5 Ways to Maximize Your College Experience

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There are a few things I did, or wish I had done in college, which really helped make the most of the experience. The time spent in college, even counting graduate school, goes by so quickly! It’s important to make the most of it, before the opportunities are gone!

1. Join a student group/organization.

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The only group I joined was my college’s volleyball team, and I wish I had joined more! It doesn’t have to be a sports team. It can be social, or political. It can be about a hobby, or a cause. The fun in this is that often they are people from different classes, majors, and walks of life who come together for a common interest. Not only will you make lifelong friends, but it is a great way to grow your network!

Now let’s talk about networking. I don’t care for the word. It implies schmoozing simply for the sake of future career or personal advancement. To me, there is a difference between networking, and growing your network. “Networking” is the aforementioned schmooze fest. “Growing your network” is the result of getting out into the world and actually getting to know people. Putting it another way, when you are needing a job or reference, would you rather turn to a friend that truly knows you, or someone you met at some networking event, gave your business card, and to whom you blathered on about your credentials for 15 minutes?

2. Study abroad.

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It would be really hard to get the same level of experience you get from studying abroad, on your own. The most important benefit these trips provide is an added level of safety. You are placed within a network of students who can accompany you on adventures, program supervisors who will check on you, and locals who you can give you safety and travel tips. It’s the perfect combination.

This is also a way to meet people outside of your normal group, only this time they will be from other countries, instead of just other majors. You become fast friends with your study abroad group too. You are normally all out of your comfort zone and have no idea what you’re doing, so you naturally become stuck together.

This is also a good option for those who aren’t super comfortable traveling internationally, because you can choose from different levels of immersion. Some schools put you in a dorm with a bunch of other expats, while other schools stick you right in a local’s home with a family that barely speaks any English. You get to decide how adventurous you want to be!

3. Take an Internship.

This is an area where I missed out, and I REALLY regret it. One of the major benefits to internships is that they often lead to careers within your internship company upon graduation. Another benefit is, even if you have work experience, it diversifies your resume substantially. This is very beneficial if you are looking to change careers/industries upon graduation.

I went to a smaller college that had a virtually non-existent Career Development Office, so internships were a little bit harder to obtain. Any big name school, should be able to help at least get you started in the right direction. For those in smaller schools, take initiative and find your own internship. You won’t regret it, and a surprising amount of internships are even paid!

4. Attend Events

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There is something about going to a college game as a student, which makes it more exciting and fun than most other sporting events. Anyone can buy merchandise for a professional team and say they are a fan, but attending a game at your school with your fellow students and yelling obnoxious chants over and over (It’s GREAT… To BE… A FLORIDA GATOR!) is much more fun, especially when you beat the opponent in triple overtime… No offense Kentucky..

If sports aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to get your school spirit on.  Homecoming weekend is a blast. UF had Movies in the Swamp, cultural events and Gator Stomp. You might also want to check out some of the performing arts shows. Whatever gets you out and amongst your fellow Gators, Tar Heels, Longhorns etc.

5. Use your Electives!

The biggest waste of electives is just taking classes that are easy. This is college! You’re here to learn! Think about your future career, and in what position you would like to be. What electives can help you get there? Or maybe you’re studying something that already defines your career, like accounting, take something that will be personally rewarding. Curious about photography? Take a class! Interested in American history? Take a class! Want to learn another language? Take! A! Class! Don’t take Intro to Art History because you heard the professor has never failed anyone. You’re paying for an EDUCATION, so make good use of it!

These are from my own personal experience, but I’d love to hear your tips! Leave a comment below!

Photographing the Terrible Twos

I recently did a maternity photo shoot for a friend and discovered (for the second time) how difficult it is to get a two year old to cooperate for pictures. Here are a few things that I learned that helped make the whole process run a little more smoothly.

1. Prioritize.

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They are over posing for pictures pretty quickly. If there are any cute ideas that you were really wanting to try, get them out of the way immediately or they probably won’t happen.

2. Aperture.

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See this picture ^^^ ? It looks like the little guy is happy and laughing, but he’s actually screaming… and this was only about 10 minutes into the shoot. Oh, boy. Use aperture and focus to hide that grumpy face.

3. Improvise!

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Try taking pictures while they’re doing something they enjoy. You might end up with a little boy riding around on a 4-wheeler in 90% of the pictures, but at least he’ll be smiling.

4. Wardrobe!

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One of the benefits to photographing a two year old, is that they are almost always adorable, even just walking across the yard. You can take plenty of cute candid shots that look great. If that two year old is wearing a shirt that says something like, “Big Brother.” Bam. That makes it part of a pregnancy shoot.

5. Patience.

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Take breaks and alternate between poses with the whole family and ones that just have the parents or mom. This way, the youngin’ can run around a little bit.

So, that’s what I learned last weekend. It was an adventure. If you want to see the rest of the photos, check out my Facebook page!

World Travel Market Preparations: Business Cards

Only a little over a month remains until the London 2013 World Travel Market. I have my press pass, the hostel is booked, plane tickets are purchased and now I have my business cards! I used moo.com, and it was really such a great experience. I used the “Great Escapes” Template. I loved the color scheme and layout on the front, and on the back, you can choose 5 of your own photos that will alternate on the cards…

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*There isn’t actually a blank space under “Two Thumbs Travels”, I just figured the internet isn’t the best place to display my personal cell phone.

You can use the photos on the back as a mini photography portoflio, like I did with the New York and Key West Photos, or have photos of yourself to make them remember you, like the skydiving and paddle-boarding shots…. or you can have a picture of your cat, just because you can…

Anyway, the cards are made really well. They’re not flimsy and cheap feeling, like cards I had previously purchased from a large office supply retail chain. I also love the matte finish and rounded corners, but there are many other options also. Plus, they come in a really cute little black box so you can carry them around and not get them damaged or lost.

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The shipping was incredibly fast too. I ordered them on September 15th and the confirmation said they would arrive by September 25th. This is why I was fairly surprised when they came in the mail only 5 days after I placed the order and 5 days before they were due to arrive.

I wanted the cards to look professional, but stand out with a little humor (Cat Lady) and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I highly recommend moo.com for not only business cards, but all kinds of promotional materials. Go check out their website!

For live updates on all upcoming events (World Travel Market, Doctor Who 50th Celebration, Cats), don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, Vine and Instagram @CorneliaJoy.

Side notes: I would like to point out that I know the scratches on my desk are terrible and I will be refurbishing and posting about it as soon as time allows. Also, I will only have 8 weeks of class left for my B.A.S. after the WTM, but it would be a huge waste of money hassle to make these and then have to order new ones 8 weeks later, so I decided to include it on there already. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone!

An Excuse for the Beach…

There are two benefits from thrifting for beach equipment. 1. What house doesn’t have a few things that were bought for a family beach trip, used only one time and then stored in the garage for the next however many years? This means you can buy those things, barely used, and at a fraction of a cost. 2. Once you have it, you have the perfect excuse to go to the beach!

For example:

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$2 for both of those watermelon umbrellas. They aren’t just regular “Stick them in the ground and hope they stay put” umbrellas.  They’ve got nice clamps on the end, so you can attach them to your beach tables or chairs.

$1.50 for the beach blanket / tablecloth. Much nicer than a towel because you’ll have room too move around and set down your things without covering them in sand.

In the event that the weather turns gloomy while you’re out at the beach, as it did with me, don’t worry. That’ll just give you time to check some of the local thrift stores where you’ll find things like super groovy cowgirl boots…

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A large, shaggy, pleather jacket…

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Or a nice straw hat for your next beach trip…

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Happy Summer!

Bathroom Facelift

I’ve expressed my feelings before about the unfortunate peachy two-toned tiles in my bathroom. It’s too much of an undertaking to replace it right now, so I’ve been left to try about 5 different paint colors in an attempt to find a color that makes the tiles tolerable. My last color was a step in the right direction, but it ended up being way to dark. The whole room felt closed and tiny…

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I also learned the value in sampling the paint before painting. I always pick up any good paints I find in the oops paint section of home depot, so I had plenty of options already in the garage. The light in my bathroom is apparently very bizarre though, because none of the paint looked like it should have once it was on the walls…

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The two samples at the end were supposed to be grey, not brown and the one that looks grey was supposed to be light blue. So… test your colors. Anyway, I chose the second color from the right, which was the color left over from my bedroom. I was impressed, as I normally am with Behr, at how outstanding the coverage was. It only took two coats of Behr paint to cover up the really dark teal color..

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The left side is two coats and the right is after one. Another problem I had, that you can see from the picture above, is the paint lines. After so many coats of paint, the paint lines are just ridiculously bad regardless of the use of painters tape and edging tools.

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You can see the lighter color, the old teal color and even some of the dark green from two colors ago. My mother had the perfect solution, as mothers often do. Turns out a little line of caulk fixed everything…

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Tada!! I hope the tip about the caulk lines was helpful. That is certainly going to make my life easier in the future! Thanks, Mom.

Top 5 Things to do in Key West

There is so much to do and see in Key West, and often with very little time, you don’t want to waste time and money while you’re there. Here are my top five touristy things that everyone who visits Key West should do…

1. Take a snorkel tour on the reef.

You can snorkel anywhere in the Keys, but you won’t beat the scenery on the reef. You’ll see so many types of plant and aquatic life. I have been a few times, but this last time was the best. I saw a nurse shark (not as scary as you’d think!), Barracuda (much scarier than the shark), Yellow Fin Tuna, Tarpon, Yellow Tail Snapper, Grouper, Blue Parrot Fish, Sheep’s head and so many more…

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It’s harder to find water that is more beautiful than what’s in the Key’s. When you’re passing along the south side of Key West, there’s a really well defined line dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf. It’s pretty cool to see…

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Even cooler through one of the deck-hands expensive Costa sunglasses.. The tour costs around $45 per person, plus a tip for the staff. It’s the only thing on the list that is slightly costly, but it’s well worth the money.

2. Mallory Square

From costly to free! Mallory Square has a sunset celebration that happens every evening. The Square is right at the end of Duval Street and very easy to find. Just look for the crowd of people with random jugglers, tightrope walkers and acrobats popping up throughout them…

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“Look, Mom, I’m a lamppost.”

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The cat show is great, but also bizarre. You should also see Dr. Juice’s tumbling show. He’s been performing on Mallory since I’ve been going, which is well over a decade now. The tightrope walker is also a permanent fixture on Mallory. The rest of the performers rotate pretty regularly but they are all very good. It’s also a good place to buy souvenirs, with several artists selling locally made goods. The best conch fritters in Key West are sold there too, so order half a dozen and don’t forget a side of spicy mustard!

3. Paddle Boarding

Despite being an island, Key West only has one tiny beach. The beach itself isn’t particularly exciting, but Sunset Water Sports has a booth where you can rent all kinds of things like paddle boards, kayaks, mini sailboat things and beach chairs. The paddle boards are only $22 an hour and they’re so much fun! It’s hard at first, but once you get the hang out it, it’s pretty easy.

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Until your mother “accidentally” pushes you off…

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3. The Cuban Chugs Exhibit

I already wrote a post about it, but I think it’s worth mentioning twice. It’s really eye-opening to the hardships that other people are dealt and made me really thankful to live in the country that I do.

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5. Get some good Cuban food!

There are so many delicious places to eat in the Keys, especially Cuban places! Being only 90 miles from Cuban, I’d say it’s pretty close to the real thing. Sandy’s Cafe is one of my favorite places, but there are plenty of options and trying them all out is the best part…

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So there you have it. Those are my top five! Beyond that, the jet ski tours are a lot of fun and the ghost walks have a lot of interesting history. Really, you can do anything while you’re there and it will be great. You’re in Key West which is better than where you’d be if you weren’t on vacation!

If You Lack The Hospitality Gene Like I Do…

In my post about traveling with only a carry-on, I mentioned packing hotel toiletries instead of buying them at your destination or packing full size bottles. Another great use for them is in your guest bathroom…

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I keep a jar filled with all kinds of hotel goodies and disposable razors, in case I have friends or family over and they have forgotten something. It’s convenient for them because they don’t have to ask for anything or waste ten minutes in the shower (while the hot water runs out) trying to squeeze the last few drops out of a shampoo bottle that I keep forgetting to replace. Cold, half-washed guests are much less cheerful, I’ve found.

I don’t get credit for this idea, though. I stayed with my cousin in her student flat and when I went to use the shower she said, “Here is my shampoo and if you need anything else, you can probably find it in here.” Then she opened a little jar filled with an assortment of whatever toiletries anyone could ever need. Brilliant! She’s a smart one, that cousin of mine. There are a lot of benefits to doing this.. It makes you seem like a much better host than you might actually be. It gives a purpose to any empty jars lying around your house. Most importantly though, it dresses up your horrendously peachy, 1960’s style bathroom… OK, maybe those three things are directed mostly at me and my hospitality ineptness, obsession for ground glass jars and my out-dated bathroom… but you get the idea…

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I’m still looking for the best way to dress this bathroom up and the jars are a good start. If anyone else has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Travel Tip: Zip-Lock Bags Are Your Friend

I’ve said before I try to only travel with a carry-on bag. One thing that is really important, especially when you’re trying to fit a lot in a small bag, is organization. First of all, if you get randomly stopped by security (which has happened to me the last TWO times I have flown!) you don’t want to open your bag and have a bunch of underwear fall out because you shoved it in at the last-minute when you realized it was almost forgotten. (I will neither confirm, nor deny that I have had that happen to me.) Secondly, you don’t want to have to dig through the entire contents of you bag to find that one bottle of lotion for which security stopped you, because it MIGHT have been bigger than regulation. And thirdly, if you’re going to be living out of a suitcase for a few days, it is just much easier and stress free to know where everything is. Plastic, sandwich sized bags make all of these things so much easier.

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Yes, I keep the courtesy hotel toiletries. Don’t judge. For weekend getaways, when you don’t need to bring a full bottle shampoo, conditioner and body wash, they are the perfect travel size. Some hotels are even getting really fancy with it. I stayed in hotel last summer that only had Bath and Body Works products. Fancy!

I normally use three bags to separate my stuff: Electrical/Chords (Camera, Charger, Laptop Etc..) Hair stuff (Clips, Bobby-pins, Ties) and toiletries.

They keep everything organized, prevent your clothes from getting ruined if a bottle breaks, and (the best part) the bags are clear, so you can see everything that’s in them. No digging! Once you’re done packing, put them all right on top. Chances are, anything that looks suspicious will be in these bags, so it makes the security check easier.

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I know I am not saying anything groundbreaking here, and a lot of people already do this, but I thought I’d share. Traveling can be exhausting and stressful, so every little bit helps!

Keeping Discount Airlines Discounted

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The cost of flying, along with everything else, is so much more expensive than it used to be! This has created a new breed of airline, the “Discount Airline.” Overall, it’s a great concept, but you have to be careful of hidden fees and surcharges. When little things add up, your “discount ticket” can end up costing more than a regular airline. Here are some tips that I’ve learned:

Seat Selection Fee:

This was the first and the sneakiest fee that I came across on my most recent ticket purchase. The transition was so smooth between the ticket date and time selection to the seat selection that it was easy to miss a few things. Those few things would be the $18 per seat the airline wanted to charge as well as the fine print at the bottom stating that I could skip this step if I chose. Once I decided to skip, an annoying little pop-up basically said, “Are you sure you want to skip this step? If you do, we will place you between a large smelly fellow and a screaming baby.” Maybe I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. Plenty of seats were still open, so as long as you get to the airport in plenty of time, you should still be able to sit with your traveling companion. Worst case scenario, you’re stuck between a smelly fellow and a screaming baby… you can ask someone to switch with you after boarding….

Cancellation Insurance:

Maybe it’s just me, but paying $30 in cancellation insurance for a $42 flight seems a little excessive. Not only did rejecting this fee come with another threatening pop-up, but it also came with a long waiver that forces you to lie and say that you have “read and understand” their unreasonably long disclosure. There are some cases where insurance is fantastic, like auto or health insurance, but cancellation insurance just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I also figure that if I were to add up all the money I have saved by not buying insurance, it would more than cover any money that I might lose if I had to cancel a flight sometime in the future.

Baggage Fee:

This is the one instance where I would recommend accepting the charge. The fee is pretty much unavoidable, unless you are vacationing to a nudist colony (to each their own), and it is much cheaper to pay the baggage fee in advance rather than at the airport. For all the nudist out there, they do allow you to have one small carry-on that can fit under your seat which can perfectly carry the few things that you’ll be needing, like lots sunscreen and a pair of flip-flops. For the rest of us though, we need at least one carry-on bag. Normally I travel with one rolling carry-on and a laptop bag. There’s a small fee for the rolling carry-on or a larger fee if you need to check a bigger suitcase. Another trick I have learned, for non-discount airlines like Delta, is to always pack my rolling carry-on bag like a checked bag. In other words, nothing in it that’s valuable and could get broken or stolen. 99% of the time, the carry-on space will get too full in the cabin and the flight staff will offer to check your carry-on for free! This is especially handy if you have a quick transfer at an airport. You won’t be stuck sprinting through crowded airports rolling your suitcase over everyone’s toes. People don’t generally like that for whatever reason…

Don’t come hungry!

They may offer you water, but don’t get crazy and ask for some juice because you’ll definitely pay for it. Normally there will be snacks for sale too, but who wants to pay $5 for off-brand, stale peanuts? I prefer to bring my own pack of stale peanuts that I accidentally left in my suitcase from the last time I flew and decide again not to eat them.. Really though, bring a snack. Unfortunately, you should probably buy one of those bottles of water in the terminal that seems like it would be filled with gold flakes for the price that you’ll have to pay. It will be worth it though, because the only thing worse than sitting in dry airplane air is being thirsty while sitting in dry airplane air.

Bonus Perk:

One thing that is really great about discount airlines is that they often fly from smaller airports. For instance Allegiant doesn’t fly from the main Tampa airport, but from the St. Pete/Tampa airport. These airports are much less busy, so no long lines and a lot less “hurry up and wait.”

These are just a few things that have worked for me, but let me know if you have any other tips or travel stories!