consult with government officials on environmental initiatives and rights for rural farmers. Other monks, like Phrakhu Win Mektripop, an ecology monk based in Bangkok, are trying to find more sustainable solutions to everyday problems by implementing solar panels in temples and helping villagers create cheap huts out of mud and natural materials.

“When the Buddha was born, he was born under the tree. He was enlightened under the tree. His first sermon was under the tree. We can see that most of his life was related to the forest,” said Phra Win. With a master’s degree in environmental economics from Chulalongkorn University, Phra Win understands how important agriculture is to the rural population of Thailand.

As Thailand shifted from a low-income to an upper-income society in less than a generation, however, sustainability hasn’t exactly been the focus of the country’s economic development. For instance, big companies like CP All Public, which owns over 10,000 7-Eleven stores in Thailand, are taking advantage of the rapid pace of growth by contracting rural farmers to mass-produce monocrops like maize and rice.


A farm in Surin, Thailand, that only plants rice in its many fields. 

“They plant corn, they harvest it, they sell it to the big company and earn just about enough to pay off their debt,” said Congdon. “It creates this vicious cycle of dependency on the large companies and the farmers never get ahead, which leads to more and more deforestation.”

Seeing no other options, these farmers continue unsustainable practices that are stripping the soil of valuable nutrients and plunging them deeper into debt. However, ecology monks are working to provide an alternative that is beneficial to both the environment and the people.


Another of the most harmful environmental issues in Thailand is simply a lack of knowledge.

“When I lived with the farmers during my PhD studies, they never used the term climate change,” said Dr. Vaddhanaphuti. “However, they knew that the climate had changed from how it was affecting their farms.”


Phrakhu Sangkom Thanapanyo Khunsuri, an ecology monk, at his farm in Surin, Thailand, where he follows the philosophy of sufficiency economy by planting many different types of crops.

In order to help teach rural farmers about the environment, Phrakhu Sangkom Thanapanyo Khunsuri, a prominent ecology monk based in Chiang Mai, developed an alternative farming school through his temple in Chonburi called the Maab-Euang Meditation Center for Sufficiency Economy. With 49 full-time students this year, Phra Sangkom mixes Buddhist concepts of personal reflection and a theory called “sufficiency economy.” This theory was developed by the previous Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, and encourages subsistence farming, self-sufficiency, and a detachment from material goods.

Along with teaching classes at his school and working in the field, Phra Sangkom often travels throughout Surin and Chiang Mai on speaking tours to bring his philosophy directly to the people. Each speech typically has over 100 attendees, he says.


Phrakhu Sangkom Thanapanyo Khunsuri giving a speech on the importance of trees and stopping deforestation to the villagers of Surin, Thailand. 

Enemies and Allies

Ecology monks like Phra Sangkom have been marked as leading environmental advocates in Thailand, but some have also been marked with a target on their back.


Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple found at the top of the Doi Suthep Mountain in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

As their environmental influence spreads throughout Thailand, monks are helping to obtain more community forest rights for indigenous people and farmers, which takes land away from both the government and logging and oil companies. Some monks have been prosecuted by the Thai government for their controversial activism. Others have been assassinated, like Phrakhu Supoj Suvacano, an ecology monk involved in trying to prevent the land around a meditation center in Chiang Mai from being converted into a tangerine farm.

Even in the face of these threats, many ecology monks continue their work, which has started to receive help and support from other outlets, like local universities and NGOs.

“We are figuring out how we can bring the Buddhists who are just sitting and meditating out into the world to deal with the suffering,” said Somboon Chungprampree, executive director of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, an organization which is working to connect activist Buddhists and non-Buddhists from all over Asia. “There is not just personal suffering; there is social and environmental suffering out there and people need to figure out how they can help as a Buddhist.”


Three monks collecting the morning alms in Chonburi, Thailand.

My reporting for this story was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


In order to severely worry my parents and all of my loved ones, I decided to take a solo-trip to Amsterdam this past Monday and Tuesday. As I have mentioned before, I cannot resist a cheap flight ticket and quickly booked the 60 pound ticket approximately 2 days before leaving.

I will not lie, I was extremely nervous about doing this trip alone. Before abroad, Blair and I made “Study Abroad Bucket List” and one of the items was to take a solo trip, so I decided to bypass the nerves and do it anyway.

I went into vicious planning mode so that I would be too busy to worry while I was there and was on a flight out of London Luton Airport at 8:30 AM that Monday morning.

Let me just start by saying this, Amsterdam is so much more than the Red Light District and legal weed, although they are both fascinating to see. Many tourists have marked Amsterdam as a place to go for partying without consequence, but the city is charming in such a different respect.

Stepping out of the bus at Amsterdam Centraal, I was welcomed by a view of the expansive canal and beautifully crafted buildings. In order to get a lay of the land, I joined a “Hop-on, Hop-off” Canal Cruise that navigated through the city, giving history and fun facts along the way.


Just all of my best friends and me enjoying a romantic canal cruise.

Starting at the main harbor, we passed first through the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s most popular residential neighborhoods, and cruised all throughout the city.

The canal is lined with houses and houseboats, which people rent and reside in all- year round. The houseboats are especially adorable and similar to a one floor studio apartment that you could find in the large cities of America. Most were decorated with flowers and, glimpsing their insides, had a minimalist and modern interior design.


Shout out to that swan for posing so professionally for this photo.

After becoming an expert on the Amsterdam landscape (just kidding, I got lost about 8 times over the course of this trip), I set out to accomplish all that was on my check-list, starting with the Albert Cuyp Market for some food and shopping. Right next to the Heineken Brewery, this market encompasses about 5 blocks and contains all sorts of merchants and food vendors, though not as much food as you would imagine, but I quickly was able to find a stroopwafel.

The market is conveniently located near the Museum Quarter, where you can find the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Moco Museum. I hustled straight to the Moco Museum, where the work of London’s most famous street artist, Banksy, was being displayed and revered. Banksy is a famous Bristol-based graffiti artist that questions the status quo and uses his work as a political commentary on modern day society.


If you were ever wondering who created this iconic piece of art…

This museum also displayed the work of American pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Providing a stark, and brilliantly colorful contrast, to Banksey, Lichtenstein’s work was a joy to explore. They even had an interactive room where you could sit on the art and pretend you were apart of a comic


I had to hunt down a couple and awkwardly ask them to take this.

The Netherlands was home to famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, therefore a large collection of his work is fittingly displayed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It is hard to believe that one artist could have produced enough work to fill a 3 story museum, but Van Gogh achieved this feat with paintings to spare for other museums. Some of his most famous work resides here, including “The Potato Eaters”, “Sunflowers”, and “Self-Portrait”, which were all incredible to see in person.

FullSizeRender (1)

It is also hard to believe that he literally cut his ear off and gave it to someone as a gift.

With my artsy side satiated, i ventured out to see some of the most famous things that Amsterdam boasts of, including Vondelpark, the Red Light District (WHOA), and shopping along the Jordaan.

My favorite thing about this entire trip was the Anne Frank House. I was required to read The Diary of Anne Frank during elementary school, and this introduced me to the hardship and severity the Jews experienced during Hitler’s regime at a very young age. Her emotional and thorough diary instilled in me the realities of the war that no history book ever was able to teach and I made it a priority to see where she experienced it all when I visited Amsterdam.

Maneuvering through the narrow hallways and hidden bookshelf passageway of the “Secret Annex” that protected the Frank family for several years forced me to reflect on how lucky I am to have the freedom to think, and express, my beliefs without fear of persecution. Anne Frank acts an inspiration for those to speak their voice and not hide from the harsh realities of life. I cannot imagine what she would think if she knew about the expansive critical acclaim and widespread audience her book has reached, but I would like to think that she would be proud and satisfied at how much of an impact it has made.

Amsterdam is one of the most walkable cities that I have visited so far, so the bulk of the rest of my trip was spent wandering along the streets and avoiding being hit by bikes when I unknowingly stumbled in the bike lane.


They were also starting to put up Christmas decorations so naturally I dedicated about two hours to looking at that.

At the end of my solitary trip, I could not help but give myself a little pat on the back and acknowledge how much study abroad helps with personal growth and confidence.

It is hard to describe a city in just one word, but…



The World’s Longest Art Gallery: Stockholm

My newest, and probably most spontaneous, trip recently has been a 2 day jaunt through Stockholm, Sweden. When Blair showed how cheap the tickets were and how picturesque the skyline was, it was hard to say no and we booked it right away. A couple days later we were on a Ryanair plane and awaiting arrival at the tiny Skavsta Airport (which we realized post-landing was 2 hours away from Stockholm).

After a bit of an adventure and directions from a very kind couple, I made it safe and sound to my hostel and quickly fell under the spell of Sweden.

Stockholm is often referred to as “the world’s longest art gallery,” and I found that to be a lovely and accurate description. This city supremely respects the practice of finding beauty in everyday things. Whether that simply be a funky straw put into a mason jar for my bottle of Coke or the many artistic and colorful storefronts that decorate the alleys of Sofo , Stockholm knows what it means to take a step back and search for ways to make life just a little bit more elegant.


Look at how much pizzazz that straw adds to my adorable Coke.

The most clear and breathtaking example of this was the metro.

Do not get me wrong, the London tube is one of my best friends and holds a very special place in my heart, but it can be a bit dirty. And loud. And I begrudgingly had to share one of the platforms with two literal rats this week.

Entering the metro of Stockholm is like entering the inside of an artist’s mind. Over 90 of the 100 stops were redesigned and transformed by many Swedish artists, not just to enhance a businessman’s daily commute to work, but to challenge some of the political and environmental movements of the time.

Blair and I dedicated two hours underground to finding all of the most eccentric and unique stops scattered about Stockholm. If you ever find yourself in Stockholm, set aside a large amount of time to participate in this impromptu scavenger hunt of sorts, in which the prize is one $500!!! Just kidding. The prize is the chance to change your view of public transportation, which is obviously much better.

To prevent future riders the time commitment of combing through several lines of the metro and to show off my mediocre photography skills, I will share the absolute best stops along each line of the Metro:



Blue Line

Disclaimer: this is not a photo of a Roman art museum, it is just a casual Metro stop

Solna Centrum


Blue Line




Blue Line

Tekniska Högskolan


Red Line





Red Line

And my personal favorite…



Blue Line

Seeing as I did not spend my entire time in the Stockholm underground like some sort of mole person, I found lots to do in this pretty city.

The food, often a highlight of any trip, was incredible. If you are looking for traditional Swedish meatballs, head on over to Meatballs for the People. I mostly chose this restaurant because the name sounded really straightforward (which seemed the case for many people considering we ended up waiting in line for about 45 minutes), but my laziness ended up being a blessing in disguise.


My single complaint is that they only gave me 6 meatballs rather than unlimited.

Hands-down, the best meatballs I have ever had the pleasure of eating. This means a lot coming from me considering that half of my diet during high school volleyball seasons consisted of meatballs. They offered meatballs made of all different types of meat including reindeer, which was simply too disturbing to me, and included a side of lingonberry to satisfy all my Swedish needs.

The Swedish population also does this really interesting thing called “Fika” about twice a day which consists of a cup of coffee, a pastry, and a small break from stress. I am not the biggest fan of coffee, so I substituted this with Coke, but the pastries were still dynamite (try Kanel if you like cinnamon rolls). Fika breaks are just another way that the Swedish lifestyle forces you to slow down and appreciate life and, more specifically, a really good cinnamon roll.


My greatest accomplishment was the fact that I only ate two of these over the trip, rather than 80.

For other activities, we checked out the Fotografiska photography museum and went on a peaceful mini-hike through the Bergianska trädgården.

Sometimes a little spontaneity can pay off. Thank you to Sweden for reminding me how gorgeous the world can be.

Surviving and Thriving: Oktoberfest

Munich, Germany is known for many things. It is one of the gay bar capitals of the world, has really famous and delicious Weisswurst, and is the third largest city in Germany.

Okay let’s be honest, though, the only thing Munich is actually supremely famous for is being home to the largest beer festival in the world known as “Oktoberfest.”

Dating back to 1810, Oktoberfest is one of the most celebrated Bavarian traditions that offers steins filled with 2 pints worth of authentic German beers, pretzels as big as your head, and a Bratwurst around every corner.


For size reference, please compare my head and these very larger beers.

Each year over 6 million people attend Oktoberfest, and approximately 220 of those people are Wake Forest University students. I have had this trip planned for months because it is somewhat of an unspoken tradition for people from Wake to meet up from their respective countries.

Arriving at the Munich airport, I quickly met up with a friend and we encountered the tricky task of figuring out the German underground. Deciphering the underground in a foreign country is difficult, but when every single station name is something like “Wettersteinplatz” or “Garching-Forschungszentrum,” it adds a fun new layer to reaching your destination.

munich underground

Simple, right?

After getting on two of the wrong trains, we realized that the trick to getting anywhere near Oktoberfest, and subsequently our Airbnb, was to get to Halpenhoff Station. Halpenhoff is one of the most important stations in Munich, so if you ask anyone where it is they will most likely know.

My pal and I decided that the best course of action for our Thursday in Munich would be to scope out the festival before all of our friends arrived so that we would have a good grasp of what was to come that weekend.

My first sight of Oktoberfest brought me back to my childhood; 10 years old again, on my way to an amusement park in New Jersey with my dad. This was not exactly the case considering that the entirety of this festival centers around getting drunk off of beer and almost everyone is smoking cigarettes, but you get the gist of my comparison.


Just some casual beers with a couple of friends, nothing too crazy.

There were massive carnival rides, a countless number of aromatic food stands selling candied nuts and foot long sausages, and everyone was decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls.

The Hofbräu tent is typically frequented the most by students from Wake Forest, so we took a peek inside and were not disappointed. The ‘tent,’ which is more of a moderately sized building, contains hundreds of long picnic tables where people can drink their steins and have good times all day long.

With excitement for the next day mounting, but exhaustion from a day of travel setting in, we went in search for a late night dinner and were pleased to find a magnificent Burger King. After chowing down on our healthy and authentic German meals (I am entirely kidding, we both got double cheeseburgers and fries), we settled in for a short night of rest before a 5:30 am wake up.

Oktoberfest Tip: Do the 5:30 am wake up.

It will be miserable peeling yourself out of a warm bed and rising before the sun has had a chance to even peek up through the sky, but just grit your teeth, put on your dirndl, take a shot, and get your ass in line.

By the time we got into line at 7:30 am, there were already about 200 people in front of us. We waited patiently until all of a sudden, an official-looking man blew a whistle and started beckoning for us to enter.

You would’ve thought there were free bags full of money and puppies and everything good in the world inside by the speed at which every young adult around me was running. Fueled by pure adrenaline, I managed to keep up with my peers and be one of the first to reach the Hofbräu tent, pushed and elbowed by other people claiming that their friends were lost and alone at the front. That is one of the oldest tricks in the book and should not fool you for one second so stand your ground.

At 10 AM, the doors opened and all hell broke lose. College students were hurdling tables and using their bodies as human placeholders to save spots for their cohorts. Beer began sloshing and it only took about 2 minutes for someone to stand on a table and chug their entire stein.

Overwhelmed, but exhilarated, I ordered my first stein and went to work saying hi to every one of my peers that had been jet-setting the world for the past month. It was wonderful to see everyone, but it also felt as if I were at a more upscale, more expensive fraternity. At the end of the two days, I can honestly say that Oktoberfest was one of the best times of my life.

After this draining and unique experience, there are several tips that I feel obligated to tell any future festers:

1. Only bring a little bit of money.

If you are like me and get caught up in the hype of any kind of exciting event, Oktoberfest can be dangerous territory for your wallet. I would recommend only bringing about 30 euros each day because a stein is 11 euros and most of the food is 5-6 euros, so this leaves you with the opportunity to get two steins, a hearty lunch, and maybe even a water bottle.

2. Wear the authentic German clothing.

You may think that dirndls and lederhosen are weird, but in this case YOU will be the weird one if you are not wearing one. Plus, it is very fun and oddly flattering.


See? Look how happy these two random people are as they run through a meadow in their dirndl and lederhosen!

3. Ride at least one ride

All of the rides at Oktoberfest are ridiculously expensive and typically I would say to avoid them altogether, but I went on the swings and, I won’t deny it, they were incredible. Going up on the swings gave me the opportunity to see all of Munich, which I had not gotten the chance to do considering most of my 3 days there were spent inside the tent or napping at my Airbnb.


If you look realllllllly closely and squint really hard, you might be able to see me screaming in joy.

4. Keep your phone on airplane mode as much as possible

Unless you are expecting a very important text or trying to meet up with someone, the best move is to keep your phone on airplane mode. When your phone is not on airplane mode and you have Wifi turned on, your phone will constantly be searching for Wifi to connect to and that drains its battery. With so many people in one place, your phone will be working so hard to connect that it will dead by 1 pm.

5. Wear really comfortable shoes (that you are okay with getting dirty)

The most outrageous thing that I saw at Oktoberfest was not the man passed out on the ground with a half-eaten bratwurst or the entirely legal cocaine looking powder being sold everywhere (called Wiesn koks). The most outrageous thing was a girl wearing 5-inch heels proudly walking into the slippery tent, who would inevitably be standing for the next four hours. Please, do yourself a favor and wear a pair of sneakers or converse so that you can enjoy the festival without thinking about how bad your feet hurt.