Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Casey's Five Days in Edinburgh

One of my best friends from college, Casey, is now a teacher. Her mom reached out to me a few months ago and asked if it would be okay if she bought Casey a plane ticket to visit me over February Break. That happened to be my week off as well, which worked out great. Technically, Casey was here for seven days, but the day she arrived and the day she left we didn't do anything touristy.
So after Christmas, Casey and I planned an itinerary for her trip. That itinerary quickly went out the window once she got here because we had to work around the weather. Casey definitely got the Scottish weather that people talk about. Within an hour and a half, it rained, snowed, and completely cleared up, all while being incredibly windy.  
For anyone intending to visit Edinburgh, you can hit the highlights in about three days. However, because Casey was here for five full days, we spread everything in the city out over four days and spent one day out of the city. One thing we didn't do was go into any museums. If you're interested in the Scottish history museum or fine arts museum, you might need more than three days. But Edinburgh Castle, Palace at Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mile, Princes Street, Calton Hill, and Arthur's Seat (which we didn't do) could easily be done in three days.
As I said, the weather was wild, so we would go back to my flat in order to regroup at least once a day. We also were in no rush to start our days, because it was a vacation, so we didn't leave my flat until at least 11am every day.  
As the host, I was a little stressed because although I've been here since September, I've been focusing mostly on school. I go to the same four places every week and that's about it. I made sure that Casey felt like she saw everything she wanted to before she left, which she said she did. We also learned quite a bit about Scottish history throughout our different tours and activities.
Sunday, February 16
Casey landed in Edinburgh around 11:30am and was in my flat by 1pm. I spent the morning finishing up some homework and grabbing some candy from the grocery store. I showed her around my flat and then we headed to Civerino's Slice for lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and catching up. We ate dinner at The Pear Tree.  It was a relaxed day, especially because Casey had spent so much time traveling so we ended the night by watching John Mulaney on Netflix.
Monday, February 17
After grabbing breakfast at Black Medicine Coffee Co, Casey and I walked into the Old College so that she could see a little piece of my school. I don't spend much time at the Old College, but it's where the pictures from the brochure come from. We went on a Mountebank Comedy Walking Tour of Edinburgh which we both enjoyed. Our tour guide, Daniel, was hysterical and not only good at making the tour generally funny, but also relating it to specific people on the tour. It was also educational and allowed Casey to get an overview of the part of the city that I spend the most time in. We also booked a tour at The Scotch Whisky Experience. That was cool because you get to ride in a Whisky Barrel train type thing to learn how whisky is made. Then there were videos and the staff member, Jethro, gave a voice-over of information. At the end of the tour, we were standing amongst the world's largest Scotch Whisky collection and got to taste a sample for ourselves. Neither Casey nor I am whisky drinkers, but because whisky is such an important aspect of Scottish culture it seemed necessary to learn about it. I really enjoyed both tours and thought they were good first-day activities because they force you to dive headfirst into Scottish history and culture. We met up with my cousin, Katie, for drinks at The Piper's Rest and then grabbed food at BRGR.
Tuesday, February 18
When we woke up, it was sunny out so we decided the first activity we should do was climb Calton Hill and look at the views of the city. We grabbed a quick breakfast at Pret and made our way up the hill. As we were there, it started pouring out and we dipped into The Guildford Arms to wait it out. The sun did come back out, which allowed us to make our way down Princes Street to the Ross Fountain for some photos. Afterward, we went back to the Royal Mile, stopping in The Albanach for a Pimms before walking through a few of the gift stores. For food, we went to Civerino's restaurant in Hunter's Square. That night we decided to a comedy show at Monkey Barrel Comedy because it was free for students. I had been to comedy shows there before and really liked them, but this one wasn't very good. It was called Alternative Comedy, which Casey and I learned we don't like. But hey, you never know what you will and won't like unless you try it out.
Wednesday, February 19
We started Wednesday at Em's Kitchen eating delicious pancakes. I got bacon and maple syrup while Casey opted for banana and Nutella. We each got a hot chocolate as well. It was all amazing. We then walked down to the Palace at Holyroodhouse just to see it before walking the full length of the Royal Mile to get to the Edinburgh Castle. We went into the castle and took a quick tour before exploring on our own. I love the short overview tours that the castle has. They remind me of the Beefeater tours at the Tower of London. You don't go inside anything, but the tour guide points to a building and gives you its history and what you'll find inside. We liked the Honours of Scotland because it includes the crown. We learned that during the American Revolution some revolutionary soldiers came to Edinburgh and were held prisoner at the Edinburgh Castle. However, because they weren't technically Americans yet, they were treated as pirates/rebels of the royal crown and given fewer rations that the other prisoners of war. What is believed to be one of the first drawings of the American Flag was carved into one of the doors that the castle has on display.  That night we got dinner at McSorley's and booked a tour of St. Andrews.
Thursday, February 20
We didn't initially plan on this but decided to go on a Rabbie's day tour of St. Andrews & The Fishing Villages of Fife. The first stop was at a small fishing village in Fife. The stop was short to allow everyone to stretch their legs and we got some hot chocolate. The big stop was St. Andrews. There were two different drop-off spots, one at the golf museum and one at the cathedral. This became a bit of a joke because during the drive our tour guide, Grant, asked who was interested in golf and no one raised their hand. St. Andrews is the home of golf, so it was funny for him to have no one on the tour very interested in it. Casey and I walked through the cathedral but didn't buy tickets to the museum. Then we walked the path by the water and took pictures with the castle in the background. We walked past the castle, afterward, but again, didn't pay to explore the ruins. The University is spread throughout the city, so we pretended like we knew the exact spot William and Kate met and then went into the gift shop. We got lunch at Molly Malones before walking to the golf museum gift shop. This was also where we had to meet the bus.  We tried to find some golfing husbands in the last seventeen minutes of our trip there but were out of luck on that. The final stop of the tour was Falkland. Unfortunately the castle there doesn't open until March but we took a picture of it and then made our way back to Edinburgh. Because we had some extra time, we stopped to take a picture of the bridges as well.

Once back in Edinburgh, we met up with some of my friends for trivia at The Black Bull, which we do every Thursday. However, they changed their menu a little while ago and took off our favorite foods, so after trivia, we went to Civerino's slice for pizza and zeppole donuts.
Friday, February 21
Once again, we got Black Medicine Coffee for breakfast before starting our day. We decided to tour the Palace at Holyroodhouse. It's a nice tour, but it's a headset tour so it's very quiet. It was fun to be somewhere the queen and royal family actually spend time in when they're in Edinburgh. Then we did some final souvenir shopping for Casey. We were originally thinking of going to a rugby game at Murrayfield, but then it was so cold and rainy we said forget it.  We tried to go to The Three Sisters, but it was packed so we ended up back at The Pear Tree. We thought the rugby game might be on the TV, but it wasn't so we people watched instead, which was very entertaining. On the way back to my flat we went to BRGR for chicken nuggets and milkshakes.
Saturday, February 22
Our alarms went off at 5:15am and Casey was in a taxi on the way to the airport by 6am.
It was great getting to spend a week with someone from home. It definitely made me miss home a little bit though, but I'll be back soon enough! Check out the corresponding YouTube video to watch us make our way through Edinburgh!


Monday, February 24, 2020

How I Chose My Study Abroad Experience

Today is #NationalStudyAbroadDay, so I wanted to share a little bit about my Study Abroad experience.

When I was touring colleges as a Junior in High School, I had no idea where I wanted to go, but I knew I wanted to study abroad in London, England. My mom eventually said something like, "Okay, that's fine, but what about the other seven semesters?"

Eventually, I did find a college to go to that I absolutely loved! But I still wanted to Study Abroad. I went to the info session at accepted student's day, during my Freshman year, and during my Sophomore year. Those meetings were where I learned an internship could be an option. The end of Sophomore year was when the fun started because that's when I had to start making choices about locations and programs.

The location was easy. I'd wanted to visit London since I was a Freshman in High School. The program took a second longer. I went to a meeting with the Study Abroad Director and expressed interest in partaking in an internship while abroad. I mentioned that Simon & Schuster had a location in London that I thought would be cool to work at.  The Director immediately handed me booklets and explained a few different programs.

One of the programs was the Arcadia London Internship Program. Arcadia University is in Pennsylvania, but it has a massive emphasis on studying abroad and requires going abroad from all of its students. Because of that, they have locations all over the world. I would live and study with Americans, but I was guaranteed an internship somewhere in the city.

The fact that I would be living and studying only with Americans was a pro and a con to the program.  For a con, it felt like there was a bit of a wall up that separated me from fully immersing in the British culture. On the other hand, I was still able to make amazing friends (that didn't live an ocean away). Also, growing up, I suffered from homesickness, so having everyone around me going through the same experience of being so far from home helped me feel more comfortable. The pros definitely outweighed the cons
*Disclaimer: I could have taken a course at a London University if I wanted to, but Arcadia offered everything I needed

As I said, by being accepted to the Arcadia London Internship Program, I was guaranteed an internship. The application asked me what my interests were, and I checked off a few things but also wrote in the comment box that I would love to be at Simon & Schuster UK specifically. In the fall of 2017, I received an email saying that there was an opening in the Marketing & Publicity department at Simon & Schuster UK. I agreed to a phone interview (which lasted about 10 minutes), and then I was offered the position.

And just like that, I was off. January 1, 2018, I boarded a plane for London and wouldn't be home again until the end of April. It was the longest I had ever been away from home. I was excited and nervous.

My abroad experience was amazing. Living in London was so cool. I went to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour of Harry Potter twice, and London was the first place I ever went into a Pret, which is one of my favorite breakfast/lunch places. I loved my internship, even though it mostly involved me in the mailroom sending out books to bloggers. Eventually, I was making press releases and show cards, but it was a lot of mailings. I met great people and I am still close to a few of them. I got to go on many adventures. My roommate and I would find a new bakery every Tuesday after class, Arcadia offered excursions that allowed me to spend the day at Windsor Castle and a long weekend in Berlin, Germany, and friends and I made trips to Edinburgh, Scotland; Dublin, Ireland; and Nice, France. My brother came over in February and we went to Brussels, Belgium and a few other family members visited at the end of my trip to move me home and we spent a day in Paris, France.
My mom has since commented a few times that my study abroad experience was when she noticed I grew up. It forced me to come out of my shell and to try new things. I gained a ton of confidence in myself by the end of my 3+ months away from home, and I think the fact that my family and friends weren't two hours away was a huge part of that. My introverted self couldn't hide behind them anymore.

Studying abroad was something that I always knew I wanted to do, and it was even better than I could have imagined. If you've ever considered studying abroad, I HIGHLY recommend you look into it. There are only so many years you're eligible to do something like that, and it would really stink to have that as something you wished you did back in college.

What questions do you have about studying abroad?

I blogged the entire time I was abroad. To see all of those posts click HERE


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Man Crush Monday by Kirsty Moseley | Book Review*

Title: Man Crush Monday
Author: Kirsty Moseley
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: February 3, 2020

Praise for the Novel:
"Adorably sweet, incredibly funny and totally astounding!" - Little Steamy Reads 
"An opposites attract, seemingly unlikely romance that’s a fun read with some unexpected drama. I felt the love and the angst. A great read!" - Keri Loves Books 
"Man Crush Monday is hands down the best contemporary romance with rom-com vibes, I've recently read." - Bookmarks by Jasmina Blog

My review:
Okay, I have to try and do this without giving away any spoilers, but there is a plot twist that is a huge turning point in the book. For that, I will say this: I liked the twist and I guessed it the first time Amy went to Jared's apartment. (I don't think that gives too much away)

What I loved about this book is that Amy is forced to confront herself. She has to reconsider a lot of her past assumptions and choices, which forces her to realize whether or not she trusts herself. It was honestly a little heartbreaking to follow along her journey because she is so confused and truly doesn't have answers to questions people are asking her. She feels guilty for the mistake, and then when she finally makes a decision she feels guilty for how she figures it out as well. And I couldn't help but think that if it was me, I would be reacting the act same way she does. This novel reminds us that sometimes we love our revelations, but don't necessarily love how we get to them.

This novel is considered a Romantic Comedy, which it definitely is. Amy is simply one of those people who others say, "That could only happen to you." Throughout her daily life, she encounters funny, minorly awkward situations that she's able to roll with. And then there is an "opposites attract" theme that causes humor as well because it's naturally funny to watch people who seem so different from one another find common ground.

It comes down to this: I loved this story. The love story was funny, but not perfect, which led to some conflicting thoughts for Amy and me, as a reader. I also found Amy's character very relatable. I would definitely recommend this novel. 
*This book was gifted to me, but the opinions are my own

© Juliann Guerra
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