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.
  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?
  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.
  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?
  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).
  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.

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.

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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.

Postagram (send a picture straight from your phone to your family’s mailbox in postcard form)
Magic jack

  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.


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).


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


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.


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!


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.
  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?!
  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?
  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.
  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.
  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.
  19. ….my teeth are stained red aren’t they?
  20. That was so embarrassing. I need another glass of wine.
  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?
  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.
  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…
  30. …Where can I get gelato?


10 Things to Do in Amsterdam Besides Go to a Coffee Shop

After wrapping up my semester abroad back in 2012 I did a little bit of traveling with my sister. We were in Budapest when we met a couple of middle-aged European women. They were intrigued by my travels and asked me what my favorite and least favorite places I traveled to were. Favorite? Split, Croatia. Least favorite? Amsterdam. After a couple discomforting facial expressions from my new friends, they blurted out that they were from Amsterdam. Talk about awkward. After laughing it off, they asked what I did while I was there. Before I could respond they started to guess. “Coffee Shops?” they guessed. I nodded yes, and before I could validate my point they responded with “That’s not Amsterdam”.

This encounter always stuck with me. So when I moved back to Europe and found myself in Amsterdam again, I decided to try see Amsterdam with different eyes. Needless to say, Amsterdam is now hands down my favorite city in the world. Here are 10 things to do in Amsterdam besides go to a coffee shop:

1. Go Shopping: Whether you’re looking for quaint high end boutiques or second hand shops, Amsterdam has everything. From hipster one-of-a-kind t-shirt shops to street markets and bazaars, there is no doubt you’ll find plenty of treasures in Amsterdam.


2. Take a canal tour: Did you know Amsterdam has more canals than Venice? Enjoy a unique perspective of the city by hopping on a canal tour. The row-house-lined blocks of the city will surely amaze you.


3. Ride bikes through Vondelpark: Bike riding is a lifestyle in Amsterdam, however, you may be getting in over your head if you try and hop right into the public bike lane which can have more traffic than a typical road. Spend some time cruising through Vondelpark. Stress free and so beautiful!



4. Take a Day trip to the Keukenhof Gardens: About 30 miles southwest of Amsterdam is the small village of Lisse, home to the Keukenhof Gardens. In March, you can find miles and miles of artfully planned tulip gardens, like something out of a fairytale.


5. Explore the food scene: Maybe you’re studying in Italy, where you’re up to your eyeballs in pasta and pizza, or France where you consume baguettes and French onion soup daily. You’re probably ready for some variety in your diet. (Cue harps and holy music). Amsterdam has anything your heart desires. From the best falafel you’ll ever eat, giant sized pancakes, and even sushi!


6. Grab a beer with a view.

Because, wow.


7. Learn about the red light district: Sure, you may have heard that prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, but do you know why or how this came about? Educate yourself, and you may be surprised about how you feel afterwards.


8. Go to a concert: Amsterdam has a surprisingly cultivating music scene. There’s always a big headliner performing in Amsterdam. Cough Cough….Beyonce and Jay-z.


9. Visit Anne Frank’s House. If you didn’t already know, the house Anne Frank and her family spent years of hiding in, is located right in the center of Amsterdam. Relive a humbling part of world history by touring the four walls that birthed The Diary of Anne Frank.


10. Check out the Van Gough Museum: Even if you know absolutely nothing about art, you’ll recognize something in the Van Gough Museum. Surprise your folks back home by doing something cultural in Amsterdam.



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