Single and Proud: A Single Person’s Guide to Being Single

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Mutant and proud? Try single and proud. I wish I could walk through walls, or be a shape-shifter, or eject metallic claws out of my knuckles.

But no, I have to be single instead.

Living in a world where everyone around you is literally getting married and having babies, it is easy to feel like a mutant of sorts while you remain stubbornly single. Like there is something abnormal–maybe even repulsive–about you that keeps others at bay.

This post is for those of you drowning your sorrows in a pint of either ice cream or alcohol (or both).

This is for those of you who feel perpetually alone: Single with a capital S.

This goes out to those of you who can honestly say that this is the story of your life:

This, my friends, is my guide to making the best of being single.

Stay in shape

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Resist the temptation to let yourself go just because you’re not with someone. Regular exercise will increase confidence, reminding you of what people are missing out on by not being with you.

Develop a hobby

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Find something that you enjoy and that will keep you busy during your downtime. Reading might be a good option. Books help you escape to a world where your relationship status doesn’t matter. Find a genre that strikes your fancy. If you have a hard time finding books you like, keep trying. It’s not like you have much else to do anyway! I used to think I didn’t like reading, but then I discovered young adult literature. That’s my preference. What’s yours?

Don’t talk to other people too early in the morning

This should be a given. Early mornings are no time for talking, at least not for single people. Don’t be afraid to treat roommates like they don’t exist early in the morning. If you are not careful, your reaction to everything that everyone says, no matter how pleasant it is, could be this:

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So please, think of the children and keep morning talk to a minimum.

Find outlets for your bitterness

As a single person, you are bound to feel intense bitterness about your lack of a significant other, especially during this time of year. That’s normal. In my opinion, the best option is to channel this bitterness in a healthy way. Avoid passive aggressive Facebook statuses. That won’t get you anywhere and will most likely just solidify your position as a single person. Instead, use your bitterness to develop a cynical, snarky sense of humor. There’s no more room in this world for people who think life is just a bunch of rainbows and lollipops, so don’t feel bad if you falter in your optimism every now and then. Also, don’t be afraid to intrude on couples and ruin their romantic moments. Sit in between a couple that is in danger of turning your living room into a make-out party.

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Call couples out for being ridiculous when they say that they keep picking each other’s Apples to Apples cards because they are so “connected.” Couples have an uncanny knack for making things awkward for single people, so do what you can to turn the tables and make them feel awkward. If worse comes to worst, that couple will not want to get together around you anymore. What a loss that would be.  Not.

Travel the world

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Life is too short to miss out on seeing the world. If you’re single, now is the time to visit the places you’ve always wanted to visit, see the things you’ve always wanted to see. All of that becomes at least two times more complicated the minute you get married and have to help support a family (in that you have to pay for a minimum of two people to travel instead of just one).

Don’t let life get you down

ndoDjX8Life will sometimes kick you in the face, which can be hard to manage on your own. But no matter how hard things get, always force yourself to bounce back and keep on keeping on.

Enjoy your freedom

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Enjoy your lack of familial responsibility while you can. The only one who owns you is you! You answer to NOBODY. You are in charge of your own life and nobody else’s, and that’s something that can be enjoyed for a limited time only. Cherish it!

Comfort and rewards

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This is easily the most important one. If other people aren’t going to give you the treatment you deserve, then take matters into your own hands. When I first started college, I would always buy myself some chocolate milk after taking a test. If I did well on the test, I rewarded myself with chocolate milk. If my test score wasn’t so great, I comforted myself with chocolate milk. Since chocolate milk is basically my version of alcohol, it worked both ways. Always find simple (and preferably cheap) ways to comfort and reward yourself.

Of course, these are just a few tips for staying sane at the loneliest of times. Find a way to accept your single status, maybe even embrace it. That’s not to say you should give up on relationships altogether, but there’s no use in stressing over a situation that you can’t always control. Just remember that people are often the worst, and you are not to blame if you seem to be going unnoticed. But maintain hope that, one of these days, somebody will like you, and you will like them back. It’s a rare phenomenon, but it’s been known to happen. I think.

It’s all easier said than done, I know. I myself have been guilty of falling into the single trap, allowing my lack of a relationship to define my life. I have allowed myself to drown in a sea of bitterness and self-pity, losing hope that I would ever find a special someone. But I invite all you single people to join me in my efforts to make the best of a less-than-desirable situation.

And, just as a side note, I hope that someday even I will find love in a hopeless place: my cold, black heart. It’s what Rihanna would want, after all, and I hate to disappoint her.

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Don’t disappoint Rihanna. Find love in a hopeless place.

Happy single awareness day!

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The Bright Side of Winter

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” is not a phrase that appeals to me. I love Christmas, but that doesn’t mean I want it to look like Christmas. The snow and gloom that comes with the winter season is something I can live without.

Since I grew up in the desert valley of Arizona and spent two years of my quote/unquote “independent life” on the tropical islands of the Philippines, I have been lucky enough to avoid experiencing too many winters, but in the few winters I have experienced during my college years in Utah, I have come to learn a few life principles:

  1. Seasonal depression is an actual thing.
  2. People become worse versions of themselves during the winter.
  3. Having a good semester of college during the winter is about as likely as Eva Longoria actually eating the Lays chips she so happily advertises.
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There’s no way this woman actually eats chips!!!

But I just have one winter semester left during my undergraduate career, so I’m going to try to make it a good one.

There are some good things about winter… right? I guess my birthday is technically in winter, so the celebration of my birth should be enough to make winter the best time of year. Then again, March (my birthday month) is horrible for a student at BYU (where I’m currently attending college) because you literally get no breaks except for the weekends. So what else is there? Well, there’s Christmas–the best holiday of the year, in my opinion! Then again, winter is also the time of the year when we are forced to endure the worst holiday of the year: Valentine’s Day. And that’s not even an opinion, that’s a fact.

I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with the winter season. Here are some of the more positive aspects of winter (and the snow/cold in general) that I can think of. I might be grasping at straws in some cases, but give me a break… this is a bleak topic that I’m covering!

Lying Under the Christmas Tree

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(If you have never experienced the relaxation of lying under a lit-up Christmas tree, you should try it! If the ground beneath your tree is too covered with presents to be able to lie under the tree, then get over it–that’s what we call a first-world problem.)

And speaking of Christmas…

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(Christmas lights are always nice to look at, even in the cold)

And if you’re going to venture out in the cold to see the Christmas lights, you should bring some…

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(HOT CHOCOLATE! Especially if you have a friend who happens to make ridiculously delicious hot chocolate out of mystery ingredients, one of which you hope is not some sort of laxative…)

Also keep in mind that, if there was no such thing as the cold, penguins would not be able to exist!

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(And a world without penguins is not a world worth living in. So winter might be evil, but it is a necessary evil. For the penguins.)

Deer (both the normal and the rein-variety) enjoy frolicking in the snow, and capturing photos of them is great fun.

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(Why did the deer cross the road??? That’s right, I went there.)

Dogs also like playing in the snow. And when you catch them in the act, you get gifs like this:

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(Which melts even my frozen heart.)

And speaking of frozen hearts, some of Disney’s best plot-lines have come from the idea of an eternal winter.

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(As much as I love these movies, I am not in any hurry to experience an eternal winter anytime soon.)

And until the winter ends, we might as well get some cool pictures…

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Thou Shalt Not Judge

Last week’s post was about wanting other people to accept me for who I am. This week’s post, in contrast, is about accepting other people for who they are.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.–Luke 6:37

Let’s start with a little activity, shall we? Below are some images of people who could easily be described as being “different.” Think to yourself the first thing that pops into your mind when you see the people in these images.

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It is natural to make snap judgments, especially about the people/creatures in the above images. But that doesn’t mean we have to cling onto those judgments. Because we don’t know the stories behind what happened in the above pictures… well, except for Ursula. But when it comes to Ursula, we must resist the temptation to assume that all human octopuses (octopi?) are evil creatures that steal the voices of innocent mermaids!

My message for today is that we must strive to accept people regardless of their mistakes. We must strive to accept everyone. That’s right, everyone:

  • Smokers
  • Drug/Sex addicts
  • Raging alcoholics
  • That person who gave you the stink-eye at the bus stop
  • The friend who wronged you seven years ago…

Accept people for who they are and what they feel… that includes every aspect of who they are and what they feel. I was going to include gay people in the above list, but then I thought… that list consists of people who have done something wrong or hurtful. And I don’t believe that’s the case with homosexuality.

Just like everyone else, gay people might make mistakes, but the fact that they are gay is not the mistake. Why do we feel the need to judge people for what they feel?

Our good God in heaven has created humans to be beautiful creatures: both male and female. Or, if you believe that we evolved from apes, that’s cool too. Either way, the fact is this: people are hot. Anyone who thinks otherwise can answer to Katniss and Gale of The Hunger Games.

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How DARE you suggest that one of us is not attractive. Sluts!

Even though I’m straight, I can appreciate the beauty of both genders–perhaps because I myself am so attractive! If I were to see myself walking down the street, I would be quite intrigued! I’m kidding, of course… I mostly wanted to confirm what everybody has probably concluded from reading my blog: despite my insecurities, I can be quite vain. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, back to the topic of homosexuality. Some people believe it’s a choice. I myself used to believe that as well. But every gay person I’ve talked to would give anything to be straight. I mean, why would you choose to be mocked, judged, ridiculed, ostracized, etc.? That doesn’t even make sense, you guys! Let’s be honest, the straight life is so much easier. Nobody will judge you for being attracted to the opposite sex.  And sure, there are some gay people who say they would not change a thing about themselves and claim they would never want to be straight. But those people don’t deserve to be judged either. How dare people accept themselves for who they are, after what has probably been a lifetime of feeling bad about themselves because the world tells them they should? What monsters…said nobody ever.

PLUS, here’s the thing. So a person is gay, right? Who a person is attracted to doesn’t define who that person actually is. A gay person could be the kindest, most loving, most hilarious, greatest person you’d ever meet. Focus on those aspects of his or her personality, not on what sex they are attracted  to.

If a gay person is mean, by all means, keep your distance from that person. Just as long as you keep your distance from all straight mean people as well. Because mean people are the worst! And meanness is something that affects you in a negative way. Homosexuality is not.

What, do you think if you befriend a gay person that you will become gay too? It’s not a contagious disease! That’s not a thing! Guys, there is no reason to treat gay people any differently than you would treat anyone else. They have experienced many of the same things as everyone else has… they have gone to school, they have had both good memories and bad, they have loved, they have been hurt. And in a lot of cases, they are a lot more compassionate because they have had to deal with a lot more pain.

Gay people, as well as anyone that possesses characteristics that the world sees as being “abnormal,” deserve to be loved just as much as anyone else. In fact, I might go as far as to say they deserve love more than other people. It is a heavy burden they have to bear, and they need all the love and support they can get in order to feel wanted in this narrow-minded world.

You might wonder why I’m even writing about this post. Well, this video explains part of the reason:

No one should have to feel that they need to end their lives. And no one should say such a callous and disgusting thing as, “(A gay person) was going to go to hell anyway, so he was just speeding up the process (by committing suicide).” NO! Unacceptable. I refuse to believe that anyone who claims to be a good person could say that with a good conscience. Just… no.

You may not necessarily support the way someone lives their life, but here’s the thing: it’s their life. So let them live it! And just worry about your own life in the meantime. We need to stop trying to make everyone else into alternate versions of ourselves. That has never been successful and it never should be. To think everyone needs to think exactly like you is very Hitler-esque, in my opinion. That’s right, I said it!

I’m sorry if I’m getting too bold by saying all this… but I’m not really that sorry. It’s just, I’m so sick of people treating others badly for such dumb reasons. Whenever I hear all these narrow-minded and hurtful comments, I feel… I just… I just want to…

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Sigh

We shouldn’t be concerned about whether a person is asexual, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, trisexual (oh, wait…) Sexual preference does not make the person.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect when it comes to accepting everyone. I tend to be narrow-minded toward narrow-mindedness. Perhaps I should be more accepting of bigotry and self-righteousness? I don’t know, is that a thing?

I know this post has been mostly about not judging people based on sexual attraction, but it can also apply to a number of other characteristics as well. The important thing is to remember that people should not be categorized by who they like or the mistakes they make, but instead by the life they are trying to lead as well as the way they treat others.

The thing that really sucks about this is that I know writing these things won’t make much of a difference. But I’m tired of the most wonderful people feeling bad about themselves because of sexual attraction, past mistakes, shortcomings, etc. At least now I can say I’m doing my part to battle the idiotic bigotry that goes on in this world.

Can you?!

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Meanwhile, Back in Reality…

Every once in a while, there comes a point where we have to wake up and smell the rancid manure that is real life.

Recently I have found myself in an awkward position. I am less than eight months from graduating college, and I have no idea what I want to do once I graduate.

Should I go to graduate school or just start looking for a job right away? Should I stay in Provo, move back to Arizona, or find somewhere else completely different to live?

Maybe I should just find a random woman on the street and demand that we get married at once! After all, everyone around me is literally getting married and having babies. The other day, I was talking to a girl who was sitting behind me in class. I turned back to the front of the classroom to listen to the lecture, and the next time I looked back, the girl all of a sudden had a baby in her arms! Where did that baby come from? Did she give birth in class while I was turned the other way??? Why are people so obsessed with getting married and having babies????! Admittedly, I guess it’s all a part of religious culture. Even I have been known to make a joke or two or six thousand about being pregnant. As a result, people often claim that I’m baby hungry. But I in fact have absolutely no desire to eat any babies!!!

I think the best thing to do in such a time of uncertainty is to make a plan and then go for it. I for one like to seek God’s approval after making a plan. Other people might not take that route: that’s completely up to them! But religious or not, it is best to work toward something, even if it ends up falling through. And who knows? Maybe in the process you will be taken down another, better path.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you plan, many aspects of your life are simply out of your control. I have learned that the hard way throughout the years. Sometimes there is a distinct and even painful difference between what we expect life to be and what it actually turns out to be.

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That’s pretty much the tune I was singing last year. (No, I did not literally go around singing like Fantine. Even though I can relate to Fantine–remember that one time I went into prostitution to support my child???–I do not feel the need to walk around singing about how difficult life can be. That would be a tad melodramatic.) There were a bunch of crappy things going on that were completely out of my control, and my life pretty much fell apart at the seams. It was awesome!

But you know what? Things change. And I’m doing much much better now. I still have a long way to go, but at least I’m in a better place now. That’s not to say I have died and am blogging from heaven–I mean a better place emotionally. In fact, if I were to pick a song to describe my transition from last school year to now, it would be this:

Is it embarrassing that I feel empowered by a Katy Perry song? Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter because it definitely captures my change in attitude over the past year. So even though life didn’t go exactly as expected, I can’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Another example of unexpected outcomes was from my study abroad trip. (I know I said I’m done blogging about that, but I promise it’s relevant). I went on the study abroad just expecting to see new places and, I admit, to possibly… find love. Don’t mock me!!! There were eleven girls and two boys, OK?! The odds were definitely in my favor (like the Hunger Games)!

Instead, I left Europe with some unexpected outcomes, most of which had to do with connections. The first type of connections have to do with possible future jobs. In an economy where who you know is so important, it’s exciting to have a couple ins with employment opportunities. Even if those connections don’t amount to anything, I feel like the application process will provide me with valuable experience. And if these connections do amount to something, even better!

Of course, the main type of connection I was referring to earlier was that of interpersonal connections. I certainly have experienced that as a result of my study abroad. Even though the closest thing I got to finding love was a CONTROVERSIAL fake engagement, I established many close friendships–especially with my beloved study abroad roommate Jacob. I went to Europe looking for romance, but I ended up finding a BROMANCE! We are quite hilarious… like two peas in a pod! He is the Marcie to my Peppermint Patty… you know, minus the thick glasses and strong lesbian vibe. *

In fact, here’s a picture of us!

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Can you tell we’re best friends? Anyway, part of why I’ve been doing so great lately is because I have someone who I can talk to and just be my complete, unfiltered self around. That is really refreshing. So although I didn’t go on the study abroad expecting to find a brother, a brother I got, and I am very grateful!

That just goes to show you that our preconceived notions of life can be quite different from what ends up actually happening. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What does the future hold?

So what lies in my future? Well, if I were to choose, it would go something like this:

I will be a psychologist specializing in the study of child stars… but not in a creepy way. Instead, I will have won the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering what it is that causes child stars to eventually ride wrecking balls naked and set their dogs on fire. I will of course have come up with the solution. That combined with the prize money will enable my wife Emma Watson Gilliland and I to live in a beautiful mansion in Wales. My close friends and family will of course be living in our guest homes.

"Matthew Gilliland is the love of my life. I want to marry him IMMEDIATELY!"--Emma Watson, My Dreams, 1 October 2013

“Matthew Gilliland is the love of my life. I want to marry him IMMEDIATELY!”–Emma Watson, My Dreams, 1 October 2013

Assuming all that doesn’t happen, however, I’m willing to accept whatever the future has in store for me… come what may!

*This is a quote from an episode of Scrubs, as much as I’d like to claim it!

Europe–The Final Chapter: Last Day in the U.K.

Well, the day has finally come for me to write about my Europe study abroad for the last time.

Today I want to talk (or, to be more literal, write) about my last full day in the United Kingdom, because I feel like it was such a staple in my trip, and it was definitely one of my favorite days in the UK… if not one of my favorite days in life!

It was Sunday, August 4th, 2013. Why that even matters, I do not know. We were in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, Scotland. It was the perfect day… not too hot and not too cold. All you needed was a light jacket! There was just the hint of a breeze, and it was cloudy but not rainy, which was pretty much a miracle seeing as we were in Scotland. To sum up, it was perfect kite-flying weather. Not that people fly kites anymore. Do they? Maybe I should say it was perfect hiking weather, because that’s what we ended up doing that day.  It was our last full day in the United Kingdom and we had to make the best of it. For us on that day, “making the best of it” involved hiking an extinct volcano. As one does while in Europe.

Since pictures speak a thousand words, I am going to post some of my favorite pictures from the hike of Arthur’s Seat, the extinct volcano that gave us glorious views of Edinburgh:

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After the hike, we went down to a small man-made loch at the base of Arthur’s Seat. We had missed out on going to the Loch Ness (which I won’t get into because that is a whole different tragic, violent story… OK so it wasn’t really violent, but I’d rather just forget about it), so this was the next best thing. Here, a skilled photographer (who had also taken some now-infamous fake engagement pictures for me) captured a photo that I feel embodies just how fun this trip ended up being:

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Doesn’t this look like the most fun study abroad group in the history of the world??!!!

By the time we were done hiking and loching (it’s a new word, look it up… but not really because I just made it up), the night was approaching, so it was nearly time for us to retire to the hostel. But first, a few of my classmates and I had to eat at a pub for the last time. Because the last day in Europe would not be complete without some good, cheap food.

That night, we said goodbye in a bit of an eccentric way. I gathered my good friends Jacob, Nicole, Katie, Kyra, Stephanie, and Becca to do a group huddle and sing/sway to The Graduation Song. For those of you who don’t know the song, here is the chorus:

For some reason, some of our party thought I was ridiculous for suggesting such a thing. Eyes were rolled, complaints were muttered, and people were called weird. But I laughed so hard that I cried. And in the end, don’t the best moments end in tears? Wait a minute… I might have to rethink that idea.

To top off the night, my beloved study abroad roommate (and the only other guy in the group) Jacob and I talked late into the night. There is just something about the bond between study abroad roommates that cannot quite be matched by anything else. We enjoyed our late-night talks in Europe, and this last one was no different. It was the perfect way to conclude my final day in the UK!

I will never forget that last day on the British Isles. It’s crazy to believe that it has already been a month and a half since I got back from Europe. My life has been changed for the better because I decided to go on that study abroad. I made some of my closest friends and also created some of my favorite memories. But most of all, I freaking got to go to Europe!

And on that dignified note, I will conclude my musings about my study abroad once and for all. Thanks for reading!

Europe–Chapter 3: A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

OK, maybe only the best of times.

For this chapter of my Europe-themed blog posts, I will be focusing on the two most famous cities that I visited during my trip: London and Paris. Mostly London, because I spent three weeks in London and just two days in Paris.

I considered writing multiple blog posts about London and a completely separate post about Paris, but with school starting and whatnot I realized that, if I were to keep blogging at that rate, I would still be blogging about Europe in February of 2017! I cannot allow myself to dwell so much in the past, and if I think too much about my study abroad, I fear I will fall to the ground and start twitching out of utter despair because of how much I miss it. Or maybe I’m just being a tad bit over-dramatic. As I tend to be.

So here goes. I will avoid focusing so much on the sights that I saw while in London and Paris. Instead I will focus on what made my trip to those cities unique. In doing so I hope to emphasize the fact that everyone can have a truly unique and wonderful experience while traveling. No two experiences are the same!

So here are some of my favorite memories from London and Paris:

4th of July, London Style

We brought in the wonderful all-American holiday in a bit of a non-traditional way. Even though we ended up traveling to London on the 4th of July (kind of ironic, if you think about it), we still managed to find time to gather as a group and celebrate being American. A-MUR-ica! We played games, ate marshmallows and hot dogs, and just enjoyed each other’s company. And though I got along quite well with the others before getting to London, I feel that it was in London that close friendships began to form between me and my fellow study abroad students. I remember after the 4th of July party, sitting outside of the apartment complex like unto a HOOLIGAN and talking to some of my new friends until the late hours of the night! It was one of many late-night conversations.

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The London Temple

We had the opportunity one day to visit the London Temple. It was nice going into the temple and also exploring the temple grounds. We got some nice pictures that showed off just how attractive we all are!

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Platform 9 and 3/4

A trip to London would of course not be complete without a journey to Platform 9 and 3/4! I went with three other people in my group, and since there were four of us we each got to represent a different Hogwarts house! The decision was unanimous for me to represent Slytherin, since apparently I’m the most evil one in the group… even though I have told everyone on many occasions that I am not as evil as I make myself out to be! Though I have to admit, this picture of me looking suspicious as my green scarf billows in the wind–well, let’s just say, it’s a good representation of my personality. Maybe I really am evil. Oh well!

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The Old Hide-and-Scare Tactic

One night some of us decided to do a ghost tour of London. For obvious reasons, many of us were put slightly on edge after hearing about the different supernatural phenomena that supposedly take place around London, including the statue in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral that, as legend tells it, dismounts its plinth every August 1st at midnight, runs around in a circle, and then resumes its position as a statue. Creepy! As we were heading back to the tube station that night, two of the girls in my group were lagging behind a bit, so the other three of us decided that it would be funny if we hid from the rest of our party so we could scare them. We found the perfect hiding spot that allowed us to remain in hiding while we could still see the two girls coming. As they walked by, the three of us yelled and ran out from our hiding spots. The two girls screamed bloody murder, and I’m pretty sure they each almost had a heart attack. Not surprisingly, they did not speak to us for the rest of the night as an effort to punish us.

Sunset in Hyde Park

At a loss for what to do one evening, Jacob (the only other boy in the group) and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Hyde Park. While we were there, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, a sunset that rivaled even the desert sunsets of Arizona and the tropical sunsets of the Philippines. As a sucker for nice sunsets, I was pleasantly surprised.

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The London Night Tour

Three of my classmates and I took a tour of London by night on a double-decker tour bus. We basically saw all the same things we had seen by daylight, but it was a different experience seeing everything at night. Though it was difficult getting pictures as we sped through the streets of London, I managed to get this rare shot of the London Eye and Big Ben in the same line of vision.

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The London Theatre

While in London I had the opportunity to see not one, not two, but three musicals: The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Once. We also got to see a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

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The Eiffel Tower

One weekend some of us took a side-trip to Paris. It was a scandal-and-a-half because I was the only boy there! Without a doubt, my favorite part of the trip was going to the Eiffel Tower. We not only climbed the steps of the Eiffel Tower but also took the time to watch the Tower light up at night. Nothing can really describe the surreal feeling that overcame me as I took a picture of the Eiffel Tower’s shadow while standing in the tower itself. And while we sat at a nearby fountain and watched the Tower light up, we experienced a few unexpected slips and splashes as we navigated the slippery grounds and tried avoiding the jets of water that burst out at random intervals.

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Chill-axing by the Louvre

I cannot forget, however, the time we took earlier in the day to rest just outside the Louvre. We found some lounge chairs by a fountain (there seems to be a certain fountain theme in association with Paris, doesn’t there?) and relaxed for a little bit before carrying on with our day. To describe my Paris trip as hectic would be quite an understatement, so it was nice to take some time to rest.

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Inside Notre Dame

There were two main landmarks that I wanted to see while in Paris: the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. I saw about 763 cathedrals, minsters, etc. while I was in Europe, but the Notre Dame Cathedral was probably my favorite of all–if not partially because it was the most famous one I saw! And I was glad to not see any hunchbacks or gypsies while I was there. No offense to all my readers who are hunchbacks or gypsies, I’m just not a fan of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Sorry.

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Exploring the Streets of London

During my last Saturday in London, I found myself alone as half of my group had gone to Stratford (I didn’t go because I was weary of both traveling and spending money), others wanted to go shopping (which is basically my version of hell, so no thanks), and the rest were going to spend some time packing (I repeat: my version of hell, no thanks). So I took some time to explore the streets of London on my own. I started by taking the Underground to Elephant & Castle, just to see what I could find in such a strangely named place. I was slightly disappointed that I found neither elephants nor castles, but the day was not a waste: I ended up wandering until I got to the Thames, then I saw a number of interesting characters and sights on the South Bank. I saw graffiti art that inspired me to action as well as a man dressed as a cat–basically, things you don’t see every day! It ended up being one of my favorite days in London because I got a deeper look into just how much character the city has.  It was at this time that I realized how much I had grown to love London and how at-home I felt there.

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An (Almost) All-Nighter in London

As our time in London came to an end, we all experienced mixed feelings. Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I for one was excited to be visiting new places (mainly Scotland) but also sad to be leaving London, which had really become like home for me. So we decided to make the most of our last night in London by enjoying each other’s presence. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s only going to get cheesier, so you might as well get used to it. We gathered in one of the girls’ flats and undoubtedly pigged out on food (probably chocolate, as was tradition) before playing a game of truth or dare, which actually just turned out to be a game of truth: basically, it was an excuse to get to know each other on a deeper level than we already had. We then each took turns saying what we liked about everyone else in the group. By the time we were done with these heartfelt shenanigans, it was somewhere around two in the morning, so Jacob and I went back to our flat. This would have probably been an ideal time to sleep, but instead Jacob and I spent almost three more hours talking. By the time we finally called it a night, it was almost 5:00 A.M. And we had to wake up early to catch a train to York. Needless to say, we were exhausted over the next few days. But it was worth it!

Europe–Chapter 1: The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side (of the Ocean)

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The first stop of my summer study abroad trip was Ireland, home of the fifty shades of green (not to be confused with the trashy novels, Fifty Shades of Grey). Prior to my trip, I had heard many rumors about the Land of Ire, some of which included:

  1. It rains constantly, but it’s a different kind of rain–a magical mist of sorts that covers the Irish grounds and really makes the green countryside sparkle.
  2. Ireland is just swarming with gingers.

Only neither of those rumors turned out to be true–at least, not during my trip. I suppose it really does rain a lot in Ireland, as was evident in the blinding green scenery that stretched as far as the eye could see. But it certainly didn’t rain much while was there. No complaints, though… too much rain depresses me.

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Also, I do not remember seeing an overwhelming amount of gingers. Then again, I’m not very observant. For all I know, could be a ginger and I just haven’t noticed!

The point of all this is that you often have preconceived notions of a place, but once you travel there, you find that the place is completely different from what you imagined. The same can be said, I suppose, of people… we develop these snap judgments of people, only to have those judgments proven completely wrong after taking the effort to actually get to know a person.

Ireland, as well as the United Kingdom, was nothing like I imagined… it was much better! My brain did not do it justice! Though I would not say Ireland was my favorite stop of the trip, it definitely was a great first stop. It was a pleasant introduction to Europe.

The people I was traveling with ended up being a pleasant surprise as well. Throw a group of college-aged strangers into Ireland, and what do you get? A little awkwardness at first, sure. But I was surprised how quickly I became comfortable with some of the other students in my group. And we might not have been good friends yet by the time we left Ireland, but we were definitely on our way.

"Are we friends yet...?"

“Are we friends yet…?”

In Ireland, we saw miles of green pasture that provided a home for more sheep than you could count.

This sheep was clearly posing for a picture.

This sheep was clearly posing for a picture.

We visited cliffs with breathtaking views of the ocean.

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We met the Three Sisters, a triad of mountain peeks that supposedly represents three women of different ages.

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Can you find the Three Sisters in this picture?

We saw castles and abbey ruins.

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Some of us kissed the Blarney Stone and gained the gift of gab!

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And for crying out loud, we stopped in a seaside town named Dingle! The town name kind of speaks for itself.

Dingle!

Dingle!

Of course, a trip to Ireland would not have been complete without going to a pub. Since none of us drank alcohol, we did cheers with glasses of water. And pub food was definitely something to write home about (and I think I did a couple of times). Speaking of pub food, I had the opportunity in Ireland to try something new… black and white pudding. If you don’t know what’s in black and white pudding, you probably don’t want to know. I actually didn’t mind the white pudding. I would not, however, recommend the black pudding. I’m not being racist or anything; it’s just a matter of personal taste.

A traditional Irish breakfast... complete with black and white pudding!

A traditional Irish breakfast… complete with black and white pudding!

Our last stop in Ireland was the great city of Dublin. Here I slept on the top of a bunk bed… nothing unusual, only in our particular hostel I happened to be sleeping on a bed that had no rail and was right next to a large window. If I had rolled a bit too far to my left, I surely would have plummeted to my death! Oh well… what’s life without a little risk, right?

The hostel window of death in Dublin.

The hostel window of death in Dublin.

I also found out here that it is often when you wander aimlessly while traveling abroad (or even stateside for that matter) that you make some of the coolest discoveries. (This would later prove valuable in enhancing my London experience). Here’s a photo of something we ran across while trying to find our hostel:

What the giant-hand statue?!

What the giant-hand statue?!

All in all, Ireland was a great experience. Looking back, it’s almost a shame that this had to be the place where we overcame our jet lag and dealt with the awkwardness of not really knowing each other. Perhaps under different circumstances I could have enjoyed Ireland even more. On the other hand, we had to start somewhere.

And I can’t think of a better place to start a six-week European adventure than in Ireland!

Next stop: Wales!