10 Things People Don’t Tell You about Studying Abroad

As some of you may have noticed, 1st on Trend went dormant for a little bit. That was because I did the best thing (and most likely the best thing I will ever do in college) that I could have possibly done for myself– I studied abroad. Unlike a majority of colleges, my university requires all of us to study abroad at some point in our four years here– whether it be for a few weeks during the summer or an entire semester, everyone who currently attends Susquehanna University has been required to go abroad.

I spent the months of August to December in London. I was enrolled at Regents University London– I lived in the dormitories on the American College’s campus in the beautiful Regents Park off of Baker Street– and I can say without a doubt that it was the best experience of my life. I traveled to Cardiff, Edinburgh, the Highlands of Scotland, Oxford, Bath, Brighton, Stonehenge, Paris (EURODISNEY!!!!), Amsterdam, and Kephalonia (a small island off the coast of Greece). I saw about 10 castles and/or royal country houses for a class (my inner art history nerd flourished). I attended London Fashion Week– I sat in on the Fyodor Golan show– the London Edge convention, and London Comic-Con (where I met Andrew Lee Potts!!!). But most importantly– and the reason for why I decided to not blog while I was there– I figured out more of who I am as a person. I learned how big of an influence art is in my life; that I love traveling to new places; that I loved hanging out on the weekends with friends who were hardly “posh” (except for one ginger); and that I met some of the best people in my life while out there.

This blog is a list of 10 things I wish someone had told me before I left for London. This list pertains to the before, during, and aftermath of your adventures. So, here goes:

  1. You will find yourself
    1. This is very much a cliche belief– but it is very true. Until you are abroad, you won’t even understand some of the small, unique things you love. Like, small waffles from various vendors in the streets, or shopping in the Turkish markets, or negotiating over prices of food and cool stuff in the Camden Lock. You will find out that you are very passionate about things– whether it be art or food or foreign television or sports– and you will thrive on it and find a community that loves you for it (and people who won’t vocally judge you for it too much).
  2. You will try things you never thought you would
    1. What you never thought you would be seeing about 6 million bodies under the city of Paris? Or eating actual Italian food in Italy? Or swimming in the clearest water of the Mediterranean? You will do things big and small no matter where you go. Whether it is trying food you have only ever heard of on Bizarre Foods or exploring an ancient castle or taking photos of the canals around the Red Light District of Amsterdam, there are things you will never have thought of yourself doing. And the best part about all of it is that you don’t even realize you did something like this until you are already done with it.
  3. You will make some of the best friends of your life out there
    1. You will meet some of the most amazing people when you travel abroad. Whether they be American, European, African, Asian, South American, whatever, they will be some of the most unique and amazing friends of your life. They will add a new spice to your life and conversations and make everything seem more exciting (especially if you both are doing something new together).
  4. You will miss said friends insanely when you return to the States and realize they aren’t down the hall from you anymore
    1. One problem with those amazing friends– after the semester or year is done, you all go back to far off places. And there is nothing more rough in life than when you realize you can’t just walk down the hall to show one of your best friends an amazing video– because she is now back home…in Missouri. Or that you can’t just call your friend and ask to get lunch with them because they are back at their school in Connecticut. Or that there are no more random photos with some of your friends because they are either in California, New Jersey, Massachusetts or (worst of all) still back where you were studying abroad. Essentially, a majority of the people that you become friends with abroad require extensive driving or a plane ride in order to see them in person again.
  5. You will buy clothes and stuff that your European friends think are awesome and you will feel silly wearing them back in the States
    1. So you bought that epic jacket, shoes, jewelry, etc. while you were abroad? That is awesome– until the people back at home stare at you for wearing it. Your excuse will be that your friends from Europe/Asia/Africa/Wherever You Went loved it and thought it was so cool or that everyone there was wearing it. Some people will love that, others not caring. But you know what, those are unique, amazing things that you sure can’t get back here in the States. So, you know what, wear those epic clothes and things you brought back– they are signs you went someone much more interesting and life changing than where you currently are.
  6. You will miss some completely random things when you come back.
    1. Walkers. Just Walkers.
  7. You will reference adventures that your friends back at home won’t understand
    1. Remember that time we went to the greyhound races and walked along a highway and though an incredibly sketchy park in the middle of the night? …..Oh, wait, you weren’t there for that….
  8. You will wake up one morning and suddenly remember you aren’t abroad anymore
    1. Even after being back home for a month or more, there will be days you wake up and think you are abroad…until you open your eyes. There will be mornings this immediately depresses you. There will be mornings this makes you nostalgic. And there will be mornings you look up flights for that afternoon back to London. But this will work itself out over time– it is part of the readjusting process and will take time. Just be patient with it.
  9. Your data plan will be the most amazing feeling when you return
    1. The most euphoric feeling when you land back in the US? Having data again. Relying on inconsistent university wifi; signing up for random things and ads so you can use wifi for a glorious 15 minutes; getting angry when you are told you have to pay for wifi; and crying a little bit on the inside when the wifi goes out just as you were sending an important message. Being able to text people, call them, and message people when you don’t have wifi is a very relieving feeling.
  10. You won’t feel the same after– and you won’t realize it until you come back.
    1. The last and final thing that is that you will change when you go abroad. However, you won’t really realize it until you come back. People will say you look different (especially if you, let’s say, dye your hair purple while abroad) and you act different. You will slowly come to realize that being abroad changed you without you consciously being aware of it. You will feel restless not being able to travel everywhere anymore; or knowing you have to drive somewhere instead of having amazing public transportation; or that you can suddenly convert money in your head. It’s the little things– but they can add up to some amazing changes.

Was there anything you thought should make the list? Have you studied abroad? Plan on it or hoping to?

Working for a Scarf

To any of the long-time readers of this little blog/confessional/style diary that I have here (and all of my friends), you will know what has been the driving force behind my dreams in fashion for the past five years of my life. A scarf.

Yes, it is a scarf of all things that has been the driving force behind all of my photo shoots, runways, styling, and stressful nights. But it is not just any scarf. It’s an Alexander McQueen skull scarf. McQueen, as I have discussed previously on this blog, was what showed me that fashion and style was something more than just getting dressed in the morning. That is is an outward projection of the inward being we are and are sometimes cautious to reveal. That fashion and what we wear project not only our socio-economic levels, but our dreams, insecurities, fears, and hopes for ourselves– whom we really want to be or who we see ourselves as. Fashion is more of a mixture of psychology and art than it is just clothes.

After five years of watching countless amounts of his runway videos, cutting out editorials from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar that are featuring his latest collection, and convincing my economics class to invest in his stock for our project, I finally decided I was going to purchase an Alexander McQueen scarf before the end of the summer. I picked up a second job to work evenings and early mornings– basically the only times I wasn’t interning– and started to budget every cent I had and what I would be earning in order to purchase this scarf.

To be honest, I could have purchased the scarf sooner than now. I have worked jobs where I could have bought two of his scarves in a month and still would have enough left over for some food. But it was something that I just never thought about pursuing. It was like the green light in the Great Gatsby– it was beautiful from afar but I worried it wouldn’t be as grand once it was in my hands.

But despite all of these concerns and with the positive support from my boyfriend, I decided I was going to save up every cent and buy that scarf for my semester in London (starting in late August). I subscribed to all the discount websites– that I can trust of course– and just prayed for a sale on one of those $300 scarves I had wanted since my sophomore year of high school. I worked late evenings, early mornings, multiple shifts on my “day off” (when I wasn’t at my internship), and as many weekends as I could. I would be the first to respond to the emails about an available shift and I would change any plans so I could just buy this damn scarf with my own money.

And then an email came. It came from Shop To Me and I briefly looked at my phone before going back to work. And then, like a ton of bricks, I realized in the subject line it said that wonderful name: “Alexander McQueen”. I immediately logged onto the site and saw that there was in fact a sale on McQueen scarves and that I was in reach of my dream. After looking through the five that were on sale, I finally decided on a bright orange one with gray skulls, blue and pink hummingbirds, dragonflies, and flowers scattered throughout and little flowers writing out his name in the center. I then placed an order and still didn’t believe I had done it when I got the confirmation of my order in an email. My brain just wouldn’t compute. It didn’t seem real that this item I wanted to bad for so long was going to be in my mailbox in less than a week.

I hadn’t slept the night before it came. I was up all night texting my boyfriend telling him how concerned I was– what if it didn’t feel right, the color was a bad pick, or if it wasn’t unique enough in my wardrobe? All of these thoughts and concerns raced through my brain throughout the night and I just worried about both my money and this scarf together. When I finally was able to pick up the package that afternoon I simply stared at the unopened box for a while, not quite sure what to do. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations and would be a disappointment. When I got back to my apartment I decided to open it. It was wrapped in this cheap clear bag, like how I get underwear from Forever 21, and I was disappointed it wasn’t in something more elegant. That this man and his vision could just be thrown into some cheap-ass plastic bag and then into a box.

I carefully removed the scarf from the bag and box and looked at it. I was confused with the style, length and whether I could really wear it. I felt like the green light wasn’t as cool as I was expecting it to be. I stared at it a while in my room, pondering whether it really was worth it. Was an entire month of late night shifts and no sleep worth this scarf? Was it really?

I decided to just try wearing it in as many ways as I could. I was going to make this work and not give up on this scarf nor him. He had gotten me through so much before, he could help me now too. Maybe it was just time, or finding the right ways to wear it, or just me realizing money isn’t everything, but I grew into loving the scarf. I haven’t worn any of my other ones since and look forward to wearing it in London. Perhaps it wasn’t love at first sight, but I am proud of myself for finally doing it.

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What do you think? Do you have a favorite designer? Or just something you have worked very hard for and it didn’t initially live up to expectations?

What We Should Really Be Talking About

Someone you barely know asks you out on the date. You are flattered, but you really aren’t interested in them. So what do you do? After all, if you say “no” they may not handle it well. They could stab you in the hallway, go on a mass shooting spree out of Grand Theft Auto V, or make your life a living hell just because you refused that stupid date. As ridiculous as this may sound, it is and has become a reality for a lot of people, especially women.  

Over the past few years there has been an emphasis on being a strong independent male whom also sees others as equals, not belittling others for the gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion. However, for every few fantastically modern gentlemen, there is an ass who thinks women should be thankful he exists and be opening their legs on command for him. And it is men like this that make it difficult to be a female in the modern world. 

Last Friday in Isla Vista, California, Elliot Rodger, 22, attempted to break into and kill several women in a sorority house on the campus of Santa Barbara City College and then fired arms of ammunition at random people in the streets and in a nearby deli before turning the gun on himself. He killed six people. All because no girl at college would sleep with him and he hated the world for it. He also left behind a 140 page manifesto-diary-confessional thing that explained he felt the way he did and did what he did was because he was a “lonely virgin”– he was angry that women wouldn’t have sex with him and infuriated by men whom were having sex. He felt he had something more to offer than these other men and that if women did not see that, then they deserved to be punished until they did. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPFcspwbrq8

While this situation itself is quite insane, it really is some of the reactions that people have to this that are making it worse. Some men out there are arguing that Rodger’s argument against women was actually accurate and that women should be punished for not accepting all men into their beds. Almost as if women have no choice in regards to their bodies and relationships and that we should be overly enthusiastic the moment the first guy asks us to jump in bed with him. Thousands of people– both men and women– face people like this every day. They manifest through both extreme actions– murder, assault, rape– and more culturally accepted ones– stalking, harassment, “cat calling.” Both some of my female friends and myself have experienced these. I had a guy stalk me for two years because I said I wouldn’t kiss him; I had another guy inappropriately grab me in the library at school to prove he wasn’t homosexual (he later did come out as that) and the teacher tell the administrator that I had “initiated it” by wearing a low cut shirt; I had a guy in high school verbally harass me because I refused to sleep with him and he couldn’t understand why; and my senior year I was told by several male friends that I should have been “flattered” and “over-reacted” to when two classmates secretly filmed me in the hallways and made a video saying how their ultimate fantasy was to rape me. And what did all of these situations add up to in my life? A fear to say no to a guy on a date. I went into a panic attack the first time a guy asked me out in my first semester of college– I worried if I said no he too would harm me and cause more damage to my psyche (it later turned out that he was ok with it and I ended up dating my current boyfriend of a year-and-a-half about a month later, but I got to know him before accepting his offer). 

The media has been blaming it on both his lack of sexual contact– as if a lack of sex will drive you to shoot random people on the street– and his mental disorder. But the disorder was being treated and his family was aware of it (a phenomena in a situation like this). When, in reality, this isn’t the conversation this event should be spurring. Rather, we should be talking about where this all really developed. So where does this overly, entitled masculinity that Rodger’s had develop from? Many people are thinking it comes from society and our acceptance of the powerful male stereotype we place on young boys. Whether it is in “nice story babe now go make me a sandwich” mentality or even in the song lyrics of Aloe Blacc’s hit “I’m the Man”, young men are told to repress their emotions and act with brute force (or even violence) when not given what they want. And while there is an argument that not all men are like that– and that is most definitely true– the fact of the matter is that there are too many men whom think like this. Hell, Elliot Rodger alone was one too many of this type of guy. 

So what should we do about this? We need to change our ways of thinking. We need to stop pushing stereotypes and forced gender expectations. We need to stop allowing adult men to believe they are entitled to women at whim and that if the woman rejects them it is something wrong with the woman and should be changed. We need to stop forcing women into a constant fear of what could happen. And I hate that this is so ingrained into our subconsciouses and culture. I shouldn’t be getting up in the morning and thinking: “Well, my boyfriend isn’t here today so is it safe for me to wear a skirt or shorts today? What would be the hardest for a rapist to get off of me and spare me some time to fight?” My parents shouldn’t have had to give me a bottle of pepper spray for “protection” my first week of college my freshman year. Instead of teaching women not to get raped, let’s just say to everyone “don’t rape.” Why not let guys be able to show emotion and even vulnerability? And why not broaden our horizons when it comes to whom and what qualities make “a man”? 

What do you think of this issue? What do you think of the overall larger issue at play as well? 

The latest single from Rita Ora’s highly expected second studio album, this song “I Will Never Let You Down” is both feel-good and perfect for the summer. I am in love with the music video and the fun style of it. Filled with Moschino, Chanel, Prada and more fun designer fashions, the music video is fun and entertaining both musically and visually.

What do you think of Rita Ora’s newest single? Are you looking forward to her new album? And what song do you think should be the song of the month for June?

Song of the Month: May

Forever Chasing After The Cool Girls: A Style Confessional

People ask me all the time where I get my sense of style. I usually blurt out the same answer I have been giving since I was in middle school– my mom. I remember my mom getting ready in the morning, pulling a vintage Chanel jacket on over her Lilly Pulitzer dresses and sliding her manicured feet into her Dior kitten heels and grabbing her Louis Vuitton speedy before taking me to school. She was always a preppy dresser– an accomplished equestrian rider in high school, sorority girl and cheerleader in college, and a sweet California girl and model before meeting my father on vacation. But even when I would tell people this is where I got my style, it never seemed to make much sense to me in my head– most people would believe it because it was a stereotypical answer. But, like many mothers and daughters, my style has very little in common with my mother. Where she wears Hermes equestrian-printed scarves I wear skull scarves; where she wears kitten heels and patten leather ballerina flats, I wear Converse sneakers of every color and design; where she wears small gold hoops and pearls in her ears, I wear safety pins and bullet earrings. My mother was the one who introduced me to fashion and style, but I don’t think she has been my style inspiration since I was 10. 

So, where did it come from? My parents think it came from my older brother, who was in a phase of wearing oversized black jeans and My Chemical Romance t-shirts when I started to enter into my lets-wear-black-everyday-style. My extended family thinks it comes from my father, who was very much a punk rocker before meeting my mom and kick starting his career. My friends think it comes from fashion magazines and watching too many Alexander McQueen runway videos in high school (which may be plausible). But I honestly think my style comes from something more abstract, something more unattainable. 

I think it comes from the “cool girls.” You know, those girls in New York City or London or Paris in black heeled boots, skinny jeans, funky hair, wearing all black and sunglasses when its cloudy out? Yeah, those girls. I remember being in elementary school and seeing those girls in my visits to New York City and how they seemed to have an energy and aura around them– like they were having fun but didn’t give a damn if you didn’t get it. It was those girls with the quirky accessories, simple yet bold outfits, and modern style that inspired me to throw all my baby doll dresses out of the closet and everything not black, grey, blue, or purple into the donation bin. I cut my hair off and kept it short until high school when I died it brown-red with eggplant highlights. I was always chasing after these girls and their effortlessly cool and edgy style and attitudes. I wanted to be them and their relaxed but confident walks. I wanted to be looking at the world through those dark shades and not caring that it was practically night out. I wanted to be one of those girls so bad. And, though I may not admit it, I still want to be. I want to be one of those girls with the confidence of a model and the style of a designer– I don’t want to be a college student who has an almost-all-black wardrobe and gets looks for wearing metal cat eats, head chains, snapbacks, or flower crowns to history class. I want to be them– a cool and modern adult, not a young kid still figuring herself out and praying to get a job someday. 

But maybe I will never be one of these girls to myself. Whenever people tell me I dress cool or am that I make a weird snort noise and say, “nah, I’m just awkward.” I don’t even look at myself as an adult much– never mind I am turning 20 soon and the official loss of my adolescence makes me want to vomit– and I sometimes wonder if I ever will. It may be a good thing to never obtain the goal of being a “cool girl”– it’s like the green light in The Great Gatsby, after idolizing it and imagining it for so long it may not be as fun or interesting as it was when you couldn’t have it originally. 

So, maybe forever chasing after the cool girls isn’t such a bad thing if it continues to keep inspiring me. 

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Thank you all for making 2013 as great as it was and I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for all of us.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Why I Want to be The Wolf of Wall Street: A Movie Review

There have been very few films this year that I have been as excited for as The Wolf of Wall Street– the last film I saw that made me this excited was The Amazing Spiderman (2012). From the first trailer back during the summer, this film had me hooked. The camera work, crude humor, fast-paced tone, excess nature of the characters, an awesome cast, an incredible director, and Kanye West “Black Skinhead” playing in the background, it all made me want to see this movie.

So, when the film came out I took the first opportunity I had to go see it. I had already began reading the book (also entitled The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort) and I was ready to see this film. After all, I take a lot of business classes at my college and I have pondered working on Wall Street a few times– I even had tours of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs the last time I was in New York City. But after hearing a few times that this film should have been rated NC-17 rather than R for the incessant drug use and nudity, I was a little nervous about seeing it– I am only a fan of excess nudity in a film or show if it adds to the entire thing and isn’t there just to be there.  And, despite all the nudity and drugs (it’s introduced into the plot literally in the second scene about…..5 minutes into the film), I loved this film from the very beginning.

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I loved the plot, the performances, the music, the cinematography, and the writing. This film follows the life and shenanigans of self-made millionaire Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the cohorts he hires. The story begins when he starts at a firm on Wall Street and gets some……unique advice from a senior broker (Matthew McConaughey)– including to do drugs and “relax” himself at least twice a day in the bathroom. But when that firm closes down, Belfort figures out an ingenious way to make money and make it quickly and opens his own firm with friend Donny (Jonah Hill) and others– none of whom passed their Series 7 exams or are legally allowed to be working there. The entire film follows Belfort, his business, his relationship with mistress-turned-wife (Margot Robbie), and the insane amount of drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes he spends his time and money on. This movie is a mix of Wall Street, Scarface, and Pulp Fiction and is pure movie genius. There are few performances as great as DiCaprio’s in this film– he completely vanishes and you only see Jordan Belfort. There have been many films that he has been nominated for and I have enjoyed his performances, but I must say that this performance blows every single other one out of the water. Such as, in one scene where Belfort and his wife, Naomi, are arguing and she is dumping water on him, I completely forgot that it was DiCaprio.

I cannot more highly recommend this film to people. It is expertly shot and directed and acted. It has some of the best monologues I have heard in years and seriously has some of the best humor I have experienced ever. I only warn that this is NOT by any means a family film– so do not take your child or young teenager or anyone who is not comfortable with nudity or drugs (if they cringed in Don Jon then do not take them to this ever). But if you want a well-written, well-acted, and a film that will be as quoted as Scarface, Good Fellows, The Godfather, or Wall Street, then definitely go.

All I can say is that with the success of this film, the book (it’s in the top 10 selling books on Amazon), and a possible reality show along the way, Jordan Belfort will be paying off his remaining $110 million to the US government much sooner than expected.

Final grade: 10/10

What do you think? Have you seen The Wolf of Wall Street? What do you think of the film?