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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30 Places Every Millennial Girl Needs To Travel To BEFORE She Turns 30

Live your best life, all around the world.
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I am a travel enthusiast. There is nowhere I do not want to go.

Traveling the world is one of my biggest goals in life and I am determined to make it happen. The world is so big and I would love to see every inch of it at some point or another.

However, if I can travel to these 30 places before I turn 30, I will feel as though I have accomplished more than enough.

1. New York City, New York

2. New Orleans, Louisiana

3. Grand Canyon, Arizona

4. Las Vegas, Nevada

5. San Francisco, California

6. Los Angeles, California

7. Nashville, Tennessee

8. Honolulu, Hawaii

9. Walt Disney World, Florida

10. Chicago, Illinois

11. Nassau, Bahamas

12. Cozumel, Mexico

13. Cancún, Mexico

14. Bridgetown, Barbados

15. Basseterre, St. Kitts

16. Philipsburg, St. Maarten

17. Montego Bay, Jamacia

18. Christiansted, St. Croix

19. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

20. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

21. Tortola Baths, Tortola

22. San Juan, Puerto Rico

23. Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

24. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

25. Oranjestad, Aruba

26. Mykonos, Greece

27. London, England

28. Paris, France

29. Barcelona, Spain

30. Rome, Italy

Okay, so these are 30 places I want to go out of like, a million. I have traveled to some of these places and would not hesitate one second to go back.

Every new place is like a new adventure, and traveling will forever be so exciting and intruiging to me.

Cover Image Credit: Maisa Teat

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10 Things That Surprised Me, An American, When I Visited Sweden

For the summer, I decided to visit my boyfriend's family in Sweden. Right off the bat there was a lot of differences.
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This summer, I decided to visit my boyfriend and his family in Sweden — here are some things that really surprised me when I was there.

1. Most People Speak English

Not only did this ease my unenthusiastic family, but it made the flight out to Sweden all the more simple. Truth be told, I'm not a highly outgoing person. I don't like inconveniencing people with questions that can be perceived as idiotic or blatantly obvious. It took a lot of personal pep talks to build up the nerve to bother the flight attendants and airport staff, but when I did I was so relieved to know that everyone who I did talk to spoke perfect English. To make things even better, a lot of the digital signs transitioned between Swedish and English.

2. It Is Always ''Sunny''

The sun never sets. While this is only applicable to the utmost north of Sweden, it is something that really fascinated me. Science isn't really my forte, but if I understand correctly then it has something to do with part of it being within the Arctic Circle. Essentially, it is at a point so high on the earth's axis that its rotation doesn't really affect the amount of sunlight Sweden receives. The darkest I've seen it get is between 02.00 and 04.00, but even then, it only gets dusky outside. As cool as it is though, it can really mess with your perception of time. At the time of writing this, I have been in Sweden for about three days, and it is still messing up my circadian rhythm.

3. Foreign Kiosks

Apparently, there are these stands that sell commonplace American goodies like Hershey's chocolate, Reese's, Twinkies, sno balls, and so much more. What really caught me off guard was the fact that they charge outlandish prices for what is typically overwhelmingly average American junk food.

4. Bicycles Are Very Popular

Admittedly, I grew up in the rural Missourian countryside and military bases, so I'm not sure what the average town, let alone city is like, but, from what little I have seen of Sweden, everyone and their mother owns and actively uses a bicycle. Cyclists have their own lanes on sidewalks, and ordinary pedestrians respect that it isn't a lane for walking. Part of me just knows that had these sidewalk bicycle lanes been Stateside, no one would try to avoid using the wrong lane.

5. No Big Pizza Chains

While we entertain a lot of arguments about which pizza chain is the best, Swede's don't, for the simple reason that these chains are nonexistent. No, instead they opt for smaller, family-run pizzerias. While I am all for supporting the little guy, it was a bit disheartening to learn that these pizzeria's don't even use mozzarella on their pies.

6. There's A Lot Of American Influence

Being an American, I was always raised with the impression that other countries don't like us. Given President Trump's comments about Sweden, I would imagine that they downright despise America, and yet American flags and American music can be seen and/or heard everywhere. I'd say that the American flag here, is the same as the British flag is to us: fashionable, a pop culture icon, etcetera. Furthermore, while Sweden is home to the most metal bands, their radio is chalked full of American rock (mainly alternative rock from what I have heard) and pop. It could just be the stations the driver had set, but even that says something, doesn't it?

7. Gambling Advertisements Are EVERYWHERE

I think my shock to this comes from the fact that ''sinful'' vices aren't typically advertised in such a blasé fashion. At least, I have never seen any on television. I sat down and watch television for about an hour and a half, and in that time I saw at least three different casinos, either virtual or physical, advertised.

8. A Lot Of Channels Aren't In Swedish

Given how much of the population here speaks English then it really shouldn't be all that surprising that so much of their television is in English, too. It is just one of those things that I thought I'd have to give up for the duration of my visit. A lot of the channels I surfed through hosted very familiar television shows like "How I Met Your Mother," "The Simpsons," and the notorious, ¨Seinfeld.¨ Naturally, these channels all did have subtitles.

9. Exotic Soda Flavors

Truth be told, I'm not big into soda — or sweets for that matter — but when I learned about pear, peach, raspberry, and kiwi flavored sodas the little kid in me was awoken. In the states, the ''craziest'' flavor I can recall was pineapple, and given how glorified it is becoming, that's not even that bizarre. From the flavors I have tried (peach and kiwi) they're exceptionally delicious.

10. Extraordinarily Dumb Outlets

Some people would love to achieve world peace, but after this trip I would sincerely wish for all people to fall, united, under only one type of outlet. It doesn't have to be the (flawless) American shocked face outlet, but goodness gracious I hope it isn't this Swedish one. Honestly, I think that it is stupid that there are different ones to begin with. They all channel electricity, so why not just get the most efficient one and everyone on board and make the change. How hard could it be to achieve worldwide agreement?

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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