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?

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.

Skinny Girls Have No Problems, Right? Wrong.

Skinny girls have no problems in life, right? Like, every guy flocks to them, every girl is jealous of her, and she can wear whatever she wants. The world and her life are as magical as a box of Lucky Charms being held by a unicorn, right?

Wrong.

Some of you may be already rolling your eyes over this post– a skinny girl complaining about how her life isn’t perfect and why being skinny, which is the supposed ideal of American society, doesn’t make life any easier for her. Yes, I can completely see why people would have that immediate reaction and I can understand the logic behind that too. After all, we are confronted on a daily basis about how being thin makes people, especially women, more successful, beautiful, and strong somehow. There are so many diet commercials, and they are all marketing to that notion that being thin will make life better. You will make more money, have a hotter partner, have amazing hookups or intimate relationships, and people will want to be you. But, is there any real logic behind any of this?

First of all, being thinner does not affect your chances of finding a Ryan Gosling-like mate. To be honest, my current boyfriend has been my first serious, as in more than one or two dates, boyfriend. I had a lot of male friends, and still do, but most of them would tell me that my small frame and lack of a chest and curves would harm my chances with the opposite sex. As one of my friends kindly worded to me, “Guys like something to grab onto.”

Another issue– clothing. People tell me all the time that shopping must be so easy for me since I am thin. It isn’t, by any standard. There are only a few stores that carry my size– I am limited to basically Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, and overly priced boutiques– and even then, they have an extremely limited stock of my size. Due to the fact the average American woman is a size 10 to 14, the stores will most likely stop carrying sizes 0 to 4– it isn’t in as high of a demand, so less inventory of it. There are also issues that go beyond the clothes in terms of shopping with being thin. People scrutinize you and if you ask for a size smaller, and they do not carry it, then the sales representative may just kindly tell you to “eat more” in front of other customers.

And, finally, the stereotyping the reason for their thinness. People assume people whom are larger eat to much– that they caused it on themselves– and people thus assume that those whom are thin don’t eat enough or at all. People tell people whom are thin to eat more– never mind that maybe they do eat three meals a day and they are thin from their natural metabolism or a disease or because of a sport they play, not because they are skipping meals or vomiting them up.

Am I typing this post to tell everyone that women who are thinner have more problems than the rest of the world? No. I am typing this to tell the world that every woman faces judgement and insecurities for her body. Whether you are thin or curvy, have a D cup or an A cup, wear a size 2 or a size 20, we all face judgment from the opposite sex and our own gender (hello, horizontal sexism!). My whole point for writing this is to basically express my opinion, which is that we all face issues with our body shape, weight, and self-image. No one thinks they are perfect– or, if there is anyone out there whom does, please comment and let me know, because in the 19 years of my life I have never met someone whom has honestly felt that way– so why make it harder on each other by saying one group has it easier than another?

What do you think? Am I wrong and one body type has it easier than another? Or do you agree and think all people, especially women, face judgement for their body type?

Souvenirs of a Young Love: “We are Forever Wed”

As I sat in a crowded movie theatre, watching The Great Gatsby (yes it has been out for almost a month and I finally went and saw it two days ago), I had a revelation and cried during a more happy scene in the movie. It was when Gatsby, played by Leonardo Dicaprio, said about the first time he met Daisy, who was played by Carry Mulligan:

“I knew the moment that I kissed her that we were forever wed.”

And somehow, for some strange reason, I began to silently cry in the movie theatre as I watched these two people inevitably lose each other forever. I would feel a tug at my heart and a twist in my stomach every time Gatsby said he was Daisy’s true husband and that they were truly husband and wife, despite Daisy being legally married to another man.

But this is frequent in the realm of literature. Take my favorite book of all time, Wuthering Heights, in which Heathcliff says he and Cathy were soul mates and wed since their first meeting as children. Or in the John Ford play, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, in which Giovanni repeatedly proclaims Annabella as his wife and when she is married to another man, despite her carrying his child, he kills her and takes her heart, saying his is entombed within hers the entire time. Or even the classic (insert eye roll here) love story, Romeo and Juliet, where they call each other husband and wife and proclaim an eternal love worth dying for. But is it possible to have a husband or wife without being legally married to them?

Yes. Yes there is.

I have friends who have felt that they have found their “soul mates” and the relationships did not work out, not because of anger or hurt, but just because they didn’t work at the time. Some have moved on, despite still holding a piece of their heart and soul separate for that previous person; and others have never been able to completely move on and hope they will reunite one day.

But in all honesty, it is because of my own personal relationship that I cried during this scene. He and I started dating about 7 months ago and he has honestly been the best thing in my life. I never felt as much love nor have loved anyone as much as I have loved him. And since being away from him on summer vacation, I have felt like there is a hole slowly bleeding in my chest. I miss him and sometimes start to randomly cry because I miss him, despite him being a text or phone call away. Every day I still wear every piece of jewelry he has ever bought me. And I can’t listen to “Lights” without starting to cry and at night I sleep on the right side, which is where I usually sleep when we are together.

We call each other husband and wife and talk about our futures together– where we will live, the names of our three children, and how we will take care of them with both of us with overly busy careers. We talk for hours a day, from when we get up until one of us (usually me) falls asleep.

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So, I wrote this because I thought about the concept of not being married to your husband or wife, but being legally wed to someone else whom you love but isn’t “the one.” And after reading all of this over again, I know I can’t let that happen to me or others. Now, is there the chance that unforeseen circumstances could arise for any of us and pull us away for a period of time?

Yes.

But will we hopefully come back together or hold onto the other person for as long as we both live, or even beyond that?

Yes.

So, with this piece of writing, I am saying that to the man whom I am so happily with, I am your wife and you are my husband. I will forever say “I do” to you and give my heart and soul strictly to you. You are the only man who can put a ring on any of my fingers and will feel empty without it somewhere on me. And you are the only man I will ever unconditionally love.

And, as a loved man once said, We are Forever Wed.

Song of the Month: May

I saw this band live back in April when they came as the opening act for the spring concert at my college (the main performers were Group Love and I honestly was disappointed with their performance). Magic Man is a group of Rhode Island college students who formed a band with a 1960s flair. This is their song “Texas”, which you can download for free (along with their other single “Paris” at http://magicmanmusic.com/). They will be on tour with Walking the Moon for the next few weeks and make sure to check them out– they are very good (plus they were nice enough to take a photo with me and my boyfriend after the concert).

The song and video belong to Magic Man. All rights reserved.

What do you think of the song? What do you think of Magic Man? And do you have a recommendation for June’s song?

Where in the World Has Mikaela Been?

As some of you know, I have had not had a plethora of time to keep 1st on Trend updated like I do during the summer months. Well, that is due to being at college. I am currently finishing my first year at Susquehanna University and it has been incredible. So, I am uploading a video I made of me, my friends, the love of my young life, and my school. I could never thank everyone enough for including me and making me a member of their “family.”

Love you all and cannot wait until next semester!

All photos belong to me but the music (“Still Into You”) is property of Paramore, Fueled by Ramen, Atlantic Records and Warner Group Records. All rights reserved.