Spend a Day in Boone

One thing I love to do at the end of a long semester is mellow out to cheesy rom-coms on the Hallmark channel. After watching just a few, I got hooked. Eventually, I started to wonder if cute, little towns like the ones on TV existed. I come from a small town, but I would definitely not compare it to what I have seen in the movies.

I am currently going to school in North Carolina and have not seen much of the state. Fall break was coming up and one of my friends told me that her co-worker recommended visiting a small town called Boone and a place called Blowing Rock. I was open to doing anything and was excited to hear that we would be going to a small town in the middle of the fall season. As soon as we pulled up to Boone, I could already tell from all the little shops and beautiful architecture that I would love this place.

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There are several cute, little shops that I would recommend visiting such as Boone Belles, Lucky Penny, and my favorite, Mast General Store (which I later found out is also in Winston-Salem). Some places even carry local products, which I thought was very cool.

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My friend found a restaurant on Yelp called “Proper” with great reviews. It was a little bit hidden, but still had a great view and nice atmosphere.

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The food was delicious! I tried southern fried chicken for the first time and would highly recommend it, as well as the restaurant’s special homefries. They gave a decent amount of food for the price, at least compared to the North. The best part was that everything we ate was homemade and not frozen!

While digesting, we took a walk around Appalachian State University. It will definitely give you a workout if you decide to roam the entire campus. At the time, students were on their fall break as well, so we didn’t see many people. However, taking a walk and seeing the colorful autumn scenery was spectacular. There was a lot of school spirit in this town as every store I went to had ASU merchandise.

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The last stop we made was to the Tanger Outlets in Blowing Rock. I like to look up things to do before going to a place, so that I know what to see, and some other blogs had recommended going to an ice cream shop called Kilwin’s. They sell a variety of chocolate-covered desserts, ice cream flavors, and fudge. As soon as you open the door and the smells seep out, you know you’re making a good choice. I ordered cake batter and chocolate caramel cashew ice cream, no regrets! Although I wanted to eat everything there, I knew that I couldn’t. There is good news though: there is a Kilwin’s in Winston-Salem, so I will be back!

Some people prefer bigger cities because they feel that there is more to do. Even so, if you are looking for a day trip, try these small, charming places. I know you will not be disappointed!

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Embrace You

Autumn is here! From colorful leaves, to bonfires, to pumpkin patches and corn mazes, how could you not fall in love with fall? It’s a beautiful season that marks the beginning of many celebrations until late December, including an unofficial but enthusiastic celebration of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Even though it has been around for years, I had never tried one. I don’t usually like pumpkin flavor and I cannot drink coffee without feeling sick for the rest of the day. For the longest time, I had been wanting to know what the hype around this popular drink was. Would it live up to that hype? I recently tried a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino. The worker who took my order at Starbucks was kind enough to make me one without coffee. Despite the fact that I’ll never get the full Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino experience, due to the fact that I can’t have coffee, I at least got a taste of what most Americans really enjoy.

However, I’ve noticed that as pumpkin spice becomes more popular (there are cheerios and other cereals, oatmeal, and even more products), it has become more controversial. Every time I hear the drink mentioned, or even the flavor, it is usually tied to a stereotype, namely the adjective “basic.” Some people that I know won’t try pumpkin spice because they’re “not that basic”, others drink it because that’s what people do around this time of the year. I’ve come to wonder how many people order the drink because they actually like it and how many people won’t order it out of fear of being labeled. Pumpkin spice is not the only trend that people will shy away from or embrace because others are into whatever the latest cool thing is. I have seen it with coffee in general, different fashions, different hobbies, and more.

Why can’t we just be ourselves? Why do we have to try so hard to be different from others for the sake of being different or avoiding a label (which makes you like many others who try to be different)? Why do we try so hard to fit in? I say, if you like Pumpkin Spice Lattes, then order one! If you don’t, then don’t, but don’t give people a hard time that do. If you are into mainstream music, great! If you are into a genre no one has ever heard of, that’s also great! Don’t force yourself to be into something you don’t like just because other people are into it or you want to be viewed as different.

Embrace you!

Using the Weekend to Your Advantage: University and Grad School

There are two types of students that I come across: those that study all the time without taking breaks and those that wait until the last minute to do their assignments. It is very rare that I find someone who can balance both work and play. If I do meet someone who is balancing both, usually they are in the beginning stages of trying to find what works for them. I fall under the first category, and while I am still trying to work this out myself, I have gotten into a weekend routine that has been helpful in lightening up the workload for the week.

Some students may think that they cannot get homework done over the weekend because they want to spend it having fun and relaxing. Because of this, homework doesn’t get done until Sunday evening. For some, this is great as they work well under pressure. For others, the stress of Sunday night gets more familiar every week. There is a way to get homework and projects done over the weekend while still being able to enjoy your time off.

One of the strategies that I use that has helped me save time and stress is getting homework done when you know people won’t be looking to hang out. This can vary from person to person. In my experience, people don’t usually look to hang out on Friday afternoons. Some of my friends may be in class, be working, or be busy in general. Usually people prefer to do something on Friday nights, so you can get a head start on your assignments before the weekend has really begun, without having to sacrifice your Friday evening. Another prime time to get homework done, if you are an early riser like me, is Saturday morning. Many people I know have the ability to sleep in. Since I have trouble sleeping in, this is when I get most of my homework done, as well as laundry and other tasks. You can have a very productive day by lunchtime and still have most of the day to do what you please.

When I am doing homework, I try to get as much as I can done over the weekend. I still go out and have fun, so I am not missing out on anything, but I do this so that I can make my week a little bit easier. Usually I work on whatever homework assignment is due first, or whichever assignments are the shortest. Working in chronological order is helpful. Say that you have a busy weekend and you can only get homework done for Monday. On Sunday night (or Monday morning), you won’t be scrambling to get that homework done, provided you work on it ahead of time. Typically I try to get my homework done through Wednesday, so that I can have less of a workload during the first few days of the week. If you are afraid of forgetting what you had to read for class, take notes and read them closer to when you have class so that you can refresh your memory.

One last tip I have is to learn when to say “no.” I did write a blog post on this, so I won’t elaborate too much, but once in a while you find that you have too much work to do. It’s okay to say no if you need to. Sometimes it means saying no to doing something with your friends, other times it means saying no to doing homework and taking a short break. It isn’t always easy, but you will feel much better when you start learning how to balance your life.

What are your homework habits? Have you tried these strategies before and if so, have they worked out for you?

Ways to Combat Homesickness

Moving away can be hard, no matter what stage of life you are in. Homesickness can hit you at any point, whether you have crossed an ocean or you are a 12-hour drive away from home. I have decided to treat my time in North Carolina like my year in Europe. Because I know I will only be here for a year, I want to see as much as I can and take part in local, everyday life as much as possible before packing up and leaving. Homesickness is inevitable, but having this mindset has really helped me combat negative feelings.

Although I do not use pinterest much, I would recommend looking for things to do in the area where you are staying or visiting. I had written this in a previous post of mine, but I suggested it under a different context. It’s as simple as doing a quick search: “Things to do in X”. You never know what you may find, or what others have already found.

Once I read enough articles or blog posts online and learn a little bit more about the area, I take that information and compile a list of things to do. I have a list of coffee shops, local events, and tourist attractions that I really want to visit during my year away from home. In just one month of being away, I have already gone to several festivals and events at school and around town. I tend to keep an eye out for posters advertising free events both on campus and in town, on my way to class.

People like to poke fun at me for this one because of how ridiculous this might sound, but I always try to plan something fun at least once a week. Whether you are a student or working full-time, it can be extremely difficult to find time for anything. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in staying on top of work, and even trying to get ahead, to the point that I feel like I am running on a treadmill; I do a lot of work, but in the end, there’s always more. At the end of the day, what I want to remember about Winston-Salem is not all the nights I spent in my room, stressing out over homework, but rather the times I had getting to know my classmates and hanging out with friends. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to be very spontaneous, planning activities ahead of time can help you always have something good to look forward to, instead of another long day.

My last piece of advice is what has helped me the most since moving away. It is super important to get involved in some kind of community. Get involved with a group that is near and dear to you. For you, that may be a volunteer group, a fraternity or sorority, a club, or a fitness class. For me, something I knew that I absolutely had to do was get involved in a church group. If you aren’t going to school and are finding it challenging to meet new people, I would highly suggest doing this. Even if you only see these people for an hour at first, it can turn into more time together as you form friendships with those around you.

Homesickness isn’t always a bad thing. However, dealing with it isn’t easy, and it may never completely go away. In the end, you may not be able to control when a wave of it comes crashing down on you, but it’s up to you to decide what you do with those feelings. Will you make the most of your time away and turn it into a great memory or will you count the days until you go home again?

When You Think You’ve Seen it All

Have you ever watched a movie that you just couldn’t get enough of? Maybe it was one of your favorite movies from childhood. Maybe you can think of a more recent movie that you would recommend to everyone you know. Either way, you have watched it at least five times and still haven’t gotten tired of it. In fact, even with all the familiarity of the story-line, you discover something new that you had missed all of the other times that you sat down to watch it. However, unlike watching a good movie again, living in the same small town for most of your life may not feel as exciting.

I had been dying to leave my hometown and set off on an adventure, exploring what the world had to offer; so I went to Europe for a year. I had grown accustomed to hopping on a train to the next country over and taking a bus or metro to my next destination. While familiarity can be nice, I felt like I was lacking adventure upon returning home. After having been in the same place for around nineteen years, I thought I had seen everything I possibly could. I would have even gone as far as to say that I had seen everything in both my town and the neighboring small city. I’m sure that I am not alone in thinking this.

Perhaps you are feeling like you have seen all there is to see in your small town, but I challenge you to dig a little deeper. I recently moved to North Carolina for grad school and one thing I did to calm my anxiousness before moving was looking up exciting things on pinterest to do in the city where I would be staying. While I enjoy new beginnings and fresh starts, I was already on the hunt for a good place to do some studying or just hang out for a while. When it comes to travel, the Internet is your friend and can be used to your advantage. Do a quick search of your hometown or the surrounding towns. It’s as simple as typing in the search box “Things to do in *inserttownorcitynamehere*”. You never know what you may find, or what others have already found that you may not have known about.

When I first arrived to North Carolina, I went to a dinner for students at a local church and asked everyone where their favorite places were to eat. By the time the list was complete, there were so many options that I can assure you that I will not make it to most of them. I would suggest making a list of places you haven’t been to in your hometown, whether it be restaurants, shops, a farmers’ market, or anywhere else you can think of. I guarantee you have passed by the same places for years and have never set foot in them or even noticed them. Be bold and try something new!

One last thing I would recommend doing is taking a joy ride and turning onto unfamiliar roads. They have always been there and you never know where they may lead you. The featured image for this blog post was taken on a trip to Francis Walter Dam. My family and I had been living in the same area for decades and didn’t realize that this place existed. It wasn’t until my dad was out in his new car and turned down a new road that he happened upon the dam. Now, this is one of our favorite places to go to take walks and photograph nature. I would highly recommend doing this, but just be careful that you don’t get too lost!

Whether you have lived in the same city or small town your whole life, there is always something new out there to explore. You don’t have to live in a place like New York City to enjoy yourself. Seek the unknown and, who knows, you may end up forming a new appreciation for your small town.

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.