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The Hills: That Was Then, This is Now

Say all you want about reality TV, but I love it. It’s some people’s “guilty pleasure” and sure, a lot of it is trash, but I am in no way ashamed to admit that I enjoy watching it. It’s dramatic, funny and allows you to just veg out for the running time, which everyone could use a little of. I think it also helps you put things into perspective. Yes, sometimes you can be envious of the people you see on TV, but sometimes watching unemployed, rich housewives fight over high school drama makes you realize that you have a good head on your shoulders.

I still remember when The Hills first aired on MTV in 2006. I had watched a few episodes of Laguna Beach but The Hills coming out when I was 12 was more enticing to me than when LB aired when I was 10. (Though at this point in my life I have watched every episode of Laguna Beach twice, don’t judge me.)

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Photo courtesy of TVGuide.com

As a 12 year old growing up in Pennsylvania, I daydreamed about living in southern California, (and still do) and so watching attractive, rich teenagers party and date in LA was addicting. Not to mention I was absolutely envious of Lauren. She was pretty, seemed level-headed, had an awesome 2000’s fashion sense – which has evolved into a  wardrobe that people model their Pinterest closets after – and she was interning at Teen Vogue, and for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to work for a magazine.

Needless to say, I watched The Hills religiously for the four years it aired and was pretty devastated when it ended. You know that feeling after you binge-watch a serious or finish a book and you almost feel like your friends moved away? You’re like, “wait but I still need to know what they’re up to.” Being that I desperately wanted to live the SoCal life, that’s how I felt. Thankfully I got over it, but occasionally when re-runs are on TV, I still wonder what they’re up to.

With every reality show, there is always debate about how real it actually is. How is that random person in a bar already wearing a microphone? How do they just happen to run into the person they’re beefing with everywhere they go? Even though a lot of the drama seemed a little scripted, I always had faith that the show’s core was real. Then, in 2010 The Hills aired its final episode. By then, the leading lady was swapped out for Laguna Beach’s bad girl Kristin, and since I had caught up on LB, I still remained a dedicated viewer. As the final moment unfolded – Brody saying an emotional goodbye to Kristin as she got in her car – the perfectly located Hollywood sign in the background  was pushed away, revealing the whole thing was a set. Six years later and my heart still hurts typing these words. I remember thinking, “Is this their way of telling us that the whole thing was fake? Or are they playing a joke on all the critics?” I held tightly to the latter. No way could that Heidi feud be fake. Then, after all these years, MTV seemed to be ready to answer those questions teasing footage for The Hills: That Was Then, This is Now anniversary special.

Finally, I thought, I will get all the answers 16-year-old me deserved.

Unfortunately, the special was more like a one-hour “look how successful Lauren is” promotion. Don’t get me wrong, LC is a great role model. The special showed clips of her casting tape for Laguna where she wasn’t shy about admitting her grades weren’t good and that if art school didn’t work out, she didn’t think she could go to a good college or be successful. She was going through normal things that people go through and even after experiencing fame at a young age, she turned out more than okay.

But, I was expecting to hear from the rest of the cast and to get serious answers to the “was it fake?” questions.

Some things that were cleared up:

  • Lauren admitted that her and Brody never had any chemistry, even though the show made it seem like they were dating.”He was my friend, I enjoyed spending time with him, but it just felt forced,” she said. In one of the outtakes, the “couple” is kissing and Lauren looks to the crew and says, “Can we please be done? This is the most awkward thing ever!”
  • Lauren got the Teen Vogue internship before she interviewed.“She literally thought she worked at Teen Vogue,”  talent producer Sophia Rossi said.”I really did!” Lauren said. “I never assumed anything was mine, especially in that situation.”

    Maybe her internship got handed to her, but it’s refreshing to see that she didn’t expect that and actually worked hard there.

  • She felt set up a few times.(From an E! News article🙂 “Lauren admitted she felt ‘set up’ by the show during the big showdown with Heidi and Spencer after he spread a rumor that she had a sex tape. ‘MTV should care what Spencer did to me!’ Lauren yells in a never-before-seen scene from the infamous confrontation. ‘It’s not okay that they let him up here! It’s not f—king funny when you guys do that.'”

I’m happy I got to see what Lauren is up to today, and as I mentioned, it’s good to hear that a former reality star isn’t train-wrecking the way so many stars do. But all in all, this special was a flop.

What does the rest of the cast have to say? Come on, MTV, give us what we need!

shirt(But also, where can I get Lauren’s blush off the shoulder shirt? Cause really, that is adorable.)

Review: Companion app puts your safety first

I use a ton of different apps everyday – as do most people who own a smartphone or tablet – but I’ve never reviewed or promoted one before. While I love social, photo editing and gaming apps, I recently came across one that I feel deserves some praise because of it’s primary goal: safety.

In the last month, I got a new job and moved to a new city. I mentioned in a previous post that the hours are not consistent and I often commute home after 11 p.m. Being alone and female at night in New York City (actually, any city) can sometimes be scary whether you’re walking, taking a bus, train or Lyft/ Uber. (I like Lyft much better, but we can put off that debate for another time.)

After the initial shock of being employed so soon after graduation wore off, I started to think about what the actual move would be like safety-wise. Unfamiliar with my surroundings meant I was also unfamiliar with the safety level. I had just spent four years on a college campus that I felt very safe to be alone at night on and before that, 18 years in a town that I knew the ins and out of and where not to go alone. I had some serious adjusting to do.

Crime happens in the best and worst neighborhoods. There isn’t really a surefire way to never experience it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. So, I went looking for an app that would help keep me safe. There are a few great ones on the market, but I came down to two before making a final decision: Companion and SafeTrek.

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Companion is a free app that lets you either enter a destination or choose “wander mode,” and you can select whether you’re walking, driving, biking or taking public transportation. You then select companions from your contact list to follow you on your journey. They get a text asking them to be your companion with a link directing them to either the app or to a browser where they see a real-time map of your movement, what your destination is and the approximate time of travel. (They don’t need to have the app for it to work!)

If you find yourself in a weird or unsafe situation, the app allows you to alert your companions that you feel nervous or you can call the police. I haven’t tried to call the police, but I think that it does it silently, which is good if you ever find yourself in a scary situation where you need to be discrete. And if you feel like you need to call the police while you aren’t actually en route, you can just open the app and do so. You don’t need to have a selected destination and companions for that.

Companion also tracks movements, so if the user goes from walking to running, it will alert the companions and ask the user to confirm that they’re ok. If they don’t confirm within 15 seconds, the app will alert the police. I was using the app one night while taking Lyft and my driver took a wrong turn and ended up on the opposite side of the building that I needed to go to. Because of one ways and closed roads, we had to do a big loop around. Because it looked like I passed my destination and kept going, the app asked if I was ok. According to a CNN article, Companion will also go into “alert mode,” which emits a siren noise if the user doesn’t confirm their safety.


Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 12.52.28 PMSafeTrek, which costs $2.99 a month, has a “hold until safe” design. Users hold their finger on the open app until they reach their destination or otherwise safe area. When you release, you type in your personalized code within a certain amount of time and that tells the app that you are safe. If you release your finger and don’t type in your code, the police will be notified of your exact location thanks to GPS. If you have to call the police manually and you’re in a position where you can’t speak or don’t actually know where you are, they could have a hard (and time consuming) time tracking you.

SafeTrek offers a 30-day free trial as well as a discounted $29.99 a year price.

 (Full disclosure: I have not actually tried SafeTrek, merely read articles and reviews. If you have and feel like I left something out, please let me know!)

I saw the good in both apps and while Companion being free was a definite plus, I went with it for a few other reasons. The one thing I really liked was that I could enter my destination, add my companions and then put my phone away. People are constantly getting their phones stolen right from their hands, so not having to keep my finger pressed to the screen is a huge advantage.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 12.52.51 PMAlthough, in the reviews for SafeTrek, it seems like it makes more sense to use it over Companion if you’re just running outside for a second, walking to or from your car, or as a Huffington Post article pointed out, even if you’re home and feel scared: “The app came in handy one night when her doorbell started ringing repeatedly. As she walked down the stairs, she drew up the SafeTrek app and put her finger on the button. No one was at her door, but when she started walking back upstairs she heard someone trying to break in. That’s when she released her grip.”


Both apps have the potential to help lower crime all over the country. Because both apps use GPS to track you, they also can keep track of the areas with high levels of unsafety. The app developers can let police or other public safety agencies know what areas are coming up frequently. I don’t know if either does this currently, but hopefully it will be a step in the right direction.

While I chose Companion, just doing research for this review has made me consider also downloading SafeTrek. Whether you decide to go with one – or both – of these, or some of the other several in the app store, remember that you can never be too safe.

Does anyone use either of these apps or any other similar ones? Comment below!

Review: ZzzQuil VoxBox from Influenster

imageIf you aren’t familiar with Influenster or haven’t seen my previous reviews of their VoxBoxes, I’ll start out by saying that I’m a huge fan of this company. If you get picked to receive a VoxBox, the products are usually catered to you, (based on the snaps you answer, reviews you post and preliminary VoxBox survey answers) like the curly hair shampoo and conditioner I received a few months ago. It’s a great way to try products for free before you commit to spending the cash on something. I have found products I love through Influenster and also found products that don’t work for me. I’ve even found things that I wouldn’t use but my friends definitely would – like a volumizing spray that really serves no purpose to me considering my hair is already gigantic, but my straight-haired friend loved. Even when you don’t get picked for a box, the website/app is incredibly useful for reading real reviews on products. I’m never afraid the reviews are paid for or done by employees of a company like you can run into on a website like Amazon.

 

I’m also hopelessly addicted to skin care, makeup and hair products so I obviously love the chance to get free products in the mail that feel like early Christmas gifts. But, my most recent VoxBox experience was a little different. I have to admit, I was surprised when I opened my email and saw that I was receiving a sample of ZzzQuil – the sleep aid from the makers of trusted medicines NyQuil and DayQuil. When I have a cold I turn to their products to help me power through the day and sleep through the night, so why wouldn’t I try their non-habit forming, strictly for sleeping pills (no pain medicine or otherwise sickness-relieving medicine included)?

 

I recently got a new job and the hours have been a little crazy. I work mornings/afternoons for a couple days, nights for a couple days and sometimes have to do turnarounds like getting home at 11:30 p.m. on Friday and getting to work at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday – entry-level life, am I right? That is a recipe for a weird sleep schedule. As someone who really feels it when I don’t get my eight hours, I have been struggling with the adjustment. So after one 11 o’clock shift I decided to try out ZzzQuil in hopes that I would sleep like a baby and wake up the next day feeling fully rested for the first time in a week or so.

 

The VoxBox only included one dose (two tiny purple gel caps), so I cannot be 100% certain if the product didn’t work or if it was just a bad night, but here is my honest review anyway. About 20 minutes after taking it, I could feel my whole body getting tired the same way that it happens when you take any other nighttime medicine, like a wave of sleepiness sweeps over you. I was so excited to finally sleep, and then … I tossed and turned for hours. I didn’t fall into a deep sleep the way I do when I take NyQuil or Benydryl and I woke up the next day feeling even more exhausted. In the few nights after taking it, I haven’t slept much better. I don’t think the following nights had anything to do with taking ZzzQuil (at least I’d sure hope not), but I certainly don’t feel refreshed. I think I would definitely benefit from a day off where I can sleep as late as I need to (Thursday, where are you?) to make up for the unusual schedule, and even though I can’t say for sure that ZzzQuil doesn’t work, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing the product to try again.

All in all, I’d give this box just one star. A non-habit forming, non-pain or other ailment-relieving sleep aid is a great idea for a product because everyone could use some help sleeping every once in a while but no one wants to become dependent on sleeping pills. But unfortunately, it just fell flat with me.
Has anyone else received this VoxBox or tried ZzzQuil on their own? What was your experience with it?
I received this product complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes, all opinions are my own.

What the Stanford rape case says about privilege in America

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screenshot from Straight Outta Compton trailer

This past week I was finally able to see the movie Straight Outta Compton. I know that it’s been out for a while now but between movie theater prices, school, graduation, time just got away from me. Anyway, as a lover of music as a whole and hip-hop specifically, I found the movie to be wonderfully done. Even Paul Giamatti surprised me. Besides thinking it was an all around good movie, it left a pretty significant impact on me. Even though I knew how terrible black people were treated (especially poor black people) in the ’80s and ’90s, actually seeing the way police officers harassed these men for no reason other than the fact that they were black, made me sick. What made me even more sick was realizing that not much has changed, even though I wanted so desperately to believe that it has. It always feels like we’ve come so far and then I realize that no, we haven’t. Which leads me to the Stanford rape case. (I’ll get to how the two are related later.)

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Brock Turner’s mugshot

If you’ve been on the internet in the past few days, chances are you have seen stories about Brock Turner, the student from Stanford who was found guilty of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster after leaving a frat party. Two grad students biking past noticed the woman wasn’t moving and after confronting Turner, they had to chase him and hold him down while calling the police. After seeing several sexual assault cases where the victim is repeatedly blamed for her outfit or lifestyle choices, you might have thought, “Finally, a rapist is being held accountable for what he did.” Unfortunately, the judge in the case decided to overrule the minimum two year sentence for rapists and give the student just six months because jail would just be too severe for a promising young swimmer.

In other words, jail is no place for a white athlete from a prestigious private university.

Thousands of people have taken to the internet to express their disgust and I’ve seen several petitions going around to get the judge ousted. Thanks to the impact social media can make, I do believe the life of this “promising young athlete” will be forever altered, even if he won’t be spending a significant amount of time in prison. Just today I saw that USA Swimming has banned him, meaning he can never swim in the Olympics for Team USA.

After being found guilty, this man never admitted to or apologized for his actions. Instead, he blamed the binge drinking culture of college. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never gotten drunk and felt the need to violate someone.

While there has been a ton of support for the victim whose powerful letter has been shared thousands of times, there have been two other letters that have sparked some attention. The rapist’s father said that his son’s life will never be what he worked so hard to achieve and that that is a “steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.” I could throw up just reading that. But if you want to chalk that up to a father loving his son no matter what, fine. What about this: A character reference written by a childhood friend of Turner has also gotten some well-deserved backlash. Below is a quote taken from her letter:

“I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn’t right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists.”

If rape doesn’t happen because people are rapists, then why does it happen? It definitely is not because women drink or wear sexy clothes or engage in hookup culture. If you murder someone, you’re a murderer. If you rape someone, you’re a rapist. Even if you only do it once. Even if you never committed a crime before.

And to her comment on political correctness: I am the first to say this world is too sensitive. Not every comment is racist or sexist and sometimes jokes are just jokes. However, you cannot be a terrible person and then use the excuse that people are too PC.

(After a few of her band’s performances were cancelled due to her support of rape culture, this friend claims her letter was misconstrued.)

I said that Straight Outta Compton and this case have something in common. It is that white privilege in America is as real today as it was in the time that movie portrayed and in the decades prior. I recently read a story about another promising athlete, Brian Banks, who was convicted of rape in 2002 and sentenced to six years in prison. After serving five years, the accuser came forward and confessed that Banks did not actually commit the crime. His case had no evidence and yet, the court was quick to sentence him to six years, a term that makes sense for a rapist. There is concrete evidence in the Turner case, so what was the difference between this promising athlete and Turner? Well, Brian Banks is black. I obviously do not know if the judge in his case was harder on him because of his race or if he/she was simply disgusted by rape, as most people should be. But, as Banks put it: “It seems like the judge based his decision on lifestyle,” Banks said. “He’s lived such a good life and has never experienced anything serious in his life that would prepare him for prison. He was sheltered so much he wouldn’t be able to survive prison. What about the kid who has nothing, he struggles to eat, struggles to get a fair education? What about the kid who has no choice who he is born to and has drug-addicted parents of a non-parent household? Where is the consideration for them when they commit a crime?”

This brought to mind another infuriating case: the affluenza teen.

Ethan Couch was driving while under the influence of alcohol when he hit and killed four people and injured nine others. The teen’s attorney used a defense of affluenza, meaning he grew up too privileged to know right from wrong. The judge agreed, sentencing him to 10 years probation. For murder. Meanwhile, a man in Louisiana is currently serving a 13-year sentence for having two joints on him. Let that sink in.

If being too rich to know right from wrong is a logical argument, is it not logical that someone can be too poor to know right from wrong? I don’t agree with either. Your class should not dictate how good of a person you are. Whether you’re rich or poor, you should know things like rape and murder are wrong.

The issue here is that it’s 2016 and white, prominent males are easily forgiven for serious crimes and black men are killed for walking down the street. As Bernard Noble, the aforementioned man from Louisiana put it, “we live in a world where people who are living in disadvantaged environments face challenges and situations that seem to never turn out as they do for people in more privileged and un-challenged neighborhoods.”

I can go on for hours about all the times the justice system got it wrong and about the issues in the Stanford case specifically, but instead I will leave it at this: We need to stop teaching girls all the things they need to do to avoid rape and instead teach men that rape is never ok. We need to teach people that the color of someone’s skin or their gender does not make them any better or any less than someone else. We need to teach people that just because you’re an athlete, it doesn’t make your life more important or your actions excusable. We need to teach people that social class does not equal worth. We are all humans; we are equal, rich or poor, female or male, black or white.

When did we stop moving forward and start moving backward?

Scout adds to beauty of community garden

By Medea Giordano
Originally published in The Amityville Record
June 1, 2016

Boy and girl scouts have been contributing to the beauty of Sophia Garden in Amityville for years. When Boy Scout Justin Elkin needed a project to reach Eagle Scout status, something that only about five percent of scouts do, according to the National Eagle Scout Association, he knew he wanted to build a utility pavilion for the garden.

Located on Homecoming Farm at The Sisters of St. Dominic, the organic garden donates 20 percent of the food grown to the Interfaith Nutrition Network.

After more than a year of planning and raising $2,000 Justin started the project Sat., April 23, together with members of Boy Scout Troop 689. The group excavated the site for the utility pavilion—a covered area with a washing station for fruits and vegetables.

“It’s taken a good year of fundraising,” Justin said, “but now we’re finally here.”

“Justin is the project manager; he has to tell the adults what to do,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Marc Elkin, Justin’s father. “He’s learning leadership and how to troubleshoot.”

While it was up to Justin to plan, organize and raise money for his project, fellow boy scouts and their families were willing to help.

“It’s a whole troop effort,” Justin said.

Elizabeth Keihm, executive director and farmer of Homecoming Farm, is appreciative of what the Scouts have contributed over the years.

“Scout programs have been amazing for us…both boy and girl scouts,” Keihm said. “This young man came to us and I said we’d like a new wash station, and then I got this professional level blueprint from Justin.”

After excavation is complete, a concrete foundation will be poured and then Justin and his fellow scouts will start building the actual 10-foot by 20-foot wooden structure, which in addition to providing a place to wash food, will provide protection from hot sun and rain during harvesting.

“We’re making it big enough so that they can set up a table and chairs when they have outdoor events,” Elkin added.

In addition to the utility pavilion currently being built, part of Sophia Garden is being leveled to provide wheelchair access to the site. Many of the residents at Dominican Village, a senior residential home there will then be able to go to the garden.

Andrew Dittman, who was helping Justin out with his project, contributed to the garden in 2014 for his own Eagle Scout project, which included building the potting benches that will be accessible to residents once the ground is leveled.

“At the end, I get to have been a part of their lives for a short period that has significance for the rest of their lives. It’s a great honor,” Keihm said.

Bloom VoxBox review

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 7.19.35 PM.pngInfluenster has blessed me with another amazing VoxBox. I have to apologize for the delay in my review; finals week, job hunting and graduation filled up every waking moment of the the last few weeks. But without further ado, let’s jump in with what came this time around:

  • NUXE Huile Prodigieuse® Multi-Purpose Dry Oil
  • Secret Outlast Xtend Invisible Solid Completely Clean Antiperspirant/Deodorant
  • Not Your Mother’s Plump For Joy™ Thickening Hair Lifter
  • Cutex Advanced Revival Nail Polish Remover Pads
  • McKee Foods Sunbelt Bakery Chocolate Chip Granola Bar
  • SinfulColors® “Bling it On” nail polish

I received these products complimentary for testing purposes; all opinions are my own.

IMG_6210-2.JPGNUXE Huile Prodigieuse® Multi-Purpose Dry Oil

Oil has been a staple in my beauty routine. I use it on my face, in my hair and sometimes to shave. (As someone with sensitive skin, shaving with oil is the only thing that prevents razor burn. But it does clog razors.)

I fell in love with facial oil when I discovered Hush & Dotti, but unfortunately, their oil is way too expensive to use continuously. As luck would have it, this brand is too. But, all in all, it is a great product. It goes on light and doesn’t ever feel like I’m layering on heavy oil, even if I put a lot on, and it also makes my hair feel amazing. It really does what it says. My only complaint other than price would be that the packaging is a little difficult. Using a dropper, like Hush & Dotti does, would make the application process easier, because sometimes just tipping the bottle over means way too much is bound to pour out. The price is too steep for me at this point in my life, but I would love to use it again!

Cutex Advanced Revival Nail Polish Remover Pads

If I had to sum this product up in one word: WOW! I’m a nail polish fanatic and so I use a large amount of nail polish remover. I’ve used a bottle with cotton balls and the tubs that you can stick your finger directly in, but these pads are by the far the best. The smell is strong, but when working with acetone, I don’t think that can be avoided. I was skeptical that it could remove the polish on all 10 fingers like it claims, but I was pleasantly surprised. And to top it all off, I used these on a day where I had a few glittery nails. Fellow nail connoisseurs, you understand that love hate relationship we have with glitter: It looks amazing, it stays put for days longer than regular polish, but when it’s time to take it off, prepare to physically harm yourself in the process. Well, not with these! A few wipes and it was all gone and I didn’t have to push very hard either. Will definitely be purchasing!

IMG_6221-2.JPGMcKee Foods Sunbelt Bakery Chocolate Chip Granola Bar

Free food is always good. I have never heard of this brand before but I think I will definitely purchase their stuff in the future. To put it simply, this was a perfect granola bar. It was chewy and not messy and just all around delicious. Perfect for a midday snack.

Not Your Mother’s Plump For Joy™ Thickening Hair Lifter

Ok, if you know me, you know that thickening hair lifter is the absolute last thing in the world I need. I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to get my hair to fall just a little flatter, so this was obviously something I wasn’t excited to get. Though, I do absolutely love Not Your Mother’s brand. I have used the Way to Grow shampoo/conditioner and the Beach Babe gel and spray, all of which were awesome products. Considering I wasn’t about to make my hair any bigger, I gifted this to my straight-haired roommate for her review and she gives it five stars! On dry hair, it helped give a little body and on wet hair, it gave her hair really pretty waves. She didn’t think it made it any shinier though, as it claims. She would use again.

IMG_6304.JPGSinfulColors® “Teal Midnight” nail polish

This nail polish is from the new Kylie Jenner collection. As already mentioned, I love doing my nails, so any time I can try out new polish is a good day. Unfortunately, this color was pretty underwhelming. The picture to the right is after a few coats, and as you can tell, it’s completely see through but any more coats would have been too thick. I am willing to try it out again and maybe add a white base coat to make it more vibrant, but alone, it wasn’t a success.

Secret Outlast Xtend Invisible Solid Completely Clean Antiperspirant/Deodorant

I don’t want to be a boring reviewer here, but there isn’t too much to say about this deodorant other than it works. I usually like to use Ban roll-on deodorant, but this one smells great and works, which is obviously the most important part. I wouldn’t say it is completely “invisible,” as it will make marks on your shirt if you get it on it, but I am not convinced any solid deodorant is invisible.


It was another great box, Influenster! I found some great products I will definitely be using again. Did anyone else get this Vox Box? What were your thoughts?

Virtual reality symposium at Hofstra

A panel of virtual reality storytellers met on April 12 in Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication to educate students and faculty on virtual reality technology and how it is being utilized journalistically.

James Pallot, co-founder of Emblematic Group and Carla Borras, series coordinating producer of FRONTLINE were among the panelists who spoke on both the perks of virtual reality, as well as the drawbacks, like glitchy video and high camera prices.

Not every story lends itself to be told in VR, but when it works, it is a highly effective means of storytelling. Check out the video below to see highlight from the symposium as well as examples of virtual reality.