Enacting Under the Oaks

I am so inspired by the testimonies I have heard the past two weekends. Last weekend I attended PRSSA at LSU’s regional conference Hollywood Under the Oaks. This weekend I had the honor to work an independently organized TED event – TEDxLSU. A common theme among all the speakers was “follow your dreams.” They insisted that no matter how big you think, you are able to do anything you set your mind to. Many people I heard from had an idea of something he or she wanted to accomplish. Instead of just keeping that “crazy” dream in the back of his or her mind, each speaker made the dream a reality and never looked back.

Many of the speakers at Hollywood Under the Oaks graduated from the Manship School of Mass Communication. I was beyond inspired by these people because it showed me that it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can do whatever you set your mind to. The fact that many of the excelling professionals walked the same halls and sat in the same classrooms as me gives me faith that I too can be as successful as they are.

The theme for TEDxLSU this year was “enact.” Many of the speakers shared what they are doing to make our community and state a better place. I heard from a cancer survivor, a former prisoner, an aspiring congressman and many more. One thing all of the TEDxLSU speakers had in common is a desire to make a difference. No matter what their passion was, each person whole-heartedly immersed themselves in the issue because they believed they could make a change, and they have.

For a recap on these events, search #UndertheOaks or #TEDxLSU on Twitter. Below I have shared a few of my favorite quotes from the speakers of Hollywood Under the Oaks and TEDxLSU.

“Don’t be afraid to quit a job that is not right for you.”- Claire Biggs, writer for MTV ACT 

“Rejection doesn’t mean no. It means not right now.” –Lauren Berger, Intern Queen

“You matter. You can go anywhere. You can do anything.” – Marybeth Lima, LSU professor and engineer of “dream playgrounds”

“My only desire is for you to get up, get out and do something.” – Silky Slim Reed, former gang member turned anti-violence activist

“In your neighborhood, you are a valuable asset. You have been placed in your community to make a difference.” – Dustin LaFont, enabler of learning and youth empowerment

“Nothing of where I am from or what I have experience should dominate who I am today.” – Dominique Ricks, poet, playwright and education activist

“There’s no book on someone’s dream. You’ll screw up, but don’t stop. Over, under, around, through. There’s always a way.” – Sarah Broome, founder of THRIVE

“Don’t stray away from who you are and what you are trying to communicate.” – John Snow, founder and owner of Taco de Paco food truck

New Year Rules

I purposely didn’t name this blog New Year Resolutions or New Year Bucket List. I don’t want my list to be something I check off when I feel I completed it, but rather points to live by this year. The rules I have come up with for myself are to ensure that I will have a bright, prosperous, successful 2014.

1. Do more, plan less. I am a planner. I’m always making to-do lists and planning out my days, week, etc. Nothing is wrong with doing this (it is actually a good thing), but I spend to much time figuring out what it is that I want or need to do instead of just doing it. For example, I usually will plan what time I should go to the gym tomorrow instead of just doing it right now. I think it is time for me to step out of my controlling comfort zone and “do more.”

2. Experience more, settle less. I really don’t like to disappoint people in my life or to feel like I am disappointing others. By saying this, sometimes I sell myself short of opportunities because I feel it will upset someone else. I have learned far too harshly that life is too short to worry about what others will think. Although I don’t want to be selfish, I definitely believe that I need to focus more on myself and my future this year by doing whatever it is I believe will best benefit me.

3. Travel more, wanderlust less. Anyone who knows me knows that traveling will be on my to-do list for this year (and every year in my future.) Not a day goes by that I don’t dream of a place I want to go or a site that I want to see. My test for this year is to put my dreams into reality. I saw how different of a person I was after traveling abroad last year, and I can’t wait for more life-changing adventures in 2014.

This past year has brought me both the single best experience and worst experience of my life. I am happy to leave 2013 and all of the bittersweet memories in the past, and I am looking forward to all of the wonderful opportunities 2014 has in store for me.

What are your “New Year Rules” for yourself? If you don’t have any I challenge you to think of a few for yourself or put mine into practice. Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey with me!

Tips for Visiting the Big Apple

My trip to New York City was one of the many contributions to my passion for traveling. It was one my first times traveling without an adult and my first time on a plane in a very long time. A friend and I planned a five day trip here because both of us had always wanted to visit the Big Apple.

After my experience I came up with a list of suggestions for anyone taking a first time trip to New York:

1. Invest in the New York Pass. If you use your pass wisely, I promise this will save you a significant amount of money. This is definitely a must if it is your first time in the city. The pass allows you to visit more than 80 of the most famous attractions in the area. The list of attractions may even give tourists ideas of sites to visit.

2. Don’t stay near Times Square. This was one of the only spots we really knew of before visiting the big city, so we stayed in a hotel less than a block from all of the commotion. I really enjoyed our accommodations, but I don’t think I would stay in this busy area again. I know Times Square will be on your to-do list, so you don’t need to stay near here. Experience a hotel in a different part of the city. Maybe book a hotel in a part that you don’t plan to visit. This will give you time to master the subway and give you the opportunity to experience a different part of NYC.

3. Save at least half of a day to spend in Central Park. This area really is breathtaking in the concrete jungle. The park is incredibly huge, so you really need a good amount of time to soak it all in. My friend and I were in a rush to get to our reservations we had planned, so we didn’t get to spend as much time as I would’ve liked. I would recommend adding a bike ride and a picnic in Central Park to your agenda.

4. Have dessert at Serendipity. This quaint Upper East Side restaurant is known for its frozen hot chocolate. I ate lunch there, but just going for dessert will give you the feel for this famous eatery. Don’t forget to make a reservation!

5. Visit the Empire State Building at night. I’m sure the view from up here is beautiful at any part of the day, but the site at night is one I will never forget. I know you are trying to squeeze enough into your day already, so save this adventure for the evening. Carve out some time for this because you may have to wait in line. It is worth the wait, trust me!

6. If you are seeing a Broadway show, don’t buy tickets ahead of time. I love seeing shows, so this was definitely on my to-do list. One thing you may not know is that you don’t need to buy tickets early. If you buy them the day of the show ticket prices are usually cheaper. This may change up your plans a little bit, but that’s okay. Add a little spontaneity to your trip that I’m sure you have put a great deal of planning into.

These are just a few tips I can give after my visit to New York. If you have any furthur questions, I would be more than happy to help. I hope you use my advice for your vacation to the city that never sleeps!

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View of the city from the Empire State Building at night

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Frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity

Your trip to Prague

Prague is an exceptional vacation spot, especially for people who have not done much international traveling. I say that for many reasons, but mostly because the city is easily manageable and most of the people in Prague speak English. Now that I have shared my wonderful Czech experience with you in my previous blog, here is what you need to do on your trip to Prague.

1. Watch the sunset. It may seem like something minor, but it’s the little things that makes life so beautiful, right? I watched it from my window every night. On my fast-paced European adventure, this relaxing time was just what I need. I’m sure you could use a little relaxation on your vacation too!  Watching the sunset in general can be calming and extremely peaceful, but watching the it beyond the Charles Bridge right behind the Prague Castle is truly breathtaking.

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Sunset from my window

2. Eat at The Medieval Tavern. First of all, the food is great. Second, the show will amaze you. I won’t ruin it for you, but I would have never imagined I would witness those tricks at a dinner. This oldest medieval restaurant in town really gives you a clear representation of medieval times. Oh, and how could I forget? You may even be lucky enough to have a boa constrictor visit you at dinner.

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My professor enjoying the boa’s visit

3. Go to the ice bar. How cliché of a twenty year old telling you to go to a club? Trust me on this one, you’ll have a good time! It doesn’t matter how old you are because this night club is probably a very different experience than any you have ever been to. And remember, it has five floors so I’m sure you can find some music or interesting people somewhere throughout the building. For any of you skeptical about this piece of advice, let me just tell you… our professors came with us and loved it!

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Fun at the ice bar

4. Spend some time on the Charles Bridge. This bridge is the famous walking bridge is Prague. I walked across it everyday I was there and didn’t really get to see all of the beautiful architecture on it. Many of the statues are very symbolic, so do your research before to make the most of your experience. The views from the bridge are amazing as well, so carve out some time to take it all in. I wish I would have spent more time on the bridge really getting to see everything. On your trip take a good look around, and be sure to tell me all about it!

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Statues on the Charles Bridge

5. Go to the Prague Castle. I’m sure this will already be on your itinerary, but this is something you don’t want to miss. Once again, a site full of Czech history and importance in Prague, but this isn’t my main reason for having this on your to-do list. The castle itself is gorgeous, but go around back and look at the view from the city up there. This was my favorite location that we visited because it is definitely a view I will never forget.

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Beautiful view of Prague

I hope you’ve enjoyed my few pieces of advice, and thank you for following along my journey with me!

The majestic city of Prague, Czech Republic

Studying abroad is overwhelming, it really is. Especially in my case where we traveled to so many places. Prague was a breath of fresh air to my culture-shocked self. Because Prague is a smaller city than many of the ones we visited, I didn’t have to worry about the hustle and bustle of a metro or carrying around a map of a huge city. Another huge plus for this city was that I felt safe in Prague. Walking with only a couple of other girls in the middle of the night is not something I would even do in my own city, but Prague had a very relaxed atmosphere.

Because I felt so comfortable in Prague, I truly enjoyed every second I was in the city. This place offered everything from a rich history to wild nights to a medieval performance.

Now that I have given you my emotional connection to Prague, I’ll give you my day to day experience with some advice for your future trip to the Czech Republic (because you should definitely go).

After our longer-than-expected train ride from Berlin, we arrived to the station in Prague. Taxis were waiting outside to bring us to our four star hotel (which was a palace compared to the hostels we had been staying in). It was dinner time by the time everyone had made it to the hotel, so the group walked around the corner to eat. We had a celebration dinner for our arrival in the new city. Although some of us celebrated more than enough at dinner, we called it a night after that because we had class early the next morning.

Class assembled in our professor’s suite each morning in Prague. Our first day, we headed into town for a bus/walking tour. By the time we made it there, we had missed the tour so we had to wait a few hours for the next one. Meanwhile, we explored. We shopped around Wencelas Square and visited one of Prague’s most popular markets Havelske trziste. Our bus tour took us through the old town, new town and little town of Prague (I know, I love the original names too). The walking tour began at the Prague castle. We weren’t able to go inside, but we did tour an amazing church right outside of the castle. Behind the castle was an amazing view of the whole city of Prague. The city isn’t huge, so I really enjoyed the walking tour because we were able to engage in the town while viewing many famous sites such as Prague’s astronomical clock and St. Nicholas Church.

That night was one of my favorites of the whole trip. We went to the largest club in Central Europe- Karlovy Lazne. The club was five stories tall, with one floor being an ice bar. Yes, the ice bar is just as it sounds. Everything is made of ice. The time in the ice bar is limited due to the extremely cold temperature, but we had the time our of lives for those twenty minutes. All of the other floors are separated by different music genres. We bounced around all of the floors that night having fun and meeting tons of new people. Our group dwindled down as the night went on. Eventually, the few of us left walked our way across town back to Hotel Suite Home.

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Enjoying the ice bar

Our next day in Prague, we visited Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. We were truly honored to have the chance to visit this exclusive organization and have media professionals share their insight with us. We had taken taxis to the location, but when it was time to leave no taxis were around to pick us up. We questioned our professor, but this was just one of his many secret plans. He made it clear in the beginning of our trip that not only did he want us to learn about mass media, but also learn life lessons along our way. His challenge to us was to find our way home. Of course none of us paid attention to the route on our way there, so we were stumped. We found our way eventually, but this experience stuck with me because being independent in a foreign place is one of the many lessons that my professor taught me.

At night we had the most memorable dinner of our whole trip. We went to one of the oldest pubs in the city known as the Medieval Tavern. There we met three LSU graduates that currently live in Prague. Of course I questioned the PR graduate on her experience the whole time, but during our conversation we were accompanied by a performance we were not expecting. The show was extravagant. Our waiters were dressed as if they were from medieval times and would periodically play music and perform. First the belly dancer, then the swordsmen, then a nerve-wracking fire show by the both of them. This dinner was probably my favorite because I was not expecting the performance at all and I had the chance to meet the very helpful LSU grads who inspired me even more to pursue my traveling plans.

After a routine morning of breakfast and class, we visited the Kafka Museum on our last day in Prague . If you have never heard of Franz Kafka, I would suggest doing some research and reading some of his writings. He was an interesting man to say the very least. We had the rest of the day free to roam around the city, so my friends and I did some sightseeing. We visited the John Lennon wall, which is graffitied with his lyrics all over. We visited the first ever lock bridge, much like the well-known one in Paris. Lastly, we shopped along the main strip and then headed back to the hotel.

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John Lennon Wall

My night ended watching the sunset with my roommates on our window sill. This was the best moment of my whole trip because I realized so much about myself as I sat there. It’s not an experience that I can really explain, but my time in Prague definitely helped shaped my new outlook on the world and my life.

Lastly, I’ll share with you something I wrote in my journal that night. In just a couple of sentences, my emotional experience is summarized…

“I cannot explain the emotions this city has brought me – joy, peace and believe it or not happiness. I can’t wait to come back here again one day.”  

Labor Day Weekend Getaway

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! I sure did. I went to Panama City Beach with a friend for a short getaway. After spending half of the day in the car, we rushed to the beach as soon as we arrived in Panama. The first day entailed perfect weather and crystal clear waters. We soaked up the sun until the evening, then spent the night shopping at Pier Park.

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Sunset on Panama City Beach

We spent all day at the beach on Saturday. Even though most of the day was cloudy, the rain held until the night. My day consisted of napping on the beach, swimming in the Gulf and reading one of my PR books. My first two days in Florida were nothing but relaxing, and that is definitely what I needed out of this vacation.

Our last day there was a great new experience for me. We rented a boat and spent the day on the water. We first rode around for a while, then anchored on a small beach with a few other boats. After spending some time swimming and relaxing on the beach, we boarded the boat again and cruised around the water. Our other adventures of the day included collecting sea shells and dolphin searching. My favorite part of the day was our last stop. We anchored in the shallow water and walked to the shore dodging beautifully shelled hermit crabs the whole way. The small island we arrived on was completely secluded. We trekked through high grass to reach the beach side of the island where we were greeted by absolutely nothing. Our surroundings were silent except for the waves washing up against the shore. The sand we walked through didn’t even have footprints in it. This empty beach was fascinating to me because we encountered so many boats and people on the water that day, but none had stopped on the deserted island. We joked that we should have stayed our whole weekend on the island, instead of the crowded public beach.

My weekend getaway was very different than most trips. This was one of the most laid back vacations I have ever taken. Though it was a short break, it was definitely a favorite among my beach trips.  Everyone needs time to just truly relax. Instead of trying to squeeze in everything you can on vacation, try to enjoy your free time away from the real world. This isn’t advice I follow much on vacation because I try to have as much fun as I can during my time off. My future vacation plans will unquestionably contain more free time and less planned activity. This weekend getaway has taught me to see the beauty in “me” time.

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Fun day on the boat 🙂

In honor of the LSU tigers playing in the Cowboy Classic this weekend, I decided to write about my Cowboy Classic experience in Dallas, Texas, a couple of years ago. The Cowboy Classic is an annual football game played the opening weekend at Cowboy Stadium each year. My freshman year of college LSU happened to be playing in this game.

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Tailgating fun at the Cowboy Classic

Like any LSU student I was so excited about my first football season. My first weekend of college, two friends and I packed up the car and took our first road trip together. We had no idea where we were going, but we were eager to figure it out. This first weekend away symbolized the one thing we were looking forward to the most in college: freedom. 

We drove 8+ hours to Dallas, only getting lost a couple of times along the way. We arrived to my grandparents’ house late and immediately crashed to rest up for a long day of tailgating the next day.

We woke up early and drove to Cowboy Stadium only to be greeted by hundreds of other tiger fans. I had never been to an away game so I didn’t expect my surroundings to look like tailgating in Baton Rouge, but the site definitely did. Purple and gold everywhere.

We hung out with some friends we met up with for a few hours before the game. We eagerly headed into the stadium as soon as we could. I was in awe by the massive, newly constructed football arena. Our tickets were standing room only with a very limited view of the field and scoreboard, but we didn’t care too much. We were only concerned with having a great time and getting a tiger win against Oregon. Both of those were accomplished that night in Cowboy Stadium. 

Like any LSU football game, it was one to remember. I’ll never forget my first road trip to Texas, my first LSU football game as a tiger and my first feeling of complete freedom as a college student. 

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