10 Things I Learned from Starting a Blog and Writing 100 Blog Posts

Eat some cake! It’s time to celebrate!

Wow! We have come a long way haven’t we? Although I wanted to 100 things I learned from starting my blog- trust me that could easily be done- I decided to spare everyone the lengthy reading and narrowed it down to my most significant 10 learning points from this experience. Starting my blog was undoubtably one of the highlights of 2020 for me and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to share it with you all. I thought that this milestone was something to celebrate and I cannot wait for the next 100 articles. But for now, here is what I have learned.


1. The importance of starting and committing 

I had the idea of starting a blog for a while, yet it was a professional mentor of mine who encouraged me to create an online profile for prospective employers to look at. Yes, that is the reason that my blog has a resume and I decided that, even though I have a job now, it still might be interesting for people to know a little bit about my journey. In such a tough job market, I was motivated to do anything that would help me stand out as an applicant and widen my reach to employers. I created not one, but two websites in the process and posted a few articles about my life experiences and professional takeaways. Little did I know that I would become so incredibly passionate about writing and sharing that we would still be here 7 months later! And employed! The reality is, however, I could have kept thinking about starting a blog, had it not been for one night that I took the leap to purchase a domain, roll up my sleeves, and start building the site. There is something incredibly important in committing to an idea and starting, no matter how much you think you know. If the interest is there, just go for it. You have nothing to lose and so much invaluable knowledge to gain. 

2. Learning to continue regardless of readership or engagement 

Cora_II-removebg-previewWhen I started the blog, just having one reader meant so much to me, I would think to myself  “I can’t believe people are invested and engage in what I write!” It felt incredible. However, as time progresses, you naturally expect to see an increase in engagement, readers, followers, subscribers- whatever it may be. You begin to expect more, which can be crushing at times, especially when you have spent 5 hours on an article that you can read in 5 minutes, read by only 5 people. In summation, the process can become increasingly discouraging if you don’t see any progress. This taught me a couple of things. Firstly, to celebrate the little wins and sharing those milestones with others so that they can celebrate with you. I love to post on my Instagram about the interesting places that my readers are reading from- the best by far has been the Seychelles- or how many email subscribers the blog has reached. If you take the time to be grateful for every achievement- like this one!- it will make the process much more enjoyable and encouraging. Another takeaway for me was to reflect on why I was blogging in the first place. Although it started out with professional motives, it has become personally motivated, as I have come to learn how much I have a passion for writing, interviewing, sharing, making collages, and learning. If I remember that I am continuing on with my blog because of how much I love it, I am reminded that I do this for me, first and foremost, not for other’s approval or interest. If someone feels motivated or inspired by my writing, that is the cherry on top. 

3. A plethora of new skills

Ok, when I said you would learn a lot by trying something new, I wasn’t kidding. Here are a few skills that I have honed or learned for the first time in creating my baby- I mean blog. 

  1. Google Analytics and Google Search EnginePeony_52-removebg-preview
  2. Writing with style and voice 
  3. Social media marketing 
  4. Creating a newsletter
  5. Networking
  6. Researching the best website hosts and softwares
  7. Photo editing
  8. Branding
  9. Web design
  10. Phone interviewing
  11. Proofreading and grammar
  12. WordPress software
  13. Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  14. Collaborating with companies to form partnerships
  15. Creating formal deck presentations
  16. Succinct interview note-taking
  17. Crafting my personal elevator pitch 
  18. Coding 
  19. I am sure that I am missing a few here…

4. Human connection is central to my life

Without sounding too dramatic here, this blog has really saved my life. In late July, when I first started the blog, I was completely burnt out. I had spent everyday for two months applying for jobs and having networking calls. I was still mourning the loss of the last two months of my senior year and not being able to graduate on stage with my classmates. Most of all, I missed my friends and my professors. I missed my social job at the library, interacting with friends, acquaintances, and strangers everyday. I felt as though I had no purpose and no one to share my life with anymore. This blog changed that. I was able to motivate myself everyday to work on something that I could call my own and take ownership of. And, most importantly, I was able to interact with people again, from every walk of my life. On my blog, I have had the chance to feature friends that I have only just met, never even in person, to friends from my middle school and everyone in between. Whether it be phone interviews, through social media, or chatting online, it was such a pleasure to connect again in so many different ways. Sharing that on this platform has made it all the better.  

5. Discovering my personal brand and written voice

Starting the blog has allowed me to really reflect on who I see myself as and facilitated a lot of self-discovery. I began to ask myself a lot of questions like “what content would I find interesting? What interests me? What do I like to read about? What is my personal brand? How would I like to appear to others online?” I also began to think about my written voice and who I identified as, as a writer. This process is continually evolving, yet really made me consider, in every decision, how I am able to put my best foot forward and who I want to be.  

6. Pushing my boundaries of productivity, organization, curiosity, and creativity every day

Peony_47-removebg-previewWriting a blog post 3+ times a week has forced me to be incredibly organized in how I approach scheduling and writing my articles. This has led me to consider what days people engage with my posts the most, what my readers enjoy reading, and how I can consistently push the envelope in terms of content, whether it be in the writing style, photos, videos, music, and gifs that I incorporate into my articles. I am forced to constantly look for inspiration in everything and everyone that I meet. Every time that I begin to doubt my ability to come up with creative ideas for content, I look back on all of my articles and feel compelled to push forward no matter what. My friends have also been a support in helping to collaborate with me on articles to diversify the voices on the blog. I am forever grateful for everyone who has contributed in a big and small way!

7. Learning content strategy

In starting my blog, I learned how to constantly iterate and improve both my content, strategy, and processes. Here are some insights about my blog that I have gathered so far:

  1. Utilizing Google Analytics, Google Search Engine, and internal WordPress analytics, has helped me to decide what external platforms gain the most traffic to my site. Believe it or not, the majority of my readers come from LinkedIn! 
  2. Learning about search engine optimization has been incredibly beneficial to me. Over the past two months I have averaged 12% of my website views as coming from search engines. This month I am on track for even more web clicks!
  3. Looking at trends on when to post. Looks like Monday at 10:00 am is the most popular time for readers on my blog. 
  4. Looking at trends as to what content performs better than others, which, for my blog, tends to be business, entrepreneurship, and fashion related content. 
  5. I have also evaluated what social media posts work better than others. Trust me, photos of people always perform the best!

8. Learning should be a joy versus a task

Screen_Shot_2021-01-21_at_9.20.31_PM-removebg-previewIf you really love something, you are going to want to learn more about it and dive deeply into how to constantly improve and evolve. I find that this was a good learning experience that will help me for the future. If something feels like a chore, then it’s probably not a passion or intense interest. If you are someone who is looking to find a passion of your own, this is a good litmus test. 

9. Better understanding current and future industry landscapes 

Starting my blog and writing interesting content has forced me to be engaged in current trends, culture, news, and events. It has encouraged me to read more news, discover more insights, and speak with people that are industry experts to understand where the future is headed. Articles that have allowed me to take a deep dive into learning more about the complexity of our world have been some of my favorites, including this article on TikTok fame, this post about the future of modern luxury retail, and this piece on cryptocurrency banking. The world is a playground, so make sure to use the monkey bars!

10. I am capable of literally making something out of nothing

When the going gets tough, I just get tougher. I am able to create something of value out of the resources around me and that is pretty special. Just making lemonade out of lemons over here baby! Now you get out there too. 

 

What Learning to Code Taught Me

It’s not as easy as ABC or 123, but maybe 1010…

A few months ago, I had a phone call with a recruiter. It had taken me weeks to set this call up. It all began with a networking call, then an email reference to internal HR, then finally to the recruiter for the job that I was interested in. The job was as an Operations Analyst at a popular fashion retailer and I could not have been more excited. Despite my sticky palms, I hopped on the recruiting call, ready to discuss why I was most qualified for the position. After running through my resume with the recruiter, she mentioned that she was impressed with both my enthusiasm and experiences just coming out of college, however, the position required a working knowledge of SQL. At the time, I only had experience with R code, a coding language that I learned in my Quantitative Business Analytics courses. She said that this would not normally be a considerable problem, however there is a mandatory SQL test during the recruitment process that I would not be able to finish if I did not understand SQL. After thanking her for the call, I remember sitting in my room completely frustrated. I had just lost an incredible opportunity due to the fact that I did not have one simple skill. It was then and there that I knew I had to roll up my sleeves and take a crack at it. Challenge accepted.

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In simple terms, a coder is someone who writes specific instructions or a “program” for a computer to understand and process the submitted request in the form of a completed task. Different coding languages are used for different purposes and require a specific language for writing “instructions”. SQL is a particularly helpful language for managing data in a relational database management system, making it useful for data analytics roles. 

If you are a beginner, like myself, I recommend using Codecademy to get your feet wet! Codecademy is free to sign up and offers various different courses to learn coding languages, such as SQL, Python, R, and Java. After signing up for my SQL course on Codecademy, I decided to dive right into the first session. Each session is composed of a few parts, the main ones being lessons, informational articles, projects, and quizzes. I especially appreciated the variety in material the courses offer, which helps coders learn the language more than memorize it. I also really enjoyed the challenging projects within each session that tests your coding skills in a useful and practical manner. 

After earning my “Learn SQL” course with Codecademy this past November, I had a few takeaways that I thought were worth sharing. My first takeaway is that, although the phrase “learning to code” and other tech terminology may seem intimidating, coding can be learned by anyone no matter what skill level. If your ambition is there, there is no stopping what you can learn, especially given the incredible online resources at your disposal. If you put your mind to something you can just about teach yourself anything. Simply put, learning to code is just like learning a new language. It seems intimidating from the start, but the magic is in when you find out it really isn’t too complicated. You are just not versed in the conversation yet!

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Another noteworthy takeaway is that coding allows you to think in ways you never approached problems before. When you are in the process of learning to code, you are pushed to ask yourself difficult questions that may be frustrating in the beginning. Coding forces you to dive deeply into the “why” questions, which you must answer in order to write efficient and useful code. Learning to code orients your mind into breaking down complex issues into bit size pieces that you must understand in order to accomplish your goal. A life lesson almost more than a coding one. 

Lastly, learning to code helps you become more detail oriented in your thinking. When writing code, you must go through a step by step process of explaining to the computer what to do. But, once you get the basics down, it is just learning what more functions and short cuts are at your disposal. It is incredible learning about the possibilities of coding, organizing data, and the capabilities of modern technology. You just have to try it for yourself!

The future is only going to become more and more technologically integrated, making it worth understanding the fundamentals to fully appreciate the world’s sheer complexity. It is only when we uncover the basics that we begin to understand how far we have developed as a people, society, and world. Thank you internet. 

My Favorite Holiday Recipes

The food they serve in heaven.

Let’s face it, there is a special place in heaven for holiday foods. Cookies, cakes, filet mignon, creamy mashed potatoes, a cheese plate… you get the idea. Every year, I look forward to the food that fills our holiday plates- it only comes once a year! Here, I have provided the recipes to some of my favorite foods to make during the season so that you can recreate some of them in your own home. Maybe, some of these recipes will make it into your holiday rotation. If they do, make sure to send me a photo!

1. Bûche de Noël Recipe (Yule Log Cake)

Courtesy of Mon Petit Four

This Yule Log cake is one that I make every year. The cake is light, fluffy, and the perfect canvas for decorating and making festive. I like to cut up marshmallows and add them as “mushrooms” as well as adorn the cake with bay leaves, which look like tree leaves. The possibilities for this cute creation are endless!

2. Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Courtesy of Handmade Charlotte

These cookies are a cross between a vanilla sugar cookie and a brownie all wrapped up in one. Soft and chewy, with a little crunch, this chocolate sugar cookie recipe is a holiday go-to! The rolled sugar on the outside also adds a beautiful sparkle, making it a beautiful addition to any dessert table. 

3. Roladen 

Courtesy of Lecker 

A German staple during the holidays, Roladen is a great recipe to add some variety to your dinner rotation. This meat dish is packed with flavor and definitely an indulgent meal to impress any guest. My family likes to pair our Roladen with potato pancakes, and red cabbage… did I mention I was German. 

4. Russian Tea Cookies

A Dedekind Family Recipe

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This family recipe is one that we make every year that never fails to surprise and delight. These nutty cookies are the perfect side to any cup of tea or hot chocolate. It’s hard to mess these cookies up! So, even if you would not consider baking your strong suit, give these a try- they are basically fool proof!

5. Scalloped Potatoes

Courtesy of Chocolate Moosey

If you are concerned about calories, maybe skip on this dish. If you are up for a decadent holiday treat, you have to make this dish. Packed with cream, cheese, and all the good stuff, if you are looking for a yummy side dish, you have got to try this delicious scalloped potato recipe. 

6. Pancakes 

Courtesy of Like Mother Like Daughter

Whether it is the holidays or not, this pancake recipe is a go-to. If you think you have a fluffy and tasty pancake recipe, I would try this one anyways- I bet you it will give yours a run for its money. Add chocolate chips, blueberries, bananas, or anything you’d like, but make sure to pour over some maple syrup for a guaranteed yummy brunch.  

7. Chocolate cake

Courtesy of Add a Pinch

If you are unsure of what holiday dessert will be a crowd pleaser, it is never a bad idea to go with a chocolate cake. This cake I make for birthdays, holidays, and “just cause it’s Monday” and it never fails to delight. The chocolate flavoring really comes out strongly, given the added espresso, and the coordinating icing recipe makes for a match made in heaven! 

3 Friends Picking their Top Gifts Under $100 (Part II)

Because… everyone needs a bit of gift inspo.

There are many joys during the holidays, one of the biggest joys for me is gift giving. I think one of the reasons that I am so passionate about giving gifts is hunting for that personal item, one that couldn’t be mistaken as being a gift for someone else. Anyone can pick out a pair of socks or a black turtleneck for someone and pass if off as making an effort, but those are items that everyone can benefit from. My happiness rests in finding those niche items, whether it be a candle with a signature scent, a set of chocolate truffles in their favorite flavor, or a cozy knitted blanket. It’s the small things in life that bring joy. That I am sure of.

Pamela Mukiza

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The Gift 

Dieux Forever Eye Mask, $25

These eye masks are reusable and affordable. They hold gels, serums and creams close to the skin for maximum absorption. You can also store them in the freezer for a cooling affect!

Kenny Sullivan

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The Gift 

Smartphone UV Sanitizer, $79.95

So I got this for every member of my family this year — I’m talking every one of them. I read an article that phones carry such horrible germs that to top 2020 off, I need to make sure my third hand (my phone) is not going to kill me. I put my phone in this bad boy every night and comes out nice and clean — even smells like all the cells have been slaughtered in my sleep. The best part – it keeps me off my phone when im in bed! So I’m
Sleeping better. Who knew?!

Jahnvi Garg

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The Gift 

Alleyoop Beauty Starter Kit $68 or Must-Haves Set $66

It’s like giving someone fool-proof makeup and convenience wrapped in a Christmas present! The sets are customizable, and the products are so multipurpose- the makeup brush actually has 4 different tips just in one brush. The product design is also really well done, and looks super cute! For a world filled with last minute zoom calls, it’s the perfect gift to give 💫✨


Stay tuned for next week for more friends and more gifts!

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3 Friends Picking their Top Gifts Under $100 (Part I)

Because… everyone needs a bit of gift inspo.

What can I say, I love my friends! So, I brought them back on board for a mini series on the gifts that they love all for under $100! Giving gifts to my friends is always the best. Seeing that huge smile on their face when they finally unwrap that picture frame with the two of us in it or the cookbook with their favorite recipes just gives me the warm and fuzzies inside. There are not many moments in a friendship that you get to express how much that person means to you. Gift giving is one of those moments, however, where you can take the time to say “I was listening” or “I know you” in a unique way. With that being said, some people need some inspiration to find the perfect gift, which is where I have outsourced some help. Here are a few ideas…


Yara El Madalla 

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The Gift

I think the smell is amazing, and it’s definitely a scent for both males and females. I believe it’s a classy and nice gift and it’s perfect for anyone, when you’re out of gifting ideas!

Ivana Mesaric

The Gift 

Whipped Pistachio Body Butter – a.k.a The Boyfriend Body Butter, $28

This body butter is absolutely divine. It smells like an incredible nutty, and sweet pistachio biscotti, and lasts for hours. It’s rich and creamy formula, lathers into your skin, and is my go to body butter to rub on after a nice steamy shower. Pistache skincare is based in California, and its formula is non-GMO, paraben and sulphate free, has no artificial color or fragrance, and its packaging is printed with 100% wind energy.

Kevin Teeter

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The Gift

Nuwave Air Fryer, $80

When it comes to giving gifts, you can never go wrong with a Consumer Reports top rated item, like this kitchen air fryer. Air frying is all the new craze this season, so if you have to buy a gift for a foodie, this might be the ticket. Also, contrary to popular belief, you can do more than just make french fries in it, it’s so versatile you can air fry practically anything!


Stay tuned for next week for more friends and more gifts!

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Sharing My Top 9 Beauty Items (Part X of the Series)

👋 The last beauty items of the series.

Friends, the time has come at last to reveal to you my nine beauty favorites! Every product that is listed is linked to a friend, the inspiration behind this series to begin with! Without my tried and true friends, I would have never found my tried and true favorite beauty products. For that- and so much more- I am forever grateful. Public Service Announcement: reach out to a friend, call a long time buddy, Facetime with a cousin, send a letter to your grandma, give an air-hug to your loved one. When the make up remover comes out and it’s just us revealed to the world, it’s our true friends that see us for who we are and love us, not in spite of our imperfections, but because of them. (So, air hug!)


#1 Favorite Beauty Product

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Gloss Bomb in Fu$$y by Fenty Beauty

How often you use it

Whenever I put on make up for a night out. 

What you like about the product

Where do I even begin! This lipgloss is light, moisturizing, and shimmery- really a trifecta. This product also smells and- dare I say- tastes amazing. It comes in a range of shades, my favorite being Fu$$y, and lasts all night long. 10/10 on this one. 

How you found it

My friend Ola’s recommendation!

#2 Favorite Beauty Product

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Stretch Concealer in G8 by Glossier

How often you use it

Every time I put on make up. 

What you like about the product

The consistency of this product is what makes it for me. The product is creamy, which is ideal for application with your fingers. The difference between my under eyes with this product versus without is night and day, the coverage being pretty remarkable. I also like to use the concealer on my trouble areas, covering up any spots to make my skin matte before I go in and apply powder. 

How you found it

After going into the Glossier store in Soho with my friend Sabrina for the first time; I bought everything in the store.

#3 Favorite Beauty Product

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Clear Brow Gel by Anastasia Beverly Hills

How often you use it

Every time I put on make up. 

What you like about the product

I really like the fact that the applicator brush is as big as a mascara brush and that there is a fair amount of gel in the tube, which means it lasts forever. The gel also doesn’t make my eyebrows super stiff, making for a more natural, yet stylized look. 

How you found it

Recommended by the Sephora queen Alana 

#4 Favorite Beauty Product

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Gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara by Tarte

How often you use it

Every time I wear make up. 

What you like about the product

I love the fact that this mascara is not super clumpy, but also still adds volume. The mascara also comes off easily, doesn’t flake, and doesn’t hurt your lashes. Those babies need special care!

How you found it

Jahnvi’s recommendation

#5 Favorite Beauty Product

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Limited Edition Love, Trust, and Fairy Dust Palette by Tarte

How often you use it

On a night out

What you like about the product

I love the mix of shimmery and matte eyeshadows that this palette offers as well as the product’s range of colors. I especially like Flitter, the metallic light pink, which pairs really nicely with Twinkle, the metallic gold if you are going for a complete shimmery look. 

How you found it

A Jahnvi special again

#6 Favorite Beauty Product

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Vitamin E Moisturizer by Malin + Goetz 

How often you use it

Every day 

What you like about the product

I love that this product has a very light, fresh scent that doesn’t linger all day on your face. I also like the fact that the product isn’t very oily and absorbs super well right into the skin, almost leaving a dewy feeling. 

How you found it

My brother, the moisturizer king!

#7 Favorite Beauty Product

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Rose Water Facial Toner by Trader Joes

How often you use it

In the morning, every day right when I wake up. 

What you like about the product

The subtle rose scent is really beautiful and lingers for a little while after it is sprayed. The toner is also light and refreshing, helping to tighten your pores thanks to the witch hazel. The best part? It’s only $3.99. 

How you found it

A stocking stuffer from my best friend… my mommy.

#8 Favorite Beauty Product

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3D Hydra Clear Gloss by Kiko Milano

How often you use it

Whenever I am dressing up for a more formal outing. 

What you like about the product

This gloss really packs a punch in the glossy department, delivering on the shine it promises. What I love about the clear is that it can amplify any lipstick by being applied overtop, but it is also great on its own to highlight your natural lip color. 

How you found it

Jahnvi my beauty plug

#9 Favorite Beauty Product

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Lidstar Liquid Eyeshadow in Cub and Lily by Glossier

How often you use it

Whenever I am looking for a really concentrated eyeshadow look. 

What you like about the product

I really like the application of this product, for someone who isn’t very proficient with make up, this one is fool proof. I also really love the colors that Lidstar comes in, Cub and Lily being my favorites because they compliment my skin tone and light features the best. If you are looking for your eyes to really pop, this product might be for you.

How you found it

Walking into the Glossier store and buying up the store with Ola.


Hope you enjoyed learning about my favorite beauty products as well as my friends’. Stay tuned for more fun series in the future!

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A Semester at Sea with Justin Williamson

Have you ever thought that a semester at sea was right for you? Read all about Justin’s experience to find out!

Although studying abroad is not at the front of any student’s mind right now, it really should be! Planning your academic career around your study abroad experience is critical in making sure you graduate on time and taking the classes you need to. My good friend Justin is one of those people who definitely benefitted from looking ahead, packing in two semesters abroad during his time in college. One of them was Babson’s BRIC program, which I also participated in, and the other was the Semester at Sea program. Justin notes that his semester at sea was a unique and unforgettable experience that he hopes others will consider too. If you think you might be interested or want to know what the program is all about, this will be worth the read!


 

Justin grew up in Los Angeles, California and was heavily involved in the local Jewish community, which he credits to instilling in him a curiosity about the world and teaching him how to ask questions. Justin brought his passion for learning to Babson, where he attended business school. In high school, Justin focused on associating with a close circle of friends, however, at Babson things changed dramatically. Justin realized the value of forming relationships with people distinctly different from himself. Babson College is ranked by Forbes as the number one college for international students and is home to an international student population that makes up 26% of the undergraduate student body, making it the perfect place to meet people from across the globe. When Justin formed friendships with those from different backgrounds, his perspective on life and the world around him grew exponentially. 

Like myself, Justin went on Babson’s BRIC Program his junior year, which only expanded his mind further, as he lived and traveled to Russia, India, and China over the course of three months. Despite having lived in Israel for a summer and having traveled extensively with his family, Justin found that his experience on BRIC was different. On BRIC he was able to learn more in-depth about the cultures that surrounded him through embedded excursions and personal exploration. To him, the classroom was coming alive. From this experience, Justin knew that he wanted to continue to learn while he traveled. He valued the experience of learning about a topic and then going to experience it for himself, which inspired him to apply and participate in the Semester At Sea study abroad program his first semester senior year. Semester At Sea is a study abroad experience where a cohort of students from across the globe study and travel on a ship over the course of one semester. With some extra advanced placement credits from high school, Justin was able to squeeze this extra semester of study abroad into his college curriculum- and it was well worth it. 

While on Semester At Sea, Justin visited the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Morocco, Ghana, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, and Costa Rica over the course of his semester. Although this might seem intimidating to many, Justin had no apprehensions about this next adventure and was excited to see what this new opportunity had in store for him. When reflecting on his experience, however, Justin highlighted the importance of taking the time to process all of the incredible experiences that he had during his travels. “You are having so many unique experiences that are so different from one another, if you don’t take the time to deconstruct what you did, you miss the opportunity to learn and grow” Justin mentions as a take away. “When on Semester At Sea, you have to take the time yourself to turn experiences into learning experiences” and, as a result, Justin kept a journal to document every day spent on and off the ship. 

Justin’s notes that his favorite part of this unique study abroad experience was living on the ship. Surrounded by water for days at a time and with no distractions, Justin highlights that you are able to forge deep and meaningful relationships with the people around you, whether it be with peers or professors. Through this, Justin was able to create strong friendships and global understandings.

A typical day at sea for Justin consisted of waking up, having breakfast, taking classes, eating lunch, and then attending more classes. In the evening, Justin had time to complete his assignments and hang out with friends before having dinner and then attending a speaker series that Semester At Sea sponsored nightly. The speaker’s topic ranged based on the upcoming country that the ship would be docking at. For example, Justin notes attending a talk on the history of the Panama Canal shortly before the ship traveled down the canal itself. On land, when the ship had docked, students took part in a field experience based on what they learned in the classroom. When they were not having a field experience, students were free to roam about the country and explore for themselves. Justin notes his trip to Ecuador being one of his favorites, as he stayed with his Semester At Sea friends at an Ecuadorian host family’s house, living like a true local. 

Overall, Justin’s Semester At Sea experience helped him to understand that people from other cultures have a distinct way of viewing the world and there is a reason for that, being in the way that they live, their political system, their culture- you name it. In experiencing the people and their respective country first hand, Justin was allowed to relate and connect with people in a new way. “The experience as a whole has made me want to experience the globe even more, making me eager to travel and work with people who are from different countries. There is no doubt that you grow more when you are around people different other than yourself” Justin says. 

What is some advice Justin would give to someone who is also interested in Semester At Sea?

Justin suggests that you ask yourself: are you willing to embrace the unknown? And what is your tolerance for uncertainty? There is so much out of a Semester At Sea student’s control that you have to be open minded and willing to challenge your perceptions and beliefs. Justin also mentions that if you prioritize experiential learning, Semester At Sea might be perfect for you. What Justin learned in terms of life skills and experience during this semester abroad is more than he could have ever achieved in the classroom. The most impactful statement Justin made during our conversation was the fact that “Semester At Sea is so unique because, despite such uncertainty and discomfort that can come with travel, you are able to take that step out of your comfort zone because you know you are only a few days away from returning to comfort back on the ship. That is what helps students learn and grow in ways they would have never imagined.” If you ask me, that is a deep dive worth taking. 

 

3 Friends Picking their Top 3 Beauty Items Part IX

The 3 beauty products 3 of my friends swear by.

Friends, friends, friends, the time has come at last to say goodbye! 27 friends and 27 products later, here we are! This will be the last traditional post of the series, which only leaves next week when, I- your friend- share 9 of my favorite products with you! Thank you so much for coming along for the ride. I hope you took away some new beauty recommendations, cracked a smile ever Friday morning, and remembered how important your friends are. Without our friends and the ones we love, what fun would this world be? Who would we share make up tips with, who would help us choose eye shadow colors, and who would lend us a make up wipe at the end of the night? Lipstick doesn’t last forever, but with enough care, time, and attention friends can.

Srishti Soni

@srishtisoni

#1 Favorite Beauty Product

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Les beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Colour Blush Stick in N°24 by Chanel

How often you use it

Everyday- the only makeup I use

What you like about the product

It looks super natural and is perfect for everyday use. Bonus it smells great!

How you found it

At the Heathrow Airport. As someone who doesn’t use / like a full face of makeup, Im always looking for a product that looks and feels natural but put together. Im also very lazy when it comes to makeup so this is perfect and I just apply by hand. 

#2 Favorite Beauty Product and company that sells it 

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Skin perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant by Paula’s Choice

How often you use it

Twice a week

What you like about the product

Skincare is very important to me as I rarely use makeup and exfoliating is the key to having bright, fresh and clear skin. I used to use scrubs in the past which are really rough and therefore bad for your skin. Chemical exfoliants on the other hand are amazing at getting rid of dead skin and debris making my skin look clear and smooth.

How you found it

I’ve been binging skincare TikTok and came across this product a few months ago. Game changer!

#3 Favorite Beauty Product and company that sells it

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Lip Butter Balm by Summer Fridays

How often you use it

Everyday and Night

What you like about the product

Again with the no makeup look, this is a great product that doesnt make you look too dressed up but adds a glossy shine to your lips. I used to be obsessed with lip gloss growing up and Im very much going back to that look. Not to mention it keeps your lips hydrated and smells delicious.

How you found it

Browsing through Sephora


Grace Tao

@gtaotao

#1 Favorite Beauty Product

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Double Eyelid Tape by Daiso

How often you use it

Everyday

What you like about the product

I have natural double eyelids, however, I like to have it look more apparent without the surgery so I use double eyelid tape everyday. This is absolutely my number one favorite beauty product because I swear by it everyday!

How you found it

Amazon

#2 Favorite Beauty Product

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Tarte Tartelette in Bloom Clay EyeShadow Palette by Tarte Cosmetics

How often you use it

Every time I put on makeup

What you like about the product

I love the neutral/pinkish color tones. This is the only eye shadow palette I use, and I’ve already used up and repurchased 3.

How you found it

My cousin recommended to me

#3 Favorite Beauty Product

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Anessa Shiseido Sunscreen by Shiseido

How often you use it

Everyday

What you like about the product

It is a lightweight sunscreen that is SPF 50+ PA++++.  Sunscreen is an essential part of my beauty routine, and this is by far my favorite sunscreen. I can layer primer and foundation on top of it and still have a nice finish. It does its job and doesn’t make my face cakey!

How you found it

I first discovered it when I travelled to Japan, and loved it ever since.    


Bianca Phillips

@biancaavictoria

#1 Favorite Beauty Product

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Super Shock Highlighter in Flexitarian by Colourpop

How often you use it

Whenever i want a fresh, highlighted look (you only need a tiny bit) or when I am going out with full makeup

What you like about the product

It is the absolute BRIGHTEST and SPARKLIEST highlighter I’ve ever tried AND it’s only $8. It is a great dupe for the Becca highlighters but better and cheaper!

How you found it

Youtube    

#2 Favorite Beauty Product

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Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution by The Ordinary 

How often you use it

1-2x a week, at night

What you like about the product

It’s only $7 and it does a great job of cleaning your skin at the end of the day without stripping the skin of its natural oils. 

How you found it

TikTok

#3 Favorite Beauty Product

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Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

How often you use it

Once a day, in the morning

What you like about the product: it does SUCH an amazing job of brightening your skin, smoothing out the texture, and preventing fine lines. Its ingredients are all natural, and also the packaging is adorable.

How you found it

My older sister 🙂


Stay tuned for next week where I share nine of my favorites!

Advice on a Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul during Quarantine with Christine Porr (Part III)

Self-care is important, which is why Christine and I have brought you our favorite ways to navigate the challenges of quarantine.

Time sure flies when you are having fun! We have finally come to the last post of Christine and my series on wholistic health during quarantine. It has been such a joy to share some of the things that we are doing to make this time more manageable and constructive. Christine is a wealth of knowledge and I am so happy to have collaborated with her on these posts- trust me I have learned more in these few posts than I have all of quarantine. This week, we talk about one of the most important aspects of our being: our spirit. Whether you are a religious person, spiritual person, or you are just going along for the ride, there is something nestled in this post just for you. 🙏

Spirit

Christine

  1. Find a quiet uninterrupted place, and set aside time each morning, noon, or evening to read the Bible and pray. I know I’ve had times when I’ve struggled with loneliness during this period, but it helps me to remember that I can find fellowship with God, anytime, anywhere.
  2. Identify an accountability partner to do a Bible Study with you. I recently did Breaking Free by Beth Moore with one of my friends. We each completed the daily studies on our own and then texted each other screenshots of the parts that challenged us most or just our general reflections on the content.
  3. Stay consistent with attending church, even if it’s virtual. Pour your morning cup of coffee, sit down, and prioritize this period of worship, as you would in person. If your church offers virtual connect hours and/or small groups, I would highly recommend attending these as well. Each Sunday morning, I tune into my church’s virtual service and then join the Zoom “coffee hour.” It’s been such an encouraging time of meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and praying over our respective requests and praises.

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A few final thoughts. It’s okay not to be okay some days and to just cut yourself some slack. The world and our personal worlds are all in flux. Everyone is going through something. Don’t feel like you have to minimize your own experience because someone else “has it so much worse.” Take time for yourself and turn for support to family, friends, and most importantly God. He has the world in His hands and will always supply your daily bread, whether you anticipate it or not.

Ursula 

During this challenging time we are facing, getting in touch with our spirituality is super important, thanks for reminding us Christine! It is crucial for us to be able to clear our minds and find stillness, which can come through prayer, meditation, yoga, or some deep belly breathes. When we hold tight to things, it can only bring on more frustration and anxiousness. Sometimes it is best to just let go and see what happens. I have also found that talking it out with someone can really help bring light to the stresses I am facing. In doing so, I have felt that some of the things that I was so stressed about, were all made up in my head! I am no stranger to the fact that I often stand in my own way. It is important to find someone you can speak to and confide in to help with your mental well being. Trusted therapists, family members, and close friends are important people to have on standby that can help you to gain a new perspective, offer some helpful advice, and lend an ear. 

Calm and Headspace are two popular meditation apps that might be useful to you. Headspace’s Chief Music Officer is John Legend, so if that doesn’t spell success I don’t know what does!


My parting words? 

 
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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on in this post are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this post.  If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or the Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), both of which are staffed by certified crisis response professionals, or call 911.

3 Friends Picking their Top 3 Beauty Items Part VIII

The 3 beauty products 3 of my friends swear by.

Sometimes it is good to be reminded to stick to the basics. Some of the recommendations in this post are simple and straightforward, which I love. Drink water, wear sunscreen, and just moisturize for goodness sake! We can never have too many reminders to take care of our primary needs first and foremost. In this way, beauty is just like our friends. A quick “I am thinking of you” text and a handwritten letter go a long way. A few of my best memories with friends have been a lazy Sunday brunch, a friend stopping to chat with me at the library desk, where I used to work, or a good laugh over our daily catch up. Sometimes you just have to KISS- keep it simple silly- but make sure your lips are moisturized and glossy first!

Monia Mukiza

#1 Favorite Beauty Product

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My favorite cream at the moment is the Overnight Glow Dark Spot Sleeping Cream by Ren Skincare. You can find it in Sephora or Ulta.

How often you use it

I use it every other night. Night cream

What you like about the product

I have higher pigmentation and it works wonders for my dark marks

How you found it

An influencer whose opinion that i trust was raving about the product 

#2 Favorite Beauty Product and company that sells it

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#FauxFilter Foundation by Huda Beauty

How often you use it

This foundation is my go-to foundation. I use it whenever I wear make up

What you like about the product

I love the full coverage that it gives without having to use more than two pumps. My skin observes the foundation well. Giving you the no-makeup makeup look. 

How you found it

Consulted by a beauty expert 

#3 Favorite Beauty Product

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Universal Daily Peel by Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta®

How often you use it

I use it once a month

What you like about the product

Life saving! I use it once a month for hormonal breakout.

How you found it

Recommended to me by a friend


Tucker James

@tuckerjstyle

#1 Favorite Beauty Product

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My #1 favorite beauty product would have to be WATER, H2O… I know, not conventionally viewed as a “beauty product,” but honestly it’s the number one key ingredient to overall skin health. I try to drink around a gallon a day.

How often you use it

Everyday 

What you like about the product 

It’s refreshing AND it does way more than just help your skin glow-up, it also;

  • increases energy
  • helps fight bloating
  • helps digestion
  • improves joint health
  • improves eye health
  • Need I go on? The benefits are endless.

How you found it

Obviously I have always drank water, but I started challenging myself to drink a gallon a day about 3 years back when I got into working out, since then it’s been a ritual that I, my skin, my body and my brain love. I feel my best when I’m hydrated!

#2 Favorite Beauty Product

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Sunscreen for me it’s the Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion sunscreen SPF 50 by Neutrogena with broad spectrum UVA-UVB protection

How often you use it

Every time I go outside 

What you like about the product

It’s ACTUALLY non-greasy- a lot of products claim to be and you still end up slippery.

How you found it

My friend Vanessa actually shoved her half empty one into my travel bag as we were checking out of a hotel in Scottsdale Arizona right off the tail end of and inspiring weekend of hair & creativity at the second Aiir Gathering w/ @aiirprofessional which brings me to my next must have…

#3 Favorite Beauty Product

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Amethyst Hair & Energy Refresher by Aiir Professional

How often you use it

EVERY DAY, EVERY MOMENT, EVERY TIME IT’S WITHIN REACH

What you like about the product 

It’s a refreshing mist for the hair, skin and body, it’s infused with moonstone and amethyst for the good vibes. It also has a scent like heaven that is light as air and every bottle has a mantra on it, the one I have with me right now says “I am worthy of all that I desire.”

How you found it

I’m lucky enough to call the founder Jenny Strebe my dear friend, she has created an incredible line of crystal infused professional hair products, this product was her very first , the first batch she infused and made by hand, and I’ve been hooked since then…love at first sight.


Yujia Ma 

@yujiamaa

#1 Favorite Beauty Product

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UV Shield Broad-Spectrum SPF 45 by EltaMD

How often you use it

Use a dime size every morning after moisturizer, at least 20 minutes before sun exposure 

What you like about the product

It’s oil-free and super lightweight. It’s a mineral sunblock with transparent zinc oxide, which makes it safe to use after dermatologic procedures (I get microneedling every 3 months). It’s relatively affordable and can be applied to face and body. Its SPF 45 makes it adequate for daily sun exposure. 

How you found it

My dermatologist recommended it to me. In fact, eltaMD is the #1 dermatologist-recommended professional sunscreen brand. 

#2 Favorite Beauty Product

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Daily Moisturizing Lotion by CeraVe

How often you use it

Use one pump of the lotion after washing my face with lukewarm water, and after serum at night. 

What you like about the product

It is a wonderful lotion that moisturizes and helps restore the protective skin barrier. It’s oil-free, lightweight and easily absorbed without feeling greasy. It is developed with dermatologists and has an unique formula – 3 essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid – to help with the texture and smoothness of the skin. It is also fragrance free to avoid fragrance irritation, in other words, it is gentle on the skin. 

How you found it

A number of TikTok skincare gurus are huge fans of CeraVe and swear by all their products, so I decided to give the lotion a shot. It was extremely convenient to access – I believe most Targets carry CeraVe products. Ever since I started using it, my entire skincare routine was significantly transformed and simplified. I used to use more than five products on my face at night, but with the lotion, I am now only using the CeraVe face wash, Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair and the lotion. There hasn’t been a dramatic change on my skin, but my skin feels healthy and its condition is stable- I break out way less frequently now! 

#3 Favorite Beauty Product and company that sells it

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Backstage Glow Face Palette (001 Universal) by Dior 

How often you use it

When I do my makeup and after I apply finishing powder on my face – I apply the color “white” on the inner corners of my eyes, on my brow bone, on my nose bridge and on the tip of my nose (leaving a space in between to apply bronzer – that’s how I contour my nose); I apply the color “pink” on my cheekbones; and when I go out to say a club, I apply the color “bronze” under my cheekbones. 

What you like about the product

It’s gorgeously shimmery with the color white, gold, pink and bronze that will work on all skin tones. Pros: The shimmer makes your skin look shiny and healthy without making it look oily. The design is so beautiful that sometimes just by looking at the palette I feel content. White is suitable for daily uses, for example, on the inner corners of your eyes and other colors are perfect for when you go out at night – I sometimes use them as my eyeshadows. Cons: It can get messy. After an entire day of being outside and wearing makeup, I’d notice small glitters under my eyes that had fallen from the inner corners of my eyes. 

How you found it

At Sephora. I was attracted by its look right away and after swabbing it on the back of my hand and feeling how even the application was, I was immediately in love. It is on the pricey side but if you are looking for an effective highlight, I would still highly recommend (read the pros and cons before you buy)! 


Stay tuned for next week’s post where my friends Srishti Soni, Grace Tao, and Bianca Phillips share their three beauty favorites!