Advice I Wish I Got Before Starting High School

Hello everyone!

This post is going to be a compiled list of the main things I wish I had known before embarking on my high school adventures. These tips will be from the more general advice to the trivial things and more direct suggestions, but also keep in mind this is based off of my school/experience. It’s definitely an adjustment from middle school and it can seem intimidating at first, but I promise you will be fine and once you’re settled in you will most likely enjoy at least some aspects of it! I know it’s a little early in the summer to start with back to school content, but I also know that I was already a little stressed about starting high school at this time last year; if there are any of you in that situation out there, this is for you! I was in your shoes not too long ago (I’m a rising sophomore) and I promise everything will be fine- you’re already ahead by doing your research and landing here!

  1. Get involved as soon (and as much) as possible. Technically I did this since I was involved in a school sport, but I wish I tried more activities besides that. Freshman year is the best time to try a bunch of new things since you’re already out of your comfort zone anyways, and it will introduce you to tons of new people. Also, it’s great because if you find the clubs/groups/etc. that you enjoy being a part of in your first year, you can stay committed for the rest of your high school experience and move up into leadership positions in future years. Try at least one type of activity, but more than one is even better since you can always drop them and this is most likely the year that you will have the most free time anyways. Don’t be scared like I was!
  2. Don’t worry about the upperclassmen. Seriously, don’t. I know there’s always scary stories or scenes in cheesy movies about seniors shoving the lowly freshmen into trash cans or lockers, but the reality is they just don’t care. In fact, unless you’re a) on a sports team or in a club with them, b) really smart and therefore in higher level classes that they would be in, or c) have older siblings/friends/acquaintances, you will probably barely come into contact with juniors or seniors. At my school, juniors and seniors both can leave campus for lunch and seniors can completely finish their day of classes before lunch if they were on time with credits. This means you will barely ever see them, except for in passing and maybe before school/after school, but barely even then because they will usually be in the student parking lot area. Most of them probably find the freshmen annoying, but they’re not going to do anything about it and a good amount of them would even be somewhat friendly if you encountered them since they have to be role models for the school and keep themselves in check for college.
  3. Utilize your counselor/other resources your school offers. At first I was scared to talk to my counselor, and I was unaware of a lot of the programs my school had. Once situations with schedules came up where I actually had to go in and see my counselor, I realized what a great resource she was and how much she could help with improving my school experience. That’s exactly why they are there, and they can help guide you down the right path with choosing classes and getting involved in different things at school that you may not have thought of before. It can be intimidating especially if you’re at a huge school like me (each counselor has about 400-500 of us to counsel, and sometimes it’s hard to get an appointment), but it’s so worth it and if you’re feeling really nervous just jot some notes down of questions so you’re prepared. It’s also great to get to know your counselor just so you have someone in your corner for all four years- teachers may switch around every year, but you’ll most likely have the same counselor, and they can eventually write you a (hopefully stellar!) recommendation letter for college.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!! This is an extension of the previous tip, but seriously reach out and take advantage of the knowledge that your teachers have. Especially when it comes to higher-level courses like APs, your teachers (should) know the content front to back, and they will be happy to talk about it if you come to them for further questions. It will leave a good impression on them if you stay after class to ask for help and work towards getting a better understanding, and they’ll probably keep that in mind when it comes time for grading. In a lot of my classes, participation was either a small portion of your grade or something that could get your grade rounded up at the end of the semester. Participate and show your teachers that you care ESPECIALLY if you’re struggling, and they will like you ten times more, regardless if you’re not a perfect student.
  5. Keep your books at home unless you know you need them on an almost daily basis. Carrying around a bunch of stuff all the time will be very hard on your back throughout the year, and even taking multiple trips to your locker each day to switch out books can be a tedious task. I started out the year always bringing my books to each class and stopping at my locker to switch everything out a couple periods just because I had so much stuff, but I soon realized this wasn’t necessary. A lot of teachers will provide some form of online text or just simply won’t use the actual book that much; therefore you can either keep it at home or in your locker, but not actually bring it to class. I would actually streamline how many notebooks/binders you have too if possible, only having separate ones for teachers that absolutely require it.
  6. Reach out to others- you may have to put more effort into friendships and meeting people. This really depends on how outgoing you are, but for me as a somewhat introverted person it was definitely a little difficult to adjust to the high school social scene. There will be tons of new people and potential friends for you to meet, but it may not just fall into place where you immediately make a bunch of new best friends just because you’re meeting new people. From my experience, most people stayed rooted in their groups from middle school for a while; they mingled a little bit and then started to change around, but there was only a little initial change and then other changes were much more gradual over the year. If people are sticking in cliques and you were looking forward to forming new connections, you totally still can- you’ll just have to put yourself out there more. It’s much easier if you just bond with people from whatever sport/activities you’re involved in, but I know that not everyone meshes well with their team/group members so if that doesn’t work, do your best to start conversations with people in your classes. Be friendly, ask questions, and listen to whatever people have to say- sooner or later they’ll realize what a great friend you would be!
  7. It’s never as big or scary as you think it is. I go to a school with around 2,400 kids, a big jump from my middle school with barely 1,000. I was beyond scared to walk onto campus; I assumed people would be mean, the campus would be huge and extremely crowded (I mean it is large and crowded, but nothing as bad as I imagined), and I would easily get lost. Once I finally found my way around, the once enormous school seemed insignificant and small to me. Of course it’s definitely still large, but as soon as you settle in it won’t feel that way. Everyone’s going through the same thing or in the older students’ cases, has already been through it. If they can do it, so can you! Soon it will seem like no big deal, and the first days of school will be a speck in your memory.
  8. Always doing your homework and engaging in class can usually get you to at least a B, even if you bomb some tests. This depends on the teacher and the grading scale, but in most classes homework will at least account for some of your grade. It just doesn’t make sense not to do it, since it’s a small chunk of your time for basically free points that will help your grade. I know some types of assignments are much more challenging than others, but if you consistently do your homework there’s almost no way you can do super badly in a class. Sometimes you can even get some of it done in your class time- this often happened in my math class. If you’re still worried about doing well in a class, remember that homework is supposed to prepare you for tests and such- if you’re doing it, it will hopefully help you in doing better on tests and other assessments! Plus, your teacher will see you as reliable and a good student, so you’ll be on their good side.
  9. Appealing to your teachers and adapt to their individual teaching styles/personalities goes a long way. This can apply to any form of school, not just high school. What I mean by this is as you get to know your teachers better and spend more time in their class, figure out what you should be doing specifically to succeed in their class based on their teaching style. Find the best ways to study for their tests, the ways they grade assignments and the main things they care about in your work. Observe the things that may impress them or bother them in class (for example, some teachers love when you ask a lot of questions during lectures, some get annoyed). Besides just working hard and doing your homework, this is the key to securing the best grade possible and forming a strong relationship with your teacher.
  10. In most situations, a good night’s sleep is much more important than staying up late to study for that one test or quiz. A lot of people may disagree with me on this, especially since high-school students are some of the most sleep-deprived people anyways. However, sleep is one of my top priorities, especially since I started high school and realized how draining it can be; I realized quickly that I could not handle an 8 hour school day, a few hours of cheer, a few hours of homework with time left for eating and getting ready for bed if I didn’t get substantial sleep. You’re probably thinking, if I had all that stuff to do in the first place, then how did I end up going to sleep early? It’s simple: I would set a time I wanted to be in bed (not necessarily asleep, just everything done/put away for the day and me being able to lay in bed) and I would make sure I was in bed by that time. This made me work more productively, and if I didn’t finish everything I needed to do I would just do it in the morning before school. Though most of the time, I found this strategy just made me more efficient and I would end up completing everything in time for bed anyways- I highly recommend doing this, especially if you need your sleep like me!
  11. Bring lots of (healthy and filling) snacks with you for lunch, not necessarily a normal meal. This might just be because we don’t have a designated lunch area or many lunch tables at my school (there’s about 12 tables and a few benches), but no one really sits down and eats a normal lunch. In fact, lots of my friends don’t eat during lunchtime at all; we hang around a certain spot where most people stand, there’s a little ledge to sit but usually people only do so if they’re studying or doing last minute homework. They just eat inbetween classes or during the classes where it’s allowed. Personally, I can’t go that long without eating even if I do have a snack in one of my classes, so I just pack a bunch of snack foods so I can eat them whenever I get hungry (in class or at actual lunch) and they’ll be good for on-the-go. I can do another post on healthy snack ideas, but some of my favorites are apple slices or really any fruit, whole-grain crackers and peanut butter, and Skinny Pop popcorn.
  12. As soon as you find out your schedule, map it out and figure out the best way to get from class to class before actually getting there. This is obviously just for the first day of school, but it helped me on my first day so much!! If your school gives out schedule details before you actually get there on the first day, look on a map where all your classes are and figure out your path. You probably won’t find the best path until you’re actually there because once you get into the rhythm of things you’ll take into account the most trafficked areas or which ways your friends are going, but it will still give you peace of mind. Also, set your schedule as your phone lock screen and make sure you either have a picture of a map on your phone or a printed map in your bag- and highlight/circle/star your classes on it!
  13. Go to all the events you can and participate in spirit events like spirit week! This is kind of a personal preference; if you and your friends just aren’t into this by no means do you have to participate, but it’s supposed to be fun and make you feel involved in the school. Freshmen tend to be a little lame with school spirit because no one really knows what the deal is yet and the “culture” of this depends on your school, but since I was on the cheer team I had to be spirited either way. Rallies are super fun and there’s lots of performances to watch, plus there’s just such a special energy in the air when you have basically the whole school out of class and enjoying the event together. Also, go to football games!!! They are definitely the most fun out of any sports games (maybe I’m a little biased, but seriously- and I’m not even a football fan) just because everyone shows up and cheers like crazy and there’s always stuff going on after the game as well. The homecoming game and homecoming dance were probably my favorite memories of the year since I had the best time with my friends and there were so many exciting things going on at once.
  14. Try to enjoy it and remember even if things go wrong or you’re just not loving the experience, it’s only four years of your life. Last year went by insanely fast for me, and I regret not getting out and enjoying it more. Even though I was stressed and not the happiest with my situation sometimes, I should have made the best of it a little more because you’re only in high school once and there are a lot of experiences unique to this time in your life. Some weekends after a long, tough week, I would isolate myself and just lay around at home rather than hang out with friends- it’s totally okay if you need to recharge and sometimes I just did, but I definitely did it a little too much and missed out on some things. Go have fun and don’t stress too much like I did if possible, it’s only freshman year.

I hope these pieces of advice helped! For any of you incoming freshmen- feel free to message me or leave any questions that you may have, I am rooting for all of you to have the best year 🙂 Enjoy your last summer before the craziness of high school begins! I will be posting lots more school related content towards the end of summer, but this will most likely be the last post in that genre for now. Stay tuned for that, and for all my other posts coming soon!


Review: Riverdale Season 3

Welcome back everyone!

Today I am going to share my thoughts on the latest season of Riverdale- I know it was airing a while ago on actual TV, but I always wait to binge watch it on Netflix and it only came on there recently. I actually mentioned a couple times in my daily posts from my trip that whenever we were on a flight or train I was watching Riverdale, and I ended up finishing the entire season towards the end of the trip.

Just for some background, I LOVED the first season of the show. I thought by the end of the season it answered just enough questions to leave viewers satisfied but also waiting for the next season. However, I found the second season disappointing. It seemed much cheesier (sometimes I literally thought it was a joke) with the random sub-plots, and the whole Black Hood storyline wasn’t my favorite. It just reminded me of A from Pretty Little Liars but with more violence rather than creepiness. Overall, I would say the third season is kind of in the middle of the spectrum for me. I still enjoyed the first season the most, but this most recent one was definitely better than its predecessor.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still quite cheesy and ridiculous in some ways (an obvious play on the Breakfast Club, a musical episode…) and some of the plot lines seemed a little outrageous at first, but at least they were entertaining. The season was also much darker than the others, but that was the component that kept me on the edge of my seat while watching.

Here’s a short overview of some of the focuses and events in this season in no particular order:

  • everyone starts playing a dangerous board game called Gryphons and Gargoyles, causing lots of problems due to its dangerous missions that often end in death/sacrifice
  • some of the hardcore G&G players form a Gargoyle gang that overtakes the Serpents and Ghoulies
  • Toni and Cheryl break away from the Serpents and form an all girl gang called the Pretty Poisons
  • The Farm grows more popular and gains more members through recruitment at Riverdale High
  • Betty is convinced the Farm is a cult and that there’s something deeper going on so she continues to investigate
  • Hiram Lodge continues to wreak havoc on Riverdale and gets involved in the trade of a drug that causes seizures
  • Veronica opens a speak-easy within Pop’s called La Bonne Nuit
  • Archie gets put in juvie by Hiram and ends up in an illegal fight club there
  • Archie does boxing after getting out of juvie and eventually opens up his own gym
  • Jughead’s mom and sister move back to Riverdale so they are kind of like a family again
  • and much more, plus various side issues that spring up from these plot points above!

I would definitely recommend catching up on the show on Netflix if you didn’t already keep up with the season as it aired. I think you can also watch episodes on the CW app if you have an account or something; I know some of my friends did that during the year. It was definitely an action-packed season and every character had a lot going on in almost every episode. I was always looking forward to getting to watch it and figure out what was going on with the various mysteries, and it was satisfying that almost everything connected and made sense in the end. Speaking of the end- I won’t spoil anything, but it was crazy and of course, action packed! I enjoyed part of it, but part of it I thought was a little unnecessary.

Besides the cheesiness factor that I mentioned before, the other thing I didn’t like about the season were the random efforts made to try and make the characters’ high school lives seem relatable. In the middle of all the cult and gang craziness, there was an episode where studying for the SATs was mentioned and the characters were focusing on that. I know they have to have some high school background-type events since the characters are teenagers, but it just seemed out of place. There was another portion of an episode related to college admissions, where Cheryl’s mother was trying to prevent her from getting into her dream school. That part was a little bit more cohesive since it added more depth to Cheryl’s personal plotline at the moment, but it still came a little out of nowhere.

The last thing I’ll talk about in this review are the characters more specifically. I liked that the parents had all their storylines going on and their own secrets, especially since they ended up intertwined with that of their children. The relationships were a bit predictable; Veronica and Archie broke up but still had feelings for each other, Betty and Jughead stayed together, etc. I liked the dynamic between Cheryl and Toni a lot, I thought they made an interesting couple. All of the characters from the Farm were quite creepy, but that was obviously intentional. Hiram Lodge continues to be very evil and cause tons of problems for Archie (he reallllly hates Archie), and everything else you would imagine.

Hopefully you guys found this informative and will go check the show out if you haven’t already! I know I was a little critical of it but I overall really enjoyed the new season and hey, it IS a show targeted for a younger audience- it just needs to be entertaining. I’ll be doing more reviews on TV/movies whenever I get the chance, and I’ll have more content to update you guys with soon!


Attempting to Overcome Fear

Good evening everyone!

Today I am going to discuss the subject of fear; I was inspired to write about this topic by the baby steps I took today towards overcoming one of my personal fears. I have always tried my best to not let myself become ruled by fear, but throughout my life I’ve had many phases where I deeply feared the “typical” types of scary things, and many of them I still fear today. Some examples would be spiders, snakes, and needles- which I will be talking about today. I know it may seem like a silly topic to talk about, but we all have our own weak points and fears.

Ever since I was very young, I HATED going to the doctor. Going to the dentist’s office never bothered me, but I would cry everytime my mom basically dragged me into the doctor’s office if I was sick or needed my yearly check-up. I hated seeing blood or anything even slightly gory when someone got hurt; therefore, it was only natural I was deeply afraid of needles. I had quite a few notable tantrums before getting shots or fingerpricks, one when I was five involving kicking a nurse in an attempt to deter the process (I was desperate, and don’t worry- I ended up writing a letter of apology). Even the idea of getting a shot made my arm start to hurt, and I went into utter panic as soon as I walked through the office entrance. My teeth would chatter, I would start hyperventilating, and in some cases just burst into tears as well.

To be honest, I’m not sure when this fear started or how it became so severe since I’ve never had that negative of an experience besides the actual freakouts before a shot/fingerprick/any appointment, and these things usually happened once a year at maximum. Either way, it was still definitely a huge fear of mine and even though my parents and I both hoped I would grow out of it and it was just something attached to being a little kid, I never did (but at least I handle it more maturely).

Bringing this issue into the present, I had three shots at my last yearly check-up in August 2018; one of them was a two-part shot and needed to get the second part before my next check-up. A couple days ago and much to my dismay, my mom called to finally make the appointment for me to get that shot. They gave us a couple options of dates with some as far into the summer as late July/early August before my check-up, and one as early as June 27th, today. I could’ve easily put it off until the end of summer since I was dreading it so much, but I decided I wanted to get it over with instead, a pretty mature decision for me.

I woke up early this morning and headed to the doctor’s office, and sure enough, the chattering teeth and heavy breathing returned as soon as my mom drove into the parking lot. I was there for the sole purpose of getting the shot so it was only going to take one second, but of course there was a long wait until they were ready for me so I just had more time to panic. I did some breathing exercises to slow down my breathing and it worked, at least until I was directed to one of the patient rooms and had to sit and wait for the nurse to get the actual needle and supplies.

I felt very babyish being a teenager freaking out in a pediatrician’s office and holding my mom’s hand for comfort all in the name of one pesky little shot, but the emotions of fear overcame me yet again. Luckily, the shot lasted one second (it actually hurt and my arm is sore, but of course everyone says I’m being overdramatic). However, I still feel that my response to the fear was better than it has been in the past (last year with the three shots I was bawling), and I was glad I made the decision to face it head-on and get it over with.

I know it may sound trivial to base this post on my overdramatized experiences getting shots that most kids have to get and have no problem with getting, but regardless of the actual issue at hand I wanted to draw attention to the fact that everyone has their own fears, the things that make them sweat whenever they pop into their brain. Sometimes they may seem silly to other people, but that’s why they are fears; they cause that dreadful emotion to the individual in which they affect. People have always told me my fear of needles is ridiculous at my age, but no amount of times hearing that could change the innate feeling of panic I get when I see a sharp, shiny needle on the nurse’s tray. Don’t feel stupid or babyish for being afraid of something and don’t listen to people trying to criticize you for it- instead, work on becoming more comfortable with whatever the thing is and take your own baby steps towards eliminating the fear.

About six to seven years ago, I was extremely afraid of being alone/sleeping in the dark. As long as I was with someone else I was completely fine; it could be pitch black and I wouldn’t even blink an eye, but as soon as that person left my mind would drift to nightmares of stalkers and murderers and other horrible monsters lurking in the shadows. I overcame it by slowly having less and less lights on when I went to bed, but it took a while for me to become truly comfortable sleeping by myself in the dark and not running to get one of my parents to check for monsters or watch over me. It may have been difficult for me to get to that level, but at least there was a simple strategy I could implement that eventually got me there in an effective manner. With many fears such as my fear of needles, it’s not that easy to just overcome- especially because I’ve had that fear a lot longer.

As long as you recognize what your fears are and you’re not just letting them have free reign over your thoughts, you’re already taking baby steps in the right direction. Remember that fears are created by us- any incident or event can trigger emotional reactions that turn something into what we know as a fear. Don’t let your fear rule you or hold you back; it is a mere obstacle in the course of life that you will eventually overcome with the right mindset. It’s almost always better to just push through and deal with the things you’re afraid of in order to move forward than to remain stuck and contemplating what to do. Another thing that helps is to focus on your dreams and goals, not your fears; if you’re thinking about whatever motivates you or excites you, you’re so much more likely to keep going and ignore the obstacles fear throws at you.

I believe in all of you and I know eventually we can overcome our fears together! If you want, comment down below what one of your fears is and one thing that you have done in the past or plan to do in the future to overcome it. I’m always here to talk about this topic (or anything else) with you guys! Also, please don’t make fun of me for being scared of needles- they’re scary and pointy and make holes in your skin, okay? Yes, I do kind of have the mind of a toddler. 🙂

Let’s Talk: Academic Pressure in High School, Summer Classes, My Experience

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my first non-travel related post- I know, I know, no one wants to talk about school during the summer, but I promise I have my reasons. Today I’m going to discuss the constant pressure that us high school students face today, my personal experience with it, and how I’ve tried to combat it (I’m still learning). Disclaimer: I am not an expert or qualified to give advice about high school since I am still an underclassman, I just want to share my experience and get this topic out there.

For a little background on me, I am a rising sophomore so I just completed my freshman year, and I would have to say I am kind of an overachiever. Not a superstar overachiever who’s perfect in every way, but just the type of person who likes to push themselves as much as possible and works overtime to do so. Since I was young I’ve always dreamed of just doing something significant in the world, but I’ve never known what I wanted to do; my dream school was Columbia which was very ambitious and I’m not sure how it originated, but Gossip Girl helped. As of now I still have no clue what I want to do and I don’t have a particular dream school (I would still LOVE to attend Columbia, but I don’t really know that much about any colleges yet). As for my current status in school, I didn’t take the hardest classes possible in my grade, but as far as the “standard” track goes, I took the hardest level of classes. (This means I wasn’t years ahead in any subject curriculums besides a couple credits from middle school that were both commonly taken as well, but I took all the honors classes and the 1 AP class that was available to me.)

My schedule was Spanish 2CP (I took Spanish 1 in 8th grade, and honors is not offered), honors geometry (1 year ahead of the standard curriculum but not too special because some people were in Algebra 2H or higher), AP Human Geography, honors English, and honors Biology. I was also on my school’s freshman cheer team (separated by grade, not skill level) which counted as my last period for the 1st semester of school, and for the 2nd semester I didn’t do another sport so I had to be in normal PE. It was a little difficult since the workload was a lot more difficult than my middle school honors classes, but I managed especially since I didn’t have many other activities besides cheer. Next year I will be taking a similar courseload but with an added elective- yearbook. My other classes will be honors algebra 2, Spanish 3CP, AP European History, honors English, and honors chemistry, plus cheer again (JV this year!). I’m not trying to brag by listing these classes; I’m just trying to give you an idea of where I stand academically before I state my case. I definitely work hard in school but that’s just it: I work HARD in order to succeed and I put a lot of pressure on myself while doing so, I am not claiming to be a natural academic standout.

Through hard work and studying, I managed to get straight As last year and I am hoping to do so again this upcoming year. I’m also taking AP Psychology this summer through BYU’s Independent Study website since I was interested in the subject; they offer it at my school to juniors and seniors but when planning out my courseload for the rest of high school I realized I would not be able to fit it into my schedule, so I decided to get ahead and take it now. This is where a direct example of continuous academic pressure comes in- I pressured myself into taking a class over the summer because a lot of other people were taking chemistry over summer and I felt like I would be behind if I didn’t, especially since lots of other people are already ahead in credits because of being in higher level math or language classes. I wasn’t able to take chemistry specifically because of my trip that conflicted with the in-class sessions (it’s a lab science so it must be taken in class), so I ended up looking for classes I could take solely online and that had flexible start times. That brought me to BYU’s program and AP Psych, since it was a fairly easy AP and one that I was already really interested in the subject matter of, plus the scheduling and flexibility was great. The class has been good so far and honestly really easy (hopefully it will still prepare me for the AP exam), coming from someone who’s never taken a psych class.

I wouldn’t recommend summer classes for everyone and it’s definitely something you have to commit to, but signing up for one made me feel more productive and better about my own summer plans. Hopefully by the end of the course I will still feel the same way! My school is a pretty competitive public high school (it’s ranked fairly well) and there are so many brilliant people there, and the graduating classes send so many people to amazing top 20 colleges each year. When I first came to high school I was mainly concerned about working hard in my classes, making friends, and just having fun with all the events and doing cheer, but by the middle of the year I discovered the world of college planning and it hit me like a bus. I’m not saying you have to worry about college in freshman year, and I’m by no means an expert anyways; however, when we began to register for sophomore year classes and taking summer classes came up, the topic of planning for college did as well. People were trying to get ahead in credits so they could take more APs next year and it just opened up this competitive world I had been oblivious to before. I began doing my own online research and fell down a rabbithole of college blogs and College Confidential (do not look there unless you want to feel very inferior) trying to figure out if I should be doing more.

The bottom line is: whether you’re planning specifically for college or not, high school is a lot when it comes to all the things on your plate. I didn’t even have demanding extracurriculars at the time and I was still a little overwhelmed, and once I realized I had a lot less committments and activities than other people, I felt MORE overwhelmed. Everyone around me seemed somewhat stressed about it as well, but they were able to plan accordingly and knew what they were doing whereas I felt completely lost. This is partially because most of my friends have older siblings or parents more involved in the school/college process so they genuinely had more knowledge, but it’s also just because I’m a very stress-prone person. I continued researching, combing through articles titled “How to Get Into the Ivy League” and “What You Should Do in High School to Prepare for College” and it honestly drained me so much; I felt stupid and behind in this college admissions race that I didn’t even know had started yet.

I’m still struggling with not agonizing over getting into college now, but I’m doing my best to live in the present. Even though I’ve realized there are certain things I should’ve been doing and it’s good I stumbled upon more knowledge that will help me in the future, in a way I definitely miss my obliviousness from before. Academics wise, I signed up for the courses I listed above and at my school all sophomores take the PSAT in the fall; activities wise, I made the cheer team again, I volunteer for Key Club at a local non-profit animal shelter, and in my free time I like to write, hang out with my friends, and take extra tumbling classes (gymnastics for cheer). I hope to get more deeply involved in activities this year (that was the main thing I was freaking out about after reading about the college process, I’ve never had a main “passion” or an activity I’ve been committed to since childhood), but I’m not sure what to join since I know it’s not good to just join a million things randomly, but I don’t have one or two strong interests to pursue either. I’ve been hoping for a while that my “passion” would fall into my lap or the right activity would come along and I’d get deeply involved, but nothing yet.

Everyone around me wants to get into a good school, and they seem to be on track to do so by getting good grades in high-level classes, having different ranges of involvement in fairly impressive and personally meaningul activities, and still managing to enjoy their life. I didn’t feel this way at all; I had my grades that I worked hard for, but nothing else to show for myself. I put more pressure on myself than anything, yet I also felt pressure just from my environment to do MORE and do BETTER. This made me spiral into negative self-talk and hopeless feelings towards the future, rather than just continuing to work hard and enjoying the rest of my time. It’s definitely gotten better the past couple months, but sometimes I still get down on myself.

One thing that really helped me stop freaking out about this whole process was to stop reading all the articles I mentioned. I also stopped watching YouTube videos that talked about the process, except for a few select college YouTubers that I enjoyed watching for other reasons or that were more comforting in regards to the process. My parents also could tell how stressed I was, so they scheduled a consultation with a private college counselor. I’m not saying you need to get one, but it just helped ease my mind and they had a lot of useful advice- if you have the resources and are just as stressed as me, I would recommend at least trying it out. Something I think every high schooler who hopes to attend a prestigious college or even just reach their goals while still maintaining sanity should do is read the book How to Be a High School Superstar by Cal Newport. I can’t say I’ve been able to apply all of his advice to my own life (by doing the general activities I do, it kind of goes against some of his main points), but it definitely eased my mind and has been a great resource- I think it can really help others, especially if you really stick to the advice given.

Another thing is just to remember that school isn’t everything, and your mental health/happiness means way more. I’ve just always wanted to push myself and strive to be the best I can in school since I don’t have any other strong interests, but if you have a different passion that you’re already involved with- RUN WITH IT. If I’ve learned anything from this process, it’s that having something that makes you tick and you love to do will make things sooo much easier and so much more enjoyable. Pour your heart into what you love and it will pay off; as an added bonus, it will impress colleges later on. As for me, I have yet to find that special something yet, but I will continue to search and as for now I am just being the best student that I can be (and trying to relax and enjoy my vacation)!

I hope you all enjoyed this change in content and could relate to it in some way. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about anything I mentioned in this post or share your experience; if you ever want to talk about academics, stress, or honestly anything, I’m always here and I’ll always have a lot to say about these topics. 🙂


Advice for first-time travelers to Europe

Welcome back everyone!

Today I will be giving you the advice I wish I had been given before embarking on my recent trip to France and Italy. So far my blog has been solely focused on my adventures during this trip, so I highly suggest you read some of my other posts about it if you are interested in travel. It was my first time in Europe and traveling out of the country in general, so I definitely learned a lot through trial and error. This is only from my one experience and I am by no means a travel expert so take everything with a grain of salt, but hopefully it still helps you guys out!

One point that always comes up as a concern is pickpocketing, especially in Italy. It definitely can happen, but it won’t if you know how to present yourself and protect your valuables. If you can, use a small crossbody bag or fanny pack rather than a larger bag or backpack. If you need to carry a larger bag, use one that will still be close to your body and can be zipped shut. If you are using a backpack, wear it backwards/on your front side in crowded areas like train stations or any tourist-filled areas. I know there are some theft-proof wallets/bags out there for purchase so you can buy those if you travel regularly or are just really concerned, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Definitely stay aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas, and always keep your eye on your stuff or hold it tightly. The spots I found seemed the sketchiest were usually around public transportation or train stations, but you definitely need to watch out at any big attractions/monuments too. Also, be careful when taking out money at ATMs- use ones inside if possible and try to use ones in more isolated areas.

Another thing that I didn’t expect coming from the US was the bathroom situation. There aren’t many public toilets and if there are, you will most likely to have to pay 1 euro to use them. In addition, lots of smaller restaurants may not have a working bathroom. Always go to the bathroom in your hotel room or lobby while you can, or else you may be in trouble later in the day. Often times my family and I ended up heading back to the hotel a couple times a day just for the purpose of going to the bathroom. Bathrooms are also just different in Europe (i.e. much smaller, toilets flush differently, all just little things that aren’t too odd), so don’t expect them to be super luxurious or similar to home, even if you are in your hotel room.

One cultural difference I noticed is that people eat meals (especially dinner) a lot later, and often times stores and restaurants close for a period in the afternoon (it varies but usually around 1-3pm). At home my family usually eats dinner from the 5-7pm range but on the trip we usually ate around 7, and the restaurants would not be busy at all when we were there unless we were close to a large tourist attraction. Right when we would leave the restaurant would usually be when it got busier and more people were out on the streets; people definitely stay out later, whether it’s for dinner or just hanging out in the town squares. You can use this to your advantage because if you don’t mind eating a bit earlier, everything will be practically empty and there will be shorter wait times. It also gets dark a lot later (in Paris the sun didn’t set until 10:00ish!) so time just seems to pass by in a different manner.

The atmosphere at restaurants is also very different in Europe. People spend a lot more time talking at the table and there is generally a much longer wait to get your food. You also have to ask for the check; unlike in America, everyone is taking their time and the server will almost never bring it to you on their own. It’s kind of nice though since you can just sit back and enjoy your meal and the people you’re with at the table for a while.

A tip that’s somewhat obvious- WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES!! Even if you take public transportation to get around whatever cities you visit, you will still be walking for a majority of the day and it will definitely start to wear on you towards the end of your trip. In the first city we visited (Paris) we were able to walk around all day and just keep going, but by the end of our trip we usually needed to return to the hotel for an hour or two in the afternoon just to rest and take a break since we were so drained. Everyone in my family was wearing comfortable shoes; therefore, we would have completely died without them. The streets are often cobblestone and somewhat uneven so they are especially hard on your feet and it would be very difficult to walk on them in heels or anything of that sort.

The last thing I’ll mention in this post is to just be courteous to all of the locals and staff you interact with. Most people will speak some English at restaurants and tourist destinations if you are in a big city, but it’s still polite to ask first rather than assume they do and say a bunch of stuff they won’t understand. From my experience, the people in Italy were slightly more friendly than the people in France; however, both groups were overall very kind and helpful whenever we came into interaction. It helps to know some basic phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting- I would suggest knowing how to say hello, thank you, good morning/day, and goodbye at a bare minimum, and you may pick up some others during your trip as well. Be mindful of your actions in public (and your volume, Americans are loud!) and try not to stand out too much, even though you’ll probably still be identifiable as a tourist no matter what.

Above all, enjoy your trip!! It will most likely be one of the best experiences of your life and definitely a rich cultural immersion. My trip was definitely one of the highlights of my year and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the world in the future. If there’s bumps in the road, don’t sweat it- just keep moving, it happens to everyone. I hope you all have the best time on your travels, stay tuned for more content! This may be my last travel related post for now, but new and exciting things are to come.


How I Packed For a 2-Week Europe Trip (Carry-on and backpack only!)

Hello everyone!

Today I am going to be going through everything I packed for my recent trip to France and Italy. I was there for fourteen full days but technically sixteen because of the two travel/flying days. I waited to write this post until after the trip so I could see how effective my packing strategies were and evaluate what I could have done better, which hopefully you guys can learn from! I am by no means an expert packer though; I’m generally an organized person and pack very far in advance, but for this trip I literally packed most things a few hours before I left. As always, there were a few things I ended up not needing and a few things I wish I had brought, but I actually think I did a pretty good job overall. Here is an itemized list of what I brought, with how much I used it and explanations for certain items:

  • 2 skirts (they were more on the dressier side, I planned to wear them in Paris but it ended up raining so I didn’t wear either at all)
  • 2 rompers (one was worn once, one I wore twice or three times)
  • 1 sundress (worn once, I preferred my rompers just because of the convenience of not worrying about them flying up)
  • 2 pairs of jean shorts (one was worn around four times I believe, the other not at all because they were less comfortable so I always chose the other pair instead)
  • 1 pair of patterned, flowy material shorts (worn once)
  • 1 pair of flowy pants that had a tie-around belt (worn twice, once in Paris because it was unexpectedly very cold, once in Rome for when we toured the Vatican)
  • 1 pair of jeans (worn twice in Paris; it was cold)
  • 1 pair of leggings (worn three times; technically I didn’t pack them because I wore them on the plane, and I wore them on the plane to Italy and the plane coming home)
  • plain black t-shirt (worn twice or three times)
  • plain red t-shirt (never worn, planned to wear with the skirts but didn’t match much else except jean shorts and I preferred to wear tank tops)
  • pink graphic tee (worn once, on the plane ride there so technically not packed)
  • plain black tank top (worn around 4 times)
  • one-shoulder black tank top (never worn, I always chose the normal black tank top over it)
  • black cropped off-the-shoulder long sleeve shirt (never worn, too hot in Italy and too cold in Paris)
  • pink tank top (worn once)
  • black belt (worn four times, worn with the jean shorts each time I wore them)
  • black Patagonia light waterproof windbreaker (worn six times, each day in Paris and on both the flights there and home)
  • Birkenstocks (worn three times, only in Sorrento so each day I was there)
  • white Nike Air Force 1s (worn everyday besides when I was in Sorrento)
  • toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, rubber bands and special floss for my braces, acne cream, deodorant, shampoo (when it ran out I used shampoo from the hotel and I always used the hotel conditioner), face wash, perfume rollerball, nail file, wipes, mouthwash, hairbrush and hair ties, Tide stain remover pen, chapstick etc. (all used every day)
  • 4 sets of pajamas- 4 t-shirts and 4 pairs of cotton shorts (each worn 3-4 times)
  • around 20 pairs of underwear (each worn 1-2 times)
  • 5 bras (each worn 2-4 times)
  • 6 pairs of socks (each worn 2-3 times)
  • black fanny pack (worn 4 times, each day in Paris)
  • electronics (phone, iPad, phone charger, iPad charger, portable charger, charging cord for portable charger, plug converter, earbuds)

I know it sounds like a lot, but I used almost everything multiple times and there were only a few things I didn’t use that I shouldn’t have brought. I also went shopping in Rome and got a shirt, two skirts, and a romper. I also got a souvenir sweatshirt at the Sorbonne in Paris and I got a t-shirt and sweatshirt in Florence, so I had more clothes to bring back (don’t worry, they all fit perfectly fine in my suitcase!). I even wore the Sorbonne sweatshirt as soon as I got it in Paris since I didn’t have anything else that was clean and warm our last day when it was raining there.

That brings me to my biggest mistake- I should have brought more cold weather clothes to Paris. This isn’t necessarily due to a lack of proper planning though; I knew it was going to be a bit chilly but the weather forecast changed once I was there, and it ended up being a lot colder than I thought. It even rained! Luckily my Patagonia jacket was waterproof, but it definitely wasn’t a proper warm jacket for actual rain. If the forecast for your trip is similar (a bit chilly but could go either way once you’re there) I would mix and match what types of clothes you bring- bring layers! That’s what I should’ve done; I should’ve brought another jacket and a long sleeve instead of the extra t-shirt and one shoulder top. This situation was also difficult for me to pack for since it was going to be so hot everywhere we went in Italy (and we were going to be in Italy for a majority of the time), so most of the clothes I brought were suited for warm weather.

Side note- I also brought way too much underwear but frankly, I always do that on trips. I especially brought too much of it because we ended up doing laundry three times on the trip: once in Paris because no one in my family packed enough cold weather clothes, once in Sorrento because it was so humid there that we kept changing and soaking our clothes with sweat, and once in Florence because by that point we were towards the end of our trip and it just made sense. It was hard to reuse clothes without actually washing them just because of the extremely warm weather in all the Italian cities we visited because we would get so sweaty that it felt gross. If this is the case for your destination, I highly recommend making the time to do laundry at a local laundromat sometime in your trip.

I usually fit all my electronic stuff and some toiletries to freshen up within the day in my backpack, plus my Patagonia jacket and whatever snacks I had on hand at the time. I also stashed my fanny pack at the bottom of my backpack when I wasn’t using it just because there wasn’t really anywhere else to put it. Other than that, everything fit in my suitcase with the tiniest bit of room to spare. I did pretty well with that- physically, I didn’t overpack since everything always fit in my bags.

The main thing I did well was picking out some good basics to bring. I brought a lot of versatile pieces that I ended up wearing a lot, like the black tank top and jean shorts. Bringing a dress and two rompers also helped because they didn’t take up much space and they were easy outfits that I could repeat. I didn’t end up wearing most of the pieces that were weren’t versatile or on the plainer side, so I would definitely recommend bringing mostly basics.

For reference, I was using a normal size Jansport backpack, and my carry-on suitcase is by the brand Lucas (I got it as a gift but I think it was from Marshalls). I ended up having to check my suitcase on the flight to Paris because it was an inch too tall but for some reason on my flight back home with the same airline (Norwegian Air) I wasn’t required to check it. I checked it on our flight to Italy (I wasn’t required to but our tickets came with free checked bags so we just did it) and our easyJet connecting flight to London (they have a rule where you can only bring one bag on the plane and purses/backpacks count so I had to check the carry-on to bring my backpack on the plane) though. All of my toiletries were travel size except for a few like deodorant that I put in my dad’s bag that he checked each time, and I kept them in a toiletry case by Victoria’s Secret that I use for every trip.

I hope this run-down on what I packed helped you out and gave you some pointers for what to do and what not to do. I’ll be posting again soon with my trip reflection, it’s just taking me a while to think about everything I want to say!


Europe 2019 Trip Reflection

Hello everyone!

As you all know, I have returned home from Europe so sadly the daily updates of the trip are over. However, I still have a lot to say about the experience and how amazing it was, so today I’m just going to “review” the trip and discuss all of the things I learned along the way. I will do it first by (and I will give a reference to my hotel and the food overall in each city) and then my experience as a whole.

First up: Paris, France.

I think Paris was my favorite city, which I definitely expected; it’s been my dream destination since I was a little girl. Sadly it was gloomy and rainy the whole time we were there, but I still really enjoyed the vibes and everything that we saw. It was a little dirty but much cleaner than Rome, and I always felt relatively safe walking down the streets. There was so much to see on every street corner, and we could walk to it all within 15-20 minutes. The street vendors weren’t as in-your-face as they were in Italy, which I came to appreciate later on. I was just more interested in all the historic sites and monuments in Paris since it was all so grand and I had previous knowledge on most of it. Seeing the Eiffel Tower was definitely my favorite part, as it lived up to all my expectations and was probably the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The city looked different than I expected but that may also be partly because of the weather; I always envisioned sitting out in the sun by little cafés and people watching, but people were usually inside since it was cold and drizzling while we were there. The pickpocketing incident on the Metro (read about in my Europe day 5 post) scared me off from it a little bit, but we left shortly after that anyways. My least favorite part was either experiencing that incident, or the day tour to Versailles since our tour was overall a negative experience and we didn’t get to see the actual gardens. Walking through the city just gave me such an amazing vibe and I would love to return and see better weather.

Hotel: Hotel d’Espagne- 6.5/10, good breakfast and friendly staff, location was pretty good but it was still usually a 20-30 minute walk to get to most places, room and bathroom were clean but very small and no toiletries were provided

Food: 6/10- mostly attributed to me being a picky eater and not being the biggest fan of French food, we mostly ate sandwiches and burgers so it was just alright but desserts/pastries and bread were AMAZING

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento and the entire Amalfi coast is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and I wasn’t even expecting to fall in love with it. After the craziness of going everywhere in Paris I was glad to have a couple relaxing days in a beach town, but I didn’t realize how cute and entertaining it would be to stay here. The main square was always bustling with life and there were so many streets to walk down and shop for local goods at. There were also tons of amazing restaurants, and everything was close to the shore of course. Swimming in the Mediterranean Sea was probably the highlight of our stay here; it was so warm and the water was a beautiful shade of green. I didn’t want to leave after a day of soaking up the sun there, it was just too scenic and relaxing. We didn’t end up doing a tour of Capri or the other towns along the coast, but that just gives me an excuse to come back someday! The weather was very hot and humid, but it was a nice change from the June gloom of Paris, and it helped me get a little tan at the beach. Walking down the Sorrento streets and looking at the ocean from the cliffs above while devouring some delicious gelato as the sun set will forever be a wonderful memory.

Hotel: Hotel Villa di Sorrento- 9.5/10, bigger breakfast selection but actual quality of food wasn’t as great, VERY friendly staff, rooms were very nice and much larger (especially bathroom), plenty of toiletries provided, great location- right near the main piazza in town and the main beach access, a little outdated though and lots of stairs to get up (elevator was very small so we didn’t take it often)

Food: 10/10- all of the local restaurants were amazing, everything was around the same price and you couldn’t go wrong with a pizza anywhere (the restaurant right next to our hotel had AMAZING pizza); Italian food is my favorite so don’t be surprised by this high of a rating, but it was also really good here and there was such good gelaterias as well.

Rome, Italy

I’m just going to be straight up here- Rome was my least favorite city we visited. There were definitely some things I loved about it and it’s still another beautiful city with a rich history, but it just seemed dirty and overcrowded to me. When we first got there and started walking around the streets were empty, but as soon as we got near the Trevi Fountain (or any tourist attraction) it was suddenly so packed we could barely move. Seeing the Colosseum at sunset was definitely my favorite thing we did during our time here; the day tours of the Vatican and Colosseum were not the most positive experiences and they were both quite exhausting. I think how good a tour is depends on your pace in comparison to your group/guide’s, and how entertaining your guide is, and our guides were not the best. I was paranoid most of the time we were there as the street vendors/scammers/rose guys?? (not sure what to call them) were EVERYWHERE in your face and the train station was especially sketchy. I know it can be like this in any big tourist destination, but I just didn’t feel as comfortable as I did in Paris. However, we had some great weather there (HOT!) and it definitely had its charm; the piazzas were beautiful to hang out in, and there were more cute cafés and greenery. Even though I knew a lot of the historic background of the city and the places we went, I just wasn’t as intrigued as I was with Paris and everything there.

Hotel: Hotel Mascagni- 10/10, we got upgraded to a bigger suite for free (the only downside was we were in a separate building from the main one which meant we needed to use two elevators to get to our room) and it was VERY nice and VERY clean, spacious and all toiletries were provided, breakfast was the best out of everywhere we went and the staff (especially the breakfast cooks) were extremely nice!! The location was also good, it wasn’t the most popular area at night but it was close to the Colosseum in one direction and the Trevi Fountain in the other.

Food: 8/10- food was very expensive here and there were lots of tourist trap restaurants. We tried our best to go to more authentic Italian places but when wandering around and hungry we definitely ended up in some mediocre places (our bad!). It was never bad because it was still Italian food/pizza and pasta which they couldn’t mess up, but it wasn’t the best or as good as I hoped. The gelato was decent but I liked it better in Sorrento.

Florence, Italy

I enjoyed Florence, but it wasn’t the most interesting city. It was much, much cleaner than Rome and very beautifully maintained, reflecting the wealth we saw there. Passing by the Duomo everytime we walked somewhere was incredible (I was in awe everytime I looked up at it), and I enjoyed going to the museum to see David and other famous works, but other than that we kind of just wandered around. There was lots of shopping everywhere but the only other main place we went was the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Again, it was a place with more shopping and expensive goods; however, there was also a beautiful view of the river which made it a lovely place to just go and walk around while enjoying the views. This was also a safe city and I felt comfortable walking around, but after exploring there wasn’t too much to do besides go to a few other museums we weren’t interested in. It’s a very small city so I wouldn’t plan on staying here for long, but I would still definitely recommend coming for a couple days.

Hotel: The Glance Hotel- 9.5/10, this hotel was very modern and clean, the staff weren’t the most friendly but they were helpful and they had an activities hospitality desk person at all times that outlined plans and good restaurants to us, the rooms were fairly small but overall clean and nice, there was a rooftop pool which was beautiful, breakfast was pretty good but not as good as in Rome, and the location was decently close to everything we wanted to see and a lot of the shopping.

Food: 8.5/10- Everywhere we ate was decent, but it was extremely expensive at most restaurants (it was a very expensive city) and nothing stood out to me too much. Again, there was good gelato and a couple meals that were excellent, but my favorite pizza was still in Sorrento.

Venice, Italy

Venice was absolutely beautiful! It felt even smaller than Florence (it probably is but I’m not sure, the reason it may have felt so small could also be because we mainly stayed on one side of it), but there were always more streets to walk down and everything was so picturesque that it made it worthwhile even if we didn’t know where we were going. Our gondola ride on the water wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be just because it was short and we mainly stayed in one area, but it was still amazing just to be on the water. I loved how the lack of roads made everything just feel more walkable, but it was also kind of a struggle since it was very crowded and all the streets were very narrow. Sitting in St. Mark’s Square (or any other square there, for that matter) and just taking in all the beautiful buildings was so calming and I could’ve easily sat there all day. Similar to Florence, once we walked around for a while there wasn’t much to see; there was tons of shopping and places to just kind of explore and look at, but not much else to actually do. We went to the Rialto bridge a couple times just to look out over the water, but you’ll honestly catch glimpses of the canals from almost every point in the town. I loved it there, but I wouldn’t have wanted to stay too much longer just because I feel like we had tired out most of the must-see attractions.

Hotel: Hotel Antico Panada- 4/10, there were barely any breakfast options, the hotel staff were not the most friendly, the room was tiny and very outdated compared to all our other rooms (to be fair, most buildings in Venice seemed outdated besides the VERY high end ones), the location was decent though; very close to St. Mark’s Square.

Food: 9/10- We weren’t there for very long but most of the meals we had there were excellent, there were tiny little restaurants all around that were delicious, and we had the best gelato ever at a place called Suso (I think?). Stay away from the cafés and gelaterias near St. Mark’s Square or touristy places- not only are they insanely expensive, but they’re also not as good.

Now that I’ve given you the rundown on each city and my opinion, I’ll tell you what I actually gained from the trip. This was my first time ever traveling out of the country, so it was definitely a culture shock going all the way to Europe and into a couple of its biggest and most famous cities. I learned a lot about myself as a traveler (my traveling style- I’m an early bird and I always like to be moving, but I need my rest at night) and how I’m a very different type of traveler than my parents. Paris has always been my main bucket list destination so it was just incredible to start off my first international trip there and I’m so glad I did. It was also interesting to see how different European/French/Italian culture is, from the difference in bathrooms (size and different toilets!) to dining habits to just daily life and interactions. There were tons of things I never realized would be so different in other parts of the world, and it just took me by surprise every time I discovered something new. In a way, the trip also made me grateful to live in such a wonderful country and state where our cities are relatively clean and I always feel safe (not that I didn’t feel safe in Europe) and at home. I’m so thankful to my parents for giving me (and my brother!) the opportunity to go on a trip like this and explore a new part of the world; I look forward to seeing even more of it in the future on my own and this trip made me hungry to do so. Europe, this won’t be the last you’ll see of me by any means: I know I’ll see you again in the near future, thank you for the memories you’ve already given me.

I hope this gave you a more complete overview of what going to France and Italy was like for me! If you would like to read about the details of my trip, check out any of my daily posts from when I was there under the Europe 2019 category. I have one or two more posts related to travel/the trip and then I will be shifting gears into various other types of content covering the rest of my summer, so stay tuned!


My Top 3 Packing Tips For International Travel + some extras

Hi everyone!

Today I am sharing my best packing tips based off of mistakes that I made on my recent 16 day trip to France (Paris) and Italy (Sorrento, Rome, Florence, Venice). I posted about my experience each day the entire time I was there, so if you haven’t already read those posts I would really appreciate it if you checked them out! It might give you an idea of what to expect if you are a first-time traveler to any of the places I went as well. In that case or in any other case, hopefully these packing tips will help you out on your next trip.

The most important thing to figure out when you start packing is if you are going to be checking a suitcase or not, and how many bags you will need. This will determine how much room you have for everything you bring and how much you will have to carry. I personally only brought a carry-on and a backpack for my personal item, but on certain European airlines we used throughout the trip I ended up having to check my suitcase anyways since it was slightly over the dimensions limits for carry-ons. That brings me to my first tip, an obvious one I should have figured out myself before the trip.

Tip #1: Do your research on the airlines you will be taking BEFORE packing.

I made this mistake- I thought I was taking a carry-on because that’s what my bag was by (most?) US airline standards, but it was actually over the height/width, etc. for carry-ons for some of the airlines we used for this trip such as Norwegian Air. Doing your research will also obviously help you figure out how much it costs to check bags and how many pieces of luggage each person is allowed, which can help you figure out what else you can/should bring.

Tip #2: Strive for packing SMART over packing LIGHT.

Everyone trying to give you advice says to pack light no matter the trip, but I actually have a different perspective on this after my experience. I tried to pack light and I kind of did (I brought a few unnecessary things but not too many), but I still didn’t end up with everything I needed. Bring layers and versatile pieces; almost every piece you bring should be able to form outfits with each other. It’s not necessarily about packing the least amount of things possible. Just pack one or two of each type of item and make sure you’re prepared for different types of weather if it’s not completely clear what it will be like outside (if it’s going to be really hot or really cold the whole time then you’re good, but if it’s more inbetween then prepare for all reasonable outcomes of weather).

Tip #3: Bring a backpack and a smaller bag inside the backpack.

Some people advise against bringing backpacks because they make it easier for pickpockets and such. I have to agree, but I still think they are very convenient for flights/airports and they allow you to hold way more things than most purses. If you have the room, I would suggest bringing a backpack and then putting a smaller bag (or two!) inside of it to use once you have reached your destination. I did this by putting a fanny pack inside of my backpack and it worked perfectly since the fanny pack was much better to use out and about in the cities, but I still had the backpack for extra space. You could also fold up smaller bags inside of your suitcase to use this tip.

Those are my main three tips since I think they’re the least “basic” out of most of the tips that are repeated out there on travel websites everywhere. However, here are a few more tips that you may have heard before because it’s always a good idea to refresh your memory:

-get travel size toiletries or travel size bottles to transfer your toiletries into if you are packing only in a carry-on

-remember to put a luggage tag on your suitcase with an updated address, phone number, etc.

-bring a fanny pack/money belt to reduce the risk of being pickpocketed

-try not to dress in a way that will make you stand out as American i.e. don’t wear shirts that have names of American places/things on them and dress up a bit more when appropriate

-buy a plug converter since wall outlets are different in Europe/other countries and you’ll need to plug in your chargers

-pack a portable charger!! these are lifesavers especially when you are so faraway and your phone is your lifeline to home

-don’t exchange money in the airport, either do it beforehand or once you get in the country at an ATM

-print copies of your passport/other valuable info and keep them in your suitcase/separated from the place you keep your actual passport

I hope these help you out and most of them can be applied to domestic travel as well (the first main tip is most necessary for international flights but it’s always a good idea to check!) so even if you’re not going out of the country you can still use them. Let me know if one of these was new to you or if you have any tips to add!


Europe Day 16: Traveling Home – Flights from Venice to London & London to LA

Hello from home/the United States/California everyone! Today was a LONG day and an early day too; we woke up at 3am to get ready and leave our hotel. We left our hotel at 3:30 since we had to walk a little bit to the meeting point for our water taxi that was meeting us at 3:45. Our flight was at Venice Marco Polo airport at 6:50am, so we got driven there and arrived around 4:15. It was a longer boat ride than we thought, but it was pretty cool to see the city in the dark- some people were even still outside sipping drinks when we walked through St. Mark’s Square to get to the taxi dock!

We got to the airport and checked in; it was somewhat confusing because the airport was laid out kind of weirdly, but we checked our bags and went through security successfully. For our flight from Venice to London Gatwick we flew on easyJet (our travel agent booked it before we read the airline reviews..) so we were nervous, but everything seemed fine besides some underwhelming service at the bag drop. There was a little café for breakfast and we were all starving so we grabbed croissants and waters there. The croissant was the sweetest one I’ve had (a little too sweet for this early in the morning) but it did the job. We waited at our gate for a while and got shuttled over by bus to the plane.

We took off late and the flight was 2 hours so we ended up landing in London at about 9:40am. However, England is on a different time zone an hour behind Italy and France so it was actually 8:40. I just listened to music and watched Pitch Perfect on the flight (I noticed it was on Netflix when I was looking for things to download on the app!) so it went by quickly even though I didn’t manage to fall asleep. We were nervous about flying easyJet because of the negative reviews but it ended up being completely fine and all of our baggage came through quickly, since we somehow got the option to upgrade to priority boarding and luggage retrieval (for 18 euros total!) when we checked in.

After arriving and collecting our baggage we had to take a shuttle to the other terminal of Gatwick Airport and check-in for our Norwegian flight to LA. We checked our bags again and went through security which actually took a decent amount of time; the airport was bigger than I thought and it was pretty crowded, especially in comparison to the Venice airport. We immediately went to eat once we got to the gates and shopping area since we were all starving. Most of the places were still serving breakfast (it was 10:30 by this point) including the restaurant we went to- I got scrambled eggs on toast with bacon and it was definitely the best and most filling breakfast I’ve had in a while.

We waited around for over an hour because our flight was at 2:10pm, but boarding actually started pretty early at around 12:50. We flew Norwegian Air again just like on our flight to Paris, and everything went smoothly. It was a VERY long flight and I didn’t sleep much (a couple hour-long naps at various times), but they provided two small meals and there was lots of free entertainment on the built-in touchscreens. I also watched a documentary on Netflix called The Secret that I really enjoyed- it’s about the Law of Attraction and I would highly recommend it. We landed around 5:10pm at LAX and it was such a relief after the long day.

Before getting our bags and leaving the airport, we actually did our interviews for Global Entry. We did the first part of the application a while ago and it was available to finish when arriving from international flights; it’s a service that puts you in shorter lines for security/customs at the airport. It didn’t take too long (we all had to answer a few questions individually, take our pictures, and scan our fingerprints) but my brother wasn’t feeling well and we had to wait a while for my dad’s friend to pick us up since there was so much traffic so we ended up leaving around 6:30pm. We stopped at In N Out (oh, how I missed it!!!) since we were all starving and arrived home by 8:30pm.

My family members all got ready for bed and crashed as soon as they could (we’d been awake for over 24 hours and they didn’t sleep at all on the plane!) but I suddenly caught a second wind of energy. I unpacked my suitcase and backpack and ended up putting everything except food items away, so that made me feel productive. I also took an hour in bed to decompress and catch up with my friends and social media. I wanted to make a to-do list since I have LOTS to do now that I’m home, but it got too late once I showered and got ready for bed, so I just went to sleep with Netflix in the background.

I’m posting this from the comfort of my bed and my own personal space (aka no more cramped hotel rooms), and I’ve never felt cleaner or better. This trip was really the trip of a lifetime but it was also very draining by the end so I’m happy to be home now. More content about the trip will be coming soon (packing related, a reflection, etc.) so don’t fret if you’re looking for more travel posts- just stay tuned! This trip began at the very beginning of my summer (we left the first day of summer) so there is lots more in store for the next couple months ahead, and there will definitely be different types of content on here to reflect that as well. I’ll update you as always!


(Sadly, I have no pictures from the day as it was just a travel day; I also didn’t get a window seat on either of the flights to get some shots of the views. We flew over the Alps again which was beautiful though.)

I inserted this picture of St. Mark’s Square since technically this was the last scenic place we were in throughout Italy/Europe when we saw it in the dark today… I forgot to take a picture of it then but it was all lit up.

Europe Day 15: Last Full Day in Italy, Exploring Venice

Welcome back everyone! Today was the last official day of our trip as we depart from Venice to return home tomorrow, and it was a full day of exploring the city. We didn’t have tours or excursions previously booked for the day, so we got up a little later. My dad got up earlier and went to scope out this hotel’s breakfast by himself; he texted us that it wasn’t very good but he would meet us down there for coffee and figuring out where to go instead. We got ready and went downstairs so my mom could get some coffee but after that we immediately headed out into town.

It was 8am so I was surprised that no one was really out and awake, but we were able to walk down to a supermarket and get some turkey to eat for protein. One thing I miss from home is turkey is usually my choice of lunch meat/snack, whereas here in Europe there’s usually only ham in sandwiches and such. I also wanted some fruit (I hadn’t had genuinely fresh fruit in what felt like forever) so we bought some from a little cart. It was like a fresh bite of heaven when I ate my first strawberry in two weeks, and I devoured the rest of the fruit quickly. There seems to be way more little vendors selling fresh fruit here than in some of the other cities we visited, but that’s just my opinion based on what we’ve seen.

It was actually pretty chilly outside and the forecast said it would rain later, so we ran back to the hotel room to grab light jackets. I also changed into shorts just because the breeze was a tad bit too strong for my flowy skirt I wore originally. We headed back outside and walked around with my dad guiding us. He was using maps on his phone to try and find some areas we hadn’t explored. We passed through some streets with local apartment buildings and came to a huge open square. More people were starting to come out, but it seemed like this area was more actual residents of the town so it was still fairly empty. We sat and relaxed for a while enjoying the peace and quiet until we began to hear thunder in the distance. It was only a matter of time until it started raining and my dad wanted to see a basilica nearby, so we decided to head there and then go back to the hotel before we got caught in a storm.

We got to the basilica and it was next to the Leonardo da Vinci museum so we observed those from the outside before turning back. On our way back to the hotel we stopped in a glass shop and my parents bought a couple things, such as a really cool picture frame. It was drizzling the rest of our way to the hotel, but we made back inside just as the rain really started. We stayed in our room just unwinding for a while as we waited out the rain until finally going out again at lunchtime.

We walked to a restaurant my dad found online- I got my last margherita pizza of the trip and it was great!! My favorite pizzas I had were still in Sorrento though. After eating we were looking for a gelato place and we stumbled upon one with a super long line; we figured we could try it so we waited for about 15 minutes to get our gelato. The place was called Suso and it was the BEST gelato I’ve had, I highly recommend it. Again, sadly the last gelato of the trip. 😦 I got mint chocolate chip and it was delicious, plus the cone was warm and fresh. It started to rain again so we headed back to the hotel room and rested for a while, getting a head start on packing up our stuff for the early flight tomorrow. It was actually quite entertaining because we were watching some Italian TV and my brother was having a spaz attack- just good old crazy family bonding.

We stayed inside again until dinner, when we went back to the same restaurant we ate at for dinner last night. I ordered the same thing as before (steak) and it was even juicier and better than last night! I also really enjoyed their rolls, I’m not sure if I mentioned that last night. We enjoyed our last dinner in Italy/Europe together and there was lots of laughter at the table. By this point it was around 7pm and we have an extremely early flight tomorrow (6:50am, we have to get up at 3 and leave our hotel at 3:30 because our water taxi driver is coming at 3:45!) so we just went straight back to the hotel and got ready for bed. There were still a few more things to pack up and figure out for tomorrow so we got ourselves sorted and did our best to go to bed early.

Venice was a beautiful city with a lot of charm; I’m glad it was our last stop since the main activity here is just walking around and it has a pretty low-key vibe. The only downside was our hotel wasn’t the nicest (our hotels in all the other cities were much better and had more breakfast options) and the weather wasn’t too great today, but those things can happen anywhere. There were tons of cute shops to look at (mainly glass) and there were lots of little hole-in-the-wall restaurants on every street. It was pretty packed just because of how small it is and how many people come to visit, but as soon as you find your way into an open square you can easily relax and have some space. And how could I forget to mention the canals again? Overlooking the water from any of the numerous waterfront areas or bridges is beautiful, especially with all of the picturesque buildings in the background. I can’t say I would spend a ton of time here since there’s not too much to see, but it’s definitely worth stopping here for a few days if you’re already traveling to another Italian city.

Tomorrow will be a very long day of travel for us, as we don’t have a direct flight back to California. We depart from Venice’s airport with a 6 hour layover in London at the Gatwick airport, and from there it’s a direct flight home. The first flight will be about 2 hours and the second will be about 11 and a half so we are kind of dreading it (all the more reason to just stay here!) but we are also ready to come home. A huge thank you to Europe, specifically France and Italy, for putting up with me and my family for the past two weeks and showing us their history. Even with our trip’s ups and downs, it was definitely the best and most eventful vacation I’ve ever been on, and I got to explore places I’ve always dreamed of seeing in real life. I hope you all enjoyed reading about this trip- there will be one more post tomorrow just covering the travel day since it’s still technically part of the whole experience. The next time I post, I will be back in the USA!


I thought this pink building was really cute, we saw it on one of the many streets of apartments.

This was an art museum located near the basilica we visited, across from the da Vinci museum as well- I thought the architecture was amazing.

(I don’t have many pictures for today since we saw most of the sights yesterday and today the weather was bad, I apologize 😦 As much as I wish the trip went out with a more exciting bang, it was nice to just have a relaxing day to reflect. Speaking of that, a trip reflection post will be coming once I’m home!)