Sunday, 16 March 2014

Life Update!

Hi everyone! It's been a while since I last posted, so I thought I would tell you a little bit about what I've been up to over the past eight months! First of all, I've created a new blog that I've started posting to fairly regularly. This blog also incorporates posts about travel as well as fashion, beauty, and general things that have been happening in my life. So if you'd like to check that out, follow this link:

Shortly after my last post, I finished up my internship in Seattle and headed home for the rest of the Summer. I arrived home at a perfect time, because I got to be with my mom on her birthday and spend some time with her after she had surgery. A couple of times during the Summer, I went up to Vermont where my sister goes to school. She had a theatre internship in which they had professional actors come for the Summer to work along with students to give them some experience producing professional-level plays. The first play I saw was called Rumors and was a farcical mystery play, and it was really funny! The second was called Shout and was a musical primarily based around women and dating in 1960s London. That one was really good too and had some great music. But during the second play, a bat had somehow gotten into the theatre and kept swooping down at the audience! At one point it almost hit one of the girls on stage during a serious solo performance and you could tell she was shaking because of it. It was terrifying at the time, but pretty funny to look back on! While in Vermont, I also went to the Magic Hat Brewing Company and took a free brewery tour! It was my first brewery tour, which was so cool and even though I'm not really a fan of beer, it was fun sampling a bunch of the Magic Hat beers!

with my mom on her birthday in downtown Plymouth

I loved having so much quality time with little Chloe while I was home :)

at the Magic Hat Brewing Company with my parents, aunt, uncle, and cousins

at the Magic Hat with my dad, wearing the "Magic Hat" ;)

Burlington, Vermont

Not too long after that, I moved down to Elon for my last year of college—crazy but also so exciting! This year, I am in an apartment off campus and decorated my room to look really good! My Fall class schedule was pretty difficult, but I managed to do well in all my classes. I also got a campus job in the Global Education Centre (the study abroad office), and I've really enjoyed it! Between this job and my EF internship, I've decided I definitely want to work in international education after I graduate. About a month into the semester, it was my final Parents' Weekend, and my mom and dad came to visit. We had a lot of fun together and went to the football tailgate, did some shopping, got lots of good food, and just enjoyed spending time together!

my room! I took these pictures when I first moved in before I was totally organised, but you can get an idea of how it looks!

Parents Weekend!

Parents Weekend!

my friend Carly joined me and my parents for dinner one night

Probably the most exciting part of the Fall semester was Fall Break. My friend Carly's family has a beach house in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, so she and I went there for five days along with her adorable puppy! It was a little cold and rainy, so we couldn't go to the beach, but we still had a lot of fun. We had a low-key break and slept late every day, explored the local area, shopped, and then did a day trip to Myrtle Beach. It was a perfect way to relax before going back to lots of homework and stress on campus!

a big outdoor shopping centre in Myrtle Beach

the Myrtle Beach board walk

After Fall Break was Homecoming! I got to see a bunch of my friends who graduated, so that was awesome! Then not too long after that was my sorority's Formal. I took my friend Andrew as my date, and it ended up being so much fun!

with my sorority "G-big" Ellen at Homecoming

with my sorority "Big" and "G-big", Rachel and Ellen at Homecoming

One of the most exciting parts of Homecoming weekend—I met Emily Maynard from the Bachelorette who was at the Elon football game!

all dressed up for the sorority formal

with my friend Andrew on our way to formal

Then came Thanksgiving Break, finals, and then finally Winter Break! Over break, I relaxed a lot, went to some Christmas and New Year's parties, and had a great time spending some time with family. I got so many great presents for my birthday and Christmas, did some shopping, and lots and lots of baking! This Winter Break was about a week longer than Elon's Winter Breaks usually are, so it was really nice having extra time at home to relax.

Elon looked so pretty and Christmasy around exam time!

heading to a Christmas party

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve with my mom, sister, aunt, and cousins
the tree on Christmas morning!
Chloe loved her new bed and toy <3
New Years Eve!
with my dad on New Years Eve

with Chloe on New Years Eve

After break ended, it was time for Winter Term. This year, I took a special class that travelled to New York and Washington, DC for 10 days! We studied wealth and poverty in the two cities which I found really interesting. In New York, we stayed on the Upper West Side and had some time to explore and sightsee when we weren't doing things for class. I had never been to New York for more than two days at a time, so spending six days there was really nice! Then in DC, we only had one full day in which we went to the Martin Luther King memorial for MLK Day, and then had the rest of the day off to sightsee and explore. Then unfortunately the next day, we were forced to leave a day early because a huge snowstorm was due to hit DC and the entire city was shutting down. I wrote a blog post on my new blog that includes lots of pictures from New York and DC, so if you'd like to see those, click the link I added to the beginning of this blog post!

Washington Square Park in NYC

Times Square

the class in front of the Jefferson Memorial

the Martin Luther King monument
the White House

Spring semester has been pretty good so far! I'm only taking two classes, which is really nice, but I've been getting so much homework, and I've been working a lot of hours at work, so I've still kept pretty busy. A few weekends ago, I went down to Atlanta with my business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi, which was so much fun! I had gone the year before as well, but this year we were in a hotel right in the middle of downtown which was so cool. We got to explore Atlanta a lot more, and went out to the Buckhead bars again like we had the year before. I also got to see my GG-big from my sorority! She lives in Atlanta and I hadn't seen her in over two years, so it was so great to see her again! I also wrote a blog post about my weekend in Atlanta in more detail over in my other blog!

the AKPsi group at a bar in Buckhead

reunited with Jessie!

Then last weekend, my mom came to visit! It was so great to have her here, and it was crazy that it was the last time she'll be here until I graduate in just over two months. Unfortunately, the first night she was here, there was a bad ice storm and the entire area lost power and shut down. On the bright side, I didn't have to go to my Friday morning class, but it also meant there wasn't much to do that day. We ended up finding a Japanese teppenyaki restaurant that I had never heard of before that ended up being really good! We got chicken teppenyaki and a California roll sushi, then went to YoZone for frozen yogurt, and then drove to Greensboro to try and get a hotel room, since my apartment had no power. We got a bottle of wine and spent the night relaxing and watching HGTV. The next day, the bad weather was gone and it was a really nice sunny, warm day! We headed back to Burlington where we spent some time at Alamance Crossing. We went to Brixx for lunch, and it was even nice enough to eat outside! We also did a little shopping and then went to a new bakery for some cookies. That night, we went to dinner at a Mongolian grill called Crazy Fire, which is a lot like Fire+Ice in Boston. You put together a plate of everything you want and they make your food into a stir-fry in front of you. Then we went back to my apartment to relax and watch a movie. On Sunday, we had to start making our way toward the airport. We went to the outlets on the way, then went to downtown Chapel Hill to get some lunch at an Irish pub. I got a burger and mac and cheese that had goldfish in! It was so delicious! It was awesome having my mom here to visit, and I am so excited to see her (and the rest of my family!) when I'm home for Spring Break next week.

watching our teppenyaki lunches being cooked

our food at Crazy Fire before being cooked

at lunch in Chapel Hill

Finally, last night my friend Lauren who I lived with last Spring came to visit! She transferred to the University of Wisconsin after spending the Fall semester in Barcelona, so I hadn't seen her in so long! A big group of us went to dinner together at a Mexican restaurant called La Fiesta. I was really lucky and got to sit next to Lauren, so we could get caught up on everything that's been happening since I saw her last May. We got margaritas that were delicious and some really good food. Later on that night, I met up with Lauren again at a party. She's going to be here for a couple more days, so I'm excited to spend some more time with her before she heads back to Wisconsin!

roommate reunion with Carly and Lauren!

On Friday, I get to head home for Spring Break! I can't wait because this semester has been really crazy and it will be good to have some time to relax and spend some time with my family and with Chloe.

I'm not sure if I'll be posting on this blog anymore since I made a new one, so be sure to check it out if you want to see more updates from me! And if you do, leave me a comment on one of the blog posts so I'll know you checked it out! :) Thanks for reading!    xx Christie

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Reverse Culture Shock and Readjusting to Life in the USA

As I'm writing this, I've been back in the US for more than 6 months. I'm currently in Seattle finishing up the last few days of my internship and have been feeling particularly homesick for Lyon lately and missing my IBP friends a lot, so I though it would be a good time to write a follow-up blog post about everything that's been happening since I've been back. It's crazy that it was so long ago that I was in France! It seems like it was just yesterday that I was hanging out next the Rhône river, dancing on the bar at Cosmo, and walking through the streets of Lyon with my friends.

Saying that I had a hard time readjusting to life in the US would be an understatement. After returning, I had a good time spending some time with my family at Christmas and loved going to New York City for a couple of days. (We saw two different shows, The Fantasticks and Grace, and got to meet Paul Rudd, Aaron Carter, Michael Shannon, and Ed Asner!)
with Mommy, Lexi, and Daddy on Christmas Eve

the girls of the family on Christmas Eve

me and Lexi with our new friend Aaron Carter

me and Lexi eating our cupcakes from Crumbs in NYC

drinking a Cosmopolitan in Manhattan à la Carrie Bradshaw
But then I got back to Elon and the small-town southern school was a complete shock after experiencing life in a chic European city with a diverse group of friends from all over the world. For a couple of months, I felt depressed and not like myself and out of place. For a brief time, I even thought about possibly transferring to a school in a big city like New York and even considered de-sistering from my sorority which I did not feel much of a connection to after getting back from abroad. Over the course of the semester, I did slowly start to readjust to life at Elon and I started feeling less out of place during the second half of the Spring semester, but not quite like I had been before going abroad. I know that after living in France for a semester, I've gotten a taste of European and city living and feel like that is much more me, so I don't think I'll ever fully adjust to being back at Elon or in the US. Ever since leaving Europe, I feel like a piece of my heart is still there and, as weird as it may sound, I felt more at home in Lyon than I ever have in Duxbury or at Elon. Even though there were some challenges to being in Lyon (mainly the language barrier and trying to stay on a tight budget), I felt more myself than I ever had before and definitely felt more at home with an international group than I feel in a group of only Americans.

After coming back to the US, I know for sure that I want to return to Europe as soon as I can and have started to look into different programs abroad for the year after I graduate. I've already taken multiple steps to work toward getting more international experience! I added a one-credit class during the Spring semester called Going Global After Grad that helped us explore different options and taught us how to make ourselves marketable to international employers. I also decided to add a double major in international business and was accepted to be a Study Abroad Student Ambassador during my senior year! I know I'll have a great final year at Elon between being a SASA, getting really involved in my business fraternity, living with some great girls in a nice apartment, and still keeping in touch with my good friends from abroad! (Some of us girls are starting to plan a reunion trip together!)

To fill you in on everything that's been happening in the past 6 months, here's a quick summary:

For the Spring semester, I lived in the Oaks apartments with three girls who I had never met before. They were great to live with and over the course of the semester, we became good friends! None of them are in sororities, and I actually really enjoyed having a semester where I was kind of separated from Greek Life. I know I'll stay friends with them during my senior year. We had some great memories like Festivus, volunteering at the animal shelter, and being each other's wing women at the bar!
with 2 of my roommates, Lauren and Carly getting ready to go to a theme party

with Lauren after Festivus (the big mud party on campus)
one of the best parts of Spring semester was when Anna visited Elon to hang out with me and Kirsten!

One night at the bar I met some French guys who go to ESDES and were studying abroad at Elon for the semester!

I got involved in my business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi this semester as well. I was elected to the executive board as the Warden. The most exciting part of AKPsi this semester was when some of us when to a conference in Atlanta for a weekend. We attended different speakers during the day and then went out to different bars in Atlanta at night. I had so much fun that weekend, and I think that was actually the turning point that made me feel a little less depressed about being back in the US. Then throughout the semester, we had a new pledge class join the fraternity and at the end of the semester, we had a banquet at a restaurant where we had a nice dinner and they gave awards to the seniors.
with some of the AKPsi group in Atlanta

in Atlanta

in Atlanta

my AKPsi family (the "Sexy Fam") at banquet

with the other AKPsi execs at banquet

As soon as my last exam ended in May, I went home for all of 2 days and then left for Seattle, where I'm interning with Educational Homestay Programs, the non-profit division of EF Education First. The internship has been exhausting and a lot more work than I expected, but I'm learning a lot and making some good connections in the company. What my team has been doing is helping to recruit host families for exchange students coming to different towns in the Seattle area. We work about 12-15 hours most days and 7 days a week usually. By the time I leave, I will have had 3 days off in 2 months—so crazy! We have had booths at many farmers' markets, various festivals, and have also set up informational tables in front of grocery stores and libraries, clip boarded at events that we couldn't set up a table at, hung flyers all over the area, and have even gone through neighbourhoods knocking door to door. It's definitely not a glamourous internship, and I don't know if I could see myself working for this particular division of the company after I graduate, but I definitely want to look into working with one of the other divisions in Boston for after I graduate! From what I've heard from people who work in the Boston office, it has a great company culture and is a lot of fun!

Of course since I haven't had much time off, I haven't had a lot of time to explore the area and I've only been able to go into actual Seattle a few times. (The interns are staying at a hotel in the suburb of Bellevue.) On my first day off, fellow intern Julianne and I went to all the touristy spots in Seattle—Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, the top of the Space Needle, Gasworks Park, and Fremont. On my next day off, I went shopping in the big Bellevue Collection Mall and went to a beach park on Lake Washington. We also got lucky enough to get a couple mornings off during which I saw the Fremont Troll, walked through the University of Washington, and went to a cool outdoor mall next to the university. But my favourite experience of my time in Seattle was by far the day I saw Hot Chelle Rae in concert! They were performing at the finish line of the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon before flying down to San Diego to start their tour with Justin Bieber. I left the hotel at 6 AM to catch an early bus into Seattle and went to the Space Needle, which was where they were performing. When it started, I pushed my way to the front and centre spot at the show! It was so much fun and they were really great live! Then after the show, I had some time before I had to start heading back to Bellevue to recruit, so I walked to Pike Place Market and explored, then to Pioneer Square where I caught the bus out of the city. I was in such a good mood after the concert that I didn't even mind that I had to spend the afternoon standing outside a grocery store! I really like Washington. It's really pretty and kind of has a New England feel to it except everything is so much more green, the trees are huge, and there is no humidity. And although it was cloudy and a little rainy for my first couple of weeks here, for the most part, the weather has been beautiful. It definitely does not rain 24/7 like everyone says!
me in front of the Space Needle

me with fellow intern Julianne on top of the Space Needle

the King Street Station clock tower in Pioneer Square

Pike Place Market

the view of the Seattle skyline from Gasworks Park

me with the Fremont Troll

with the Fremont Troll

This was on the day I saw Hot Chelle Rae, and they performed in the park right next to the Space Needle

one of my favourite beaches—the one in Edmonds which was one of the towns we recruited in

As soon as I found out I would be sent to Seattle (I originally thought the internship would be in Boston and found out only a week and a half before I started that I was actually being sent to Washington instead), I was so excited that I would be able to see Virginia since she lives in BC, which is so close to Washington! (From reading my past blog posts, you'll know that she was one of my very best friends while I was in Lyon and I still consider her to be one of my best friends.) But by far the most disappointing part of the internship was that I wasn't allowed to take any weekends off to see her :'( Since she lives in Kamloops, it would have been a long drive for her to come to Seattle for a weekend or for me to go to Kamloops for one of my few days off. (It would be about a 6 hour drive each way according to Google maps.) So we had hoped to meet in the middle in Vancouver, but since she works during the week and I wasn't allowed to have a weekend off, it couldn't work out. That made me really sad since I haven't seen her since the middle of December, and I have no idea when I will be able to see her again.

At this point, the other three interns I worked with for most of the time have left. (I decided to extend my contract for an extra two weeks, but they decided not to.) A new guy came for a few days, but then they sent him to California to recruit there instead, and they sent another girl here. I'm really excited to be heading home in a few days. I only have two more days of recruiting to go and then I fly out at 7 AM on Monday morning! It will be nice to spend some time with my parents and Chloe and then go up to Vermont in a couple weekends to see Lexi and see one of the Summer Stock Theatre plays at St. Michael's College where she is interning this summer.

I am definitely looking forward to my senior year, and will probably post again in the future with more updates on what is going on and what I end up deciding to do after I graduate. Right now, I think the program I would most like to do is one in London in which I would take international business classes to work toward a postgraduate degree, have a full-time paid work placement, and live in an apartment in central London with other people in the program!

And don't get me wrong, while I have had a hard time with reverse culture shock after coming back from Lyon, it hasn't been all bad. There are some things that it's nice to get back to in the US—family and friends, Chloe, peanut butter, mac and cheese, good Wifi, Netflix streaming, and no conversion rate when I spend money.

I can sense that great things will happen for me over the next couple of years and I can definitely see myself returning to Europe very soon :)