Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Myths and Tips

By Devin Billbrough

I’m just going to address the elephant (or bug) in the room: bed bugs are a thing. From a young age we’ve been tucked in at night and told “don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

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It seems cute at the time, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? When travelling, or even in the comforts of your own home, you may be faced with actually being bit by bed bugs without much warning. Once you’ve been bit, you can’t help but think back to that catchy phrase you’ve known since childhood and curse the heavens.

Now that we’re living and traveling Europe — visiting countless hostels, apartments, and hotels — we start to become more aware of the so called “creature of the night”. I’m here to debunk some of the common misconceptions and reactions everyone has, including myself.

Myth: You can only get bed bugs from hostels in Europe.
Reality: Due to the lack of hostels in America, we all have this negative perception of them – anyone else thinking about the movies? We think they’re cheap, dirty, and outright disgusting. False. I’ve been traveling Europe non-stop for the past year straight and the hostels I’ve stayed in are nicer than some of the hotels I’ve been to in the United States. You can get bed bugs literally anywhere. NYC, the big apple itself, had a massive epidemic about 2 years ago where bed bugs were found in homes, apartments, and even 5-star hotels.

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Myth: Bed bugs are a product of filth.
Reality: I wish this was true, but even the finest establishments can suffer from bed bugs. Sad to say, but the homes you see on Buried Alive can be bed bug free while Caesar’s Palace could be infested. Think about it.

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Myth: “I GOT BIT. MY LIFE IS OVER. I’M GOING TO DIE!”
Reality: I myself am guilty of overreacting to bed bug bites in the past, convincing myself I’m going to die from the plague. But after the initial shock and insane amounts of research, I realized there are no real health hazards from being bit. You’re not going to die, you will not get Ebola, you will not die of malaria, but you are going to be itch queen for a few days. The most damage these critters can cause is emotional distress. Just breathe – everything will be okay.

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Myth: Bed bugs are restricted to the bed.
Reality: If this was the case, getting rid of bed bugs would be a piece of cake. Those little suckers (pun intended) will literally find any crevice to travel or hide in. Bed bugs travel on clothing and suitcases and hide in everything from bed frames to electric sockets. While this can make it more difficult to get rid of them, keeping your homes clean of clutter reduces the places they can hide.

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Myth: “I can just use anti-bed bug spray on the beds and sheets and I won’t get bit.”
Reality: While these sprays can give you peace of mind at night, they typically aren’t effective at ridding yourself of bed bugs. Bed bugs need to be eliminated, not treated. These sprays only work if the chemicals come in direct contact with the bugs, not just where the bugs are crawling, and have little success on killing the eggs. You could be poisoning yourself by breathing in these chemicals and not the bugs at that point. The only way to effectively free yourself from the wrath of these creepy-crawlers is to hire a professional pest control company.

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Myth: It takes months to get rid of bed bugs.
Reality: Depending on the level of severity, bed bugs can be eliminated in as little as 15 minutes.  If coming home from a weekend trip and you think you might have had bed bugs, putting clothes and any items in a dryer on high heat for 15 minutes will kill the bugs and any eggs that may be present. For more intense scenarios, they can be eliminated in about one week with professional freezing treatments.

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Myth: If there are bugs in my bed, they most definitely are bed bugs.
Reality: Just because there is a bug in your bed that does not mean it is a bed bug. Anything can crawl in with you, including spiders, beetles, and even mosquitoes. Knowing how to identify the difference will help you stay sane. Bed bugs are flat and brown with no wings, unlike other pests you might find.

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Myth: You can’t see bed bugs.
Reality: From egg to adult stage, bed bugs are visible to the naked eye. They may be harder to spot due to all the hiding places they can choose from (mattresses, headboards, electric sockets, etc), but if you know where to look you’ll be able to see them or evidence that they’re there.

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Myth: “These are a $200 pair of jeans and now I have to throw them away because of stupid bed bugs. This is the worst day of my life.”
Reality: While your first reaction may be torch everything that is infected, don’t do it. You don’t have to throw away your clothing or furniture if you find out you have bed bugs. Treating your items will be cheaper than replacing everything. Clothes, shoes, and suitcases can be laundered or vacuumed to kill bugs and eggs. Bed bugs are not fans of extreme temperatures so freezing/heating potentially infected items will do the trick. For those larger items that cannot be thrown into the dryer, find a professional to come and treat your apartment, don’t try to just take care of it yourself.

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I know this is a topic we’d much prefer to avoid, especially because we’d all like to ignore the fact that bed bugs actually exist. While we are studying abroad, or just traveling, it’s inevitable that we’re going to get the travel bug, but it’s important not to get bed bugs as well. Being aware of how to prevent and treat these pests will lead to a more fun time exploring everything the world has to offer.

 

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Entertaining Abroad: What to Do When Your Family Comes to Visit

It’s mid semester, and while you’re having the time of your life, you can’t help but realize your wallet has gotten incredibly thin and your diet consists mainly of Nutella and my favorite food group – carbs. Thank God there are reinforcements on their way! That’s right, your loving parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, etc. are flying transatlantic to see just how cultured you have become. You’re so excited to see them that you may have actually forgotten that you are going to be their European vacation host for a week or so. Below is a list of things to see & do while your family is in town that will keep everyone entertained.

  1. Take them on a walking tour. You’re practically an expert on your study abroad city at this point, which means having your family pay for a tour guide is completely unnecessary. If you do it right, this could take up the better part of day and your family will be impressed at how much you have already learned.
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  2. Do a wine tasting. Arranging a wine tasting with your parents is an awesome way to spend time together when they visit. There are sure to be plenty of wine shops in the city that offer private tastings, but if you are close enough to a region like Tuscany, take the day and visit a nearby vineyard. Oftentimes these vineyards will offer tours followed by tastings and lunch. No matter what you choose, this is an awesome event for everyone – after all, the family that drinks vino together stays together, right?
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  3. Rent Bikes! Depending on your city, results may vary. Some cities are much easier to bike in than others (the Florentines make it look like a cakewalk….but don’t be fooled). However, if you can manage it, renting bikes is another fun way to see the sights together. Alternatively, there are many companies that operate bike tours throughout the countryside, which offer a different way to get out of the city for the day and see a different part of the area.
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  4. Visit all the museums & critical tourist locations. Chances are that no matter where you’re studying in Europe, There are “must see” places to hit before you leave. For example, you absolutely cannot visit Florence without climbing the Duomo or touring the Uffizi, and you know this will be on the family’s to-do list as well. Unless you’re a huge art history buff, one trip through may be enough for you. Why not wait it out until your family visits and hit those locations with them?
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  5. Try every restaurant humanly possible. If you are anything like me, by the time your parents arrive you have already made a mental glossary of all the great (not to mention nowhere near within your budget) restaurants you want to try while you’re abroad. Now is the time to capitalize on your parents visit because once they’re gone, you go back to picking up the tab (sigh).
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  6. Travel! If you happen to be studying in a city that your parents have already visited before, arrange day trips or weekend trips with them, and head to somewhere new. If you’re in Rome, check out Tivoli, Orvieto or Pompeii. If you’re in Florence, head to Pisa, Siena or Cinque Terre. Wherever you are, do some research and plan the perfect getaway.
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Having your family visit you while you’re studying abroad is such a unique experience but sometimes, proves stressful when there’s pressure to entertain. As long as you plan a few key events around your grueling class schedule that most likely consists of courses titled like “Wine Appreciation” and “Food & Culture” you can be reassured that they are going to have a memorable trip.

A Guide to Sleeping on Busses

Fall break is right around the corner, and that means 10 glorious days of freedom and travel. Whether you’re going to be smashing plates in Corfu, shopping in Krakow’s Market Square, or soaking up the vibe of Amsterdam, chances are you’ll be spending more than a little time on a bus. Since you’re going to be exploring all day (and probably all night), getting some extra rest during the rides between your exciting destinations is definitely a good idea. But let’s be honest, no matter how nice the bus is, falling asleep on a moving vehicle filled with dozens of other people is no easy feat.

So before you climb aboard your fall break bus, check out these tips for getting some shuteye on the road:

Pack a pillow. When your weekender bag is already overstuffed, a pillow can seem like an unnecessary and cumbersome luxury. But if sleep is what you’re after, a quality pillow is a must. Whether you go the minimalist route with an inflatable neck pillow or bring the fluffiest one you own, you won’t regret the extra baggage.

Wear a scarf. This is by far the most useful accessory you can wear while traveling. A big scarf is always just one clever folding job away from being a pillow, back support, light-blocking eye mask, or blanket. So don’t be afraid to embrace the European look, fellas.

Make sure all of your electronic devices are fully charged. If you need to listen to music while you fall asleep, don’t risk having your phone die halfway through your “Sleepytime” playlist.

Watch your liquid intake. When bathroom breaks are few and far between, you have to plan ahead. So drink plenty of water early in the day to avoid dehydration, and make sure there’s at least six hours between your last espresso shot and the time you’d like to fall asleep.

Dress for comfort and all temperatures. While you may have dreams of arriving to your exotic destination looking like a glamorous local, comfort is essential. So ditch your well-tailored outfit and go for sweats instead. And because busses are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to temperature, be sure to wear layers that will allow you to go from arctic tundra to desert heat in seconds.

7 Ways to Cure Homesickness

By Marlee Newman

So…you are studying abroad in a brand new city thousands of miles from home with a bunch of people you hardly know. Every interaction is a combination of butchered Italian pronunciations and over the top charades and perhaps the most difficult thing of all … there are no cheez-its available to you.

Studying abroad brings with it unbelievable experiences, unforgettable memories, and a LOT of carbs. However, sometimes between the long train rides and hostels with only one inconveniently placed outlet… you start to miss home. Next time you get that unsettled feeling or just start to crave pumpkin spice lattes, try out these tricks to prevent homesickness.

  1. Eat some gelato:

The natural solution to most issues, but especially while in Italy, have a big, heaping cone of gelato. Not in Italy? Anything sweet will do the trick. The point is to treat yourself and just take a break. I bet you’ve never witnessed someone eating an ice-cream cone and frown on their face, have you? It is proven that eating dessert releases endorphins which make you happy! So hey, go get that double scoop, and turn your frown upside down.

  1. Try new restaurant:

One of the best ways to really explore your city and make it feel like home is to discover new “hole in the wall” restaurants. Team up with your roommates and put all of the places you’d like to try in a hat. Once a week pick out a new restaurant and go try it. Not only does food taste great, but it also often brings with it new experiences and people. Get out there and explore.

  1. Cook a big American breakfast:

I don’t think anything says home like some bacon, eggs and mimosas. One of the biggest adjustments moving to Europe is the difference in breakfast! We weren’t raised on dainty croissants and espresso shots… we we’re brought up eating bagel sandwiches and IHOP choco-chip pancake stacks. Breakfast is a big deal in America, and of course we all miss it, so why not make your own? If you’re running out of bagel sandwich ideas (HA!) try these out.

  1. Exercise:

Ok so just looking at that bagel sandwich list I think I gained 5 pounds. Which brings us to our next coping mechanism… exercise! It’s proven that exercise is nearly as good for your head as for your body. Take a run around your city or do some yoga in the park. Not only do you get a great workout and release more endorphins but you also get to observe day to day life in your city. Take in that constant smell of fresh pastries and watch the little European dogs that look like their owners. Silently chuckle at the tourists with their fanny packs and oversized maps and watch the sun setting over that important looking building you still haven’t visited. You’ll look back years (or even months) from now and miss these little things.

  1. Write down your thoughts:

Next time you’re missing home or having an overwhelming day go outside, sit in your favorite park and just write down what you’re thinking. Don’t worry about what it sounds like or if you spelled “coliseum” right, just let your thoughts flow. This is a great way to reflect and sometimes seeing your thoughts on paper is all it takes to process them and feel less overwhelmed.

  1. Reach out to loved ones:

Sometimes no amount of gelato scoops or bacon will work and you just need to talk to mommy. There are so many great phone apps for keeping in touch with those back home, it’ll feel like they’re there with you! Here are some of the best apps out there for communicating back home.

Skype
Facetime
Postagram (send a picture straight from your phone to your family’s mailbox in postcard form)
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Whatsapp
Viber

  1. Meditate:

The purpose of mediation is to focus on the present moment. Sometimes we get so caught up thinking about the past or the future we don’t get to enjoy the moment were in which for most of us studying abroad is a pretty cool moment! Meditation gives us that big picture perspective we often need. Check out these iphone apps to guide your own mediation.

 

 

How to Pack for a Week in a Backpack

Fall break is fast approaching and you’re about to take Europe by storm in 10 days or less. 10 days, countless cities, and just one backpack to tote around with you for the entire trip. Before you insist it’s impossible, read on about how a single backpack can successfully supply you with a 10 day wardrobe and all of your essentials.

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First things first, find the perfect backpack. This is not the time to resurrect your purple L.L. Bean backpack from second grade that is monogrammed with your initials (side note: it’s okay to be guilty of owning one of these in the 90’s/early Millenium - all the cool kids did).

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A good North Face or EMS backpack with multiple pockets and compartments will keep you plenty organized and give you tons of space.

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Equally as critical as the right bag is making sure to do your research. Don’t even open your closet until you’ve checked the weather in each city you’re going to be traveling to. Once you’ve made a mental list of everything you think you might need, cut that in half. We realize you aren’t familiar with the term “packing light”, but contrary to what Kate Sanders says, you CAN be an outfit repeater.

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Here are a few critical pieces that will help you get by:

  1. One pair of jeans.
  2. Two pairs of leggings (one for touring, one to wear while you travel).
  3. A few shirts, and a couple warm sweaters.
  4. An extra sweater/sweatshirt for traveling days.
  5. Two neutral scarves.
  6. One additional pair of comfortable shoes.
  7. Shower shoes.

Wear as many heavy pieces of clothing as possible to avoid packing them. If you want to bring boots, wear those on your bus/train/flight along with your bulkiest sweater, jacket or vest.

Alternatively, if you’re headed somewhere warm like Greece, your job is even easier. Summer clothes and flip flops are going to suit you just fine and are a lot less bulky than traditional fall clothing. That said, you don’t need a different bathing suit for each day of the week.

  1. Two bathing suits will do just fine.
  2. One or two sundresses that can also be used as cover ups.
  3. A maxi dress.
  4. A couple pairs of shorts/skirts.
  5. Three or four shirts.
  6. An extra pair of sandals.
  7. A sweater just in case the temperature drops a bit at night.
  8. Something comfortable to travel in.
  9. A towel.

Most importantly, try and leave the “What if” outfits at home. As in, “What if I need my bandage dress and black pumps for the pub crawl one night?” Or, packing something because you “might need that shirt”. Hint: you won’t. Along the same lines, be strategic about things that you think are essential. Check whether or not your accommodations supplies things like towels and whether or not you need to waste space in your bag for that. When packing things like make-up and toiletries, be conscious of what you are actually going to need. Pick up small carry on bottles that you can put hair products, lotions, face wash etc. into – this is especially necessary if you will be flying in between destinations.

Lastly, make a list of everything you are bringing before you go so that you know what will be in your bag. When packing, make sure to roll your clothes instead of folding them in order to conserve space. It may seem like a daunting task, but if you follow the above guidelines, you can easily pull of a week’s worth of supplies in a single backpack and still look great for your abroad Instas and new profile pictures. Good luck & happy travels!

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30 Thoughts You Have During a Wine Tasting

By Julia Treible

  1. Am I going to get to stomp on grapes barefoot like in that “I Love Lucy” episode?
  2. I mean, the Kardashians got to do it… so I probably will too, right?
  3. Wait, maybe that’s a bad idea. What if I fall like that woman on Fox News?
  4. I’m going to be such a wine connoisseur after today.
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  5. My friends at home are going to be so impressed.
  6. Wow this vineyard is beautiful! And who knew there were so many different types of grapes?
  7. …Has he seriously been talking about grapes for 30 minutes now? Can I get a glass of wine already?!
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  8. Sniff the wine? …Okay, if you say so.
  9. I’m supposed to be smelling “hints of tar, blackberry, and chocolate?” …am I missing something?
  10. Why would you ever want me to spit out perfectly good wine?
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  11. Ew, I don’t like this one. Can we open bottle number 2?
  12. This literally tastes exactly the same as the last bottle.
  13. Do all of these people seriously notice a difference? There’s no way… they’re definitely lying.
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  14. Whatever, I’ll just pretend that I can tell the wine is “oaked and earthy”
  15. Oh my god, that boy in the apron is so cute.
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  16. I wonder if he’s an heir to the winery?
  17. Does he have a girlfriend? I definitely need to marry into this family.
  18. Oh my god is he looking at me?! I’ll just smile and act casual.
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  19. ….my teeth are stained red aren’t they?
  20. That was so embarrassing. I need another glass of wine.
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  21. Am I allowed to pour my own wine?
  22. Ugh I can’t remember… am I supposed to sniff then swish or swish then sniff?
  23. Is there a limit to how much wine we can have?
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  24. Not fair, that girl over there definitely had more than me. Maybe I’ll just have one more glass.
  25. Wine is made from grapes, and grapes are fruit, and fruit is good for you.
  26. Today I learned how to appreciate good wine. And how to drink and be classy at the same time.
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  27. That quote on Tumblr really is so true. “Life IS too short to drink bad wine”
  28. I’m definitely buying a bottle for myself. And one for my parents. And probably some for my friends at home.
  29. Wait this bottle costs how much?! I can get a liter of boxed wine for 1 euro at the market…
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  30. …Where can I get gelato?
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