A Pre-Departure Reflection

It is a 5 month academic, traveling getaway. There are people and things I will miss sorely and cannot wait to get back to. I am so happy and fortunate to have something that makes goodbyes so hard. 

On the other hand, I am nervous and apprehensive. I am scared and a little reluctant. Yet, I am steadfast and expectant, prepared and willing. It is a long time coming. I am eager to spend these 5 months with myself. There is a lot of character to develop and rebuild within me, and I am desperately in need of placing a sense of faith in capability and self-reliance into my hands. It’s happening, and then it’s going to be over. And I will step off my arriving Newark International flight back into the States as someone entirely my own. You’ll hear mixed responses about studying abroad – how it transforms people, or how some didn’t feel it one bit. It isn’t about suddenly not recognizing the face in the mirror. 

It will show in the way you tilt your chin and the confidence of your gait.  You will learn a way of life beyond a New York-metro bustle. You will live a life out of a backpack and a suitcase, on budget, and appreciate moderation and indulgence – only when it’s appropriate. 

I will return home in the blistered July heat of New Jersey not unlike myself.  I’d like to think I could revisit my sense of self-assurance and trust. 

Packing Woes + My Ultimate Packing List

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I won’t lie.  I am a freak when it comes to making lists and planning to pack.  Before I was even 100% certain that I was studying abroad, I was stripping Pinterest, YouTube, and Google of their livelihood for every blog space, article, and image with packing tips, techniques, and lists.  I comprised my master packing list literally months ago.  But, when it comes to actually packing, I can honestly say I am one of the worst out there.  I never fold or roll my clothes; I overpack; I ‘plan’ outfits but bring a million alternate options ‘just-in-case.’  7 days down the shore? I will pack every pair of shorts, crop top, and tank I own, and a different sweatshirt for every evening – you know, just in case.

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My “It’s Time to Grow Up and Stop Using My Sister’s Makeup” Haul

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As we age and mature (for some of us, this seems to be optional) we accept new responsibilities:  taxes, college debt, learning how to not burn your eggs and how to order pizza, and, for a few of us as the greatest duty of them all, purchasing your own beauty products.  Between my sister’s Sephora splurges over the past couple years and Ipsy subscriptions, I was a little (OK, very) self-indulgent and spoiled.  If I wanted to try or borrow a little product for a night out, high quality, super popular brands were just a few steps away.  Seriously, my sister has hooked herself up with some awesome stuff!  However, studying abroad for 5 months, thousands of miles away, makes sneakily dipping into her cosmetics stash impossible.  Thus, using my holiday gifts and money, I invested in some products of my own.  Behold – my first ever, super-expensive 2016 makeup haul!


  • e.l.f 11-Piece Brush Set, with some other old ones on the right
  • Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray
  • NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer in Terre-Neuve
  • Too Faced Hangover Rx Primer
  • NYX HD Studio Finishing Powder
  • NYX Dark Circle Concealer in Fair
  • LORAC TANtilizer Baked Bronzer in ?? (I ripped the name label off. It was an unused re-gift from my sister! Not sure if I will use this because it may not be CF.)
  • Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Salt Spray (not sure if this is CF)
  • NARS Radiance Enhancing Primer
  • e.l.f Lip Exfoliator in Mint


  • Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Original
  • Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Mascara
  • Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
  • KVD Shade & Light Contour Palette
  • KVD Tattoo Liner in Trooper


  • Colour Pop Super Shock Shadow in Central Perk
  • Colour Pop Creme Gel in Swerve
  • Colour Pop Ultra Matte Lip in LAX
  • Colour Pop Ultra Matte Lip in Kapow
  • Urban Decay NAKED Flushed in Streak
  • ABH Dip Brow in Taupe and Eyebrow Gel
  • Urban Decay NAKED in Smoky


  • NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Gobi
  • NARS Radiant Concealer in Chantilly
  • NYX Lip Liner in several shades

I swatched my Colour Pop products and the Urban Decay Smoky palette rather poorly, in my opinion, but feel free to take a peek.


TOP LEFT (starting from the top)

  • Colour Pop Super Shock Shadow in Central Perk
  • Colour Pop Ultra Matte Lip in LAX
  • Colour Pop Ultra Matte Lip in Kapow

BOTTOM LEFT (starting from the left)

  • High, DirtySweet, Radar, Armor, Slanted, Dagger, Black Market, Smolder (I swatched this twice by accident; the second one is most accurate!), Password, Whiskey, Combust, Thirteen

Take Me to My Home Planet aka NETFLIX!

My boyfriend and I have had a lot of down time to kick back and do what we do best: lay in bed, snuggle with cats, and Netflix binge.  Here are some of my recent and all-time favorites.

01.  DEXTER 

A fun, crime-filled, twisted look into a strangely righteous life of a serial killer.  The series finale will tear your heart out and set it on fire.  Do yourself a favor and lose yourself for 8 seasons.


A relatively short TV series, The Following, starring Kevin Bacon, had an abrupt end due to low viewer ratings.  Why,  I do not know because this is as entertaining and wild as it gets in terms of a crime TV show centered around a crazed psychopath and his freakish cult.


This is the only film to have made it on the list.  It is an utterly sober telling of a young boy from West Africa who is trapped into the life of a child soldier.  He struggles between his conception mercy and humanity.


The final season was recently added, and it was arguably one of the best finales (from what I hear; I haven’t had a chance to watch the ending!)  Who doesn’t want to watch a bad ass series about modern day biker gangs?



Aziz Ansari is a comical genius.  In collaboration with my idol, Eric Wareheim, they have made a super funny, adorable, and quirky show.  Aziz plays Dev, who is an aspiring commercial actor, slyly touching upon issues of love, race, and life in general.

Must-Haves for a Semester Abroad

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01. APPLE MacBook Pro

Self-explanatory.  Travel, socialize, drink all the beer and wine you desire, but it is a semester abroad at a university.  We all have to do classwork at some point! It would be nice to backup photos you accumulate on your phone and camera as well, or perhaps to update a blog such as this one.

02. URBAN OUTFITTERS Leather Jacket

Hooded faux leather jackets are a staple of my wardrobe.  It offers some stylish edge to your look, even if what you are wearing is otherwise underwhelming or sloppy.  I purchased my past two at UO, both reasonably priced (under $100) and vegan.  They are perfect for the fall, winter, and spring – make sure to size it so you have room for light layering!

03. APPLE iPhone & Sturdy Case

Apple, Android – whatever.  Bring your smart phone, even if you may not have service coverage! There are plenty of areas that will have Wi-Fi, and the iPhone 6s Plus in particular is a wonderful substitution for a camera on the go.  Utilize apps such as Skype and WhatsApp for keeping in touch with family and friends.  However, invest in a sturdy case such as a Lifeproof (pictured) or Otterbox Commuter case.  With frequent travel and abundant adventuring, you do not want to be left with a smashed screen, especially when Apple stores are not as common as they are in the States.

04. FUJIFILM instax Mini 8

Remember those sweet Kodiak Polaroid cameras when we were kids?  Well, they are back in a much less clunky (though still sort of bulky) version.  If you want instant prints with a retro feel, pick one of these up.  The film refills can be a little pricey, but they are a quirky way to preserve a memory.

05  Cross Body Bag

All right, I have very little interest in designer brands, which is why I chose this no-name bag.  The cross body bag I am bringing along was on sale for $20 from Nasty Gal, and it is of very similar bucket style.  The cross body style is an easy, comfortable way to keep your belongings close and in sight.  My favorite feature of this particular bag is the zipper and flap for extra privacy from greedy hands!

06. FJÄLLRÄVEN Backpack no. 2

Supposedly composed of G-1000, the most durable fabric in the world, these backpacks are super adorable and high quality.  It is a small book bag, perfect for weekend trips and class commutes.  You may wear it on your back, or if you are in a super crowded area and want to keep tabs on your pack, the handles up top allow you to hold it like a tote! There is also a slip for your laptop, and it also fits the stricter personal bag requirement for many international flights.  I also liked the idea of having a European brand bag – perhaps it will make me fit in more, at least on the surface.  (Please note, vegan/cruelty-free friends, that this bag features actual leather detailing, so this is not a veg-friendly product!)

07. DR. MARTENS Boots

Dr. Martens, or any leather ankle booties, are all-season staples.    Docs are perfect in the rain, snow, coordinate well with high waisted shorts, skirts, and trendy dresses.  Ankle booties do this just as well, minus extreme inclement weather.

08. OLLOCLIP iPhone Lens System

There are tons of cheap dupes, which I would recommend over the $90 Olloclip version in case they get lost or break.  I received a ‘knockoff’ version of these lenses for Christmas.  There is a macro, wide angle, and fish eye lens.  It clips onto your phone, even with a case on, and offers a super cool effect to your otherwise boring camera view.

09. Portable Battery

GPS, texting, social media, music, photos… Imagine how many places you’ll need the vitality of your phone, and how devastating it would be if in between train stops or on your way to meet up with friends, your phone dies.  Portable chargers usually hold enough juice to charge your phone fully, at least once, and are rather affordable and portable. Slip it into a small purse or pants pocket!

10.  ZOYA Nail Polish

I cannot vouch for this, but I have heard that nail polish can be quite expensive overseas.  Bring a couple of your favorite bottles to save yourself the money.   Zoya is a vegan nail polish brand, free of suffering, so think to replace your old bottles of Essie with this!

my top cosmetic picks


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Yes, fine, this collective list is not the easiest on the wallet.  ($54 EYESHADOW PALETTE?  $45 on FOUNDATION? WHAT!)  However, these products are nothing short of perfect, and if I had to work with only 6 beauty products for the rest of my life, it would be these babies (of which are all from cruelty-free companies!)

01. KAT VON D Tattoo Liner in Trooper $18 from Sephora 

Behold, the Holy Grail of eyeliners.  For years, I struggled with even drawing a simple line across my eyelid – let alone a devilish wing.  When I grasped this pen into my hands, magic literally happened.  After a couple attempts, I was able to make killer cat eye/winged looks, sharp enough to slice a heart open with one look.  Also, this stuff will not budge for its life.  I have had a few forgetful mornings where I wake up with yesterday’s eyeliner still intact.

02. LUSH Celestial Moisturizer $25 from LUSH 

I was a long-running fan of Aveeno Facial Moisturizer for sensitive skin until I decided to be (preemptively)  vegan.  I have a very mild form of rosacea on my cheeks and incredibly sensitive skin with a tendency to be dry.  Thus, if I want my foundation to not appear cakey or cracked, moisturizer is key.  I hated to spend so much on a small tub of lotion, but it does everything my Aveeno lotion did, without the suffering!

03. URBAN DECAY Naked2 : $54 from Sephora/Ulta 

The Naked2 palette was my first ever ‘real’ makeup purchase.  To be fair, I love all of the Naked palettes (I also own Smoky!)  Everything about Naked2 is flawless – pigmentation, wear, and versatility.  I can wear a subtle natural look, play it up to something dark and smoky or flashy and fun.  It is a beautiful collection of cool-toned neutrals.

04. URBAN DECAY Eyeshadow Primer Potion in Original  $10-20 from Sephora/Ulta 

If you do not have this in your beauty arsenal, perhaps we need to reevaluate some of your life choices.  Seriously, this stuff is GLUE.  It evens out any of discoloration on your lids (any sort of red or blue tones from veins) and extends the life to whatever applied eyeshadow or liner.  The $10 also lasted me ages – a little goes a long way!

05. NARS Sheer Glow Foundation  $45 from Sephora 

We all have our foundation favorites. It’s complicated.  Between determining your skin type, how much coverage you desire, and shade, it seems to be a hard-won battle to settle down with the ‘Mr. (or Ms.) Right’ of foundations.  Due to my dry skin and paleness, I tend to dislike matte foundations.  Not only do I think they can be a little darker in shade, but I like a sort of natural, dewiness to my face.  Sheer Glow is a light-medium coverage, requiring very little product, that successfully evens out my rosacea, undereye circles (with the help of NYX) and other smaller discolorations.

06. NYX Dark Circle Concealer $6 from Ulta

All my life, I have had undereye circles that even a raccoon would envy.  They are wide, purple, and even with a high quality concealer, tough to erase. However, in tandem with my NARS foundation, I can hardly see them!  The peachy tones of the concealer color-correct the purply-blue tones of dark circles, so I like to put this on after my primer, set it with a small amount of powder, and apply my foundation.  If necessary, I use a tiny bit of NARS Radiant concealer afterward, but it is no longer necessary!  On lazy days, I will moisturize, dab some NYX concealer on, apply mascara, and get away with a freshly awake look.

cold feet

Sure, it seems like the perfect choice of conversation.  The holiday break provides opportunity to catch up with relatives and old or distant friends.  Obviously, within such vague time constraints, we all check up on each other’s general life statuses: “Are you still dating ____?  How’s your cat?  Any plans for the coming year?”  We provide elaboration, possibly past what one would see on a Facebook or Instagram update, and that’s that.

During these past few weeks, my experiences have not been too different. However, this year’s questions have this sort of frame:  “So, where are you going again?  When do you leave?  For how long?  What are you studying there? Are you excited?”   I feel like every overused simile in the book: a robot, a broken record.  And with every well-intentioned jab at small-talk of the future, I become increasingly overwhelmed.  Hadn’t I just received the news of my scholarship; attended my first pre-departure meeting; applied for my passport?  Students set for the UK and Ireland are days away from leaving!  Soon enough, it will be days before I leave too.  Starting tomorrow, I only have 8 more school days to work, and then I head out for Maine for about 4 nights.  Do I have the time for those whom I am leaving behind?

Not to mention, there is a slew of crap that I still need to purchase! For instance,  I need to re-stock on proper foundation and concealer, which brands are not readily available in Austria, and other travel-sized toiletries, packing cubes, compression bags, an external hard drive and battery, power converters/adapters,  cases for my iPad and laptop, a sturdier case for my iPhone, sillier things like socks and underwear, a travel umbrella, camera film for my Insta X.  Overall, I have felt very much in control, but I suppose all this down time on my winter break has allowed my mind to stew over Things-To-Be-Done and mash it all into one very, very scary (but very conquerable) blob.


And so, the countdown begins…

Passport? Check!
Visa? Check!
Health Insurance? Check!
Airplane Reservation? Check!

With departure exactly a month from today – 1 month, 4 hours, and 15 minutes as I type this, to be exact – I am beginning to sober up about it all.   One month will turn into three weeks, then two, and then I will be scrambling to pack, say my goodbyes to friends and relatives.  I ought to be gushing about how thrilled I am; how I cannot wait to meet my flatmates; to speak German; to climb up to Graz’s iconic clock tower or hop on their cute trams.  Yet, while I feel all of those emotions, I am absolutely anxious and apprehensive.  It’s nerve-wracking and unfathomable, scary and unsure, but I never back down from a challenge.

As die Deutschen Völker may say, “Aus nichts wird nichts!”