Tag Archives: travel

Dream Big But Never Sleep

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Adventure (n). It’s safe to say I spend half my time thinking of ridiculous things. And the other half actually doing them. An impromptu, whirlwind tour of the East Coast for the week(end) constitutes both the former and latter.

Solo? You betcha. Fear is not a friend of mine. Plus, I have an uncanny habit of making and finding friends along the way.

Going to a Jesuit university has its perks, namely five sweet days of break that feel just too good to be true. High fives to the Easter bunny. Unceremoniously wedged between Spring Break and finals, it’s a catch-breath before finals pulls a berserk attack. I’m starting to dream of those hot summer nights on the horizon.

But hot dang, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. April stands for adventure (n.) – so we’re doing just that. Genius is as ingenious does. Run with it? I thought you’d never ask. We’re going places!

New York City strikes me as grit disguised in big dream glory. Even with its brisk, fuggedaboutit tone, New York has always been a bit of a dream. You see, it paints bright-eyed girl with dreams too big for baggage (guess who?). It’s the endless and constant supply of doing that tempts a hopeless doer. And it’s the challenge to make it big where and when the changes seem so small. I’ve warned you that I’m a hopeless dreamer, with an eye for the unlikely.

I’m hanging around NYU, right at the intersection of Banker St. and Hipster Ave. I’ll likely be found at Moth Slam with M or walking through the Village with no particular destination.

Yale seems downright collegiate. While their bulldog mascot is sadly nowhere near the caliber of Georgetown’s (ha! ;)), I’m excited to see the place that high school best friend SC has shown me only in ridiculous stories.

Columbia | Barnard: Rumor has it that all students must be able to swim across a pool before graduating. I dig that sort of crazy creativity, meaning I’m already a fan. I’m seeing friends S and N. Waffles are a given.

Happy Wednesday, friends. It’s time to meet the city that dreams big but never sleeps. Funny, that city sounds a lot like someone I know? Oh right, that’s me. -L

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What Nobody Told Me About Study Abroad

(Note: Reposted from the article in Georgetown’s newspaper The Hoya, which can be found here with stylistic variations.)

Immersed in the crisp autumn air of a Parisian night, I realize that this is kind of a funny story. 

I look up at the million shards of light that dance before me and breathe deeply, taking in the speechless grandeur of the Eiffel Tower. Pausing, I think to myself: “This is it! This is what I will tell people about study abroad – the revelatory feeling of discovering what only existed in dreams…”

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And then abruptly, I stop. It’s true that this is dream-worthy, but it doesn’t tell the whole story about studying abroad. As I enter my fourth month in France, I reflect on this question often:

What will I tell people when they ask about study abroad?

I think about this because I remember asking the very same questions about study abroad myself.  As a Hoya, a student, and a dreamer, I have valued my time abroad at its fullest. However, I know that much of the remaining value exists in being able to translate this experience to life on the Hilltop—to both my life and that of others.

It is with this realization that I want to share something immensely important. Something I am quite frankly scared to share. I want to tell you what I wish I had known, but perhaps what you may not want to hear.
I want to tell you what nobody told me about study abroad.

Strap on your seat belts, and grab a chair. Let’s do real talk.

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Like many people, I had dreamed of study abroad since coming to Georgetown. I decided early-on that languages are bonkers cool; traveling is all sorts of amazing; and exploring a new culture is downright jazzy. So as junior year approached, I carefully filled out the applications and tackled the painstakingly atrocious VISA process. I chose to study in Nantes, France (the country’s 6th largest city). And six months later, I stepped off the plane. Wide-eyed, awestruck, and wondering if I was in the famed Genovia.

Fast forward to one month later, and my life as seen by most people is nothing short of a French fairytale.

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I’ve met my host family and learned that my dad is a semi-famous French chef.  I’ve made some awesome friends, many of which are among the 40 other American students with whom I’m spending the semester. Dublin, Paris, Munich, Bologna, Rome, Florence, and the French Champagne region dot my travel itinerary. I’ve immersed myself in the French language and started rapidly climbing the learning curve. The world’s best pain au chocolat is a daily staple. And I’ve discretely stepped into life as a femme française, forming a newfound identity as the Princess of Better-Than-Genovia.

This story illustrates the highlights of my time abroad, which has been undoubtedly magnifique. It reads like a flawless fairytale, a dream and a half, a casual frivolity. It depicts a tale without bad days or trips on the Struggle Bus. And it evokes an easy-breezy-beautiful-Covergirl sort of mentality.

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But what nobody told me about study abroad is that it is not just about the highlights. It is not always “easy.”

I don’t mean just physically, emotionally, socially, financially, mentally, or personally. I mean, every single bit of it. When I first remarked on these tiny ebbs of subtraction, people were quick to respond, “BUT YOU’RE IN EUROPE. YOU CRAY?” like they were shouting the final answer to Jeopardy. As if being abroad automatically means you can’t feel anything but flower-crown-adorned happiness 24/7.

But bad days and personal struggles exist abroad just like anywhere else. Perhaps even more strikingly, being that one stands beyond the sureness of a comfort zone.

There may be days when you struggle with always feeling like the outsider. When your country, your culture, your language, YOU are now the minority rather than the majority. When you feel like classes are either an unbelievable “joke” or a believable impossibility. When the loss of a community of intellectual engagement leaves you without any raison d’être as a student.

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It feels like the moment when the ground was yanked like a rug beneath you, and you promptly ended up landing on your tailbone. HARD. But even with a bruised ego, it’s as if it’s sunny and raining simultaneously: the rain smacks ya grandly with all it’s got, but the bright moments put the starry-look back in your eyes.

Maybe or maybe not you’ll feel that nobody “gets you” in the inexact precision of your personality. You may be confronted with the loss of all things familiar, including familiarity itself. In venturing to the likes of Facebook/ Instagram/ Twitter/the Interwebz, you might be greeted with FOMO (fear of missing out). For some, maybe the lessons in solitude will manifest as lessons in loneliness. For others, there is the trying emotional investment of having a loved one elsewhere—of figuring out how to live feeling like the other half of you is elsewhere. For you, perhaps being understood in full is the simplest wish and the most unattainable desire.

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In talking with others abroad this semester, every person remarked that they thought study abroad was “supposed to be easy.” Though most described the overall experience as positive, nobody described the semester as easy. And in fact, not a single person ever recalled hearing about these trying lowlights of study abroad beforehand.

Yes, I will tell you that study abroad is magnifique and for some, life-changing. That you can pursue the extraordinary and find life unlike the one you’ve lived. Yes, I will tell you that I believe it is 100% worth it and that you’ll never forget it.

But yes, I will also tell you that study abroad is not just plain easy.

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For most, it’s not an endless parade of glamour and ease—a 4-month-long vacation of stars, rainbows, ponies, and absolutely perfection. I tell you this not to complain about a “hard knock life,” to lament an epic 1st world problem, to be negative, to be discouraging, to scare you. I tell you this because it’s what nobody told me. Rather, this is what I wish I had known so as to avoid feeling caught off guard or as if these sentiments were unique to me.

For me, study abroad has been nothing like I expected but far beyond anything I ever could have dreamed. Plans rarely go directly according to plan. Sass frequently goes through the roof; hair gets tangled; and life gets messy on the daily. It’s not cute.

But you learn to make it your own. Through it all, life abroad paints the world in colors you’ve scarcely imagined. And the complete picture is one of highlights, lowlights, and everything in between.  It’s rarely perfect but always as it should be. It’s a whole lot of organized chaos, a whole lot of faith in yourself, and the reminder that, well—

It’s kind of a funny story.

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By: Lexi Cotcamp, MSB ‘15: Reposted from The Hoya‘s (Georgetown’s newspaper) article found here, with stylistic variations.

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A Glimpse at Paris

We’re totally going to talk Paris. About how all alone in the city of love & lights, I was rarely alone.

It’s a conversation and a half, and it’s headed your way in a jiff. “Why not now?”
8 AM classes, homeskillets. Like whose gameplan was that? Don’t remind me.

Let’s do pics…it’s a total mellow Tuesday move.

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{ best friend A & I casually strolling near Le Tour Eiffel}

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{The Lumineers concert in Paris!}

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{Macarons from the master himself, Pierre Hermé}

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{Locks of Love & Cathedrale Notre Dame}

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{place de la république à paris}

Now who wants to go to an 8 AM class?

…That’s what I thought.

-lexi

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Florence, You Sexy Beast

I wish I could tell you I’ve been off honeymooning in Fiji for 10 days with Italian pop star Paolo. Or Italian sandwich star Pino.

There would be coconuts! Turquoise water tip-toeing! Exclamation points! And palm fronds gently fanning.

Reality check: no palm fronds. Unless you count the tree branches that decided to assault my face during the last 7 days of unrelenting rain in Nantes.

Not funny, Mother Nature.

Italy? Let’s talk about these dang adventures already.

Along with friends K & E, I spent 5ish days in Italy for our Fall break. The break was the longest of the semester, and we booked our tickets for Italy pronto within the first week of arriving in September. Italy was a done deal for us. We had roughly no idea we wanted to do in Italy, except just about everything. Yes, gelato was a big part of “everything.”

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So what happened? 5 days of abso-freaking-lutely, smokin’ hot mess.

Totally not kidding. With a little veritable truckload of help from our friends (new and old), we managed to make organized chaos look nothing short of awesome. After a night’s layover in Bologna, it was off to Florence!

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It would probably be an A+ idea to tell ya’ll that our fantastic time in Florence is deserving of a special shoutout. Longtime pal and Stanford grad M, who previously studied abroad in Florence, sent me the most ridiculously thorough declassified guide to Florence. Monuments, gelato, spectacular sights, tourist traps, declarations of love (and hate), gelato, local gems, and warnings (of fake gelato) were all scrupulously detailed on a Google map. And because he’s a gold-medal doofus, there was also a warning command that read, “If you go here, I’ll kill you. Go somewhere that is less like a Nightclub version of Applebees.” 

Clearly, he’s a keeper.

After around 8.56 bajillion miles of walking, we managed to see just about all of Firenze as guided. Including…

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Piazza Michelangelo, home of the best view in all of Florence. Beautiful view, meet my best friend ‘bottle of wine’ and good company too.

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Not one, but two melt-your-face-off amazing trips to Salumeria Verdi — or more fondly, “Pino’s”. This man makes the best frick frackin’ sandwich that will ever meet your lips. For 3,50 euro, you receive a mindblowing lunch AND a new best friend; Pino is the bomb.com and a Firenze legend.

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Classy sights like the museum housing the famous David sculpture and a surprise meeting with friend AC.

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Followed by a trip to Fiesole, with a sweeping view of all of Tuscany.

Excuse me while I make my way down from Cloud Nine. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to have gelato.

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Jokes on jokes. Zero gelato? Meatballs are more likely to rain from the sky (that would be cool?).

This was a trip to Vivoli Gelato, which we decided was the best gelato in central Florence. Tiramisu for this kid. Like the gods of Italy decided to throw a double dessert whammy all up in this shabang.

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Badiani Gelato. Which must be pronounced with sweeping hand gestures and a boisterous Italian accent that is rolling in the deep. You were right (again), M.

(You’re still a goober though.)

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Kickin’ it with the Medicis in Fiesole.

We’re super casual bros.

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Hey ho, ya spiffy Duomo. (center of Florence)

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Piazza Santa Croce. With colors that look like they splashed off the ground and onto the buildings + sky.

Florence was heavenly. The perfect blend of culture, Pino, history, accidental penthouse apartments, adventure, janky buses, toils of getting pooped on by a bird, beautiful views, carbscarbscarbs, students of all sorts, Tuscan sun, and gelato as a first language.

Like palm fronds and Fiji.

Only much, much better.

-lexi

p.s. Rome to come!

 

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This Couldn’t Be Me

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I look out the window, and my breath catches.

The freccia train that spryly runs from Florence to Rome beats onwards, whisking through the Tuscan countryside.

Italy.

I want to telephone the higher powers (?) and tell them they have the wrong girl. That this luck should be shared with someone else. That this couldn’t possibly be me sitting here.

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Softly, I raise the goblet of champagne that has appeared beside me to my curious, smiling lips. I watch the little, wide-eyed Italian toddler as he dawdles through the aisle, staring at the world. I think, this couldn’t possibly be me.

I absentmindedly nibble on the Italian  fennel-laced biscuit in front on me. The chorus of Californiacation fills my ears, and my smile grows a little wider with the stroke of happy memories. I hear English, see Italian words, and write un petit essai in French.

I want to tell you that I feel so very lucky and that I haven’t forgotten the importance of that. I think of you and me and this endless world we’ve set out to see.

And then I think again, this can’t be me; you must have the wrong girl.

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From Paris to Oktoberfest

Today, we’re going to do things a little bit backwards. We’re going to talk about Dublin tomorrow. Because we can. Power to the people!

On tap today: adventures in Paris and at Oktoberfest. Holy toledo, you might need to stand up for this one.

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I met A–among the best of friends from Google–outside of the train station  in Paris late on Thursday evening. Epics hugs were exchanged, and tears of joy may or may not have been present. A quick stop at A‘s host family’s palace apartment and then serious business!

Also known as takeout sushi. Which included getting drenched in a Parisian downpour and not caring one dang bit. There was talk of going out on the town, but you know what? Wine, cheese, chocolate, and 6 hours of life talk are pretty tall, dark and handsome. That’s real life.

We also ended up vid-chatting with four other bomb.com friends from Google. These people are what may only be described as “the freaking tits,” and I didn’t even realize myself how much I’ve missed talking to them. We’re an indescribable bunch all doing crazy different things, but it just works. No explanation necessary because well, tits man who has time for that? Sometime around 3:30 a.m.,  A and I smushed into her twin bed and returned to talk between two. I fell asleep smiling. Happy, so so happy.

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Friday, 7 a.m.: Alarms go off in unison. This kid is headed to Munich for Oktoberfest to meet H, my roommate and best friend at Georgetown. is London-bound to meet friends. We hug it out like its an Olympic sport. Technique is major (and impeccable).

Around noontime, I wind my way through the Munich airport before spotting a bright, blue sweater and tortoise shell glasses that could only belong to H. Hug-a-thon resumes. Olympic gold medals are a veritable DUH at this point.

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and I head straight to city center talking a bajillion miles per minutes while in search of food. We find Thai curry, or rather, curry finds us. And it’s game over. Curry……what? It’s cool; go with it. Exploring continues. Munich in Oktober has got it going on. It’s vibrant. It’s special. It’s the kind of place where beer trumps all else, and who’s going to argue with logic like that?

I should also mention it’s bonkers beautiful.

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We hopped on an off the spectacularly efficient D-Bahn (German train), going with spontaneity as our tour guide. We found nature! Or, I mean, something like that. Decided that life is a garden. And we dig it.

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Statuesque buildings and blue sky peek-a-boos. Buildings here are no wimpy business. Neither are the Germans, apparently.

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Churches richly hued with gold and so #casual you had to make sure it wasn’t just painted there. And casually accompanied by a mobile library because reading is all sorts of jazzy on a crisp outside afternoon.

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Somewhere along the way, we stumbled through a giant square with bean bags and hammocks plopped everywhere. Because nap time is a real life thing. America, get with the program. Please & thank you. 

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And finally, we found humanity at its finest. A spectacle of tomfoolery that looks like an adult version of Disneyland. Where OUT OF ORDER is the only order and logical reason is no good reason at all.

Welcome to Oktoberfest. Stay a little while, why don’t you?

{to be continued}

~lexi

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Deuces, Dublin

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“So did you have a ‘beery’ nice weekend?”

These are the kinds of texts that you receive from Momma J after a weekend in Dublin. Punnyness is apparently all sorts of contagious. Whoa nelly, we’re talking science!

This past weekend traveling to Dublin was like life’s version of a giant thumbs up. 12 kooky students; Guinness; Trinity college; fish and chips; coats & a lack there of; GREEN; irish soda bread; hostel shenanigans; and an endless quest for water beer.

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Is it story time? Surely it is.

But since Monday is officially shaking its fist at my face, we’re going to save deets for tomorrow. Like how friend, K, almost found herself with a marriage proposal and 64 cows.

Moooooooooooo-re on that tomorrow.

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