London: One Year Later

One year ago today, I was spending my last night in London and begrudgingly preparing to leave behind the most exciting and fulfilling two weeks of my life.

Today, I began my new internship at NBC Weekend TODAY which will hopefully cultivate an exciting and fulfilling semester.

Two years ago, I never thought I would have just finished frolicking around London with great friends. One year ago, I would never believe I would be making my way into an incredible pre-professional opportunity. Isn’t it crazy what time can do?

Here is the video that documents the travels of my dear trip to London in 2017.

Whitmanythought 1: Take me back to London, please.

Whitmanythought 2: I feel so under-qualified for this internship.

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How to Budget Your Money While Studying Abroad

Studying abroad, in my biased opinion, is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. That being said, it is an investment that involves large sums of money. Before you leave, you will have your visa, plane ticket(s), tuition, and accommodation paid. However, you will be paying your living expenses as you go, which can be a daunting task. I am here to show you exactly how I managed my money while abroad so you can have an inside look at what your expenses may resemble.

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Have a place for your budget

The first step in managing any budget well is making a spreadsheet. This can be written on paper or saved on a computer. I used the Numbers application that comes on my Mac to create a spreadsheet and saved it onto my desktop for easy access. I have an example of a spread sheet using Microsoft Excel below.

Categorize

Something I did that made seeing and handling my budget super easy was breaking my expenses into categories. I had my budget broken down into:

  • Groceries and Supplies – This was for necessities such as food from the grocery store to toilet paper to my Wi-Fi plan
  • Trips – This accounted for all travel plans I made for my time abroad such as my trips to Rottnest Island and Thailand. This was not set in stone prior to arriving, but a growing list of all the trips I scheduled along the way.
  • Travel – This included all my public transport such as riding the bus and train, which was essential in Perth. You can also include Uber/Lyft and taxi expenses here.
  • Extras – This category was for all the “extras” that were of-the-moment entertainment decisions such as the Justin Bieber concert and music festival I attended, or even just going out to eat.
  • Pre-Paid Card – This is very unique to my circumstance, as AIFS provided me with a debit card that was reloaded with $250 U.S. every month to help offset costs. I kept track of my spending on my own and would compare that to the transactions listed on the card’s website to make sure everything added up.
  • Cash – While abroad, I mostly used card to pay for things. However, I did come over with some cash, and I kept track of my losses when I spent and gains when people repaid me with cash. I do think it is essential to say that most people come with hundreds of dollars of cash, so bring what you feel is necessary. I luckily only needed to use an ATM once when I made a last-minute decision at the end of the trip.

Of course, there are plenty of ways you can break down your budget. Hopefully this guide can help you start that process.

Know Your Budget

The most crucial thing to managing a budget is knowing how much you have to spend. At the top of each category, I wrote a number that I tried not to pass by the end of the trip. If I needed more money for one category, I borrowed from another. Of course, how much you can dedicate to each category is your personal decision. My advice, however, is to give a few hundred dollars to the extras and necessities categories.

Stay Dedicated

 A very important thing to sticking to your budget is to write every single thing you spend money on down, even if it is just a cup of coffee. Be sure to update your budget sheet at least every two days, or you may forget some of your purchases. Also, have it in a visible area so you are forced to remember to update it.

Below is an example of what your budget sheet will look like with the categories, respective budgets and expenses.

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After reading this, I hope you feel a bit relieved and confident to manage your budget while abroad. Remember: stay on top of your budget sheet so you know where your money is going!

How to Buy Gifts for Others While Abroad

It is the season of giving, and if you are abroad or beginning your journey soon, something that may cross your mind is how you will go about buying presents for friends and family. It is easy to get lost in a maze of tourist-aimed souvenir shops and feel at a loss when it comes to making a gift decision. Here is a quick guide to help your gift-buying thought process.

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Make a List

Before you decide what presents to get, you need to know for whom you are shopping. Making a list of friends and family you want to purchase gifts for will give your direction and organization during your present search, which will take some of the stress away. Of course, you can add people on as you go, but it is always efficient to start with a general outline.

Know Your Budget

Knowing how much money you have to spend is vital. Give yourself an overall budget, and then break it down by the money you have to spend on each person. For instance, you may set aside $20 for your mother and maybe $10 for your cousin. Of course, this is all up to you.

Think of the Gift

When it came time to buy presents for people, I knew for whom I wanted to get special items and whom I planned to give general souvenirs. For instance, I had a group of friends I bought a pack of Perth shot glasses for, but there were a few closer friends I wanted to give personalized gifts. Here are a few tips when it comes to buying gifts.

  • Personalize: Getting presents for friends and family is a nice gesture, and of course is not expected. However, if you are purchasing presents, it is better if the person can really use it. I gave shot glasses to my young adult friends who I know could put them to good use. I bought my mom a wine holder with aboriginal design because she loves wine. I got my friend a stone elephant from Thailand because elephants are her favorite animal. I also try getting something that is meaningful to the spot I was in: I bought the elephant from a sanctuary at which I volunteered, for instance.
  • Size: Think about the size of the presents you are buying because you need to fit them all in your suitcase, unless you are willing to send them home separately. When I was in Rome, I brought home tiny bottles of Limoncello for my friends and family to try. I also bought hand-painted bottle stoppers from Tuscany. These were meaningful and useful, and also tiny gifts. Presents do not need to be great in size to be great to give!
  • Durability: Remember that your presents are most likely coming home with you. Get items that can go through some bumps! If you are bringing something fragile home, make sure it is well wrapped and placed in soft items in your suitcase.
  • Customs: There are many restrictions when it comes to bringing items from country to country. For instance, if you are bringing a plant-based product such as a grass fan or wood carving from Fiji to Australia, it needs to have a stamp that says it is treated to be legally transported into the country. Make sure you are aware of these regulations so you do not end up having to throw out your souvenirs or pay a fine.

Keep this list in mind and you will be a pro gift buyer in no time. Happy shopping!

21 Gifts for Someone Studying Abroad

If someone you know is studying abroad and you want to get him or her the perfect present, look no further. Here are some useful and budget-friendly items that your departing friend will love.

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  1. Passport holder – I love mine!
  2. Travel size toiletries – this is useful for long flights or weekend getaways
  3. Travel size refillable bottles – for extra conditioner, shampoo, etc.
  4. City guide book – for those who have not completely switched over to the internet
  5. Space bags – these will come in handy when they are trying to stuff everything in his or her suitcase!
  6. Portable phone charger – an absolute must for long days spent exploring
  7. Power adapter/converter – there are cheap packs that come with several types for a worldly traveler
  8. Journal – so your friend can write about his or her experiences
  9. Neck pillow – to assure comfort on long flights
  10. Luggage tag – so your friend knows which bag to grab!
  11. Toiletry bag – help your friend stay organized in the bathroom while abroad
  12. Phone camera lens – there are lenses you can attach to your cell phone to increase the quality of photos. Some are expensive, though!
  13. Earbuds – something that will come in use on long flights or road trips
  14. Microfiber travel towel – these are quick-drying, lightweight and do not take up much room at all
  15. Stain removing stick – something small that will come in handy when your friend least expects it
  16. Travel money – there are many pre-paid cards that work overseas
  17. Translation tool – whether it be a digital lesson or book, having a guide to the country’s language is always useful
  18. Money necklace – there are different types of wallets that can fit under clothes that are useful for traveling abroad and keeping money and passports safe and out of sight
  19. Card protector wallet – these wallets keep credit and debit cards protected from scanners that crooks use to see through normal wallets and steal information
  20. “Open when…” cards – these will not take up much room and are the perfect idea for when your friend is feeling unsure, missing home or just might need some motivation
  21. Something sentimental – there are so many gifts to remind your friend of home, from a keychain with his or her state or a necklace with sand from his or her favorite beach

Easily Overlooked Study Abroad Expenses You Should Know

It may seem that there is a never-ending list of tasks to accomplish before you study abroad, and that makes it easy to overlook the small details. Specifics such as how you are going to get around town or if you will have a plate to eat off of your first night may not be at the top of your list of worries, but they are something to keep in the back of your mind as your trip approaches. Here are some easily overlooked details that you may want to unpack from the back of your mind before you unpack your suitcase when you get to your destination.

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Wi-Fi

Everyone has different living arrangements while abroad. Something everyone uses that you may not think about is how you are going to access the internet, assuming you are not using data 24/7. Some housing may come with Wi-Fi, while others may not. In that case, there will be Wi-Fi plans available similar to data plans in the United States. I suggest doing some research about the Wi-Fi situation of your abroad housing before you get there so there are no surprises.

Living Essentials

It would be easy if you could just simply transport your whole dorm room to your abroad location, but unfortunately, that is not an option. You may have enough space to bring every toiletry necessary while away, but you are going to realize there are still some things you cannot live without. Save some money for living items you may forget about until you need them such as silverware, a stand-alone fan, a mirror, or small commonplace items such as tape and scissors.

Books

You already paid for your flight, your visa, your abroad housing and tuition, and maybe a change in your phone plan. With all the things being taken care of and paid for prior to arrival, it is easy to forget that you will need to purchase textbooks once classes start. Try setting a chunk of money on the side before you leave so it does not hurt as much when you have to dump hundreds of dollars away as soon as classes begin.

Public Transport

Something many students overlook before going abroad is the travel expenses once they have arrive at their destination. This is more than the expensive first cab ride from the airport to your accommodation. Most likely, you will not have a car while abroad, and although campus may be easy to walk through, going to the food store, beach or a museum may not be as foot-friendly. Luckily, companies like Uber have helped ease the burden of transport necessity, but definitely think about public transport and those costs so you have some money to cover.

Bank Charges and Exchange Rates

Depending on where you go, you may gain or lose money due to the exchange rate between American currency and the currency of your location. Make sure you are aware of this rate so you don’t have a heart attack when your 200 dollars turns in 150 euros. Also, be aware of foreign transaction fees and ATM charges, which can add up. I loved my TD Bank debit card because there were no transaction fees through the bank and I know other people used the pre-paid VISA TravelMoney card. There are many ways to ensure you have protected, fee-free money, so do your research and you will find an option that works for you.

Extra Fun

I am sure you plan on traveling to other locations while abroad, and you probably have money saved for that. However, there are the “little things” you will find yourself doing that you may not have planned. For instance, while in Australia I attended a music festival I did not learn about until I was abroad. I also ended up spending a hefty sum of money on clothing shopping, which I definitely did not expect at all. It is always smart to have extra money for the extra “extras!”

Medical

As much as we may sometimes deny it, we are only human and we get sick. If your illness is worth a trip to the doctor, be aware that you will more likely than not have an out-of-pocket expense, even if you have traveler’s insurance. It is smart to set an “emergency money” stash aside for times like this.

There are so many things that may not seem big, but make a huge difference once you are abroad. Use this list as a reminder as your trip gets closer, and you will be ready to go with a plan once your feet touch foreign soil.

Tips on Transitioning to Your Home Institution Post-Study Abroad

Jumping on a plane to a new country with no friends or family? No problem. Returning home to a summer job the first day I am back? Sure. Going back to school to my loving friends and campus activities? Who knew it would be so hard.

I am one who can easily swallow my emotions and not let myself be too affected by the unknown. I think it took me a few hours to feel comfortable in Fiji and a matter of days to feel at home in Australia. However, returning to my old life at Hofstra University is a whole different story. For me, culture shock was not a huge problem, but reverse culture shock—difficulty to readjusting to one’s home environment after a period of time away—is highly apparent.

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In hopes of helping someone else who may be in denial that this is a thing like I was, or who is going through something similar, I have compiled a few coping tips from myself and others who have studied abroad:

Get into a routine

I cannot stress this enough: do not sit around and wait to feel better. Patterns help one feel a sense of belonging and purpose. Whether it be a new job or a weekly lunch date with your friend, some sort of schedule can help ease you back into your old life.

Trust your friendships

Shannon Kelly, a Hofstra University alumna, says that so much can change over just one semester, but your friends will be there for you when you get back. “It will take a bit of time to settle back in, but remember that if they’re a good friend, they’ll be happy you’ve grown and they’ll be patient and supportive of you as you adjust to being back.”

Plan a trip

Do you still have the desire for adventure? Planning a small trip by yourself or with friends is the perfect way to feed your need to travel. Life is all about making memories!

Share your experience

Nicole from Minnesota State University says, “Volunteer or work in your study abroad office to get connected to interested students and you can help someone else go abroad!” You may not be able to study abroad again, but helping other students realize their dreams may help you feel accomplished and more connected to your abroad journey. Plus, you have an all-access pass to never stop talking about your memories.

Blog

I may be biased, but blogging relieves much stress from my mind and helps me stay positive about life in general. You may not be in your foreign country anymore, but there are oodles of post-experience topics about which to write.

Stay in touch

Brian from St. John Fisher College says it is important to reflect on your experience. “Keep in touch with your friends you made abroad. Print out pictures of your memories or do something to your dorm that reminds you of studying abroad.” Staying close with your study abroad friends is especially useful because they may understand what you are going through. Plus, reminding yourself of your adventures allows you to be more thankful they even happened.

Find a forum

There are many blogs and forums dedicated to people facing similar issues. Try searching the web for some chat forums to ease your post-trip pain.

Affirmations

One of my favorite things to do is write down what I am thankful for or at least write down happy thoughts. Pick a photo once a week from your abroad journey and write about a time associated with that photo. On the other hand, you can simply write positive remarks about your memories. You will be smiling in no time!

Post-trip anxiety is normal. Don’t feel discouraged about being unhappy about your return to pre-abroad life; take it as a learning experience. Hopefully you find use out of some of these tips and can work yourself back into your routine!

Home at Last

Long time, no blog! I cannot say I am pleased with myself for not posting in so long, but you know, life happens. And by life happening, I mean I have been home from Australia for just over a month. I considered the options for first blog post after I got back from my Australian adventures—tips on transitioning back home, dealing with post-trip depression, what I learned while I away—the list goes on and on. I didn’t want to do anything too fancy or pretentious, so here are my responses to questions I’ve repeatedly received.

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My last picture from Australia

“So you’re actually going to be in America, Miss World Traveler?”

I cannot tell you how many times I heard this phrase or something similar. Yes, I was just traveling the world, but I did not forget where my home is! To be honest, exploring the world is still so important to me, but coming home to sweet New Jersey in summertime was the best timing possible. I do not want to be anywhere else than the Jersey Shore with my family and friends for a summer full of beaching, water-skiing and fun before I head back to Hofstra to begin my senior year of college.

“How was transitioning back to reality?”

Despite popular assumption, coming back was super easy. I luckily had a job lined up as soon as I got home, quite literally. I walked in my door at 11 p.m. on June 25, and started work at 8:30 a.m. the next morning. Jumping into work and a schedule made it simple and necessary to transition myself back to home life.

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Fourth of July at home for the first time in two years

“What was your jetlag like?”

Luckily I slept/cried for almost the whole duration of my first two flights, and stayed awake for my last, so my sleep pattern was not too far off. Waking up early the next morning for work was easy and I almost flawlessly transitioned into Eastern Standard Time. Of course I was tired, but my sleep schedule was nowhere near backwards like some people thought.

“How sad are you to be back?”

As cliché as this sounds, I am sad that my adventure is over, but so thankful I have heaps (still using popular Australian terms) of memories to look back on and new friends to outlive these memories. Like I said, there is nowhere I would rather be in the summer than New Jersey with my friends, family, awesome job and of course, my pets. If I returned in winter, it may be a different story…

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The best part about coming home

“Where to next?”

People who know me know I will go anywhere I can if I have the chance. I plan on staying in America for quite some time to finish my undergraduate studies and earn some of the money I blew through back. However, the next large trip I want to take is a cross-country road trip through America. I feel like I have seen more of “the world” than I have of my own country, so I’d like to focus on that.

Coming home after living in another country for months can be a huge change, but I think it is all about perspective. Yes, I was upset to leave the new life I created while away, but I had so much goodness waiting for me at home. It has been a beautiful and crazy ride, and I plan to continue my journey of world and self-exploration one day at a time.

1 Year of Whitmanythoughts

A few days ago, a sweet little memory popped up on Facebook: my first blog post on Whitmanythoughts. I cannot believe it has been a year since I started writing about my travels. I feel like I have written so much, yet have so much more to share.

I have expressed over and over again how amazing of a year it has been and how thankful I am for all I have gotten to experience. From traveling around Europe for two weeks with my grandfather to skiing in Park City, Utah with my dad, it has been a thrilling ride.

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I often wonder what will happen to my blog after I finish my time here in Australia. I know I won’t actually be traveling for quite some time, so I won’t have so many new and exciting things to write about. I can definitely see my content changing a bit to adapt to my (not as cool) lifestyle back at home. I do want to focus on my feelings a bit more and incorporate them into my writing so it is not so cut and dry. In the end, I realize I control my blog and as long as I like it, everything is dandy. In reality, every day is a new adventure, and I know I will have things to talk about.

Plus, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason: I have oodles of thoughts and I want to share them. I have so many things constantly swirling through my mind that I would love to turn into “thought” posts. I am not looking for fame with this site, and I am so happy with the 100 followers that I have. Although it would be nice to turn this blog into something larger in the future, I am so contented writing for the sake of my own memory and for my family.

I do have so much to still share. I have posts from my weekend getaways in Italy last summer as well as my extended trips in Australia this semester saved in my computer, yearning to see the light. Although I won’t be “traveling,” I have so many exciting things coming up in the second half of the year, from summer at the shore to a Fall Concert Series 2.0 to hopefully spending some time with international visitors…but I will just keep it at that.

My global travels may soon be over, but the adventures continue. Life is beautiful.  It is not always perfect, but one thing I have been reminding myself is that life does not give me obstacles that I cannot handle. Here’s to the last year of travel, here’s to my time left in Australia and here is to the next year of Whitmanythoughts.

Whitmanythought1: This has been the most epic year of my life and I am so thankful.

Whitmanythought2: How do I still have friends on Facebook with all the posts I share?

Whitmanythought3: Can I just keep travelling for another year?

The South Pacific Awaits

As I sit here ad type, I cannot believe that I am on a plane to my next journey: a semester studying abroad at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, with an additional week-long course in Suva, Fiji to start off my adventure.

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People often ask me, “Why Australia?” I honestly could not see myself studying anywhere besides Australia. I have always wanted to visit the land down under, and I cannot foresee myself easily flying there for a vacation anytime soon. So, I figured studying there was my best bet to visit Aussie land for a long period of time. Plus, I have always said I want to escape to and island, and that is exactly what I am doing!

Many people also do not know that I am going to Fiji to start the trip. There is no rhyme or reason as to why I am studying there first. Quite simply, there was an option to take a week long course at the University of the South Pacific, so of course I took it. Seeing more of the world? Sign me up! I am excited to visit, as I know I will be immersing myself in Fijian culture by staying with a family as well as small excursions AIFS has planned for the handful of students partaking in this extra outing.

People also ask me if I know anyone going on the trip. I know absolutely no one. This is an independent American company that connects students to universities abroad, so any college student can apply. Luckily, I have been connected with people in my program through a Facebook group, and a girl took the time to add all of us to a GroupMe, so we have been able to group message each other leading up to the trip. The wonders of technology!

I am definitely nervous for what the future holds, mostly because I have no idea what to expect in Fiji and I am still working on class registration for Murdoch University. But hey, I have my Visa, Nadi and Perth are expecting me, and I have a smile on my face and an eagerness to see what the next few months have in store.

Goodbye America!

I am doing it again; I am fleeing the country. After a life-changing experience studying abroad in Rome for the summer of 2016, I made up my mind that I would try to study abroad during the spring semester of 2017.

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I actually tried studying abroad twice before: once during the summer of 2015 and then for a semester during my sophomore year. The first trip got cancelled and the second trip was costly and I was having issues with professors signing off on the classes I would take abroad. By then, I decided I would not pursue a whole semester abroad and would be thankful if I could at least go on Hofstra’s Lawrence Herbert School of Communication trip to Italy. All things happen for a reason, right?

Well, after my splendid experience in Rome, the travel bug was deep in my veins and I knew I had to try to go somewhere else. I browsed a few programs online with some recommendations form friends who had studied abroad before. With some research, I decided I would use AIFS (American Institute for Foreign Study). Not only was it cheaper than a semester at Hofstra, but the company offered a wide array of destinations and additional excursions.

I was so stoked for this that I planned out all the classes I would take, and I even tried getting some classes signed off for, but the study abroad director at my school said it was too early and to come back in the fall. This was around the same time I finalized my trip to Rome and bought my ticket to London.

Fall came around and as I was ready to start having classes approved, I realized that most of the courses that I planned on taking were not no longer offered. How could this happen? I went into panic mode and although I did not think I would actually be able to study abroad in my dream destination, I applied for the program and crossed my fingers that something would work out.

Long story short, I was accepted into the program, I scavenged through the university’s course offerings and with much determination, I got a handful of courses approved. After much paperwork, many emails, worried thoughts about my financial situation and an approved visa, I am off to see new sights.

Where to? Perth, Australia.