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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Frankly, I'm not sure how to update this blog.

I never meant to go a month without posting, but I was so busy and exhausted that it somehow slipped my mind! As you can probably expect, it was a crazy month. I travelled around Switzerland. I went to Vienna (and got my wallet stolen). I looked for apartments and jobs and drivers license laws and all the crazy things that come with post-graduation life. I learned a lot about European Union funding at my internship (it's a bore). I wanted time to go by faster so I could go home, turn 21, and graduate.

But now that I'm just under a week away from returning to the United States, I want time to slow down. I do not regret my decision to graduate a year early... I feel like a senior, and I feel ready to be done with my undergraduate degree.

I just wish these last few days in Geneva could be a little bit longer.
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Sunday, March 26, 2017

I have just returned from the most awesome weekend in Paris I could have ever dreamed of. I went with a friend of mine from the program who is also an oversized child, and it was a really fun experience. We went to Disneyland Paris the first day, and ran around to see the sites of Paris the second day. 

....I have no idea who those people are in this photo, but such is life. Anyways, the castle at Disneyland Paris is Sleeping Beauty's, and it's very fantasy-looking. I think it's because there are so many real castles in Europe, and they didn't feel like trying to compete! Anyways, there's a dragon under it which makes it pretty cool. 

I'm a huge Disney fan, so I had a great time at Disneyland Paris. We went on the Buzz Lightyear ride (twice), the Haunted Manor ride (turns out I'm still afraid of skeletons), the Peter Pan ride (my favourite), It's a Small World (why does it even exist?!) and those funny teeny cars in Tomorrowland. We also did the Alice maze, watched the parade with the amazing huge floats, went in the submarine thing with the creepy giant squid, and ate an excessive amount of sugary treats. I do not know why I decided to eat a waffle, a cake on stick, and a candy apple all in one day, but it seemed entirely necessary at the time. 

I also finally got a pair of Minnie Mouse ears! I wanted to get some in Florida but didn't for whatever reason. I was hoping to get a toy Pascal (from Tangled) but could not find a cute one. There was also a strange lack of Pooh Bear tsum tsums. Such is life... and frankly, it was probably better that I didn't go on a crazy Disney shopping spree. It's expensive!

Today we ran around actual Paris. I remember Paris as being hot and hellishly crowded, but it was a really nice day today. My friend had never been to Paris before so we saw as many iconic things as possible. We started by running past the Louvre on the way to the Arc de Triomphe. After that we wandered around the pretty streets of Paris until finding the Eiffel tower, then took the Metro to Notre Dam.  We also ate crepes and went to a neat bookstore. I do not know what I was expecting from this weekend, but this weekend vastly exceeded any and all expectations. It was so much fun!

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

... better late than never, right?

I went to Copenhagen, Denmark and Duved, Sweden like three weeks ago, and it was a lovely trip! My boyfriend Erik flew over to visit and it was so good to see him again. The trip was a bit of an adventure... Erik's luggage got lost in transit, so we had to find him a coat when we landed in Copenhagen! We spent a few days there before flying to Sweden and skiing for the rest of the week. Also, we're both terrible at taking pictures of each other, so there's exactly one couple picture at the end. Whoops.

Lego is a Danish company, and the Copenhagen Lego store had these cute Danish guards! We saw real Danish guards marching around and doing a guard change every day. 

I ate the most amazing, artsy avocado toast of my life! The red things are pomegranate seeds.

Erik is a goofball. He's lying on his snowboard after sledding down it back to the inn we stayed at. The inn was called Pensionat Mullfjället and it was nice and cozy. Breakfast and dinner were included, and the dinners were delicious! Unfortunately Erik doesn't like fish and potatoes and there were kind of a lot of those in Sweden. But there was also reindeer in every way imaginable, so that was interesting (and tasty).

I tried to snowboard the first two days and hit my head pretty hard on the second day, so I took a day off to hang out in town and recover. This is the cute little church in town. I appreciate that it's simple but still pretty. The best part about my day off is that I swapped my snowboard for skis. Turns out that while I'm a terrible snowboarder, I was a quick learner on skis. I'm not ready to come off the bunny hill any time soon, but at least I spent more time on my feet while skiing. 

I look a little dork here, but that's okay! This was taken on our last day at the inn. It was nice to see Erik again and have a proper couple's holiday. I wish I had gotten skis on the first day... but besides that it was a really fun trip. 

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Instagram is cool for a number of reasons, but one of the reasons I love it the most is how people are able to create and share comics. I'm an absolute sucker for adorable comics, so I figured I would share some of my favourite accounts. 

Gaston Millefeuille

I LOVE Gaston. Gaston is my number one motivator to learn French. Gaston is this adorable cartoon about this Parisian baker bunny who lives in a neighbourhood full of cute animal friends. I've showed Gaston comics to my French teacher and many of my French I classmates, and we all love him. He was so relatable on Saint-Valentin eating chocolate all alone on his bed :(


Cantana Comics are amazing. Cantana Comics are relatively new and have quickly gained a ton of popularity. I think it's because the comics are simple and relatable without trying too hard. The best part about the Cantana Comics to me is that they strongly resemble me and Erik. While Erik isn't super tall like John is, they both have awesome beards. The comics have also inspired me and Erik to put googley eyes on a Roomba if we ever get one. 


I know Pusheen is really popular and that a lot of the account is merchandise these days, but it doesn't mean Pusheen isn't cute. Pusheen is this silly cat that only vaguely resembles a cat, and I absolutely love him. He's so soft looking and does silly things in his little comics. I do wish they would post more proper comics on their account these days, but I still love Pusheen anyways. 

Speaking of Instagram, you should go follow me at natalie.mei where I post photos of my travels, aerial and life! 

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I've been traveling a lot since returning to Geneva for my spring semester study abroad. Two weekends ago I was in Scotland with one of my best friends, and last weekend I was in Lithuania. In both locations, I stayed in hostels.  Hostels are a really good option if you're traveling alone or want to save money as a group. Along the way, I've picked up some tips for how to make the most of your hostel experience. 

1. Location is everything. 

You're probably wondering why the title picture of this blog post is the Edinburgh Castle and not a hostel. It's because there's a hostel across the street from the Edinburgh Castle that I sadly did not stay in. The point here is that getting a hostel in a good location makes your life easier. The ideal hostel location is accessible by public transport in a well-lit area close to the attractions you want. It might sound impossible, but it pays to look carefully. You never know what you'll find! Also, I try to make sure that any hostel I book is in a decent area and is reasonably well-lit. You can never be too careful. 

2. Be careful what is included at your hostel... and what is not!

Read the print carefully when you're booking hostels. I personally always go for hostels that provide linens, though I don't really care if the bed is made for me or not when I get there. I don't mind coughing up a pound/euro/franc/yuan for a towel though, because I find carrying around a towel adds a lot of unnecessary bulk to my weekend backpack. Additionally, I think 24 hour front desk is a great feature in larger hostels. 

3. If you're in a dorm room, mark your bed (territory). 

Part of hostel culture is marking whichever bed you pick with some variety of non-valuable personal item... and it's an important thing to do, otherwise the hostel might strip your bed or someone else could try to take it. I like to spread out a pair of pants, a t-shirt and a towel when I first get my bed so I don't have to worry about it later. Leaving valuables or sentimental items to mark your bed is a terrible idea, though.  I have been known to sleep with my purse and camera in my hostel bed. I also hide my money (I'm not going to say how I do it on the internet, in case someone reads it and knows exactly where to find it). I have never had anything stolen at a hostel, but I don't need to break that trend. 

4. Pay the extra dollar on HostelWorld and make your booking refundable. 

Before I continue, I'd like to say that I'm not paid a cent by HostelWorld. Anyways, HostelWorld is my personal favourite website of choice because I've never had any issues with the hostels I've booked through them and their phone app is fantastic. That being said, I've also had to last-minute cancel hostels from their site due to spontaneous trip changes. To me, it's worth paying a tiny bit of money to make your trip refundable rather than outright losing loads of cash.

5. Talk to people in your hostel. 

This one sort of depends on where you're staying, but in general, you will never meet more interesting people than the ones you'll meet in a hostel. This past weekend I met a woman who happened to live in Singapore at the same time I did! We had a great time getting to know each other and went to dinner together. The next day, two Belgian guys I met at my hostel and I went and climbed a frozen hill to the Three Crosses. 

I have met people from all over the world in different hostels and had the most interesting conversations. Even though it's not likely that you'll meet those people again, it's still fun to meet people from other cultures and share a beer together. I have learned Swedish swear words, a Hungarian traveler's opinion on climate change, and basic break dance moves from different people at hostels. While not all of those things are terribly useful, they were all interesting events at the time. 

Sure, staying in a hostel isn't exactly a glamorous experience. Sometimes the dorms are loud or there are weird people. At the end of the day, I prefer staying in hostels while traveling alone so I can meet new people wherever I go. While I don't generally stay at "party hostels",  I've always come out a hostel with a new story to tell! 

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