Important Update

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As some of you may know, over the year’s I’ve actually had two blogs, this one and another cooking blog. I’ve decided it’s time to finally merge the two together under a new name: The Sweet Life. You can find my new blog by clicking on the image above or by going to http://www.2sweetobsession.com. I hope to see you there!

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3 Reasons Why Every College Should Study Abroad At Least Once

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Every college student should study abroad at least once during their college careers. While I may be slightly biased because I will willingly travel just about anywhere if the opportunity can present itself, I still fully believe that traveller or not the experience is one that everyone should take advantage of.

Personally I spent the month of January (Hofstra’s winter semester) studying abroad in Florence in 2015 and had an amazing time but I will fully admit that my experience was all my own and while great may not be the same experience everyone is looking for. I went through a program called CIS Abroad (who I highly suggest you should check out) and spent 20 days living in an apartment across from Palazzo Pitti with one other American and two Aussies while taking a culinary arts class (not the only area of study available during my time there) and I loved every minute of it.

Now that I’ve told you a little bit about my experience abroad let’s get to the reasons why you should study abroad…

  1. The Culture. When you study abroad you have the opportunity to really get to experience and learn about a culture in a unique and hands on way. For me I had a personal interest in the Italian culture but for you maybe it’s Germany, Brazil, Australia or Japan. In any case, living in another country forces you to learn your way around, pick up certain phrases and try new experiences. You become a temporary citizen rather than just a tourist.

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  1. The People. The friendships that you will make with fellow members of your study abroad group will be some of the quickest and strongest friendships that you’ll make. When you’re thrown into a foreign country where you know no one and your peers are in the same boat as you the bonding happens quickly and it’s amazing. When you’re spending so much time together experiencing a new culture the memories that you make together are ones that you’ll always remember and the opportunities to have late night chats getting to know one another well are endless. I consider the people that I met in Italy to be like family, we certainly were a family during our time there.

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  1. The Opportunities. The opportunities you have while in another country are so unique. For instance, while in Florence I was able to learn traditional Italian dishes from an Italian chef. That’s something that I wouldn’t be able to experience in Argentina; but Argentina would have different opportunities unique in their own right. No matter where it is you go, the opportunities you’ll have in that country are sure to be different than the ones you would have back home on your college campus.

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Have I convinced you yet? I honestly hope I’ve at least gotten you intrigued. If you are considering looking into studying abroad but aren’t sure where to start I’ve got you covered. I hope you choose to study abroad and I would love to hear from you about your experiences if you do!

Starting a Budget in College

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I’ve been there and I get it – in college it’s easy to blow through what little money you have whether it be saved up from summer jobs or you work a part-time job on top of classes. As a part of the millennial generation FOMO is a common worry. But, take it from someone who was lucky enough to have parents teach her the power of budgeting and saving at a young age – and I mean really young age – there’s power in budgeting your money.

Now before you decide that this isn’t worth your time and stop reading just stop and think for a moment. Budgeting doesn’t have to mean cutting yourself off from going out and having fun with your friends, it just means scaling back. Instead of going out for dinner and drinks with the girls every Friday night find a way to bring it home (or to your dorm) and chip in on supplies as a group for a cheap and easy meal that you can eat in your pjs while watching whatever Netflix show you’re currently binge-watching and catching up on the latest campus happenings. While the setting may not be as fun and glamorous it’s more about the people you’re with is it not?

Of course that’s just one example and it varies depending your own personal habits. What I’m really trying to get at is that you can find cheaper ways to do the things that you love and save money. In the long run you’ll be thanking yourself.

Now you’re thinking, well maybe she has a point, but now that I’m thinking I should budget my money, how should I go about it? While this is just my system and you may find something else that works better for you I work with a 50/20/15/15 model.

In other words with any cash that I bring in (gifts excluded):

  • 50% – student loans – take it from a recent graduate who has been saving since she was 16 and is currently working part-time jobs only, having that cash saved up is one less worry because even as I use it to start paying off my loans I keep putting more aside so that there I always have enough to make payments larger than required and still have some in reserve pending a money crisis.
  • 20% – spending – this is for you to spend as you please – going out with friends, buying that new purse you were buying, a surprise trip to visit a friend at another university etc.
  • 15% – rainy day money – this is meant to be used exactly as it’s titled, for those rainy days where some unexpected expense comes up that you need to pay, for instance new tires for your car or a laptop to replace the one you just spilled coffee all over. eventually, if you save enough you can always transfer a little over to your spending money, just make sure you keep enough for whatever emergencies crop up, this has saved my butt more than once.
  • 15% – retirement – this is probably the last thing you’re really concerned with but it could be the difference between being able to retire when you’re 60 instead of 65 in the future. personally I have an account with Charles Schwab but I suggest you do the research, or even ask your parents for advice as I did, before making a decision.

Why is it that I’ve decided it might be time to share my budgeting with my fellow millennials? Because when I graduated this past spring it was a great feeling knowing that I had already had some money in the bank.

If you do decide to budget your money I highly suggest that you use a spreadsheet like Excel to help you keep track of what money you have going in and out of your account(s) and your totals.

Happy Savings! 💰

 

2015: The Whirlwind Year I’m Ready to Leave Behind

This year has been one filled with some of my best moments but also some of my worst. That being said, It’s taught me a lot about myself and what I want (and don’t want), about my inner strength and that there is still a lot of open-ended opportunities out there.

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2015 arrived and with it I flew off to Italy to spend January studying abroad in Florence with some amazing people. My 20 days in Italy were such an amazing experience that I would love to do all over.

I returned home to start my final semester at Hofstra sick and buried by the tons of snow that fell in the Northeast this past winter. To say that my final semester was a whirlwind is a bit of an understatement but lucky for me I had some amazing people (Courtney, Taylor and Sara) by my side through it all, a class with one of the best professors I ever had the opportunity to learn from at Hofstra and got to continue my wonderful internship with Coyne PR.

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With graduation came some great moments and some difficult ones. Just before graduation I was offered a great opportunity to work with Inner Circle Labs in San Fransisco with some really interesting people but after a lot of consideration and internal arguments I decided that at this time in my life the idea of packing up and moving across the country was a little bit more than I was ready for.

Graduation itself was a time for celebration as I walked cum laude in a special honors ceremony as well as amongst my fellow communications and business peers in our main ceremony. But with all of the excitement and rejoicing of graduation comes a wave of changes that no college student really seems to look back upon while reminiscing of the good times and that’s having to suddenly say goodbye to the friends who were just a walk across campus away, the self-catering schedule that comes with college and the carefree-ness of not worrying about the responsibilities of full adulthood thrust upon you. Hours after graduation found me sitting outside my dorm building, my last few things packed in the car and tears in my eyes as I said goodbye to one of my best friends who was not only leaving like me but was moving to LA to pursue a job.

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From there great things seemed to continue happening, both of my brothers graduated from high school in the top 15 of their classes and with plans to continue on to BC and Hofstra and I had received a job offer to work with The Brooks Group in Manhattan.

By July I was living in Brooklyn and commenting into New York for work everyday. From there things went downhill. Though I had only started in July by Labor Day I was let go due to budget (though the position was once again available only months later) and found myself with a Brooklyn apartment and no income to speak of. Within days I was home amongst the support of family and friends and returning to part-time work as a substitute teacher and as an office assistant at the dentist office I worked at in high schooling off and on in college.

By the end of October I was officially moved out and headed home amidst a big family health scare and following a car accident totaling my brothers – and formerly my – car though fortunately for us with the way our fall went, the car was the only thing damaged in the accident.

It’s my hope that with this New Year will come a fresh start for our family and some better memories than what we’ve been given as of late.

I hope that whatever it is you’re looking for this New Year you find it.

Happy New Year!

 

Confessions Of a Recent Grad

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I couldn’t even begin to count how many times as a college senior I said I was ready to be done and moving on into the working world…not because I wanted the stress of rents, bills etc. but because I was done with the late nights, papers and endless exams. Now that I’ve been done with school for four months I’d like to go back and kindly smack myself upside the head for rushing things, being an adult is seriously no fun – or at least, it’s not all fun and games.

Like every college graduate in the spring it became my job to apply for jobs and start considering questions that required grown up answers from only one person – me, myself and I. I needed to think about things like where do I want to live, can I get a job there, what is my cost of living going to be…blah blah blah. You get the picture, very important questions that quite frankly I don’t think any young 20-something can answer easily and if they can, well I’d like to meet them and ask them how they did it.

Amongst many job applications, I applied, interviewed for and received a job offer in San Fransisco and only realized after it all that hypothetically the idea of moving across the country to San Fransisco sounded great but in reality I’m not ready to take that big of a leap. This put me back at square one.

At the same time, mind you, I’m not the only one of my friends who’s moving on with their life post college. We’re all on the hunt for the future together which includes competing against each other in some ways and also means that quite frankly we scatter where that takes us. This may not seem like a big deal, friends move all the time and I myself am no stranger to long distance friendships, but going from being able to walk five minutes to your friends dorm to suddenly being in different time zones is also a huge adjustment and sort of heartbreaking. College pretty much gives us an all access pass to our friends, something the rest of the world does not.

I picked up my search again with a large focus in Boston, since MA is my home state, and a secondary search in NYC since I’d had already spent the last 3 years attending school on Long Island and interning in Manhattan. That search brought me to a boutique agency called The Brooks Group that has a lot of different lifestyle clients including chefs, food brands, beauty and lifestyle experts. I was hired mid-June and in a whirlwind I found (and lost) and apartment in Brooklyn and 3 weeks later found myself scrambling to move into a last minute apartment choice with only the furniture I could fit in the back of my parents SUV since neither my mom or I could drive a U-Haul and my Dad couldn’t drive it down mid-week due to work.

Starting my job and being full time in Manhattan was definitely a change. No longer as I an intern working part time and commuting in on the LIRR. Now I was working 8:30-6:30 and commuting via the Subway and had company interns doing the same things I was used to doing.

Two months later and I find myself back at square one. Due to budget I was laid off from my job and now I’m on the hunt for another path to take for my future – except this time I already have an apartment in Brooklyn that keeps me tied there for at least another 9 months.

I’ve learned a lot about myself from this. I’ve learned that I’m resilient and I’ve also learned that I have the absolute best support system and appreciate every single friend and my family for being there for me.

I’ve got a lot of what-ifs to face again but I know I’m not alone 🙂

Ciao From Italy! (Week 3)

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As I sit here writing this I’m back in my dorm room at Hofstra watching the snow outside and trying to get my head around the fact that my trip is over and I’m back to reality.

Even though I’m happy to be home and see my family last week, my final week, seems so far away now. In keeping with all of my other posts I want to share the events of my last week and capture the experience in words as well as the photos and memories that I’ll have forever.


My last weekend in Italy was spent in Rome and it was a crazy busy weekend but so much fun! It started with a visit to the Trevi Fountain which unfortunately was under construction and not really visible, at least not in the way that every tourist imagines…I’m glad I got to see it four years ago as it’ meant to be seen. From there we went to see Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. The majority of our afternoon was spent touring the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday and then dinner and a night out with my wonderful friends. Sunday was just as crazy starting with a trip to see the Colosseum which was just as amazing as I remembered and then a chance to tour the Roman Forum, including where Julius Caesar’s ashes were spread. Afterwards we were allowed to explore on our own so we took the chance to see the Spanish steps (yay!) and tour some of the churches of Rome which were beautiful. When I say we I mean myself and the 5 others that I palled around with during every waking moment we could. By the time we caught our train back to Florence that night we were all wicked tired and fully satisfied with the time we spent in Rome.


Monday was a fairly uneventful day as I spent it buying my souvenirs, something I’d been putting off and couldn’t any longer.


After finishing up a few things on my to-do list for souvenirs I spent Tuesday enjoying the Palazzo Pitti one more time before I had to leave. This time I took the chance to see the art in the museum as well as the Ducal apartments. Palazzo Pitti was probably my favorite place in Florence.

Tuesday night was a tough one. The whole CIS Abroad group got together courtesy of a trip planned by Alessandro and toured a farm just outside of the city where we hiked up to get a view of the whole city and enjoyed some fresh meats and cheese over wine. It was a bittersweet night knowing that it was meant to be the first of the many goodbyes in front of us.


Wednesday for me was a day to just walk around the city, see the sights one last time and just take it all in without the sadness that was Thursday. I enjoyed my normal morning stroll over Ponte Vecchio, walk through Palazzo Vecchio and taking little side streets just to see what might have been left uncovered still.


To be honest, even though I knew that it was my last week in Florence, the finality really didn’t sink in until Thursday morning when I realized there were going to be a lot of “lasts”. Rather than exploring on my own for most of the day as was my usual I spent the morning studying for my final exam later that afternoon and then hanging around the city with some friends, just trying to make any more memories I could. After class and my final the CIS group met up for one last dinner that we arranged for ourselves at La Giostra. The food was great but the company and the laughs were even better. We made one more stop to our favorite late night gelato place, Venchi and said goodbye to the Duomo as we all walked by it and through the heart of this place that had become our home one last time. That morning was the hardest as the group slowly grew smaller and smaller until suddenly I was back on a plane and headed home…it was really over.


My time in Florence was amazing, there’s just no other way to easily sum it up. It was a whirlwind and while in some ways I feel like I was in Florence forever I also feel like I barely spent any time in Italy at all. There isn’t one thing from my trip that I regret and there isn’t one thing that I’m sitting here feeling I didn’t get to because I know that I made the most out of that trip. The experiences I had, the memories I made and the people I met are amazing and I’m so glad I experienced it all.

Until next time Italy…until next time.

Grazie Mille.

Bri ♥

 

Ciao From Italy! (Week 2)

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This week started off with a flurry of exploration during my time here in Florence over the course of the weekend.

On Saturday most of the CIS Abroad group I’m part of spent it’s time exploring the Tuscan town of Lucca courtesy of our liaison Alessandro. It was a fun and yet relaxing day of exploration. We started our trip walking through the open air market where we got sandwiches for lunch made from freshly cut cheeses and cured meat. From there we climbed the Torre Guinigi where we were able to get a view of the whole city and reaffirming the fact that climbing seems to be a vital part of many of the things I do while I’m here. After our climb we continued to explore Lucca on foot to see the remnants of Roman architecture that still exist and enjoy some Buccellato; they say you’ve never been to Lucca if you haven’t tried it and it was delicious! We finished off our day taking a bike ride around the town and past the ancient walls.


Sunday was spent exploring the streets and canals of Venice with my roommates. It’s crazy to see how many different waterways they have to navigate the city but it’s so gorgeous. We walked around and explored the city and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the streets devoid of cars. Of course while we were there we had to go on a gondola ride which was crazy fun but relaxing. We had a cheeky gondolier who got joy from make us squeal overtime the boat rocked (but all in good fun) and who we entertained with our laughter and jokes throughout the ride. The best part was that after we got the photos/ video we wanted we took the time to really just put our devices away and enjoy the ride and company without distractions.


Monday started off a week where everyday was a chance to focus on exploring Florence only instead of jumping around from place to place. Going into the week I knew that the weather forecasts were calling for rain sometime around Thursday or Friday so my game-plan was to make sure that I did the outdoorsy things earlier in the week. That being said, I spent my time before class on Monday exploring the Boboli Gardens which are part of Palazzo Pitti right across from the apartment I’m staying in. It was a perfect day to explore the gardens and there was so much more to see than I was expecting! Every turn seemed to bring me to a new area which in turn had even more new areas branching off to explore as well. I definitely didn’t get see everything but I’m pretty sure I saw most of it and the gardens were beautiful! I can only imagine what they look like in the springtime. Class today was spent focusing on dishes from the Italian region of Lazio which is just south of Tuscany and includes Rome. We made Carciofi alla giudia (pan fried artichokes), gnocchi all Romana as well as tried some pane del pescatore (fisherman’s bread) from the school bakery Fedora.


Even though it was an indoor activity I decided today was slightly overcast and that I had been in Florence for too long without saying that I had visited the Uffizi yet so I got spent about 3 hours of my morning wandering through the Uffizi. The museum is huge so I’d like to go back again before I leave because I definitely didn’t see everything yet. Afterwards I decided I wanted the chance to still se more of Florence but to do so looking at something that was a little less overwhelming in terms of the amount of historical content so I went to see the Basilica di Santa Croce which is where a lot of famous Italians like Galileo, Dante and Machiavelli. The church was absolutely gorgeous but, like many of the churches here, a lot of the floor that you walk on is actually tombs which, no matter how many churches I’ve visited since I got here, still freaks me out a bit. For class today we made two traditional Tuscan dishes; Infarinata which is a sort of kale and vegetable soup and frittelle di riso which was sort of like having pan fried rice pudding (it was incredibly delicious and perhaps one of my favorite dishes so far).


Wednesday morning was spent doing more outdoor-based exploring. Within the course of about two and a half hours I climbed up (and down as well) 877 stairs. Yup. 877 stairs. I first climbed the bell tower of the Duomo which was 414 stairs and then after climbing back down I climbed up the 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo. So many stairs but it was so worth the view! After recovering from the climb over a yummy salad (yay veggies!) I made my way to the Galeria Dell’Academia to see the real statue of David (not the replica is Palazzo Vecchio) as it was starting to get overcast out. Definitely a good choice because it actually started to rain in the afternoon. It was definitely cool to say that I’ve seen the real statue of David in all of it’s sculpted detail because seriously, I don’t understand how sculptors can do what they do without just breaking it all into a bunch of its bits pieces. Afterwards class was spent doing more wine tasting (yay!) this time focusing on wines from the tuscan region. This included learning a bit more about the sangiovese grape and trying some Chianti classico and then having the opportunity to try some white wine with grapes from the western coast of tuscany.


Despite the impending threat of rain Thursday was gorgeously sunny and after spending some time viewing the ducal treasures at Palazzo Pitti (I had made my plans for a rainy day) I decided to dump the plans I had and make my way back to the Piazzale Michelangelo which I had explored for all of about five minutes my first Monday in Florence. Having so much time to explore this time was so worth it. I had the opportunity to take my time taking in the beautiful views overlooking Florence  and afterwards continued to climb up even higher to visit the Abbazia do San Miniato al Monte which was a beautiful (but kind of dark and creepy) church with an even higher view of the city of Florence and where the monks were all “singing” when I visited. Afterwards in class we focused on making two different types of pastries; Cantuccini which is sort of like a biscotti and torta di semolino which is a sort of tart.


Today unfortunately looks to be very overcast and will be mostly spent in the computer lab of FUA (where I am now) working on a paper for class due on Monday and then possibly doing some souvenir shopping which I’ve sort of been putting off. Class later is another tour around Florence this time focusing on wine and various food pairings with it.

Next it’s off to spend the weekend in Rome!

Ciao!

Bri ♥

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