4 Things to Do in the Fall in/near Winston-Salem

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post on travel! I used to write them more often when I studied in Europe, but I haven’t done a whole lot of traveling since then. I’ve been in North Carolina for a few months now and have really been wanting to write about my experience here. Before moving, I looked up things to do in Winston-Salem and put together a list of places to visit and events to go to. However, there were some events I discovered that were not mentioned online. Even some of my friends from the area did not know about these events! If you are planning on visiting Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the fall, be sure to check out these events!

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Apple Fest

Apple Fest takes place at Historic Bethabara Park in September. It’s free to the public and very family friendly! If you’re into shopping, there are cute little shops set up where you can get homemade goods, whether it be soap, clothing, or food. Of course, you can find a variety of caramel apples, funnel cake, and fresh apples to take home with you! Be sure to check out the little petting area with goats and other animals!

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Representing my Spanish and Panamanian heritage

FIESTA is an annual street festival in downtown Winston-Salem that took place the weekend after Apple Fest. Like Apple Fest, you can find cool shops with crafts and clothing, plenty of food, and various musical (and dance) performances. It’s a really fun cultural experience and is the biggest fundraiser for the Hispanic League. I recommend checking it out as it only happens once a year.

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Dixie Classic Fair

The Dixie Classic Fair was one of the annual events that I did find out about online before moving to North Carolina. It takes place around the end of September to the beginning of October. Since I didn’t go to fairs often as a kid, I really enjoyed visiting this one. From gum (yes, gum) to candy bars, you can find a lot of fried foods. If you’re not into that, then you can try the different flavors of cobbler and caramel apples. While walking around, you will see many animals, fair games that are almost impossible to win (at least that was my experience), and rides! I personally didn’t ride anything, as I get sick and have heard too many stories about ride accidents, but you can still have lots of fun whether you ride anything or just walk around and see some racing pigs.

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The Tanglewood Festival of Lights is not in Winston-Salem, but is only a 20-30 minute drive away and is totally worth seeing. The festivities start in late November and end January 1st. Both this event and the Dixie Classic Fair are not free, but highly recommended. You get to spend an hour driving through beautiful light displays and end up at the Gift Shop at the Red Barn, where you will find even more cool, homemade things, including some holiday products from Dewey’s, which is a delicious bakery!

Before moving to Winston-Salem, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was the home of Krispy Kreme, and that it was a city, but that was about it. I didn’t know how big of a city it was, where all the best hangouts were, or much of what there was to do. Whether you are studying here or just visiting, check these events out, as well as more photos below!

 

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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!

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?

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.

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.

Balancing School and Travel

Every college student is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s the side that likes to binge-watch Netflix or funny videos on YouTube. They seem carefree and you almost wonder how they pass class, because you never see them doing their work. That’s when you see the other side: the student that stays up from anywhere between 2-4 in the morning, scrambling to finish their assignment, paper, etc. This is a stressful way to live, and pretty unhealthy if you aren’t getting enough sleep or eating the right things. With this lifestyle, it makes it a lot harder to travel.

This past weekend, I traveled to a city two hours away to give a talk at a conference. I had almost no time to do any work because I had been going to sessions almost every half hour. However, I knew that I wouldn’t want to do my work the day I got back from the trip, because I would be tired from traveling and hearing more talks. To spare myself lots of stress, I planned ahead and did what assignments I could during the previous week. This technique has always helped me when traveling.

When I was in Madrid, I traveled literally every weekend. I would leave on Thursday and get back Sunday. Sometimes I would just do a day trip, but I was still traveling. I would always get my homework done before leaving. Some of my classmates would bring their homework with them on trips, but I know that I would never be able to get it done on a trip, nor would I enjoy my trip if I spent it doing homework. If you are busy during the week, I would suggest doing the little, easier, quicker assignments first. Whenever you are already in homework mode, doing your other homework, get a little bit ahead by doing an assignment that is due when you come back from your trip. If you keep doing a little bit at a time, you may be surprised at how much you get done. If you decide to do all of your homework at once, that can be draining but then you won’t have to worry about any homework.

What kind of student are you? Do you ever work ahead? Share your homework tips below!

Meeting People Abroad

When looking at websites that offered study abroad advice, I noticed that students who had studied overseas were presented with the question: What do you wish you had done that you didn’t do? The answers I read were surprisingly very similar and not at all what I had expected. Students didn’t say that they wished that they had traveled more, or that they wish they would have bought more souvenirs. The biggest regret I had read about was that many students wished that they would have had the courage to talk to people locally and make friends.

Life presents many opportunities to cross paths with others, sometimes in crazy ways. It’s what you choose to do in that moment that will determine what will become of that encounter. Having gone through this myself, here is my advice on where you can meet people:

First I would suggest looking up language exchanges in the area. If there aren’t any, advertise that you would be interested in doing one! I have met plenty of nice and welcoming people from doing language exchanges. At first, it might have been strange because I did not know anyone, but after meeting up a few times, we became friends.

Consider joining a fitness class. The program I attended let American students sign up for fitness classes at the local university. I met a number of people because of taking hip-hop and Zumba classes. The great thing about doing this is that you already have something in common with everyone in the room, a love for the class you signed up for.

Also consider taking a local university class. It may seem intimidating, especially if you are not confident in your language abilities, but you will meet people who are willing to help you. I will admit that this can be scary at first because everyone seems to already have their own group of friends, but just start with something simple like, “Can I see your notes from the other day?” or, “Can I borrow a pen?”

Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, I would suggest trying to attending a church. Some of the most welcoming people were those that I met from weekly Bible studies and going to church every Sunday. These people were very nice and cared about how my friends and I were doing and how we were adjusting to being away from home. I even met one of my good friends after accidentally locking myself in the bathroom!

After spending an extended amount of time somewhere, you start to form a routine. My friends and I would frequent restaurants and cafes that we enjoyed. In doing that, we became friends with the owners, and even got to talk to other customers at times.

One last thing I would recommend is to pay attention to your surroundings in general. You never know if you will be handed a flyer for an event that you would be interested in or if you will see a poster for something you would be interested in. You can even look up online what is going on in your area to find out more.

The truth is, you can meet people anywhere. Sometimes you will meet them in the grocery store and sometimes you will meet them in your hostel. It is confidence that you will need to be able to form friendships with others. While I cannot give you that confidence, I can tell you where you are likely to meet people. The suggestions that I mentioned come from my personal experience studying in Europe but there are so many other ways to meet people and make friends. If you have traveled before, where have you met people?