Saturday, July 30, 2016

5 Tips To Save You Money While Studying Abroad



1. Cook for yourself

A week’s worth of groceries can end up being the equivalent of two meals eaten out. An additional idea is to cook with friends. Not only is it more fun, but also each person can buy a few ingredients instead of all of them. Cooking for one person is difficult anyway (ex: how do you eat an entire bag of carrots by yourself before they go bad [unless you eat carrots all day every day]?) 


2. Start with free activities

This doesn’t necessarily help if you’re being spontaneous, or if your abroad program doesn’t provide you with important dates from the start (ex: finals). BUT, as much as you can — plan ahead. Airfare can be significantly cheaper. Even smaller things like renting bikes, or going on a tour can cost less if you buy ahead of time, usually online, instead of once you get there.


3. Plan ahead

It will probably take longer than you expect. Especially in some cities like London, where 99% of the museums are free, you'll be kept busy and save money. Even if you’re in a location where museums and exhibits cost a pretty penny, get outdoors! Have a picnic, explore a different neighborhood, walk around a park — the possibilities are endless. Of course, don’t miss out on something you really want to do because it isn't free, but know that if you’re on a tight budget, you won’t be sitting around doing nothing all day. 




4. Have an arsenal of discount/deal websites at your disposal

Sky Scanner, Expedia, Google Flights, and Airbnb will be your best friends.
There are also websites for discounted tours, entrance tickets, etc., but I find the biggest expenses are getting from Point A to Point B, and housing once you've arrived at Point B. I realize Airbnb isn't necessarily a discount site, but my friends and I used it for almost every trip and, honestly, it usually ends up being cheaper (and nicer) than a hostel. Highly recommend.


5. Spend money on experiences

Something I made a priority for myself, and also something instilled in me by my mom (she’s a wise woman), is to spend money on experiences rather than souvenirs/possessions. Your taste in clothing will change over time, that keychain you HAD to have will sit in a drawer, and will you REALLY use that ceramic plate of the cat in an “I <3 (insert city here)” t-shirt? That being said, certain things are cheaper in different countries, so if you do want to splurge on an item you’ve had your eye on, check if it’s less expensive in the country you’re visiting. 

With love,

Esra

Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Favorite Ice Cream Spots in NYC


I might put on my resume that for the summer of 2016 I was a part-time ice cream taster. 
Totally wasn’t, but you’d think I was with the amount of it I ate.

Before Mother Nature swaps out the sunshine for a crisp autumn breeze, be sure to give my top 3 favorite ice cream spots in New York City a try. I promise you won’t be disappointed.


1. Ample Hills Creamery

Ample Hills Creamery prides itself in being equal parts ice-creamery and bakery because of the mouthwatering, homemade mix-ins (chunks of goodness mixed into the ice cream). The “Ooey Gooey Butter Cake” is hands down my favorite flavor. It’s creamy vanilla ice cream with generous amounts of Louisiana style butter cake and MAN OH MAN is it to die for! I’m not even one who typically goes for vanilla based flavors if that tells you anything. The other flavors are just as creamy and wonderful. 

They have 4 permanent locations — 2 in Brooklyn and 2 in Manhattan. 
PS: they sell pieces of the butter cake itself if you find yourself hooked.
PPS: “Chocolate Milk and Cookies" was the employee pick.


2. Sundaes and Cones

You’ll find a unique range of flavors here. They have everything from classics like chocolate and vanilla to corn to Thai tea to red velvet (you get the picture). Lavender is one of their most popular flavors. Every single one I’ve tried (and the ones my friends have tried too) have been sure winners.

The real test for me was when I sampled their banana ice cream. If you don’t know this about me, banana is my favorite flavor, but most places do not do it justice. Every ice cream shop I go to I try their banana ice cream (if they have it), and it usually ends in disappointment. Well, folks, Sundaes and Cones passed the banana ice cream test! Passed with flying colors actually.

Stroll down to the East Village and you’ll be in ice cream heaven!


3. OddFellows

Another ice cream shop not afraid to venture into uncharted flavor territory. Think: cornbread and miso cherry (just to name two). Personally, I have my eye on carrot cake cream cheese for my next visit. The flavors available change regularly because this Williamsburg-based shop makes fresh, small batches of their ice cream.

Note: OddFellows is highly loved, so don't be surprised if they run out of some flavors by late afternoon! 

With love,

Esra

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Body Positivity Video You Need To Watch Right Now


It breaks my heart how common body shaming, insecurity, and harm is. It affects so many of us, regardless of age or gender.

I’m not going to write too much on the matter (for right now at least), because I think Arden summed it up more eloquently than I ever could. I’m always grateful for the people in this world that post positive and uplifting content online when our media can be so poisonous to people’s mental health, among other things. What a role model Arden is for girls, and guys too for that matter, everywhere. 

Check it out and send her some love. 

With love,

Esra

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Happy Birthday, America


I wanted to wish all my fellow Americans a happy (belated) July 4th.
I hope you all had a safe long weekend full of fireworks, BBQs, and relaxation. 


With love,

Esra

The Optimum Diet, Or Lack Thereof


I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to eat.

I feel like lately there have been so many articles claiming to have the secret to health or “THE BEST diet/lifestyle in the world.” It makes it seem like you have to follow a specific, strict way of eating or else you’re doomed to disease and premature death.

The fact of the matter is everyone’s body is different, and therefore, everyone’s optimum “diet” (not dieting kind of diet) is different. What makes me feel most healthy and energized might not necessary be what works for you. Some people feel amazing being vegetarian, and other’s feel best by including meat in their diet. Some people thrive as vegans, and others feel sluggish from it. Regardless of these types of dietary preferences, junky, greasy, chemical pumped, processed foods don’t make ANYONE feel great. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some Cheetos every now and then (a guilty pleasure of mine), but it shouldn’t be the basis of your diet.

This being said, on my little corner of the internet I’ll still share with you some of my favorite recipes and foods because it’s something I’m passionate about.

Do what’s right for you, make your own rulesand enjoy life.

With love,

Esra

Monday, July 4, 2016

Life Post-Abroad and How to Cope


Regardless of where you study abroad, one thing that is undoubtedly the same for all locations is this: everyone who has been there before you will tell you it was the best thing they ever did, and they miss it every day. I’m here to tell you the latter is fiercely true because of the first.

It’s been two months since I said “see you soon” to my home away from home: London. I became so used to all the little things that make British culture what is it, that even though after 4 months I had a list of things I missed, after about a week of being home, I was left with an ache. I left a piece of my heart in London.

Adjusting to home life is a bit strange. You feel like you never left, but small things have changed because contrary to what you might think, life still happened while you were away.


How do you cope with being back and missing abroad?


1. Know that it’s okay to have culture shock
Normal, everyday things from home may seem foreign. Your reality might feel like it was turned inside-out, and upside-down. I experienced ’this the most when I spent a month in China 4 years ago. Post-China I had a very difficult time interacting with some of my very best friends, living day to day life, social media, and even smaller scale things like air-conditioning. Of course, Chinese culture is more drastically different from American than British, but it could have easily happened post-abroad as well. Sometimes it can hit you without warning, regardless of country or time spent there. It might seem scary, but know it’s normal, and it will pass. Reacclimate, and go easy on yourself.

2. Be thankful for the experience you had
“Wow, I wish we could have done this when we were your age.” — my parents (and probably yours too).

Realize how fortunate you are to have been able to study and live in a completely different country for an extended period of time. That experience is invaluable and incomparable to anything else. I know it’s cliche, and if you’re really aching about being back home it may sound more annoying than helpful, BUT it’s true nonetheless: don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. This being said I’m a firm believer in crying (and releasing emotion), so if you feel like shit, and really can’t be happy right now, then let yourself feel like shit — it’s cathartic. You can, however, feel like shit and be thankful at the same time.

3. You’ll have changed for the better; continue to be that new you
You may not be able to put your finger on exactly how you changed, or in what way study- abroad has impacted you, but I guarantee it has. It may even be that you’ve realized new things about yourself. When you travel, you grow as an individual. It’s inevitable just like changing over time is. Hold on to your new self, and don’t feel like you have to mold back into the person you used to be. Sometimes it's hard to hear from close friends that “you’ve changed” because you assume "change" has a negative connotation, but change isn’t an enemy.

An example? I got so much more comfortable doing things alone while abroad. There would be times where my friends were busy, and I wasn’t going to let myself sit around when I had all of London waiting to be explored, and only 4 months to do it (for now at least). I was happy going to a museum by myself, whereas a few months ago I would have felt too awkward about it.

4. Your adventures don't have to end
This was probably what I struggled with most this time around. I was so upset that my life would go back to a mundane existence full of routines. Then one day I refused for that to be the case. There’s absolutely no way you’ve seen or done EVERYTHING in your hometown. If you genuinely have, move on to the town over. It doesn’t have to be over the top (although it can be if you get creative or live in a super cool place). For example, I went hiking at a preserve I had never been to before and I felt so happy to be exploring again. Simple, and very doable. Basically, live with that “every minute counts” mindset that you had abroad while at home too. 

With love,

Esra