Halfway There: What I've Learned From My National Student Exchange

Halfway There: What I've Learned From My National Student Exchange

A once in a lifetime experience I'm glad I've had the opportunity to do.
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I have spent this semester away from my home school thanks to National Student Exchange (NSE). I’ve been able to escape the cold of Massachusetts for sunny Miami, Florida. My journey has taken me to Florida International University (FIU). I went into this semester hoping to try new things, explore places I’ve never been, and learn about a culture completely different than my own. So far, this semester is exceeding my expectations.

My host school has an NSE club that includes members from outside schools that have come for the semester and students from FIU that have gone on exchanges in the past. This group has been amazing at coordinating events (most of them free of charge) for me to partake in. One of my favorites was a meal at the famous Bubba Gump Shrimp Company followed by a bay cruise through the port of Miami and past the homes of the rich and famous. The views are stunning and the homes are breathtaking. Seeing Miami from the water made me fall in love with this city so much more.

My group has also done events on campus such as attending movie nights and football games. It’s great to know I have a group of people I can turn to if I need someone to attend an event with me. The next two months are going to be packed with more events: Jungle Island, snorkeling on Key Largo, a Chainsmokers concert, South Beach trip, and more! Being able to experience all that Miami as to offer in the short time I’m here has made the adventure more than I ever dreamed of.

It’s important to remember that it isn’t all fun and games; you must do well in your classes as well. I decided to venture out and take a science course that they don’t offer at my home school: Ecology of South Florida. I’ve learned about the unique plants and animals that call this area home and have had the chance to go on field trips throughout South Florida. We explored the beaches of Key Biscayne, went snorkeling, and hiked trails in Johnathon Dickinson State Park. Coming up, we’ll be exploring the Everglades and going on a swamp walk through Big Cypress Swamp. These trips are taking me to places I never would’ve gone on my own and I they’re some of the most beautiful places I’ve been.

I’ve been able to practice my Spanish quite often as there is a large Hispanic and Cuban population in Miami. Being a picky eater, I was hesitant to try some of their traditional foods, but pastelitos are my new favorite treat. I’m still getting used to the southern hospitality where everyone goes out of their way to say hello and make you feel welcomed. Many people run on “Cuban time” meaning 15 minutes late is actually on time (this is great for class). It’s amazing to be able to experience a unique culture without having to leave the United States.

If you’re considering doing an exchange, look into National Student Exchange. They have over 200 schools in the United States, Canada, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam from which you can choose to visit. Many of the options are more affordable than an international exchange which is why I chose this program. I’ve never felt so welcomed and part of a community like I do at FIU. Deadlines to apply for next year’s programs are coming up soon so start doing your research! I promise you won’t regret it.

Cover Image Credit: Florida International University

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Things To Do in Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver is a big city with a booming night life and beautiful scenery.

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I recently took a long weekend trip to Vancouver. Here are some things I did and some ideas and suggestions for those visiting the city for the first time.

Cocktails

You can't come to Metropolitan Vancouver and not go out for drinks at least one night. There are so many restaurants and cocktail lounges around the city, it would be a shame to neglect to try some Canadian alcohol. The first night I was in town, I went to Juniper Restaurant and Bar in Chinatown.

They had a wide selection of different mixed drinks, and I was impressed with the flavors of all the different cocktails I tried. Most restaurants around the city sell alcohol, so do some research and try the different alcohol selections in the different parts of the city.

The drinking age in Canada is 19, so it was strange for me to go out and order cocktails for myself. Some places ask for two forms of Government issued ID, so be prepared by bringing your Drivers License and passport.

Clubs

The Roxy

During my time in the city, I never went to any clubs. My hotel was on the same block as several of the popular ones, and they seemed like a pretty big deal. I am used to the clubs in my college town, so I was not prepared to walk myself into a real uppity downtown club.

Some of them have dress codes and other rules so be sure to do some research before planning your whole night around being there. One down the block from my downtown hotel was called The Roxy Cabaret. I heard if you are wanting just one club to give you the full Vancouver experience, that was the one to try.

Markets

Granville Island Public Market Entrance

The most popular market in Vancouver is the Granville Island Public Market, very obviously located on Granville Island. The market has art galleries, the market itself which includes anything from artwork to fruits and meats, little shops, and restaurants.

There is a lot of entertainment there. Sometimes they host music festivals and other events during the summer, so expect to spend several hours there if you are wanting to get the full market experience.

During the summer, North Vancouver hosts The Shipyards Night Market. If you are wanting a taste of North Vancouver, including food, drinks, and culture, this is the summer event to go to. I ate some tasty Greek dessert and drank a sparkling vodka while listening to a live band. It was a great way to enjoy the beautiful evenings on the shore.

Whale Watching

Killer Whales

Vancouver is known for its beautiful landscapes and its salmon fishing. While I was there, we went whale watching in Steveston, British Columbia located right outside of Vancouver. During our 4 hour trip, we saw bald eagles, sea lions, killer whales, all with the backdrop of the beautiful North Shore Mountains.

Make sure to bring warm clothes and food. It was a really beautiful trip but the breeze from the fast-moving boat was a little chilly. It was also a long trip, so it was nice to have something to snack on to make sure I wouldn't get sea sick.

Eat

Vegetarian Poutine

Morgan Fischer

Vancouver is a cultural center. There are so many different people there from all over the world. The majority of the people I met there had accents because they were not originally from Canada.

That means the city is filled with every type of food you can think of. You can get anything from Thai to Italian to barbeque and everything in between. Look up different culture areas of the city and try new food in each one.

I also suggest trying Canadian food. Poutine especially. Poutine is simply french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds on it. There are even restaurants that just serve poutine, but spice it up with different toppings and such. The one I would always walk by was Mean Poutine that was located downtown. There was always a line out the door so it must be good!

Finally, Just Ask a Local

Vancouver residents obviously know the best things to do in the city. All the people I interacted with were extremely nice and helpful. I even had a waitress write down a whole list of places to go get the best cocktails around the city.

Do not be shy while you are there. Talk to your waitress or the person helping you at the store. Ask them about the city and see where they think you should go. You never know a hidden treasure you may find or an adventure you may experience because of their advice!

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