To Dreux We Go!

To where you say?

Dreux photo

Dreux is a small city of just over 30,000 people about an hour west of Paris.

I’ve got to be honest, when I got an email from my school contact claiming I was assigned to live in Dreux, I hoped it was fake. Dreux doesn’t have any chateaux and I’d never heard of the city before. I’d been crossing my fingers for Tours again, but alas.

HOWEVER, this turned out to be a GREAT thing. My teacher contact notified me that I would be able to live at the lycée (high school) for FREE (to be determined if it is actually free) which means I don’t have to go through the arduous process of finding my own apartment and applying for the CAF (a government fund you can apply for to subsidize your rent) Free is also an extra good thing once you find out that with TAPIF (the program I’m employed under) I only make about 780 euros a month. So every centime (penny) I can save means another centime I can use towards travel/wine.

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Get ready for lots of Game of Thrones gifs this year.

PLUS, I’m super close to Paris without actually being in Paris. I’ve already lived in the capital so I’m looking for a different experience this time around. BUT I have so many friends who live in Paris it will be very cheap and easy for me to visit them on the weekends.

I’ll be teaching at a college and a lycée professionelle in Dreux. Aka a middle school and a vocational high school. So the experiences will be quite different AND I’m super excited for both of them, so I can get a different taste of the different public school systems.

Some questions I’ve been getting:

  1. Are you moving to France permanently?
    1. Nope. My contract is for only 7 months. I have the option of renewing the contract one more time IF I want to, but I have no plans yet so I should be back in the US by May.
  2. Are you going to teach yoga in France?
    1. TBD on if I can learn all the yoga words in French.
  3. Are you going to marry a French guy?
    1. Do I even need to answer this?

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      So Daenerys, when you start your new job in Westeros are you going to marry a Westerosi?

4. I hear you only work 12 hours a week on this program. Is this true/what will you be doing with all of that free time??

1. YES. I have a 12 hour work week. (Probably why I’ll be making very little money) and so I plan to fill my free time with writing and yoga. I have a rough goal going of writing 3 more novels this year. Yes. You heard me correctly. It might turn into 2 novels with shiny edits, it could increase. Either way I’ll be keeping myself very busy!

I have 10 days left before I leave. 10 days left of yoga teaching, novel editing, packing, and saying goodbye to family & friends. It’s starting to become real.

I’m moving back to France!

SUBSCRIBE to follow along. I also have Instagram for all the yoga pictures, but travel pictures will probably go up too.

I’m Moving to France!

Hi World,

It’s Emily here… two years later and I’m graduating college in… three weeks?!

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And I’m reviving the blog because I’M MOVING TO FRANCE AGAIN!!

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I have been accepted to the TAPIF program which is a teaching assistant job in France. All I know about where I will be right now is that I have been placed in the Académie of Orléans-Tours. It’s that giant region under Paris.

 

The “Académies” of France aka the academic departments.

This region is also the châteaux region of France and home of the Lorie Valley (think wine and awesome cheese). It was one of my top picks for regions and I am so excited to be going back!

I will find out my specific city placement sometime in June/July.

This decision was not an easy one as I had been contemplating a more permanent job here in the states that would have assured me a connection to my yoga community (oh yeah I’ve become a certified yoga instructor by the way so get ready for a whole year of yoga pictures across France and Europe) which is something that I’ve come to value profoundly this year.

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Just a casual spring break sunrise headstand…

And then I realized, this teaching contract is only for SEVEN months! I’m not abandoning the permanent job or my yoga community – they will still be there when I come back.

This decision has ultimately been one of love and passion. I have many friends (soul sisters, best travelling buddies ever, and some friendship that were so hard to speak about aloud I created a blog for them) in Europe that I feel a profound connection and love for and the thought of never seeing them again has brought me to tears over and over. THIS is my opportunity to see them again and spend quality time with them one on one without the pressure of a job or a family to get back to.

THIS is my opportunity to write novel number two and maybe! get novel number one published.

Ultimately, I’ve realized that out of both decisions I would most likely come to regret the decision not to return to France. So here’s to living abroad and being nearly broke for the next year – that 40 hour grind can wait one more year 🙂

Until then… I won’t be going anywhere until September!

I invite you to catch up on all the adventures I had while studying abroad in 2014-2015 and follow me along this amazing adventure next year. Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the LEFT!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!

 

Snake Charmers, Spa Days, and Camel Rides in Marrakech, Morocco

I know. I’m very, very behind on blogging. One weekend I was in Morocco, then I had a paper due and then it was off for a two week spring break to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland and then more papers and final exams!! Now its down to my last week in Paris and I haven’t even uploaded any pictures yet.

I had been dying to go to Morocco this whole year -cross off another continent, go to another French speaking country, experience a completely different culture- the list goes on and on. My biggest problem was finding someone to go with me, because while I felt safe travelling by myself, I did not feel comfortable going to Morocco by myself. Plenty of people wanted to go to Morocco, but plenty of these people’s parents did NOT want their kids to go to Morocco for some reason? But I finally found someone to go with and we headed out on a Thursday for a quick weekend trip to Marrakech, Morocco!

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Day 1:

We decided to stay at an Airbnb since we found a listing for a young yoga instructor lending out a spare bedroom and we felt more comfortable staying there that at a hostel. We arrived in Marrakech in the evening and we headed out to the Place Djemaa El-Fna, a giant square right next to the souks where they have street food vendors set up everywhere with picnic tables. Might not have been the most sanitary of food, but my host mom recommended it and it certainly was an experience.

So much cheap food. Also we definitely didn't order the French fries...
So much cheap food. Also we definitely didn’t order the French fries…

It took us forever to get our check at the end because the guys didn’t want us to leave until the other tables filled up so that it wouldn’t look empty!

After dinner we took a quick look around the souks and then headed back to our apartment for an early night.

Day 2:

The next morning we headed off to the souks and that was an adventure in itself. Obviously in Morocco everyone knows you are a tourist simply due to the color of your skin and on the way to the souks a man started walking alongside us and talking to us. I tried to politely brush him off, but he continued to talk to us and told us that there was a shortcut to the souks if we took this side street. Since we went to the souks last night it made sense to me that there could be a shortcut in the general indication he indicated, and the man was obviously watching us to see if we would take his advice, so we headed down the street he had pointed us in and he waved us goodbye.

Then a block later he showed back up.

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At this moment we were both getting slightly uncomfortable, but the man was being very polite and started to guide us through some smaller streets. Thankfully, they were all full of pedestrians and other tourists so I didn’t feel threatened, but I wasn’t quite sure what the man wanted.

So we followed him, and we followed him, and we followed forever – it was definitely not a shortcut. Then we finally made it to the souks and he led us to his shop – which was a fancy furniture shop with closed doors and he insisted that we go inside to look around. My friend and I looked at each other then quickly said “No thanks!” and bolted.

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By now we were good and lost in the souks, so I politely asked some Moroccan women how to get to the big mosque with the tower. Unfortunately, I think we were both thinking of different mosques and towers because they pointed us in the wrong direction, but they meant well! After sniffing a soap vendors wares politely for a few minutes, we were pointed back in the right direction.

So then we stopped at a jewelry stand and each bought a pair of earrings after some intense haggling. Then the merchant ceremoniously told us we were all friends and told us we could each have a little bracelet for free.

A little surprised, but not one to turn down a free gift we each picked out some simple bracelets and then the man asked us to come visit his sister’s spice shop. Neither of us being mildly interested in bringing spices back, we politely turned him down and then something like this happened:

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Basically he insisted on taking us, and I figured that her shop was probably just around the corner, so why not?

So then he started walking fairly quickly, far back into the heart of the souks, in the wrong direction from the exit. And since he was walking so quickly and he wasn’t turning around to see if we were following him, when a motorcycle passed in front of us, we turned around and raced back far past his shop.

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That was quite enough excitement in the souks for us for one day so we left the maze of shops and headed back into the square where we ate dinner last night and we were met with this lovely sight at least five separate times:

Incognito picture because they wanted people to pay for pictures.
Incognito picture because they wanted people to pay for pictures.

Just dozens of snakes and cobras out in the open. No big deal.

Oh and then there's a monkey too
Oh and then there’s a monkey too

For lunch we headed over to Henna Cafe that I had heard about on trip advisor. It’s a cute little cafe that has lunch, Moroccan mint tea, and henna!

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After lunch we headed over to the Majorelle Garden:

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Then we went to rest at the apartment for a little bit, before heading back into the souks for dinner at a Moroccan dinner theater complete with belly dancers.

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Once again: way more food than the two of us could eat!
Once again: way more food than the two of us could eat!

Day 3:

The next morning we woke up bright and early for our camel ride. We went as a small group through an oasis and they even equipped us with our own scarves to protect our faces.

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My camel was named Shakira, and she had just had a baby two months ago who traveled alongside us the whole way.

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Halfway there we stopped and had tea and Moroccan crepes in a tent.

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I have to admit, by the time we were back I was quite ready to get off the camel.

After this we had a leisurely lunch:

Vegetarian couscous yummy <3
Vegetarian couscous with cinnamon! Yummy ❤

and went back to the apartment to grab our bathing suits before heading out way past the city center in a taxi to a Moroccan hammam that our host recommended.

Please pamper me
Please pamper me

Once there, we were told to change into our bathing suits and we were given broken instructions in French to go into the bath room and put soap on.

So we fumbled into the Moroccan baths -which looked like something straight out of a roman museum by the way: marble fountains lining the walls and in the center of the room an additional circle of fountains with stone stools next to each of them.

Kind of like this, but with more antique detail
Kind of like this, but with more antique detail

After debating over which container contained the supposed soap, a Moroccan woman walked in and well, started soaping us up and rinsing us with the warm water. A few minutes later she indicated that we should go into the adjacent room. It turned out to be a steam room so we relaxed in there for several minutes until the woman came to fetch us. This time there were two women and after rinsing us off with the warm water they popped off our bikini tops.

My first reaction
My first reaction

The shock lasted all of three seconds until I realized this was all just part of the “cultural experience” and they lead us to massage tables where they washed our bodies with soap, oil, water, and rubbed off an entire layer of skin with specially made gloves. After this massage, they washed our hair and gave us large fluffy bath towels and then led us outside the bath to a dark room where we received another full body massage.

Then a Moroccan man blow dried my hair and they hailed a taxi for us and we were on our way.

For our last night in Morocco we hunted down a recommended restaurant in the souks and ate dinner on the balcony as the sun went down.

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Vegetable Tagine

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Then we wandered back through the souks -spending our last dirhams on pants and scarves and then went back to our apartment to pack before heading back the next morning.

Goodbye Morocco!
Goodbye Morocco!

All in all Marrakech was an exotic experience complete with the stereotypical snake charmers and belly dancers. But I am not completely in love with it simply because of all the negative male attention my friend and I received as foreign females. I have never received as many cat-calls in my life -and we were both dressed conservatively. I am sincerely glad I was smart enough not to go to Morocco by myself, because we were even followed a few times through the souks.

But it was definitely a positive experience and the food and mint tea were positively amazing.

Now I’m off to go take my last two exams and eat as many pastries and crepes as I can before I head back to the US next Monday!

I’ll be talking about my trip to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland in the upcoming posts so stay tuned!

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!

Haggis, Snow, and the Loch Ness Monster (Scotland)

I cannot believe that it was a whole month ago that I was in Edinburgh! Busy doesn’t even begin to describe this month. I’ve got a whole backlog of blogs to write, travelling to Provence, my parents visiting Paris, my internship completing… the list keeps growing!

But without further ado: I present to you Scotland!

Oops. That's just David Tennant. Who also happens to be my favorite Scottish actor.
Oops. That’s just David Tennant. Who also happens to be my favorite Scottish actor.

Lets try again shall we:

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Welcome to Edinburgh in February!

We ended up taking a train into Edinburgh from London and the view from the train was absolutely breathtaking as the route took us past the craggy coastline. I didn’t get any pictures because I was sitting in the aisle seat and there were a couple British businessmen in the window seats so I might have gotten a couple weird looks if I had tried to take pictures over their heads…

It would have been something like this, but wayy more awkward than a young Daniel Radcliffe
It would have been something like this, but wayy more awkward than a young Daniel Radcliffe

But when we arrived we dropped our bags off at our hostel and promptly went to visit the thing literally looming over our heads:

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Edinburgh Castle! It was super windy and cold if you can’t tell.

The castle literally towers over the entire town and was home to so many historical Scottish events. The whole thing could be described as a giant spoiler alert for all my favorite historical fiction tv shows including the illustrious Mary Queen of Scots and the various Jacobite Rebellions.

A historical romance between Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II of France complete with inaccurate costumes and more drama than a single high school?! You had me at romance <3
Reign: A historical romance between Mary Queen of Scots and Francis II of France complete with inaccurate costumes and more drama than a single high school?! You had me at romance ❤

**SPOILER ALERT** Everyone dies. It was the 1500s.

The castle turned out to be a giant windstorm where we were running in between buildings for shelter so when we were done and it was starting to sprinkle, we decided it was wise to head back to our hostel for a warm cup of tea before dinner. This is why I love Britain. Tea is everywhere and it comes in a giant pot for like 2 pounds or less.

Muffin typically not included for 2 pounds
*Muffin typically not included for 2 pounds

I actually had a friend studying abroad in Edinburgh, so she took us to all the good places including a lovely restaurant where I had this Scottish specialty:

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Haggis, neeps, and tatties. Also translated as spiced sheep organs, turnips, and mashed potatoes. It was very good!

After dinner my friend took us to a small cafe where live folk music plays every night and thats pretty much when I decided that I loved Scotland. Sitting in a cafe with new and old friends, listening to scottish accents swirl around us, and legit folk music playing in the background that you couldn’t help but tap your feet to. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The next day we headed out early to go see the National Museum of Scotland which had a whole section on Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, and the Jacobite Rebellions.

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A kilt making machine!

My Scottish pride also came out on this trip in full force. On my dad’s side I belong to the Ross clan and on my Mom’s side I belong to the Menzie clan.

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That’s Clan Ross up there in the Middle!

But seeing as how clan Ross is from the highlands… I’m much more inclined to claim them.

Evidence no. 1: Highlanders are just more badass

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Clan Pride

After our museum visit and after I bought my clan scarf and other souvenirs, we hunted down an Indian food restaurant that my friend recommended.

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It doesn’t look like much, but man I’ve missed Indian food and that definitely hit the spot!

Then we met up with my friend for some hot chocolate floats at the local gelato store where they hand make everything.

This is white hot chocolate with cardamom topped with handmade rose gelato with dark chocolate pieces. Heaven in a cup.
This is white hot chocolate with cardamom topped with handmade rose gelato with dark chocolate pieces. Heaven in a cup.

If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh Mary’s Milk Bar better be on your list. That thing was divine.

After our snack to warm ourselves back up, we headed over to take a whiskey distillery tour where we learned about the production process that goes into making whisky and how the different regions of Scotland produce different varieties of whisky.

And then we walked past the largest whisky collection in the world. All unopened, untasted bottles.

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This was only one wall.

We also learned all about the Angel’s Share – the amount of whiskey that evaporates during distillation that is said to be taken by the angels. That is also the title of a very funny Scottish movie about whiskey which I highly recommend.

This bottle was never opened. I guess the Angels really liked this whiskey huh?
This bottle was never opened. I guess the Angels really liked this whiskey huh?

And as Jack Sparrow would say:

Why is the rum whiskey always gone??
Why is the rum whiskey always gone??

After our tour we did some random exploring of Edinburgh and climbed up Calton hill to get a birds eye view of the city at sunset.

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And then we almost got knocked over by the wind gusts…

The struggle was real.
The struggle was real.

so we decided to head back down for an earlier dinner of chicken pot pie at a local pub.

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I got chicken. I’m not risking any other sort of meat being added to my meat pies. I know the stories too well.

Then we also learned about HP sauce, which does not stand for Harry Potter sauce because it is in no way magical. It is approved by Her Majesty The Queen however.

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I don’t like it.

The next day was our guided tour of the highlands that went to Loch Ness. We woke up bright and early and headed out to meet our tour guide, a lovely man with a thick Scottish accent, before we headed out in a small van with our group of 16 people – which also included two American marines on vacation! So I ended up talking to them most of the way. Making new friends is one of my favorite parts of travelling – don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with the people you come across!

But if I wasn’t already in love with Scotland before this day, I certainly was after the landscapes we saw:

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Just breathtaking.

And then we got to the snow. And man did I ever freak out.

You could say I jumped right in.
You could say I jumped right in.
SNOW. I WAS SO EXCITED.
SNOW. I WAS SO EXCITED.

I’m just going to flood this post with pictures of snow now, because Scotland is super beautiful and I really can’t pick just one.

IMG_3877We also drove through the area where they apparently filmed Skyfall and our guide played the Skyfall theme. It honestly just looked like a field full of snow, but hey, James Bond was there!

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This is like a super famous mountain or something.

Then we stopped in Glencoe for pictures… where the Glencoe massacre of 1692 occurred in the aftermath of the first Jacobite uprising because the MacDonald clan supposedly didn’t declare their allegiance to William and Mary fast enough. So they were all murdered by people pretending to be their guests.
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Soon after we finally arrived at Loch Ness and I ate a sandwich and some Scottish shortbread for lunch before boarding the boat.

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And then I saw something amazing.

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The loch ness monster in all her neon green glory. Many thanks to Snapchat for allowing me to capture a photo of this magnificent beast.

After the boat tour we headed back towards Edinburgh and on one of our many stops along the way back I made sure to do this:

Do you want to build a snowman? His smile fell over, sorry guys.
Do you want to build a snowman? His smile fell over, sorry guys.

To finish off the evening our tour guide spontaneously played the bagpipes for us, completing my day evening life.

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It was breathtaking.

When we got back we stopped at a burger restaurant for our last meal in Edinburgh so I just had to get the haggis burger:

It only looks weirder with flash. It tasted amazing though!
It only looks weirder with flash. It tasted amazing though! That would be an onion ring on top of a haggis patty on top of a cheese topped beef patty. I couldn’t finish it.

Then we headed to bed early before our last morning in Scotland.

We woke up bright and early to see the last thing on our list right as it opened: Camera Obscura. I highly recommend it if you go. It was essentially a museum full of optical illusions and I had a blast! They have a mirror maze just like in the horror movies – what other reason do you need to go?

Where did my body go??
Where did my body go??

Sadly, my trip had to come to an end. Scotland has definitely been my favorite country I’ve visited this year though and I can’t wait to go back one day! The people were all extremely friendly, Scottish accents are definitely better than English ones, and well kilts:

That sexy, mysterious piece of clothing.
That sexy, mysterious piece of clothing.

Last weekend I went to Provence. But my next trip? Morocco. Then the weekend after that is a two week trip to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Ireland. So you better stay tuned 🙂

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!

What I’ve Been Avoiding

I started this blog over a year ago in order to express my feelings on an event that would have caused me to cry if I had told it out loud. So it would be wrong of me to ignore blogging about the things that do make me cry – the things that one typically doesn’t read in a study abroad blog where everything is all travel and butterflies.

France is amazing. I’m speaking French every day – heck I’m even thinking in French! When I’m speaking English, French words accidentally pop out of my mouth and it’s absolutely wonderful. I eat baguettes for breakfast, strange French dishes like cow tongue for lunch, and croissants and pain suisse for French snacktime almost every day. I commuted to my internship past the Eiffel Tower for the last two months!

The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.
The Louvre will always be my favorite museum.

I’ve become more independent here and that’s wonderful. So I spend a lot of time by myself here. I tour museums by myself, eat lunch by myself, plan trips by myself, and shop by myself.

The truth of why I haven’t been blogging as much this semester as the last one? Besides the fact that I truly have been extremely busy with my internship these last few months, I’ve been lonely. There. I said it. It’s out.

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I don’t want to get into the details. My friends back home would just tell me to be more social, but somehow I feel that it’s not that simple. Long story short, I just don’t have a friend niche here. Who knows? Maybe that’ll change in the two months I have left, maybe it won’t. It’s not something that started this semester with the new group of students – just something I’ve been gradually feeling for the last six or seven months.

I have a friend back home who a year ago called me stupid for wanting to study abroad for the whole year. They constantly brought up the subject, arguing against the idea vehemently – until one day I became angry with them and told them straight up to stop insulting my lifetime dream of studying abroad in France. They agreed to stop bringing it up, but being the stubborn person that they are, told me that I would regret going abroad for the whole year before shutting up.

Study Abroad isn’t perfect. It’s a learning experience through and through. But do I regret it? No. I’ll never regret it.

I love this city.
I love this city.

I still love France. If anything this year has just made me love it more. But aside from France, culture, and the French language, this year has had its fair share of struggles. All of which I’m learning and growing from, with independence and learning to be okay with being lonely among the most important.

Thanks for listening.

I’ll go finish my Scotland blog now I promise!

And if you’re someone on my study abroad program reading this…

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Uh… Hi?

Busy girls who appear to have their life together since they’ve been here all year need love too okay?

Don’t miss a single blog post of my entire adventure! Please subscribe (click Follow blog via email in the column on the right!) to receive this blog’s updates via email! Also, I love getting feedback so please comment!

A blog about a girl with a serious case of wanderlust and her quest to travel