The Traveling Beanie

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This picture was taken of me while hiking in New Zealand.  You see that cute purple beanie on my head? This is a story about that beanie… The story of the traveling beanie.

I had been wanting a beanie for a long time but being the broke college student that I am, I never got around to actually buying one. I had tried some on but convinced myself they all looked terrible and I just wasn’t “a beanie person” because I didn’t want to spend money. One night at my favorite pub in Australia, I found this lone, purple beanie laying on a chair and I fell in love. A stranger had obviously lost it there but no one was coming back for it. I brought it home and washed it, and the beanie became mine. It was the first beanie I ever believed looked okay on me, and I wore it almost everywhere. Until one night, I lost it at a bar in New Zealand.

I don’t remember how I lost my beloved beanie. I got too drunk one night and blacked out. I don’t even remember getting back to my hostel. But I woke up in my bed the next morning with all my clothes still on, and only one thing missing— the precious purple beanie.

It’s crazy to think that someone else may have found that beanie just like I had, and is now wearing it around, maybe even in some other country. I guess that’s my karma. I have no idea where the beanie even came from, who the owner was or where they bought it. They could’ve been from another country as well. What if someday I find my beanie back in the states? That would be way too freaky…

I ended up buying two new beanies in New Zealand because I missed my old one so much. I lost one of them, but by now I have a collection of at least seven beanies, and I’ve lost quite a few. I don’t know why I have no luck with holding on to them. I guess they’re just as wanderlust as I am. Some say they were made in China and the others says made in Korea. I have no idea where my lost, purple beanie came from before it had an owner, but if I had to guess, it was probably also made in China or Korea or somewhere unfamiliar to me. Then shipped to a store, maybe or maybe not in Australia. It somehow ended up in Australia though, into my possession, then lost in New Zealand, and now who knows where it could be. Who knows where any of my lost beanies could be. These simple little beanies came all the way from Asia and could have potentially been to even more countries than I have.

This goes to show how interconnected everything can be. I can only hope that someone else has found that purple beanie (and the others…) and they have given it a new home, or new head rather, as well as a new adventure!

Originally written on Friday, October 11, 2013.
Edited and published Tuesday, January 27, 2014.

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My Australia Playlist

During my year and a half spent in Australia, I compiled a playlist of songs from just before getting on the plane there up until leaving. Some of these songs have a story behind them, some just have the right vibe, or an essence of nostalgia. Some are just plain ol’ cheesy, and some I just felt like putting on the playlist because I can. My experience in Australia has been the most amazing adventure, and these songs are all a part of my journey. I’ve been adding songs all along the way, and here is my finalised playlist.

Leaving On A Jet Plane – Slightly Stoopid
The summer before I came to Australia, I was crashing at my best friend Alyssa’s apartment in order to work and save money before traveling. Alyssa had told me to listen to the original Leaving On a Jet Plane by John Denver because she said it reminded her of me because I was leaving and she was going to miss me. The song is about going away for a while as the lyrics say, “I am leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again.” I think any traveler feels this way when saying goodbye. The first lines of the song perfectly describe that anxious, lonely feeling when you’re just about to head out, and this is exactly how I felt when I had to leave Alyssa’s. “All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go, I’m standin’ here outside your door, I hate to wake you up to say goodbye, but the dawn is breakin’, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waitin’, he’s blowin’ his horn, already I’m so lonesome, I could die.”
When I heard the Slightly Stoopid version, I was even more hooked due to the relaxed and tropical feel of Slightly Stoopid’s interpretation, as opposed to the depth and sadness of the original. It was obviously sad that I was leaving, but exciting to be heading to a beautiful new place. I listened to this song nonstop on my way to Australia– before leaving, in the airport, on the plane, during my layover in LA, and of course, when I arrived in Australia as well. Alyssa was always there for me throughout my entire experience abroad, and she even traveled all the way to Brisbane to visit me during her spring break, so this song is really important to me because of her.

Australia – The Shins
The title is literally Australia, so I couldn’t not put this in my playlist. But there’s actually a lot more to the song than just that. The lyrics are a bit contrasting to the upbeat melody, as it seems to be about going through the motions and not enjoying life to the fullest, for example in the lines, “Faced with the dodo’s conundrum, I felt like I could just fly, but nothing happened every time I’d try.” However, the opposing happy, fast-paced melody seems to work as an inspiration to keep going and to free yourself from the boring day to day motions. As he ends the song with the line, “Watching the lantern dim, starved of oxygen/So give me your hand and let’s jump out the window,” it shows the narrator finally breaking away from the life he hasn’t been enjoying. Coming to Australia has been this change for me to break away and have fun in a place I’ve never been able to experience before. Sometimes it was hard being in a new place with new people but after I was able to break out of my shell, I realized how much better everything can be, and how sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side, but you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.

Mango Tree – Angus and Julia Stone
First off, it’s written by Australian artists, Angus and Julia Stone. I listened to it a few times with an Australian boy I had a crush on for a while. I also listened to it a lot during my first trip to North Stradbroke Island. It’s got a really nice, comforting vibe to it. Whenever I hear it, it brings back really fond memories and a longing for Australia.

Tubthumping – Chumbawamba
My first semester, I tried to go surfing for the first time during Arcadia’s free excursion to North Stradbroke Island. The whole weekend was incredible, but I’ll always remember the last day of the trip when we went surfing. I was pretty bad at it but I still gave it a few attempts. I eventually was able to get up on my knees at least, but I wasn’t able to stand on the board. Regardless, it was such a fun time. While everyone else was showing off, I was mostly just paddling around on my board and singing this song to myself, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”
While this song will always remind me of that first attempt at surfing, it also sums up my entire experience abroad. Even if things go don’t go your way or work out as planned, just keep going and keep trying. This song always reminds me to keep my chin up and that nothing can never keep me down.

Hackensack – Fountains of Wayne
My hometown is a city known as Hackensack, New Jersey. Whenever I was feeling homesick, I would listen to this song. The line “If you ever get back to Hackensack, I’ll be here for you,” always reminded me that I had people waiting for me back home, who would still be there for me once I returned. You should always remember where you come from, but for now, I was in Australia and I didn’t want to worry about missing out on anything back home. This song would comfort me that I would return eventually. Now that I’m back, I’ve been able to reconnect with all my friends and family. It’s almost like I never left, except now I get laughed at for saying Aussie slang like “How ya goin?” and “No worries, mate.”

The City – The 1975
I’ve never lived in a big city before, and I always drove everywhere I went. I used to listen to this song a lot on the bus, and almost always while walking home from QUT over the Goodwill Bridge. On my walks home, I would always admire the view and acknowledge just how beautiful the city is. The lyrics, “If you wanna find love then you know where the city is” will always remind me of Brisbane and reflecting on those lovely walks home.

Teenage Dirtbag – Wheatus
This has been one of my favourite songs in the world since I was younger. I hadn’t heard it in ages, but when I came to Australia I started hearing it all the time again, even at clubs. I looked it up and apparently the single was massively popular in Aussie. I became really good friends with another girl from Arcadia, Michelle, who also studied here my first semester. We listened to it all the time together and used to joke that we are musical soulmates because we have such similar taste in music. It might also be that we like to go for those grungy, skater type guys and bonded over that as well. Regardless, this song reminds me of the good times we had, especially at Ric’s in the Valley. We’re all just a bunch of kids figuring ourselves out in another country. “I’m just a teenage dirtbag, baby like you.”

Down Under – Men At Work
Isn’t this Australia’s national anthem? I had to put it on the playlist…Nothing describes Australia better than the line, “I said ‘Do you speak-a my language?’ He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.”

American Girl – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
When I first came to Australia, I hated standing out for being American. I felt like people would just see me at the bus stop and KNOW I wasn’t Australian, which seems ridiculous now. But even if they did realize I was American, it was nothing to be ashamed of. I learned to embrace who I am and this song with it’s upbeat, rock n roll sound always gave me confidence by reminding me that it’s more than okay to be an American Girl.

Tourist – RAC, Tokyo Police Club
I listened to this song on repeat for the last year and a half. It’s all about being a tourist, finding the right cafes to go to, making small talk with people, “Are we strangers forever or are we strangers for now?” It’s about figuring out a new place. If I could pick one song to listen to my entire trip abroad, it would be this one.

Australia Street – Sticky Fingers
The lyrics describe it all. It’s written by an Australian band who played at Splendour in the Grass (which I had to miss because I was in America, and I can’t even tell you how many times I cried about having to miss this festival.) This song will always remind me of the friendships I had in Australia and the good times we all had.

The Good Good – Snoop Lion
My Australian best friend Grace is one of the most significant people in my journey. I met Grace at the end of my first semester, and by my third semester we became inseparable. She is even coming to visit me in America for Christmas! Grace showed me this song and we listened to it all the time. She is also a musician, and recorded a cover of this song dedicated to me. It has really chill, good vibes and a nice, beachy feel to it which is just perfect for Australia with all it’s breathtaking beaches. The line, “This is the good good, this is what people look all their lives to find” describes my friendship with Grace, as well as the amazing times I had in Australia and the beautiful places I was able to see.

Woodland – Paper Kites
The Paper Kites are a really cool Australian band that I got to see live at The Hi-Fi in West End with my other Arcadia friends Bri and Nat. Bri introduced the band to us, and when we went to their show with her we all got to meet them and get hugs and autographs and posters. This song has relaxing, fun, nature-y vibes making it perfect for hiking and bushwalks, or just a nice, sunny day.

A tout a l’heure – Bibio
I just love this song. I showed it off to all my friends when I first heard it. I listened to it while roaming through the QUT Botanic Gardens one night with my friend Alyssa when she came to visit and a few other friends I made in Australia. (And that night was one to remember.) I would listen to it while traveling, on flights, buses, trains or just walking. It would always cheer me up and calm me down. I like to think of it as my “spirit song.”

Bumpy Ride – The Hoosiers
With it’s upbeat and positive lyrics and melody, this song always keeps me going strong. “It’s gunna be a bumpy ride but it sure beats standing still.” Through the ups and downs of traveling, it’s still the most incredible experience and I wouldn’t change it for anything. From the beginning of my journey, there were obstacles– I was delayed in Newark and missed my connecting flight at LAX, so I was stranded in LA alone for a night. But then the next morning I got to lay by my hotel’s pool and wait until my flight to Brisbane. Later, I dropped my laptop at the airport and cracked the screen, I was freaking out but once I got to Brisbane, my computer was still working. There were many difficulties being abroad– jetlag, missing home, making and losing friends, tons of schoolwork, financial troubles– but through everything, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. The good times made up for the hard times.

It was all part of the experience.

Originally written for my Co-Curricular Learning Certificate

Straddie Trip: Go Pro Style

Check out this awesome video by Anastasia Lukovenko of her weekend excursion to North Stradbroke Island with Arcadia University Australia.

Can’t Help But Brag: Study Abroad Struggles

We live in a society where everyone asks, “What’s new?” or “How are you?” but no one seems to care about the response. We reply with a dull “not much” or “good, how are you?” And then wait for another meaningless answer. We ask these questions to be polite, but how often are people genuinely interested? Especially when your response is a lot more exciting than theirs would be. We are jealous, bitter people– it’s in our human nature. But we ask these questions because it’s common courtesy, and we don’t want to seem rude (even though we are).

The worst case comes when you study abroad because you have so much to share, but to be honest– no one back in the small town of Glenside, Pennsylvania wants to hear anything about your life-changing experiences because while you spent a weekend partying in Amsterdam, your friends went to another shitty house party that probably got busted before midnight. Your constant traveling and experiences in a foreign country will never fail to make everyone sitting back home hate their boring, routine lives. And you.

Some people who study abroad understand this, while others think that everyone is fascinated by their experiences. This doesn’t mean absolutely everyone isn’t interested. I’m sure your mom and dad actually care. But the stories you really want to share are probably the ones best kept from your parents. But how many times can your friends handle listening to you go on and on about your beautiful foreign roommates before they start ignoring your messages. You can’t be mad at them for this. They want to be interested in your life. But while they’re staring at the same four walls of their Oak Summit apartment, you’re out getting a taste of all different parts of the world, and they’re going to get tired of hearing about it.

Even if someone is honestly interested in your trip and wants to hear “all about it” you would never be able to describe it all. Too much has happened. I would never be able to explain in detail all the amazing opportunities I’ve had, the people I have met, and the adventures I’ve taken without wasting hours of someone else’s time. When someone back home asks me, “How’s Australia?” I couldn’t even begin to describe the highs and lows and craziness of everything that has been happening.  Maybe I could tell them about how I spent an entire weekend on North Stradbroke Island learning how to surf and sandboard and kayak, and didn’t have to pay for a single thing (thanks Arcadia!). Or I could mention how last weekend I went to the most beautiful beach in the world, got to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, and found my potential Australian husband (just kidding, maybe). I could tell them about the first time I got to hold a koala and pet a kangaroo. Or explain the difference between a nice Australian accent and a bogan one. But no matter what I tell them, it just sounds like I’m bragging. Instead, maybe I could tell them how I felt really homesick so I stayed in bed all day watching Netflix and eating overpriced Nutella out of the jar. Or that even though I’m in Australia, I still have classes to go to and essays to write and all-nighters filled with red bull WITHOUT vodka.  But how lame doeDSCN0530s that make my entire semester seem?

We can partially blame social media. Most likely everyone has already seen all your pictures on Facebook and read all your tweets and hate you enough as it is. The constant upload of beautiful pictures from weekend excursions and simply everyday life in a foreign country is enough to drive anyone crazy with jealousy. Especially when it’s somewhere they wish they could be. Or somewhere they’ve already been that they wish they could go back to. Or when it is winter in PA, and your friends are dreading leaving their heated apartments, meanwhile I’m posting pictures of the beautiful, sunny beaches around Australia.

But what else are we supposed to do? We have to share our experiences with someone. And we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. I guess that’s why blogging has become so popular. But while it may seem like we are having a much better time than those of you at home (and not gonna lie, we probably are), we still get that FOMO too. Sometimes there is nothing I want more than to be hungover on my best friend’s couch eating mac n cheese and watching Food Network. No matter what great experiences I have abroad, there will still always be a nostalgia for people and places (and pizza) back home. So to all the friends who haven’t had the opportunity to travel and are stuck listening to our awesome stories, try to be patient with us. We’re not bragging on purpose. And I’m sure you have cool stories to share too. Even if it is just about another drunk night at Towers. And to anyone who has studied abroad and has had this problem, try not to brag TOO much to your friends. Keep it subtle. Start a blog. Or share your experiences with us at WanderLUST. And in the midst of all the bragging, don’t forget to remind your friends back home how much you still love and miss them.

If you check out one thing today, make it {my lingerie play}

By: Kara Mendez

Feminism. One four-syllable word can represent an over one hundred year movement of women and men fighting for equality; a fight we are still fighting today.

Diana Oh, a new york based actor, singer, songwriter, performance artist, and feminist has comprised a collection of visual and performance installations called {my lingerie play}. If you have yet to guess, Diana performed/will perform all 10 installations in her lingerie. What originally began as a script for a solo show turned into an amazing, head turning, emotional, eye opening experience right in the heart of NYC. Diana- and later a group of women and men alongside her- stand on soapboxes in different NYC locations with cardboard signs explaining their mission.

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Photo credit: Hye Yun Park

As seen on {my lingerie play}’s Facebook group, Diana Oh is standing on a soapbox holding a sign that says “I’m standing here in my lingerie because I’m a woman who enjoys wearing lingerie but does not enjoy: being catcalled, being trafficked, being sold, being owned, being told to be unhealthily thin, being told to age unnaturally, being street harassed and followed home by a car full of men at 2 in the morning (1), being asked to f-ck you like a b-tich or to suck on these n-ts and lick the d-ick (2), being called a hoe (3), a tramp (3), a stupid girl (3), or a little Asian friend (3), and being told that you love my lack of self respect (3), and that you got these b-tches all tipsy trying to sex you (3). I’m standing here in my lingerie because I’m a woman who enjoys wearing lingerie and many MANY other things (4). HAVE AN AWESOME DAY!
(1) actually happened. (2) actual lyrics (3) actual lyrics that aren’t from hip hop songs (4) see you next time!” (Installation 1/10. Times Square, New York). 

When asked about {my lingerie play} Diana released this manifesto: “The solution is not to tell women to cover up. The solution is not to tell women to keep chaste. The solution is not to tell women to stop being sexual beings. We are not asking to be harassed, abused, talked down to, or violated no matter what we are wearing. The solution is to change the way we are talked about for being a sexualized woman does not strip us of our humanity. The problem isn’t sexualization, the problem is the DEGRADATION that comes along with women expressing it. #mylingerieplay

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Left to Right: Diana Oh, Kana Hatakeyama, Kim Gee, Mariah MacCarthy, Colleen O’Connor, Parker Leventer, Lillian Meredith, Melissa Lusk, Hye Yun Park (not pictured). Photo credit: Kacey Stamats.

Anyone in the NYC area should try to catch an installation before it’s over. Support and show love to Diana and her entire crew of people and performances who- through art and performance- are taking steps towards equality. Spread the word. Show your friends. Stop the catcalls, slut shaming, and harassments alongside Diana as she stands on her soapbox in her lingerie.

LEARN MORE:
To find the project, more footage, & photos: www.facebook.com/mylingerplay 

To find Diana and to get involved: www.facebook.com/DianaOhisGOINGROGUE
#mylingerieplay

VIDEOS: http://wifey.tv/video/my-lingerie-play/
Filmed and edited by,  Hye Yun Park

Welcome to the Space Jam

by Ponsius Hanz Odaga

Do you know what is truly amazing? Sports culture around the world– how no matter where you go, if you play the same sport as someone or are interested in it, you can become instant friends.

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I was in Paris once for for a college class, and I absolutely loved wandering around the city. On the first day there, after we were done with the first half of our class activities and had some free time, I decided to wander. After leaving a cafe that I found suitable for some course-required travel writing, I took the wayfaring wanderers route back to the hotel. In other words, the most complicated route that was directed by the feeling of Oh! That looks cool. This feeling helped me find a basketball court where there were a couple of kids around my age just casually shooting around. So I watched them for a little while, about five minutes, then I decided that I had to jump in.

Just so you know, I am not that good at basketball. So this wasn’t going to be a show of me looking like a basketball wizard and dunking over my opponents. But despite my mediocrity, a mixture of unknown jet lag, being in the honeymoon phase with Paris (I still am), as well as an overall tiredness in my body, made the perfect altered state of consciousness where I had to play basketball at that very moment. So I just walked on to the court, said “Bonjour,” and immediately forgot all the French that I was studying on the plane. All I could say was “I am American,” and that wasn’t helpful at all. So I made a myriad of basketball related hand gestures asking for a 2v2 game and they understood perfectly. We took free throw shots and the first two to make them were on a team. Those two were me and my partner whose name I believe was Matthieu.

So remember how I said I am not that good at basketball? Well this game kinda proved it. See the thing is that it rained that day, and this was one of those rubber courts, and I was wearing skate shoes.Basically the ground was slippery, my shoes had very poor grip, so I was slipping & sliding all over the place. These kids knew how to handle it though, and Matthieu especially carried me through this game. I made couple of shots, but he won it for us somehow.

In the end, the game was cut short because I had to run back to the hotel for dinner at Creperies with my class. The final score was 3 – 5 and I had a awesome time. I shook hands with all the guys I played with, and said “Au revoir” as I left. They responded to me in the same fashion, and I felt like the new kid at school when he meets his first new friends– Elated! This really made me realize the power of sports above other hobbies to connect people.

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A particular sport is played the same all across the globe, and enjoyed in the same fashion. I mean, that’s the reason Michael Jordan could play basketball with animated characters IN SPACE!! Where with other hobbies like particular media (comics books, tv, video games, etc.) knitting, tabletop games, whittling or whatever you are into, can be enjoyed by a completely differently audience in a completely different manner. Many of us have run into this issue where we will watch a show with someone else and they will laugh at all the wrong things.

A sport is a great way to make new friends, especially sports where pick up games are really common. So for the aspiring wanders out there don’t be afraid to join a pick up game, even if you are not great at the sport as long as you like playing for fun. Heck! There was even one time a nice skater (during this same trip) let me borrow his board, because I felt like I had to skate. Just do it! Talk to these people who love what you love and you are guaranteed to have a good time. People are nicer than you would ever expect, and more than happy to welcome you to jam with them.

 

 

Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now

We got a real jam goin’ down

Welcome to the Space Jam

Here’s your chance, do your dance at the Space Jam, alright

Quad City Dj’s -Space Jam 

Don’t Shit Where You Eat

by Brittany Tedesco

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There are some people who can take other people’s advice and learn from their mistakes. But there are some of us who have to touch the fire and get burned to learn. I am one of those people.

From the moment I moved into my student accommodation and saw my beautiful (male) flatmates, I knew I was about to be playing with fire. All my friends told me that handy little piece of advice, “Don’t Shit Where You Eat.” And I probably should’ve listened. But when the most beautiful boy you’ve ever seen knocks on your door at three in the morning while you’re both intoxicated and says in the most beautiful British accent you’ve ever heard, “Can I kiss you?” how can you possibly say no?

After that night, I thought nothing of it. Shit happens. But I barely saw him for a while after that. Maybe he’s avoiding me, maybe things are awkward now. Until eventually we crossed each other’s paths again. And eventually he was knocking on my door again. And before I knew what was going on, he had moved into my room– toothbrush, skateboard, clothes, and all.

And still, my friends kept warning me, “You need to kick him out” and “This isn’t going to turn out well.” But I refused to listen, even though I knew they were right. He would eat all my food, use all my shampoo, hog all the blankets, and play loud music in the morning even if I was still asleep. But I was in complete denial. I enjoyed his company. And maybe it was just convenience, sure. We’d watch Netflix, hook up, and go to sleep. There was honestly nothing else that I wanted.  (I mean, have I mentioned how beautiful and British he was?)

But we were never exclusive. And we never wanted to be. Or at least he never wanted to be. And I never admitted that I wanted to be. But nothing burned worse than the night we went out to a club together, and he left with another girl instead of me. And my bed felt empty, and I couldn’t sleep. Things were always subtly awkward after that.  He still stayed over a few more times, but we both knew it had to end. His lease ended and he not only moved out of my room, but out of the apartment. And he slowly faded out of my life, so now we don’t even speak.

But I still wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I had fun with him, and sure I got hurt and used, but I had to. I couldn’t have listened to anyone else, no matter how many times they tried to warn me. So as much as I’d like to stop you from making my mistakes and tell you not to hook up with your roommates, no matter how beautiful and British they are, I know you probably won’t listen. And I don’t blame you.  But if there’s one piece of advice you should actually take, it’s this: If you want to play with fire, expect to get burnt. But don’t let that stop you. Fire is a beautiful thing. What’s worse than getting burnt is how cold you will feel when the fire goes out. But only for a little while. Only until you realize you now have the entire blanket to yourself.

Photo credit: http://blueascookiemonster.tumblr.com/post/87232338084

How (Not) to Study Abroad

by Ian Agnew

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Warning #1: Slightly less humor, slightly more advice. Buckle up, friends.

Warning #2: A lot of what I say here runs counter to many firmly-held opinions and beliefs, and maybe even those in other articles here. This is just my take on things.

I mean, obviously.

Now, I don’t know about you folks, but if I had a dollar for every article, handout, pamphlet, guidebook, bathroom stall poster, and travel/”young people” blog that I’ve come across espousing the magical wonders of studying abroad in a different country, I’d have enough money to purchase my own fleet of yachts (of course, I would only buy the first one; the rest I’d commandeer). Your college, your parents, your friends—everyone tells you what a good idea it is and how much fun you’ll have. After all, college is the best time of your life, right? What better way to spend that time than having all sorts of adventures and life-altering experiences in another culture far away from everything and everyone you know and love?

Look, I’m not going to lie to you; it’s a pretty damn good time.

BUT, there are right and wrong reasons to do it, like with most things. If you want to learn about a new country or culture and be exposed to it (and all that entails) for a semester or two, go for it. If you want to take some time away from your life back home to figure some things out about you, awesome. But if you’re primarily looking to go crazy on the sauce and bang every attractive foreign person you come across, I might suggest you go back to freshman year and rethink your choices a bit.

Still with me? Here, have a bit of a break: “A priest opens up a gym for Christians; he calls it ‘Jehovah’s Fitness.’” Nicely re-humored? Excellent; carry on.

If you’re thinking about studying abroad, you’re going to have a lot of people telling you a lot of things. My advice (since you’re clearly here to hear it) would be this:

DO NOT SIMPLY TAKE OTHERS’ ADVICE.

I realize that seems a tad (completely) contradictory, but hear me out; too often I see people telling others to, when they go abroad, “Do everything, go everywhere, never say no, go crazy at bars, do things you would never do, live dangerously, never be content with sitting around doing nothing, you must always be doing things.” Honestly, for some people that works (clearly; I’ve seen them at it), but it is by no means the ONLY way to live while abroad.

I don’t think you should actively go out of our way to “do something crazy;” if you feel like doing something crazy, then by all means, you should. But there is nothing wrong with spending a weekend in your flat, writing a story or just laying on your bed with absolutely no outside stimulation at all and just letting your mind wander and have thoughts on its own. I believe that studying abroad should not be treated as a second take on people’s freshman year at college (unless you were a completely rational human being at that point; if you were, I applaud your parents); it should be you, living your life, but in a new place and context where you get to do different and fun things. Seriously, how much fun are you having if you’re doing things just because you feel you should, as opposed to things you want to do, regardless of where you are?

I had the opportunity to go bungee jumping in Queenstown (not really; I had nowhere near enough money) but I didn’t, because I really did not want to and it is something that is way too far out of my comfort zone (also the money thing). We should be comfortable from time to time, even when studying abroad. Content and happy is a perfectly valid way to live, and don’t you let anyone try to tell you you’re wrong for living that way. If they do, I’ll Cage them so hard, they won’t pee for a year (feel free to ask me if you want to know what Caging is).

Lastly, you should not expect studying abroad to change your life/worldview forever. Sure, some people come back changed for the better (or weirder), but having some massive revelation about life or your “grand purpose” is nowhere near the norm. I think that’s a very American thing to believe; we (especially college students) believe the world outside to be so much more informed and culturally superior to our closed-minded America when, in reality, most of the world’s people behave pretty much the same way, barring language and some more efficient governmental practices. There’s no need to feel bad if, upon return home, someone asks, “Did studying in [COUNTRY NAME], y’know, change you?” and you can’t honestly answer “Yes.” You look them in the eyes (eye, if they’re that kind of pirate) and say, “No, bugger off.”

Everyone studies abroad in his or her own way; advice can hurt as much as it can help. At the end of the day, it’s got to come down to who you are as a person and what you want and need to get out of your experience. Don’t let anyone else shape how you spend your time abroad for you, not even me.

But if you do let me, be sure to cite your sources.

The List: The Untold Story Of How Many British Men I Have ACTUALLY Hooked Up With.

by Katie Sorino

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Let’s set the scene here.

It was my last night at my home school in the states. I was helping my friends pack up their things to go home for break and saying my goodbyes. Though it was only halfway through the school year, I was not coming back in the spring. I had decided to study abroad in London and was the first one out of my group of friends to do so. I was scared shitless. I had no idea how I was going to survive without my tight knit group of friends. We did everything together– ate together, got drunk together, cried together…you name it we did it together (for the most part).

Four of my closest girls had decided it would be funny to lock me in a closet before I left. They had hoped that this would make me stay, and not leave for London. But nonetheless the ticket was bought and though I was nervous, I was pretty fucking excited too. I had always pictured myself living in a big city, living a life that I had only dreamed of or seen on shows like Sex in the City. Because let’s be honest, what 20 year old girl doesn’t want to be Carrie Bradshaw?

My friends and I were trying to focus on how much fun I was going to have rather than focus on being sad about me leaving. They knew I was wild, and knew I was going to tear up London and have the time of my life. Then… we got on the topic of boys. The ‘what if’ questions started swirling around in our conversation. Eventually my friend asked, “What if you kept a hook up list while you were in London?” At first I was shocked. A LIST? Did she think I was going to lock lips with that many beautiful British men?! I thought she was out of her mind…but then I sort of didn’t. Call me crazy (or maybe just super competitive) but I wanted to see how many guys (or girls, I guess, if I was drunk enough) I could put on that list. So I packed the journal that my friend Brittany had given me, and I was on a mission.

I boarded the flight to Canada and sobbed the entire way there. I skyped my mom in Toronto, listened to her words of encouragement, and got my ass on a connecting flight to Heathrow Airport in London. I landed and it was like a dream. Something out of a Mary Kate and Ashley movie, for all you 90’s babes. To make a very long story short– I took a bus to my house, met my flat mates, and got settled in. I didn’t go to a club that first night, but I did go to a bar. First night: unsuccessful. And I was kind of pissed. Did I not look hot enough? Did I not have enough liquid courage to make moves? What the fuck was I doing wrong?

That all changed mid-week. And by changed, I mean I had added five people to the list by the end of the week. I had gone to a club called Los Locos, which wound up being my very favorite club in London. Los Locos was located in Covent Garden, in central London. I had downed three bottles of cheap wine before going out, so needless to say, I was pretty drunk. I stumbled off the tube (no, literally– I fell on the cobblestone, but got right back up like the champ that I was) and headed towards the club with some old friends that had come to London with me from my home university and my new flat mates as well. I paid to get in, immediately went downstairs, and started dancing instantly. I definitely didn’t leave my “Jersey” at home, if you know what I mean. I was talking to guys left and right and was making tons of new friends. Then: it happened. I made out with someone. All I could think of while it was happening was “HOLY SHIT, I FINALLY have someone to put on the list!” And so, the list had been christened. The sad part is I couldn’t even tell you the guys name if my life depended on it. I knew he was from America though, which was pretty disappointing. But no worries. This tale includes many other British men. After I had made out with Random #1 (as he is named on my list) four more guys quickly followed. Three American men made the list, A British guy named Connor, and Connor’s friend who was black (again, this is exactly how they are named on my list.) That makes a total of five men in one night, ladies and gentleman. Something I had only accomplished one time in the states during my visit to Rutgers University. Now, I am not saying I am proud of this. But it was my first week in London, I was bound to go a little crazy.

Some of the other names on my list included neighbors of mine such as:

  • Mitch the boy in the CAPA program poor life decision (not joking, that is how his name appears on my list)
  • Alex Henry Thomas the hot British man I kicked out of my flat at 5am
  • Strange Turkish man at Walkabout
  • Random #7 super hot guy in plaid shirt at Roxy
  • Guy I made out with at the bus stop
  • Harry Fowler the Royal Guard at Buckingham Palace (YUP THAT HAPPENED)

…. and the list goes on and on. My friends gave me a goal and I completed it. By the time the five months was up, I had kissed (or maybe done more with) over 50 people. This may seem like a lot but over the course of five months, and the amount of times I went out, it really wasn’t.

Not very many people knew about the list until now (sorry mom). But you know what? It’s my life. And I truly don’t give a shit. If you think I am a slut, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your own opinion. I’m not saying what I did was right. However, this is how I like to think of it– I had one shot at London. Five months to let go, re-create who I was, in a city with seven million people. That list even served as a sort of confidence booster for me. After a long line of bad boyfriends in the past, it was nice to meet guys that treated me well. They were not all drunk hookups or scumbags. In fact, I wound up going on dates with some of the guys I had met. Though not all of them were successful (such as the date I went on where I had to use Google Translator the entire time to attempt to make conversation in Italian), it’s still a memory I made in the city that I love. And it’s not like ALL I did while I was abroad was get drunk and find random people to hookup with. I did a lot of cultural things too. I attended Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, went to almost every museum in London, traveled to other countries and saw all the sites. I regret nothing.

As for the list…well I still have it. It is now a document on my computer. I had started it in the journal my friend had given me, but I wound up using that journal for a class so I ripped it out, typed it up and saved it to my documents. For me, it’s a memory. Since it’s in chronological order, I can very clearly recall which night was which, at what point it had happened in my trip, etc. I would update my friends as the hookups progressed but they did not see the “finished product,” we will call it, until the beginning of last May. We all got a good laugh out of it, and it gave me plenty of stories to tell. Hopefully, the same stories that I will remember when I am 80, all because I wrote it down.

Photo credit: Stephany Yanez via Creative Commons.