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
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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!

 

Oz: A Weekend for the (Scrap) Books

I would not have started my last full weekend in Australia any other way than having a huge pile of chocolate chip pancakes drenched with Nutella and syrup. I am so going to miss my Friday mornings filled with my favorite breakfast food and the kind folks who prepare it.

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I spent my Friday afternoon with Nicole and Sierra in Perth. We had a bit of a photo shoot between King’s Park, which overlooks the city, and the Central Business District. I have given a sampling of my work below.

To finish the eventful Friday, we celebrated Jordan’s 22nd birthday by going into the city and it felt just like old times.

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Me, Geoffery and Nicole

Saturday brought beautiful weather and a fantastic road trip to The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park about two and a half hours north of Perth. The best way I can describe The Pinnacles is a desert of limestone formations. There are many theories as to how these formations ended up there, from the wearing away of lime-rich sand dunes to the petrification of a forest.

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There is a short walking trail in the park, but the best way to see the limestone desert is the road that goes through the area and allows people to park and wander about the rocks. My friends and I had a fun time running in and out of formations, trying to decide what they looked like.

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Sierra, Shelby and I

Brodie scheduled an AIFS farewell lunch for us at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian meat buffet in Fremantle on Sunday. The interesting part about this buffet is servers come around again and again with the options until you flip over your coaster to the red side, signifying that you are finished.  I have never eaten so much meat in my life. Although I came for the various meats, I could have consumed the lasagna they served all day. It was a delicious feast and it was great having almost everyone together.

Sierra and I took our location as an opportunity to take some photos around Fremantle. We found some great street art in the side streets, as shown below.

My last full weekend in Australia is one for the (scrap) books. I took so many photos, which I had wanted to do for a while. Now, it is time to get serious about my last final exam!

Oz: 2 Weeks & 2 Cities

Perth. Study. Fremantle. Study. This about sums up my second to last week in the Land Down Under.

I took my plans to visit these two cities as much as possible seriously: I was in one of them almost every day of the week. Brian, Sierra and I visited Perth Monday to make an appointment for Sierra’s tattoo and then went souvenir browsing. I say browsing because we simply scoped out the prices of souvenirs and decided we would check Fremantle the next day.

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Old vs. new architecture in Perth

My first final was on Tuesday, and it went fairly well. There was a series of practice quizzes throughout the unit, and our tutor said not to expect the quiz questions to be on the exam. Not knowing how else to study, I used those quiz questions as flash cards and reviewed the lectures. I am lucky I did not listen to my tutor, because many of the questions on the exam were exact copies from the quizzes. Now I am awaiting my grade less nervously than anticipated.

That night, a group of us went to Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle to devour half-price nachos. They were absolutely delicious and I am so going to miss half-price nacho Tuesdays. Of course before that Sierra and I souvenir browsed again and decided to wait to purchase items yet again.

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The best nachos ever

Wednesday was tattoo day! I got my closest friends to come for the important mark in Sierra’s life, so it was me, Brian, Sierra and Nicole in the parlor. Afterwards, we visited Toastface Grillah, a gourmet grilled cheese place I found on Google that had awesome reviews. The shack, I’ll call it, is hidden around the corner from the shops of the Central Business District and is not easy to find if you don’t’ know where to go.

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Grilled cheeses with swag

Toastface has a handful of grilled cheeses (although I think they were more like paninis) for under ten dollars. It was packed when we got there, and we had to wait for seating in the hip, plant and pillow-decorated outdoor eating area. I ordered a grilled cheese with roast beef and horseradish, and it was absolutely worth the wait. A lot of flavor was coming out of a very small place!

Surprisingly, I did not go into Perth or Fremantle Thursday and actually stayed on campus for the day to study, blog and relax. The week flew by and my last full weekend in Perth arrived!

Oz: Week 11 of Classes

A week during which I planned to be checking things off of my to-do list turned into a week of work accompanied by a lot of play.

Monday served to be a day of class, homework and recuperating from the amazing Southwest trip from which I just returned. Tuesday was about the same, until my awesome friends told me to meet them at 6:30 and ended up forcing me to go out to eat. I actually had never been pulled out for dinner by friends before, as any other time this could have happened, I would have used the homework excuse (which I did try). It actually ended up being a festive night at Mexican Kitchen in Fremantle, where I was finally able to try its huge plate of half-priced Tuesday nachos. They were some delicious nachos!

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I intended to do volunteer work while abroad, but every scheduled event was during class or I had plans or no way of getting there. I was super stoked Wednesday, because I would finally get to volunteer some time at Rockingham Regional Environment Center at a small cost of skipping my recorded lecture. The volunteers in charge had us busy with our hands all day, as we transplanted grass to the amphitheater on the grounds and then cleaned up some of the dead wood along the center’s walking trails. Not only do I love volunteering my time, but I love the environment and anything outdoors, so it was the perfect day. I am so glad I got to help revive the center!

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I promised Jordan I would go out with her Wednesday after having such a great time the previous week, and she was not letting me out of that, either. So Wednesday night, Jordan, Nicole, Lynn and I headed back to Raffles for a girl’s night out. Once I hyped myself up to go, it was an incredible time.

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Nicole and I

The week ended, or the weekend started, with another round of chocolate and Nutella pancakes Friday morning after a nice exercise session. I really have come to love the people who generously donate their time to make a bunch of hungry university students delicious pancakes every Friday. I always eat my pancakes with one of the volunteers who always has something to joke about. It truly is something I look forward to every Friday; first it was the pancakes, and now it is the people and the pancakes. Today was extra special because an older gentleman just moved into the village and brought bacon and cooked up some blueberry and banana compote that I got to try. It was definitely a successful morning!

Per usual, I ate too many pancakes and retreated to my bed to listen to music before starting the day’s tasks. I had motivation to get some stuff done due to the fun-filled weekend I had ahead.

Thoughts on Turning 21

I remember turning 10 years old and having my mom say, “You’ll be in double digits for the rest if your life!” I thought that was scary. I recall becoming a teenager and having some friends over for some Wii Olympics. I remember deciding whether or not I should have a sweet 16. Turning 18 was an exciting day because I was finally a “legal adult.” My friend surprised me with balloons and I had more friends over for a bonfire that night. Then, I left my teenage years behind and said hello to “the best years of my life.” Now, I am 21 and I am speechless.

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I turned 20 last year and I had just confirmed that I would be studying abroad during the summer. I did not do anything special on my birthday, but formal was right after it, so I counted that as my celebration. I was ready to take on a new year and navigate through whatever came my way. I had no idea that 20 would treat me so well. I visited Costa Rica with my father and sister, explored Europe with my Pop Pop, I lived in Italy for a month and made some memories that are not even comparable to those from Australia. I landed my first internship at a big company and I even tried the college dating scene last fall. Then, I was lucky enough to ski in Park City, Utah for the first time with my dad and head to London with one of my best friends for two weeks. Of course, it was not all happy—I lost one of my closest friends growing up and experienced heartbreak—but that is all part of life. Regardless, I am in awe when I think about the last year and I am forever grateful for it.

I usually don’t get too stoked for my birthday because it just means I am one year older. Of course it is always exciting to have people reach out to wish me a nice day and have a bit of attention, but I never got extremely into it. Although I usually don’t get too wild about my birthday, this year was different. With this birthday, I would finally be “legal” in the eyes of American nightlife. I would have finished 10% of my twenties. This year, I am surrounded by people I basically just met who told me I had no choice but to celebrate my birthday and it feels awesome. This year, I am actually eager to become another year older because it means I am growing, learning and experiencing.

I feel so much love this birthday from all around the world. I had people from America  texting me “Happy early birthday,” I had people from New Zealand and Europe wish me a great day and I had all my friends and acquaintances here showing me love. Nothing is better than feeling loved and celebrated on my special day. It is pretty cool, because I feel like I have two birthdays since it is May 2 in Australia 12 hours before it is in America. I’ll have to keep this in mind during my birthday celebrations in the future.

I am so grateful for all the things I got to experience, all the new people I got to meet and all the new places I got to see during my twentieth year of life. It will be hard to top what I think was the best year of my life, but who knows what the future holds. With that being said, I am so thrilled to see what this year has in store for me. Wow, 21.

Oz: Week Nine of Classes

Week seven of classes may have been the most uneventful, but week nine of classes was the laziest. Well, the week was not lazy; I was.

I got home from the best trip with Pop Pop late Sunday night and I was so upset that it was over. The fact that I had to go to class the next day made it worse. The sad thing is that I only had one class on Monday, and I could barely pull myself out of bed to go. I could barely even get myself to hang out with my buddy that night. I did not have classes at all on Tuesday because it was Anzac Day, which is a day of remembrance for all who participated in the first major military action fought by Australia and New Zealand in World War I. For such a relaxed week, I was riding the struIMG_8140.jpgggle bus for sure.

My week took a turn for the better Thursday and my spirits started lifting up. After finishing classes, I told Sierra I would go into Perth with her so she can pick up and item she needed. Before heading out, my friend sent me the cutest picture of a seal, which definitely made my day. Then, I noticed I had letters from my sorority sisters on my desk! I was so ecstatic, I definitely screamed multiple times. I felt the love all the way from America and I could not be more thankful for my friends.

It gets better. I thought maybe I would do some light shopping in Perth, even though I keep telling myself to stop buying things. Well, I found some incredible sales and scored four dresses for $60 AUD, which is even less in USD! I was so excited about my purc
hases. I am pretty sure that after this trip I will have enough dresses to last me through my twenties.

ghjggkuiOnce we were done shopping, Nicole and Brian met us in the city to have some Hungry Jack’s. I was excited to try one of Australia’s most popular fast food chains. People told me it is the same thing as Burger King, but I thought they just meant they are similar. However, I learned that Hungry Jack’s is Burger King, but with a different name. Oh well!

Sierra and I finished the night by watching one of my favorite movies, Jersey Boys. I am so glad she enjoyed it as well!

The week ended so much better than it started. It went by much further than I anticipated as well. Of course, no day is that bad, because I am in Australia!