This gadget makes foam pandas for your at-home dining pleasure. Need. Want. Love.
This gadget makes foam pandas for your at-home dining pleasure. Need. Want. Love.
SA is all about travel… until it isn’t. After you’ve booked your destination it suddenly dawns on you that you won’t be taking this journey alone after all – a few dozens strangers are going along with you and anyone who has ever seen the Real World knows what a disaster this can be. SA roommates are similar to freshman year floor mates, there’s a ton of them and you may not like any of them. Plan early.
While still at school have a mixer, be it dinner at the school cafe or a party at your place. Getting to know your new travel companions on a basic level will ease the nerves of SA and help you plan for once you get there. With a few people to talk to the airport departure won’t seem so scary. You’ll know the people, but not too well. Not enough to dread living with someone.
Once you get there beware early talks of weekend trips. The entire apartment may want to go to Spain together but one massive lost-in-Madrid fight and it makes for an awkward semester. People on SA love to plan impromptu trips with people they barely know. No matter what you will make new friends on this trip, if you make them slowly they may even last.
We’ve all seen the movies where the love sick guy breezes through security by telling the TSA agent his tale of heartfelt woe. This is probably the most far fetched rom-com creation, security lines at airports are a frenzy of stressed out fliers and no nonsense agents. We all want to be that cool kid flier, the one who looks like they do this for a living, and the key to that is stress control AND packing like a pro.
Before you leave for the airport
Decide early if a carry-on only situation will work for you. If you’re beauty products are over-sized, your stilettos look like weapons, and the bag weighs the same as you do – you’re going to have to check. Getting through security to be pulled out and sent back into the fray is the worst, it adds tons of stress to you and other guests and if its busy you can miss your flight entirely. If you refuse to check, then you need to go minimalist in a big way.
Compartmentalize. You will have your carry-on and your purse but within these 2 permitted items you need an easy way to access your things in security and mid-flight. Laptops and tablets will need to be scanned separately in security as will liquids so these should be in an outer pocket of your carry on. Ideally, you can fit your purse into your carry-on, for ease, but if not it doesn’t matter. Your purse will hold your wallet, ID, a pen (for customs cards), cash, iPod, book, medications you may need during flight. If it can hold a water bottle after you get to your gate, bonus. I don’t wear jewellery at airports but if you do bring a small zippered bag so you can stow these items before whatever kind of body scanner your airport has. Also be sure to have a designated and extremely easily accessible zippered pocket for your ID and ticket and baggage slip (more and more you need to show this after you get your checked bag) the last thing you want is to hastily put it down somewhere and loose it right before a flight.
The TSA follows a 3-1-1 rule:
3-1-1 for carry-ons. Liquids, gels, aerosols, creams and pastes must be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less per container; must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. The bag limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring.
Now that you’ve packed like a pro, what are you going to wear?!
1. Socks – you will need socks and socks and more socks. Don’t be that person holding their Loubs and squealing because the floor is ice cold and now you’ve probably contracted a fungus. Lots of people bring plastic foot covers, I always intend to but I usually can’t be bothered to put them on. Have a thin pair of socks to wear through security and then cover them with thick cozy socks for the plane. Planes are so cold!
2. Smart shoes – It’s so hard to decide if you should save suitcase space by wearing bulky shoes or if your should wear Uggs and make security easier. Most people choose the suitcase space. Try and avoid shoes that need to be laced, or simply don’t lace them. Really anything is fine as long as you remove the shoe early so as to not hold up the front of the line and then wait to get a seat on a bench before putting them on again.
3. Keep your outfit simple – layers will all need to be removed so try and fit that blanket scarf into your carry on. Minimalist chic is best for airports because your hands will somehow always be full even without trying to hold onto your fedora.
4. Pockets must be empty going through security so I never bother with them. My purse holds all of my essentials and when I get onto the airplane I remove my purse and blanket scarf from my carry-on, plop the carry-on above me and shove my purse under the seat. I have moisturizer, lip balm, tissues, an eye mask, ear plugs, Sudafed (painkillers et al medical), music, reading materials, and water all at my fingertips. Then I go to sleep and forget about all of my carry-on essentials because once that recycled air kicks in its like Nite-quill!
I studied in London, so these are thought out based on that – but Europe is so small that this is a good list for most of the continent. You will have about 15 weekends during your SA, the first one (maybe two) should be for nesting and getting over the jet lag, about half can be well-spent getting to know your host country. I left England the first time knowing I’d seen Europe and England but maybe not so much of London. This leaves you with 7 weekend trips to plan (and a spring break if you go second semester ;).
1. Belgium – Brugee has great food, is cheap, and easily accessible. You can fly Ryanair and Easyjet cheap or use your rail pass. This is a fun city to lounge around and eat.
2. London & 3. Paris – these two are a bit obvious, but much more expensive. Trips are easy and touristy, filled with photo ops but can also be romantic and memorable.
4. Florence – I haven’t made it here yet, but it is a shopping mecca so visit early when you still have some money.
5. Rome – Vatican City, Naples, and Pompeii are all a stones throw from Rome so you can get travel bang for your buck here.
6. Dubrovnik, Croatia or Slovenia – this is best in the warmer months when you can swim (really what it’s all about) and party and hike. In the winter try Stockholm, Sweden to get into the early holiday spirit.
7. Morocco – This trip is best with a guide (everyone I know who has gone has been glad to have a guard/translator by their side) which puts some travelers off. If you’re not bothered, the city has great shopping and will give you an impression of life beyond North America and Europe. If this sounds too stressful try Budapest, Hungary or Prague, Czech Republic. These cities are artsy and down to party. (Prague has great jewelery shopping).
Should you have a spring break you can get really wild.
I chose to spend a week and a half in Greece, which got interesting since we were off-season and the boats stopped running, leaving us stranded on Crete. It was great fun and I got to know my destination well. Many people visit Italy or Turkey on their extended breaks because those countries have multiple cities or in-country flights for a complete tour (there are lots of great places in most countries, especially France, but tough choices must be made). Another option is to try and venture into Asia. This is EXPENSIVE. Odds are you will get plenty of Europeans who are so used to popping over to Paris for the weekend that they will scoff at the fact that you haven’t traveled Asia. A Londoner co-worker I had traveled most of Europe as a child, back-backed Asia in her GAP year, traveled Africa the summer after Freshman year, moved to Australia the summer after Sophomore year and did the same for North and South/Central America in following years. She was 30 and had nowhere on her bucket list. This is a mind-blowing extreme but it goes to show that Europeans have a different idea of travel. India and South East Asia are the cheapest Asian destinations from Europe (Morocco and Egypt are pretty cheap too) and STA has offices all over the place to help you plan. If this is something you’re interested in (or if you’re going to stay through the summer to travel) look in what vaccinations you can get ahead of time. If you get the vaccinations abroad call your doctor in the USA to make sure you have met ALL requirements. Also bear in mind these shots can run you up to a grand. ANY YES THEY’RE NECESSARY 🙂
The Urban Decay Vice Palette 3 came out a few weeks ago and tbh I hadn’t heard of Vice 1 or 2, so my excitement was akin to a kittens purr. Then I saw Piinksparkles haul it and I really liked the colors – sonic in particular. YouTube offers plenty of swatch videos and a few tutorials and after watching all of those I decided this was the only color eye palette I would need for the rest of my life and I ordered it (I have a neutral matte Tarte palette for nude looks). I’m a lipstick addict so I don’t usually use a ton of shadow.
Brand: Urban Decay
Product: Vice palette
Hope: to quickly apply bright colors in the morning/ to add color into my shadow routine without looking odd
First impressions: “it’s so big!” “The cosmetic pouch fabric isn’t as nice as I expected” “pretty pretty pretty”
First impressions: The brush is lovely. The colors are as pictured and the color pay off is excellent. Nothing is overly shimmery so I can wear this to the office. There are a plethora of shades in here and as a pale pinky faced dark haired American they all suit me well.
DTF – purpley taupe
Downfall peachy taupe
Undone pink suede
Truth barely there baby pink
Dragon grass green metallic
Freeze darkened ice blue glitter
Heroine navy blue
Broke down brown glitter
Vanity butterfly wing purple sheen
Lucky penny sheen
Bobby dazzle barely there metallic white highlight /glitter
Alien hot pink sheen
Alchemy reddened pink sheen
Bondage blackened purple glitter
Sonic red pink sheen
Last sin barely there pink metallic highlight/glitter
Angel barely there grey glitter
Defy purpley dark grey
Revolver metallic silver dark grey sheen
Final verdict: I love this palette but I would certainly say these are all crease colors. The are hyper pigmented and for a work day they need to be toned down with neutrals that this palette doesn’t include. Of course it’s called Vice so I don’t think “work-appropriate” was what they were going for. For a night out this palette is awesome.
Did it work: yes
*Unsponsored, my money, my opinions.
While in London I came to a few shoulda coulda woulda realizations, mostly about packing. In fact packing is the number one thing I get asked about by people wanting to study abroad and it is treacherous terrain. Some of my discoveries:
Most of the clothing I brought with me on SA would not come home again.
Everyone has a major style shift while SA maybe because it’s a new culture maybe because you’re off campus and feel the need to step up your street style game and maybe, depending on the program, it’s because you are bouncing between school and work and need to look put together. Either way you do a lot of shopping and with the exception of a massive down jacket that was cheaper state-side I’m glad I didn’t buy much clothing before going abroad I did tons of shopping there.
Contact solution is expensive, especially in a national health care country. In England you can get cheap contact solution through your doctor and you can get fairly expensive cleanser at the drugstore but when it comes to clean eye balls you don’t wanna mess around. Buying my usual brand was more than double the price so I had a visiting friend being me a years supply from Target.
You regret the trips you didn’t take not the ones you do. This one has a major caveat – don’t spend money you don’t have. Student loans being what they are I wouldn’t take more than I needed to just for a trip, with interest I’d be paying way more for the trip than I should AND I can always take it later. Also if you don’t feel comfortable visiting a country for political or safety reasons – don’t feel like you have to. There is no rule that during SA you need to jump out of your comfort zone and embrace danger (although it sort of feels like there is). Those tidbits aside, I remember being asked to go to Morocco and not going because of cost and in the end I had the money or maybe could have skipped a few Primark trips. Once you’re on SA the options become a bit overwhelming and I wished I had actually written down the top 10 places near my SA destination that I wanted to go, before I was actually packing.
The first weekend has so much opportunity it is hard to imagine doing anything other than making memories. The problem is you’re jet-lagged and unfamiliar with your terrain.
I remember well the hazy Friday morning I woke up, looked at the clock, and croaked to my roommate “the train leaves in 3 minutes.” We didn’t make that train (apparently we could have just hopped the next one). We were exhausted, overwhelmed, and under-informed.
The first weekend is the perfect time to nest. Find some free advertisements around town and hang them as posters in your room. Spend a little money on bedding, those dorm beds are rocks, and get a few cleaning supplies (especially laundry & dish detergent). While doing these hum-drum chores, poke around your neighborhood and your school’s neighborhood to find the best commute, a good lunch place, a place with decent coffee – all the things you will need. It’s also not a bad idea to find things like Starbucks, Friday’s, McDonalds, and the local American ex-pat bar. Don’t sniff at it just yet! A few weeks in you’ll hit you’re limit of new experiences and a little trip to America will be just what you need.
Starting off with a weekend of sleeping and exploring will set you up for future weekends where you get off a plane at 7am Monday and you still make your 10am lecture. A slow weekend also gives you time to plan the weekend after. I found that for the first 2 years of college all my friends and I talked about were the weekend trips we were going to take during SA, then we began to apply, got accepted, and planning those trips seemed like nothing but stress. Of course once we had a few of our pressing questions answered (Who’s my roommate? Where’s my flat? What courses did I get? Will I get homesick? – For me it was 1. a great friend, 2. South Kensington aka royal digs 3. Great courses, a ton of work 4. not really ;)…
Unpacking and getting ready for school is great and you can also meet other SA students who crop up in your classes. My program involved a dozen schools and we were connected to a local University. Two of my favorite people came from a school hundreds of miles away.