Everyone Has Bad Days in College... Seriously.

About a week ago, I got together with a good group of friends from high school after a long period of being apart. While most of us were returning home from our first semester of school, some of the girls were seniors and thus in the midst of all of the college craziness that ensues once December rolls around. One of my lovely younger friends (who was just accepted into her dream school!) asked us a very mature and insightful question:

What was your low-point of the semester? 

I was incredibly surprised to hear this question because most college girls to-be are most curious to know what the best parts of being out of high school are. And I don't blame them. 

From when you start getting the glossy college pamphlets in the mail, to receiving your first acceptance letter, to packing your bags for a one-way road trip (or in my case, plane ride), college seems like a time full of excitement, 'round the clock fun, and complete independence. I mean, the movies, your older friend's Instagram pictures, and even Buzzfeed say so! 

Me at the beginning of the semester before I had to worry about anything.

While for the most part, college is super fun and way better than high school, you're bound to have new struggles as you start this next period of your life. People just don't seem to talk about the not-so-great times. 

I mean, when was the last time you saw someone post a snapchat story of their laptop captioned "Eating Cheetos and binge-watching Parks and Rec. #Homesick." Nobody wants to be a Debbie-downer or, worse yet, appear as if they're not having loads of fun. 

You'll definitely have moments like this- especially when it comes to choosing your major. 

But you will, inevitably, have low points in college. So much is different, so much is new, so much is scary. Not everything will be as perfect as it's made out to be. But verbalizing our worries and bad moments is probably one of the best things we can do for ourselves when we're feeling down. That's why I'm so glad my friend brought it up that night. 

My low point during first semester? 

After a night out with friends I came back to my room and attempted to fall asleep as normal, until all of these worrying thoughts popped into my head. What if I fail my exam on Thursday? Should I be studying more? What if I run out of money before the semester ends? What if I feel lonely when my friends leave four days before I do? 

I essentially had a panic attack at two in the morning, and texted my mom a novel about all of my concerns before eventually falling crying myself to sleep. 

Me at the end of this semester.

I actually didn't end up sharing my low point that night, but now I kind of wish I did. Oh, and some of my friends anecdotes? (without naming names of course) 

Some talked about failing the first exam of the semester, another friend recalled an overwhelming experience when she locked her keys and her phone in her room on the day of a test. And many of us agreed collectively that we had moments when we doubted our new friendships and just wanted to go back to the way things were in high school with our old friends.

While the good times in college greatly outweigh the bad, that doesn't mean we should ignore the bad times completely and pretend they don't exist. Even on this blog, I feel that I sometimes write too much about the amazing parts of my college experience, and tend to avoid sharing my struggles with my readers. So starting today, with this post, I'll follow my own advice and not only write more about the trials and tribulations of college (and especially studying so far away from home), but also talk about any troubles I have to my friends and family. Because even though college is "the best four years of your life," we're all granted a few days out of those four years that might just be our worst.  



Christmas Traditions

My family takes Christmas very seriously. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, the Christmas card is carefully picked out, and even though my brothers and I are all technically adults, we still wake up at 6:30 AM on Christmas morning to peek in our stockings.

And because my family is so into Christmas, we have many traditions that help us to make the most of our favorite season. Here are a few of my favorites:

The best tree in the neighborhood, in my opinion.

Putting Up the Tree // We always, always, always get a real tree. It's kind of a point of pride in our family. It may make a mess and take some extra care, but there's nothing like the smell of pine as you walk down the stairs in the morning. Our tree is always chock-full of unique ornaments. There's hardly any room for the number we've obtained over the years. That's because every year my mom works really hard to buy us individual ornaments that reflect something about our lives that past year. For example, this year I got an official University of Edinburgh ornament (for obvious reasons). Some of my other favorite ornaments include my ballet slippers from when I did ballet at age four, my Samantha Parkington figure from when I was really into American Girl Dolls, and my "Leda and the Swan" swan ornament.

Somehow, I didn't see this one coming.

My parents bought this thistle ornament when they dropped me off. Note how it's the same flower as in my blog-header.  

Christmas Cookie Decorating // This used to be a time when my brothers and I would fight over who got what cookie cutter, or who got to use the blue frosting first. But now, we decorate our homemade Christmas-themed cookies in a fairly civilized manner- aside from our competitiveness when it comes to who made the prettiest or most creative cookie. Oh, and it's always a tradition for my Grampy to make the reindeer cookie. It's his true calling.

No doubt I made the prettiest cookies this year.

My dad made a red and green blob. 

The Boston Holiday Pops Concert // While most teenagers wouldn't go to an Orchestral concert if somebody paid them, I can assure you that this performance is pure, unadulterated fun. There are some classic holiday tunes such as "Sleigh Ride" and "White Christmas," but also some fresher takes on older pieces, like the Pop's hilarious version of "12 Days of Christmas." Every year, my family gets orchestra seats so we can enjoy some drinks while we watch the show. And for the past two years, my mom has booked our table as close to the stage as possible. I could practically touch Keith Lockhart. And it was magical.

Symphony Hall decked out for the holidays.

Keith Lockhart: Boston royalty/middle-aged heartthrob 


At Semester's End: What I've Learned

It's hard to believe that I've been at Uni for a whole semester now. The fact that I haven't gone home has, in a way, made this time fly by, since it hasn't been broken up so much.

I'm incredibly excited to return home, but I know that once I touch down in the States, I'm going to go on and on to my friends and family about how great it is here in Edinburgh.

Before all of my friends here left, we had our last hurrah as a group by going to see the Nutcracker. Going to the ballet and doing most "cultural" things is usually something that I do with my mom. But it was really nice to go see a show with my friends that wasn't a movie, but that we were all equally excited about.

Seeing the Nutcracker got us into the holiday spirit!

Now that it's quieting down here as students return home this week, I've had a lot of time to not only revise and watch Netflix, but to reflect on what I've learned from being abroad for a semester. Of course, I can't include everything that I've experienced in one blog post, but here's just a taste of what I've learned:

I could never "study abroad" for just a semester.
Or a year, for that matter. I've only been in Edinburgh for about four months now, and couldn't imagine leaving so soon (as many American students I know here are doing just now). There's simply too much to discover and experience to limit it to a single semester. Studying abroad is great, but if you ever have the chance, try doing so for more than a just a semester. You won't regret it.

Starbucks is cheaper in the US. 
As are many other American brands such as Anthropologie and J Crew. They do this really annoying thing where they keep the number value as the American price, and just stick the pound sign in front of it. So, a Starbucks holiday latte priced at £3.25 is actually over $5. And you thought the American price was ridiculous. Beware the Starbucks, friends.

Alcohol isn't for chugging. 
It's for sipping and enjoying. And maybe sometimes chugging. Being legal to drink has allowed me to enjoy alcohol more. I also know a lot more about alcohol than I used to. It's not just about vodka and gatorade. I've learned how to properly order a drink like a woman in a James Bond movie. And I've also found out what drinks I really like- not just for the drunk-factor. I love being able to buy a bottle of wine at the grocery store or enjoy a fancy cocktail with dinner.

Having an international friend group is the best. 
With just one semester down, I have friends not only in Scotland and England, but friends in Canada, the UAE, Uganda, and Germany as well. In no other place would I be able to have such a richly international experience. I've learned a lot through my friends by comparing and contrasting our schools, social lives, and daily activities. Plus, if I ever want to go to any of these places, I'd like to think that I have a free place to crash.

The UK doesn't have bad food.
Seriously. From juicy burgers, to amazing breakfasts, to addicting Indian food, the UK (and Scotland in particular) has a lot more to offer in terms of food-diversity than you might think. Oh and when I say the UK has good food, that does not by any means include my dining hall. The JMCC is bad news.

There's so much more I could say about my first semester, but these are just a few of my biggest lessons learned. If you want to find out more about my first semester in Edinburgh, then feel free to stalk me all the way back to the beginning of this blog!

The next time I'll be blogging, I'll be doing so from the comfort of my own home back in the States. Until then, I'll be drinking coffee and doing too many readings about Social Anthropology. Please send help and/or food.


A Christmas Choir

For me, singing has always been a small part of my life that has made a big difference in my happiness. I always enjoyed being "forced" to sing in chorus in elementary school, and never quit the musical in middle school even if I was cast as a background character every year. I sing while showering, while cleaning my room, and while dancing to cheesy music at the club. Even if I'm not the best singer in the whole world (I'd say I'm average at best), and even though I haven't dedicated my entire life to singing, I could never not have singing be a part of my life. 

Female Voice Choir is therefore the perfect club for me. 

FVC, for short, is a non-auditioning choir made up of all-female members (though technically open to males as well) that rehearses once per week for two hours at a time. Everyone is super enthusiastic, but not intimidating at all. And rehearsals are not stressful, but we still get through a lot of music. 

Not to mention, our choir-director is the bomb. I've never met anyone more gut-wrenchingly funny than Vaughn. It's a combination of dry humor and spot-on delivery that has me nearly in tears at every rehearsal. Plus, he's Australian, so his accent is funny to begin with! 

Since I enjoyed being in FVC so much from the start, I decided to run for Freshers Rep at the beginning of the semester. While it was kind of a last minute decision, I was really glad that I ran for it- and ended up being voted in! My job isn't so specific- I'm basically an additional voice on committee that represents the first years. However, simply sitting in on committee meetings has taught me a lot about the makings of organizing social events, running bake sales, and putting on concerts.       

The poster used to advertise for our concert. 

This Sunday we had our first concert of the year where we sang a good mix of Christmas carols, classic tunes, and more modern pieces. I loved getting into the Christmas spirit early on since we started rehearsing far before it was socially acceptable to listen to Christmas tunes.  

Now, while I certainly do love a good Christmas carol, my favorite song that we performed, by far, was "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkle. 

I had heard of the song before, yet had never properly listened to it or sung it. But it quickly became one of my most-searched songs on YouTube once we started practicing it. The version we sang was incredibly powerful, and I think the audience was quite impressed. According to my friends, some people sitting behind them were even moved to tears when we sang it.  

We really struggled to fit into three rows- an accomplishment to say the least!

Speaking of friends, I'm glad so many of them came to support me at the concert! Since I don't have any family here, it means the world to me that I had people that care about me sitting in the audience on Sunday. 

Until next semester, choir rehearsals are over. But I can't wait to start up again after New Years and see what more we can do with our lovely female voices! 


Celebrating Thanksgiving Away From Home

Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. Sure, I love spending time with my family and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but it pales in comparison to Christmas, and maybe even Easter. And I'm not exactly a fan of the food either. Of course, there's lots of it, but it never seems fresh and tasty to me- no matter who cooks it. Let me have my girl Zooey Deschanel elaborate a bit:

I know what you're thinking: "Enough with the Thanksgiving hating already! How un-American of you." But let me tell you- being away from home for Thanksgiving for the first time makes one especially patriotic and, I'll admit, extremely homesick. 

Getting out of bed on Thanksgiving morning just felt like another day to me. I didn't awaken to the smell of buttermilk pancakes and the sound of sizzling bacon. I didn't run downstairs eager to watch the start of the parade. I didn't eat an entire turkey-shaped chocolate at nine in the morning.

All it was was the last Thursday of the month. 

Not many people wished me a "Happy Thanksgiving!" In fact, most people were completely unaware of it- I blame myself for forgetting that the world doesn't actually revolve around the US. And I felt the constant need to remind practically everyone I saw that it was, indeed, a holiday.  

As the day went on, I felt more and more defeated. The snapchat stories from my home-friends came pouring in. My brothers sent me photos and videos of them having dinner at my grandparents house. 

The FOMO was real. And boy, did it come on strong.

Not only was I not at home for Thanksgiving, but I was in a place that hardly even acknowledged the biggest non-religious holiday that my home-country celebrates. 

People here in the UK, however, are fascinated by Thanksgiving whenever I mention it. They would ask if it's a bigger holiday than Christmas, to which I replied "No, not in my family. But to Jewish people, yes." They would ask what Thanksgiving celebrated, to which I gave a garbled response of "Native Americans... Pilgrims... America?... Football...Food. Definitely food."

But being away from home has made me realize that Thanksgiving celebrates a lot more than America's contested history and our deep passion for eating. Thanksgiving is simply about celebrating the time you get to spend with those you care about, even if those you care about most aren't with you at the time. I know that sounds ridiculously cheesy, but once I came to terms with the fact that Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without my family, I found other ways to celebrate being around good people. 

On Wednesday, my running club (the Haries) had a Christmas meal (funnily enough, at an "American" restaurant) to celebrate the end of the semester. On Thursday, I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of the only family I know in Edinburgh. And on Friday, I attended the Edinburgh University North American Society's Charity Thanksgiving Ball with my friend from high school, a friend of hers, and a friend from halls. 

I cannot even express how incredibly thankful I am for the fact that although I was approximately 3,075 miles away from my family, I was still able to celebrate a truly American holiday surrounded by many of my friends (American or not). And while I may continue to think that turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes aren't exactly the most exciting and delicious foods, this year, I've realized that Thanksgiving means a lot more to me than I had originally thought. 

P.S. Here are some photos from the ball for you all to enjoy! 

I'm so fancy. 

Wouldn't be Thanksgiving without a few crafts.

A solid Thanksgiving dinner. 

This kettlecorn may have been the highlight of the night.

Drawing our own hand-turkeys. We didn't win...

The table setting was just too pretty (and totally matched my purse). 


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