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!

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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?

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.

Live Without Regrets

My dad has used the line: Live your life in such a way that you will have no regrets at the end. The reason he says that is because at the age of 10, he lost his father to a sudden heart attack, at age 11 he lost his home and every earthly possession to a major flood, and at the age of 12 his favorite baseball player was killed in a tragic airplane accident. He learned early on that things don’t last and that you never know what tomorrow will bring. He said that if you want to do something, do it; if you want to say something, say it. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and say, “I wish I would have…” or “I wish I wouldn’t have…”

I just finished my senior year of college. With that comes a flood of questions, but there is one that I have been dwelling on, even before I graduated: How do you feel? 

Just like any other life-changing situation I’ve gone through, I felt and am feeling a lot of things. However, not one of them is regret. I made sure to make the most of my time at Gettysburg during my four years there. I did almost everything and visited every restaurant that I wanted to, leaving me satisfied. Most of all, I made memories that I will never forget.

This past school year, my introverted side took over more than ever and I know that part of that was due to reverse culture shock. During the two semesters, I constantly battled with wanting to have alone time because of being drained from work, but also wanting to make sure that I was spending time with those who were special to me before potentially never seeing any of them again.

Despite having the mentality of wanting to spend time with others, there were times where saying “no” was necessary for the sake of being able to rest. There were also times where I needed to put my work aside for an hour, after working on it for many hours, to spend time with my friends. In the end, I wasn’t left wishing that I had spent more time with people. Life is all about balance and balance prevents regret.

So how do I feel after all is said and done? I am still swimming in a sea of feelings, but making the most of my time at school has helped me feel ready to move on overall. No matter what stage of life you are in, if you just finished high school, just finished college, or if you are finishing a completely different chapter of life, make the most of it because you never know what will come next.

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All Seasons Come to an End

A few weeks ago, I went home for what schools typically call “spring break”.  Spring is when my campus is filled with blossoming trees, the smell of fresh mulch that makes me hold my breath, and the comforting warmth wrapping around my body, accompanied by a bright sunlight that I haven’t seen in months. Spring has always been a different experience in my hometown since I live in the north. You have to learn to enjoy every moment of it, because it is fleeting. We get a couple of days a year where the flowers on trees are blooming, but it is a beauty that does not last. This year, I spent my spring break indoors when I wasn’t shoveling the piles of snow that were up to my waist from the Stella blizzard.

It was March. We had a cold winter, but not a bad one in terms of weather. Usually my spirits start to get lifted in March because I know that spring is coming. However, it was already halfway through the month and we had just gotten a huge snowstorm that we spent the entire week shoveling ourselves out of. I knew that spring was still on its way, but I was a lot less optimistic about how quickly it would arrive. At this point, I couldn’t imagine it ever arriving.

Just like the weather goes through different seasons, we go through different seasons in our life. Sometimes we have a period of happiness, enthusiasm, hope. Other times, we find ourselves stressed out and overwhelmed, wondering when the next positive season will be coming. Recently I have been going through a lot with some personal issues that have come up, which is why I have not written a blog post in over a month. When I started this blog, I had planned to write a post every week, and I kept up with it even during my busiest times. However, I reached a point where I just couldn’t keep up. I was juggling too many things at once and it was not good for me.

Last week, the weather started getting better. The sun came out and I could finally walk around outside without wearing a winter jacket. To this very minute I still find it hard to believe that it is no longer winter. You will reach this point in your life. If you are going through a hard time, don’t be discouraged! Just as all good things come to an end, so do all bad things.

Studying abroad is a season, high school is a season, what struggles you are going through are just a season in your life. Make the most of the good seasons. Slow down and take everything in. Learn from the bad seasons and know that better things are on their way. You may not be able to see your spring quite yet, but it’s coming.

The Day of Love and Friendship

It has been said that “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” We see what others have on Facebook and we long for the same things. As we get caught up in thinking about what we don’t have, we never stop to think that maybe someone might be looking at our life that way. Have you ever thought that you could have something that everyone else wants? Instead of looking at other people’s lawns, we should work on watering our grass, taking care of what we have. Do you have a close relationship with your sibling? A grandparent? A parent? A pet? Do you have a group of friends that are there to support you, or even a best friend that you know you can trust with everything? Some people don’t have any of that. However, if there is one thing I know, there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how small.

Many people have strong feelings about today. It can be seen in the many ways that people refer to it: Singles Awareness Day, Valentine’s Day, GALentine’s Day, etc. Recently, I was trying to put together a lesson plan that included Valentine’s Day vocabulary in Spanish. When I was researching about the holiday, one interesting phrase that I kept seeing pop up was “El día del amor y la amistad” (Day of Love and Friendship). It made me really think. You can have a significant other and still not do anything for Valentine’s Day. You can be single and still celebrate the day.

When I was younger, my parents would take our family out to a restaurant every year. We celebrated a day of love, but a different kind of love. As I got older, I started celebrating the day with my friends. Currently I am in a relationship, but I have yet to spend the day with my significant other. Two years ago, we weren’t able to celebrate together, so my friends and I put together a delicious potluck dinner in our apartment at school, celebrating a day of friendship. Last year, I was abroad in France while my boyfriend remained in the United States. I couldn’t be with him, and we still talked on Skype, but I went to the movies with two of my good girl friends and then we went out to a restaurant. Both of those days were special days, even if they were not spent in the way that the holiday gets commercialized.

Your special someone does not have to be your significant other. You do not have to have romantic feelings for someone to make today special. If you have a significant other, then great! Celebrate the day with that person and remember to love them every day. If you don’t have a significant other, then spend the day with whoever your special someone is. Celebrate the other kinds of love that exist, and remember to love that person every day as well. Valentine’s Day is a lot like Thanksgiving. We tend to get caught up in life and forget to be thankful and love others daily. Don’t limit love to one day.

French People are NOT Cold

Sometimes I like to think of myself as a cultural mythbuster. Whenever I hear about a stereotype, I like to see if there is some truth to it or if it is completely wrong. One thing I have heard since before going abroad was that Europeans, especially the French, are cold. They will not smile at you when you walk down the street and they are rude, especially Parisians. While I agree that there are probably some, because there are rude people everywhere you go, I have had an overall positive experience. My experience may be different from others but here is what I have encountered:

Nantes

I think I can give a pretty accurate picture of what Nantes is like because I have been here since January. The people here are generally pleasant. I feel comfortable going up to anyone to ask them a question whether it is in French or occasionally in English. Of course I have met moody people, but you will encounter that anywhere.

Marseille

I was not in Marseille for a long time. I spent about four days there during my winter break. I do not know of any stereotypes about people from Marseille but I did hear that people in southern France will be rude to you if you do not speak French or if you cannot speak it well. Everyone in Marseille was nice to my friends and I. We stayed on the outskirts of town but also spent a lot of time in the center of the city. Everybody we talked to was very pleasant and, to my surprise, people would say, “Bonjour,” in passing.

Paris

This is where people usually refer to when I hear about the French being rude. I hear that waiters are especially rude. I was only in Paris for a weekend, so I cannot say much. However, as a tourist, my stay was pleasant. Everyone was nice whether it was the servers we had or someone we met. I met a Parisian woman in Nantes right before this trip and she was the most pleasant French person I have met. She was very outgoing and talkative, not to mention she lit up even more when we told her we were going to Paris for the weekend. Of course, this was my experience as a tourist who can somewhat speak French. I have heard other people from France who say that Parisians are rude, so it very well could be true, but I did not experience that.

Speaking of my experience in Paris, I was there a week ago to celebrate a friend’s birthday with her and some of our other friends. Check out my video (with English subtitles included) to see what we did while we were there! Feel free to also check out my other videos of my travels on my channel that goes by the same name as this blog: PassionForDreaming.