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!

 

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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.

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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

 

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.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

Lessons From my First Week of Senior Year

 

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Hofstra students are almost one full month into the semester. So much has happened over the last few weeks that I feel as if I have been in this month for three years. It is crazy to me that I experienced my first day of senior year just a few weeks ago and the things I learned in the week following still are deeply imprinted in my brain.

Text that person

The second day of school I tweeted, “Honestly, text that person for two hours even though you were supposed to do homework. You might find something useful and intriguing.” I am not saying to repeatedly ignore homework, but if you want to have a conversation, have it. Whether it be your best friend, a new friend or a relationship you’re trying to build, the people surrounding you have so much to offer and can help you realize things you may not have thought about while struggling over that math homework.

Love or die

My professor presented us a quote from poet W.H. Auden: “We must love one another or die.” While these words alone have infinite meanings in different contexts, my professor explained that research has pointed to love being a factor in a longer life. Love is incorporated into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. People need love to feel a sense of belonging, and they need to give love to have a sense of purpose. Love drives passion in the world, and without it, there is no motivation to evolve into our best selves. What I take from this is to show compassion, be kind and be there for those around you, and they should reciprocate. Without love, if we are not physically dead, we might as well be emotionally gone. Love makes the world go around; don’t be the one to stop it.

“You never know when you are creating a memory, so make it a good one.”

Make those memories

During class, my professor also told us her favorite quote: “You never know when you are creating a memory, so make it a good one.”  I definitely did not learn this, because I am already a firm believer in this philosophy. However, my professor saying this during the first week of senior year really hit close to home. It was a reminder to live life to the fullest and make the most out of every moment given, because at the end of it all, I do not want to look back and be disappointed.

Although I have been in college for three full years, I feel that the most memorable knowledge I have acquired is about life in general. I welcome any lessons my last year of undergraduate schooling has in store with open arms.

Thoughts on an Unexpected Summer

Summer 2017 turned out differently than I expected. When I was in Australia, I was set on making a bucket list filled with adventures like camping and visiting waterfalls. I thought I would be posting my videos and blogging about my awesome recent trips. However, by the time I got back to New Jersey, I was worn out. I just wanted to sit on the beach, and that’s exactly what I did.

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A view from my summer

This summer has opened my eyes to a few things:

Schedules

I am notorious for being a diehard supporter of my paper planner in which I write everything. In fact, a new planner was one of my first purchases I made in America. It was the end of June and also the end of my planner, and I knew my life was over as soon as the calendar ended. However, when I bought my new pretty planner, I did not use it and reverted back into my old high school days of just memorizing everything in my head.  It’s summer, so of course I don’t have many obligations, but not using my planner really helped me feel relaxed. I wasn’t concerned about when I was doing what, yet my time was always filled with family and friends. I realized it is okay to not have everything planned to the tee. However, as the school year approaches, I will return to my highly organized days, but with a higher appreciation for those numbered boxes without anything scribbled in them.

Relationships

Another huge reason I didn’t blog as much as I wanted to is because I went through a huge break-up, which no one would realize because I don’t talk about that much on here. Earlier in the year, I said I went through heartbreak; little did I know that was only an iota of the abundance of pain I felt in my heart this summer. However, it is something that everyone needs to experience and I am glad I did. I solidified my thoughts that if it is meant to be it will be, and if you think someone is bad for you, you should go with your gut feeling. Trusting my instincts is a huge thing I struggle with, but I know I am now going to place higher value on my own opinion.

Where I want to be

As I have said before, I have really been all over the place this past year, physically and mentally. When I started college, I desired to move to the Big Apple as soon as I could. It’s not that I don’t want the city life any longer, but I am so happy with my home in New Jersey with my family and friends. I love where I live because I can commute to Philadelphia and NYC in less than an hour and a half, and return to the beautiful shore where all my memories are. I won’t stay here forever, and maybe I will leave and come back. I am in no rush to make any huge location changes; unless it is to take another trip around the world, of course.

Life is insanely beautiful. Sometimes it is unfair, and sometimes it seems to be playing on your side. Regardless, everything that happens is a lesson and it is up to the receiver to decide what to do with the newfound knowledge.

Whitmanythought 1: Why is summer over?

Whitmanythought 2: Get motivated for the school year!