Book PostsTravel

There’s no shortage of activities and sites to see in Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital is an energetic hub of history and progress. Whether you’re attending school, interning on The Hill, or landmark hopping, D.C. is an exciting place to be. The last time we were in D.C., we were earning our Congressional Award Gold Medals. Before and after the ceremony, however, we took advantage of being in close proximity to iconic memorials and landmarks.

You likely won’t be able to fit in all that the city has to offer in one trip, so we narrowed down our list into the top 10 must-see places, both popular and off the beaten path.

1.  The White House

2. The Lincoln Memorial

3. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

4. National Gallery of Art

5. Smithsonian Museums

6. The Roof of the Kennedy Center

7. Arlington National Cemetery

8. Visit the Library of Congress

9. Hike or bike along the Potomac River

10. Explore Dumbarton Oaks

What are your favorite things to do in Washington, D.C.?

Image: Vadim Sherbakov

Travel

No matter where you live, we’ve all seen them… those people wielding cameras with maps tucked into their fanny packs, possibly wearing destination paraphernalia. Okay, hopefully not the last part few parts, but you never know. Tourists – the near curse word to travelers and locals alike. For some reason, people love to hate tourists’ naivety and childlike excitement, even though they should be applauded for their adventurous spirits. But still, I admittedly never want to appear like one because it’s sometimes embarrassing, it could mark you as an easy target for theft or crime, and is simply not cool. So from my wandering heart to yours, here are my four top tips I use while traveling to minimize being that tourist.

1. “When in Rome” everywhere. I like to think of this as the biggest display of respect to another culture because it shows your willingness to try and understand something new. For example, if you are in Australia and someone proudly offers you their restaurants kangaroo dish, eat it like it’s your favorite food even if it’s not (yes, this really happened to me and turns out, it was actually delicious). If you are somewhere that has many social customs unfamiliar to you, say in an Asian country, don’t be embarrassed to try bowing when it is appropriate. I have noticed people are more receptive to you as a traveler when they can see you are putting forth effort to cross cultural differences.

2. In unfamiliar situations, wear your poker face. It is bound to happen – you make a wrong turn to find yourself lost, get yelled at in a foreign language, or are caught in a weird situation and just don’t know how to react. No matter how frazzled you are, try to remain calm and collected for your safety.

3. Speak the language. Of course you won’t always be able to do this fluently, but it is possible to learn a few useful greetings and phrases in the country’s language. You might have noticed Americans do not have the best traveling reputation. Time and time again my foreign friends have told me that we tend to speak English before even attempting a simple greeting in the local language and this is offensive. Even if you butcher a few words in another language, people will likely just giggle and appreciate your attempt.

4. Finally, pay attention to how people dress. Unless you are actually hiking in the jungle or going on an Archeological dig, your favorite hiking hat might not be necessary for this trip. But, little jokes aside, I have found clothing to be important in some cases. For example, if you want to go to a religious service, make sure you ask a local or research how you are expected to dress. The last thing you want to do is accidentally disrespect anyone or anything.

Hopefully you can try out some of these tips and see how your next journey unfolds. If you have any other tips you use, I would love to hear them. Happy travels!

Image: Gratisography

CultureTravel

While it is true most travelers prefer non-stop flights to those with any layovers, I say, why not turn an inconvenient few hours into an opportunity to explore? The Greek capital city, Athens, is not only a common European layover stop, but also a beautiful fusion of ancient history with a youthful flair. Having been lucky enough to experience the spirited city a few times now, I’ve created the ultimate layover guide that will help you make the most of your quick pit stop in Athens. Let’s get into it; or as the Greeks would say, Opa!

Greece 2

8 hours (7 am – 3pm)

As most flights from the States land in Europe bright and early in the morning, there is plenty of time to do all the necessary bits. By “necessary bits,” of course this means none other than the Acropolis. This massive ancient citadel hovers over the entire city, as you can see it from nearly anywhere in the city. Wind back and forth across the rocky outcrop for about 15 minutes until you reach the summit, and you are in for an unforgettable experience. While on top of the Acropolis, not only can you see a panoramic view of Athens, but you can also see the Parthenon and other architectural masterpieces that have been restored to look as proud as they did in 5th century BC. Take it all in and think about how much world history you are standing on top of…literally.

When you’re ready to move on from the beauty of the Acropolis, I recommend hiking down and walking just a few blocks to the Acropolis Museum, where hundreds of rescued, restored, and collected artifacts are housed from the ruins. Getting up close to each piece and examining its every intricate detail is a remarkable thing.

greece

12 Hours (7 am – 7 pm)

Spend time perusing and people watching in the animated, and ever loving Monastiraki Square, located near the historical Plaka neighborhood. To this day, I have never seen so much affection in one place. In the square, Greeks are often tightly hugging dear friends, passionately kissing their lovers, or jesting about with adorably dressed young children. Shop the windy side streets and browse all the flea markets, souvenirs, and trinkets. It’s a wonderful place to relax, enjoy your company, and of course grab a quick bite!

Thanasis is a restaurant well known for their mouth-watering souvlakis, a popular Greek dish with your choice of grilled meat, tzatziki sauce, veggies, and sometime fries, tightly wrapped in a fluffy pita. It’s conveniently located right on Monastiraki Sqaure, so you can involve your taste buds in the love fest, as well.

In case you want a more formal meal, only a block or so away from the square is an ultramodern, luxurious hotel called A for Athens. Take their terrifying small elevator (it’s worth it, I promise!) to the very top floor and get ready for more great views, food, and drinks. The magnificently lit Acropolis and Greek techno music serve as a backdrop while you sip on your beverage of choice and enjoy modern takes on traditional Greek cuisine. Keep an ear out for all of the languages you’re bound to hear surrounding you – it is remarkable how many international people flock to this great spot!

18 Hours (7 am – 1 am)

Make your way to the main square in Athens, Syntagma Square. This is often referred to as the “heart” of the city as Greek Parliament is located here, not to mention a common site for political demonstrations. In the square are various food vendors and a lovely park area, while the side streets contain some of Greece’s best shopping. For all the serious shoppers, this is a top priority before your layover comes to an end. There are international chain stores, but also boutiques unique to Greece, so you really get a taste of everything fashion-wise!

Finally wrap up your super quick layover in Athens by taking the metro to Soho Bar Athens in the Gazi neighborhood. This club and bar has a neat atmosphere, and is usually full of young professionals and or the “starving artist” type. Prepare for your next flight with a cold glass of ouzo and call it a day!

Image: Aysia Woods (Acropolis and Monastiraki Square); Carpe Juvenis (Greek Flag)

Travel

Welcome to the home of the Tastykake, Rocky Balboa, Wawa, and, of course, the cheesesteak… I am taking you to Philadelphia! Growing up, my family and I would travel from my hometown of Collegeville, a suburb of Philly, into the city nearly every weekend to explore museums, eat wonderful food, and check out other hotspots. For you, dear traveler, I have come up with the perfect itinerary to help plan your first day trip to this lively, multi-dimensional city. Welcome to The City of Brotherly Love!

Morning

For breakfast, try one of the Green Eggs Café locations. This trendy, eco-friendly restaurant is dedicated to serving locally produced foods at reasonable prices, while allowing their customers to support the movement by using only recycled paper and dishware. I highly recommend the Smoked Atlantic Lox Omelet or the “Kitchen Sink” (think a skillet of eggs, cheese, potatoes, peppers, biscuits, and gravy everywhere). The portions are rather large, but don’t worry because you can ask for a biodegradable take-out container.

After the amazing meal, you are surely going to want to walk off the food coma. Spend a few hours browsing the collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Located at the end of the scenic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, this massive museum holds the most beautiful European, American, and Asian artwork. Don’t forget to run up the museum steps in proper Rocky fashion!

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Afternoon

From the museum, walk through the bustling Center City neighborhood to reach Reading Terminal Market. You’re going to brave some lines and crowds here, but this market is a prime location to eat and browse. The market carries nearly everything you could imagine, from local and exotic produce, Amish specialties, meat, seafood, handmade confections, flowers, to cookbooks and other trinkets. The delicious aromas will make you hungry for lunch here, so head over to my favorite vendor in the market and favorite cheesesteak joint in Philly, Carmen’s Famous Italian Hoagie. If this is your first visit to Philly, order a classic and prepare yourself for a serious mouth party. After all, President Obama ate here, so you know it’s good.

By this point it’s time to say goodbye to the market and get ready for a little history lesson. Make your way to Philadelphia’s Historic District, which is full of museums and historic buildings. Philadelphia was the first capital of the United States and birthplace of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Betsy Ross’ home and first American flag. Stroll along the grassy squares and cobblestone streets, making sure to pass by the Liberty Bell, and imagine what life was like while the United States was young.

aysiaphilly3

Evening

The fun-filled Philly day trip is sadly coming to an end, so it’s time to wrap up with a glorious dinner. There are few options here. For the Francophiles and wine-lovers, try the quaint Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro near Center City and make sure to order the Beef Bourguignon. If that is not your ideal cuisine, right next door is El Vez, known for their funky rock n’ roll atmosphere and tasty enchiladas. Finally for the sports fan, go to Chickie’s and Pete’s, the Philly sports fan’s go-to stop for crab fries. I guarantee after eating at any of these restaurants, you’ll be more than ready to head back home and recoup after a great day of eating and exploring.

Time-Permitting

If you have a few extra minutes to spend in the city, be sure to stroll by the water at Penn’s Landing, shop around Rittenhouse Square, or bike in Fairmount Park.

And there you have it – a whole day of activities for your eventful day trip to Philadelphia. Time to grab a friend and make it happen!

Image: Aysia Woods

Travel

This is amazing! It’s your first summer in New York City. You’re here for pre­-college classes, checking out universities, taking summer courses, interning, working, or simply shopping, eating, and being a tourist. It’s the city that never sleeps, a place romanticized by movies and glorified by those who live here.

Well. Sort of. If you know anything about NYC, you know it has its rough patches. New Yorkers are known for their direct and fast paced attitudes, always rushing around stylishly but quickly. In the summer, the tempo of the city changes. Tourists flood in and some New Yorkers leave. But those who stay, like yours truly, are forced to weather through some of the not­-so-­pleasant things about being in NYC in the summer. These are a few things you should know before coming to New York City.

1. It is hot.

That explains everything. The grouchy taxi drivers. The simmering concrete. The wet sensation under your arms and the uncomfortable chill of the train if you’ve been sitting too long. NYC summers are hot. Commuting feels nasty. This year has been pretty tame, but usually the temperature hits triple digits. NYC summers are hit­-the­beach, break-­the-­fire­-hydrant, egg­-on-­the-­sidewalk hot. Advice: drink water, stay indoors or have indoor trips until 3pm­ish, and pack lightly. Mornings around 7-­9am and evenings around 6-­8pm are commuter hours and you don’t want to be stuck next to the sweaty businessman and a woman with her crying baby. I recommend that you do your summer intensives or other courses during a more relaxed time in case you have to lug supplies or textbooks around. If you insist on going outside, keep the heat in mind.

2. Watch out for mosquitoes.

Yes. Mosquitoes. Did you think that being in a city full of skyscrapers and asphalt would save you from those little monsters? You’re sadly mistaken. I sit here telling you to beware of the mosquitoes, but I have five bites on my legs just from walking to the grocery store. What’s so unique about NYC mosquitoes? They’re intense. My friend from the West coast says that they are nastier biters here than where she’s from, so be warned!

Even as a seasoned New Yorker, I haven’t overcome this itchy nightmare. It does not matter who you are or where you’re going. If you breathe and if you have blood, you’re going to be mosquito food. You can either simply accept that you’ll get bitten (as I have) or you can avoid going outside, especially at night. The crazy thing is they seem to be everywhere, even indoors and in the middle of the day. They cling to people’s clothing, and with all the moving around, it’s no wonder they are everywhere. There are bug sprays and lotions you can use to keep mosquitoes away, but there really isn’t an escape. Best of luck.

3. Avoid moving­-in nightmares.

If you’re a college student looking to live outside the dorms for the semester, you better find an apartment, and fast! Students who are coming back for fall are going to start moving, or moving back, and you want to make sure you find somewhere to stay during this rush. Start looking for places now and if you’re lucky, you’ll find something you like within your budget.

New York is a great place to spend the summer if you know your way around. Even if you don’t, you’ll get the hang of where you are and what trains to take quickly. There are a lot of things to do and see, and as long as you’re aware of how to take care of yourself, you will be just fine. Remember to stay hydrated and to take it easy. Enjoy the city, and make it a summer to remember!

Image: Unsplash

CultureTravel

Summer isn’t over! Haven’t planned a vacation or gone anywhere yet? That’s good, because I’m going to share with you a place often overlooked for its true wonder: The Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Leave your beach balls and umbrellas at home, my friends, and come take a gander at authentic Appalachia.

smoky 1

I recently explored the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and I can tell you that it’s more than what you expect from a typical weekend in the mountains. I certainly had a bunch of perceptions about the vacation being boring, but I was very wrong. And I’m glad I was wrong. So here I am, describing to you an experience of a lifetime. I’m going to invite you to live vicariously through my experience. Ready?

Where can I even begin?  The scenery is breathtaking and bucolic. We all need a break from reality, especially if we’re city dwellers. That’s why this rugged region, replete with emerald trees and sapphire rivers, is the perfect getaway.  You can rent a cabin from many of the lodging companies here, including Patriot Getaways, and enjoy the cozy apple wood fragrance of the area. I strongly suggest taking a dip in the hot tubs many of the cabins already have on a cool summer’s evening. Cool and summer? How do both of those words even go together? Well, the weather in the mountains is superb. It’s just the right amount of coolness mixed in with occasional warm zephyrs and acts as a therapeutic aid, allowing your mind to be calm and stress-free from the hullabaloo of city life.

After you’re done settling into your cabin, it’s time to explore the area. To really get a good picture of the place, go to Gatlinburg Skylift, Inc. You won’t regret it. Capture an amazing view from hundreds of feet above after you situate yourself comfortably on a lift seat. Enjoy yourself. Take pictures. Most importantly, just breathe!

smoky 2

You must be tired and hungry from venturing all the way to the top and back to the bottom. How about some fudge as a snack? You can find fast food chains and eat-in restaurants here, but you should try what Gatlinburg is truly famous for: fudge. The Kilwins of Gatlinburg, a confectionary for any sweet tooth or fudge maven (the dark chocolate fudge is the best, I might add).

smoky 3

After you’ve filled your belly with a few sweets, try some horseback riding through the mountains to burn off those calories. There are various locations that offer equestrian activities, one of them being the small town of Pigeon Forge. Big Rock Stables is an excellent equestrian activity center. Not only do they have horses, but there’s a small petting zoo with exotic birds such as emus and peacocks (you would never expect to see these in Tennessee, may I add) as well as goats and alpacas—a toddler’s dream come true. After you’re done gazing at the beauty of these petting zoo animals, move on to the big challenge: going on a three kilometer ride over a section of the mountains. Maintain your balance and remain focused, the horse will do the rest!

smoky 4

You’ve gone over the mountains, now it’s time to go under them. Get ready for some unique cave scoping at Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville, which you’ll find after a scenic drive on several twisting roads through the mountain valley. Witness the creations formed by Mother Nature herself over millions of years. The cave is the same temperature year-round, around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you bring a light jacket! It is said that Native Americans came here during the winters to stay warm. Be careful not to touch anything in the cave, though. The limestone formations are very fragile and can atrophy just by a simple brush of the arm.

smoky 5

The Appalachian Mountain region, in general, is overlooked as a vacation destination. Nestled inside the result of old plate collisions are so many gems of nature. Have you ever been somewhere that’s often overlooked? So much wonder lies all around the world, but how much of it do we really know about? There’s a lot to see in this world, and I encourage you travel anywhere you can. Save up as much as you possibly can and travel during your youth. You won’t regret it!

CultureExploreTravel

 TRAVEL SERIES

Traveling comes in all forms. Whether you are taking a one-week road trip or flying across an ocean to reach your destination, visiting new places is an integral part of learning about yourself and others. Seeing how different people live, work, and experience life helps break down the barriers between us and reveals that perhaps we are not all as different as we might have thought.

This travel series will cover a wide range of topics about how to travel, where to travel to, etc. Tune in next week for traveling on a budget. Let’s get going!

STAYING SAFE

 1. Be aware of your surroundings. This does not mean you should be paranoid, but rather be aware of who is around you and be conscientious of anything that seems unusual or strange.

 2. Watch your pockets. The smallest details will make the biggest difference. For instance, it is always a good idea to keep valuables such as your wallet, keys, phone, and identification (passport, drivers license) in a hard-to-reach pocket. This is to prevent pick-pocketing or accidentally allowing a precious item to drop from your bag without realizing it.

 3. Tell someone where you are going. It is always a good idea to inform a close friend or family member of your travel plans. If something unexpected happens it is essential that somebody knows where you are and has a way to reach you in the case of an emergency. If you are traveling alone this is a crucial part of your planning, and is beneficial for you and also the people who care about you. If you are traveling with other people, this is still a good idea and highly recommended.

 4.  Keep extra cash hidden on you. It is always a smart idea to keep about twenty dollars of whichever currency you need on you at all times for those “just in case” moments. Tuck the bill(s) into a small pocket of your jacket or bag. Perhaps you get lost in a city and it becomes dark out – if you feel unsafe or have no idea how to get back to where you are staying, having that spare cash will likely enable you to grab a taxi and get home safely.

 5. Decide on a meeting spot. If you are traveling with others, consider choosing a central meeting spot where you can go if someone loses the group or visits somewhere on their own. A good meeting point is one that is well-known by locals so you can ask for directions and is also typically busy during both the day and night in case a member of the group is waiting by him or herself.

 6. Have information. This step will take you about 10-15 minutes, but it is well worth the hassle. Go through your itinerary and write down or type in all phone numbers of hotels and friends you are staying with, addresses of your accommodations, and emergency numbers of whoever city you are traveling to. Having this information might help you enjoy yourself because you can concentrate on having fun rather than trying to remember where you need to go at the end of the day! Also consider writing down all flight, train, or car reservation information ahead of time and print any tickets you will need. Store these in a safe and secure spot in your luggage.

In order to travel as stress-free as possible, it is essential that you plan. Like most situations, planning is the key to success. Spending 30 minutes going over these safety tips and collecting important information will save you hours of stress, confusion, and anxiety during your adventure!

Check out Travel Series Part II: Traveling on a Budget and Travel Series Part III: Choosing the Destination!

Skills

The holidays are not just a great time for seeing family, listening to Christmas music, or enjoying time off from your studies, but it is also a great excuse to get ahead and use that time wisely. When on holiday break, create a healthy balance for yourself by lounging and doing absolutely nothing so you can recover from the late nights school often requires, but also spend some of your days taking advantage of not having work to accomplish some other things you may have wanted to do. Here are 10 ways you can be productive this holiday season:

1. Get active.
If you’ve been swamped with school work and haven’t been able to find time to workout, this is the perfect time to start an exercise regimen that you can take back to school with you. You can test out new exercises that work best for your schedule and body so that you can maintain an active lifestyle when school and work picks back up.

2. Evaluate the past year and set goals. 
Now that you don’t have to worry about finals, take some time to think about how your past year went and what things you can improve upon. What goals do you have? Are there any bad habits you want to break?

3. Pick up a new hobby.
When academics, extracurriculars, team sports, and side projects take over your weekdays and weekends, it can be hard to fit in a fun hobby when it isn’t something that might “look good on your resume.” Use the holiday break to learn a new hobby and try an activity that you have been dreaming of doing.

4. Reach out to people.
Use your time to re-connect with old friends, or to make new connections. Set-up brief informational interviews to get ahead during your time off. The holidays are a busy time for many, but you never know, people might have a spare fifteen minutes to take a phone call to answer questions you have about the industry they are in, their job, or advice they have for getting your foot in the door.

5. Read. 
It can be as simple as that. Read a book that isn’t required. Spend your afternoons relaxing and catching up on great literature.

6. Do a Winternship.
Depending on how long of a break you have, you may want to use these couple of weeks or month to shadow a professional in an industry that you are intrigued by, or to try to get a winternship. Even though the winternship or job shadowing would only be for a couple of weeks, you can still get a good idea of what a certain job entails and if it is still something you are interested in.

7. Volunteer.
During this time of year, there are many organizations that can use a pair of extra hands. Volunteer at a toy drive, soup kitchen, animal shelter, or book drive. There are endless opportunities for getting involved, and your time will be greatly appreciated.

8. Sleep.
You’re probably exhausted from working so hard during the quarter/semester, so why not use this time to catch some zzz’s? Sleep in, go to sleep early, take midday naps – anything that will give your body the rest it needs.

9. Be a tourist in your own city.
It is so easy to take your city for granted. Spend a day going to visit the local museums, tourist attractions, and walking around the city parks. Who knows what you’ll learn or discover. Maybe you’ll even grow to love your home even more.

10. Make plans.
When school picks back up, you won’t have as much time to plan for the months ahead. Get a head start on summer internship or job applications, spring break plans, service trips, and family time. Even if they are brief notes jotted down on a piece of scrap paper, get your ideas onto paper. This is the first step in making your ideas come to life.

{image via}