Your Study Abroad Cheat Sheet

studyabroad

Happy New Year’s Eve! It’s crazy to think that at around this time FIVE (wait, what?) years ago, I was getting ready to spend a semester abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was super, super ambivalent about going (I had barely spent any time out of the country and was so in love with my college that I didn’t want to leave!) but like most people who study abroad, I had an absolute blast and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

It’s funny to think about how much technology has changed since my experience away, though. I didn’t even have an iPhone back then (my friends and I all bought cheap European phones that we would refill or “top up” every time they were running low–do people still do this?), I brought my digital camera everywhere (I’ve barely touched it since, oops!), Instagram was barely a thing, and Snapchat didn’t exist at all yet. When we were walking to friends’ houses, my flatmates and I would write down directions on post-it notes. Uber wasn’t a thing yet, but we took taxi cabs when necessary, although they were cash-only and required some preparedness! Basically, I was living in the dark ages 😉

Things that haven’t changed: I was always the group photographer, talked to my family and friends back home constantly (although it was via Skype, email, or Facebook messenger!), and I kept a blog (aka a password-protected Tumblr that I only shared with close friends and family, ha!).

If any of you are in the same boat and are about to spend time overseas (many graduate programs have an abroad component these days, too!), this packing list is for you. Of course, my suggestions may not apply to you if you’re going somewhere completely out of the ordinary/have different tastes and preferences, but many of the ideas below are pretty general and should come in handy whether you’re going to Australia or Argentina!

1) Peanut butter. If you like peanut butter, you’ll understand that you can only go so long without it. Of course, they did sell peanut butter in Scotland, but it wasn’t American peanut butter 🙂 Pack a big jar of your favorite type–you’ll thank me later!

2) Reusable water bottle. This is perfect for weekend trips, workouts, going to class, etc…no need to worry about lugging plastic bottles from the grocery store to your flat or paying for overpriced bottles at the airport.

3) Journal. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to jot down notes (or even simple things like directions) while traveling. A journal will be fun to look back on when you’re home and is portable enough to bring anywhere.

4) Clothes, but not a TON of clothes. Again, this depends on where you’re going, but I found it helpful to bring items that are versatile and are easy to wear again and again. I brought a couple of dresses, a few pairs of pants, a range of tops, a Patagonia pullover, workout gear, and a few pairs of shoes (including a truly pair of riding boots that I had to get re-soled thanks to the cobblestone that’s all over Edinburgh!). As for coats, I brought a peacoat (a classic!) and a raincoat. I also purchased Bean Boots prior to going abroad, and they couldn’t have been more useful for travel (I was on a program that took a few hiking/outdoorsy trips). I discovered Primark while I was abroad, and it was a game changer (it’s basically a cross between Forever 21 and Target and has everything from home supplies to cheap apparel to accessories and more. I ended up purchasing clothing that actually lasted quite awhile but also bought items that I didn’t feel bad about tossing at the end of the semester, such as sweaters that I purchased for about 4 pounds each (less than $8). I also bought tons of scarves (probably like 10!), and those were great additions to my otherwise limited wardrobe. For themed events, my friends and I usually purchased items at Primark or at the thrift stores that were all over Edinburgh.

5) Earplugs. I always kept these in my room in college, and they’re a lifesaver. In my flat abroad, my room was right next to the kitchen, and that meant that I would often hear my roommates socializing in there after I’d gone to bed (#earlybirdproblems). Rather than passive aggressively pounding on the wall (which I may have done a few times, oops!), pop in some earplugs and kiss the outside world goodbye.

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Don’t forget other must-haves like converters for your electronics, a camera, basic first aid and cosmetic supplies, etc. As for beauty supplies, I brought my own makeup but ended up purchasing a hair straightener in Scotland. I already owned a hair dryer from a previous trip to the UK, and I brought that with me as well. The hair straightener was so-so, but the weather in Scotland wasn’t super conducive to stick-straight hair anyway! I ended up experimenting with new hair styles and lived with it, haha. Despite all of my preparedness, I did have a few fiascos–for example, I was wearing Invisalign at night at the time, and I opened the next set of retainers only to find that they were fit to someone else’s mouth…whoops! My camera also broke halfway through the semester, but thankfully my mom was able to bring me a new one when she visited in March. All things considered, though, I was very fortunate that I didn’t have luggage stolen (other students on my program did), get mugged (this happened to one of my guy friends), or get sick other than battling a small cold.

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In 2016, I…

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I’m writing this from bed and am hoping the cold I have will clear up a bit before NYE…ugh! Since the end of year has me, like everyone else, in a reflective mood, I thought it would be fun to look back on some of the highlights of 2016 (since it can sometimes be difficult for all of us to remember the positive aspects of the year!).

In 2016, I…

Completed my master’s in higher education. I started graduate school at what ended up being a very difficult time in my life personally, and I’m very proud of myself for completing an intense, one-year program during what was often a stressful year. If you’re considering grad school yourself, check out this post or feel free to email me with questions! My program provided me with a fresh start, a new city, and paved the way for my current career, and I couldn’t be more thankful!

Started reading more. Even in graduate school, I tried making time to read for pleasure, and it’s been wonderful! In New York City I rarely read after work (too many distractions!), and now I’m doing a better job (although I could definitely benefit from putting my phone/laptop away more frequently and picking up a book at night). I’ve loved writing book reviews on the blog and sharing my favorite reads with you all, and I’ll definitely keep doing so next year.

Worked as a hostess after finishing graduate school. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t beat myself up a bit for not having a job lined up the moment I graduated. However, this ended up being a blessing in disguise, as I was able to take on some different types of roles while in the process of interviewing for my current position, which began in July. Until I moved back to DC, I was living in my grad school apartment in Philly. In June, I worked part-time in a few offices at Penn and hostessed at a nearby restaurant at night. I absolutely loved hostessing, and even though I only did it for a short time, I am so glad that I’ve now developed a skill that will always come in handy should I need part-time work. I also now firmly agree with the belief that everyone should work in the service industry at one point. Both of my parents have also worked in restaurants when they were younger–my mom was a banquet waitress and my dad had been both a dishwasher and a short-order cook! I honestly loved the social aspect of the job (I think my friends got tired of my gushing about it!), learned so much about different types of people, and developed a lot of transferrable skills (not to mention a new favorite Pandora station, aka our brunch playlist!). I also loved when friends and prospective Penn students stopped by the restaurant–making conversation for 10 paces was never easier 😉

Started this blog! I have read blogs forever (I became addicted to several the summer after my freshman year of college) and finally took the plunge to start my own (I did have a short-lived fashion blog in college, but interior design is where my true blogging passion lies). Some days I haven’t been super motivated to update my blog (I’d rather just come home from work and read other people’s, haha!), but I’m hoping to keep posting steadily next year. While I’m certainly starting small, I have really enjoyed writing posts so far (what better excuse to online window shop?!) and meet other bloggers online and via Instagram. Here’s to some real life meet-ups in 2017! Thank you to everyone who’s read, liked, commented, etc–it means a lot!

 

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Teenage Dream

bedroom

I came across the above image on Pinterest, and while it’s described as a “teen” bedroom, I think it would make a pretty cute 20-something room, too. I love the pattern mixing, classic furniture, and overall peaceful feel.

Little known fact: Traditional “kid” stores such as Pottery Barn Kids, PB Teen, and the Land of Nod have adorable home furnishings that would work well in adult homes, and they’re great sites to scour when looking for everything from moroccan poufs to memo boards.

Here are a few of my favorite picks from each store–let me know what you like the best!

PB Kids:

Gold dot frames

Rope mirror

Task lamp (20 percent off with code EXTRA20)

PB Teen:

Bow chair

Dotted sheets

-Throw blanket

Land of Nod:

Faux leather pouf 

Campaign nightstand

Scallop wall shelf (Under $30!)

Gold wall shelf

 

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Beach, Please

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Summer may be nowhere in sight, but that doesn’t mean that winter days have to be completely dreary. I’ve spotted such adorable beach-themed home decor lately, and the fun prints and bright colors are sure to brighten up the most blah winter days. I purchased the beachy print pictured here from TJ Maxx because it reminded me of Gray Malin’s work (with a much more manageable price tag!). It’s currently hanging in my living room, but at the rate I move things around, who knows where it will end up next 😉

Happy shopping!

Beach print//Anchor plaque//Flamingo tote//Striped tote//Nautical sheets//Beaches book

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On My Reading List

books

It often feels like my reading list is never-ending (although I did make a good dent in it over the holidays!). Above are a few books I hope to dive into in 2017, spanning a mix of genres. Have you read any of them? Some of these have been on my list for far too long, and I’ve just been waiting for the right time to start…oops!

Also, since a few people have asked me where I like to buy books on the cheap, I’m going to make a plug for Thrift Books. I’ve already gotten a few friends hooked on this site, and it’s definitely worth exploring. They have great deals where you can rack up points and ultimately receive a discount after spending $50. Also, anytime you order $10 worth of books, shipping is free! Don’t forget to sign up for their emails in order to receive further promo codes (they hand them out frequently). Happy book shopping!

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Bye Florida//Nordstrom Sale is BACK

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Whew! It seems like just yesterday that the internet was freaking out about Nordstrom’s half yearly sale, and now it’s back again! It also seems like just yesterday that I left for vacation in Florida…I’m flying back today and am ready to head back to work after a relaxing week with family. I’m also excited for NYE and returning to friends in the city. It’s the little things!

Anyway. What’s great about Nordstrom is that so many of their items are classic and suitable for everyday use. As much fun as it is to stock up on seasonal gear, I get the most use out of year-round items like crossbody bags, flats, and cardigans. Nordstrom has some great options in all of these areas, and I’m excited to share my finds with you all:

Blush is so in right now, and this crossbody looks both roomy and stylish. Plus, it’s under $20.

I would scoop up these ballet flats in both colors (if I needed them, which I don’t!), because they’re such a staple.

Who can say no to a cute gold, polka dotted mug for $3?

I’ve, like me, you’ve been wanting to re-try the choker trend for awhile, this option won’t cost you much.

This earring set is so Kate Spade!

Go simple with a classic clutch.

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Pinning Away

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Weird fact. Whenever I get super into a certain home trend, I start browsing images on Pinterest to see how other people have incorporated said trend into their homes. I pin the images I like for inspiration and then like to style my own item based on these examples.

If you take a look at my latest pins (I added a pin widget down below and played around with the blog design a bit overall, woo!), you may be able to get an idea of a trend I’m lusting over at the moment….But let’s be real, I’ve loved this look for ages and am so excited to be working with a talented local designer who is refurbishing a piece for me! The past few weeks have involved a furniture pickup in Virginia, discussions about spray paint, and photo updates via text…but I am thrilled to see the final product in a few days. Promise I’ll post about it as soon as she’s done and the two of us have lifted said piece into my second floor walkup apartment (kind of dreading that step, but I’ve been told it should work out ok!).

Sorry for the vagueness, but I’ll be back (hopefully in a few days) with deets…most of all I’m excited that I snagged a piece I love at an affordable price and found an awesome person to work with on the refurbishing process. Stay tuned!

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Winter Items That Don’t Say “Holidays”

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Ok, I hate to say it, but the holiday season is winding down. Sad face. However, we still have several months of winter upon us (depending on where you live, this may or may not be a cause for tears).

The good news is that there are plenty of post-holiday sales going on right now, and even though many “Christmas-y” items are discounted, there are many winter-themed products on sale that you can still use into January and February. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite picks below, and while they may be slightly more fun to use while getting into the Christmas spirit, they’re bound to make dreary winter days suck a bit less.

Nest candle//Pillow//Plate//Scarf//Cheers print

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