5 things I never leave at home

IMG_5758I am usually the person who has everything in their purse – need contact solution? check. Nailpolish? Check. Tissues? Pens of various colors? Extra 50 hair ties? Check, check and check. I’m the person who goes away for a weekend with a suitcase (bigger than those tiny carry-on little things), a giant purse and possibly a laptop bag (due to the large amount of things I have in my purse, the laptop sometimes doesn’t fit). And if I’m flying on a long haul flight, add a travel pillow and refillable water bottle. But what are the five items it all boils down to that I can’t live without? Important documents aside, here’s what I never leave at home:

  1. iPhone and charger. This goes without saying. I make sure to update my apps to include a dictionary from English to the local language of where I’m going, possibly a tour guide or map. I try to have a lot of things prepared on my phone, just in case. There are also times when I don’t bring my laptop, so iPhone has to do all the work.
  2. Extra battery pack. Especially with my iPhone getting older and it’s battery life decreasing all the time, you never know when you’ll need to recharge and won’t have access to an outlet. I originally bought mine when going to a music festival, but bring it everywhere now.FullSizeRender
  3. A book (or two…or three). Ok, I’m not the best at judging the correct amount of reading material. On beach vacations, I read a book a day. If I’m traveling for the sake of exploring, I barely read. So it depends on what you’re doing, but I always have a few books of different genres with me in physical copies. And the rest I have as e-books, but I don’t like to rely on having a power source to read (also, electronics and beaches, pools, rain, sand etc. don’t mix well).
  4. Fluffy/warm socks. These are an essential for flights. I basically use them as in-flight shoes. I don’t want to wear my shoes for long haul flights, but I also don’t want to walk around the cabin barefoot or annoy my fellow passengers. So I opt for fluffy socks, which keep my feet warm and safe from whatever may be on the airplane floor. Tip: a plastic bag to put them in after use is always a great idea.
  5. Notebook and pens. You never know when inspiration will strike. I also like to jot down notes about interesting events or things we encounter. Everytime I forgot to bring a notebook, I ended up buying one at the airport (or train/bus station) on my way to my destination.

And, as we’ve said many times before, do not, under any circumstances, forget earphones. Personally, I use them only for the plane/train/bus parts of my travels because babies cry, people talk loud and it’s nice to be able to drown that out. Once I hit the ground at my destination, though, I rarely wear them so that I can enjoy the sounds of the place I’m visiting as well.

I hope that my tips helped you and let me know in the comments what you can’t leave for a trip without!


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25 flights in One Year – How to survive constant travel

In the year 2015 I flew 25 times. Most of these flights were from Boston to Prague, but there were a couple of awesome new destinations, like Turkey. Spending so much time on airplanes can be difficult, so here are some travel tips that might make traveling a little easier.

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What to bring

  • Travel documents
  • Neck pillow
  • Lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Book/magazines
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Extra battery/charger or both
  • Adapter
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Warm sweater
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Pens – for immigrations forms
  • Face cream
  • Hairbrush for airplane hair

 

Pack all this in a carry-on bag that won’t break – purses with broken straps are not fun when you’ve got a 10 hour journey ahead of you.

Bonus tip: if you’re going on vacation or traveling with an airline that’s famous for losing luggage, have one complete outfit ready in your carry on, possibly a bathing suit (again, if you’re going on vacation) so that in case your luggage does get lost, you can still enjoy your first day at your destination.

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Airport

  • Get there early! Don’t get too cocky, you never know what can go wrong
  • Have all of your documents ready for check-in and passport control
  • Have all of your belongings ready for security check, so have all of your liquids in a plastic bag and have your laptop out
  • Don’t wear jewelry, so you don’t have to take everything off at security

On flight

  • Watch movies – great time to catch up on what you have missed
  • Be polite! The flight attendants will be even nicer to you if you ask them politely
  • FLUIDS! HYDRATION!
  • Bring a snack in case the airplane food is less than desirable
  • Every once in a while, stretch (but not so that you annoy your co-travelers)

Jet lag

  • Sleep on the plane
  • Hydrate
  • Try not to nap after you get to your destination, it will just make it more difficult to get used to the local time

I hope these tips are useful! Add more of your own tips in the comments!

 


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How to Become an International Student at a College in the United States of ‘Murica in 15 STEPS!

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Step 1: Researching Colleges – Though this is something all students have to do, it is even more difficult if you live in another country. This struggle comes in different degrees. The first degree is faced when you go to an international high school. In this case, there is some connection between the counselors and the colleges, which allows for much easier research. The struggle of the second degree is faced when you go to a local, public school in your country. In this case there are usually limited, if any, connections to colleges in ‘Murica. This means that you are left alone to survive through the entire research process. Living far away from the ‘Murican colleges also means that in most cases it is extremely expensive to visit the college. This way you cannot base your selection on personal experience, but rather on the experiences of others. Start preparing early and make use of the college search engines.

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Step 2: TOEFLS and SAT –In order to become an international student at a ‘Murican College, one must take a series of standardized tests. Not only does this include the SATs, which all applicants have to take, but it also the TOEFLS, which test your English skills. There are no, I repeat, NO exceptions, even if you have been speaking fluent English since you were two years old. Be prepared to learn many words that you will never see or use again.

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Step 3: Acceptance dance and partying (and popping champagne) – Once you have finally applied, you can get accepted. Acceptance to a foreign school (and especially to your first choice) is usually followed by a lot of bouncing, jumping, giddiness and yes, even dancing and partying. Some people go for the champagne (which is legal in most countries) and some people prefer to calmly share the news with their friends and family and sometimes (most of the time) post their success of facebook. Decide what fits you best and go wild!

pic4Step 4: “Picture Yourself” and other perks – Refer to point 2. Not being able to go to any of the events before arriving on campus is a little disappointing You cannot simply attend a “picture yourself” weekend. Also, you don’t get anything in physical form. Since shipping is pricy, many foreign students do not get to enjoy things like the Emerson Beanie or the Boston Strong t-shirts. Some of the letters/forms (yes even the acceptance letters) aren’t physically sent, because it is cheaper to do it digitally. Though we do receive some of these after arriving on campus, it would be nice to have something from your college before starting the school year. The sooner you come to terms with this truth the better.

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Step 5: Receiving I-20The I-20 form is the first physical thing we, as the international students, get. It is what we need to get our student visas to be able to actually go to the college. Along with this we receive the packet for internationals, where they outline the customs and possible differences between the foreign culture and the US culture. Though some of them seem kind of ridiculous, like “when someone asks you, ‘how are you’, they do not expect an actual answer or your life story”, some of the reading is actually helpful.

Tip: Guard your I-20 with your life! That piece of paper is very important!

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Step 6: Visa forms and procedures – Once you have received your (precious) I-20, you have to fill out all the necessary forms to apply for your F-1 visa, starting with the long, long, long questionnaire that every applicant has to fill out. There you have to write all the dates of entries and exits into the USA and all the different types of visas you have held in the past. You will also be required to answer if you plan to fund a terrorist organization, or bring drugs into the US. Yes, we don’t understand the point of these questions either.

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Step 7: Figuring out how to actually get to the college – Trying to figure out the simplest, cheapest and fastest way to actually physically get to your college can be quite challenging as well. You have many different options. Do you fly with Air France, even though they lost your luggage last time? Or is Swiss Air better, even though it doesn’t quite match your ideal schedule? If you fly with Lufthansa you will have a layover in an airport you have never been to! These, as well as countless other questions cloud your mind as you browse through the available flights. Make sure to book your tickets as soon as possible!

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Step 8: Packing and trying to fit the limit – Airlines have a limit to how much luggage you can have and how much each can weigh. For the economy class it is usually one luggage per person and each luggage 23kg (50lb). This is an issue. How do you pack everything you will need for the next year? How do you pack your entire life into ONE or two suitcases?? Simply impossible… You have to get creative; fill every nook and cranny in the suitcase, while also managing to stay within the weight limit. I guess it’s bye-bye to your diary from elementary school.

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Step 9: The actual trip to the college – Now that you managed to pack up everything, you have to get it across the seas and mountains. You arrive at the airport with one large suitcase, one carry-on and a backpack, hoping that somehow you will get through the TSA check points without anyone noticing you have too many and too heavy carry-ons. At the security points you have to take out the laptop, the liquids, the iPads, potentially jewelry, take off your shoes and jacket and then manage to quickly put everything back on (because you are kind of holding up the line) and get to the gate on time. How will you ever manage an hour-long layover in Charles de Gaul airport in Paris? No one really knows!

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Step 10: Meeting all the other internationals – Since you didn’t get to meet anyone from your college over the summer now is your chance to share stories with people like you and bond over your lack of understanding of the strange habits of this foreign land. Though at the beginning it may be a little awkward, soon enough you make friends for a lifetime. Though throughout the first couple of days most sentences you say begin with “in MY culture…”, soon enough you will find other topics to talk about.

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Step 11: Visa meetings and restrictions– Youhave had some fun, now you have to focus on some serious things, like the visas. It’s time to get your I-94, which proves that you entered the country with the right type of visa, and turn it in to the office of international affairs. You then listen to all the lectures on what you can and cannot do, which takes me to my next point: Restrictions! Not only do you have to fill out lots and lots of paperwork, but you also can’t have an internship unless you go through EVEN MORE paperwork and even when you do, you are limited to 12 months during your studies, which is next to nothing, especially compared to those who can get unlimited amount. This internship has to be related to your major in one way or another. Also, you can’t work off campus, why? Just cause….no reason given. I guess they found out that you came to the US specifically to steal the jobs of its people! Oh, and if you do get a job on campus, guess what? MORE PAPERWORK! Our advice: take a deep breath and move on to step 12.

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Step 12: Breakdown because of restrictions – Does this really need an explanation? Whether you like it or not, the stress of your visa status will catch up with you. To feel better, rant to and cry with other internationals that understand you. DO NOT turn to ‘Muricans. They will never get it.

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Step 13: Meeting the domestic students (the ‘Muricans, as they often call themselves) – For many of us this means meeting our roommate and potentially the rest of our suite. This can be awkward. You are already accustomed to the flow of the college, whereas the domestic freshmen just came and have a lot to get used to. You have to establish old friendships, while also starting new ones. This balance can be hard to accomplish, but sooner or later you will get the hang of it.

 

pic14Step 14: Coping with not understanding all the cultural references – You don’t want to look uncultured, but you can’t follow along, Lizzie McGuire simply didn’t make it to your home when you were a child. So how are you supposed to join in the conversation when it turns to these cultural references? This can sometimes make things difficult and might even make you homesick. You start missing your own childhood movies and TV shows and you realize that there isn’t anyone you can share these references with. Look for a resident of a country close to your own with which you might share these memories.

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Step 15: Learning how not to get offended by stupid questions –Is that next to Yugoslavia? Do you take camels to school? Some people might ask stupid questions which at first will annoy you and even offend you. You might think to yourself “how come they don’t know about my country? How come they don’t even know where it is?” However, later in the semester you will learn to ignore these questions and even jokes like “Czech it out!”. You still won’t think they are funny, but you have decided it’s not worth it getting mad over such small things.

CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE FOLLOWED A LONG AND HARD WAY BUT YOU ARE NOW OFFICIALLY AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT AT AN ‘MURICAN

Co-written by Cornelia Tzana and Pavlina Vecerova

Drawings by Cornelia Tzanapic16

 


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Festival survival tips


Festival survival tips

Festivals are cool. Who doesn’t love seeing three days’ worth of music for the price of less than one concert? This year, I felt like I might be a bit too old for a three day festival that opens up the season in the Czech Republic (and is mostly attended by teenagers), but Pav convinced me. And I didn’t regret it.

Pav and I started going last year. So, if you’re not fifteen and no longer think the lack of plumbing romantic, and you want to survive these things with a little sanity, follow our tips.

  1. If you’re staying in a tent, pay extra for the VIP area. Its cleaner (no trash waiting for you as you crawl out of your tent in the morning) and chances of survival are much higher – less people means smaller chance of your skull being bashed in by a random passerby who loses his balance and falls on your tent.
  2. Be nice to your tent neighbors. You don’t want to come back at 3am to find your tent in a pile on the grass. Offer them a shot right off the bat to cultivate good relationships. When the time comes for one of them to throw up, they will be more inclined to lean the other way.
  3. Whether you’re sleeping there or not – antibacterial gel. Toilets, grass, railings…who knows what you’re going to touch. And let’s face it – best festival food is eaten by hand. This leads me to…
  4. Don’t forget to eat. It might be fried and it’s definitely far from your normal healthy food lifestyle, but let’s face it – if you’re drinking there, you want to eat.
  5. Water, water, water….do I really need to elaborate?
  6. Go to bands you don’t know or aren’t really interested in. Worst case scenario, you’ll walk away. You might also find new music you like OR you might catch the interprets attention since you will causally be standing there fairly indifferent to what’s going on onstage which will make him try to catch your attention (true story).
  7. Have fun. Dance. Because when else can you let go than in an open field in the middle of the summer with some of your favorite bands playing?
  8. Packing list: antibacterial gel, hairbrush, water, warm socks and enough hair ties. What duct tape is to some, hair ties are to others. I recommend bringing a bunch. And tissues, there can never be enough tissues. Don’t forget to check out the weather forecast to see if you need a bikini top or rain boots. Or both :)

So, send this article to your friends and check out what festivals are coming up. You might even have unexpected fun :)


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