3 Things to Make Your 2015 Happier

Today, we have a guest post on the blog hosted by the Lookbook Store! Not only are they offering helpful tips for making 2015 the best year yet, the store has some great deals on styles for the upcoming season!

Another year to be thankful for. Another year of happiness, hope, and trials to face. Another year that we want to make more memorable and happier. Another year of laughter and smiles to look forward to.

We all want to make 2015 happier than the last year, so let me share some tips!

1. Buy something for yourself

Buy something you’ve always wanted. Indulging yourself with the small things that life can offer can help put a smile on your face. I’m not saying that you should spend all your money on material things; Rather, you should reward yourself once in awhile for hard work.


2. Go outside

We spend too much time staring at our smart phones that we forget to go outside and take a break. So if this is you, put down your phones and iPads and get out more. Reconnect with your friends and do something fun other than spending most of your time chatting on Skype or Facebook. Plus, spending too much time online can cause potential health risks.


Go out, take a walk and get some fresh air. There are a lot of things to do outside that are just waiting for you to be discovered.

Viewing Pleasure


3. Spend time with your loved ones

Been thinking about a relative you haven’t heard from for a while? Been thinking about the last time you had a family dinner and get together with your friends? Making and sharing good memories with your family and friends is the best way to make this year memorable. Call them. Send them an e-mail and ask them about their day. Or much better, pay them a visit. Spend time with people who you care a lot about because, as they say, the things that matter in this life are not things.

Hopefully, this year will be an awesome and fabulous one for you. Good luck!

A Generation of Romantics: How Study Abroad is Influencing Millenials

As a twenty-something born in the early 90s, I’ve witnessed no shortage of romance. It is delivered to us in the forms of novels, films, magazines, television, music videos, and more. Young millennials have embraced this notion of romantic love as an idealized goal, and has contributed to widespread “romanticizing” that includes all things material and cultural. We capture these moments of romance in 140 characters or in a square image in the spaces society has constructed for us to share within. Whether it is a snippet of a song lyric shared on Twitter or a love affair with a new pair of boots narrated via Instagram, romance, in numerous forms, is alive and well with our generation.

When it comes to studying abroad, young collegians jump at the chance to catch a plane with close friends, or even complete strangers, and spend time in a foreign destination. Students are encouraged to blog about their experiences abroad, email home, maintain websites, add photos to Instagram, and post continuous updates on Facebook. Such technology, astonishing in itself, permits people all over the world to remain in constant, uninterrupted connection. These images and words provide context to adventures for friends and family at home, and likewise give inspiration to individuals selecting an education abroad experience.

Such connection, however, muddles the purpose of education abroad. All students have differing motivations for choosing to participate in education abroad programs, yet the common denominator is always the opportunity to become immersed in another culture, become proficient in another language, or to develop cultural sensitivity and international experience that will inevitably make an individual stand out as a candidate in professional school applications and job interviews. I struggle with the idea of immersion because of the aforementioned concept of romance. Maybe it isn’t a romantic love, per say, but rather a romanticized fixation on the unknown and what is not presently in front of us. Social media and other revolutionary technological breakthroughs may actually be the downfall of education abroad. While promotion of programs in the field is largely dependent on digital communication, the students are also frequently encouraged to compete in photo or writing competitions in virtual spaces during their time abroad to connect those “at home” with what is taking place in their programs. After all, those who helped finance your education abroad investment want to see what their money has paid for, right?

Ultimately, participating in an education abroad experience is a personal journey that can deconstruct entire frameworks in a student’s mind that have been established by ethnocentrism. The concept of “wanderlust”, likewise, tempts undergraduates with few commitments to pack their things, travel, go, see, and do. Education abroad programs at universities across the world are providing unique and invaluable opportunities to students who want to pursue a thirst of cultural knowledge in an unfamiliar setting. Yet, students must let go of the idea of romantic culture, although it can be quite enchanting and awe-inspiring, in order to be entirely present in the space occupied during an education abroad program. Students should consider the longest program available to them for the opportunity for utmost immersion, and consider limiting social media use, communication with “home”, and other interactions that prevent them from living in their present and from taking in their current surroundings. By fully embracing an education abroad experience for what it is, absent of what you can learn about home on Instagram, students will have a more profound, and ultimately life-changing experience.

Initially posted on UKY Enkompass at http://enkompassuky.com/2015/02/24/a-generation-of-romantics-how-studying-abroad-is-influencing-millennials/ on February 24, 2015.

To Lilly or Not to Lilly?

I pride myself on being a very frugal individual. I am a year from being a college graduate, have two jobs, and no debt. (No debt pushed off on parents/family either) That being said, I have always been very good with my money. I’m careful with how I spend and how I save, but I love shopping and spending money on things that I can actively use. I’ve definitely spent a significant bit of time in a love affair with Lilly Pulitzer. In reality, I can’t fathom paying $100+ for a single article of clothing, but many patterns are incredibly unique, colorful, and just plain fun. Some of the designer’s newest prints are about the only things that will get me to purchase anything that isn’t the color black i.e. Mai Tai! I hate that specific looks and designers have to represent a certain social class or status because that just isn’t the case. I’ve NEVER paid more than $100 (honestly not more than $75) for any piece of Lilly I’ve owned. How? Miraculous sales and second-hand. What’s wrong with a piece that’s been treated with TLC seeing a second owner? Not one thing. eBay, Facebook resale pages, and Tradesy are some of my favorite places to shop second-hand Lilly (and sell too!). Pictured below are some of my most recent purchases — One is new with tags, the other gently used. Both scored for less than $100 combined on eBay.

The real issue I have with Lilly is the implication that you have to be of a certain class rank to obtain and wear it. With Lilly for Target hitting stores in just over a month (April 19th!), the Lilly-wearing community has been more vocal than ever about how Lilly creating a unique line to be sold in Target stores is “lessening the value” and “cheapening” the brand. This is ridiculous. If you wear a piece of clothing to indicate wealth and status, you’ve entirely missed the point of fashion. I think Lilly for Target, although I have not seen any prints, will be remarkable. Not only is the collaboration allowing numerous more Lilly-admiring individuals to obtain looks for a MUCH more affordable price point, the collection is reported to include a variety of household items, party favors, etc. in Lilly themes. I for one am ecstatic about the decision to sell new prints in Target stores. And let’s be real…what major designers haven’t previously collaborated with Target or another major chain to produce more cost-efficient and readily accessible merchandise? Way to go, Lilly Pulitzer!



10 Songs that Made My 2014

Not all of the following songs were written or produced in 2014. I may not have even heard them for the first time in 2014. Nonetheless, these songs made my year, and served as the soundtrack of my life in its various transitions.

Four Door – Sundy Best

Since I’ve been in college, country music has worked its way back onto my iPod. I’m not sure if its because I attend a major SEC school that likes to pride itself on southern identity or not, but I find it hard to pass up a band like Sundy Best. Based out of Eastern Kentucky, where my family is originally from, Sundy Best is country, folk, and twang, with popular themes in the lyrics. They don’t quite cross the border of bro-country, yet Sundy Best is just enough past your grandfather’s folk to have a strong youth/young adult following. Four Door, off their newest album Salvation City, truly hits home. Even growing up in the city, this song makes you want to be seventeen, with no responsibilities, and your first love next to you before you ever knew there was any hurt in the world.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “We burned up that road to keep from going home // Find the darkest spot in the parking lot, making love to the radio”

Litost – X Ambassadors

Attending the Panic at the Disco concert, I never imagined I’d stumble across a band with such raw talent and emotional lyrics. I’m not sure how to even pronounce this song’s title, because it comes from a Czech word. This track, however, is applicable to almost anyone’s hurt, and if you’re reading this (you know who you are), you know exactly why it made this list.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “I played hide-and-go-seek // Safe behind your veneer // Does it bury your burden baby? // Makes it all disappear”

Blank Space – Taylor Swift

Certainly not the first time this song has been featured on Space, Place & Southern Grace, Blank Space is Taylor Swift’s reinvention and as a long time fan, I am right there with her. Here’s to all the burned lovers, twentysomething wanderlusters, and those truly hopeless-romantic-love-at-first-sight-is-real types. Blank Space offers a new pop, a diversion from the wannabe country we’ve been collectively accepting, and gives listeners the opportunity to say (or scream) what we’ve all been thinking.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “Cause we’re young and we’re reckless // We’ll take this way too far //  It’ll leave you breathless, or with a nasty scar”

Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran’s first album very much could have served as the soundtrack to my freshman year of college. This new track offers the same soulful crooning, but is less burdened with Sheeran’s failed relationships and doubt. Thinking Out Loud will on bride-to-be’s first dance lists everywhere, and will be the song requested by at every couple’s karaoke night. Addressing all ages of love, Ed has done it again.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “So honey now, Take me into your loving arms //  Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars //  Place your head on my beating heart // I’m thinking out loud”

Rather Be – Clean Bandit

2014 was definitely a time to change and travel. Rather Be essentially reminds us that, although long distance relationships are likely to fail, love crosses borders and it’s next to impossible to be happy where you are if your heart is with someone else, somewhere else. Strings accompaniment offers a new approach to pop, and certainly brought European flair to the US music scene. Too bad the song was popular almost a year in advance across the pond before it reached us peasants in Kentucky.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “We’re a thousand miles from comfort // We have traveled land and sea // But as long as you are with me // There’s no place I’d rather be”

The Nicest Thing – Kate Nash

Kate Nash is another fiesty, British soul that has crept slowly into mainstream American music. A step down from Lilly Allen, Kate Nash usually offers sassy commentary on modern relationships and love. Nicest Thing, however, deviates from this norm to give us raw feelings post-break up. Nash’s delicate voice explains how hard it is to let go of something that you thought possessed the potential to be everything you ever wanted. And I think we can all relate.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “I wish that without me your heart would break // I wish that without me you’d be spending the rest of your nights awake”

Take Me to Church – Hozier

Only gaining popularity at the end of 2014, Take Me to Church was initially thought of as slightly “too dark” for radio. It’s pretty far from upbeat pop or hip hop, but offers meaning on a deeper level: something Chris Brown will NEVER achieve. The song is written much like I like to write in free verse with seemingly arbitrary associations that always manage to come full circle. Take Me to Church offers borderline sacrilegious commentary on relationships, fidelity, and love — and has a thought-provoking, groundbreaking music video to accompany.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “I was born sick, But I love it // Command me to be well”

Follow Your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves

So we had Same Love. Groundbreaking, naturally, for its open condemnation of sexuality discrimination. Follow Your Arrow, however: HUGE. Why? Genre. It’s all about genre. Maybe the song doesn’t exactly attack the institutions that perpetuate such hate, but addressing the LGBTQA population in a COUNTRY music is revolutionary. In a genre rooted in masculinity, damsels in distress, heteronormativity, and privilege, Follow Your Arrow finally says what so many people have been waiting for: Be exactly who you are, whoever that may be. 100% deserving of Song of the Year, too.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “You’re damned if you do // And you’re damned if you don’t // So you might as well just do // Whatever you want”

Hometown Glory – Adele

Definitely not a song from 2014, Hometown Glory gives all the feels. I’ve quoted this song everywhere from Twitter to college papers because, in my opinion, it chronicles the experiences of a twentysomething revolutionary trying to evoke change in an urban setting, and realizing the challenges that accompany. Adele is powerful and tragically beautiful all at the same time and her voice is hard to pass up no matter what is being sung. Hometown Glory is one of the earliest, but best contributions she has made to the American music scene.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “I like it in the city when two worlds collide // You get the people and the government // Everybody taking different sides // Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit // Shows that we are united // Shows that we ain’t gonna take it”

In My Bones – Ron Pope

Ron Pope has been a gentle voice on my iPod for over five years. Seeing him for free last year at my university was an unexpected blessing because it was right before the release of his newest album. The album, in my opinion, was a very different style from what I was used to from him, especially circa his days with The District. In My Bones is a bit of a Pope throwback, but it narrates perfectly a relationship that worked for a while, but inevitably burned out, and one party is left to pick up the pieces or salvage the wreckage.

Sarah’s favorite lyric: “And the truth about the two of us, is we don’t make no sense // When we made love, our love was just pretend”

The Pitter Patter of Uncertainty

All the letters I once wrote to you,
The letter’s addressed to someone new.
You and I & me and you & he and I & you and her.
What’s it like to linger?
And then the ivory tower collapsed.
Living with residual anger, residual sadness.
Rush over me with the swift feeling of remorse.
I rest in your back pocket, on reserve, from what you’re afraid to feel.

You’ve shown me a different city that bears the same name
You made me more afraid of living, feeling than dying
Treat me the same in the middle of the night and at two in the afternoon
I don’t want a broken heart,
But inevitability can’t be ignored.

Hold my hand because you want to,
Only say it if you mean it.
She’ll shed her coat and stay awhile.Are we standing in the sun?
I feel we’re close enough.
Cavity or calamity?
Caress my mind, but only deconstruct my soul if you dare.
Objectify me with your emotions, subject me to your feelings.

Nightcaps and sweet dreams.
Double jeopardy, try me again
This is a forever kind of thing.
Like lipstick on a Starbucks cup.
Take a napkin and smudge it,
Before the stain sets in.
Falling together or falling apart?
You cradle my heart.

The smile betrays your tears.
We’re starcrossed ex-lovers at best,
When the sun drops out of the sky.
Is the happiness you feel feigned?
Just because you hurt differently doesn’t mean you hurt more.

2015, Here’s to You

2014 was one of the most dramatic years to date. I couldn’t be more excited to see where 2015 will take me, however. I’ve been reading far too many blog posts about new year’s resolutions and what’s too cliche and what’s seemingly acceptable goals for twentysomethings like myself. I’ve decided to say screw those people who tell you your dreams are too big or, even better, too small. So, this year, there are some things I’d like to accomplish. Granted, I probably won’t complete all of them and many might change a long the way. Nonetheless, here’s to a new year and to setting personal goals because no one knows you better than you.

1. Write more. Sure, every blogger’s resolution is to be more dedicated and steadfast about keeping her site up-to-date, but that’s not even my goal here. I’ve been writing since I was fourteen and it’s the best release I can find. While I need to post more consistently because I want to gain more publicity for my site, I’m okay with more personal writing too that doesn’t get posted. It’s surprisingly refreshing and relaxing.

2. Tone. I’m not trying to lose weight, I’m just not quite satisfied with the look of my body. Naturally, I am conforming to an extent, but I think if I could tone myself, train and build muscle, and stretch daily, I would look and feel better overall. I did receive an exercise bike for Christmas and put in blood, sweat, and tears putting it together on Christmas Eve, so here’s to actually putting it to use.

3. Spend money. Saving is key, but I’m quite careful with my money. Currently, I am coming at you from my brand new HP laptop. It was time. I’m not going to go crazy and blow my savings, but a year’s worth of working three jobs should make 2015 my year to indulge and treat myself when I want to.

4. Go blonder. In 2014, I highlighted my hair for the first time ever. I have always said I would never be anything but a brunette, but I’m feeling a good change coming my way and for once I’m not too afraid of it. Hair is hair is hair; I can do whatever I please with mine and it will always be fixable.

5. Travel domestically. I’ve spent the last two summers abroad and broadening my horizons, but I’m finding that I’ve missed quite a few beautiful places right here in the states and even in my own city. I started 2015 on the beaches of Florida with someone who makes me the happiest I’ve been in years. I’m definitely trying to see places I’ve never seen before that are right under my nose with people I care most about.

NYE 2015

6. Do cute things because I can. For the first time in 2014, I sent Christmas cards out to my close friends and family through a special deal I got through a blogging connection. I used Tiny Prints and the service was perfect. I got these adorable little cards at quite an affordable rate, and I know little gestures and forgotten things such as letter writing can turn someone’s day completely around. Cards, letters, even a Facebook message can make a world of difference and it’s a positive, creative way to invest some of my free time.

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7. Move out! For the first time ever, I’m going to be a big girl moving on my own to an apartment at some point this year. Living in the dorm on scholarship and working there has been a beautiful blessing for three years, but it’s time to put on my big girl pants and take on more responsibility. I’m envisioning a few IKEA trips to seal the deal, but I can’t wait to have my own space.

8. Listen to the radio less. No, I’m not such a hipster that I just loathe mainstream music, but I used to invest a lot of time in hunting down new artists, seeing them live, and purchasing their music to support them and help them gain fame for incredible talent. While there is some pretty great, and equally terrible, stuff out on radio stations right now, I know there are tons of artists I’ve yet to discover that could make my 2015 concert schedule ;)

9. Downsize my wardrobe. I LOVE SHOPPING, no secret there. My closet, however, is way out of hand. So out of hand, that there are three storage bins of my clothes in the garage that I love and are still in style that I haven’t touched all season because I already have two closets (dorm and home) overflowing. I’m looking to sell some of the higher quality and brand name clothing to make a little extra money, but also want to invest in higher quality (also potentially higher price) items such as the beautiful Frye boots I just bought. Labels don’t make you, but quality, durability, comfort, and versatility can.


10. Take care of what I have. Which should be a no-brainer, right? Currently, my car looks like a disaster zone inside and out. It’s not in the best shape, but I need to make more of an effort to keep it clean and in good running condition if I want to get anything out of it eventually when I upgrade. Also, like, I could take better care of normal things like my teeth. Of course, I brush them everyday, sometimes twice a day, but bourbon and sweet tea sure isn’t good for color and flossing never hurt anyone. I’m going to need them for awhile, after all. ;)

So, good riddance 2014 and cheers to 2015. Here’s to looking at you.

With love from the laptop (FINALLY),

Sarah Alexandra

10 Signs You Might Miss Study Abroad

1. Your Instagram feed is devoted to photos of your time abroad.

“#throwbackthursday to the best semester of my life. PLEASE TAKE ME BACK!!”

You took a minimum of a thousand pictures during your education abroad experience, but everyone knows it isn’t socially acceptable to instagram them all at once. So naturally, you’ve settled on a mass upload in a photo album only your grandma and great aunt will take the time to scroll through. Your friends, however, will be forced to relive your experience with you every single Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday there is to come.

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2. You’ve become quite the food snob.

“This is okay…I guess…but it’s not quite authentic.”

No doubt, the food you ate abroad was spectacular. Whether it was a meal prepared by your host mom or something bought from a street vendor, the food in your host country was unquestionably superior. The chances that you’ve found something comparable in the States are also highly unlikely. Hopefully, that Costa Rican cooking class taught you a thing or two.

3. You stalk your university’s Education Abroad Fair and events.

“So what if I went to Spain with ISA four years ago? You HAVE to go!”

Your university has been trying to increase the number of students who study abroad annually, so they’ve invited recent alumni back to talk about their experiences with specific programs. You, of course, did not get the invitation considering you’re a fifth year senior who studied abroad the winter intersession of your freshman year. You make a certain appearance at the fair, however, because your experience was so stellar, you just have to make sure every other student, faculty, staff, and catering team member knows also.

4. You tell people you “lived” in _______ even if your program was only two weeks.

“When I lived in Mexico, I walked a mile to school every. single. day.”

No matter the length of your education abroad program, you feel confident saying you have lived in another country. I was living and breathing in England, after all, right? Every story you have begins with, “This one time in Bath…” and your friends continue to roll their eyes because they just don’t understand.

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5. You work for your school Office of Education Abroad.

“We’re EAPAs and we’re better than you.”

Despite the size of your university, your school’s education abroad department might be one room, or an entire floor of a building with multiple advisors and interns. You’ve found a way to land a position, whether paid or volunteer, in the department. You have also even considered graduate school for the first time to work in higher education or considered working as an advisor for education abroad. Shockingly, your fellow interns express the same sentiments.

6. You start pronouncing your host country the way it is pronounced by its people.

“Guys, it’s pronounced CHEE-LAY.”

You had never taken a day of Spanish class before you arrived in Nicaragua, but after just three short weeks, you would consider yourself at least an advanced speaker. Ordering at Mexican restaurants in Kentucky has become one of your favorite pastimes because you think you look sophisticated and worldly.

7. You may have had a fender bender…or two.

“I haven’t even driven for, like, four months.”

Chances are slim that you had the opportunity to drive during your education abroad experience because most programs prevent students from doing so. Even if you had had the opportunity, it is rare that you would have known the rules. The highway outside Monterrey doesn’t have lines and what are kilometers, anyways.

8. Public transportation isn’t quite as daunting.

“Mom, we only took the bus at night when we HAD to.”

Before studying abroad, you had never dared setting foot onto public transportation. Two weeks in San Jose and you’re an expert of the bus system. For less than $1, you can navigate the whole city, and get to the beach: a top priority. Even though your host mom made you promise you’d only take private cabs after 6, taking the bus was FAR more economical when there’s more zip-lining to be done.

9. Wanderlust has taken over your life.

“All I really want for Christmas is a wall-sized world map and push pins.”

So what if you have a giant world map above your bed? Or three? Or seven? Your Pinterest account is an ode to the places you’re dying to go and that first education abroad experience truly set a fire in your heart to see the world. Now, if you could only just convince mom and dad to finance your adventures.

10. If your host country comes up in lecture, you make it clear you are the expert.

“There were numerous dynasties in Asia…” “Asia as in China? I know it! I know it!”

Wherever you lived, you can dominate any conversation about your host country. Whether you’re discussing surfing in Australia or nonprofits in South Africa, you are undeniably the expert. Even if you don’t know all the facts, you still sound pretty intelligent on the topic and people generally take your word for it.

Original content originally posted on 1/6/15 on EnKompass.


You Say You Want a Revolution?

“I like it in the city when two worlds collide. You get the people and the government, everybody taking different sides. Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit, shows that we are united.”

 – Adele, Hometown Glory

The increasing prevalence of hashtag usage on social media domains has ushered in a new era of activism. Hashtags used on Twitter, Instagram, and among other social media networks connect trending topics in a centralized location and also group messages that share the hashtag, despite a commenter’s stance on the issue. Thus, many conflicting opinions can be presented side by side. Hashtags provide immense freedom of speech on social media networks and permit a specific comment or image to go viral rapidly because topics are concentrated in one place. Such concentration creates spheres and virtual spaces in which people attempt to enact social change, but likewise spaces that can purport discriminatory language and violence. These spaces and the ease of access with which many individuals can access them also provides means to formulate uneducated opinions, and to espouse misleading information based in opinion rather than fact. If our news media sources are noticeably biased also, how are we expected to know the truth about what is happening in our great nation?

In light of recent trials such as the deaths of Michael Brown and, most recently, Eric Garner, social media and hashtag use have complicated the circumstances surrounding the American justice system. When announcing the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the spokesperson explicitly noted that the most significant challenge faced in the deliberation was the influx of social media reports and misinformation distributed. In such a technologically advanced age, it is impossible to deny that heightened access to and use of virtual communication spaces create opportunities for immense amounts of misinformation, bias, and general slander to be circulated. Despite such distribution, the grand jury’s three months of deliberation should not have been clouded by commentary from social media sites.

Intersectionality proves that it is impossible to discuss issues of race, sex, class, gender, etc. without constant intersections and implications associated with the various identity markers. Jurors and the justice system, however, should solely be concerned with concrete facts, rather than “convoluted” accounts and testimonies. The fact of the matter is that a young man died by way of another man’s gun. Death merits indictment. Whether or not the defendant is acquitted, death deserves a trial to defend consistency in our justice system. While hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe have been created in opposition to the grand jury’s repeat failure to indict officers, how effective has hashtag activism actually been in enacting change? Hashtags begin conversations, but until legislation is upheld to protect the lives of ALL Americans, hashtag activism is insufficient. It is larger than placing body cameras on officers, it is more than tweets expelling the phrase “No justice, no peace”. It is more than legislation; it is the standards of accountability to which all Americans, particularly those in positions of authority, are held. It is how our children’s textbooks will paint the scenes of millennial revolutionaries, or not. We live in the most progressive era which the most resources to date to enact social change and to achieve equality, yet we cannot progress until we achieve consistency.

Study Abroad: Costa Rica

Winter is increasing the wanderlust in the air. I’m itching to travel again ASAP, but for now, an interview with the sweetest roommate there ever was will have to suffice!

Noell is a junior at the University of Kentucky from Ashland, Kentucky. She is studying Biology with minors in Spanish and Dance. On campus, Noell is a member of Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity and conducts undergraduate research in the Sanders Brown Center on Aging. Additionally, Noell is highly involved with the UK Honors Program and holds a job in the campus Visitor Center. Noell enjoys meeting new people, dancing, and watching Doctor Who.

Where did you go? When? What did you study?

“I studied abroad in one of the central provinces of Costa Rica, called Heredia. I was a student at La Universidad Latina de Costa Rica (Latin University of Costa Rica) and I studied Latin American Literature.”

How did you select your education abroad program?

“I was actually planning on applying to study abroad with a different program, when a friend of mine who also wanted to study abroad informed me that the program I intended on applying to involved more “roughing it” than I wanted. So she showed me Sol Education Abroad, and after research, we decided to study abroad through this program because it seemed to offer a good mixture of university life, living in a foreign city, and excursions to the wilderness of Costa Rica as well.”

How did the university compare to the University of Kentucky?

“ULatina (the equivalent of calling University of Kentucky “UK”) was housed in more or less one building, as opposed to the several we are accustomed to on campus here. That building had different purposes before it was a university so the layout of it was very different. But, it was beautiful. Most of the hallways were breezeways and much of the campus was open air, including the cafeteria. From the cafeteria you could see the soccer field, the city of San Jose, and the mountains that encircle the region we lived in. The view was breathtaking. While the dining facilities were fewer than what we have on UK’s campus, they were similar. There were a couple cafes were I could get a latte before class and a little market like our Wildcat Pantries.

As for the academic side of the university, it felt very similar. There was an advising office of sorts full of friendly staff who could answer all of our questions, our homework was similar to what we do here (essays, readings, group projects, etc), and there was a wide variety of academic majors to select from. The main difference I noticed was the age of my professor. He was only 25, but he was brilliant and I could tell he knew what he was talking about.”

What was your best non-educational experience and why?

“My favorite non-educational experience was the weekend we took an excursion to Manuel Antonio National Park. The first day we were there, we visited the Savegre River and it was the most untouched, clean, and beautiful place I have ever seen. Being a biology major, it was fascinating for me to see this pristine ecosystem and conservation efforts paying off while also experiencing something I had never done before: white water rafting. It was such a fun bonding experience and it was the closest I felt to the other students in my program because we really had to communicate and work together as a team, but all the while we laughed and joked and we just had an amazing time. The second day of that excursion we went to the beach in the National Park and it looked like something off a post card. It was another example of paradise untouched. Walking to the beach, we saw sloths and other animals that you don’t see when humans have really affected an environment. And of course the ocean itself was beautiful and clean. That weekend was perfect.”

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What was your most awkward moment abroad?

“In Costa Rica my roommate and I took the bus to school every morning. The custom is that you pull a cord on the ceiling when your stop is upcoming, so the driver knows you want to get off. Well, the stop across from our university was very popular and we had never had to pull the cord to stop there because someone else always had to. One morning, we didn’t pull the cord but we didn’t stop at the University. Instead, we were en route to the next province, San Jose. We pulled the cord so the driver would know we needed the next stop but instead of going to the next stop, he stopped and left us on the side of the road. We started walking down the highway back toward school and had made little progress when a nice old man driving another bus pulled over and told us to get on, and took us to school for free. It was a very kind gesture but we were so embarrassed that this had happened. Looking back, it’s hilarious.”

How was your experience with a host family? What is the benefit of staying with host families abroad?

“We had a unique host family situation. Our Mama Tica (host mother) had just lost her husband a few years ago and was not quite over that, so she talked about him a lot. However, they were always kind and accommodating and because my roommate and I both spoke proficient Spanish, there was no communication barrier. Our host mother always went out of her way to make sure we were well-fed, she did our laundry, and she cleaned our rooms every day. I would have been more than happy to do these things for myself but she just loved us and wanted to take care of us. It was so sweet.”

How does your education abroad experience impact your studies at UK?

“My credit-bearing study abroad experience counts toward my Spanish minor, so now I only need to take one more class to complete it. But more importantly, now that I have lived in an environment where only Spanish is spoken, and a very difficult dialect at that, my comprehension and speaking abilities have improved immensely. I could not have gained those skills if I had not gone beyond the classroom here.”

What skills did you cultivate abroad that can be applied to your career goals and ambitions?

“I am a pre-medical student and I come from a family with many healthcare professionals. I get text messages from family all the time asking me how to say something in Spanish because of language barriers with patients. I hope that in my career such barriers do not exist and that I can take my language skills and training abroad someday with a program like Doctors without Borders. Improving my language skills abroad brought me one step closer to that dream.”

Briefly describe the planning your education abroad experience. What challenges did you encounter? What resources at UK did you utilize?

“Planning to study abroad is a lot of work, I won’t lie. There was a lot of paper work and sometimes I didn’t think I would be able to finish that, much less go abroad. But I managed to budget my time and get the administrative side of things done. My pre-departure session through the Education Abroad office helped me more realistically prepare because they had more information about my specific country and they helped me plan out my goals for my program. The biggest challenge I had before departure was knowing what to pack. I had never been to Central America prior to this summer so I had no idea what to expect. I assumed it would be warm, but I was actually there during the cool, rainy season. So it’s worth a Google search to investigate a country’s climate and what kind of dress is appropriate there.”

What is the best piece of advice you can offer to a student preparing to study abroad?

“I would say that any student preparing to study abroad needs only to keep an open mind. Don’t close yourself off to any new experience, whether it’s a traditional dance lesson or trying new, strange foods. You will learn so much about your host country and yourself during your time abroad, so don’t limit your growth by being too afraid or too shy to try something new. Also, if you are studying abroad for language, use the language as much as possible! You can’t get better if you don’t practice. Lastly, enjoy your time abroad. You’ll miss it when you come home!

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Article originally published on http://enkompassuky.com/2014/11/04/blue-abroad-noells-story/ on November 4, 2014.