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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The good, the bad, & the ugly {online shopping review}

It's that time of the year again- boredom between classes and procrastination in the lib turns into online shopping and Instagram boutique stalking. I get asked about cheap sketchy clothing sites a lot & wanted to give alternate options for trendy items at cheap prices that won't rob you of your credit card number or dignity.

Say no to:

  1. Romwe 
  2. Choies
  3. RoseGal
  4. DressLily
  5. Zaful
  6. Sammy Dress
  7. Tide Buy
If you need further reason look at this buzzfeed article or just google the name of the site for reviews.. it's not worth saving money when you get something that isn't even close to what you ordered.

Legit alternatives:
  1. Tautmun Love this trendy site! They don't restock often though so buy something fast when you like it. 
  2. Make me chic Wait for sale days to get the best deals, free shipping over $29. Offer a lot of great trendy shoes (same brands that boutiques carry) for a lot a lot less. 
  3. Boohoo Wait for the 40% off days, they happen frequently!
  4. Lucy in the sky Pro = cheap cheap & frequently features popular boutique items Con = ALL sizes go fast so get it fast if you love something!!
  5. Necessary clothing 20% student discount through unidays 
  6. Sophie and trey Free shipping
  7. 2020Ave 10% student discount through unidays, cheap 2 day shipping!
  8. Jacoy threads Offers boutique items 20% or more lower than boutique prices, items go fast so follow them on social media and request notifications for when they post. I linked to their Facebook above, but they are also on Instagram. They send you an invoice via email so having paypal is a plus.
  9. Shoptiques Dor L'dor is my favorite boutique featured on this site, but they feature boutiques from all over the nation on one site. The best part is you can shop at different boutiques and only pay shipping once for orders under $100, over $100 and it's free!!
  10. Lookbook Store Sizing here can be strange so watch out! These items come from the same wholesaler as items found at popular Australian boutiques. Probably the sketchiest site I shop at and I don't too frequently- returns are also difficult so proceed at your own risk. :)

Some of my favorite boutiques:
  1. Hazel & Olive Love love their fast free shipping & competitive pricing. Very good about restocking and carrying a lot of smaller sizes. Moderately price and great quality. They also have awesome flash sales if you follow them on social media!
  2. Effin shop Simplistic bohemian styles, 15% off for students. Things go out of stock quickly (are y'all sensing a theme yet??). Planning on ordering a lot of fall basics from here!
  3. Vici This site rarely restocks so grab items when they come in. They're a little pricier than most, but it's refreshing to see new items that aren't sold at the same boutique over and over and over. They rarely have sales, but their item of the day section is gold! Obsessed is an understatement.
  4. Piper & Scoot This is a more conservative clothing boutique, but their items are unusual and interesting. I love looking here for items that I know other people won't have mainstream. Plus the instagram account is super personal & fun to see posts from & the owner's daughter (Piper) will become your baby goals. 
  5. Matilda Muse Downside = this boutique is only on instagram and they have been "working" on their website for what seems like eternity. Upside = you can still order by screenshot + text combo (which is scarily easier than going online and typing CC info in) and you will want every single thing they post.. guaranteed. Very free people/anthro-esque!
  6. Bohme I'm new to bohme, but so far I'm hooked. I love the trendy styles that are mixed in with classic pieces. I know they're trying to make their own unique aesthetic with having all the clothes and hangers and not models, but I think that it downplays the clothes and almost doesn't give them justice. I like seeing what it looks like on a human.. but the styles are really awesome. 
  7. Roolee Very similar and almost identical to Bohme.. but I love 'em! Minus the hanger thing.
  8. Stevie Hender I recently followed this boutique & love the simplistic pieces you can mix in match to build your wardrobe. The owner, Stevie, is a well known blogger and showcases new ideas for outfits as well.
  9. Hallelu I have only ordered a few times from this boutique, but I really love seeing the unique pieces they carry! Their local jewelry lines are also really refreshing. 
  10. Oxford Trunk Great pieces at competitive price points! Love the variation of styles they carry, however their selection is pretty limited overall.
  11. Spool 72 This site features a ton of viral looks you see on Pinterest. My dress pictured below is from here that I wore in Greece. Overall, their items look extremely pretty on the site, but sometimes the photos make them look better than reality. That being said I definitely love to shop here! Small sizes go fast. Sales here will rarely happen on regular priced items. BUT you can catch off season clothing in the sale section for really reasonable prices. 
  12. Shop hearts Somewhat same story here as Spool no 72. I have to say that I personally have never ordered from here because I always end up adding $500 worth of clothes to my cart, getting overwhelmed, and closing the tab. I do love their clothes here though! Their pricing tends to be a little high. They aren't the greatest at updating their social media with new arrivals so you really have to stalk them if you want to know when they have new items. They carry super cute swimwear in summer! Looking for sales? You won't find them here.
  13. Shop Mesh  This site is great for fancier dresses! I love that they have similar items to Australian boutiques, but are located in the USA. They never have sales though, so don't hold your breath.
  14. Foi Clothing  Overpriced is their middle name, but their items are always 10/10. 
  15. Dottie Couture This boutique is very 50/50. I either love or hate the items they have. They tend to carry some strange basic tees in polka dot and floral patterns as well as completely random sweatshirt dresses etc.. but they are worth following for those few items that come along that are unique and cute. Plus new arrivals are 10% off!
  16. Heart Swoon I think this boutique overprices way too often, and I personally unfollowed them because of it. But if you're willing to dish out a few extra dollars you can find some really cute pieces. 
  17. Princess Polly Don't judge this store by its name- this is one of my favorite Australian boutiques! I love their unique items and styles. 

In other news, I don't particularly like this store, but SohoGirl currently has the moto pants every boutique is overpricing and freaking out over for less than $30 with the sale they're currently running. Find them here.

I recently found that sale sections at Hollister and Abercrombie have been stocked with great staples as well. Since rebranding, these stores really do have cute clothing at affordable prices. 

A great hack for finding something when it is sold out on boutiques/overpriced is to located the item number or brand name in the description and search it on google, amazon, and ebay. Chances are there is either a store that sells it cheaper or a wholesaler has it listed on amazon or ebay. You'll save a couple dollars and also have a strange sense of shopping satisfaction. 

Hope y'all find at least one new fave store from this list!! Happy shopping.


Feat. my fave dress ever from Spool 72! It's available here in all sizes & under $50.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

4,455 miles {florence files}

Over 4,000 miles away my family, parents, and friends are going on with their everyday lives in different time zones in a different country on a different continent.

Over 120 days away from people that contribute so much to every aspect of my life on a daily basis.

With 1 full day left until some sweet long lived reunions in Europe and 25 until some more real deal ones in America, there's something to be said for having four months abroad to yourself.

Long distance is hard, but abroad distance is a new trial in every way. There's something to be said for having something that is 100% your own. I share my hometown with my parents. I share my college with my friends, but right now, in this moment Florence is mine and only mine.

You can't always have absolutely everything in common with people you care about. You need differentiation. Something that makes you you-er than you. Something that people associate you with, that credit you with, that look up to you about.

To me it's like having a competitive advantage in a business. Without a competitive advantage your business blends into to everything else that surrounds it. If I've learned anything while being here it's that people, like businesses, need competitive advantages too.

There is nothing that forces you into being yourself more than being forced away from everything you know and are comfortable with. Especially when you put yourself into that uncomfortable situation by choice and not actually by force. There's a comforting feeling in knowing that I did this on my own and that I made it out completely fine or even better than when I began my time here.

It takes some people their whole lives to acknowledge their own adequacy, and some are never lucky enough to have that enlightening moment. I couldn't ask for anything more than to start out my 20's knowing that I am capable and enough on my own. I've known that for awhile, or rather had it in the back of my head. But as independent as I've always been, I still need that occasional kick of confidence to feel or do something a certain way.

When you're young, there's a good chance you are the only person holding yourself back. I know that I am by far the hardest person on myself. Giving yourself credit for what you do and can accomplish only happens when you throw away your crutch, security blanket, comfort zone- whatever you want to call it.

It's not selfish- it's distance. And distance can do more for you than quotes on the wall and philosophy classes.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Victoria's Secret new juicy secret

I'm sure by now you've heard about Victoria's Secret so called "swimwear shut down." L brands, the company that owns VS, announced that it will no longer be carrying swimwear after this season.

I'm not writing this to complain as a customer- I'm writing this to explain how terrible of a business decision this is. To clarify- this is a rumored decision. However, after a few hundred articles have been written, Victoria's Secret is keeping its mouth shut which means one of 2 things-

  1. It's fake and it's a PR stunt to increase sales
  2. It's actually happening and they've been advised to not discuss it yet by their mother company L Brands

I'm not saying I can see all sides of this issue. However, some things about Victoria Secret lately could have been handled better and absolutely and inexcusably should have been.

Probably the biggest problem with Victoria's Secret is that a 20 year old sophomore marketing major can decode their laziness and the true root of their so called 'problem.'

They didn't change to what the customer wanted- REAL models. 

While competitor Aerie switched to a more realistic lineup of models- Victoria's Secret didn't bat an eye. The same long legged beauties graced the website and magazines this season that have in seasons past. Nothing is wrong with a size 0 5'9 model with 32c's.. except when you only have those models in a changing market. Clothing companies are changing to be more realistic. The average woman's size in the USA is a size 8-10. When you market to people with people that aren't their size it makes it harder for a consumer to imagine what they might look like. Negative comments on Victoria Secret's site feature customer's telling the brand just that- "model doesn't show true fit" "doesn't look how I expected" "not as pictured" .. so a company worth almost 7 billion dollars is shying away from these comments to maintain an image everyone EXCEPT their company is 100% over.

It's 2016,  a size 0 or a size 22 every single woman is beautiful in her own way- and every clothing company (that is listening to its customers) has agreed with this too. This lack of change is offensive and it absolutely should be taken that way. Online boutique Dainty Hooligan was recently in the news after an employee quit for being body shammed. Customers were furious and the article went viral on sites like Refinery29 and other news sources. The consequences are real- Victoria's Secret is just too stubborn. News flash- no one likes Victoria's Secret enough to subject themselves to be body shammed to fit THEIR ideal model image. 

In this day and age you do not want your company to be labeled as a company that is not diverse. It's not a good look. *shrugs*

They produce subpar quality swimwear products in comparison to their bras/underwear. 

When you buy a Victoria's Secret bra, a $50-$100 bra, expect to have it for 5 or more years if you wash and take care of it properly. The quality is five star- top tier and consistent. With their swimwear they are absolutely lacking. Instead they focus their attention on copying brands like Triangl instead of producing quality products. They focus on quantity over quality when it comes to swimwear. Here's a suggestion- make 10 bathing suits instead of 100 different ones and make them last a lifetime.

I can see why they don't- they want people to come back and buy more. They want it to become a necessity. The problem is when your quality and price don't match up your consumer will NOT be loyal in the long run. Customer loyalty is absolutely everything!!! Which conveniently leads me to my next point...

Their pricing is all kinds of jacked up.

If a buy a $110 Triangl bikini it is neoprene and comes in a cute little bag and matte black box. It's a status symbol, it's cool, it's trendy. Victoria's Secret has SERIOUS competition in the price bracket they're trying to fit in. Hmmm buy a slightly crappy VS bikini for $100 or a trendy Triangl bikini that fits like a glove for $110.. the choice is easy and it's why VS has reportedly lost hundreds of millions in the last 2 years from their swimwear lines. 

Frankie's bikinis, Lspace swim, and Triangl are top competitors just to name a few. These companies provide unreal customer service including customized styling and attentiveness. Their customers feel like they matter- something you don't feel with overpriced VS shipping, plastic bags that might as well be sandwich bags your items arrive in, & irregular sizing. 

If they fell to a more reasonable bracket, price wise the quality would be acceptable. Stop trying to make a crappy product seem like a luxe item with subpar promotions and the whole "$44.99" psychological pricing deal- I'm over it. 

Promote wiser. 

People WAIT for the day a Victoria Secret coupon comes in the mail before stepping foot in a store. They've come to expect it. We know about the semi annual sales and that swimwear goes on sale almost always by July. Mix it up.. surprise your customers for once in your life and do something new. Overdoing the same promotions is just as bad as not promoting at all.

They have no logical solution. 

The only solution that has been rumored is that the swimwear line will come back, but only under Pink, VS's junior line, instead of Victoria Secret. Here's the issue- is your average 25 year old college student or 30 year old mom going to want to buy from a juniors line??? Maybe so. But most consumers will not cross into the pink filled, glittery, white heart ridden side of Victoria's Secret better known as "Pink" just to buy a swimsuit. It's also confusing to customers when a product disappears and then magically reappears a few months or years later. 

Be real with yourself..

VS reportedly wants to focus on their strengths: Pink, lingerie, and beauty. Wait.. I'm sorry. Do you actually think your beauty line is impressive? Sure, in most middle school locker rooms "love spell" body spray is being sprayed.. and someone almost every minute falls victim to those perfectly placed stands with cheap mini sprays and glosses. But, apart from getting excited about VS body spray as stocking stuffers, your beauty line is subpar at best. Besides perfume and lotion what do you really have to offer? 

Here are your real "strengths"... better known as opportunities now since you've successfully killed off most of your strengths.

You have a captive audience- make a move and make it impressive. 
You have a chance to change the way women look at Victoria's Secret- diversify and include women models of all sizes. Make women that didn't feel comfortable at your store before feel welcome. Close the wounds and stop pouring salt into them.
You still have control of your market- don't make the new generation hate you by not changing to the new and improved inclusive market. 

Act like the impressive company you're 'known' to be.

You can't set star studded glamorous standards and then not live up to them. Practice what you preach.

Stop getting in the press for stupid things like former model Erin Heatherton coming forward about the conditions and pretenses under which she worked as an angel. (full article here).

You have the chance to set precedent and STILL somehow control the market. You're a monopoly right now, act like you have experience in that position.

The bottom line-
THE SWIMWEAR LINE COULD 100% BE PROFITABLE. Swimwear could take VS from a 7 billion dollar company to a 10 billion dollar company with the right quality standards, pricing, and marketing. But, if they stick in their ways all their ghosts of pretty VS past are going to come out and come out fast.

Overall, this new 'problem' could have been fixed. I'm not saying it wouldn't cost time or money, but the world is changing and Victoria's Secret is not changing with it. If they aren't careful their swimwear line won't be the only thing that isn't profitable anymore- they're spinning a twisted web for themselves.

I used to love you Victoria's Secret, but your new secrets are just a little too much.

**I wrote this after reading multiple articles about VS finances, history, and future standings. I'm not claiming to be an expert or bash their brand- I truly believe and want for them to take this opportunity and really change the lingerie and swimwear markets by diversifying and rebranding their swimwear line. Giving up is just not the right answer in this instance in my personal opinion. They have the resources and finances necessary to make this problem an opportunity.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

'home' and college and real life {florence files}

31 days left in this beautiful place that's just starting to feel like home. Three months have flown by painlessly and without regard. Four days of classes followed by 3 days of traveling has played on repeat for what seems like most of my time here. 6 out of 11 countries down and more hours on public transportation that I care to remember, I'm still not feeling those home sickness pangs. Because the things I miss about home are things I would miss even if I was at college in Clemson. My big marshmallow queen size bed with fluffy pillows, waking up to my cute lil lab puppy licking my face, and my mom's cooking. Going away to college made me realize how good of a cook my mom is- sad realities. 8 hours away from home is not a weekend type of trip. It's a painful drive I avoid making unless there's no way around it- shoutout to my dad for the flights home for the holidays. I make it home 3-4 times a year from Clemson, so this long stretch of 4 months away from 'home' should've been a harder than it was.

The thing is, the concept of 'home' changes when you go to college. Freshman year it was like leading 2 separate lives- not chic and very clunky. Keeping up with the new and the old was exhausting and felt like more of something that I had to do than what I wanted to do. But, after the first semester, you shave a few friends off the list. And come spring, you don't find yourself missing them. Then finals week rolls around, and instead of being absolutely giddy to get home to everything old and familiar- you're finally happy right where you are in your little college bubble. And then comes the dangerous reference to your college as home moment. At least my mom didn't cry when it slipped the first time.

Even though I'm not the biggest fan of Virginia, going back to a town where I've lived most of my whole life (18 years to be exact) is something that's always refreshing. Yes- as soulless as I seem about Fredericksburg, a weekend or so every now and then is just what I need to remind me I'm bigger and better than the city I left behind. And I'm always happy to leave- always. (You didn't actually think me referring to good ole fredvegas was going to end nicely did you? Bless.)

OF COURSE I miss my dog and my mom and my dad. I miss my bed and my big walk in closet that has exploded into a chaotic mess since college. I miss driving my cute little gray car full of bumper stickers and yankee candle smell goods down the backroads to my house and going to my favorite restaurants and limited selection of decently cute stores in town. I miss going to the farmer's market with my mom every Saturday and always convincing her to buy me some type of flower or soap or something.

But it's not the place that makes it home- it's the people and the things. Move all those features about Fredericksburg to Clemson and I would never leave.

Well, so I thought. Until I spent a semester in Florence. It took awhile, but after coming back from 10 days in Greece's beautiful euphoric presence I was overjoyed to make it back to the train station in Florence and know exactly where I was. It finally felt like home- what an absolutely absurd feeling in a city that's not even close to being the same country you grew up in.

I'm 20, I'm about to be a junior in college, I'm from Virginia, go to Clemson University, and spent a semester in Florence- and all 3 feel just as much like home as the others.

Here's why:

Your first home, your childhood home will always be home to you as much as you try to hate it (like me). I think the only reason I probably managed to salvage my relationship with my hometown was because I left. I hated it so much I never wanted to look back. Kinda like angsty middle schoolers and how they feel about their parents. :) But, with time, I could appreciate it at least a little. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the day I move back, but it's where a crap ton of good and bad memories happened. All that led me to my next home- Clem.

College is weird in the way that it just smacks you in the face. For me, I felt at home from the beginning. I always compare Clemson to trying on a wedding dress and knowing it's 'the one.' Even though I have yet to do that, I imagine that's what it'd be like, or even better. Because when you're on your own, truly on your own, not just home alone for a weekend while your parents travel to celebrate their anniversary, you make friends and experiences that shape that place into home. No one  can say they didn't change at least slightly in college- for me it was more than slightly. When you credit a place with changing you, you can't help but be appreciative for the place that made that happen. All that led me to my next home- Florence.

Studying abroad is a strange experience, because in my fourth semester of college I felt like I was starting over again. New housing, no friends, new city, and on top of that new country. Imagine getting a fresh start from college.. at another college. Like transferring, but not, because you'll be going back. It was weird trying to still act like a Clemson student when I wasn't. At least not for the semester. Clemson wasn't the greatest host for their study abroad students, which I hated them for at first, but now I'm ok with, because it gave me the freedom to love my college in Florence, Lorenzo de Medici, just as much as Clemson. It also gave me the 'small college experience' which I learned to appreciate, but have learned I definitely prefer a bigger college feel. Small classes sometimes of just 9 other students (yes.....) can't compare to the 600 person lecture I had fall semester. Florence made me give up the sense of anonymity as a college student that I jumped onto at Clem. Professors had the power to call me out in class- by name. They remembered if I didn't make it to class and always took attendance and I couldn't hide from them if I saw them in public- ciao. :---) It was a much needed wakeup call that I didn't know I needed. I was becoming independent to the point of self destruction at Clemson. I always made an effort to know the professors I liked, but, I surely didn't give a crap if it was my math professor. Most notably, the Italian way of always being relaxed always and about everything made college so much more enjoyable. I was forced to realize that even though I love Clemson, it's not the only college I can be happy at- which for someone who was set on Clemson since 16 hit hard. Besides college logistics, being abroad matures your relationships faster than you can keep track of. I finally feel like I have adult relationships because keeping in touch with people with travel, time change, and different life schedules is a feat. Florence was a blessing because it showed me things about my life I didn't even know I wanted to change.

You could be sappy and say the progression of my 'homes' have moved from: who I was, who I am, and who I want to be- respectively. But it wasn't a sudden force or a day that made me realize that all of these places were home now. Slowly and gently it just happened- like anything meant to be the pieces fell together perfectly and the realization was there when the dust settled.

I'm sad to leave this new home, but excited to go home for summer and then to my other home in August for fall semester. Clemson made me miss Virginia, and Virginia made me miss Clemson. Florence made me miss Clemson, but I know both Virginia & Clemson will make me miss Florence.

Just home, college, and real life things.


PS me in Flo town ----->

Monday, March 7, 2016

"The carousel never stops turning.." {florence files}

“The carousel never stops turning…” repeated over in my head, as I passed what I didn’t know at the time was Piazza della Repubblica for the first time. As one of my first sights of Florence, it’s maintained a place in both my heart and head as what this city has grown to mean to me. Life, work, youth, innocence, adventure, culture, and beauty are splashed across this square in a matter of fact, yet effortless fashion. Like most things in Florence, it’s possible to discover a new beautiful sight after every corner. The sense of adventure, of encouraging exploration, and of independence is inherent to the city’s core existence.

In the culturally rich and historic centers of the city, it’s easy to find glimpses of frivolousness and spontaneity. The carousel in the square represents the Italian love for life. It’s so common to find carousels at home in malls and amusement parks, but to stumble across one in a busy square? That’s not common at all- you could go as far as to say it’s not American. Americans tend to squeeze adventure and spontaneity into small, forced, and acceptable locations. Whether it’s an amusement park, mall carousel, playground, or beach vacation we only allot a certain amount of time in our lives for preapproved ‘fun.’ I never realized this until coming to Florence, because, for me, it was all that I grew up knowing.

My love of Florence, and this square in particular, comes from the way that the people go about life. Instead of parading around cautiously waiting for the right time to adventure and explore the Florentines attack life in a purposeful way. Life, like most things here, is an event and an experience. Here, life is constant. There seems to be no roadblocks whether it is work, family, or money related when it comes to new experiences. The Florentines carousel is life; it is a constant and directed movement of experiencing everything around them. At home, a carousel is distraction; it is preapproved, premade, and accounts for short-term happiness.

I suppose it would be easier to appreciate the carousel for exactly what it is- a carousel. But for me, it’s a tangible item that contrasts the differences between the culture I grew up with and the culture I’m immersing myself in. The only question left is- when will I choose to get off the carousel?


PS more bday weekend pictures here on my VSCO

Thursday, February 25, 2016

10 days till 20

I have approximately 10 days and counting to be as reckless as possible during what I have left of my so called 'teen' years. Coming over to Europe and having to constantly have the 'omg you're 19?! but you don't look 19' conversation has obviously gotten old. Being a teenager, age wise, isn't what I'll miss about being a teenager, but rather the things I managed to do in the last 2 years of being a 'teenager' in college.

I was extremely ready, mentally and emotionally, for college. Whenever people would ask my mom if she was worried about me, she'd say, "No, she's ready. She's been ready." And she was absolutely right. Being independent and driven in high school doesn't really mix. You're constantly told to have dreams and aspirations, but to put them in a box until you're 'grown up' and it's the 'right time.' I was tired of being told I had to wait to do things- that I wasn't ready- that I would understand 'one day.' What people didn't realize is that I was ready, I had been ready. I was ready for something bigger and better and more conducive to being on my own.

When senior year hit, growing pains were imminent. I wished away every second of that year, and only dreamed of college. I didn't take in my last homecoming, sucky football season, or last AP classes. I didn't care that high school was ending and I didn't care that I would be going over 8 hours away to college. All I cared about was leaving.

After graduation, I hit the ground running.

Every single thing anyone had told me I couldn't or wouldn't do became first on my priority list. At the time I had no idea it was even happening. It's not like I sat in my dorm room at night and analyzed my progress since high school. But, looking back on it now, I was one hell of a teenager.

There's something to be said for having to experience adult things on your own when you aren't really an adult. Going to college when you're 18/19 is one of the strangest experiences because you're basically forced into fake adulthood. I didn't know a soul at Clemson. I had done my laundry on my own since middle school, but that was about all I had going for me. I didn't drink in high school, no serious boyfriends, and no extremely wild child moments.. straight and narrow and focused.

I guess straight and narrow did me well, because I landed at my dream school (go tigers). And my freshman year I had the pleasure of experiencing everything everyone that goes to college will understand.

Crying on the phone with my mom because I had strep and felt like the life had been sucked out of me. Dealing with the ghosts of relationships past. Realizing that college guys are no better than high school guys, there's just more of a selection. Finally cutting people out of my life that held me back. Losing crappy friends and replacing them with even better ones. Going to every free event I ever heard about (even when it was an indoor cookout lol). Experiencing dining hall food and finally realizing my mom was a good cook. College making me miss home, and home making me miss college. Learning that college football will make anyone a football fan. That first Christmas break where I expected everything to go back to how it was in high school, except everyone had new lives, better lives, and instead I learned that 'home' means family, not friends. That college friends and high school friends are completely different and that keeping up long distance friendships is no joke. Sometimes looking out for yourself, and only yourself, is the best and only option you have. What everyone else is doing is not necessarily what's best for you and your life. And, most importantly, you should always do what's best for you and your life. You're a teenager- be selfish, you're creating your life and for that you answer to no one but you.

After the basics were over, things got real- fast.

Fighting for what I wanted became the epitome of fall 2015. I did everything possible to keep my life intact and functional. I cut more people off. More specifically, I realized that blocking someone on social media isn't immature. It gives you the power to push someone out of your life when they don't have the common sense and maturity to walk away themselves. I stopped fighting for people that didn't want to stay in my life and I stopped mourning the people that walked out of my life too easily without realizing what they were losing on the way. I pulled the people I cared about closer to me. I learned to value someone when they were loyal, trustworthy, and honest. I learned life doesn't wait for anyone, and things go on regardless of if you're okay with them or not. I bought plane tickets home, not because I was homesick, but because after 19 years I finally valued my parents relationship and genuinely missed them. I stopped giving third and fourth chances to people that barely deserved them and gave second chances to deserving people instead. I stopped answering 'I miss you' texts from the people that decided to feel guilt years after they originally hurt me. I started valuing what people brought to my life while they were there rather than what they took from me when they left. I accepted my sorority sisters as the amazing people that they are- and took steps to make uninformed people more open to greek life. I spoke out about domestic violence and started speaking more frequently about women's rights. I took political quizzes, watched debates, and didn't fall into the 'I'm voting for blah blah because my parents are' trap. I closed a business I put a year and a half of my life into because I didn't love it anymore. I booked my flight to Italy and decided to spend spring semester abroad. I looked at my savings account and realized that I would rather spend whatever I could afford on experiences, on travel, on everything I always wanted to than anything material/tactile.

Some painfully hard realizations, breakups, and makeups later- life wasn't high school anymore. There's something so innocent about coming to college, then being able to look back and laugh at yourself and all the expectations you had. I thought I was an adult coming to college, but I had no idea what I was in for.

Being abroad has been eye opening, but coming here I was already the best possible version of myself. There's something to be said for becoming more of who you already are, but there's even more to be said for becoming that person in the first place. So thank you- to my parents, to my friends, and to Clemson University for making me who I am now in this moment.

So here's to you 20- you have a hell of a woman coming for you. I hope you're ready.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Prague on da blog {Florence Files}


Shelby and I left Thursday for an amazing weekend trip to Prague through Bus2alps. I honestly thought Prague was its own country until about a month ago, so needless to say I had no idea what I was getting into. I somehow managed to fit everything into a backpack and small tote (mom are you proud??) We left around 9PM on a coach bus with over 100 American students. The bus ride was 100% the worst part of the entire weekend, as I expected. 12 hours one way was brutal, going wasn’t too bad since I actually slept for most of it and I was so excited for my first big trip! We stopped at a gas station for a snack, which was probably the most chaotic thing I’ve ever attempted to do at 2 am with a crowd of 100+ people in a teeny tiny space. PowerAde and an Italian lunchable later (literally bread crackers, salami, and mozzarella- if I wasn’t so tired at the time I would’ve taken a picture) we were back on the road.

We got to the hostel around 9 Friday morning and had a couple hours to freshen up. The hostel was SO much nicer than any of us were expecting (it’s the Czech Inn- it’s a great great place!). It was honestly more like a 4 star hotel, just with bunk beds. The showers were huge and open and modern.. the windows were massive and the pillows took up half of the bed. We actually had to leave our personal pillows on the bus because apparently they have an issue with people stealing their pillows because they’re so nice (LOL). We had a super Euro breakfast (yogurt, cereal, & bread), but the crepes, eggs, and sausage stole the show.

At 12 we met up with our tour guide and started our walking tour. I usually hate walking tours and was dreading it to be honest, but Isaac (our tour guide) is easily my favorite human ever. He was vulgar, sarcastic, and made crude jokes, but he also knew what he was talking about. I actually learned a ton on the tour and love that I know a decent amount about Prague now. If it wasn’t for taking that tour I would’ve walked around, stared at pretty buildings, said “cool” and kept going. Traveling is pretty meaningless if you don’t take the opportunity to learn about where you are. If that’s you, save the money and go to bars at home. It doesn’t make sense, but I’ve seen a lot of people that do this. They come on tours and leave early or text the entire time and it is completely pointless to me. Stop acting like a millennial. If I paid for it, I’m going to go and I’m going to do everything on my end to love every moment of it.

The buildings in Prague were undeniably beautiful and it was interesting to see buildings from the communist era directly by old and historic gems. It was a true representation of what the city/country had been through and how far they  have come from those days. I was extremely grateful to have a little bit of Americana around every corner.. Starbucks, McDonalds, and Subway to name a few. Also, KFC is apparently super popular in Prague? I have no clue why, but more power to them. I legitimately ran from the tour to Starbucks when we got a break. I had a pistachio rose coffee (totes not a thing back home and it was the strangest thing I’ve ever tasted).. I can’t begin to describe the flavor of that coffee, but I didn’t want to be basic and get a caramel macchiato so shrugs. It was also 119 koruna (Czech money pronounced crown, but I called it corona the whole weekend it’s fine really) which is about $6 so I cried a little, but totally worth it.

Getting back home after the tour took every inch of logic. Let me just say that your 5 years of Spanish or 3 years of high school French will absolutely not help you decipher Czech.. It’s a language that I can’t even imagine learning if you didn’t grow up there. The tram in Prague is a really popular source of transportation and we couldn’t remember basically anything about how to use it. So we trekked the 2 ish miles back to where we got off (shoutout to Isaac for making things meaningful enough that I recognized them). Moral of the story, we got back fine and gained 10 IQ points. For dinner we had kebabs, which I was convinced I’d hate, but it was truly amazing amazing amazing.

That night we went to an old WWII war bunker that was converted into a bar. You walk in and there’s a bunch of tunnels connecting rooms and it goes on forever.. Probably the coolest thing I’ve been in since I’ve gotten to Europe. The ventilation was 0 though and smoking over here is 150% always a thing, but the scariest part is I’m getting used to it now. We headed off to a Czech club after that. It was 5 stories and every level had different music- hip hop, throwbacks, oldies etc. The strobe lights and just everything in general was insane. Came back at 2 and I definitely fell asleep in what seems like milliseconds.

Up at 9, breakfast, another day of tours.

We fed swans, saw some weird statues, and went to the Lennon wall. Aka perfect instagram spot, stayed there way too long, took more selfies than I care to admit, and got a crap ton of prof pic options. Definitely 10/10 recommend for you artsy souls. Basically, John Lennon’s portrait and lyrics were painted on the wall to protest communism and promote peace. Communists of course got pissed (saw that coming) and spray-painted over it. Today, there are some lingering parts, but a lot is just covered with rando writing and inspiring things people have written. My favorite was, “wherever you are, be all there.” The quote definitely hit home with me, just in general for the abroad experience and in Prague specifically.

*Off to a traditional Czech lunch that was amazing.*

I passed on the dark beer, but was totally into the mushroom soup. I’m borderline obsessed with soup and cannot find normal soup to save my life in Italy so this was exciting for me. We had goulash, which is basically bread dumplings and yummy beef stew. I was so happy to have some protein. I love you Italy, but..

I’m sick of pasta. I need meat.

We headed off to see the oldest medieval castle, which also included a view of the city. Then, we set off to H&M to get outfits for the pub-crawl we were going to and grabbed kielbasas hot dogs for dinner (thank gosh- I’ve missed hot dogs so much already). We got home much easier this time, shoutout to our brains, & started getting ready for the pub crawl. 10 minutes into standing and waiting for the tram to go to the first bar I ran up and changed from heels into boots.. actually an idiot. We paid 20 euros for unlimited sangria, wine, and beer from 9-10:30 then liquor until 11:30 and a free tshirt. The tshirt sealed the deal for the sorority girl in me. Another underground extremely awesome bar that just so happens to be owned by our tremendous tour guide Isaac. Transition to the next bar with free welcome shots, then another bar/club combo where we danced with a French couple that were arguably the two coolest people I’ve ever met. They taught me how to say “I love pickles and chicken.” J'aime les cornichons et le poulet- I’ll never forget it. J

They made me realize how incompetent we are for just speaking one language when they switched between English, French, and Spanish.. yep my kids have to be at least bilingual. It’s a growing feeling that just keeps consuming more of my thoughts. In my Italian class my professor went around and asked if anyone spoke any other language besides English. You guessed it, no one. It makes you feel inadequate because you know you are a smart enough person to be able to be at least bilingual. But the thing is, these people aren’t just bilingual.. They’re multilingual. The French couple we danced with said not to worry, that if you had to know a language it would be English. The thing is though, that’s why we only know English. We go abroad and expect the locals to know English. It’s a crutch that we have absolutely abused.

Ok, I’m done with my rant now. (maybe)

If you go to Prague-
1.     Stay at the Czech inn
2.     Go to the underground bars
3.     Skip the clubs if you don’t want to pay a cover- it’s nothing extremely special
4.     Eat goulash
5.     Take a walking tour. Otherwise, you won't know what you’re looking at.
6.     Know that Prague is a city in the Czech Republic
7.     Go to the Lennon wall
8.     Save money by getting a kielbasa hot dog at a food truck for like $4
9.     Take advantage of Starbucks, but don’t be the annoying American that only eats at American things
10. “Wherever you go, be all there.”

All in all, thank you Prague for a weekend of history, hot dogs, and hangovers. Thank you for giving a piece of American culture I was craving and reinforcing my thoughts on forcing my future blonde babies to be multilingual. Thank you for introducing me to a caring and genuine couple that reassured me that not (everyone) hates Americans. Thank you for allowing me to have a weekend with my amazing new friends and giving me a huge fluffy pillow. And, thank you for having Pringles.

Week 2 deets coming soon!


PS check out my video of our weekend in Prague on Facebook! :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Week 1 recap {Florence Files}

*Feb. 1, 2016- Adventure time! Today’s the day. Leaving Washington at 6:40PM and getting into Paris at 8. Connection leaves at 10 and I’ll be in Florence around 12. My roomie, Shelby, gets in from Amsterdam at the same time. We booked a private car from the airport because with so many students coming in the wait for a taxi could be up to an hour.. lol no thanks. Just taking in some comforts of home the last day- my big queen bed, own bathroom, my cute puppy, & spending some time with my parents. Oh, and getting a sweet tea from CFA of course. ;) insert drive to the airport Per usual getting to DC was a total and complete disaster and aged me about 5 years. My parents both took off of work to drop me off and we said quick goodbyes (those are the best). Thank goodness for upgrading to premium economy because 2 checked bags for free and 3 carry ons.. plus priority line for check in. The other line was wrapped 3 times around and down a hallway… pure insanity. TSA went quick and I grabbed some questionable chicken tenders from a restaurant. Air France is always nice for international flights- their food is actually good. Probably got about 3 hours of sleep, but that’s to be expected.

*Feb. 2, 2016- After 2 uneventful flights (thank gosh), I got to Florence!! Met with my roomie perfectly fine and our private driver was my savings grace. 4 overstuffed suitcases, housing orientation, and a crammed taxi later we got to our apartment. I was preparing myself for those tic tac sized apartments I always see on international house hunters, but our apartment turned out to be unusually huge. With 6 girls total, there are 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Almost cried when I saw 4 floor to ceiling closets in our room and a dishwasher in the kitchen. There are huge windows in every room that boast gorgeous views of the city when you unlock and open the shutters. The best way I can describe it is European pretty. It’s not necessarily what I’m used to, but it’s a lot of space and very functional and efficient. The kitchen is also a lot wider than I expected and the washing machine isn’t in the kitchen- which I was preparing myself for. After unpacking and instagramming the views from our bedroom, we set out for a quick lunch. We discovered an amazing panini place right across the street from us. Going to the grocery store was quite the experience.. it’s kinda hard to grocery shop when everything is in another language. It was completely packed with people too, learned my lesson about going at night. A lot of Europeans go to the grocery store 2-3 times a week because everything is so fresh and it’s more efficient for them then doing big shops like we typically do. I’ve seriously been like once every other day, just to pick up this and that. We picked up essentials, discovered vegetables are cheap and that wine is cheaper than water. Ramen will run you about $2 for one pack and the smallest box of cereal you’ve ever seen is $3. Shampoo and basically any health/beauty product will cost you as much as your first born child. Eggs aren’t refrigerated and canned soup is not a thing here. It was definitely my first taste of culture shock, but I realized that their pricing strategies are way smarter than ours. Instead of overpricing fresh ingredients, they run you 50-70% less than unhealthy options with preservatives. It makes sense in a country that is renowned for fresh food and cooking. Conad brand is a generic brand and has become my best friend- although I can’t vouch for the $2 box wine.. We made fresh pasta with pesto and discovered that fresh pasta only takes 30 seconds to cook. Sleep was a joke the first night, but again, that was to be expected.

*Feb 3, 2016 Had my first ever espresso this morning because 8:30AM orientation session.. seriously who comes up with this schedule lol. Afterwards, I spent the day exploring the city with Shelby, my roomie. We just aimlessly walked around, got American pizza and SIM cards for our phone plans. Word of wisdom- Piccell sucks.. TIM is $70 for 4 months vs piccell for $160 + we got 4gb of data vs 1gb. Let me tell you data is amazing for using google maps to navigate the city!! For you directionally challenged people like me, this will become your lifeline.

*Feb 4, 2016 Finally some SLEEP. Our room is a literal black hole because the shutters are wood and block out every bit of light. So nice to sleep in and have some time to recover!! Clemson orientation today went over safety/school basics and we got our final schedules and more important info like permit of stay guide, which let me just preface by saying it is the biggest pain in the ass. J Fancy fancy fancy pants dinner held by our program at a hotel… seriously chandeliers as big as a small bedroom. Made me laugh that we got a ‘one glass of wine’ card at the dinner- we all know someone would have gotten beyond hammered if not.

*Feb 5, 2016 Last orientation at 9, then we swung by the leather market.. and stayed awhile. Scooped a Hermes birkin bag look alike for $50 and some gifts for my friends back home. Also ordered custom leather jacket.. so excited for my jacket + gold zippers & not silver. The leather here is so much better quality and cheaper than back at home. I can’t pass it up!! The leather jacket was an investment I will not regret- plus who wouldn’t love to say that they got their jacket custom made in Florence?! I’m probably going to become a victim to the leather market. I know I wanted to purchase leather boots, sandals, a satchel, and a wallet before leaving. The shopping here is just so easy and accessible.. it’s so dangerous. Went to Gusta pizza for dinner and my taste buds have never been more satisfied.. seriously AMAZING.

*Feb 6, 2016 Day trip to Pisa!! The best part about Florence is how centrally located it is in regards to popular cities to visit within the rest of Italy. Before I came, my mom gave me some simple/extremely relevant piece of advice- while I was rushing to plan weekend trips across Europe, she said, “Devin, don’t forget about the country you’re in too- don’t discount Italy.” She was so right, and it really opened my mind to the possibilities of day trips throughout Italy. The BEST part is it is so cheap to travel within Italy.. it was only $10 one way to Pisa. Overall, with lunch included, I spent $36 total on the day trip. Pisa is a city that I’m glad I can now check off of my bucket list, but I was underwhelmed by it looking back. Part of the reason being that Florence is such an entertaining city to be in.. every corner has a cute shop, café, or architecture that leaves you speechless. Pisa is really just the leaning tower of Pisa… and in all honestly the 2 buildings that you NEVER hear about that surround the leaning tower were actually way prettier and more impressive. It took about 15 min to take some cute super touristy leaning tower pics and then it was time for lunch. There’s a tour to go to the top of the leaning tower- but I’m not sure how worth it it would be. Overall, cute touristy spot, but I wouldn’t go again and I wouldn’t go if it were out of my way.  On our way back from the train station we stopped by a cute shawl shop and got handmade cashmere shawls. It’s so cold here that all the Italians wear huge shawls wrapped over their puffer coats- and we wanted to be just as comfy chic as them.

*Feb 7, 2016 Well…. We slept in until 2PM oops. The first Sunday every month in Florence museum entry is free if it’s a public museum. We figured we’d take up the offer and tried to get into the Gucci museum, but it was private and so it wasn’t free. I’ll be going with my marketing class in April so I decided to just take advantage of a free museum instead of paying for entry. We stopped at the next museum only to discover we had to pay for tickets to enter.. ok bummer, but we wanted to do something in Florence so we just went for it. After standing in line for 2 hours to get into the exhibit we were told we had bought the wrong ticket. Total fail of a day, but it was the best learning experience because for the first time I actually felt like a dumb tourist. Needless to say our next museum trips will be researched and planned in advance.

First week is down & everything so far has been positive & enlightening! This week is my first official week of classes- blog post will be up this weekend with details on my classes & what I like/don’t like here vs in class at Clemson!

Happy Tuesday!