Thursday, July 11, 2013

Guest Post: Travel Safety Tips

Staying Safe

    Many college students enjoy traveling around the country and the world. They enjoy seeing the popular landmarks that they study about, and they enjoy spending time with friends and family. While traveling can be fun and educational, it can also have bumps in the road. Unforeseen circumstances might thwart travel plans, and the entire trip can go from a dream to a nightmare in a short amount of time. There are some things to remember about planning a trip to increase the safety while abroad.

    Students who do not want to carry a large amount of money on a trip (smart choice) can use a credit card. The money is secure because it is not in an open space- like a wallet or a pocket; but instead it’s electronic and can be moved or cancelled at any time. It is confined to a card so that only the holder of the card can use the money. However, if your wallet is stolen, you will lose the card. There is the potential that someone else can use the card unless you make it secure. Don’t put a name on the card. This makes it harder for someone to use it because there is no personal information attached to it. Prepaid credit cards are the way to go for students who wish to travel; the student puts money on the card instead of having a credit limit from the company and it helps them stay out of debt while still being able to travel with a small financial cushion.

    Getting lost can be easy to do in a big city. The first thing to do is remain calm. Find someone in the area who speaks the same language you speak; if you speak English, this won’t take very long. Explain where you are from and where you are trying to go, and make a map of the directions that the person gives. Instead of street names, use landmarks you will remember because then you remove the language barrier from the equation. Students should pay attention to bus and train schedule so that they are not stranded in the city after the last departure. Print directions to every attraction. Plan ahead, stay organized and know your major landmarks of the area like churches, museums and bus stations.

    There are some things that are never fun while traveling to another country, and this includes getting sick. It could be the food, the flight to the area or a host of other things that can make someone sick while traveling. Find a pharmacy as soon as possible and only take medicines from sealed containers. Drink plenty of fluids to replenish fluids that have been lost (make sure the water is safe to drink). Bottled water is a good idea because the water in some countries is not sanitary to drink. Eat as healthy as possible by finding something in a store or restaurant that is familiar.


KC Owens has written and submitted this article. KC is a college student who loves traveling, college life, fitness and a good survival kit. He enjoys studying different cultures, meeting new people and leaving his footprint somewhere most people only read about.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Three Years Ago...






Pictures from my last day with my French friends when my mom and brother visited.

Hello, all!

Three years ago I landed on American soil after seven months of living in France. 

Three years have passed since my friends came to pick me up at the airport and I didn't quite believe it was real. Since we screamed and cried and hugged in an airport lobby because it had been so long and so much had changed.

Seven months changes a lot. 

Three years changes more.

Three years ago, I had already accomplished the dream that I had been working towards for 10 years of my life. I didn't have a new dream; I was happy to be home but my language and my heart was still captured in French. (It still is, but to a lesser extent.)

Three years have passed since I was last in Europe. Slightly more than that since I said goodbye to "my Frenchies" and embarked on a short vacation to Italy with my mother and brother. More than three years since I wandered through Southern France with near-strangers that are kind of family and now-distant friends. Since filming silly videos with my friends and dancing through La Villa Aurélienne. Since hanging out in MacDo and Quick and getting sunburnt on the beach of La mer Méditerranée

Picture from a picnic my class threw me before I left France.

I find myself looking through those pictures and blog posts and thinking of all those experiences and I fall in love with those experiences all over again. Or I feel the sting of loneliness as I read about those rough days when I felt like I was falling apart. I re-watch the video I made to celebrate five months in France again and tear up as I remember those friends and I think about all the stories and pictures that I never shared here. (There are so many)

I think about who I was then. How I felt out of touch with the United States and my friends on either side of the ocean at different points; those moments of clarity on long train rides alone and when goofing off with people whose names I probably never pronounced exactly right. 

And then there's now. 

I'm rediscovering myself and my strength and challenging myself all over again. I've found a new dream to pursue at long last and I am pursuing it the best I know how.

Life is strange and time passes too quickly. I'm not sure where I will be seven months from now, much less three years from now. I wonder if I will still maintain the friendships I have had for years, or if I will re-establish the closeness I once had with my seven month friends. 

That being said, it's time to share again. 

A bientot!
Aly

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Laura!


This picture might be a year old, but I love it.


Silliness in the snow.
Our awkward "family".


 Say Anything, last year!
Basically my best friend is beautiful and perfect.

Dear Laura,

I have a confession to make.
I haven't sent your birthday card yet. And today is your birthday. I messed up. I'm sorry :(

But it's your birthday and I wanted to be sure that I could tell you (and publicly announce) how amazing you are. Birthdays are a good time for that, so consider this part of your birthday present. (We will celebrate for real when you come back to Asheville!)

You are, without a doubt, one of my best friends. Through everything in this year, you have been there for me even if it meant running back to your room to talk to me on Skype between classes (aka super early-late, my time) or sending me constant reminders of your support via Facebook. I don't know what I would do without your sweet postcards and letters that magically appear in my mailbox every few weeks. They never fail to make me smile while simultaneously wishing with all of my heart that you were here.

I am so lucky to have a best friend that supports me in so many ways no matter the distance or timing between us. No matter who doubts you or our friendship, I know better. We are so alike in so many ways and understand each other better than I would have thought possible when I met you. Who knew that our missed opportunities to talk in that one class could have meant that we missed out on an amazing friendship?
(Good thing we go to a small school and that is not the case!)

A year ago, even, I would not have imagined that we would be as close as we are now. We were good friends then, but now you are one of the first people I come to when I need to talk, which is no easy task while you are abroad! I think that only serves as a testimony to our friendship: that we are able to maintain such a close relationship over months of separation.

You are amazing and I am so proud of you for spending your year abroad and making the most of it. You are such an inspiration to me.

I hope your 21st birthday (since it's already happened in Korea!) was everything you hoped for. I am so happy that your family was there to celebrate with you and I wish I could be too. I can't wait to see you again and I will talk to you soon!

<3 p="">
Forever & always,
Aly

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Late Thoughts

Hello, all!

It's time again. I'm back to blogging, for now anyway. I have so many things on my mind and I need to share.

So here I am again.

The thing about the hours between midnight and dawn is that I am never sure if it is morning or night. It is still nighttime, but the day approaches quickly-- especially when you are awake without a purpose, or are suffering from a sense of impending doom
(the things the day brings are not always welcome).
It's quiet, too much so if your mind is racing and you can't force yourself to relax. When your mind is brimming with thoughts and lists of
things to do
things not yet done
mistakes
corrections
and misguided attempts at motivation.

The night is when I spend the most time thinking
(foolishly so because thinking strangles sleeping)
(and I am hopeless without sleep)
but the thoughts are good and sometimes inspiring and sometimes clarifying.

But it is lonely at night. The knowledge that everybody else is sleeping or off in their own mental world makes me feel lonely and isolated. At night I find myself in measures of extremes: the overly emotional girl that is brimming with love and happiness, or the girl that feels profoundly lonely. Frantically working or slowly drifting into unconsciousness. Company in the form of pixelated words on a too-bright screen, eyes straining; the light from outside through my blinds, covering my eyes to sleep.

As the evening wears on, sometimes I find myself thinking of happier things-- realizing, alone in my room, that maybe
just maybe
I am so much more than I give myself credit for.
(But sometimes I am much, much less.)
It is those moments, though,
(where I recognize that I am spectacular in ways I don't even acknowledge)
(that sounds so egotistical written out like that)
that I realize that these late nights
or mornings
are perhaps the best time because they are the most challenging.
It is in these hours that I am most critical and most emotional; where I allow myself to think about more than just mundane life for a while (before I'm sucked back into worrystressworrystressworrystressexhaustion).

I think it's time to sleep.
Aly

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Aly en... Anywhere

Hello, all!

It's getting to be that timea gain, where my wanderlust sets in and I find myself dreaming of new places to explore and beginning to plan what's next.

It should come as no surprise to those of you that know me (either by reading this blog or personally know me) that I am an international studies major. At my school, this means that I have to have an "international experience", which means studying abroad for at least 6 credit hours.

I don't have any issues with the fact that I have to study abroad-- in fact, I think it's great that my program requires majors to study abroad, because I think the experience of going abroad is probably one of the most useful and necessary experiences to have as a student. Particularly in my major, it makes sense that they require it (or a similar experience).

My major worry is not how or why, but where. Having already fulfilled my dream of going to France, it seems a bit silly to try to recreate the experience or continue to lust after a country and experience that I have already had. That is not to say that it would be the same now, as a university student rather than a high schooler, but for various reasons, I probably won't be going back to France to attend classes.

So where to, if not France?

This is the dilemma I am faced with this year, as I seek out where I should go next. There are so many places in the world to see, and even though I am focusing my search on Europe (after all, France is just a short trip away from most places in Western Europe), I find myself questioning this blog most of all. If I am not "en France", as I have shaped my online identity since 2009, am I still "Aly en France"? I mean, I'm not in France now-- but I maintain this blog, my tumblr, etc., under that username/title. It works; my near-constant longing for France and nostalgia for the places I have been is a bit ridiculous, even as time passes. My heart still remains "en France", so far as I (and this blog) are concerned.

But wherever I go in the future-- should my blog still be "Aly en France"? France is not the end of my travels; it was the beginning of a lifetime of wanderlust and dreams. It is still an important part of how I perceive the world and my identity as a person. But should my blog always reflect an experience I have already had?

What do you do with a virtual space that holds so many memories and identity you have taken on when it is no longer relevant to your current life?

Do you abandon it, as I have (at least on this site) until a time when you figure it out again? Or is it not necessary for the name to reflect reality?

What if I was just "Aly en Europe" or "Aly en America" or any other combination of place? Does my current reality need to be reflected in my online presence? 

These are some of the questions I am struggling with while I do research about where would be the best place for me to go next. The challenges of international travel await, yet I am preoccupied with an issue of virtual identity, rather than the challenges of reality.

I'd love to hear what you (as a reader of this blog, however infrequent) think!

A bientôt,
Aly

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Long Time, No Blog

Hello, all!

Earlier today, my friend Laura commented on a couple of my old blogs, which brought me back here. I found myself reading some of my old posts and remembering why I loved blogging.

From 2009 to 2011, I blogged fairly regularly-- mostly during my time in France, but recorded deep within the pages of this blog is my own personal history. The thoughts, emotions, memories, rants, and dreams of a girl that had a lot to say and wasn't afraid to share. This blog was both my private story and my public outlet, and I realize that this was an important part of my life, for much longer than I acknowledge now.

I stopped blogging rather abruptly, and sometimes I think about why I made that decision. I didn't really explain it on here-- I posted once in January of 2012, but beyond that, I made the fatal blog mistake of disappearing. I'm still around on the internet-- my tumblr is pretty active, but it isn't a personal blog so much as a collection of things I like.

The thing about this blog is that it became a bit of a chore after a while-- it began to feel like something I HAD to do, rather than something I wanted to do. It became a far-too-public forum for me to feel comfortable sharing some of the experiences that I had previously written about without even thinking twice. As I get older, I become more aware that the internet is a very public thing and in most cases, there are things that really ought to be kept private. There are things that are difficult to share, and not knowing who reads my blog made me feel vulnerable.

Furthermore, this blog ceased to be about "Aly en France". It became a personal blog, for my own benefit (and the benefit of anybody that cared to read what I have to share), and the transition struck me as awkward. 

It may be time to start blogging again. My distance from France does not mean that is no longer part of my identity or my lifestyle.

With that in mind, here's to a new year-- and maybe a new blog. As my tumblr states: my heart is in France, and I am here. Life is ongoing, and I may be ready to share it again.

-Aly

Monday, January 9, 2012

On Resolutions & Reflections

Hello, all!

This isn't the typical start-of-a-new year post. It's a send-off to 2011 and the beautiful moments that made the year special, and it's me looking forward to this year with the only expectation being Happiness.

2011 was definitely an important year for me... I graduated from high school and went off to college, which is quite a life change. But this past year, I discovered friendships that I didn't realize would become so important to me. I learned about myself and had a few preconceptions be thrown out the window. I realized how important some people have been in my life and though I never actually thanked them, I realized that it's quite important to me to recognize my dependence upon others. So, to everyone that made 2011 special-- from hugs, adventures, advice, knowledge, or simply a kind word... thank you for making my year wonderful.

This year, though, I'm thinking that it's time for change.

I'm not going to make specific resolutions this year (and I realize that it's now slightly over a week into 2012, but in my defense I haven't had internet access for a while...), but I'm going based on concepts. In theory, I am not challenging myself to change who I am, but rather to try to become the person that I want to be.

For now, this means that my resolutions are the following:
  • Create something beautiful
  • Seek simplicity
  • Make good decisions
  • Have an adventure
  • Fill life with happiness
  • Surround myself with supportive, awesome people
These are not resolutions that necessarily have an end. I learned last year that I don't do that well with exact resolutions (with the exception of reading at least 50 books, since I was able to do that by volunteering at the library). These are not so much resolutions for the new year as they are resolutions for life, the kind that are applicable at any time of the year and ideas that could be implemented anytime.

As always, though, I'm looking forward to this year, and all the things that are ahead. Some of these resolutions are applicable to blogging, but I have some other projects that I'll be embarking on this year, and I intend to continue sharing some of these with you.

Anyway, thanks for reading as always and I hope your year has been beautiful so far. I hope that 2011 ended in happiness & joy and that this year brings you all the happiness that you deserve.

Love,
Aly

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Failure

Hello, all!

Normally around this time, I'd be writing frantically in an attempt to finish my novel before the end of National Novel Writing Month. But this year, that isn't happening and I can't help but say that I'm a bit disappointed in myself. It seems like I've failed myself.

Failure is an interesting thing. It leads to feelings of inadequacy and shame and other unpleasant feelings. But it's not the end of the world. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't be proud of yourself because the thing about failure is that it means you at least TRIED. (In most cases; the case could be made that failing at something means you didn't try hard enough, but I'm trying to be positive here...)

I think it takes a kind of bravery to say that you have failed at something. It's admitting to yourself and others that you didn't finish something you said you would. It's difficult to claim failure because it isn't something to be PROUD of.

Really cliche quotes always say that you can't do everything perfectly on the first try, and every failure is a step in the right direction-- a way to help you learn and grow as an individual. While I have a tendency to scoff at these quotes, I have to admit that there is some value in them.

I've "won" NaNoWriMo for the last two years-- both times I've attempted it. This year, I was hesitant to even begin but thanks to the persuasion of a few of my writing friends, I started a novel this month. I doubted my ability to finish, based on my failure at NaBloPoMo in September. Furthermore, finals are coming up and this month has been the one where I have had more work to do in every class. It seemed like an impossible task-- throw in a novel on top of all that? No thanks.

But I can't be too upset with myself for failing. I keep reminding myself that I at least tried and though I've given up on hitting the 50k goal, I'm going to keep writing this story. Failing at NaNoWriMo doesn't mean that I've failed at life and to be honest, the only person I've let down is myself, namely because some small part of me believes that I should have been able to finish.

The truth is, sometimes failure is inevitable. Sometimes life gets in the way and sometimes it's hard to figure out what to do next and sometimes things don't work out the way you expect them to. However, that doesn't mean it isn't worth a shot, because with that risk of failure comes the chance of success and I'm a firm believer of trying.

And yes, failure helps you grow. It helps you learn. Failing gives you a perspective on your life and a chance to fix mistakes when the opportunity arises to try again.

So even though I failed at NaNoWriMo (and NaBloPoMo), it doesn't mean I'm giving up. It just means I'm trying something else out.

And now, I need to return to work that needs to be done. Failure isn't an option.

-Aly