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!

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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.

 

 

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!

Week Six of Classes

Week six of classes turned out to be enjoyable, especially since I was powered by my strong surge of happiness I received from the previous weekend.

IMG_1116Tuesday was special because the weather warmed up and it turned out to be a fantastic beach day. Plus, Ben & Jerry’s was hosting its annual free cone day, so after the beach, we went to the B&J’s store in Fremantle to claim our prize. We also took advantage of the fact that we were allowed to hop back in line and we scored a second cone. It turned out to be the perfect day.

The rest of the week was filled with classes and assignments. However, Thursday and Friday nights were packed with celebration. Thursday I went to a different section of Perth to a bar called Mustangs to celebrate Jordan’s flat-mate’s birthday.IMG_1123.jpg I met up with Mitch Friday at his friend’s boat before heading out to the city again to celebrate our coordinator Brodie’s birthday.

The week could not have gone better. The perfect weekend lead into my most enjoyable school week yet which lead into what would become another perfect weekend.

Oz: Back from the Outback

I have returned to Perth from the outback! It has been quite some time since I last posted, and that is solely due to the fact that I was embarking on a 10-day-turned-nine outback camping trip in Northwest Australia. I have so much to say about the trip, but I have to type it up first, since I was not able to bring my lap top. I project that I will post about my adventure in the later half of the year when my travels have calmed. Below is a quick preview of the magnificence that I witnessed.

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Circular Pool at Karijini National Park

The trip was shortened by a day due to a cyclone that rained on us for three days straight, causing Karijini National Park to close and for us to miss out on a day of hiking and a few points of interest. We also were lead to an upset in Coral Bay, where those who paid almost $400 to swim with whale sharks and those who paid $165 to swim with manta rays did not even get to see one. This was due to the coral spawn and the windy weather, which turned the marine beauties away and made it difficult to spot them.

The camping journey was definitely a bit unlucky, but I did have a swell time exploring the massive amount of land Australia has. I was absolutely astounded by the amount of nothingness in WA, and I really appreciated it as well.

Classes have started up again, and my mind is a swirling mess of due dates and facts being crammed in last minute for exams. It was nice to have a break from school after only three weeks of classes, but it definitely did not help with my motivation. Luckily, I only have another three weeks of classes until my next weeklong break and arrival of Pop Pop!