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CultureExploreTravel

Most people eventually graduate from a tourist into a traveler, and when they do, they realize that all they want to do is get under the skin of a city. At least, that’s what I want to do.

Getting under is no easy feat. When I first started traveling, I wanted to see everything. Every few days, I longed to see what the sky looked like from a different landscape, another city. Would it still look the same? Would it still feel the same? I loved the fast pace and the feeling of freedom, the idea that I never had to remain stuck in one place, that the very next day, I could be across fields and fences, through woods and over mountains, several lakes away, oceans even.

That’s all fine and dandy, but you get through to the city’s secrets as much as an elephant might be able to squeeze through a hobbit’s door. Upon reflection, I’ve come to see cities by their multi-layered personalities and identities. As I break through the layers and get to know each city like a person, I find that each new place has the epic possibility of becoming another home.

1. The Stranger

A city is a stranger when you’ve only seen it from above or through the airport windows. You’re so close, nearly touching, almost bumping into each other, but the only sorry you’ll mutter in its direction is an apology for not being able to see it, rather than for stepping on its toes (in fact, it’s utterly brilliant if you can manage to step on a city’s toes). It’s a city you haven’t been to yet, or have constantly missed, perhaps only ever experiencing through a book or a fellow traveler’s tales.

I wish I could say I’ve been to Tokyo, but I can’t, not with any sincerity. I’ve flown into Tokyo six or seven times – and then flown out on the same day, never leaving the airport. Maybe you get a flavor of Japan from browsing the airport’s duty-free shops. Even then, I’ve only seen Tokyo as much as I’ve seen a silhouette out of the corner of my eye: a stranger I’ve let pass by.

2. The Coffee Server

This is a city you only interact with long enough to fulfill some orders, a list of things you wanted to see and do. You stay only long enough to see what the city wants you to see – its tall skyscrapers, its famous monuments, maybe a glimpse of its transportation system, a cafe or two, the main square. You see what’s staring at you straight. You stay long enough to not really form a concrete opinion, and know only enough to say, “Well, it was fantastic!” or “It was nice.”

I spent only an afternoon in Warsaw during the spare time I had between traveling from Krakow to Vilnius. Warsaw – and other cities I’ve spent too short a time in –  is like a person that serves you coffee. Although indubitably rich in history, I only remember walking along the river, seeing the oldest apothecary, sending postcards from the post office in the main square, and wandering the cobblestone streets. You know they had a life’s worth of history before the moment you briefly crossed paths, but all you know of them is their name tag (your server today was Mary), their handwriting on your cup, and perhaps their smile (if they smiled).

3. The Acquaintance

You might consider a city an acquaintance when you’ve been there enough times to recognize its cityscape in magazines and posters, even when not identified. You might remember your way around parts of the downtown core, maybe one or two suburban neighbourhoods. You can take their metro system with complete ease. You know a couple of cool places off the radar of most tourists; maybe you’ve made some local friends.

Seattle is a neighbour to Vancouver (the one in British Columbia), a city I’ve been lucky to live in for the last four years. Just three hours south on the highway, I’ve made it the destination of an obligatory annual trip, just because.

Seattle – or any city you’ve been to repeatedly or spent a little more time getting to know – is like the guy in your college that you keep seeing in different classes because he’s completing the same major. I’ve been to Seattle enough times to remember my way around parts of the downtown core, to know about the cool (or gross) Bubblegum wall in Post Alley, the epic Pinball Museum in Chinatown, and the Fremont Troll permanently living under Aurora Bridge. Similarly, I’ve spent enough time around this guy-also-majoring-in-English (his name is Bob, for simplicity) to know that he only writes with blue ballpoint pens, speaks up frequently in class, occasionally replaces his glasses with contacts, and walks with a four-count rhythm.

But you’ve only said a few words to him, if any at all, and you’re not even sure he knows your name. I don’t know if Seattle knows me. Do you know I’ve walked your streets, Seattle?

(Doesn’t that sound like an Owl City song?)

4. That Friend from Third Grade

At this point, the city has started to drill a layer into you, leaving little dents and impressions. You might have been staying in the city for a couple of weeks, walking the same streets at least a hundred times, and finding several new streets every day. You have a favorite cafe that you always find yourself headed to when you can’t sleep. The city has started to become much more familiar to you now.

A city like this for me was Prague, Czech Republic. I lived in a dorm on Tržište on the west side of the Vltava river for seven weeks, reading Kafka and Kundera, studying Czech and other good things at Charles University. My friends and I crossed Charles Bridge (or Karlův Most) on a near-daily basis to get to class. I regularly got a chicken panini from this one cafe behind the school. Because I studied in Prague, I learned about the history that had happened right on its streets, about Prague Spring and the self-immolation of Jan Palach right in the middle of Wenceslas Square.

With that extra behind-the-scenes knowledge, a city feels more intimate somehow. You can look at a building and feel sorrow at the previous fires that tore it down, imagine the different hands that laid on it to put up new skeletons and new faces. You can sit inside the Elephant House and let your eyes roam over the dedicated Harry Potter quotes scribbled all over the walls, even those of the toilet stall, feeling the same inspiration J. K. Rowling got from just being in the glowing city of Edinburgh.

Cities like these, that you met like a friend in the third grade (her name was Maris, if you’re curious), start to let you in. Maris told me the major events in her past (like how her parents divorced when she was five), and the random moments too (like the time she hollered at the universe when she got to the top of a Douglas Fir, or the time she practically cackled as she drew a moustache on her sister’s face). So did Prague – she seemed unbothered when talking about the long drawn-out separation, and finally divorce, of Czechoslovakia; she said it had been rather peaceful and mutual. Prague giggled when we saw the magnificent albino peacock in the palace gardens, like a little kid gleeful at revealing its star prize, and positively skipped when we indulged in one of her black light theatre shows (Faust: Between God and the Devil, thankfully with a student discount ‘cause we’re such cheapos).

You may have eventually moved to California and lost contact with Maris, or left Prague to see what else Europe had to offer, but the memory lives on, two, five, eight years later, and if you ever went back, you’d recollect and reconnect in a heartbeat. Until then, if there is a then, what you’ll remember most about the city and that friend from the third grade are their smiles and how they made you feel.

5. The Best Friend

If this city is your best friend, you’ve been past the ‘restricted access’ sign, gone where few have ever been, would ever dare to go. You’ve gone completely underground, where no natural light exists, and found yourself crawling through the sewage system. You can hear the subway roaring past somewhere above you.

At this point, you’ve seen the deeper problems entrenched within the city. You’ve seen the buggers that start the acne on the city’s face, the viruses that make the city sweat and shiver. You’ve spent enough time not only living in the city but studying the city, reading in the parks, people-watching in cafes, movie theatres, shops, and ice rinks. You’ve been able to put a magnifying glass to the culture, scrutinize it, and not only understand it but also praise or criticize it. You’re deeply enfolded by the city, you walk the streets with greater purpose and focus. Because you have the luxury of more time here, you’re trying to unlock the doors in the endless labyrinth, seeking routes towards the Minotaur, and you’ve been retracing your steps so often there are parts of the labyrinth you know by heart.

Vancouver is my base, one of the few places in the world I can run back to, to rest my head. Whenever I return from trips, I’m instantly comforted just knowing I’m now in a place where I can find my way without getting lost. When I get tired of running away, this is the place I run to.

It’s like the best friend, the person you know inside out, the one you go to when you have news to tell or need a shoulder to cry on. Vancouver and I have made memories; like two girls staying up all night, laughing, gossiping, listening to music, we’ve grown to recognize each other’s poker face (Vancouver grinds its teeth when people tell her she’s boring), live with each other’s flaws (she’s seen me at my worst and I’ve never seen her capable of going below zero degrees Celsius – or is that actually a compliment?), celebrate each other’s high notes (I heard Vancouver clap the loudest when I walked on stage to get my university degree). Vancouver and I have private jokes. We whisper secrets in each other’s ears. What are those secrets, you may ask. Well, they’re our secrets for a reason; you shall have to make your own.

Vancouver and I have routines: the Richmond Night Market in the summer (no matter the stupid new entrance fees and the increasing prices every year), reading books on Kitsilano beach when it’s sunny, and Japadog or Sushi California when I need a pick-me-up. Like with best friends, I feel inspired by Vancouver’s unique skyline, the twinkling lights of Science World and BC Place at night, the elegant dame that is Canada Place. I feel proud of Vancouver’s accepting nature (Vancouver is so LGBTQ-friendly, it even has its own gay nightclub scene dominating Davie Street).

Like a best friend, I know that no matter where I am in the world, I can always come back to Vancouver and trust that it will be there for me, maybe slightly changed, but more or less the same. Vancouver is a city I choose, over and over again, to come back to.

6. The Family Member

At this ultimate level, you’re completely aware of the city’s limits, how it ticks and what makes it pulse. You’re acutely aware of its residents and how they make the city the city it is. Maybe you’ve joined several groups within the community, volunteering at the retro cinema, the animal shelter, the crisis call centre. Maybe you’re part of the work culture or the student culture or both.

You’ve snatched bits of reality from a multitude of people living within the city, making it breathe and heave and sigh. You’ve got your hand on its heart and when the city sneezes, it shakes you like a hungry hurricane. You’ve tapped even further into the city’s secrets, and you walk the city’s streets not like a labyrinth but like the blood vessels under your own skin, all directed towards your heart.

Cities you’ve gotten to know at this level are like family: annoying, infuriating at times, but in the end, home. The city has seen you through your teenage phase where you hated the world and felt like the world hated you, where you tested your parents’ patience, trying your hardest to push them away (this only made them pull harder to get you back).

Singapore is this city for me. When I was living there, I didn’t really appreciate it. I’d been spoiled by my years in the States and all I wanted was to return to North America. What an impatient, arrogant child I was (still am at times), but Singapore was patient with me. It taught me, shaped me, disciplined me. Even though I’d never go back to live there, I’d rarely turn down a chance to visit it again. Hah, what do you know, it’s exactly like family.

I couldn’t live according to the fast pace of Singapore. As a small country, the greatest investment is in its people and that’s why there’s such an emphasis on a stellar education. From a young age, students are told studies are the most important focus; there’s an almost military-like system to the education. I’m not sure I’d ever study in Singapore again if I could get a do-over of my life, but I’m still proud to hail from this tiny island nation.

Singapore will always live within me. Even though I am not Singaporean (I’m Malaysian), when people ask me where I’m from, I instinctively say, “Singapore,” hesitate, and then correct myself, “Uh, actually, I’m not really sure.”

But I think that says it all. I was born in Singapore and lived there for ten years of my life (that’s half my life!); that kind of time leaves a mark on you. When people stare at me and follow up, “Singapore… That’s in China, right?” I can’t help but get defensive.

No, it’s a highly-developed country blazing the path in Southeast Asia. It may be small, but it’s made up of some of the most patriotic citizens and is on the technological and financial forefronts of the world.” When Lee Kuan Yew died earlier this year, the whole country was crying, millions lining the streets to pay their respectful farewells. The whole country was in mourning for months.

I am proud to be from Singapore. And simultaneously, I have a love-hate relationship with Singapore. It was my disciplinary yet loving parent. It was my annoying little brother that constantly asked too much attention of me when all I wanted was independence. Singapore is my birthplace, a city and country I have an irrevocable bond with, which, for better or worse, through rain or shine, whether I hate it or love it, has chosen me. It’s my family.

The more I travel and think about how to put cities and new places into words, the more I personify them, thinking of them less and less as the settings for great stories and more as full-blown characters that have their own epic stories. They have identities and, like people, they get sleepy and hazy in the hot midday sun, and romantic in the midnight air. They have moments of shyness and there are times when they’re bold. And eventually, when you’ve gotten under the skin of a city, you realize that the city has gotten under your skin too.

Image: Image

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Professional SpotlightSpotlight

We met Ariana Austin after work one warm Washington, D.C. evening last spring. The conversation was meant to last just half an hour, but we ended up talking for over two. So when we say that Ariana is generous with her time, spirit, and energy, we have the proof to back it up. We talked about everything from why she decided to study English Lit in college, to how she manages her time as an entrepreneur and team leader. As the Founder of Art All Night, she knows how to tackle projects from start to finish and bring entire communities together. By carrying over her skills and talents from all parts of life, we are inspired by Ariana’s courage to dive right into her passions and turn them into a fruitful career.

Name: Ariana Austin
Education: B.A. English Literature, Fisk University and M.Ed, Arts in Education, Harvard University
Location: New York City
Follow: Twitter / French Thomas

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?

Ariana Austin: Being curious; for experiences, for people, traveling to different places, studying what you want. Honoring that openness while relatively free of responsibility.

CJ: You majored in English Literature at Fisk University. How did you determine what to study?

AA: I have loved to read and write since childhood – I just followed my passion.

CJ: You spent some time at the University of Oxford. What were you studying and how was that experience?

AA: I studied “postcolonial” literature — a contentious term for literature from formerly colonized nations. It was very intense — the most rigorous academic experience I’ve had but a first-read of some of my now favorite novels, and a nuanced look at the most difficult of topics: who has power and who does not.

CJ: What was your first job out of college?

AA: When I graduated from college, I had a press internship on the hill, worked part-time for the Oxford Study Abroad Program (that I went to as a student), and in a boutique.

CJ: You founded Art All Night. Please tell us more about the organization and what your roles as Founder and Creative Director entail.

AA: Art All Night is a nighttime arts and culture festival. I founded the festival in 2010 after having lived in Paris and experiencing the original “nuit blanche.” My work involves sketching out the big picture for the night, then securing venues (many are vacant or non-traditional art spaces), cultural partners to curate them, managing the overall artist call, and working with galleries and more established spaces to open their doors late.

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CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

AA: Depending on what two or three projects I’m working on every few months is different. These days my schedule is to work from my apartment in Brooklyn. I’m working on two projects – Draw NYC – a wonderful initiative designed to get New Yorkers drawing in public space and Art All Night. Typically: I try to keep to a regular schedule and work from 10am-6pm. In the morning, I get to action items, conceptual work, and priority meetings and calls, and in the afternoon emails. Around 4pm I stop for a tea break, it’s relaxing and a nice way to break up the day; I know I still have another 2 hours to get things done.

CJ: What should a teenager or young adult who wants to run their own company do to set him or herself up for success? What’s the first step he or she should take?

AA: Start before you’re ready. Start a precursor to a business when you have that initial passion, even if you’re not sure of the exact structure. Organize around that spark and be flexible with changing course. Create something that is yours that you can grow and build and learn through. Have fun with it.

CJ: Was there ever a moment that greatly influenced or encouraged you to jump into entrepreneurship?

AA: During graduate school, I went on a trip sponsored by the Harvard Innovation Lab to NYC to meet with cultural entrepreneurs. We met with really great people: Arianna Huffington, Diane von Furstenberg, the founders of Rent the Runway, and more. I spent that week really critically thinking about starting a culture business. I hadn’t expected to do it this soon, but I knew it would happen someday. It feels good to have invested in it fully from the very beginning.

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CJ: How do you deal with and overcome tough days?

AA: With big projects, this is hard because often a lot rides on one day or one event. I try to isolate the source of the stress (is it related to getting something done, asking for something specific, variables beyond your control etc). If it can be handled, I just do it. If I need extra support, I talk to family and friends to help figure out a solution. But there is something to big projects where 48 hours or so before you have to be kind of Zen-like and let it go and be in execution mode. You work as much and as hard as humanly possible, but then there are situations where you have to let go – learning that will make a happier producer. Also, at the end of the day when I’m done, I’m done. I need those hours to go out or be home, have a glass of wine and recharge for the next day. I’m almost always refreshed and ready to go after a good nights sleep. 

CJ: What is something in your life – professional or personal – that you’re working to improve on and how are you doing that?

AA: Personally: keeping up with friends and family more consistently. 

CJ: How do you measure success?

AA: I am a very focused person so I have a couple of key goals and everything I do should feed into those goals ultimately. Success for me is getting things done at a steady pace and producing at a high quality both professional and more personal projects, that I’m happy with my work and so are my clients. Beyond that, being content and finding joy throughout the day. 

CJ: You’ve traveled quite a bit and moved for work – what is the best travel and moving advice you can share?

Take your spirit, leave your baggage. I wrote it in an article once and have since tried to follow my own advice.

CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

AA: Wise words from Kanye West: Steer clear of “opportunities” and focus on dreams.

Ariana Austin Qs

Image: Morgan West / A Creative D.C.

cleanwing
CultureEducation

“I honestly believe if people traveled more often, there would be less conflict because there would be more understanding.” I said this in my Youth Spotlight last week, and I meant it with all my heart. Traveling is a powerful educational tool for everyone and, I believe, is especially eye opening for minority youth like myself. Let me tell you why.

With cultural tensions spewed across the news and social media platforms as of late, people seem quick to grab onto fear before attempting to peacefully resolve a misunderstanding. We are all guilty of being fearful sometimes, but let’s remember, fear is only a result of unfamiliarity. For example, you may be terrified of insects until you watch the Discovery Channel and learn the many ways they help protect us from even scarier things like low crop yields and a massive buildup of animal waste (no, thank you!). Suddenly, you’ll think twice before stepping on the little creatures that are more helpful than we think, and this is all thanks to a bit of new knowledge.

The same concept goes for people. In my personal experiences as a young minority woman traveling, I have often found myself in places where no one looks like me. For some of you, whether Black, Asian, Hispanic, a lovely mix and so on, this might sound familiar. It can be awkward at times, but always eye-opening and beneficial for all parties involved. Travel is absolutely transformative for minority youth in three major ways.

First, it allows those unfamiliar with your culture to become more familiar. When I traveled to New Zealand a few years ago, I never saw another black person during the trip, aside from the few traveling with me in the tour group. This doesn’t mean black people don’t exist in New Zealand; I just never crossed paths with any. During my home stay with a Kiwi family (the native minority population in the country), they told me they’d never had any black friends before and I said I’d never had any Kiwi friends before. At first they were timid to ask pressing questions about my culture, but eventually conversation began flowing as I told them about ridiculous stereotypes that exist in America, the daily struggles faced, and about my personal family history. They reciprocated by telling me about theirs. As native New Zealanders, many of their experiences were similar to mine, as a black American. Who would have known? By the end of the conversation, we could all say we were friends. Pretty good ones, at that. Just think about it – if discussions like this would happen more frequently, there would be much more respect than conflict.

Not only does traveling teach others about you, but it can also teach you about your own culture. Every time you go to a new location, you unlock a part of yourself you didn’t know existed. For example, when I went to Paris for the first time in high school, I learned about how many black Americans in the 1920’s hopped the Atlantic and settled in the City of Lights. Many did this because they felt race was not as much of a hindrance to living a happy life in Paris as it was in America. There were more job opportunities, a booming arts industry, and less violent racism. I found it so interesting to learn about how people like me lived in other countries in the past, and are still living there today. Traveling to Paris expanded my mindset and, in a sense, gave me a newfound sense of my own identity within the world and its history.

Last but surely not least, travel has the power to make the variety of race seem minuscule compared to the unity of humanness. What I mean by this is that through exploring new areas, speaking to new people, immersing yourself in a different society, and catching a glimpse into how others live, similarities across cultures are more evident than any differences could ever be. We all struggle to find ourselves. We all get lazy, grumpy, giggly, frustrated, happy, and jealous at times. We all laugh at our own jokes, have secret crushes on people who don’t know who we are, and have blood flowing through our veins. You get the point. But mostly, we all want to just be happy.

So, whether you are thinking about traveling to another country, a new town, or a new school, I want to encourage you to go for it… for yourself, and for all of us.

Image: Jay Mantri

aysiaapartment
Skills

Since I was small, I dreamed of how thrilling it would be to live in my own little chic apartment in a city. Along with a miniature black labradoodle ironically named Cochon (means “pig” in French), I would have a true Carrie a la ‘Sex in the City’ lifestyle. Today, some of those things are true – I live on my own, I’ve decorated an apartment to my liking, and my urban home is indeed quaint (the adorable dog and fabulous shoe collection are still a work in progress). Leaning slightly more on the introverted side of the personality scale, I deeply enjoy living alone. But I won’t deny there have been a few challenging moments I didn’t anticipate. Here are a few things I’ve learned so far on my journey:

1. How far from home are you really?

About a month into being in my apartment, I realized all my dishes were organized the same way as in my childhood home – plates to the left of the stove and glasses on the shelf above. It was almost comical noticing I’d adopted my father’s extreme neatness and mother’s particular ways of taking care of the house. Who knew everything would come full circle?

2. You are now the bug-killer, toilet-fixer, and furniture-assembler.

All the terrifying and annoying things you would typically ask your dad, a male friend, or a roommate to do become your job. Aside from bug-killing, which admittedly challenged my entire existence, I am proud to say I’ve turned into quite the handy-woman. Don’t worry, it all gets easier with practice.

3. Being yourself, in all your weirdness, never felt so good.

Want to eat waffles for three nights straight without anyone judging you? Go for it. Feel like spending 4 hours watching old episodes of ‘Hey Arnold’? Sure, you can. Living by yourself provides the freedom to do what you want on your own time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

4. “Responsible” becomes your middle name.

When you are living alone, you only have yourself to depend on, so you think about everything. For example, you regularly check your mail because there are no longer roommates to do it for you. You take care of your plants and even remember to water them extra when you go out of town. It’s the little things that make you feel like a real adult.

5. You learn about yourself.

Out of everything living alone has taught me, this point is most valuable. Many of us are used to college or other environments where we are constantly surrounded by people. Living alone has given me the opportunity to figure out what works for me in terms of a daily routine that allows me to be productive, relaxed, and focused.

Living by myself was something I have always wanted to challenge myself with. So far, it has been such a rewarding experience. For those considering making the same decision, I say, go for it. You won’t know until you try!

Image: Flickr

aysiafood2
ExploreTravel

When most people think of the top “foodie cities,” New York, Nashville, or New Orleans likely come to mind. But I think there’s another city climbing its way up the culinary ladder – good old Washington, D.C.! That’s right, the city I call home has quite a few restaurants that my taste buds just can’t get enough of. Next time you’re ready for a mind-blowing meal, try one of my favorite D.C. spots.

Located in the charming, Eastern Market neighborhood, Sona Creamery & Wine Bar is the place to go for a satisfying meal or a quick gourmet snack. This restaurant is known for its wide variety of decadent cheeses (they even make their own in-house) and perfectly paired wines. I recently went here for brunch with a group of my closest friends for my 22nd birthday, and we each ordered an entrée and split the most delicious five cheese board imaginable. The cheese made me seriously consider signing up for Sona’s weeklong Cheese Tour in Ireland – yes you read that right, cheese tour in Ireland. If you find yourself here, I recommend the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes or Pork Gyro. You can’t go wrong with either.

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I just moved to D.C.’s Van Ness area, so I have been doing quite a bit of exploring. During my strolling, I came across Bread Furst Bakery. This quaint neighborhood bakery serves all kinds of pastries, breads, breakfast foods, pies, cakes, jams, preserves, and so much more. The relaxing patio out front is constantly full of families enjoying the weather, joggers taking a quick break, and dogs relaxing in the shade. Bread Furst is a must-do not only for the nice atmosphere, but also because of its Lavender Honey Tea Cakes and those perfectly soft chocolate cookies. Sometimes, you just have to thank serendipity for discovering gems like this.

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For the more adventurous eaters, here is the restaurant for you – Das Ethiopian Cuisine, nestled in the heart of Georgetown. First, a quick disclaimer: wearing stretchy pants here might be a good idea. This classy establishment serves all types of flavorful fish, meats, and vegetables customary of Ethiopian cooking. I usually go for the Das Chicken and Beef Combination Sampler because, like its name suggests, it has a little bit of everything. The staff is forever accommodating and it is obvious just how much pride they take in the restaurant, as all the white tablecloths are impeccably pressed and napkins expertly folded. Eating with your hands is expected here, which makes dining even more of an experience.

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Finally, located in the up and coming D.C. neighborhood of Bloomingdale is Old Engine 12 Restaurant, a new spot serving creative versions of traditional American dishes like Deviled Eggs with shrimp and squid ink or grits with heaps of extra sharp Cheddar. I first went here when my parents came to visit me and we were impressed with the neat architecture. The restaurant is actually a renovated firehouse and its integrity has been maintained with the industrial fireman poles and open garage doors. Not only was I fascinated by the unique dishware at Old Engine 12 (clear mugs make tea much cooler) but I was also happily satisfied with the homemade grilled meatballs and beet salad – it all felt like real comfort food.

Next time you want a food adventure, try one of these restaurants! I would love to know how you like it. Happy eating!

 

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CultureTravel

With the perfect blend of Southern charm and eclectic flavor, the fine city of Savannah should absolutely be on your list of cities to visit. Since I was a child, my grandparents hauled my brother and I all across their historic city, exposing us to every neat nook and cranny it has to offer. Sprawling with hundreds of acres of lush, Spanish moss-draped parks and stunning 18th century architecture, Savannah is surely worth a trip — a day trip, at the very least! If you ever find you have a day in “The Hostess City of the South,” I have the perfect itinerary for you.

Morning

Rise and shine – it’s time to get the day started! In my opinion, there is no better way to start off a lovely Savannah day than with a visit to Forsythe Park. At 30 pristine acres, this park is the largest in the city. Feel free to wake up your mind and body with a jog or yoga under the cool, mossy trees. If it’s Saturday, take time perusing the massive farmers market hosted there. This is also a great time to practice your “southern charm,” as Savannah locals love to smile and chat.

After your morning exercise, get ready to chow down at one of the best breakfast spots in the city, J. Christopher’s. This is a regional chain that actually began in Atlanta, but lucky for us, they converted a garage right in the heart of Savannah’s Historic District into one of their laid-back establishments. Go for their Blueberry Crunchcakes (pancakes made with crunchy granola) or one of their many breakfast skillets, with a coffee served in their mismatched coffee mugs. They even have a pet menu for your trusty sidekick. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Afternoon

Now it is time for a history lesson. Old Savannah Tours has been providing tourists with fun, comprehensive trolley tours of the Historic District since 1979. I recommend the unlimited Historic On/Off Tour because you can pick and choose what Savannah sites to explore on your own time. Be sure to hop-off at The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist to see its exquisite murals, the Sorrel-Weed House to experience true antebellum architecture, and the City Market for a bit of shopping.

In case you haven’t already grabbed a quick bite during the tour, try to make it to Joe’s Homemade Café in midtown Savannah. I admit, I have not made it there yet, but I hear this place is all-around remarkable. Joe’s is not a sit-down restaurant; they specialize in “picnic” and “to-go” foods, such as their infamous Forsyth sandwich and lemon cheesecake. Sounds like a winner to me.

Evening

Properly reflect on your day over a delicious meal on the rooftop of Local 11 Ten, a restored 1950’s bank-turned-contemporary-restaurant. This trendy spot changes its menu with the seasons, featuring innovative winter dishes like confit pork belly with pan roasted quail, warm caselvetrano olives with bacon, smoked bone marrow, and Sapelo Island clams. Relish in the soft house music and enjoy this truly unique dining experience.

For those wanting something a bit more soulful, try Huey’s on the River, a restaurant that actually serves authentic New Orleans’s cuisine. Their menu has the works. I’m talking shrimp & grits, fried green tomatoes, filé gumbo, Po’boys, and beignets. In proper Louisiana fashion, the place is friendly and just the right amount of noisy.

Last and surely not least, take a night stroll along Savannah’s lively River Street. Along the wide Savannah River, this cobblestoned street is always bustling with crowds enjoying nightlife, street performers, antique shops, and quaint boutiques. Stop by River Street Sweets to pick up the necessary Southern candies – pralines and fudge, of course – and then continue down toward the river to sit and enjoy the cooling breeze.

Time-Permitting

If you have a bit more time during the day, check out some contemporary art at the SCAD Museum of Art or be brave and go on a walking ghost tour of the most haunted city in America.

There we have it – a day of fun in the ever-charming city of Savannah. Enjoy!

*Going to Philadelphia? Check out these places!

Image: Aysia Woods

city
EducationSkills

The spring semester is going to start soon, and for some, it already has. Many of you might be considering doing internships this semester. A while ago, I did a piece about the end of summer internships. This one is about the beginning of spring ones! Here are a few things to keep in mind while preparing and applying to spring semester internships, especially in large cities.

Research.

Think about what type of internship you want to do. Social media, computer science, photography, editorial, public relations, you name it. Do you want to work on something in your field of study, or are you considering trying something new? What do internships tend to require? Experience in certain programs, making tweets, or proofreading? This will help you in your search and it will help you with preparing your resume and cover letter later on. Since you’re in a city, you want to make sure that you also open minded to start­-ups, places outside of your borough or local area, and positions that overlap. You also have to consider whether something is paid or not, if there is credit, and if the two -hour commute is worth it. Can you fit it into your schedule?

“Stalk.”

Said my professor. Yes, you spend a lot of time on the computer when you’re thinking about internships, and a lot of it is clicking around. Once you have an idea of what you want to do and a few companies for which you want to work, you should Google them. For example, if you want to write for a magazine, look up the editors. Look at the company’s mission statement and branch. Find the Twitter or LinkedIn or company website. This way, you will know a bit about the company but also a bit about who you will be working under. At first, back in my freshmen days, I was unsure about this, but multiple professors and people who work have told me it is definitely normal (and even expected) so no worries. You can go take a look at where the office is and see if the neighborhood is somewhere you would be willing to spend your time in. Can you buy lunch somewhere nearby? Is there a train station nearby? What kind of people are walking around? Casual younger people or older people in suits? You’ll be among them.

Create.

Create your persona. Make or edit your resume to suit your needs. Design it so it somehow represents who you are and how you work. Design interns design their resumes to be unique, but multi-­colored resumes wouldn’t work for a finance intern. Check your social media to make sure it is consistent. Get some appropriate clothes for the interview. You don’t have to wear black heels through a snowstorm or a suit in the summer, but make sure your nails are clean, your hair is washed, and your bag is suitable to both hold copies of your resume while looking appropriate for the office.

If you’re in a large city, you might want to consider adding some flair to your outfit so you can stand out. You’ll be competing with all the other university students (as well as people who have already graduated). The fashion interns I’ve met have been pretty unique, but not office appropriate. Again, this is where your research comes in! Maybe that’s alright for where you’re applying for. This preparation helps with interview questions that range from “Why do you want to work with us?” to “Tell me about yourself.”

Getting an internship, especially in big cities, can be pretty difficult. It starts out slow, but once you have a foundation, it becomes easier. It can be scary and it’s definitely competitive, but all of that becomes easier to deal with with practice. When something doesn’t work, try and try again. Best of luck!

Image: Chris Isherwood

ramen 2014
Culture

So you’re in NYC for the winter and you’ve already read my last piece about doing some fun stuff in the city. Well, what do you know, there’s more to do! Who wouldn’t like a hot bowl of ramen, a cozy warm setting with some BBQ, or a comforting bowl of soup this winter?

Relatively affordable for a college student and great for winter­ get-togethers, here are some places I’d like to recommend.

Ramen

Yes, ramen! There are plenty of delicious ramen shops around the city; you just have to find them! You probably know about Ippudo, the popular ramen shop in the East Village that has already been noticed by NYT and NY Mag. But there’s also Momofuku and Takumi, which is located near NYU and is where I suspect local students go when they aren’t willing to travel any further than a five block radius. Spend a day exploring the neighborhood and warm up with a good bowl of ramen!

Japanese BBQ

When I first started college a few years ago, I tried to keep in touch with my friends from high school who were also in the city. We ate at a place called Gyu­Kaku. It’s a Japanese BBQ that’s great for chilly or rainy winter days near Cooper Union, but there there’s one up in Midtown. You and your friends order whatever meat or veggies you want, and you cook it on the grill in front of you. The cozy warm atmosphere and the abundance of food is a great way to spend lunch or dinner during the unpredictable but nonetheless chilly season. Split some orders with a friend, or go as a large group and get a party platter. It’s by St. Mark’s so you can explore the neighborhood (and get an ear piercing if you’ve been dying to get one) while you’re here.

Chinese food

I’ve been going to a Chinese place on 102 Mott Street (the name has changed once or twice) ever since I was a little kid. I’ve always gotten hot congee there. In high school, I went with a group of friends and ordered a rice dish with salt and pepper pork. In college, I went back yet again, and this time with different friends (and one who was a vegetarian). Despite its lackluster appearance, this Chinese restaurant has always been my go­-to when I’m in Chinatown because of its reliable food and nostalgic experience (and affordability!). Explore Chinatown and stop by for wonton noodle soup, rice dishes, and congee.

As a jaded New Yorker and poor college student, I can tell you that finding good food in good places can be exhausting both mentally and for the wallet. At the same time, it can be fun when you have friends who are willing to try new things with you. Take some time this winter break to see what new places you can find. Who knows what hidden gems you will discover. Enjoy and happy eating!

Image: Lauren Jessen

ice skate
CultureTravel

The winter break for a native New Yorker can seem pretty uninteresting. After all, I’ve been hanging around the five boroughs for about two decades, and the crowded museums and expensive restaurants and confused tourists lose their luster. The best thing to do is to find a few friends and do some cool things together. Even a seemingly sad trip to a noodle restaurant can be great bonding time. Here are a few things that anyone, including local college students, can do this winter break in the city!

1. Ice skating

I know. I know. You go every year and you’ve given up trying to do a triple lutz years ago. But have you been to every ice skating rink in the city? People always go to Rockefeller or Central Park’s ice skating rinks, but there is one in all of the five boroughs. My personal favorite is Bryant Park because if you own your own pair it’s free admission, and because I get to gorge myself on food in the holiday markets outside. I also tend to go in the middle of the day so it isn’t terribly crowded. Each rink has its own vibe, so go on different skate days during the weekdays (less crowded) and see if you find your own favorite. Speaking of food…

2. Food Day in Flushing

While everyone thinks of Manhattan and Brooklyn, there’s also Queens. Specifically, Flushing. It is mainly a Chinese neighborhood, meaning there are tons of restaurants and shops to go to. Grab a few friends (vegetarian friendly!) and head up to Flushing via 7 train. Spend the day walking around, going to food courts, mulling over ­posted menus in the window, and dare your friends to try to eat something they can’t pronounce. You never know what you’ll find!

3. Bushwick Shopping

A lot of my friends live in Bushwick and commute to school via the L train. Along that line are a lot of new businesses, and with that, shopping opportunities. Whether they be thrift shops, jewelry shops, or small cafes, Bushwick is a good place to go explore. If you have a friend who lives there, make some plans to do a tour-­and-­explore day. A nice brunch and a girl’s shopping day, and since it’s the holidays, what better time to shop?

There are plenty of things to do in the city, even for the jaded New Yorker. Find some friends and explore the boroughs. You never know what you may find!

Image: AntheaAtlas

hometown
Travel

I am someone who loves to travel and experience new things. However, if you always looking to go elsewhere, you might miss some of the great things at home. Work and school can often keep us too busy to explore what makes the tourists flock to our town. Here are some tips to make the most out of your hometown or state:

1. Go for a long walk or drive away from your original route. If you’re used to driving to the same places all the time, you might miss what your town has to offer. You could discover a beautiful view or a shop you’ve never seen.

2. Look at your town or city website. Find out what your town is known for  – you might find something that interests you.

3. Try some different restaurants. I frequently look at Yelp around my area. It could lead you to a new restaurant. Take a look at some coupons in the mail, as it will give you an idea of what’s local so you can try it out.

4. Go window shopping. It could be in a mall area or in a strip of town stores. You never know what hidden gems you might find.

5. Attend local events. This could be a fair, a festival, a farmer’s market or something else entirely. You could find them on a town website or in your local paper. You have a chance to go out and see the people in your area. Chances are you will also find out about local businesses or restaurants that you might want to visit.

6. Join a local club. If you search for clubs in your area, you could find some people who share your interests. Spending time with them might give you more ideas on what you could do in town, maybe even as a group. Everyone I know in a town club says it’s a great way to pass the time, meet new people, and discover new interests.

I encourage you to explore your hometown. It’s a good way to do a lot of things you enjoy while traveling. You see new things, meet new people, relax, and do so without spending a lot of money. It’s a big world out there. Don’t miss what is right in front of you.

Image: Unsplash

sunset unsplash
CultureInspiration

There it is. The middle of July has just passed (gasp!), and summer is in full blown effect. Instagram is loaded with friends going on vacation in France or drinking mimosas on the beach. When you aren’t shopping for your bikini top, you’re probably making money to buy one. If you aren’t looking up the cutest outfits for your summer office internship, you’re probably actually at it. But what if you’re in a slump? You only get as far as the interview, and your inbox has been gathering dust. Or maybe there’s personal stuff going on and making a decision like that is the last thing on your mind.

Hey. That’s okay.

This summer is for you. Your time to do what you need to do. Sometimes you need to slow down the pace before you can pick it back up, and sometimes what you’re looking for is right around the corner and you just have to get there, one step at a time. This summer is clay and you can take it in your hands and do whatever you want to it. You can mold your time to be slow and easy and relaxing, or design it to be fast-­paced and exciting. You don’t have to work or intern for it to be yours. There’s a world of things to do and and it’s waiting for you.

If you’re feeling envious of your friends abroad, make it a mission for yourself to explore your city and to get to know it as much as you can. Teach yourself a new language. Watch foreign films. Find a place where you’re comfortable and draw in a sketchbook your own world.

This summer is your space, your zone. Take it easy and work through what you need to work through. Be gentle with yourself. Love yourself and take care of yourself. If you’re not ready to take the world on just yet, then don’t. One step at a time. Take a walk around the block, then around the park, then the beach. Make yourself a small breakfast, then a healthy one, and eat it with satisfaction.

Don’t worry about what other people are doing, or what they’re saying, or what they’re thinking. Everybody goes at their own pace and so should you. Don’t worry if nothing is working out, soon it will. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re falling behind, you’re not. Don’t worry if you need time for yourself this summer, take it and it’s yours. Make this summer about being happy and healthy, and don’t worry about the rest.

Image: Unsplash