Looking Back at the Spring 2017 Semester


I did a look-back last semester and since it happens to be one of my favorite posts, I figured I should do one for Spring as well.

Looking back at your life is eye-opening to say the least. It’s like looking into a rear view mirror and seeing everything you’ve done in that specific timeframe: all the mistakes, all the successes, all the stumbles, all the lessons. I try not to miss out on an opportunity to look back at things if I can help it, but this might be just be because I am a terrible overthinker.

But even though I’ve only been home for a week, Spring semester seems so far removed, like it was lifetimes away. Maybe my mind is so preoccupied by other things, or maybe there are things I just don’t want to remember, but it seems like I have a slight haze over the past semester. January just seems so long ago.

February is a bit clearer, at least. I took a family trip to Punta Cana with my family, which meant tons of quality time, a great sun tan, and time off from school. I came home and celebrated a whole two decades of myself with one of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever had– at least until I sprained my back playing Just Dance (beware the Rasputin dance, kiddos). In all seriousness though, my birthday totally rocked, so thanks to my incredible friends for everything.

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Seriously, my birthday was incredible.

The next few months honestly kind of blur together. I saw Panic! at the Disco in concert (incredible, in case you were wondering). I saw The Lion King on Broadway (also pretty incredible). I went to some awesome campus events, like Strawberry Fest, where you get all these delicious strawberry-centered foods to nibble on, and Roth Regatta, where teams build cardboard boats and race in them across a pond on campus.

As far as my academic and professional lives are concerned, I got a real job doing social media for Stony Brook’s residential safety program. I also joined Her Campus Stony Brook‘s social media team. I got another internship at the school paper, the Statesman, this time as their archivist. I got to really test out my photo-taking chops at work, in class, and for some friends. I worked really hard in my classes, and got some really great grades. Overall, this semester was really a time of growth and fun.

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A snap of me in the photo studio while I was taking my final project

That being said, this semester was not without its lessons. From January to now, here are some things I’ve learned.

  1. It’s okay to ask for help: I used to have this notion that if I couldn’t do something on my own, I shouldn’t do it at all. I often used this argument for why I didn’t need to speak to a therapist about things that made me sad or anxious, or why I didn’t need to see a school advisor. The thing is that this argument doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, you need to get a little assistance, either because you need the support or because you’re not an expert in the topic. Getting assistance isn’t a bad thing, and shouldn’t be seen as such. In fact, asking for help should be seen as a strength, because someone is comfortable enough with themselves to admit when they’re just not sure about something.
  2. But trust your gut: Sometimes, though, you just are right. No matter what anyone else says, don’t let them dissuade you if you’re confident in yourself and what you’re doing. If it fits with your standards, morals, ideals and values, stick to it. Don’t let anyone knock you down.
  3. You’ll never know everything: But also, don’t ever think you know everything, because you just don’t, and that’s okay. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn whatever you can, but remember that there’s always so much more out there to learn. This is a silly story, but it really made me realize just how much I don’t know, and how much more open-minded and humble I have to become: I was still in school when my friends Torie and Lauren had finished, so they decided they’d take a trip to Stony Brook to visit me one morning. We wanted to go hiking, and one place that came highly recommended was Avalon Park and Preserve, somewhere I had already visited with my friend Alyssa. I assured Torie and Lauren that the park itself was just a brief nature walk, not an actual hike, but online sources said otherwise. Despite my protests, we decided to visit Avalon anyway. I was skeptical about the so-called “hiking,” but found myself eating my own words when we stumbled upon an actual hike and then some. The truth was that I didn’t know everything about Avalon, just like I don’t know everything in general, and I can’t claim to be the expert on anything. And that is okay.

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    A shot of Torie and I as we took a break from hiking (yes, hiking) at Avalon Park and Preserve.
  4. Think outside of yourself: Consider how your actions affect more than just yourself. Could they hurt or offend someone? Then maybe it’s best to avoid that action. During this semester, I got into a huge fight with one of my closest friends because I didn’t consider how my actions might have affected them. I truly regret how I let myself become so self-consumed that I didn’t even notice their feelings. I don’t think this is an experience I’ll ever be able to forget, and because of it, I’m trying harder to recognize the affect my actions can have on others.
  5. Communication is key: If something is bothering you, the only way to make them better is to communicate. People can’t read minds… well, most people anyways. You can’t expect something to get fixed if you don’t try to talk to someone about it. Also, if you’re working with a group or a team, you need to be prepared to communicate, and to do so ahead of time. You can’t be giving people orders the day you want something done. Communication means success.
  6. You can change and still be you: Just because your interests or passions change, doesn’t mean you do. When I first came to Stony Brook, I was convinced that all I wanted was to be president of Greek club. I didn’t care about any other extracurricular, as long as I got that position at some point. Now, did I really want that position, or did I just want it because everyone knew me as the Greek girl? I’m not really sure. But now I’m a part of other clubs and activities that I love as well, and I’m beginning to wonder if this me, the one that loves doing social media for Her Campus Stony Brook and the one that loves planning events for the School of Journalism Advisory Board, is the actual me. Not necessarily a changed me, but a self-realized me. Of course I still love being Greek and being a part of Greek club, but that doesn’t always have to be my defining factor, nor does it have to be the only thing about myself that I chase. Changing your passions, your goals and your dreams doesn’t mean you’re not yourself anymore. It just means you’re doing what makes you happiest and most fulfilled in that particular moment.

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    A photo with this year’s and next year’s School of Journalism Advisory Board (affectionately known as SOJAB) at the banquet that we planned.
  7. Sometimes plans are too ambitious: Take my 2017 resolutions, for example. I could barely get myself to blog once a month, let alone once a week. I was just too busy (sorry, guys). Even more than that, I made a goal to read as many pages of fun books as I did school books. Well, guess what: that didn’t happen. Not that I didn’t want it to, I just couldn’t find enough time in the day to get it all done. My plan may have come from a good place, but it just wasn’t a good fit for my actual life. And that’s definitely something to keep in mind for future plans and goals.
  8. Spread your love: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s so easy to get comfortable with just one group of friends. They become your safe place and, especially in college, meeting up with them takes almost zero planning (thanks, GroupMe). But if you spend all your time with the same people, and never make time for anyone else, like those random friends from your math class or the girl you sometimes talk to at club meetings, you might be missing out on the friendship of a lifetime. Make an effort to spend time with and get to know other people outside of your inner circle. It’s refreshing to hang out with a new face, and it can be even more helpful when you need a brief escape from the people you’re always with. In all seriousness, expanding your circle doesn’t hurt, and you’ll be better for it.

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    A Snapchat of my friend Bria and I. Bria and I had three whole classes together this semester and managed not to kill each other! Jokes aside, we got even closer than we were before because we got to spend so much time together.
  9. Take (calculated) risks: I’m not saying you should run on train tracks or ride a motorcycle without a helmet. What I’m saying is that sometimes, doing something out of your comfort zone isn’t always bad. When my family started planning the trip to Punta Cana, I told them to go without me. I had to be in class and couldn’t risk missing any material. What if I missed a homework assignment, or worse, a test? The problem was, I couldn’t even imagine missing out on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for my entire family to go on vacation together. Plus, I would have serious FOMO if I knew that all my aunts, uncles and cousins were sitting on the beach with my parents and brothers, getting their tan on. So I thought about it and realized that the pros of me going heavily outweighed the cons. So what I’m saying is that sometimes it’s okay to risk what you know to be safe and easy, as long as you’ve calculated to make sure that your risk is worth it.

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    Vacationing with my brothers and cousins was so worth missing class!

 

With Spring semester finally over, I’m excited to finally turn my attention over to summer, which means high school friends and camp! I’m overjoyed to say that I will be returning to my camp, Camp St. Paul, for my fifth summer, this time as an admin team member. I will be running a session all about service projects, called Diakonia, as well as the camp store. I can’t wait to head to Connecticut and unwind at my favorite place for five weeks, but until then I’ll be home making some Diakonia lesson plans, hopefully hitting the beach, and catching up with some friends.

I’m also going to try to keep blogging. I have a few things lined up for you all, but like I said in my last post, if there’s anything you’d like to see up on Tantalizingly Tasteful, please let me know! Until next time, Tasters!

xx,

Toni

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Looking Back at the Fall 2016 Semester


After a three-week hiatus, I am happy to say that finals are finally done and I am finally back in action. Now, I’m all yours. At least for the next month or so.

On Friday, I moved out of my dorm room and back into my bedroom. It’s weird not having my friends in the room right next door or a (half-service) Dunkin Donuts a few feet outside my window, but I’m looking forward to getting a chance to clear my mind and get my life back in some semblance order. Plus, I’ll finally get some time to catch up with my friends from high school.

I learned some really great things this year, academically and professionally speaking. Between my (favorite) journalism writing and reporting class and my internship at the school paper, the Statesman, I feel like I’m really starting to hone in on my reporting skills. I love going out and getting to hear people’s stories. I was fortunate enough to serve as a Teaching Assistant for an Honors 101: Introduction to Stony Brook class and it helped me realize how much I love working in a classroom setting. I even got the incredible opportunity to assist a visiting journalist with research for a biography she’s been writing. It really was an incredible (and incredibly busy) semester.

But academics and work aren’t everything this world has to offer. In honor of the end of the Fall 2016 semester, the first semester of my sophomore year, I’d like to share some reflections and inner musings I’ve accumulated from August to now.

  1. It’s never too late to make friends: I really thought that after my freshman year, the friends I had would stay my friends and that there would be no changes. Though my core group has stayed the same, I’m really happy that I’ve met and gotten to know some super awesome people over the last few months. I’m excited to see how our friendships grow as we get deeper into the journalism program and the Honors College.
  2. Or to find a new hobby: College really is the perfect time to find out what you’re interested in and good at. I’ve always been interested in photography, but never actually learned the necessary skills. I finally took a photo class this semester (two, technically, if you count my journalism multimedia course), and I feel like I found something I love and might actually be good at. I love having the ability to capture beautiful moments. My new-found love led to plenty of impromptu photo shoots and thousands of pictures over the semester. The moral of the story is that if you’re interested in learning something new or picking up a new hobby, it’s worth putting in the work to learn the new skill and make it a part of your life, no matter how late in the game you or others might think it is.

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    Nature pictures are some of my favorites to take. This was taken at the High Line in Manhattan.
  3. Being involved is great: Like I said, this was a busy semester. I interned at the school paper, served as a teaching assistant, assisted with research for a biography, served on the School of Journalism Advisory Board, and served as the treasurer of the Greek and Cypriot Student Association. I’ve learned that it’s the activities you take part in outside of the classroom that make the college experience what it is. If I didn’t have these things to participate in or work on, I would be so bored and un-busy. I love being busy (even if I do complain about it in the moment.) Really, I’m not myself unless I’m busy and running around like a maniac. I thrive in chaos. Plus, being involved in things you’re passionate about helps you meet new people and make essential connections. Being involved in university activities is a great way to distract yourself from the mundane every day of the college experience while still being productive.
  4. You can’t let your mental state control your life: I am way too guilty of this. If I start feeling down, I’ll let the mood take over my life entirely. I won’t get out of bed, I won’t clean my room, I won’t eat, I won’t hang out with my friends, etc. It’s an awful downward spiral. I’m beginning to learn that sometimes you have to force yourself to stay positive and be motivated even if you’re feeling exactly the opposite. Sometimes the only way to get things done and get yourself out of the slump is to not let yourself give into your negative mood. This is definitely something I need to work on in 2017.

    Just found this on Pinterest… Pinterest always has exactly what you need when you need it!
  5. Only buy as much produce as you will actually use: Not as deep as usual, but still important. Long story short, I tried to eat healthier this semester, and in the process, brought way too much produce (sorry, Mom and Dad.) I seriously wish I had bought less. Just trust me and learn from my mistake. It’s much better to have to buy more than waste food.
  6. It’s okay to play Just Dance by yourself: It’s okay to do anything by yourself, really. Even though people thought there was something wrong with me when they walked past my dorm room door and I was dancing by myself, it was kind of fun. So was going to the campus art gallery right now. And eating dinner by myself. And going to the gym. I think there’s something really powerful in doing things alone. It’s easy to fall into the idea that you have to do things in groups or else you’ll be judged, but I think this makes it a lot harder for us to get to know ourselves as individuals. Seriously, treat yourself to some time alone and get to know what you’re into and what your inner thoughts are telling you. We spend so much time working on our relationships with other people, so why can’t we spend some time on our relationships with ourselves?

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    I took this when I went to an art exhibit by the Guerrilla Girls on campus… alone. And I have to say, it was oddly refreshing to walk around the gallery by myself. No pressure, no distractions. Just art.
  7. Writing is hard but worth it: I’ve always loved writing, but sometimes getting words on paper is easier said (or thought) than done. This semester, I became a lot more serious about and devoted to blogging, and also participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November, in which you “win” if you write a novel of 50,000 words or more. (I didn’t win, in case you were wondering, but I’m still proud of my progress!) Writing well is definitely a challenge. It can be hard to make characters come to life or convey the right feeling. It can be even harder when you’re inspired and motivated to write but you don’t have the time to do it. Even writing my stories for the Statesman and my reporting class was challenging, especially because I wanted everything to be perfect. This semester, I really learned that even though the process can be challenging, writing stories and blog posts is worth it, because it’s something I love. Being able to record my thoughts and communicate stories through the written word is one of my favorite parts of this life, and one of the biggest parts of who I am. So yeah, in a nutshell, even though it is definitely a challenge, sometimes the most challenging things are also the most valuable and enjoyable.
  8. I’ve got things to work on: Yes, this one is totally obvious. Everyone has things they need to work on, but I think this semester really helped me narrow down a couple of things that are at the top of the list. I’m beginning to understand that I can’t control anyone or anything except myself, and I can’t always fix other people’s issues. I’ve realized that I have a tendency to romanticize and idealize situations and forget the bad things when the good things come along, but I can’t keep returning to situations that hurt me. Also, relationships go two ways, and I can try over and over again to fix things, but if the other person isn’t doing their share, it’s not worth it. Basically, I’ve learned that I need to work on seeing my own value, that I’m not someone to be taken advantage of just because I care so much about other people, and that I don’t need to change myself in order to fit other people’s ideas of what I should be. I am who I am and I should be proud of and happy with that. I need to learn that it’s okay to put myself and my opinion first sometimes. Now I just need to actually figure out how to work on these things…
  9. Experiences>stress any day: I’d rather make memories than stress out over classes any day. Ten, twenty years from now, I’m going to remember the stupidly fun things I did with my friends, not the extra hour of studying I could’ve gotten. I’m not even going to lie, I cut class once this semester to go on an adventure at a local park and preserve with my friend Alyssa. Was it the best idea for my education or grade? No, probably not. But Alyssa really wanted to go and it was beautiful out. And you know what? I don’t regret it. Just like I don’t regret getting midnight bagels. Or midnight McDonald’s. Spontaneous adventures with my friends are the highlight of my life. Grades, classes, and work aren’t everything, guys. Don’t let society make you forget that. Live a little. Do what you love.

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    Here’s a picture I took of Alyssa when we went on our adventure. Not pictured: Alyssa bonding with the geese. Honestly, this is one of my favorite memories of the semester.

With Fall semester finally over and Spring semester so close, I’m glad I had these thoughts now and left room for more improvement come January. I’ve got great things to look forward to next semester too, including the next phase of the journalism program, another photo class, more Greek dancing (finally!), and more! In the meantime, I’m taking an online business class over the winter break just to get some credits out of the way. I hope you stay tuned for more life reflections and upcoming holiday and New Year posts! Happy holidays, Tasters!

xx,

Toni

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Looking Back at Washington, D.C.


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The beautiful view from the Lincoln Memorial

I got back from Washington, D.C. on Sunday night, but honestly, it feels like forever ago already. I had been so excited for my trip beforehand, and then it went by in the blink of an eye. Here’s a look back at my weekend!

Friday, November 4

Traveling is never the fun part of traveling. On Friday afternoon, I had to get on a 1:19 train to get to Penn Station and meet my friend Demi. The train alone took just under two hours. Demi and I then walked ten minutes to Port Authority to meet our friend (and her “fousin”) Stella for a four-and-a-half-hour bus ride from New York City to Washington, D.C. The bus ride itself took up a majority of our day and was completely exhausting, but it was nice to get a chance to catch up.

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Finally getting into Union Station (which is totally beautiful, BTW!) From top top bottom: me, Demi and Stella

When we finally made it to Union Station at around 9:30, we were so tired and barely wanted to go out, but we fought through it. We took a taxi to the Renaissance Hotel in Dupont Circle, where our friend Anastacia was already waiting for us. We rushed to get ready and eventually made it out for the first event of Panhellenism Weekend 2016 by midnight.

Saturday, November 5

I guess the first party should probably go here since it was after midnight… But we walked a few blocks (and then Ubered because we got a little lost) to this super-cool four-floor club/bar called Ozio for the first event. Luckily, we didn’t wait on line to get in for more than 20 minutes, and in the meantime, I got to chat with some friends from camp I hadn’t seen since August. To me, that was better than the actual party.

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It was so great to catch up with friends this past weekend! From left to right: me, Raquel, Steph (who was one of my first camp counselors!) and Victoria

The club was totally cramped. Like, the kind of cramped where you can barely breathe. And that’s doable when you’re with your friends and know the people around you. But it’s a whole other story when the people around your are drunk strangers. Long story short, it wasn’t long before I got uncomfortable and wanted to go to sleep. I had expected a great, long night of dancing with my friends, but there wasn’t even enough room for that. I was disappointed to say the least.

We didn’t get back to the hotel room until 3AM, and didn’t really get to bed until five, but when we woke up in the morning, we were ready to take on the day… kinda. While my friends went to a brunch for alumni of Ionian Village, a Greek Orthodox sleep away camp in Greece (which needs your help, BTW!), I stayed in the hotel room and worked on my NaNoWriMo story (I am so behind now, don’t even get me started) and FaceTimed my friend Maria to catch her up on what happened the night before.

When the girls were done with the brunch, Anastacia and Stella came back to the hotel to get me and Demi hung out with her friend from Ionian Village. The girls and I walked to the Lincoln Memorial with our friend Niko. It was so warm out and the scenery was so beautiful, with leaves changing colors and fashionable people walking past us. I loved D.C., but it was definitely a little quiet for someone like me, who loves New York City.

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I couldn’t put my camera down at the Lincoln Memorial
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Had to get a shot of Abe…

We met up with some of our friends at the Lincoln Memorial and took some awesome pictures (shout out to great lighting!). I wish I had gotten to do more sightseeing though, but we had limited time and Stella had to meet up with some friends from high school.

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Anastacia and I in front of Abraham Lincoln… I guess we cut him out
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A shot of my outfit, courtesy of Stella! We took a ton of pictures in the spot because the lighting was great.
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Stel and I chilling on the steps
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Had to get a shot by the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, even if the sun was in our eyes

The three of us took a taxi to Georgetown and I was immediately in love. It was so trendy, clean, historic and photogenic. We literally stepped out of the car into a brick alley that was just begging to be photographed, so we had yet another photoshoot (shout out to Anastacia and the brick wall for giving me something to use for my photo class project).

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The love I have for these two is insane… thanks to you two (and Demi) for coming on this adventure with me
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Posing with Anastacia
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All smiles (and all black) with Stella

When Stella left us to visit her high school friends, Anastacia and I grabbed lunch at a restaurant called J. Paul. They had really yummy pretzel bread as an appetizer, and Anastacia was totally obsessed with her sandwich. I got a crab cake sandwich, figuring it was something more regional and something I was much less likely to get at home, and it was alright. When we were done, we headed to Forever 21 for some last-minute accessory shopping. I bought a pair of earrings and Anastacia got a choker. We then found Stella, the girls stopped for bubble tea (I tried a sip for the first time, still not sure what I think), and headed back to the hotel for a nap.

We got ready for the night and were ready to leave around 11:30 or so. The event was at the historic Howard Theatre, which was stunning to say the least. The line was so short, which was a plus, and there was food (even though all I had was one mac and cheese bite). There was much more space to dance, but my feet were killing me from the night before and the day of walking, which was a bummer. I was able to catch up with some friends, and snagged a seat next to my cousin Dionysia to chat for a while.

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Catching up with my amazing and incredible cousin Di

Stella and I finally decided to head back to the hotel around two because we were exhausted. We stayed up a little while longer just talking, but eventually fell asleep before Demi and Anastacia had even gotten back to the room.

Sunday, November 6

I woke up the next morning in a panic. The clock next to me said 11:30 and our bus back to New York was at 2:15. We hadn’t even started packing our stuff up yet, and everyone except for Anastacia, who had gone to church and wasn’t leaving until 4, was still in bed. Then, I remembered daylight savings time was a thing and calmed down. We eventually got up, packed our things, checked out and headed to West End Bistro, a restaurant Stella’s sister had recommended for brunch.

Honestly, if you’re in D.C. and around the Dupont Circle/Ritz-Carlton Hotel area, I highly, highly recommend West End Bistro. The staff was so accommodating and friendly. The restaurant itself was stunning. The food was spectacular (even if it was a bit expensive for my taste).  I got the WEB Breakfast Burger, which had an actual burger with cheddar cheese, a sunny side egg (which I usually don’t even like), bacon, and caramelized onions on a brioche bun and French fries on the side. It was so, so amazing.

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MY AMAZING WEST END BISTRO BRUNCH

Stella, Demi and I said goodbye to Anastacia and finally made it to Union Station but, wouldn’t you know it, our bus is late. We thought we were going to miss the bus, but it didn’t leave till around three. And then we hit traffic. We were supposed to get into Port Authority by 6:35, which meant I’d be able to take a 7:18 train back to Stony Brook, but we didn’t get in until closer to seven, which gave me absolutely no time to make it back to Penn Station and grab my train. So, we grabbed dinner at Port Authority (chain pizza and pasta, anyone?) and then Demi and I left Stella to head towards Penn. I finally got back to Stony Brook around 10:40, a whole hour later than I was supposed to and eight hours after I started traveling. Like I said, traveling is exhausting.

So now you’ve (presumably) read a lot about what I did during the day, but here are my thoughts. D.C. is stunning, and I wish I could’ve spent more time enjoying the city and the sights than waiting on lines for parties I barely enjoyed and being squashed in between people. Also, next time I go, I want to go for a longer amount of time so I can better enjoy it.  And if I do go to Panhellenism Weekend 2017, likelihood is I’ll only be attending one night event (in much more comfortable shoes!)  and spending the other night taking in our country’s capital.

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Another beautiful view in Georgetown (which I think is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal but honestly I’m not sure)

I hope this post gave you a little bit of a look into my life and my head. Let me know about any of your own experiences traveling or in Washington, D.C., or tell me about other places I should check out! Hope you’re out there loving the world!

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Kisses to you, Tasters!!

xx,

Toni

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