Frisco, Colorado Day 4: Reflecting on the Trip

How does one spend the last day of a ski trip? Ripping it, of course. My dad, grandfather, uncle, cousin and I headed to Keystone Mountain Sunday morning with much excitement due to the bright blue skies and sun shining over us.

If we could have combined Sunday’s weather with the snow conditions of the other days, it would have been absolutely perfect. Regardless, Sunday was a beautiful end to an exciting trip. The first half of the day consisted of all of us shredding together, and then my uncle and cousin left me, my grandfather, and dad to do the job—and we definitely got it done! To my surprise, we stayed on the mountain almost as late as we could to take advantage of every run we could.

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Only if this trail was called “Abbey Road”

As I have said, this ski trip has been an extraordinary one. We lucked out with fresh snow three of the four days and the temperatures stayed high enough so I did not freeze my fingers off.

Secondly, I am super proud of my improvement. My dad joked that my new ski outfit contributed to my better form, but to be honest, my new ski goggles gave me way more visibility than my old ones, which upped my confidence and pushed me to not shy away from quick turns down steeper terrain. Nothing feels better than my uncle asking, “When doesn’t she kill it?” and me genuinely feeling proud of myself.

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Me excitedly skiing down the mountain

Finally, as I have mentioned, it was so special being with my family over the last few days. Goofing off with them made the days light, but also made me want to show off what I can do a bit more. Nothing beats being in a competition with my uncle to see who can spray the other one more with snow, singing Taylor Swift as my dad simultaneously sings classic rock on the chairlift or being pleasantly surprised when my “mini-me” cousin flashes a “thumbs up,” something I often do, for a photo together.

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Mini me and I

This ski trip was different. It was more relaxed, but somehow more fulfilling. I will miss hearing man-made avalanches in the distance, seeing my dad carve a line around me and feeling like I am on top of the world as I gawk at the mountain peaks surrounding me. I may be done on the slopes for a while, but I cannot wait to get back on them next winter!

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Frisco, Colorado Day 3: Family Fun

Day three of skiing brought more amazing conditions, but best of all, it brought my family! I was super thrilled to be on the mountain Saturday with not just my father and grandfather, but also my aunt, uncle and two cousins who are Colorado natives.

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Whitman family ski trip!

The day was bound to be interesting because my whole family is not all at the same level of skiing, so there was some pace-adjusting to do. The morning actually went by quickly despite how relaxed it was. We had an early lunch, and then the rest of my family left the mountain to watch the Eagles’ playoff game at the lodge.

 

So then there was two. Although I was super excited to ski with my whole family, there is nothing like some daddy-daughter skiing. To make up for the slow morning, I firmly suggested that my dad and I take the T-bar up to the bowl of the mountain, the highest point that surpasses the tree line. A T-bar is a lift that two people rest their behinds on as they grab onto the cable and get pulled up the hill, skis on the ground. My father was quite skeptical about this because he thought it would be too cold and snowless up there. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find untouched powder and a wide open mountain peak for us to explore. He enjoyed it so much that he opted to do it again! This is the type of skiing that left my thighs burning and my heart racing.

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Selfie at the peak of the mountain with Dad!

From a family-filled, slow morning to a fast-paced afternoon with just my dad, Saturday ended up being an incredible day at Breckenridge Resort. To make it better, I caught half the Eagle’s game with my family at the lodge, where we animatedly cheered them on around the television. I do have to admit that Taylor Swift played in the car on the way to and from the mountain, and I’m not confident that the fresh snow, comfortable temperatures and Eagles winning was all just a coincidence. I suppose I can leave that open for interpretation.

 

 

 

 

Frisco, Colorado Day 2: Skiing in a Snow Globe

Day two of skiing gave some of the best conditions I’ve had (I definitely said that last year). Similarly to my second day of skiing at Park City, I thoroughly enjoyed my second day in Colorado at Keystone Mountain.

I walked outside Thursday morning surprised to see about five inches of snow on the ground and snow still generously falling from the sky. We arrived at Keystone and the snow was still coming down, but that just made us excited to have some fresh snow to disturb. I am laughing at myself because last year I dreaded skiing in the snow, but this year, I actually quite enjoyed it. This is probably because the temperature was in the twenties, which is ideal for someone who gets cold easily like myself.

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Outside our room Thursday morning

Thursday I felt like I was skiing in a snow globe. The sky was a mix of dark and light gray clouds, sometimes with a hint of sun that gave an idea of the outside world. Frankly, I could not have cared less about the outside world as I was followed my dad down the mountain with my Pop Pop trailing behind. I could stay in my snow globe all day.

Although we would of course prefer blue skies, which we did get for a bit in the afternoon, there were no complaints with the fresh snow which was giving us excellent skiing conditions. The peaks of the mountain were a bit windy, but as we moved further down the trails, the winds subsided.

We normally try to explore the whole mountain, but we found a solid group of trails off the same ski lift, and could not believe it when we realized it was already lunch time. Now that is the purest example of time flying when having fun! After a delicious barbecue lunch, we stuck to another area, which we had skied in previous years that had excellent runs for us as well.

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In my snow globe 

My version of an excellent run is one that is wide, so it does not make me feel cramped and that does not have an overwhelming amount of people on it. I like a trail with loose snow, but nothing so deep that I sink into it, with a downhill vertical that will work my thighs and leave me at a loss of breath. Thankfully, I experienced a bunch of trails that gave me just that.

Keystone treated us well, and the forecast for the next two days is promising. To wrap the second day post the same way as last year, I will leave by saying this: “Today is how a day on the mountain should be: fun and fast!”

Frisco, Colorado Day 1: Fluffy Snow with a Hint of Sun

When my father and I went to Park City last year, we stayed at one resort the whole time. However, in Frisco, Colorado, we do quite the opposite. In fact, we do not even ski in Frisco. We just stay here at the sweetest little inn called the Frisco Lodge.

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A photo of me outside our lodge my freshman year of college

When in Colorado, we go to different ski resorts; usually a different one every day. Thursday took us to a new place at which we have never skied: Beaver Creek. Besides a little bit of uncertainty in the morning that comes with going to a new mountain (where to park, where the trails lead, etc.), we had a phenomenal first day on the slopes.

We normally go on this trip a week earlier than we did, but luckily, it was delayed this year. I say we were lucky because apparently there was not too much snow at Beaver Creek a week ago, and the beautiful, light, fluffy snow we conquered Monday was brand new. We went on a variety of trails, from easy groomers to steep and uneven terrain. We found a cluster of trails that we really enjoyed and took advantage of during the middle of the day.

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Some blue sky at the base of Beaver Creek

Besides the great snow conditions, the weather was fantastic. In the low 20s, the mountain was not too chilly when in the sunlight. I get cold quite easily, so I was mentally preparing myself to freeze before we even headed to the mountain. There were bright blue skies visible between the clouds, and that is always an uplifting and energizing sight to see while skiing.

However, the best part of the day was when my father told me he had to do a double-take on me because he said my form was so good, he at first did not realize it was me coming down the trail. What a fantastic compliment to start off a fun four days of skiing!

Hello Colorado: Thoughts on an Airplane

The last time I was on a plane, I was curled up in a ball with tears spewing out of my eyes, drenching my cheeks. I was leaving Australia and coming back from my alternate universe, which I have now come to call it.

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I’ll admit I was not too excited to be on a plane again; maybe because it was not leading me to Australia. However, as soon as I got to the airport, I felt that little rush of exhilaration making its way through my body, cheering up my heart and bringing happy thoughts to my brain. After a very low key winter break and a cancelled trip to Virginia due to sickness, I am on my way to my annual family ski trip out West.

I am extra excited for this trip because my Pop Pop and uncle could join again, unlike last year. Even better, my uncle is bringing his wife and kids along to go skiing for two days. I have never skied or been on a trip with them, and for that I am stoked.

The scary part about this trip, though, is that it could very well be my last family ski trip and my last big ski getaway for a long time. I will be taking a course next winter for graduate school, so I have no idea what my availability will be. If this is it, next year will be the first time I do not go on a family ski trip in about ten years.

However, I will not dwell on that because endings mean new beginnings and new adventures (that’s what they say, at least). For now, I am going to enjoy this time with the best skiing partners and try to show the mountain what I’ve got!

Whitmanythought 1: I cannot wait to go skiing and write about it!

In the meantime, here is my ski video from last year I threw together.

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!

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.

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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!

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

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

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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.

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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.