Savor the Small Things

Have you ever stopped what you were doing and looked at everyone around you? When traveling to huge tourist destinations, you can see just how many people are snapping photos of what is around them. When you observe your surroundings, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that many of the people you see have a camera of some sort, whether it be an actual camera, or a good quality phone camera. With such easy access to a good quality camera, anyone can become a photographer, just like how websites like WordPress allow anyone to become a blogger.

I didn’t get into photography until I went abroad. Even then, I took pictures of all the obvious scenery and attractions around me. It wasn’t until my dad gave me some advice that I started really paying attention to what mattered and shaped my experience. I still don’t consider myself a photographer; I prefer to appreciate others’ photography.

I recently went on a trip to Maine and took many pictures during walks on various trails with my family. As I showed my family the pictures that I had taken on our walks, they remarked that I had a tendency to take pictures of everyday creatures or objects in nature that they had not even noticed during our hikes. Minute details go unnoticed by most, but really come in handy later on, whether it’s in a photograph or when you are traveling.

I love free things! I also love hotels. I especially like going into hotels and taking the free shampoo, conditioner, soap, and lotion. Many people take these little gifts for granted, just leaving them where they originally were, untouched. However, I would suggest taking them along with you, especially if you don’t end up using them during your stay.

When I was in Europe, it was hard for me to find travel-sized shampoo and conditioner to use for short-term trips. I wasn’t familiar with stores in the area to know where to find any of the toiletries I needed, and I wasn’t even sure that they existed. Despite that setback, I ended up having and using some of the little complimentary items from the hotel during my travels. I had primarily stayed in hostels and AirBnBs, so I would not have received anything. The toiletries I saved from my stays in different hotels were perfect for my weekend trips, especially when it came to saving space in my carry-on! Something so small played an important role in my daily life.

Look around you and be resourceful, you never know what may come in handy for your future travels.

The Silver Lining in Missing Others

When I was in Maine just the other week, I really wanted to try a certain warm beverage. It sounded intriguing, the café sounded like my idea of the perfect afternoon hangout, and I would be able to relax for the first time in a few days. Literally every obstacle got in my way, preventing me from trying this drink, from people to weather. When I finally forced this dream to become a reality, I ended up disliking the drink and didn’t get to sit down for ten minutes before being called by my family to meet them somewhere else. Have you ever set out to accomplish your dream, but when you finally attained it, it wasn’t all you thought it would be, even if it was something as small as trying a hot beverage?

For the longest time, I wanted to leave the state of Pennsylvania to live elsewhere, especially a warmer area. This year, I am finally getting to live out my dream of living somewhere warmer for an extended period of time and the best part is, I don’t know anyone there! I have always loved meeting new people and connecting with them on a deeper level, which is my primary reason for studying languages. I was just as excited as the first time I moved away for college, and when I was getting ready to study abroad, but I was also just as sad to leave the ones I love behind.

Homesickness is completely natural to experience, especially when you have great memories tied to the place you are leaving. However, it was not my home I was missing, but rather the people and memories that went along with it. No matter how many times I’ve had to leave the area I grew up in for an extended period of time, I never fully got over missing the special people in my life.

The first couple of weeks are always the hardest. You have a lot of free time to yourself to think, since you don’t have the responsibilities of schoolwork to keep you distracted. You may be in the process of meeting new people, but things don’t tend to get easier until you have some established friendships. During this time, I thought a lot about everyone I had left behind. I am only going to be away for a year, and that year will fly by. I don’t want to spend it thinking of how much I miss everybody all the time. That’s when it hit me:

The reason why I’m feeling this way is because I have such special people in my life. If I didn’t have wonderful people surrounding me, I would not be experiencing such homesickness for them.

Finding a silver lining requires a change of thought. It’s all a matter of being grateful that you are so blessed to have these people in your life. Yes, missing others is totally okay and completely normal, but realize the ‘why‘ behind your feelings. You will be brought to a whole new level of comfort that will help you ease the pain of missing others.

Thank you to all the amazing people in my life that may be reading this! You have definitely left an impact.

Surprises Happen When You Get Out There

When I was a kid, I was a very picky eater. I didn’t like many foods, and I certainly wasn’t open to trying anything new. My parents literally had to sit on me to get me to try mashed potatoes. Since they had tried and enjoyed it many times, they knew what I was missing out on. However, I resisted mashed potatoes for many years, until I ended up trying them one day and loving them!

My aunt used to live in Ocean City, New Jersey. I have been blessed to grow up going there every summer until this year. She had sold her house in February without saying a word until the deed was done. My time there was like a necklace, with beads being added on for each memory I had. When the house was sold, I felt like the necklace was finished. It was bound to be finished eventually, and it is filled with beautiful memories. However, I can no longer add to them, at least not in the same way as previous years.

Usually, we house sat for her when she and my uncle were in Maine, in their other home. They had been trying to get us to go to Maine for years, and my family and I resisted. When we thought of Maine, we thought of a glorified Pennsylvania. We preferred the Jersey shore, going on rides on the boardwalk, and shopping in downtown OCNJ. We preferred familiarity and memories to a new and unknown experience.

It’s surprising how many people I have run into that have gone to Maine. Pretty much everybody I have talked to has been there at least once, and unanimously, they say how great it is. We were going to visit Maine with an open mind, but in the back of our heads (or at least mine), we were like my younger self not wanting to try mashed potatoes, even though I had no idea what I was missing out on.

Needless to say, we went on the trip and ended up having a great time! It was certainly different from what we were used to, but it was a new kind of vacation, and a nice one. We went on hikes, long walks, saw different attractions, ate at wonderful places, and saw many beautiful views. Most of all, we got to spend the week with our extended family. I can say that the vacation was unforgettable.

Has anyone ever told you that you absolutely need to visit a place, but you give every excuse not to? Try giving it a chance, even if you feel like it is way out of your realm of comfort. You may end up enjoying it!

Why So Controversial?

When I was a kid, I loved spending time with my friends. I would beg to go to their house, spend the day, and later I would end the day asking my parents to let me stay for a couple more hours. If I couldn’t see them in person, we would talk on the phone for hours. Sometimes, we would talk until every phone in the house was dead, and we had no other option except to hang up.

As we grew older, we got busy and we developed into the people we are today. I have lost contact with many of my friends, but I have also been fortunate enough to be able to stay in contact with some of my closest ones since childhood. I have also met new people along the way that became good pals of mine. However, as much as I love all of my friends, I find that I’ve become more introverted. Despite enjoying their company, I could no longer spend so much time hanging out with others. After a few hours, I was finding myself tired and needing to relax.

Things have changed since childhood. We went from talking about TV shows and crushes to talking about politics and the latest scandal on the news. To be honest, I am not into talking about controversial topics. When I hang out with a friend, especially one that I have not seen in a year, I prefer to catch up or reminisce. Unfortunately, controversial topics tend to creep into our conversation.

Talking about politics is important. We can’t just ignore them altogether, but there is a time and a place for that discussion. Sometimes we need to leave our opinions at the door for the sake of friendship, if two people can’t have a mature discussion. We live in a world where people unfriend each other on social media, even after years of friendship, just because someone does not agree with their views. Anymore, I go on Facebook and see people trying to change each other, as opposed to pictures of their pet or their food (which I would rather see). I have even had this experience when visiting friends. If I haven’t seen you in over a year, the first thing I want to hear about is you. I care about you and your life. I want to know how your family is doing, if you have picked up any new hobbies, and what you have been learning. I don’t want to know what you think of Donald Trump’s latest tweet, not right now.

What happened to just hanging out and enjoying the company of another person? Why don’t we just sit, put our phones down, and talk?

Create moments where you will think of childhood, and you will want to sit and talk for hours and hours.

Duolingo Challenge | 2 Months of Polish Update

Cześć!

This summer, I’ve decided to challenge myself to learn as much Polish as I can, only using Duolingo. After having studied Polish for two months, here is where I am at:

The Duolingo community has been wonderful during this challenge! Language-learners encourage each other and share what they have been learning through weekly updates on the website forum. The Polish community has also been extremely encouraging during this 90 day challenge. I am honestly blown away by everyone’s enthusiasm and kindness.

During the first month of this challenge, I knew so little Polish that I didn’t even know how to say “hello.” I learned so much vocabulary and how to conjugate verbs in the present tense. Although there wasn’t an explicit explanation in the Duolingo app, I was able to figure out some patterns throughout the exercises.

However, as the lessons got more difficult during the second month and more vocabulary was being thrown at me, I decided that I would only try to remember what words were relevant to topics that I talked about in my daily life (ex. remembering the verb “to do” as opposed to the verb “to sell”). My note-taking got much more relaxed and my motivation went down a little bit since starting the challenge, since I am only using one resource. I would not recommend limiting yourself to only one resource when learning a language. I am only doing this for the challenge, out of curiosity. Even so, I am happy with the progress I have made in two months.

I am really looking forward to finishing up the tree during this third month, getting a good grasp on the past tense and being able to remember more vocabulary, and being able to surprise my grandma by speaking to her in Polish!

Living in a Tourist Town

We are always on the move. After doing some research, I found that it is estimated that Americans will move about 10-11 times during their lifetime. Although I have not moved around much and have plenty of time to do so, I spoke with others who have. My parents have experienced living in many different kinds of places, from a small town in Pennsylvania, to huge well-known cities. Some of the places where they have lived for an extended period of time were tourist destinations such as New York City and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

The cool thing about living in a tourist town is that you get to experience life as a local. When I went to school in Gettysburg, students divided everyone into three groups: college students, tourists, and “townies.” It didn’t take much time to figure out who was who when living there. Being there for a long time, students could see what Gettysburg had to offer, not just as a tourist destination but also locally. Had I only been a tourist in Gettysburg, I would have not known that there was a Hispanic community there that I could get involved with. I got to experience going to mass in Spanish, volunteer at a bilingual school, and go to a yearly event called “Salsa on the Square.”

However, life and work creeps up on us, consuming our time so much that we sometimes forget to do the touristy activities before it’s time to pack up and move again. One piece of advice my parents have given me, as well as others, was to do everything while you can. In the case of when I studied in Madrid, I knew my time was limited to three months, so I knew how much time I had to visit every museum and sight I wanted to go to. Most of the time, when people move, they don’t know how long they will be staying in a given place. It can vary depending on the type of job and of course, life being unpredictable.

I never did get to go on any ghost tours when I was in Gettysburg, but I did get to see the battlefields and had two very knowledgeable friends give me a tour. I got to know which ice cream places were popular with locals and which ones were tourist traps. I got to know some of the locals through frequenting restaurants in different places where I have studied. I had four years to see and do everything that I wanted to, so I could spread things out. However, I wish that I would have done and discovered some things earlier, because I would have done them more often, such as riding around the battlefield in a scoot coupe with my roommates.

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If you are thinking about or already living in a tourist town, take advantage of the things to do. Maybe you already have, and that’s great! Maybe you haven’t yet because you don’t want to be associated with tourists or you just haven’t found the time yet. Take advantage before it’s too late! Explore, discover, and share with others! You never know what you may find.

The Crazy Thing About Consistency

There is more to learning a foreign language than just learning the language itself, or even the culture related to the language. When one tries to learn a language, especially outside of the classroom, they learn how to learn. Benny Lewis, known as the Irish Polyglot, has said that the hardest language that he has learned is Spanish, despite the fact that it is closer to English than some of the other languages that he has studied. Benny learned how to learn a language. He found what methods worked for him, because just being in the country wasn’t enough.

I read a lovely article yesterday about 24 polyglots’ tips for learning a language. Some of their tips were reoccurring, which I paid attention to since they have been successful in learning multiple languages. There is one tip that I saw often, and regularly see in YouTube videos and TED talks. I even wrote about this tip in one of my other blog posts: the importance of consistency.

Why is consistency so important that language learners everywhere talk about it?

I have been taking a hiatus from studying Korean to study Polish for the summer. I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing my best to keep up with Korean, only reviewing once in a while. Already, I have forgotten some words, even though I had gone over them fairly often. However, something weird has been happening.

In high school, I made a decision to teach myself Japanese and got very serious about it. Although I never made it to a conversational level, I studied very frequently and reviewed even more for an 8-month period. I didn’t know much Japanese beyond basic conjugation and vocabulary, but what I did know, I knew well. It has been years since I have studied Japanese, so I have forgotten a lot of what I learned, or so I thought. To this day, if I watch anime or hear people speaking Japanese, I will recognize some of the vocabulary that I learned. To my surprise, I can still remember how to produce some basic sentences on my own.

It turns out that my consistency with Japanese paid off so much that when I hear a word in English and try to think of it in Korean, Japanese will come to mind first. Japanese and Korean are two different languages with some similarities, but for some reason, my brain will think in Japanese before it will think in Korean, even though Korean should be more fresh in my mind. That is the power of consistency. If you form a good habit, it can last even years later when you feel like you are out of practice. Though there are days where you feel too unmotivated to study or you feel like certain words aren’t sticking, study anyway, because you may be surprised.