Double Dutching

Last week, I embarked on my 5th trip across the pond and landed in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for the 5th time (so maybe this is quintuple dutching, not double dutching). Although visiting Knut is no easy task, the travel process has definitely gotten easier as I have gotten more used to it. I have finally figured out the key to falling asleep on the plane (purposeful pre-trip sleep deprivation) and to getting a decent meal on that long flight (packing lunch/dinner at home and rejecting the plane food). Although this trip did include a fun weekend in France, I spent the majority of my time in the Netherlands. Each time I visit Knut in Rotterdam, we do much of the same everyday activities, but we have recently been making an effort to do something different. Since this visit took place in spring – also know as the prime time for Dutch tulip season – we took a day trip to Keukenhof, the famous Dutch tulip garden.

Keukenhof

For those visiting the Netherlands during springtime, I would definitely consider stopping by this sea of colorful flowers. However, if you’re looking for an eventful activity, this probably isn’t the place. Visiting Keukenhof consists of walking through a slow, relaxing environment. We essentially spent our afternoon there chatting, while also stopping to snap a few photos. I wouldn’t say it was anything extraordinary, but I’m really happy that we made the trip out there because tulips are such a typical part of the Netherlands and I was finally able to see what all the hype is about.

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Delft

After Knut spent the morning working and I went on my classic run around Kralingse Plas, we took another day trip to Delft. Delft is the home city to that classic Dutch blue and white painted pottery, Delftware. In Delft, we grabbed lunch and then enjoyed walking through the narrow, quiet streets. Although much smaller than the Dutch capital, Delft has its own quaint cobblestone streets and charming canals. We didn’t do anything particularly exciting in Delft, but it was nice to see another city in the Netherlands. One of my favorite parts about travel is wandering through streets with no agenda, and Delft gave us the opportunity to do just that. We were a little lost and not rushed in the slightest, giving us the chance to just talk and explore with no clear objective in sight. As this trip took place between final exams and the upcoming start of my summer internship, it was the perfect escape from time and schedules.

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Amsterdam

Knut studies in Rotterdam, however Amsterdam is just a quick 1-hour train ride away. Therefore, we’ve always made a day trip (or two) to the Dutch capital when I visit. For some reason, each time I visit Amsterdam, I like it even more. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I now have other European cities to compare it to or just that the city is growing on me, but it has really become one of my favorite cities in the world. I absolutely love the Dutch bike culture, which is blindingly apparent in Amsterdam with potentially more bikes than people in sight at any moment. Furthermore, the cobblestone streets and canal houses make some of the most picturesque city streets that I have ever seen. In fact, the city looks more like an oversized town because there aren’t skyscrapers taking over the sky nor cars polluting the streets. As a total foodie, I also appreciate the unique, trendy restaurants and cafes that have popped up in the city. Knut and I had lunch at the now Facebook-famous The Avocado Show, where every dish includes the trendy green super food. Knut got The Bun Burger, which is exactly what it sounds like: a burger in which the bun is a full avocado. I opted for something a bit more typical, getting the CAT Sandwich, which is a pieced of toast topped with sliced Chicken (C), Avocado (A), and Truffle (T). As I have seen The Avocado Show appear in countless social media posts, I was debatably more excited for the restaurant than actually visiting the city. That being said, wandering through Amsterdam was absolutely perfect as it was sunny and uncharacteristically 81 degrees.

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We finished the day by meeting up with some of Knut’s friends who were barbequing and swimming at Kralingse Plas (along with what seemed like every other person in Rotterdam), and then inviting everyone over to Knut’s apartment to hangout on his rooftop porch.

Rotterdam

Thus far, I have talked about doing something in just about every place we went except for the place that Knut lives: Rotterdam. Although it may not sound like it, we did spend the majority of the time in Rotterdam, it was just mostly spent on eating meals, running around the lake, and doing work, therefore most of our time in Rotterdam is not as exciting to read about as our day trips. However, we did spend the last day of my visit doing some fun Rotterdam things.

You may have heard about the High Line in New York City, which Knut and I visited in July of 2015. It’s essentially an old above ground railroad track that has been converted into an elevated linear park. I had once read in an airplane magazine that Rotterdam also had one, but none of Knut’s friends seemed to know about it. Despite the “warning signs”, we set out to explore Hofbogen (Rotterdam’s version of the High Line). Unfortunately, there was not much to see. Between the peeling yellow paint of the walkway and the short distance of the path, it was not exactly something that I would recommend seeing. That being said, we did pass some cool street art and I was able to check out an area that I had been interested in seeing for over a year. Luckily, I had a back-up plan and we hopped on the train toward Fenix Food District.

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Home cooked meal

The Fenix Food District was something I found on Rotterdam’s tourism website and proved to be quite cool. It’s an old warehouse converted into an indoor area with different cafes, a brewery, a cheese shop, a bookshop, and other unique stores. After getting coffee and cookies at Jordy’s Bakery, we headed to the outdoor patio and enjoyed our afternoon snack amongst a crowd of Rotterdam professionals who were winding down with a beer after work.

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Although it may sound strange, the 20-hour trip involved in visiting Knut has become quite normal for me. I don’t love sitting in airports and on airplanes for so long, but as I said in my last post, I am so thankful for the opportunity this relationship has given me to see the world. This upcoming semester, Knut will be studying abroad at the University of Michigan; therefore my European travels will be slowing down. With one year left before I start living in the “real world”, I am hoping to make the most of student life and see more U.S. cities. As much as I love seeing different countries and cultures, I recognize that the U.S. is one of the most diverse nations in the world and has so many interesting places to offer and people to see. Some top cities on my list include Charleston, San Francisco, and Chicago. Let me know if you have any tips about what to do in those cities, or tips on other U.S. cities to see! For now, I’ve got less than 2 weeks left until I leave for Atlanta, so I will be spending my time laying by the pool, catching up with high school friends, and reading as many books as humanly possible before I get busy with work.

xoxo,

jmd

nothing but nice

As this trip marks my fifth visit to Rotterdam, I’m really starting to feel quite familiar with the city. I have a favorite place, which doubles as my running route, Kralingse Plas (the lake next to Knut’s apartment), I have friends to chat with when we attend RSM (Rotterdam School of Management) house parties, and I have my own “OV” – the Dutch public transport card. Rotterdam has definitely grown on me in the past 2 years, and although it’s not as exciting as Amsterdam, it definitely has a charm that is unmatched to the Dutch capital. During this trip, I’ve been able to enjoy some of my favorite parts about visiting Knut at school, which include running around Kralingse Plas, enjoying the annual home cooked meal curated by Melvin, Thomas, and Joep (during each of my visits, these three boys have made the point to cook an increasingly more elaborate dinner for Knut and me), and attending a typical RSM house party (where I’m able to chat with Knut’s friends). Experiencing the social life of a European school – especially one with an international program – lends such an interesting perspective about how other university students across the world have fun. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always so refreshing to hang out with a group that includes such a blend of cultures as his primary group of friends come from the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, Spain, Hungary, Poland, and South Korea.

As for what I’ve been up to, whenever I visit Knut in May, we tend to take a quick “holiday” to a Mediterranean destination. Last year, we chose the Amalfi Coast, and this year we chose the French Riviera (partly based on its attractiveness and partly based on the cheap airfare from Amsterdam to Nice. Speaking of airfare, that’s such an important travel tip. Airfare tends to make up the bulk of travel expenses, so if you’re not dead set on a specific city, searching around isn’t a bad idea – that way you can splurge on important things, like endless gelato.)

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Castle Hill // Nice, France

We took an evening flight, so our first “day” in Nice was quite quick. We landed, checked into our fabulous Airbnb in Old Town, and set out for dinner in our neighborhood. Old Town, or Vieille Ville, is the most charming part of Nice with colorful buildings and local sandwich and gelato shops on every corner. It breathes an Italian air, making it feel much more like Naples than Paris (in my opinion).

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Old Town Market // Nice, France

The next morning, we woke up and Knut ran to the store and made omelettes for us in our Airbnb while I snuck in a quick Kayla workout in the tiny living room. You might think it’s strange that I’d think to workout on vacation, but I genuinely enjoy it. I definitely inherited my dad’s love of fitness, and I was happy to fit in a quick strength workout before setting out on a day of walking around Nice. Plus, there’s something about keeping to my routine while I travel that eases any travel jitters. Finishing my workout with a homemade omelette made me feel like we were a true French couple gearing up for a typical Sunday morning in Nice.

After grabbing a coffee to-go, we made our way to the Old Town food and flower market. Here, we walked through the promenade and enjoyed the colorful background of fruits and flowers. We continued to wander through the streets during the morning, and then climbed the endless stairs to Castle Hill where we took in some breathtaking views of the Mediterranean city. Post climbing, we grabbed a sandwich and salad to-go and headed to the beach to get some sun. After realizing that our afternoon boat tour was canceled, we spent the rest of the day exploring the city. We grabbed an afternoon coffee and then went back to the apartment to get ready for our evening. Our Airbnb hosts kindly left us a bottle of rosé (don’t worry, the drinking age is 18 here), so we went down to the beach and had a pre-dinner drink. We then proceeded to have dinner at Olive&Artichaut, where I reserved us a table weeks ago, and enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal. After dinner, we treated ourselves to gelato from the famous Fenocchio and then headed home.

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As Nice is small enough to explore in a day, we spent our second full day in the French Riviera visiting Monaco. To be honest, I liked Nice much better than this boujee city. Monaco was just as obnoxiously wealthy as I had heard with expensive cars zooming by and castle-like mansions around every bend. The city is preparing for the Grand Prix, so the construction around the winding roads was a bit of a bummer. We spent our day walking through Monte Carlo and seeing all of the typical sights, as well as enjoying a great lunch along Larvotto Beach. Later, we took the train back to Nice, repeated our wine on the beach pre-dinner hour, and then headed to another neighborhood in Nice for a fantastic last dinner. La Femme du Boulanger (“the baker’s wife”) specializes in fancy bruschetta dishes that include produce chosen daily from the Old Town market. Our meals were exceptionally fresh and the chocolate mousse that we topped it off with was delectable. It was both of our favorite nights by far.

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Monaco

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Larvotto Beach, Monaco

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Today, our last day, we took things a bit slower. After waking up and checking out of our Airbnb, we headed to the beach for a day in the sun. We picked up a sandwich and salad to-go for lunch again and enjoyed them on the beach before making our way back to the port for our boat tour (this time not canceled).

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The hour-long boat tour gave us a nice view of the city from the sea and was a perfect end to our trip. We finished the day with a classic afternoon coffee and then made our way to the airport.

As I’m writing this from Knut’s Rotterdam apartment with tanned skin and a slightly sunburnt scalp, I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to travel and tell these stories. Although I’m only seeing small slices of the world and I know I’m no expert in other countries or cultures, I think there’s a lot to learn through visiting different places. Over the past 2 years, travel has gone from something that I yearned for to something that I actually practice. My parents have supported my trips (especially when I studied abroad), but I’ve also saved up (and spent) much of my own money in order to see Knut as often as I do. My point is that whatever you’re hoping to do, do it! I never thought I’d be someone who visits Amsterdam (an 18 hour trip) more than New York City (a mere 5 hour drive from my house), but alas here I am. Catch me next week for my adventures in the Netherlands featuring Rotterdam, Keukenhof, Delft, and Amsterdam. Bonjour!

xoxo,
jmd

cheers!

And so my sixteenth year of school is over. To think that I’ve spent the majority of my life in school and now only have one year left is quite insane. I’m starting to become a real human and it’s both exciting and scary. Although I’ve officially put dorm room living and shower shoe wearing behind me, I’ve still got one summer left as a “kid” before entering the big, bad real world. Or maybe I’ve already entered it? But not really. I can’t even legally drink or rent a car in the U.S., so I still feel young. But I also own a business wardrobe and I signed the lease to an apartment, and that’s some real big girl stuff. This is such a weird age. Anyway, I don’t really want to think about this too much.

Back to summer. It’s summer!! The first days of summer break have forever been such an exciting time. That freeing feeling of tossing out folders, 5 star notebooks, and dull pencils with the worn away erasers could never get old. Whether it’s 2nd grade end-of-year ice cream parties or junior year in college late night dorm room chats, that last day of school brings that distinct sense of relief mixed with energy. As discussions of summer camps while licking popsicles have turned into conversations about internships while sipping on sangria (although not for me, the seemingly sole 20-year-old junior in college), that summer sensation remains the same.

Throughout childhood, summer always brought the opportunity to stock up on new books, perfect my underwater handstand, and make new friends while braiding hair within the musty cabins of my beloved Camp Wright. This summer, I’ll still engage in my bookworm tendencies (I’m currently tearing through the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series), but I’ve also committed myself to brushing up on the Spanish that I haven’t practiced since December and I’ve planned a move back to Atlanta for a new internship that will undoubtedly bring lasting personal and professional growth and relationships. The setting and the events of summer have changed, but the sentiment remains the same. Summer exudes a sense of possibility as it urges us to relax, but also to explore, learn, and grow.

This summer will bring some of the most memorable times of my life. It will be a mixture of “firsts” and “lasts” as I enter my final year as a student, so there’s all the more reason to make my last summer before I’m a full-grown adult human worthwhile. Here’s to a summer filled with a trip to Europe (which begins today as I am writing from the international wing of the Newark airport), the beginning of a potential career path, my 21st birthday, new friends, and so much more. Cheers to summer vacation!

xoxo,
jmd

Back in Barcelona

Finally, I took a break from travel this weekend to focus on exploring my own city. From visiting the renowned Sagrada Familia to trying out numerous touristy Barcelona treats to experiencing my first time in a foreign doctor’s office, I really got to know my city a little bit better this past week.

La Sagrada Familia

Beginning with the Sagrada Familia, it was absolutely beautiful. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the 30 EUR ticket fee and go for free with my Masterworks of Catalan Art class. Although I am not the world’s biggest art history fan, there’s something to be said about learning about Gaudí in the classroom, and then personally experiencing his work a day later. The Sagrada Familia is truly as impressive as people say it is, partly due to its grandeur and partly just because of the sheer number of people that are there on any given day. The church is still ten to fifteen years away from being completed, yet there are still three million visitors each year. To see so many people appreciating what may be the ultimate masterwork of Catalan art is quite remarkable.

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Sweet Treats and Yummy Dishes

On a less cultured note, I also used this week as an excuse to visit some tasty sweet shops and delicious restaurants. Two of the dessert places I went to include Happy Pills and Chök. Happy Pills is a sweet shop where tourists can select a “pill bottle” to fill with different types of colorful gummies, and then they can choose a sticker that names the “prescription” of the bottle. I fittingly chose “Para Después de Una Noche Loca” (for after a crazy night), as my friends and I finally lived up to true Barcelona culture and stayed out until the early hours of the morning the night before (it was slightly fun, but slightly dreadful when we realized we were honestly just so tired and ready for bed). Other (less fun) prescriptions include “Universal Remedy for Everything”, “Happiness Overdose”, and many more. Later in the week we went to Chök, a chocolate shop that is famous for its chök doughnuts: doughnuts made with less fat, less sugar, and less frying time. I chose a raspberry dark chocolate doughnut, which was absolutely amazing, but they also have a selection of krönuts (doughnuts with filling), truffles, and other chocolate treats.

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As for restaurants, I went to El Nacional and Bar Lobo this week. El Nacional is definitely a restaurant that you must go to if you visit Barcelona. It’s a big warehouse filled with nice, trendy bars and restaurants that serve typical Catalan food and tapas. We went to La Taperia where guests can order food from the menu, or they can choose dishes from trays as the waiters bring them around. We ordered some from the menu, but we quickly realized it was much more exciting (and faster) to pick dishes as the waiter animatedly presented them to the guests. Bar Lobo was a more classic restaurant, but the food was quite amazing. I would definitely still recommend this one for a quieter, more typical dinner.

As I’ve mentioned before, my study abroad program is great at organizing exciting day trips and activities. Last week, my friends and I participated in a “Cook & Taste” where we had the opportunity to cook a classic Catalan meal with a fabulous Barcelona chef. I was expecting us to be cooking in the kitchen of the program building, so it was a nice surprise when we showed up at the elaborate Cook and Taste Barcelona kitchen. Together, we made tomato bread (a Catalan staple), vegetables with romesco sauce, paella, and crème de Catalán (a more lemony crème brûlée). The class took roughly four hours, but it was definitely worth it. If you come to Barcelona and are looking for a fun, cultural activity, this is definitely something you should consider.

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About that Doctor’s Office Comment…

It turned out to be quite perfect that I wasn’t traveling last week because unfortunately, I caught a virus. It was not serious at all, but my study abroad program recommended that I visit a doctor. My doctor’s office visit ended up being another cultural experience as it was quite different from the typical modern, antiseptic feel of the doctor’s offices at home. Situated on the third floor of a historic building in a beautiful area of town, the doctor’s office I went to used to be the home of the doctor working there. His father worked there when he was a child because doctors didn’t have their own offices back then. It was interesting to be getting my blood pressure taken and my lungs checked with a wall of books behind me, but I liked the library-doctor’s office arrangement. Looking back, it’s great to see that something as mundane as going to the doctor can be turned into a cultural experience when in a new place.

Costa Brava

On Sunday, my Spanish flatmate invited my roommates and I to her home in Costa Brava. Carla is from Figueres, the same city that Dalí was born in and the one that houses the famous Dalí museum. Although we did not have enough time to explore the museum, we did get to see its splendor from the outside. Later in the day, we ventured to her stepdad’s city of L’Escala where we enjoyed a delicious Catalan lunch with her mother and her stepdad. L’Escala is a beautiful beach town in the Costa Brava region with stunning cliffs, exquisite water views, and beautiful beaches. Seeing where Carla is from and learning more about the region of Catalonia was a great way to end the weekend. As much as I love the bustling city life of Barcelona, spending a day relaxing in a beach city was a perfect end to a fabulous week in Barcelona.

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As for my upcoming plans, I have midterms next week! It’s honestly insane how quickly this semester is flying by. Despite the fact that we have midterms next week, I am traveling once again this weekend (before you scoff at this, remember I’ve got to take advantage of my one semester in Europe). This trip isn’t as exciting as my others since I’ve been to this city three times before, but I am definitely ready to go somewhere that feels a little bit more like autumn (it’s still in the 70s almost every day in Barcelona). Hopefully, it’s not too cold! Check back in next week to hear about my fourth visit to the land of clogs, canals, bikes and dykes!

♡jmd

Lost In Lisbon

To clear up some confusion about my whereabouts this weekend, I did not take a flight to San Francisco. Although my Instagram post with “the Golden Gate Bridge” may lead you to believe so, I was actually in Lisbon, Portugal. Regarding the bridge, it turns out that the same architect who built San Francisco’s Bay Bridge (not the Golden Gate) designed Lisbon’s 25th of April Bridge. Coincidence? I think not. The bridge was originally named the Salazar bridge after Portugal’s 20th century dictator, but the name was changed in 1974 after the dictatorship ended on the 25th of April. Surprisingly, suspension bridges aren’t the only thing San Francisco and Lisbon have in common. Due to being hilly cities, San Francisco and Lisbon both make use of the modern trolley to get around their cities. I’ve never been to San Francisco, but our fabulous tour guide told us that many San Francisco natives feel quite at home in Lisbon. As I absolutely adored this charming riverside city, San Francisco is definitely on my list.

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As for my weekend vacation, it was once again spectacular. It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many interesting cities in Europe with their own unique architecture, history, and cultures that are geographically so close to one another. In the time it takes me to drive from my house in the U.S. to the airport (1.5 hours…yes, I live dreadfully far from an airport), I can travel to different worlds in Europe. Although Portugal and Spain share the Iberian peninsula, the countries are different from each other. In particular, Lisbon feels nothing like Barcelona. To begin, there are much less tourists and many more hills in Lisbon. Also, all of Lisbon’s streets are made of tiles that can’t be easily found beyond La Rambla in Barcelona. On the other hand, Barcelona is more spread out and feels vastly bigger than Lisbon. That being said, one couldn’t begin to conquer it in 3 days. However, we did try!

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This trip was different from my others in that I only went with one person: my roommate in Barcelona, Allie. Allie and I actually planned this trip first, before we could confirm that our other friends who are abroad could come (they couldn’t). It turned out to be nice to just travel with the two of us because it’s so much easier to please 2 people than 4, 6, or even 10! We also decided to stay in a hostel rather than an Airbnb for this trip. Best. Decision. Ever. We stayed in Lost Inn Lisbon where we were given a free daily breakfast, two different 3-hour free walking tours, free sangria happy hour, and endless priceless resources to help us learn where to go in Lisbon. We met people from England, Argentina, Chile, Sweden, and Canada and had much more of a genuine cultural experience than we have had in our past Airbnbs. The name of the hostel is fitting because we spent the majority of our time doing just that: getting lost in Lisbon’s picturesque streets. both really liked the hostel experience and definitely plan to book more hostels for our other trips!

As for what we did, we spent both Friday and Saturday morning on the Wild Walkers free walking tours. Our first tour was through the Bairro Alto/Chiado neighborhood and the second was through Lisbon’s Alfama district. Bairro Alto/Chiado are Lisbon’s more energetic areas that include the bars, great restaurants, trendy shops, and more. On the other hand, Alfama is the oldest part of Lisbon and is home to the famous São Jorge castle. After trying our first Pastels de Nata (a classic Portuguese pastry) and ending our tour of Bairro Alto on Friday, Allie and I explored the different lookout points in Lisbon. As a city built on 7 hills, there are plenty of free places to go to find a fabulous view. Later, we got lost walking in the streets and found ourselves at the famous Magnum Factory Store where we got to make our own Magnum ice cream bars. Although they were incredibly messy, they were absolutely delicious.

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That night, we went out to dinner in Bairro Alto with two friends that we met in Barcelona through our study abroad program. I had my first ceviche experience, and it was amazing! Later, we went to the PARK rooftop bar which was one of the coolest bars I’ve been to in Europe. Situated on top of a parking garage and quite difficult to find, this rooftop bar boasts beautiful views of the city and a fun, relaxed vibe. After enjoying some time there, we went to Bairro Alto’s bar district.

Lisbon doesn’t have any open container laws, so naturally its nightlife scene is great. In Bairro Alto, people grab drinks in to-go cups at the bars, then bring the drinks outside to mingle with other bar goers. The streets are absolutely packed with people just chatting and enjoying themselves. It’s such a cool, international experience as everyone is so friendly and eager to make conversation. We made friends with people from all over the world just walking up and down the street. It was definitely a cool nightlife scene and different from anything I’ve experienced in other European cities.

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As for other things we did in Lisbon, we went to Belém and LX Factory. Belém is one of the most historical districts in Lisbon known for its monastery, tower, and other monuments recognizing Portugal’s Golden Age. The famous Pastéis de Nata pastry is originally from Belém, where they’re actually called Pastéis de Belém – distinguishing their authenticity from the “knock-offs” that can be found anywhere in the city. We agreed that Belém felt completely different from the other parts of Lisbon as it lacked the colorful houses and hilly streets. Instead, Belém is situated right on the river with French-style gardens and a perfect view of the 25th of April Bridge. It genuinely feels like another city. We felt the same about LX Factory – Lisbon’s old manufacturing district turned into a trendy strip of riverside restaurants and bars located directly underneath the 25th of April Bridge. However, differently from Belém, LX Factory felt quite modern and almost American. We had Sunday brunch here at UAU – a cool restaurant on the water. For €12, I got the brunch special which included a sweet and a savory plate (I chose eggs benedict with arugula and smoked salmon and a yogurt parfait), coffee, a fresh juice, a bread platter with a spread of jams, and a fruit Popsicle. Needless to say, it was spectacular and was definitely one of the better meals I’ve had while abroad.

Overall, Allie and I adored Lisbon. I was honestly slightly dreading the trip because I was insanely tired after turning in my first midterm last week and I really just wanted to stay home and rest. However, Lisbon certainly proved to be worthwhile. Everything from the people to the food to the sight seeing was exciting, and I really felt like I was able to fit in so much in so little time. It’s definitely a place that I’d label as a must see city, especially for young people. In fact, Allie says that it’s now her favorite city in Europe.

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This next week, I’ll be staying in Barcelona. I’m so excited to be home for the weekend and to have the opportunity to explore my city even more. Last week, Allie, Eliza, and I discovered a really cool area with fun, trendy restaurants in our Les Corts neighborhood, so we’re hoping to check out at least one of them this week. We don’t have school on Wednesday due to a holiday, so I’m sure I’ll have time to do so. Time abroad is flying so quickly, and I can’t even begin to think of what it will be like to leave. Luckily, I still have 11 weeks of adventure ahead of me.

♡jmd

The Ultimate Internship Survival Guide

As you probably know by now, I have been interning at Sharecare in Atlanta this summer. I consider this position to be my first “real” job experience, although I have held various summer job positions including camp counselor, nanny, wedding server, and hotel intern since I was 14. I have truly enjoyed many aspects of every job that I have held, but I definitely prefer the structure of this corporate internship to the more traditional summer job experiences. My internship is not over yet (I still have 2 more weeks), but as this summer is coming to a close I want to share the most important insights I’ve gained as a summer intern. I tried to make these tips and tricks relevant to college students in any city, so I really hope that when you’re looking for an internship next summer, you can use this post as a guide.

1. Think Before You Pick
I’ve heard countless stories of people my age who absolutely hate their internships. Before choosing a job, be sure to really research the company and get to know the people you will be working for. If your offer is set to expire within a few days, ask for an extension to consider all of the decisions that go into accepting a job in a new city. Find out if there will be other interns, and if possible, contact interns from the previous year and ask what they loved and what they didn’t like so much. Working with 25 other interns and for a team who is truly passionate about Sharecare has really made my internship meaningful. I couldn’t imagine being in a place where there were a) no other people my age or b) people who didn’t enjoy their work. Internships aren’t just resume check-offs, they’re the start of your career. Make them worthwhile!

2. Set a Routine
Coming from someone whose friends have nicknamed her family the OCDeTars, I cannot say that this is something that everyone needs. But I strongly believe that some type of routine is the #1 tip for surviving an internship and life. You don’t have to be crazy, but just setting a general routine will probably lead to a less stressful summer. For example, I set a sleep schedule for myself that allows me to get a full night’s sleep every night, while still waking up at 6:30am and staying alert all day. I also made it a habit of going to the gym on my way home from work as an end-of-day de-stressor and I’ve found that I truly look forward to my workouts (or maybe I’m just really into Season 5 of Scandal which I have started watching as I workout). But don’t forget to leave some wiggle room. When there’s an intern outing after the workday or you want to meet a friend for dinner, give yourself a break. Rules (and routines) are meant to be broken, right? (Yes, I need to take my own advice…).

3. Explore Your City
For me, moving to a new city was almost as exciting as starting a “real” job. However, after my first week of work, I was so tempted to just lay around and relax during the weekend. Work is seriously tiring. Instead, I forced myself to text the few people I knew in the city and met up with some girls for dinner. I’m glad I set that precedent at the beginning of the summer because it made scheduling a fun outing a regular part of my week. Every city has so many cool things to offer – don’t let the busyness of life cause you to miss out!

4. Don’t Waste Money
When thinking of where to live and what you will need every week, think hard. You don’t have to live in the trendiest neighborhood when a $5 Uber ride could get you to the heart of the city in 10 minutes, anyway. Similarly, you don’t have to eat a $15 salad every day for lunch. I chose to live with a friend and her family, even though they live about 30 minutes from my office, because I knew it would be worth saving the money on rent in the end. For some, that’s not feasible, but always consider all of your options before making the decision.

5. Don’t Live Too Far Away
About that whole living 30 minutes away thing…if you are someone who absolutely despises being in a car (me) and becomes equally frustrated when stuck in traffic (also me), try not to live too far away from your office. Since I am lodging for free and with one of my best friends, I don’t have much to complain about. I have actually started to enjoy my long car rides and have definitely taken advantage of her parents’ home cooked meals each night. But if I weren’t staying in a nice house with a best friend, I definitely would not be able to deal with the drive. In fact, I don’t really see myself living quite so far from my office again in my young adulthood. Be sure to consider travel time to work when picking your apartment.

6. Pack your lunch (if that’s cool…)
On the second day of my internship, some of the interns invited me to go to lunch with them at a pizza place. Although I had gone grocery shopping and was excited about my packed lunch, I went because I wanted to make friends. By 3:00pm, I was feeling bloated and tired and hungry. I avoided that happening again by packing my own lunch for the rest of the summer. I even inspired some other interns to do the same. Making sure you eat healthy throughout the day is key to surviving a full work day. Otherwise, you deplete any and all sources of energy. That being said, feel out the culture of your workplace. If everyone goes to lunch every day, then maybe try to find something on the menu that is a bit healthier. You definitely don’t want to lose the chance to build relationships because that’s such an important part of your internship.

7. Get a Gym Membership
This is a great one. See, if you spend money on exercise, then you pretty much have to go. Otherwise you are throwing money away. I try to vary my routine so that I’m not robotically running on the treadmill every day, and so far it seems to have worked. If you’re not super into self-motivated workouts, most gyms also offer classes before and after the workday that can inspire you to get moving!

8. Learn
A summer internship (especially as a rising junior) is more about what you learn than what you do. With little relevant work experience and a lack of corporate skills, my contribution to the company was highly correlated with how much I learned. The more I learned, the better I was able to perform. As the summer is coming to an end, I find that what I did this summer has more to do with how much I learned about working in a corporate environment, balancing teamwork and individual tasks, communicating clearly, and solving problems than it does with some groundbreaking impact I made on Sharecare. However, I still found that my work was meaningful and that I was able to understand the Sharecare platform really well throughout the past 8 weeks, which will no doubt translate to a more experienced and well-rounded college student in the future.

9. Have FUN
In between navigating the working world and immersing myself in the Sharecare platform, I left a healthy amount of room for fun. Every day, I make a point to eat lunch with my intern friends and I jump at the chance to work in intern teams (rather than solo) whenever we are tasked with intern competitions. I recently read an article about a CEO who told her intern class that the one thing she wish she knew as an intern was “It doesn’t matter.” As an overachiever in every sense of the word, I would never use her advice as an excuse to slack off on my work duties or give forth any less than my best effort, but I see her point. I am 20 years old and this is my first job. If I mess up the formula on a spreadsheet or email the wrong person or get lost on my way to a meeting, it’s OKAY. “It doesn’t matter.” People won’t remember your small mistakes as much as you will. Do your best, try your hardest, and have fun. After all, we’re just interns!

10. Take a Break
Bask in the glory of being an intern. If you’re an intern, you don’t have a full-time job. This means that you are probably still in school. And if you’re in school in the U.S., then you have an ungodly long summer break. At Vanderbilt, we get out in May. Therefore, I spent 2 weeks in May traveling through Europe. Traveling before my internship started was the best decision I made regarding my summer job. After finals, I don’t think I could’ve adjusted to working for 8 hours per day as well as I did after spending a month lounging around at home and jet setting through Europe. When June came, I was so ready to do something meaningful. For some, it makes more sense to build a break in after your internship rather than before. It doesn’t make a difference. My point is, do not work for your entire summer. You will probably work for the rest of your life. Enjoy the last few summers you’ll ever have by planning some kind of trip, whether it be to Italy or to your local lake. Just remember, take a break!

♡jmd

It’s a Girl’s World…Right?

Over the past few days, I have been exposed to an exciting amount of female power. From Friday’s Lunch and Learn with Sharecare’s unbelievably successful co-president Dawn Whaley to this Saturday’s Undergraduate Women’s Summit at McKinsey and Company, I have heard from so many incredibly driven and accomplished women of all ages. After discussing the presence of women in the corporate world with some of my friends over dinner on Saturday night, I feel compelled to write about my unique, and undoubtedly naive, perspective of women in the world…

I’ve never questioned my place in this world as a girl. In fact, I truly cannot remember a time in my life when I have not felt empowered as a female. All throughout school, the girls in my class were consistently the most hardworking and focused. I vividly remember being 8 years old and watching the boys in my aftercare program trade Pokemon cards and cover themselves in the filth from the outdoors, while the girls stayed inside to work on their homework before their mothers or fathers arrived to pick them up. We were obedient, yes, but also collaborative and academically competitive. I knew that the harder I worked, the better chances I would be something important one day. And so I tried harder. As I grew older, things didn’t change. The past 4 valedictorians at my high school have been girls, most of my bosses have been women, and I’ve taken classes with countless commendable female professors. In college, I’ve seen capable young women lead as presidents of the most established organizations and I’ve watched my female friends land internships and full-time positions at some of the most respected companies in the world. This isn’t to say I don’t think men are smart – men have equally, and mostly disproportionately, done all of the same things as the ladies mentioned above. But on average, I’d put my money on the females because up until this time in my life, girls have ruled my world.

But I’m coming to understand that this viewpoint is not the reality. Maybe it was my parents, perhaps my youthfulness, or even something innate inside of me – probably some combination of the three – that has allowed me to feel not discouraged, but encouraged as a woman. But the truth is that girls across the globe are fighting for the opportunity to compete with the men in their circles. They are sacrificing everything to feel as confident as I feel. And there’s also a girl – a girl deep inside of me – who probably isn’t as assured as I may think.

When I consider my challenges thus far, I haven’t directly felt subordinate to the males around me. However, I’ve noticed that the boys I compete with for various positions carry themselves with a sense of pride that even someone as confident as me doesn’t boast. I don’t feel incredibly comfortable in a suit, I apologize for asking questions, and I probably don’t raise my hand with the same force as my male counterparts.

And then there’s the thought of the future. Despite my perception of girls as equally intelligent and accomplished as boys, there’s a part of me that assumes my future husband will have a more respected job and will make significantly more money than I will. I don’t mean to suggest that money defines success, but in this case I naturally expect that I will not be the breadwinner of my family. And the worst part? I’m okay with it. In fact, I maybe even hope this to be true.

And see, that’s the problem. No part of me doubts that I have the ability to be an accomplished corporate woman. In fact, I expect that as well. I see myself working hard, just as I have since those elementary school days, to build a wonderfully successful and impactful career. I envision a future Jordan doing something to make a tangible difference in this world, not only as a woman, but as a general part of society. But I’m still clouded by social norms. I still see the world as run by men. And I hope that my admitting this, and by talking about these things, we can change that mindset

While my friends and I were discussing this dichotomy of thought, this idea that we want to be successful corporate women yet we don’t see ourselves being the family breadwinners, Emily mentioned something important. She said that one of her female colleagues told their intern class that when it comes time to start a family, there are two paths one can take. There’s the easy path, the path that seems necessary, the path that involves putting your career on hold to raise your children. The typical path of a woman. And then there’s the much more difficult decision. The choice to build your career further, while still raising children. This is the challenging option, the one that will be hard and may feel impossible some days. But she said that it’s the choice that we owe to future generations of women. It’s what we owe to ourselves.

I know that I am only 20 and that when I face this hurdle in my life it will be a lot more difficult than it seems today. But I hope that in the next 10 years the world changes in a way that will make the decision easier. I hope that one day, I’m not left with a forced feeling to sacrifice a career that I adore for a family that I love even more. I hope that it’s easier for me than it was for the women who lived in a world where being a working woman while being a mom wasn’t possible. I hope that when my future daughter(s) picture their lives, they don’t default to thinking of themselves as less successful and less accomplished than their husbands. I hope that one day I make the choice that would make my 8-year-old self quite proud .

It’s a girl’s world, we just haven’t made that clear enough quite yet.

♡jmd