Holiday Gifts on a College Budget

The holidays are the time of the year where you want to give presents to your friends, family, pets, teachers, co-workers, and whoever else is special to you. But there may be one thing that’s  stopping you . . . money. Buying gifts for multiple people definitely adds up, so I created a list of presents for your college budget that is perfect for all of your loved ones.

Photo Book

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 Photo books are a great personal gift for someone special in your life. You can purchase an empty photobook and fill the book with pictures or you can create a photo book online (on websites such as Walgreens and Shutterfly). If you choose to purchase an empty photo book, here are some ideas. For a more personal touch, you can fill the majority of the photo slots and then leave some empty to save space for the memories to come. You can also add personal notes and/or captions along with the photos.You can print the photos at your local drugstore, online (such as a Shutterfly), or from your computer.

Cookie in a Jar

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For those who love baking, give the present of a cookie in a jar. Instead of baking cookies, layer all of the ingredients in a mason jar. After you put all of the ingredients of your desired cookie in the jar, add a recipe around the lid with a ribbon for the final touch.

Vintage Shop

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If you want to give clothing as a gift but you can’t afford retail prices, go to a vintage store. The great thing about vintage shopping is how unique all of the pieces are. Vintage shops are also a great place to look for funny gift exchanges such as a white elephant. The garment district is a great place to go vintage shopping.

Make a Card

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A simple and fun way to get into the holiday spirit is to create a card. Whether you hand make, purchase, or create the cards online, this gift is a fairly inexpensive way to give presents to many people. This year my suitemates and I have decided to give our friends a card and add candy. Depending on how much you want to spend per gift you can even add a gift card or anything else that will fit in the envelope.

Coupon Book

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This presentation is one of my personal favorites. One reason I love this gift is it doesn’t cost anything. Ok, I’ll admit, I have used this as a present because I didn’t want to pay for an actual gift for my mom. But in my defense, I did add coupons for a movie date and a spa day, so I knew I was going to have to pay for something eventually. Coupon books are especially great for parents and grandparents, but they are also great for friends too. I still have a full coupon book from a friend that I can’t wait to use.

“Open when..” Letters

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Open when letters are usually known to be for your significant other, but they can be written for anyone. This is especially a great gift if you live far away from a loved one. Some of the envelopes may be titled “Open when you miss me”, “Open when you need to laugh”, or  “Open when you’re sad.” Of course, those are just a few ideas and there are so many more. Ultimately it is completely up to you to determine what you would like to write the letters.

Planner with Fill-in-the-Blank Quotes

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I recently was just about this gift and I am obsessed with it. There is a planner with spots on each of the pages to personalize with your own quotes. If someone ever gave me this present I would automatically start tearing up because of how personal the present is. This is also a great gift to give right before the start of 2018. If you want a personalized gift and don’t mind spending a lot of time writing in the planner, then this is an amazing gift. My personal favorite planners for this gift are Day Designer planners.

Another tip to save money is to do a gift exchange. Instead of your buying gifts for everyone in your friend group, workplace, family, etc., do a gift exchange instead. Now everyone only needs to purchase one gift instead of multiple gifts. There are many different fun ways to do gift exchanges: secret Santa, white elephant, drawing names, and more. I hope that these gift ideas gave you some ways to buy presents this holiday season on your college budget.

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

There’s a shocking degree of disagreement over what makes an ideal chocolate chip cookie. Some people are confused, and believe the word “cookie” means “top of muffin” or “weird small cake” – these individuals shall wander through life in search of soft cookies. Some people are wrong and/or masochistic, and lead joyless existences filled with crispy cookies. For whatever reason, this group is unwilling to recognize that chomping down on a handful of gravel mixed with brown sugar would fulfill the same craving. And finally, some people are correct and know a chewy cookie to be not only the most satisfying of all cookie textures, but to be the best food on Earth.

It may surprise you to discover that I am of the latter population.

I spent much of my summer seeking cookie enlightenment. I was born granting chewy cookies their due respect, but I had another, far more broad quandary.

What makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe?

After trying over a dozen recipes, sustaining several small bruises to the hand, and somehow avoiding a salmonella diagnosis despite probably consuming a dozen raw eggs through cookie dough eating . . . I have an answer. We’ll get to the highlights in a moment.

But first, IT’S RUBRIC TIME.

CHEWINESS

(duh)

FLAVOR COMPLEXITY

(A good chocolate chip cookie does not taste like dough and chocolate chips, because boring. A quality CCC (a slang term I am attempting unsuccessfully to start) also has a caramelly/toffee-y taste from all the ingredients blending together perfectly. Insert chef kissing his fingers here.)

CHOCOLATE CHIP-TO-DOUGH RATIO

(This varies from person to person, but I happen to think that less is more when it comes to chocolate chips. Like, if I wanted a bite of pure chocolate, I would eat chocolate and stop wasting my time. I wanna taste that cookie!)

EASE OF BAKING PROCESS

(I hate effort. If the process takes like a million bowls – and I don’t mean “dry ingredients in one, others in another,” because I never do that – or ANY CHILLING OF THE DOUGH IS REQUIRED, I’m out.)

UNCOOKED DOUGH QUALITY

(Dough should be either really good – yum! – or not great – then I won’t eat it. But it should always be worse than the cookies themselves. Otherwise what is the point of baking it at all, and dough does not keep like cookies can, so I just have to sit there and eat three dozen cookies’ worth of dough??? Come on.)

 

  1. Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewiness: 1.5/5

Flavor complexity: 2/5

Chocolate chip-to-dough ratio: 4/5

Ease of baking process: 5/5

Uncooked dough quality: 3/5

Overall: 15.5/25

This is an eh cookie. It is extremely easy to make, but also every single bite you take of it will remind you of how easy it was. This cookie screams “I had all the ingredients already and I didn’t have to chill the dough or anything.” It is not chewy. Flavor complexity = dismal. But sometimes you are baking cookies because you need to eat 18 of them and everyone knows that when you make something yourself the calories don’t count because you created it. For that task, this cookie will do the trick.

 

  1. The New York Times’ Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chewiness: 4/5

Flavor complexity: 4.5/5

Chocolate chip-to-dough ratio: 5/5

Ease of baking process: 1/5

Uncooked dough quality: 4/5

Overall: 19.5/25

There are just . . . way too many inaccessible ingredients in this recipe. It may be that I forced myself to not love these cookies purely because I will never, in my life, have a type of flour on hand that isn’t all-purpose. This recipe calls for both cake and bread flour, and never ever ever in a million years even if hell froze over and my horoscope begged me to invest in diverse grain powders will I have either of those. Let alone both. It’s just financially irresponsible and, even worse, unnecessary. But this recipe is brought up on the Internet all the time and I want to be on trend so here we are.

  1. Sugar Spun Run’s Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever

Chewiness: 5/5

Flavor complexity: 5/5

Chocolate chip-to-dough ratio: 5/5

Ease of baking process: 2/5

Uncooked dough quality: 4/5

Overall: 21/25

The thing about the quest for a perfect cookie is that it, like so much of life, is futile. There is no such thing as the perfect cookie, because this one is full-on delicious and yet is so inconvenient to make that I have time for easily one to three existential crises in the process. Do not believe the time estimate that the evil blogger behind this recipe gives, because it would be wildly inaccurate EVEN IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO CHILL THE DOUGH. Yes, you heard me correctly. You have to chill the dough. Nobody ever, in the history of the world, has been baking cookies and felt okay with an extra 30 minutes tacked on just for a bowl to sit in a fridge. And who knows how much of my love for these cookies comes from my susceptibility to the reverse psychology in the name? I don’t exist in a vacuum, guys. Scrolling through fifteen pages of “best chocolate chip cookies ever” recipes does something to the mind.


So there it is! The sum total of my summer cookie quest. I am sure the question is one that will never be truly answered, and I will try new recipes until the end of time, never quite satisfied, but at least for now I know that Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips are the best kind. In the meantime, send your best recipes my way; I will be in a kitchen somewhere having an existential crisis while my dough chills for 30 minutes. (THE CONCEPT OF CHILLING DOUGH IS THE DEVIL’S CURSE UPON HUMANITY.)

A Long Way from Home

I remember the exact moment when my dad left me my freshman year during my move-in day. It felt too fast, with an unfinished goodbye. He was saying his “fatherly advice” bit and, too soon, his Uber drove up and it was time for him to go. I struggled to comprehend the actual meaning of him leaving me behind, on a street in Boston I couldn’t name even if I tried. Although a part of me felt ready to “be an adult,” I also knew I wasn’t fully ready to be truly left alone, in a city I had only previously visited once before. I didn’t cry, but I felt like I should have. It was supposed to be a huge deal and I should have been immediately homesick; at least, that’s how everybody told me I should have felt.

I mean, I am from California, which, if you didn’t know, is kind of across the entire country. How else was I supposed to react?

Whenever I reveal I’m from California, I almost always get “that” look. A look that asks, “Why? Why on earth would you move to Boston? Why would you move from sunny Southern California to a place like this?”

The answer isn’t that simple. I didn’t move because I hate California. Who can’t be entranced by the cloudless, warm days and picturesque coastline? No, there were many more factors to my decision than surface level elements; I do have some state pride. Though I can’t exactly explain what caused my dire urge to leave the state, I can say – with full confidence – that I just didn’t feel like I belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I love going back home; however, I knew I needed a break.

Finally deciding to go to a college across the country filled me with so many emotions, the most significant among the rest being fear and excitement. Fear for being alone in a city, excitement for the new chapter of my life. Fear for the unknown, but excitement for it as well; this was unexplored territory for me, everything was so new I wasn’t sure how to even approach the idea of settling into a new place in the world. I was sure that one day I would be so homesick that I would beg to go back home.

But the day never came.

I waited and waited during that first full month, but I never experienced the homesickness that everyone told me I would feel. It took me until Thanksgiving break to realize that I never really was homesick. There is the fact that I could text, call, or FaceTime my family any time I wanted, which probably helps, but I never felt the urge to break down and ask for the next flight home.

I’m not exactly sure why this occurred – maybe it was Boston or, perhaps, the business of college taking over my mind – but what I do know is that I finally found myself in a space where I could do what I wanted. To think about the mere amount of possibilities available to me, now that I relocated to Boston, is so utterly overwhelming, yet also freeing.

What followed surprised me: when I returned to California, I missed Boston. I missed the independence I had. I missed the trees and the brick buildings. I missed the routine, the shops and the walks I had through the Common. Though I did miss my family and I missed my home, I didn’t feel the same as I did in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in California. Who wouldn’t? There’s no end to its bright, sunny days, there’s cool shop and plenty of things to do, but it just wasn’t the same.

All summer, I yearned for Boston. It was clear that Boston became my second home.

Moving across the country was probably the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done. Whenever someone asks me the question though, I never experience the feeling of intimidation. Instead, I feel pride in the fact that I was able to defeat the fear holding me back home; that I was able to do what many others cannot. I love my home and living in Southern California definitely had its perks, but moving across the country was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Many probably assume that I can’t survive the winter, but I want to try. My exploration of the city of Boston is still afoot; and I’m grateful for what is to come.

My Double Life as a Fashionista-Athlete

“Whoa I didn’t know you play soccer!” is a reaction I’m used to getting when people figure out that I play soccer too. My teammates and I always joke that I live a “double life”: fashionista by day, athlete by night.

For those who know me well, you know that I would NEVER wear my soccer clothes to class for fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with it (for those who do) but personally I don’t like wearing my athletic clothes for fun. This is not because I’m not proud to represent my team, because I most definitely am, it’s just that I prefer to dress everyday because it makes me feel more productive.  I also simply love to get ready in the mornings. Getting ready for the day is like my cup of coffee.

When it comes to the time of the day to transform into an athlete, the heels and makeup come off and the cleats and shin guards come on. Being a fashion blogger and a soccer player isn’t a common combo, nor is it ideal at times.  I start some days in full photoshoot makeup (fake eyelashes and everything) and then completely take of my makeup and change into soccer clothes for practice . . . talk about a major transformation. Balancing school, soccer and a blog has been very challenging but it has taught me how to become an expert of time management. This has been especially hard having two games a week and practice every day but Sunday. But it really isn’t that daunting of a task when you get to play a sport that you love with your best friends. It’s so nice to go to practice and have an escape at the end of the day and forget about all the worries that college brings. 

Although I may not be your stereotypical college athlete that eats, sleeps and breathes soccer, I am still very proud to be an athlete and represent Emerson. Coming into such a new environment has been so much easier because of my team. I have an automatic group of best friends from all years and I get to be with them everyday. I have people who support me on and off the field, and definitely don’t look down upon me for being a little bit of a shopaholic. Sure, they may tease me sometimes but I can also be an easy target at times.

I love the feeling of walking out on the soccer field with my team before the game and then hearing “Freshman Elise Sanchez from Austin, Texas”, but I also love spending the whole day doing a photoshoot for my blog. My teammates know me from when they see me on the field or when I’m taking pictures for my blog on Newbury Street. Yes, soccer is a huge part of my life, but so is fashion. I have never felt the need to identify myself in one category. I am proud to be a “Fashionista athlete,” or as my coach likes to call me, “Gucci girl.” Some days I can literally look like two different people, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

The Boston Coffee Shop Guide for the Coffee-Obsessed Emersonian

I’ll just say it: I’m addicted to coffee. I haven’t always been, though. In fact, the first time I had it, I thought it was horrible and bitter. That could, of course, be the fact that I was drinking Starbucks beans with milk, but I digress.

Now, I can’t get enough of it.

Coming from Southern California, there are so many coffee shops to choose from, but most of my favorites are rooted at home and don’t have locations on the East Coast. I probably sound like a “coffee snob” but I’m not a big fan of Starbucks and very few chains appeal to me, so, I’ve had to find new places in the great city of Boston to curb my coffee obsession.

In a city like Boston, where there seems to be no end to the list of coffee shops available to try, it can be intimidating to choose where to start. So, for my fellow coffee snobs, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite shops I’ve found over the course of a year of being in Boston. Each has their unique qualities, so I’ve attempted to choose a variety of shops to attend to everybody’s wants and needs in a coffee shop.

Just as a note, to make it fair, I ordered a Cold Brew at each shop, as it’s my favorite way to drink coffee and the kind I buy the most as a casual coffee drinker.

Best Place to Study: Jaho Coffee

Downtown and South End

Price for Large Cold Brew: $4

Pros: Big seating area to study, open late, closest to Emerson

Cons: Not the fastest service

Being the closest to Emerson, Jaho Coffee is perhaps the most accessible to those living in the dorms or wanting a good cup of coffee to drink on the way to class. There’s a lot to choose from, which is definitely nice for the non-coffee drinkers out there. For complete transparency, I have come across some slow service, as not a lot of people work, but the coffee itself doesn’t disappoint. Studying at Jaho is also a highlight, as it’s easy to find a place to sit, whether at a bar, on regular tables, or on comfy seats. While it does get busy at times, it never gets too loud and the Wi-Fi is also fast enough for all of your homework needs. Overall, there’s not too much to complain about with regards to Jaho; it’s a casual place that fulfills all of the necessary essentials for a great coffee shop, and, as it’s so close to Emerson, it’s a great place to go to if you just want to get out of your dorm room or the library.

Best Outside Seating: Render Coffee

South End

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.30

Pros: Pretty location, outside seating

Con: Seating fills up quickly, long lines

Sitting between the brick houses of South End, Render Coffee has great views as well as great coffee. It also looks the one that looks like the stereotypical “cute neighborhood coffee shop” found in small towns. Taking a step outside of the city sets this shop apart from the others on this list and almost gives it a peaceful quality that the others don’t seem to have. Though it can get busy at times, it’s a great place to study, especially during warmer months where you can sit outside on the deck they have tucked next to a couple of brick buildings. Abandoning the now trending minimalist and modern style that coffee shops have attained over the past couple of years, it’s nice to see a shop that hasn’t left the traditional coffee shop ambiance.

Best Quick Service: Gracenote

Chinatown

Price for Large (16 oz.) Cold Brew: $5

Pros: Great coffee, fast service

Cons: No place to study, most expensive

Gracenote seems to always take the top spot on “Best Coffee in Boston” lists, especially lately, as it was featured in Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston 2017″ list. Though definitely warranted – their coffee has many pleasing notes as well as complex tastes – it is also the most expensive. They also have no place to study, which is another disappointment, but, with the eclectic and stereotypical “hipster coffee” vibe, it’s almost expected to only have one tiny bar next to its barista station. Nevertheless, if you are ever in need of a good cup of coffee fast, Gracenote is the way to go. You can tell the baristas take care in promoting the art of coffee as soon as you walk in, making it also apparent that you will be getting something entirely different than a usual chain cup of coffee.

Best Location: Sip Cafe

Financial District

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.25

Pros: Gorgeous location, seating inside and out, great service

Cons: Not open on Sundays

Tucked at the end of a tiny park in the middle of the Financial District is Sip Cafe. This adorable location is great for those who want to be surrounded by greenery while studying or chatting with a friend or just simply enjoying a good book. It feels as if you’ve temporarily stepped away from the city and into this unique coffee shop. Though it is smaller and not your usual coffee shop, it’s still spacious enough for all of your needs. On top of that, the coffee is one of the best on this list. The cold brew is smooth and tastes great and they serve larger portions as well. Though it may be a little farther than some of the rest on this list, it is definitely worth the walk.

Best Overall: CuppaCoffee

South End, West End, and Back Bay

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.50

Pros: Multiple locations around Boston, great coffee, friendly service

Cons: Only South End is open on Sundays, not open late, cash only when under $5

With the best coffee, a variety of locations that cater to either quick service or long-term needs, and a unique take on the coffee shop, CuppaCoffee is a definite bright spot in Boston’s coffee repertoire. Dedicated to their Australian background, the shops serve not only coffee but also the Aussie meat pies, among other Australian favorites. My favorite part is that their cold brew also has a 24 oz. option, which not many coffee shops offer, rather opting for a singular, 16 oz. size. I’ve never had a bad experience at CuppaCoffee. The friendly baristas are easy to talk to and their cold brew is, by far, the best to drink. I keep finding myself needing to slow down because I drink it so fast. It’s everything I look for in a cold brew and it reminds me of my favorite place back home. Also, as a bonus, they have rewards cards, which is a huge plus if you are a fan of the shop.

Being a person who enjoys studying at coffee shops, the South End location is a perfect place to escape to because it is quiet enough to be able to focus while drinking my favorite cold brew in Boston. In this way, I think it’s grossly underrated. They keep exceeding my expectations whenever I go and I plan on going even more.

Though the preference of a coffee shop and coffee bean itself is entirely subjective, one thing is for sure: as coffee snobs, having a great cup of coffee can make a day great. If you’re new to a city overflowing with coffee shops, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect one, but these choices might, perhaps, be your best bet to finding your new favorite Cup of Joe.

The Salem Experience for $20 or Less

Come for the witches, stay for the tiny hand-blown glass animals.

image2.jpegThat’s not the slogan for the town of Salem, but it definitely is for my time there. I was initially interested in the grisly history of the witch trials, especially since it’s perfect for Halloween. I mean, the pivotal film Hocus Pocus is set there. But I must confess I spent much more of my time delicately combing through a tray of miniature polar bears and dogs and squids than I did contemplating the fickleness of humanity at the witch trials memorial.

Perhaps the most important part of my Salem adventures, however, is the fact that I spent less than twenty dollars for the whole day, train fare included. Here are my tips for how you can spend a day in the insanely-crowded town without breaking the bank!

1. Don’t buy your tickets on the train

Just go over to the little Charlie card ATM-like robot and buy a ticket. It’s a couple dollars cheaper, and those couple dollars can buy you a magical stone. A magical stone!!! More on that later.

2. The best souvenirs are also pretty cheap

Earlier — as in, immediately before this — I mentioned a little something about a magical stone. It’s time to talk more about that. I spent the unbelievable price of ONE AMERICAN DOLLAR on a stone that promises to increase my success, elevate my mood, and grant wishes. And it looks good doing it! This is an amazing and useful souvenir, especially since I’ve already gone a few days and haven’t lost it!

A lot of the stuff in the witchy stores in Salem is reasonably priced. So are postcards and little things like that. If you want a souvenir from your spooky journey you don’t have to break the bank!

 

3. Walking around is free

Tiring, yes, but free. Sometimes it’s like people forget you don’t have to pay for a tour in order to see stuff. The witch trials memorial is really amazing and right in town. The historical sights can be gazed at from afar with no added cos

t. There’s even the Salem Heritage Trail, which is similar to Boston’s Freedom Trail but distinctly witchier.

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And some of the most fun I had in Salem was walking around the stores. This is not because I am Isla Fisher in the 2009 film adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s bestselling novel Confessions of a Shopaholic, but rather because there are a ton of cool stores in Salem. Some of them are so cool there is a line to get in! My favorite one was The Coven’s Cottage, and I chose to buy my magical stone from there because I liked the vibe. There are also wand stores, knick knack stores and bookstores, and all of these make for a fun browse!

4. Spend some money on the experience

For me, this meant forking over a couple of ones for a hot apple cider. 

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(Review: watery, but delicious!) For some of my fellow travelers, this meant fried dough, a book on Wiccan spells, a bandana for a dog or fifteen minutes with a fortune-teller. Some people enjoy feeling unsafe and frightened, and these people would not be able to visit Salem without entering the doors of one of Salem’s many haunted houses. There’s not much point to visiting if you don’t feel spooky or Halloween-y or, in short, Salem-y. So it’s worth it to shell out some cash for that One Thing.

In short: Salem is great and very Halloween-feeling and it doesn’t have to be expensive! If you plan in advance and consider what will make your experience really worthwhile, you can have a solid day for $20 or less.

 

Best Boston Attractions From a Professional Tourist

 

After living in Boston for almost three months, I still consider myself a professional tourist. Professional tourist, what’s that you may say? Well, since I am still new to Boston I wouldn’t consider myself a Bostonian, but I am also just not a vistor anymore. Therefore, I just consider myself a professional tourist now. Through these few months of having my own time to explore and having visitors come to town, I have come up with a list of my favorite places to visit in Boston.  

New England Aquarium 

Going to the New England aquarium proved to me that you are never too old for an aquarium. I recently went to the aquarium when my family was visiting and I’m not going to lie I was way more excited than my fourteen-year-old sister. Not only were there great exhibits, such as penguins and seals, but they also had very interactive exhibits. I got to pet starfish, stingrays and even sharks! And to top off the whole experience, it is located right by the harbor. So once you are done exploring the aquarium, go out to the harbor and take pictures by the beautiful waters.

Skywalk Observatory  

The Skywalk Observatory located in the prudential center has the absolute BEST views of Boston. The Prudential Center is a very feasible walk from Boston Public Library. On the 50th floor of the center lies the observatory.  The walls are all glass windows with a breathtaking view of all downtown Boston. There you can see Fenway, the commons, churches and the Charles river all in one place. I personally believe this is a must on anyone’s Boston tour agenda. The price of the New England Aquarium and the Skywalk Observatory is substantially cheaper with a Go Boston card.

The North End

If you are in the mood to try out some great food, go to the North End. I highly recommend going to Quincy Market for an array of choices. There are a plethora of food trucks and restaurants to pick and choose from, but what the North End is most well known for is the Italian food. You will find homemade pasta and Italian pastries galore there. You will not be disappointed by the homemade food there. But, be prepared to either make a reservation or wait hours for a table.

Boston Common

The Boston Common is definitely a must! Take a walk, have a picnic, or even take a swan boat tour during the summertime. Even though we become immune to the beautiful scenery of the Boston Common, your guests will definitely be blown away by the beauty. Even if the Boston Common isn’t one of your main attractions on the tour, use the commons as a detour and go through the gardens to get to Newbury street.

Newbury Street

If you are in the mood for great shopping and food, go to Newbury Street. Newbury Street varies from stores like Forever 21 to Chanel. When shopping, have a general idea of what stores you want to visit because if not you may become overwhelmed.  There are  also many different restaurants and desert places. If you have ever seen the TV show DC Cupcakes, then you must go to Georgetown cupcakes to try out one of the delicious desserts for yourself.  

The Boston Public Library

The library is one of my favorite places. One street over from Newbury Street on Boylston street lies the Boston Library. Take a walk through the magnificent interior of the Library and explore the beautiful architecture. Don’t forget to checkout outside too. The outside part of the library is equally as beautiful of the inside and will blow you away. 

Duck Tours- You see the duck tour buses everywhere around Boston, but the mere sight of them is not a good enough experience. A Duck Tour was one of the first things I did when I visited Boston and it made me fall in love with Boston even more. To start off the tour, you are assigned a driver and they are dressed up in character. I have seen “conDUCKtors” ranging from Duck Dynasty to The Mad Hatter. The tours take you all around downtown Boston and take you across the Charles River. This tour is a great way to get a great sense of the city and it’s rich history in a fun, entertaining way. 

These are most definitely not the only places you should visit while in Boston, there are too many places to fit into one trip but I personally believe that these are some of the best attractions. I hope my expert advice as a professional tourist can benefit you and your visitors, and that you will come to love this city as much as I do.

The Beginner’s Guide to True Crime Podcasts

True crime is everywhere. It seems as if ever since the hit podcast Serial and Netflix series Making a Murderer, people have been fascinated with the nonfiction genre. True crime, in essence, studies real life crime, mostly in the form of murder. Though gruesome at times, it can be highly addicting, with consumers asking questions, wondering how someone could commit murder and, above all, why someone would do such a thing.

For those looking for the next Serial, it can be overwhelming with the high amount of true crime podcasts available today. So, here are some podcast recommendations for all of the truce crime fans out there.

With the topic of true crime, it should be mentioned that there is content in each of these podcasts that might be a trigger for some individuals. In many of the podcasts listed, there can be instances that might be too graphic and, just plainly, hard to listen to. Due to this, be extremely cautious around the subject and take care in choosing what you choose to hear.

My Favorite Murder // Weekly Minisodes on Mondays and Full Episodes on Thursdays // 131 Episodes // 30-40 minute Minisodes and 60-120 minute Full Episodes // Website

Taking a more relaxed approach to true crime, the comedy podcast, “My Favorite Murder,” is a great starting point for those who are just beginning to listen to true crime, as they don’t necessarily go too deep into the facts. Though it might be bothersome to those who would rather go in-depth into a story, the hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are charming and, just plainly, hilarious, making the podcast definitely worth the listen. Coming out with episodes every Tuesday and Thursday, Kilgariff and Hardstark tell stories about murders, both cold cases and solved cases alike, and produce a commentary on the case at hand. Not only that, but they also discuss their personal lives and share their love for the subject by recommending other true crime media, wanting to be interactive with the mass audience around the world. In fact, every other episode is a minisode, where they read emails from fans about their hometown murders. The community around the podcast as a whole is truly great and interacting with fellow “murderinos,” as fans are called, makes the entire experience worth the listen.

Where to Start: Episode 10 – “Murderous TENdencies,” Episode 23 – “Making a Twenty-Thirderer”

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts 

Dirty John – Completed Mini-Series // 6 Episodes // 40-56 minutes // Website

This podcast just ended its six-week run but binging it is more than worth it. In collaboration with the LA Times, Dirty John tells the story of a woman who starts to date a mysterious man from a dating site. Though he appears to be the man of her dreams, her children are suspicious and immediately worried for their mother’s well being. What unfolds is a crazy, unpredictable true story that can be classified as an online dating horror story. In an attempt to not include spoilers, that’s all that can be said, but the series is, arguably, one of the best of the year with it captivating story-telling and, ultimately, unbelievable series of events.

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, LA Times, Wondery

Sword and Scale – Biweekly on Mondays // 101 Episodes // 60-75 minutes // Website

With its declaration at the beginning of each episode, “A show that reveals that the worst monsters are real,” Sword and Scale takes things to the next level by producing haunting true crime events that can shake anyone to the core. While each episode varies in content, one thing is certain: there are truly terrifying people in this world. With many instances of extremely serious subject matter, it can truly be a hard podcast to listen to; however, what makes Sword and Scale stand out is that it’s more than just a commentary-style podcast. It goes deep into the case of the episode by including evidence like 9-11 calls, interviews, press conferences and more, and the host Mike Boudet even sometimes holds his own personal interviews with those affected by the crime at hand. With each unique episode, you never know what you’re going to get, and you never know what kind of horrors are lurking through your everyday life.

Where to Start: Episodes 33 and 34

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Sword and Scale Website

Stranglers – Completed Mini-Series // 12 Episodes // 50 minutes // Website

As another completed mini-series, Stranglers follows the Boston Strangler. Though the case is 55 years old, the case has never been fully solved. This podcast attempts a new investigation into the mysterious circumstances of the crimes of the infamous serial killer. It’s extremely easy to get addicted to the podcast, with its professional and sleek production and its intriguing interviews. Instead of only focusing on the suspects and the case itself, Stranglers also goes into the journalists who broke the case and the victims themselves. The new take on the familiar format is refreshing, despite the case’s old age.

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Earwolf, Google Play, Stitcher

Honorable Mention: Lore – Biweekly on Mondays // 71 Episodes // 30 minutes // Website

Though not necessarily a “true crime” podcast, Lore still produces the same kind of fascinating stories that any true crime lover can listen to. Every episode, host Aaron Mahnke spins a tale of folklore with subjects ranging from creepy creatures to haunted houses to suspiciously dark unsolved murders from places around North America and Europe, but primarily around the New England area. (Fun fact: Boston is a frequent location and the podcast even mentions Emerson in Episode 55.) Lore has received tremendous praise for its beautiful writing by Mahnke and the haunting score that plays in the background, creating a wonderfully mesmerizing podcast. In fact, Lore is so popular that the show has its own anthology series, which is now available on Amazon Prime. The production is incredible from episode one and, so far, Lore doesn’t cease to impress.

Where to Start: “Episode 8: The Castle,” “Episode 27: On the Farm”

Where to Watch: Apple Podcasts, Google PlayLore Website

With the amount of true crime entertainment, it may be worrisome that creators haven’t run out of content. Nevertheless, the fascination is still apparent and ever-present. Whether listening during a long commute or doing errands or getting ready for the day, the podcast medium can be a great way to soothe that addiction for the true crime lovers out there.

The Suite Life: 7 Tips to live With Suitemates

Eight people and four rooms in one suite isn’t quite the ideal situation. Life in an eight person suite may not always be sweet but here are seven tips to help live with other suitemates. 

Set up a cleaning schedule

Living in a small space with seven other people can become messy really really quickly. With so many people, it is so easy to set up a cleaning rotation. What my suitemates and I do is assign everyone a cleaning day and then on Sundays we usually all tidy up our own personal dorms. Assigning everyone a day assures that the suite stays in a livable condition and messes don’t pile up.

Learn how to resolve conflict and communicate

Being in a brand new environment is hard enough, but living with 7 people you have never met in your life can bring some challenges. I am so lucky to have gotten suitemates that I get along with and consider my close friends, but that’s not always the case. It’s okay to not be best friends with everyone in your suite. It’s not okay to have conflict within a suite though. As a suite, you all should discuss your conflicts and decide ways to avoid future conflicts. As cliche as this may seem, have “team meetings.” My suitemates and I have them weekly and they are so informal but make such a difference in our suite.

Learn how to share

Eight different people equals eight very different possessions. As a suite, you need to learn how to share. Some things you definitely don’t need to share (like food) but other times it wouldn’t kill you to share a few things. For example, clothes are something that you can lend to a suitemate. But if you borrow clothes always make sure to ask first. One thing I always make sure I do is clean the clothes I borrowed before you return them. It’s a privilege, not a luxury to share, so make sure you are still respecting your suitemates.

Help each other out every once in awhile

Whether it’s marketing homework or makeup for a night out, help out your suitemates every once in a while. That’s one of the best parts of living with other people, being able to help each other out. If I’m having a rough day I know I can always go to one of my suitemates for help, and they know I would do the same for them. 

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries

After living in such a small vicinity with so many people, you may discover some boundaries you didn’t even know you had. For example, I am very particular and in a way possessive about my clothes (because I am so used to my sisters back home taking them without asking). From the beginning I just made it clear that I don’t mind sharing clothes, I just want to be asked first. Sometimes in our suite, it can get too loud, but we all know that we can always respectfully ask each other to quiet it down.

Split up who buys what supplies

 Toilet paper, paper towels, utensils, and basic cleaning supplies are the necessities in our suite. To make sure one person doesn’t buy all of the supplies, we split up who buys what. With a simple rotation of supplies, we make sure everything’s equal. We also have a whiteboard in our kitchen and we make notes on when we need supplies. 

Spend quality time with each other 

Actually spend time with your suitemates and get to know them. Have a pizza and movie night, or go for a picnic in the common. You got placed to live with these people so why not get to know them better? Also, living with your best friends just makes the whole experience ten times better.

I am beyond lucky to have gotten seven amazing suitemates. During this exciting time in college, being in a whole new environment has been challenging sometimes but my suitemates have made my transition so much better. I hope my seven tips were insightful and can help you and your suitemates have a suite life too.

Transferring is Haaaard

Let me paint you a word picture. Remember fall/winter of your senior year of high school? Ah, memories. Memories mainly of the grueling, painful, next-level difficult college application process. Perhaps you did not vehemently hate applying to college, and perhaps even did not irrationally procrastinate doing so whenever possible, but if that is the case then you and I are not the same.

Despite this immense struggle, I persevered and applied and got into colleges and accepted one with great joy and relief and thought that was over and done with.

But then I got to college, promptly helped myself to a heavier and more all-encompassing workload than the one I had in high school, and thought, Hey. You know what would be fun? Doing my least favorite thing I’ve ever had to do again, while also having a barely feasible amount of work.

Thus I started up that glorious process again, while living it up in the second semester of my freshman year of college! It was an utter blast, and I definitely didn’t stay at the library until closing three nights per week or anything.

In all seriousness, there is no human emotion on this Earth quite like logging into the Common App website as a college student. I have never experienced full-body disgust like I did at the moment I was forced to enter the abyss of the College Board website and once more pay $15 to send each AP score to each school on my list. (What on this great green earth could those fifteen dollars possibly go to? They don’t even have to print anything! Just inform four post-secondary institutions of the grade I received on a U.S. History exam I took three years ago, please!)

I am already way more excited about Emerson than I was about my last school (air of mystery here so as not to start any drama), which makes that terrible period of my human existence worth it. However. Things did not suddenly become easy, which was a disappointment because I hope constantly that life will abruptly transform into a 24/7 walk in the park.

Being an Emerson student is pretty great so far, but being a transfer student can be hard. It is often like being a freshman, but with none of the youthful glow and optimism. All the knowledge you built up about your last college is suddenly totally useless. (I haven’t needed to keep up a mental ranking of preferred shower stalls in the second-floor communal bathroom of my dorm building in five months, and yet here I am today, constantly aware that the one closest to the window is by far the best in terms of amount of space and adaptability of water temperature.)

But this breadth of knowledge is not the worst thing that does not transfer, because if you start attending Emerson YOUR GPA DOES NOT TRANSFER. This is truly the worst thing I can possibly imagine. Not only does it feel like all the work I did last year has disappeared before my very eyes, but I have much less time and fewer data points now. In other words, a required class I didn’t want to take in the first place suddenly matters a whole lot.

If there is one thing in the entire world that rivals the loss of my existing GPA for unpleasantness, it is having to make friends once again. As a process, it is so hard and weird! But here I am in a new city, at a new school, and apparently socializing is expected, or something. This is especially difficult because it is very tempting to lay on the floor and use Snapchat and Instagram to watch the lives of my friends from my last college and/or my friends from home as they happily begin their second year at the same school. With friends they’ve already made. What a luxury!

But even with all of those mildly depressing negatives, I still really recommend transferring if you feel unsatisfied. Because we all pay wayyyy too much money to get anything other than the best four years of all time.