Grad School Lessons

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Heading back to grad school after a few years in the working world (aka the “real world”)? That’s what I did, and I highly enjoyed my nine-month (!) graduate program, which, as you likely can imagine, completely flew by. Since I had taken two years off before starting school, it took some readjustment to acclimate to life as a student. Here are a few lessons I learned (but keep lesson #1 in mind as you read this!). If you happen to be considering grad school and need any advice whatsoever, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Lesson #1. Everyone’s situation is unique. Your classmates won’t all be in the same boat when it comes to their reasons for choosing your particular institution, or how they’re financing their education, or even in terms of what exactly they’d like to do after your program is over. People like to talk about all of these subjects a lot, and it’s fine to participate in these conversations as much or as little as you feel comfortable. Just be respectful of other people’s decisions and situations even if you wouldn’t have necessarily made the same choices yourself!

Lesson #2. Your schedule will feel weird at first. After working in an office from roughly 9 to 6 every day, it was refreshing to have short breaks during the middle of the day (when I wasn’t in class or at my graduate assistantship). However, with bursts of time off during the week came busier weekends. Gone were the days of a night out followed by a leisurely brunch followed by shopping with a friend followed by a movie night (although I was certainly thankful to be able to do just that this past weekend!). Sure, you can maybe do one or two of those things, but weekends are also key for catching up on work and sleep, meeting with classmates to nail down group project (group projects were a constant in my program), etc. Your non-student friends may have a hard time adapting to your schedule at first, but planning ahead ensures you can still make time for your normal get-togethers.

Lesson #3. Your priorities may shift. In college, I was extremely dedicated to my extracurricular work on the student newspaper. Not only did it set me up for my future jobs before grad school, but it was a great way to meet people both on and off of our staff and feel involved on campus, and I enjoyed it so much! In graduate school, my coursework, assistantship, and another part-time job in my field kept me more than busy. The requirements for my program (namely, the assistantship) kept me fulfilled outside of the classroom, and making an effort to spend time outside the classroom with the people in my program filled any social void I may have experienced due to not participating in a traditional “activity.” While I did have some friends who were involved with our grad school’s student government or other groups on campus, extra commitments just weren’t a priority for the majority us during a nine-month program (and this is coming from a group of higher ed master’s students who were nothing but involved as undergrads!).

Lesson #4. You can still have fun. When I started school, I was worried that I would never have time for social activities or dates or visits back home or to New York City. Not true! I found it totally possible to have a life outside of the classroom–maybe not every day, but after all, this is grad school, there’s obviously work involved! By planning ahead, it was super easy to buzz up to NYC from Philadelphia and spend a quick weekend with my friends back there. Since some of my grad school friends were part-time students who also worked, we often met up for lunch and caught up mid-day while they were on campus for their jobs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, people!

Have any pressing grad school q’s or other tips to share? Send ’em my way!

 

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Back to School Links

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I realize that many of you college students have already moved in (maybe even weeks ago!). My undergrad classes always began after Labor Day, which meant that I was always one of the last left at home. If you’re still prepping for back to school or have some downtime before classes and clubs kick into gear, check out these links!

Love that Domino.com posted a dorm-related link! If you need to scratch that DIY itch, you’ll appreciate these ideas.

Need a new school tote? This one looks adorable (herringbone = swoon) and functional (could easily double as a work bag down the road)!

This PBTeen banner would make the perfect addition to a dorm room (loving the leopard piece!)

Don’t forget to join your college’s Free & For Sale group on Facebook to score some great decor and clothing deals!

How cute are these state-themed pillows? Get one for where you go to school or to represent your home state. I guarantee you’ll get tons of compliments! This college survival kit is also adorable (do they make any for real life?!).

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Looking Forward to Fall

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I’m gonna let you guys in on a secret. It may ruin my credibility as a blogger, but I have to tell ya. Ok I’m kidding, this isn’t a huge scandal, but before I started college in New England, I wasn’t a fan of fall (but now I love it–so don’t worry, I’m right there dreaming about Pumpkin Spice Lattes and apple picking and chunky sweaters and scarves with the rest of you. Whew!).

Growing up, fall was always kind of blah. Going back to school? No thanks. Although, I’ve actually always loved school, so that was likely more about not wanting to deal with transitions.

However, I absolutely loved my freshman fall at college (I think that and my senior spring were my two favorite semesters, funnily enough). The classic New England scenery certainly and the colorful trees that surrounded my college campus in Maine were picture perfect and the season grew on me and is now a time of year I truly love. Now that I’m living in a new city, I’m hoping to make more of an effort to do some fun DC things, such as these…

  • Go antique shopping with my mom. This may not seem like solely a “fall” activity, but the summer has been so hot that standing outside treasure hunting will be a little more enjoyable when the temps are cooler. I can’t wait to check out the flea market in Georgetown as well as the antique shops in Kensington!
  • Bake for my office. In grad school I always loved bringing in treats to my coworkers (mainly so that I wouldn’t eat them all myself!), and I hope to do the same for my new office. Turning on the oven will hopefully sound a little more appealing in a few months!
  • Go pumpkin or apple picking. There’s nothing like embracing your inner child and visiting a local farm to get into the fall spirit. There are tons of places for this in the DC area that I went to growing up, so it would be fun to go back as an adult.
  • Learn to knit. This has been on my to-do list for awhile, but once the weather is cooler and I won’t feel as bad about spending time inside, this is something I’d like to learn how to do! Who knows, maybe I’ll have a scarf completed by winter…

What’s on your to do list once the weather gets cooler?

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Tips & Tricks, Take 3

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From the Everygirl: “4 Things to Know When Building Your Social Circle,” by Sarah Seung-McFarland. Love love love this article on making friends as an adult. I agree wholeheartedly with all of these points, it’s as if I wrote it myself!

From My Domaine: “You’ll Land the Job If You Leave This Accessory at Home,” by Kelsey Clark. Do you think wearing your bling to a job interview sends a bad message? Intrigued by this article!

From Domino.com: “Before & After: Gray Malin’s Guest Room!” by Shani Silver. Need some home design inspo? Check out what Gray Malin (!!!) did to his own guest room.

From The Washington Post: “Amy Schumer, Ryan Lochte and other celebrities who use dating apps,” by Emily Yahr. Did y’all know that Amy Schumer and Hilary Duff use dating apps?! (Clearly this is groundbreaking news or it wouldn’t be in the Post…).

 

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Decorating for Less: My Tips

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I’m all about decorating on a budget. I personally believe that it’s even more satisfying to see a room come together when you know you scored everything in it for a great deal. That’s not to say investment pieces aren’t important too, but as 20-somethings, many of us are still figuring out where we’re going to live permanently, so it can be somewhat freeing to know that you can always get rid of that mattress if you absolutely need to (not that I’ll ever get rid of mine–my bed is seriously the comfiest thing ever!). A couple of months ago, I came across this Everygirl article on tips for saving money while decorating an apartment, and I thought the suggestions were great! Since I have used many of these tactics myself, I thought I’d share my take, and hopefully it will inspire you to follow suit!

The article recommends joining local Facebook groups, which has been super useful in my experience. If you live in a college town or area where people are constantly moving in and moving out each year, you’ll see a TON of furniture/accessory postings on Craigslist or maybe even in your apartment building, if you truly live in the heart of a student-oriented area. If you go to a college or university, odds are your school has a “free and for sale” Facebook group open to members of the campus community only (so you know it’s relatively safe), and this is a great way to find all sorts of items for cheap (when I say all sorts, I mean all sorts. Use your imagination here. But most of them are relevant to this post). When I was in graduate school, I was able to purchase a coffee table, vanity, set of side tables, a Kate Spade wallet, and more from this group, all for no more than $25 each. Talk about a deal! I’m still working on finding a similar type of group in the “real world.”

The Everygirl also suggests browsing thrift stores and estate sales. Goodwill can have some great stuff, you just have to be patient. In Florida, I found a set of banana leaf print porcelain plates and screamed out loud in the store (will have to post pictures once I’m moved in to my new place!). In Philly, I found a cute bar cart for only $11, which I repurposed with marble contact paper–the end result was super classy-looking!

The last tip I have tried out myself is purchasing furniture from friends! As you may recall, I picked up an awesome bar cart from a friend who just didn’t use it anymore. All of our other friends kept insisting that it should go to me, because they knew how much I would love it (thanks, everyone!). If you live with a roommate who is moving out, it may be worth asking her if there is anything she would be willing to sell–the best part is you can see the item’s condition up close AND cut out transportation logistics.

What do you think of these tips? Any others to keep in mind?

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Champagne Taste, Part 1

As cute as a piece of clothing or decor is, it’s often easy to find a lookalike for less that’ll make you feel less guilty on spending $$$ on something that isn’t quite as important to your lifestyle as, say, rent and food. Unless something is truly special, why spend $119 when you can spend $19.99 (see below)? I love when blogs and magazines do round-ups showcasing expensive items and their affordable counterparts, so I thought I’d try my hand at one–if you like this type of post, let me know and I’ll definitely do more in the future!

Going with the whole “champagne taste on a beer budget” idea (and just because I like champagne a lot), I thought I would refer to my more expensive items as “Veuve” and my cheaper items as “Andre” (anyone??). Just go with me here…

Pineapple Bookends

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While these fun bookends cost over $100 at One Kings Lane, they’re super affordable at TJ Maxx online. My verdict? Go with the cheaper ones–if they accidentally break, or you get sick of the pineapple trend, or you just don’t think you’ll use them that much, there’s less to regret!

Banana Leaf Bedding

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Banana leaf is a classic print that has come back into style. I came across the Target version of the comforter a few months ago and thought it was adorable–a little loud for some rooms, but still super trendy and affordable nonetheless! Compared to its expensive (and really, really expensive) counterparts, it’s the winner here–or maybe that’s just because I eat in bed too much to ever trust myself with a $500 duvet cover like this one from Wayfair!

Ginger Jars

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Another classic, ginger jars are certainly in style at the moment. But making your home look classy doesn’t need to mean emptying your savings. This TJ Maxx style is a steal compared to the version I came across on Houzz. Again, with breakable items, it can never hurt to go with the cheaper option, and I honestly like the colors on the TJ Maxx jar more!

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Bed Bath & Beyond Buys

I’ll start by saying that this post is in no way affiliated with Bed Bath & Beyond other than that I’ve been receiving tons of 20 percent off coupons from them in the mail and am looking for a good excuse to use them 😉 I’m currently stashing them for after my move in case there’s anything I need to purchase brand new (a bath mat, kitchen trashcan, and bathroom trashcan are currently at the top of my list). But what’s the fun in thinking about practical items when BB&B has so much cute stuff?! Here, I’ve rounded up a few of my faves (sense a bit of a color scheme?):

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The mosaic mirror is such an upgrade from your usual dorm room or apartment style. Every girl needs a full-length mirror when getting ready in the morning, and this one is such a gem (ha!).

This memo board would look adorable in a cubicle, above a desk at home, or even in the kitchen (hey, you need somewhere to stash all of those save the dates!). I love the gold color and modern design.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll go gaga over this (affordable!) leopard print rug.

Yup, they even sell Kate Spade home items–loving this shower curtain!

I already own this gold jewelry stand and absolutely love it!

Ok, I think I’m just about ready to use one of my coupons…have you scored any good buys from BB&B lately?

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How to Say Goodbye to a City You Love

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The physical process of moving is stressful enough, but what do you do when you absolutely love where you’re living but have decided to say goodbye for practical reasons (i.e. to save money, start school, move near family or a significant other)? For me, I absolutely loved living in New York City, but decided that grad school was the right time to explore someplace new, so off to Philly I went! While saying goodbye will never be 100 percent seamless, I thought I’d share a few things you can do to make your transition from one city to another a bit easier.

Check off your city bucket list: During my last week of work, a friend and I went on several city adventures which included: trying the famous 40 Carrots frozen yogurt at Bloomingdales, stocking up on candy at Dylan’s Candy Bar (I swore my huge bag would last me until my move–news flash: it did not), and taking the tram from Midtown to Roosevelt Island (definitely a bit scary but provided awesome views). All of these were things I had been meaning to do for awhile (well, I’d been to Dylan’s many times, but who can say no to candy?) and it was fun to break up the work week with little excursions. Another friend and I spent a Sunday picking up fancy macarons, going to brunch, trying out a new pizza place near my apartment, and watching a cheesy movie about Will & Kate on Netflix (talk about treating yourself–if only every Sunday could be that decadent!).

Throw a goodbye get together: Moving means saying bye to friends and coworkers, and while it’s difficult to make plans with a bunch of different people, group get togethers can be a fun way to introduce old friends to new friends. I ended up having a small get together at my apartment on one of my last Saturdays in the city, and it was fun to bring together girls I had interned with during college, friends from school and work, friends from high school who ended up in the city, friends’ roommates, and more. Hosting such an event is a nice way to see a bunch of different faces at once, but it’s also a great way to reciprocate for past invitations before you physically part ways with friends.

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Remember you can always visit: While I attended grad school in Philadelphia and was therefore very close to NYC, I didn’t have the money to take trips up every month (remember that even if you find cheap train or bus tickets and a friend to crash with, you’ll still be spending money on meals out, “must have” souvenirs, happy hours with former coworkers, etc). However, visiting only on special occasions made my trips to the city that much more fun. I honestly found that as much as I enjoyed myself when I visited the city and caught up with my friends, I wasn’t bitter about having to head back to Philly–rather it was nice to have a little “oasis” to visit when times at school got tough.

What are your tips on saying goodbye to a favorite city?

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Poshmark Tips

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I’ve always loved shopping for clothes secondhand, ever since I was in early high school. I think it’s largely because I like the thrill of the find. A store like TJ Maxx is way more exciting to me than, say, the Container Store (although I love organization, so that’s probably not the best example!). Same goes for clothes–I love finding something unique–or even totally on-trend but priced well–and knowing that I scored something special.

I discovered Poshmark (check out my closet here) a couple of years ago while living in New York and have completed multiple transactions as both a buyer and a seller. Since I love the site and know that some of you do, too, I thought I’d share a few tips for success!

Tip 1: Be flexible. When I’m selling on Poshmark, my goal is often to make enough money for a larger purchase rather than to make a ton of money off of one item. That may sound confusing, but trust me–if you’re focusing on working your way up to earning $100, you’ll be less disappointed when your sale only gives you $10 in earnings. That’s still progress! I have friends who would rather sell one or two items for a big commission, but I’ve found that buyers come running when items are priced fairly. My goal on Poshmark is not to make a profit but to earn back what I paid or at least a portion of that. I recently used some of my Poshmark earnings to go on a “shopping spree” at another secondhand store I love IRL (oh, the irony), but hey, I needed some new-to-me work clothes!

Tip 2: Describe your items well. Treat buyers how you would want to be treated. If there is a hole or small stain on an item you’re selling, include a picture and be sure to mention the issue in your description of the item. Saying something like, “small pen stain on the inner pouch but otherwise in great condition” is totally fine. Including a description of any errors in your original posting will prevent unhappy buyers in the long run. Buyers rate their purchases after accepting them on the app, and I don’t know if prospective buyers actually look at sellers ratings (I certainly don’t) but I aim to please and would rather receive five stars than one!

Tip 3: Mail your items out early. I’ve had sellers who have waited more than a week to mail their items and ultimately I’ve just cancelled the order because I’m not sure if the item will ever get sent to me! Poshmark notes that generally, sellers send their items out within two days. Of course there may be times where a buyer purchases one of your items and you happen to be on vacation, or the item is stuck at your parents’ house, and in that case it’s best to notify the buyer that there will be a slight delay. But since Poshmark shipping is pre-paid, it really isn’t that hard to go to the post office, stuff your item in a priority mail box or envelope, attach the label you printed from home, and send away!

Tip 4: Don’t spend $$$. Or I guess I would say, don’t spend big bucks unless you know for sure that an item is something you really want, is authentic (if that matters to you–many buyers searching for brands such as Kate Spade or Tory Burch are only looking for the real thing), etc. I have often ordered items that were described well but just didn’t work on me when they arrived. You can always “re-Posh” (sell an item you purchase on Poshmark and hope that someone else will be interested), but this can be difficult, as selling in general can either be super easy or take a few months. When ordering clothing, I generally order from brands I already have in my closet (such as LOFT and JCrew) as I know my size and can be 90 percent sure an item will fit. However, both of those brands are also known for vanity sizing, and I have noticed that my size is not always the same across the board (skirts in my size may be too big, while pants fit just right, for example). Basically, just think of this as online shopping with no direct returns/guaranteed refunds, and purchase accordingly!

Tip 5: Be nice! When interacting with others as either a buyer or a seller, be courteous! I was once with a friend who also sells on Poshmark and a buyer was being a little rude to her–asking her for various measurements without saying thank you, etc. Little did she know my friend had to run up flights of stairs to her room and pull out her item from her under-the-bed storage container each time the buyer asked a question! Even if someone wants to make a sale, answering countless questions can become a hassle, so be kind and ask everything at once without being too demanding!

I hope all of these tips help you–I am totally in favor of Poshmark but wanted to give you all the low down if you’re new! Let me know if you have any tips of your own to share!

 

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Cheap Date(s)

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As twenty-somethings, we often find ourselves frequenting the same happy hour spots or restaurants with friends, and as fun as it is to have a routine, things can eventually get a little stale (although I’ll never get tired of my favorite margarita place in NYC!). However, when searching for new spots, especially for meals, it can also be difficult to select a place that fits everyone’s budget, is located centrally, etc. I thought I would share a few of my favorite ideas for friend dates (and they can even be adapted to serve as date dates!) that are both fun and affordable (and yes, most of them pertain to food).

1) Make personal pizzas. Even your friend who would rather eat dirt than pick up a piece of Domino’s will be able to get behind this idea, since it’s much healthier and she’ll be able to pick exactly what goes on her pie. Grab ingredients (Trader Joe’s has a few varieties of pizza dough plus all of the fun stuff to go on top), and invite friends over to your place for a night of cooking. Friends can help offset the cost by picking up a few toppings or a bottle of wine for you all to sip on while the pizzas cook.

2) Have a wine and cheese night. Cheese platters at restaurants are often overpriced and poorly portioned, so make your own and let your guests pick a wine or cheese to bring. Don’t forget sides like crackers, grapes, apricots (always a big hit in my experience!) and even labels if you want to get cutesy (and allow guests to identify which cheese is which). This was a favorite get together of mine in grad school and is a great way to have people over without the stress of serving a full meal.

3) Set a standing date night. During my first internship in New York City, I lived in an NYU dorm that was located right next to both a 16 Handles and a Pinkberry (seriously dangerous because at the time I think I was the world’s biggest froyo addict!). While it would have been tempting to stop in for a cup multiple times a week, my roommates (who were equally in love with froyo) and I decided that we would make Wednesdays our 16 Handles nights. It was seriously something we all looked forward to and allowed us to catch up halfway through the week. I was also less tempted to go in on my own because a) a girl can only consume so much froyo each week and b) I decided I would rather save my money and go as part of a social activity rather than just because I felt like it. When one of my roommates and I ended up back in NYC the next summer, we carried on the tradition!

4) Try some DIY cocktails. Pinterest is crawling with fun drink recipes and in the long run it’s cheaper to purchase your own supplies than buy fancy drink after fancy drink at the bar. Invite a friend over and try a recipe (there are tons of great seasonal choices that can make a normal get together extra festive!)

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