Keeping up with AIFS Part 2

This semester is flying. We are almost halfway through March and I really don’t know how that happened. Then again, I never even know what day of the week it even is.

I have been overloaded with work, my internship, classes, extra-curricular activities, and other obligations, but I have thankfully found time to keep my beloved blog updated. Plus, I began writing celebrity and lifestyle content for Her Campus, and online college magazine targeted at female students!

Take me back!!!

For the last month, I have also been reminded that my life a year ago was way cooler than it is now, as Facebook’s “Today in the Past” feature shows me every day all my old blog posts and pictures from my semester in Australia. I bet you know what I want to type next: something along the lines of “I wish I was still there!” Well, you are right and it is true.

I actually just had my AIFS representative from headquarters come to campus to meet with me about my experience as an AIFS Alumni Ambassador and to finally meet with my campus’ study abroad director. It is really mind-blowing to me that AIFS actually sent a person to check in on me, who has encouraged me and helped me throughout the year. The post-AIFS and study abroad experience has truly been incredible.

As part of the ambassador program, I am required to write at least one blog post for AIFS and create one video for it. I thought I would share my AIFS content in case it could help someone out. Below are the posts I created, followed by my video:

There is a reason why I wanted to talk about AIFS: it is now time to start sharing my videos from Australia!

The next time you hear from me will be when I post a video that takes you through O-Week (orientation week) before classes started down under. Make sure to stay tuned!

Whitmanythought 1: I am so thankful I chose to study with AIFS

Whitmanythought 2: I am so excited to start sharing my videos!


A New London Original in NYC

I make it my mission to see at least one Broadway show per semester and thanks to Hofstra University Honors College, I was able to check that box early.

I saw a newer play, Farinelli and the King, at the Belasco Theatre in New York. The show tells the story of how the mentally unfit King Philip IV of Spain is being undermined by his courtiers, while his wife fights against them and hires the sweet soprano-voiced Farinelli to sing to her ill husband. It turns out that Farinelli’s soothing voice does the trick to save Philip’s deteriorating mind, but also woos the queen. This play originally debuted in London in 2015, and has made its way overseas with some of the original cast.


The reason I am writing about this is not to tell you about the comedic play, but to highlight the quick, but insightful talkback the cast had after the show. This is the only talkback I have been to in recent times, and I thought it was interesting because the cast talked about the differences between putting on the show in America and England.

Something repeated by a few cast members is that the matinee crowd in America is much more lively than that in England. Go us!

In terms of the stage and members, the cast had a larger stage in America and was able to bump the musician count from three to six. Also mentioned was the fact that there was no director telling actors where to stand on stage. King Philip IV, played by Oscar and Tony winner Mark Rylance, compared it to learning to play tennis, where “you give and take focus to each other.” The actors learned where the better-lit places on the stage were based on the positioning of the candles that provided the light for the production.


Another unique factor of Farinelli is that there was two-tiered audience seating on the stage, which proposed another challenge to the actors. No one wore a microphone, and while some audience members were near, they had to make sure to focus on the members sitting in the main theater. “We want to make you feel like you’re in the same room as us,” said Rylance. “We want to be as attentive t you as you are to us.”

Some of the favorite pieces from the show are the dresses, which was agreed upon by the whole cast, the wigs according to Queen Isabella, played by Melody Grove, and Rylance took a liking to the gold fish he talks to in the beginning of the show. He explained that there is a rotation of fish used, and jokingly said sometimes they are a bit out of character, which can be a challenge.

The cast finished with a thoughtful discussion of amateur versus professional acting. “I enjoyed acting as much when I was an amateur actor as when I’m a professional actor,” said Rylance. He especially feels positive when “you have a really great night and feel connected with the audience.”

Whitmanythought 1: I did not realize much of the cast was from England and I thoroughly enjoyed the true British accents

 Whitmanythought 2: I hope I can see a show again this semester!

Australia: One Year Later

It has been exactly one year since I landed in Perth, Australia to study abroad. When I realized this, I could not believe the anniversary had snuck up so soon. It seems as if I have been in a state of longing for clear waters rolling onto sandy shores, ginormous waves crashing on towering rock cliffs and warm air embracing my skin for more than a year. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about the happiest and freest semester of my life and I so wish I could go back to experience that alternate universe one more time.

My first sight of Australia

My life is so much different one year later: my late nights out with friends turned into late nights at my internship, shopping for bathing suits has turned into buying professional-wear and lounging under the sun at the beach has turned into laying in my bed reading for class (I read for class in Australia too, don’t worry). However, cooking for myself reverted back into having a meal plan on campus and not having to prepare every meal every day, so that is a plus! I am not planning cool trips to new continents or packing a bag for a week-long outback trip. Instead, I am trying to find a weekend I am free enough to have a friend visit me in New York. I am not saying anything about this is bad; it is just different.

Cliffside in the Northwest

Studying abroad really was like living in an alternate universe, if the above descriptions did not portray that enough. However, it was more like an elongated dream; one that would eventually have to become a well-scrapbooked memory. Although my life is nowhere near as adventurous as it was a year ago, I am so thankful for what has come since leaving from Australia and what is to come in the future (more travels, please).

One year later I can say I still live with the essence of my past life. I have remained more confident in my own decisions, which I really had to learn as I was making travel plans down under. I have continued to be extremely mindful of the people I surround myself with and stand up for my beliefs instead of letting others silence them. Finally, I have continued to learn to take a break. Whether it is putting on a face mask and lighting a candle or journaling, I make sure I take time to reflect on the day and evaluate the progress I made on my daily and weekly tasks. Although I came to Australia with a deep understanding of who I am as a person, I now can better express that to others.

Our first sight of Perth

I really do wish I could go back and to Australia and relive that enlightening, beautiful semester. At the same time, I don’t think it would be the same. My semester in Australia came and left, and now I can let the memories live on to remind me how full of pure ecstasy that semester was and to let that time shape how I live in the future.

Whitmanythought 1: Seriously, please let me go back

Whitmanythought 2: I have friends studying in New Zealand and Australia this semester and I wish I could visit them

A Reflection of My Blog 2.0

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I am laughing at myself for calling my blog “mediocre” last year. I mean, it still is, but guess what—it is still making me happy!

Like I said in my “reflection” post that I wrote just over a year ago, I have thought about changing my blog into a “.com,” but I decided against it. Why? I have no idea what the future holds and I do not know how much time I will be able to put into my blog after graduation and once I start graduate school. What if I have nothing about which to write? What if I never leave Hofstra’s campus again and will have no more stories to tell? I’m kidding of course; I know that will not happen.

As I reflect on my blog again, (because why not), I wonder if the person sitting next to me is reading anything I type (go ahead, it’s free advertisement). I also wonder how many people have actually read my posts or even benefitted from them. I know a few have, and that makes me feel accomplished. This of course is not the ultimate travel blog that is going to tell you how to explore every city around the world, but I do hope people who come across it hear my voice, relate to it and it helps them in some way.

I am actually quite proud of myself for keeping up with the blog this past semester. After my hiatus in the summer after Australia, I told myself I would not let myself go without posting with the excuse of school in my way. From my transitioning tips post (which may be my biggest hit) to my Fall Concert Series 2.0, I published reviews, thoughts and advice of which I am proud.

I am super excited to continue my blog and see what direction it takes as a chapter of my life closes and a new one begins. To finish this post off the way I did last year, I will leave you with this: “To whoever reads this, I hope I have interested you.”

Whitmanythought 1: February is against me. It does not want me to post. I shall persevere!


Spring 2018: Not Australia

This time last year, I had just gotten back from an incredible two weeks in London and was preparing to study abroad in Australia. It is absolutely crazy to me to think that was my life just 12 months ago. Believe me, I want it back! However, I cannot dwindle on the past.

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I am saddened that I cannot declare that I am studying abroad in some exotic place this year, but I do have some things that may excite some (mostly my family). I am heading into my last semester of undergraduate at Hofstra University and I have just begun an internship with NBC Weekend TODAY. Although I just started, I have already been given so much to do, such as researching, running updated scripts to the control room during the show and logging music the show uses so royalties can be paid. It is a weekend morning show, so I am in New York City by five in the morning on Saturdays and six on Sundays, and I go in two to four times a week.

Me in the studio at NBC TODAY

Due to my hectic schedule this semester (I am still juggling my sorority, fraternity, my school’s television station and a job on top of being an intern and full-time student), I will not be able to produce as much content as I did last semester (unless I can). Therefore, I plan to post a new video from Australia almost every week, one year after I experienced such incredible travels. My goal is to start this in March, as I do have some posts from winter break to share and maybe one or two new posts to type up in February.

I have said before: this is no top-of-the-line travel blog, but it is something I hold important to me and enjoy doing. So, with that being said, I hope some people take a liking to my upcoming posts and Australian adventures!

Whitmanythought 1: I cannot wait to share my videos! Most of them have been done since I was in Australia

Whitmanythought 2: Maybe I should just delay graduation and study abroad again


2017: From Traveling to Relaxing

How I am sitting down to write my 2017 wrap-up post is beyond me, yet here I am. Quite opposite to 2016, this year was not driven by my need to travel. Yes, I travelled; a lot. However, once my beautiful semester in Australia was done, I was not ready to hit the road (or sky) again. In fact, I did not want to travel at all. I wanted to rest and relax, and that is exactly what I did.

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My version of relaxation is still not what many would call “relaxing,” but it was perfect. I ended up working as a sailing instructor, which was my first job a few years back, I spent quality time with friends and family and I went to the beach every chance I could. The furthest I traveled was to my AIFS Alumni Ambassador training in Connecticut, and the only “trips” I took were to Philadelphia a handful of times and to a lake house in my home state of New Jersey. I took a break from social media and I simply lived.

Summertime relaxation

Then, I quickly jumped into a hurricane of a semester; one that really tested me emotionally. During that semester, I really appreciated when I could “get away” and leave campus to take my mind off things. It was a mixture of my post-Australia summer and chaotic semester that led me to realize the purpose of 2017: to teach me to take a break.

When people ask me about my new year resolution, I tell them I do not have one. In fact, I never really do. What I try to focus on are the things that make me happy and the things that do not, and live accordingly. In 2016, I was all about acting on my “mid-college crisis” and my travel bug any way I could. Between studying in Rome, travelling to London and spending a semester down under, I think I did an excellent job (thanks to the support of my wonderful family). In 2017, I focused on taking a break, which really started in Australia. Although I was busy almost every weekend while there and went on three weeklong trips, I still had a huge amount of free time to which I was not accustomed. I learned to appreciate that extra space and use it as “me” time to let loose and distress. In Australia, a lot of that extra time was spent blogging and making videos. In the summer, it was spent laying at the beach or swimming in a pool. During the semester, any extra time I found was spent doing anything from a face mask and watching a show to napping. I mentioned at the beginning of the semester that I learned that it is okay to not have everything organized to a tee, and this semester has really allowed me to calm myself and leave a few days open for when last minute things pop up. And when they did not, the extra time was simply an unexpected treat.

2016 was focused on my thirst to travel. 2017 was focused on my need to learn to relax. Although so different, both years offered me wonderful things, from new experiences and knowledge to new people. I have no idea what 2018 will bring, and at the present moment, I do not have much control over it. Regardless, I have no doubt that 2018 will be just as fulfilling as the last two. Here’s to the memories of 2017 and the unknown of 2018!

Thankful for Study Abroad

This time last year, I was fully aware that I was studying abroad in Australia the following semester. However, at the Thanksgiving dinner table I shied away from fully admitting it to my great aunts and uncles, because of the slight chance something might go wrong. Now, at this Thanksgiving, I did not have anything nearly as exciting about which to speak, but I have even more things for which to be thankful. To everyone and everything I interacted with during my time studying in Australia: this is for you.


To the friends I made while abroad, it would not have been the same without you. We spent endless days studying, exploring beautiful Perth and making the best stories from wild nights out on the town together. We figured out what it is like to live in a new country together, and nothing can replace that. Even the people who I interacted with less constantly were so welcoming and open to me, and I knew that I had supports anywhere I turned. To the people I met who were friends by association, you enforced the importance of self-honesty and evaluation in me. You helped me stand up for my values and realize it is acceptable to not be friends with everyone, and to continue to surround myself with positive influences. The memories will live on forever, and you will never fade from them.


Because I studied abroad, I am able to be alone. I was never good at sitting with myself and my thoughts; I always had to be surrounded by people. However, being abroad and not always having a thousand friends to choose from and obligations to fill, I found myself more easily ready to take a step back and relax. I was able to reflect on my own thoughts and appreciate my time alone, and for that I am thankful. Now, in America, I look forward to the time I have with myself to do homework or just let loose.

I am thankful for AIFS, my study abroad company. Without AIFS, I may not have found the perfect program or have been able to make my study abroad dreams come true. Additionally, being an Alumni Ambassador has given me a chance to continue my abroad experience, gain a network of travel-passionate people and develop my professional skills. These are things I never expected from a study abroad program.


To the professors, professionals and volunteers I interacted with on my trip, I will forever be thankful we came in contact. You reminded me that there is good in the world, and despite popular opinion, one does not necessarily have to look far to find it. All my professors seemed so passionate about their subjects, and it made sitting in class while I could be at the beach a little better. To the volunteers who made me pancakes every Friday morning, those are times and the tastes I will forever miss. Any helpful stranger I came in contact with, from our trip leaders to random guides in Thailand who let me use their phones, your kindness truly made a positive impact on my endeavors. A little bit of love can go a long way.

There is always so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for that. Studying abroad has taught me so much about myself and how I see the world. There is not a day that goes by during which I do not think about Australia and I will forever be thankful for all I got to do during those magical months of my life.


Keeping up with AIFS

My travels have subsided, but my aspirations to see the world have not. I have been fairly quiet this November, mainly because this semester is a Merry-Go-Round of finishing assignments just to get on another ride. However, I have also been busy working with AIFS, the company through which I studied abroad.

As a way to keep in touch with my travels, I applied to, interviewed for and attended a

A photo from training with AIFS

three-day training session in Stamford, Connecticut for the AIFS Alumni Ambassadors program this past summer. Some may assume this is just a way for AIFS to capitalize on its students. However, what I love about AIFS, besides the program in which I participated, is that it is not going to be offended if someone does not choose to travel abroad with the company. Instead, our managers tell us that we are here to promote study abroad on campus, and not just AIFS.

The agenda of each ambassador differs and depends on what his or her home institution’s study abroad office will allow. For example, some study abroad offices will let AIFS Alumni Ambassadors present to Greek life and resident halls, while others will not. I have spent much of my semester assisting with open house study abroad sessions and completely revamping Hofstra’s study abroad Facebook page. It has felt surreal speaking to students about the beginning stages of their abroad journeys and being able to reflect from my own experience to help them.

Tabling with another club at my school

The best thing about the AIFS Alumni Ambassadors Program, though, is that it cares about the ambassadors. The program requires a mid-year resume and LinkedIn critique during which each ambassador receives a one-hour phone call. On top of that, each ambassador is required to create an online portfolio with an area to explain how study abroad impacted him or her. Additionally, at training, the ambassadors were given tips on how to relate their study abroad experiences to applicable traits in the work force. I think this is an awesome edge to have over competitors.

I have no idea what kind of experience I would have had during and post-trip if I had studied with another company. As I said in a previous post, keeping in contact with my abroad experiences has really helped me navigate my return to home life. I am quite pleased with my after-abroad experience I have gained through AIFS and I am excited to help others realize their study abroad dreams.



Fall Concert Series 2.0: Lil Wayne

“NO WAY WE ARE GETTING LIL WAYNE AT FALL FEST OMG (insert crying emojis)” is exactly what I tweeted when I found out the rapper was coming to Hofstra for Fall Fest. I was excited because being a two-time Grammy winner and having a mountain of songs under his belt, Wayne was one of the biggest names Hofstra has probably ever hosted for fall fest. I was excited for sure, but I also knew that I could not name a “Wheezy” song or lyric if my life depended on it.

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Photo: Sam Bussell

Fast forward to Fall Fest. I have been working for hours backstage and all of a sudden security kicks everyone out, even my bosses who put the show together. Lil Wayne did not want anyone backstage. Next thing I know, he pulls up in a blacked-out Escalade and literally walks from the car to the stage. The crowd goes wild. I, on the other hand, was wondering what I was doing there because I literally did not know what he was saying or recognize any of the lyrics.

From an objective view, he put on a high-energy performance. He rapped live and seemed excited to be on stage. I was worried he would not even show up, considering a week earlier he cancelled a show because he did not want to undergo any security measures. Wayne shouted out Hofstra and preached to the crowd three things he wanted us to know: first we were nothing without God. Second, he was nothing without us. Third, he was nothing without us. Yes, number two and three are the same. Yes, I used G-rated language, unlike him. He actually performed a bit longer than he was expected to, so that was a nice addition. My favorite part, of course, was when he sang covers and his own part in “The One,” which also features Justin Bieber. Only if Justin was actually there…

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Photo: Trent Campbell

The reaction from the crowd was pretty mixed. I saw people bouncing to the beats and having the time of their lives, but I also noticed other people awkwardly going along with Wheezy. I talked to some people afterwards, and the feedback I received from students matched what I saw in the mosh pit.

Hofstra sophomore Kyle Byrne said, “Wheezy is an amazing performer. I liked when he sang throwback songs, too, that I didn’t know.”

On the other hand, Julia Barry, a junior, noted, “The performance was less than subpar.”

I can confidently say that if you know his music, it is a much better concert to attend. My overall reaction is that he put on a better show than I expected, but he is not someone I would purposely see live.

Fall Concert Series 2.0: Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars was dripping in Finesse as he opened his 24K Magic World Tour at The Nassau Coliseum in Long Island with his song “Finesse.”

Outside the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum

I’ll have to say, I was surprised when he did not open the show with “24 K Magic,” the first song on his 24K Magic album and, obviously, the name of his tour. That is exactly why I loved the show: Bruno does not do what is expected, instead he allows his creativity to flourish and leaves us feeling refreshed after every song.

Bruno’s funky style attracts people of all ages and from all different backgrounds, which was highly evident as I skimmed the crowd: there was a young kid behind me and a group of racially different older ladies dancing up a storm in the section over from me. The ability for Bruno’s artistry to bring so many different types of people under one roof to celebrate him and his music is extraordinary.

Bruno is the epitome of what a talented musician is. The downfall for many pop artists that I notice is their inability to focus on their vocals during a live performance because they are too focused on dancing and running around the stage. However, Bruno makes his moves and powerful singing look as if he could do both in his sleep (he probably can).


Another thing I appreciate about Bruno is that he stays true to his band, The Hooligans. In matching baseball-style shirts, they all animatedly moved about the stage, never missing a step or a note on their guitars and horns. I enjoy how much Bruno seems to appreciate his band with how involved they are in the performance, but still giving them a break during an extended version of “Just the Way You Are.”

The great thing about an artist like Bruno Mars is that he has so many songs that the concert ends up being a perfect mix of old and new. About the first two thirds of the concert consisted of his 24K Magic songs, during which he strutted his stuff on the color-blocked stage to songs such as “Straight Up and Down” and “Chunky.” Bruno’s goofy personality shined through when he and The Hooligans sat down and posed for the crowd to take photos and post them on Instagram. The last third of the show consisted of some of his biggest hits, including “Grenade,” and “Marry You,” which is my personal favorite. Bruno almost had me in tears during his pianist-accompanied “Just the Way You Are” with his soothing, yet strong voice and emotion pouring from his lips.

Bruno packed the show with a whopping 16 songs, with his encore consisting of “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Uptown Funk.” Between the strobe lights and booming indoor fireworks, the audience could never get bored. I am certain, though, that even if it was just a huge stage and Bruno with his guitar and microphone, it would be an equally thrilling show.