North Carolina is a beautiful, wonderful state. From mountains to beaches, to UNC to Duke, there is nothing mediocre about the great Tar Heel state. If you were raised in North Carolina, you should be able to identify with the following:
14. NASCAR is a big deal.
18. "Wagon Wheel" (by Old Crow Medicine Show) is a very important song to you and you knew it way before Darius Rucker covered it.
If you're from New Jersey, you know how badly the state's looked down upon by outsiders (thanks a lot, Jersey Shore). But you know that all of those false accusations aren't true- the Garden State is your home and only you're allowed to make fun of it. Although Jersey's small, there are different regions and everyone thinks that their's is the best. Here are seven signs you're from the 732, AKA the best part of Jersey:
1. You know that Central Jersey is a place.
One of the biggest arguments is whether or not Central Jersey exists. I live in the middle of New Jersey, so it's pretty funny when people say it's not a real place. I'm not from South Jersey, and definitely not from North Jersey. Also, it's close to both Philadelphia and New York, not just one or the other. Perfect location.
2. Everywhere you go, you see a Wawa.
Legit everywhere, and you go there 24/7. All hail the holy grail.
3. Surf Taco means a lot to you.
Every time I come home from being away at school the first place I go to eat with my friends is Surf Taco. Even when I am home, Surf Taco's always on my mind. Who doesn't love a good taco with chips? P.S. I highly recommend their Teriyaki Chicken Taco, you won't regret it.
4. You go to all the summer concerts.
There's really nothing more fun than summer shows outside, and you already know that PNC Bank Arts Center and Stone Pony Summer Stage are the hot-spots. 'Tis the season of tailgating and enjoying a good show with your friends.
5. Two words: Pork. Roll.
I don't care what Chris Christie has to say, it's pork roll. Quite honestly, Taylor Ham just doesn't sound right. And what's better than a pork roll egg n' cheese on your favorite bagel? Nothing.
6. You live close to the beach...
Spring Lake, Manasquan, Asbury, you name it. You know these areas and where all of the good food spots are in each of them. Living so close to the beach makes for the perfect summers, but with summer comes the bennies.
7. ...So you can easily spot a benny.
If you're from Jersey and you don't know what a benny is, you most likely are one. Bennies usually come in packs; they bring lawn chairs and tents to the beach, wear socks and sandals, and have the "Jersey accent" because they're either from New York or close to.
This summer, I was accepted into an opera program that was being held in Lucca, Italy. The program was a month long and had participants from all over the world. I never thought I'd get an opportunity like this one, let alone be able to afford it, but I am stubborn. When I want something, I find a way to make it happen. Through my GoFundMe page, donations from friends and family, and my three jobs, I earned all of the money I needed to make the trip. When the reality sunk in that I was really going to Italy for a month by myself, I started to get really anxious.
I've only flown one time that I've been old enough to remember, and that was only a four-hour flight with a few friends. This trip was a twelve-hour long flight across the Atlantic Ocean with a layover in Morocco before I'd finally land in Milan. I'll be the first to admit that I've watched "Lost" way too many times, which only further fuels my fear of flying. About an hour before my flight took off, I called my best friend and he helped calm my nerves so I could get on the plane without having a panic attack (it's been known to happen). I made it onto the plane, across the ocean, and to Morocco without incident. I got a bit lost in the Moroccan airport but, with the help of one of the airport staff members, I found my way to my gate.
When I touched down in Milan, I took a bus to Milano Centrale where I would be staying in for the night. From there, I walked to the hostel I had booked a room in. I was very nervous but the hostel staff was welcoming and in no time, I was settled in. I'll be the first to admit that, although I'm friendly and sociable, I'm not the most outgoing when it comes to meeting new people. I was sure I'd be spending the night alone in my hostel room, but within a short period of time, I'd already made a few friends from England, New Zealand, and the States. We walked around Milan for a bit, which was really fun, and then we hung out on the rooftop garden of our hostel for a few more hours. Meeting new people from all over the world, instantly bonding with them, and going to explore Milan was such an interesting experience. I was so proud of myself for going outside of my comfort zone to make new friends.
I left early the next morning for my train ride from Milan to Lucca. The train system over there is really different from the train station in the United States, but that's a story for another day. I had a few connecting trains to catch and successfully did so. I got to Lucca and I walked from outside the city walls into the town itself. I found the school that would be hosting the program, met my roommates, and got settled into my apartment in no time. The rest of my month in Italy was spent traveling on the weekends, rehearsing for our concerts, doing masterclasses, and eating as much Italian food as I possibly could.
On my way back to the United States, I had a couple of mishaps on the train system, but again, that's a story for another day. I left from Lucca to stay in a Milan hostel before I caught my flight out. Going through Italian customs didn't take me very long at all, so I got on the plane and made my way to Morocco. Getting through Moroccan customs, on the other hand, was a long process. I had close to a 20-hour overnight layover in Morocco, so I walked up to the help desk and asked where I should hang out for the next 20 hours. One of the employees took me to an office a couple of floors up from where we were and I was offered a free hotel room for the night. I was so relieved to be able to sleep in a bed instead of on an uncomfortable airport chair. I stayed in a really nice hotel in Casablanca. There was a free shuttle system to and from the airport, I got a free meal, and I slept so well that night.
I got to the airport the next afternoon and ended up meeting another American coming from Milan. We stuck together through customs until we got on the plane. It was really comforting to have someone with me who spoke the same language as I do.
I got on my flight and made it home safely.
As much as I love traveling, it also makes me anxious. Still, I knew that this was something that I would really regret not doing, especially if I let my anxiety get the best of me. It was hard going from a place that primarily used English to one where they communicated in Arabic and French and then to a country that speaks Italian, but once I got over the language barrier and my own anxiety, I had the best time of my life.
I learned a lot about myself through this experience. I am capable of so much more than I thought I was. I never imagined that I would be able to fly 4,000 miles across the world all by myself without having a panic attack on the plane, but I did it. I didn't think that I'd ever be able to make it for a month in a foreign country where I didn't speak their language, but I did that, too. I spent an entire month learning things about not only the Italian language and culture, but also about myself, and doing things that I never expected to be able to do. I know so much more about myself now and I feel more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I am braver than I imagined and I'm stronger than I thought I could be.
My month in Italy was easily the best month of my life and I have far too much to say about it to put it into one article, so look forward to more. Regardless, the take away from this article is that you should never be afraid to try new things just because you don't think you'll be able to do them. Put more faith in yourself, get out there, and I promise that you won't regret it.