Inspired by...Love

Well isn’t this an interesting topic for today!  What is love?  Love has definitely been on my mind lately, but today I’m going to talk about love for a place:

I’ve fallen in love with London in the 8 months I’ve been here, and it’s not just because it’s “new”, because after 8 months, the exciting newness totally wears off.  I love London because it feels right to be here.  There’s this energy that London has that I can only describe as a “buzz.”  It’s not that crazy high-strung hype of New York (as much as I miss it!), but rather, it’s buzzing hum of activity and culture. 

London is historic — you have the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, the statue to Nelson Trafalgar, and so many relics to its history that have become embedded into its overall scheme.  Of course, there’s Buckingham Palace, home of the Royal Family, and references to the monarchy all over the place, such as the “Victoria” and “Jubilee” Tube lines, the Victoria and Albert museum, and the “Jubilee Bridge”, for example.  London is a microcosm of the British monarchy that dates back hundreds of years.  The East End was once home to the majority of immigrants to London and you can still see remnants of this influx of culture, from Brick Lane (home to the best curry I’ve ever had) to the oldest synagogue in Britain, which brings me to my next point:

London is full of culture.  I’ve never experienced such a multicultural, cosmopolitan city like London before.  I’m not quite sure how to describe it, other than the fact that there are all kinds of people and cultures here.  Museums are all free and they're open late on certain nights of the week, and people go to them as a social event!  There is such rich culture that you can feel from the people and their social calendars.

London is refined and orderly.  Coming from a super type-A person, I really appreciate the fact that it is an unwritten rule that you stand on the right of the escalator and walk on the left side, and that it is reinforced by “tutting” at those who do not obey.  The Tube runs regularly (when it’s in operation, as in, before 1am and after 5:30 am) and stations are clearly marked.  Besides those two obvious examples, I just get get a sense of order here, and I love it!

Being in London feels right to me, finally.  I feel like I belong here and that the layout of the city and its history and people make sense to me.  I can go for a run and not get lost while still being able to still marvel at the sight of the Houses of Parliament lit up from across the Thames at dusk.  London is familiar, without being boring, because I don’t think it could ever be boring.  London is what I needed and what I still need, and though the “honeymoon phase” has perhaps ended and I get annoyed at tourists and the fact that I still can’t tell which way cars are going to turn, I feel a sense of purpose here and a commitment to something greater than myself. 

That’s what love is, to me.  Love is not just the physical or superficial aspects of something, but rather, how the partnership of the two of you manifests itself.  You don’t have to love every single thing and walk around with a huge smile on your face, but you should still find something to marvel at and believe that you are committed to something that goes beyond your immediate needs.

Inspired to be,

Katherine

Inspired by...10 Things That Cheer Me Up!

How relevant is this topic, right now?! I have my first exam tomorrow (wish me luck!) and more next week so amidst all of the revision fun, here are 10 things that always cheer me up when I’m feeling a little down [Cue “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music]:

 

1. Music: I am a huge playlist person since organising my music into neat little categories is so me.  Among others, I have a “2015 Year of Dreams” playlist that I’m adding to with songs from happy points throughout the year, a playlist my mom made me about 4 years ago with more nostalgic and comforting songs, my Broadway playlist (I really belt out these songs sometimes, especially when I’m driving), and my newly made “Smart Girl/HBIC” playlist that is my ultimate power playlist.  This is the one that I really jam out to when I’m having a tough day or just need to smile and relax a bit.

 

2. Cooking and baking: There’s something so rhythmic about being in the kitchen that makes you forget everything else because you have to pay attention so much.  There’s a quote from the movie Julie and Julia where Julie gets home from a miserable day at work and tells her husband, “You know why I love cooking?  Because on a day where nothing makes sense, I know that if you mix egg yolks, sugar, chocolate and cream, it will become thick and perfect.”  It’s my zen.

 

3. The West Wing: I’m on a West Wing kick since nothing inspires me in the intellectual sense quite like this show.  It’s familiar since I grew up watching it and it makes me think of my dad, but it’s a political masterpiece and reminds me of why I study what I study, and who I want to be one day.

 

4. Yoga: There’s no problem that a good headstand can’t fix!  I remember the day I could finally do a headstand in the middle of the room and let me tell you, that feeling when you get your legs right in the air and you can view the world upside down is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  Beyond headstands, though, the stretching feels amazing and I get a nice buzz afterwards.


5. Long walks: I always make sure to take a break in between major chunks of work since getting my blood moving is exactly what I need!  I especially love my walks here since I get to drink in the beauty of London and clear my head a bit.

 

6. My Vinyasa scarf: My mom got me the Lululemon Vinyasa scarf for my birthday and I am in LOVE!  It’s so soft and stretchy and you can wear it like a scarf, a shrug, a wrap, and even a blanket.  I love curling up in this and feeling warm and cosy.

 

7. Making lists and organising: When life starts to feel overwhelming, taking a few minutes and making a list of things to do and things you want to do is very therapeutic.  Added bonus: colour-code it!  There’s something about a neat list that makes life seem a little more manageable.  Also, cleaning helps, too!  A few weeks ago, I spent about 15 minutes tackling this huge pile of papers, ticket stubs, pamphlets, etc. from this whole year, condensed it, and fit it neatly into a plastic envelope that looks much less scary!  It was such a feeling of accomplishment!

 

8. A hot drink: cappuccino or Egyptian Licorice tea: I’ve recently discovered the beauty that is a good cappuccino, and while caffeine isn’t the best for anxiety, it just tastes so warm and luxurious!  My favourite tea is Egyptian Licorice tea (from Yogi Tea) and I’ve been drinking it for years — it has a lovely spicy-sweet taste and instantly puts me in a good mood.

 

9. Digital content: It sounds a little odd, but I always set aside time once or twice a week for all of the digital content I like to read.  This can be articles I’ve saved in my reading list on Safari or checking blogs, columnists, and websites that I find inspiring.  I like feeling caught up with the world and I find I learn a lot from these little catch-up times.  Also, I Pin a lot of the articles that I like so it goes back to the organising thing.  Extra points if you combine this with tea or a cappuccino. 

 

10. Reading: When I’ve had to read for revision for several hours, a change of pace with one of my favourite books does wonders!  It lets me escape and be taken for a ride by a story, rather than facts that I have to put together.  

 

11. Harry Potter audiobooks: When I was about 11, I borrowed Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix audiocassette (it was 2005, people!) from my aunt and I think I listened to the book about 5 times that summer.  I used to carry my Walkman with me to car rides and swim meets, and listen to it in bed, because Jim Dale (the narrator) has the voice of an angel.  It’s so familiar to me that listening to it for just five minutes totally relaxes me.  In fact, I downloaded the audiobook onto my laptop a few months ago and am listening to it again!  I listened to a few of them last summer on my commute to work, and it was the best way to start my day!

 

12. (This is the last one, I promise!)  A good chat.  Whether it be with my mom, my dad, my brother, or my friends, a good chat refreshes me and puts things in perspective.


I know that was more, but it actually helped after a long day to think of “My Favorite Things”!


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...Not Being Held Back

Another deep prompt from #BlogEverydayInMay!  I wrote earlier today about what I am struggling with right now, so a few more thoughts on the subject:

 

Fear. 

 

Fear is holding me back at the moment.  I am worried about my exams, not only because they’re hard, but because what if it turns out I’m not as smart as I think I am? I have no reason to believe that I won’t be fine, but what if…?  This is new to me, and I’m not someone who adapts to change very easily.  I cling to what I know and I refuse to let anything else in, so much so that I panic and it drains me and I can’t think.  It’s what happened when I first got here and everything was strange, and it’s happening again.  I know that because when this happens, the person I turn to is my mom and I tend to get a little clingy.  It’s so frustrating because I’m 20 years old and I want to grow up and feel like I’ve got a handle on my life. 

 

I know that this summer and next year will be a time of immense transition, but for now, this in-between phase is driving me crazy.  To put it very simply, I have things to work through at the moment, and fear, especially fear of change is one of the things preventing me from working through them.  


But, exams are exams and I’ll survive somehow.  One of the best cures for anxiety is music, I strongly believe, especially the following pertinent song: Let It Go.


Inspired to be… (and inspired to Let It Go!),


Katherine

Inspired by...London Reflections

Wow, it’s been a busy few days, hence the lack of #BlogEverydayInMay posts!  I usually blog in the evenings, but I’ve had things going on and it’s hard to get back into my usual groove.  Anyway, the two prompts that I’ve missed are: “What is your favourite stamp in your passport” and “What are you struggling with right now?” which I am going to combine in a “London Reflection”!

I love passport stamps.  Ever since I got my passport for a school trip to Canada my senior year, I’ve longed to have this little book filled with details of my adventures.  Unfortunately, crossing the US-Canada border doesn’t necessitate a stamp, so I had to wait until my trip to Paris the following year.  I remember looking at the stamp fondly, as a record of my first flight and first trip to Europe.  My favourite stamp, however, is on page 8 — this is where I have my British visa and a stamp on the right-hand side dating from September 25th at Heathrow Terminal 3.  This is where this whole year began, on a morning I barely remember because I was jet-lagged out of my skull and starting to have that creeping sensation of “oh my god what have I done?”  Looking back on it now, however, and I have fonder feelings towards it.  That sticker and the little stamp on the side represent this entire year and the emotions, adventures, and growth that have come with it.  This year has flown by faster than I realised until about two weeks ago.

 I feel like I’ve been here forever, but I’ve been living in Europe for eight months and will be back in the States in just about 18 days.  I’ve already written about the emotional ups and downs that I’ve ridden throughout the year, but right now, I’m thinking about how close I was to not studying abroad, or not coming here specifically, and I can’t imagine my life without this experience.  This year has allowed me to visit twelve countries, fall in love with London, have one of the most academically-enriching years I’ve ever had, meet incredible people, and grow more than I ever expected.  I am not the person who flew out of JFK on September 24th and am so happy that I have survived.

And now onto the tough part: exams.  Before I can go on my bittersweet way back to the States on June 4th, I have to make it through four exams which the LSE Exams Department felt the need to point out are made intentionally difficult.  Thanks, guys.  I’ve never taken exams in the British system before and these exams in general just feel different to me.  I’ve had a difficult weekend in terms of studying (“revision”!) because right now, I’m feeling very overwhelmed and like I just can’t wrap my head around things.  It shifts from one class to another — on Friday, I was stressing about my Islamic Empires exam, and now I’m stressing about my Politics in Europe class.  I have my first exam on Tuesday which is my Islamic Empires exam and I’m starting to feel better about it, but trying to force an entire year’s worth of information into my head is sparking some of my [until-now latent] anxiety, which is just great.  And it’s not like I haven’t been a good student all year, so much that this year has thrown my confidence in my intelligence for a serious loop, which I believe is completely necessary in terms of growth and all that, but I’m scared.  That’s the only way I can say it: I’m scared to take these exams.  It’s hard to be so close to the end that I can feel what my bed at home feels like, but have four incredibly difficult hurdles to jump over (haha, hurdles, my old elbow-breaking friend) and I find myself saying “I just want to go home” as I try to read my notes.  Friday and Saturday were hardest, but I woke up today in a much better mood and am finally able to take some deep breaths.  Once I have Tuesday out of the way, the exams won’t feel so new, so I think that will help a lot.  Until then, however, I just need to push myself through and it will all be over soon.  Wish me luck!


 
Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Quirks

First of all, I love the word “quirk.”  Doesn’t it sound so fitting?  After some deep shower-thinking, here are my top quirks!  Enjoy and try not to judge :)

1. I can lick my elbow.  I’m really proud of this and would be happy to show you.

2. I have to shower and wash my hair before I go to bed each night — no matter how late it is, I sleep best on wet, clean hair.

3. I don’t like crowds. AT ALL.  I don’t mind crowded subways/Tubes, but a crowded street or a crowded room freaks me out and I get this weird feeling that I have to shove myself out.  

4. Sometimes when I’m walking, or showering, or laying in bed before I fall asleep, I make up stories in my head that basically narrate what my perfect life will look like :)

5. I am obsessed with postcards and keeping little mementos like ticket stubs, pamphlets, stickers, etc..  Some day I’ll make a scrapbook…some day

6. I practice smiles and other facial expressions in the mirror when I’m getting ready in the morning/evening.  Musical theatre never left me!

7. Colour-coding and list-making make me happy

8. I like going into bookstores and making list upon list of books I want to read — I think it has something to do with the idea that I will read all of these books some day.

9. I love teddy bears.  In fact, when I got back to London in January and needed some comfort, I went to Build a Bear and made a bear…which I told the assistant was for my cousin.  He totally saw through it.

10. I’ve owned and worn the same pair of sunglasses since my freshman year of high school which is when I finally got contacts.  Brittany and my mother are probably going to cringe when they read this.

That’s all I can think of for now!  Embrace your quirks!

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by...Who Inspires Me!

How could I write a blog called “KatherInspired” and NOT write about who and what inspires me?  I mean, I technically do it on a daily basis, but for today’s #BlogEverydayInMay, let’s talk about some smart women who (inadvertently) push me to do and be my best:

 

Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Elizabeth McCord

     Let’s hear it for the first two female Secretaries of State, and the fiction version of both of them!  Say what you want about Hillary Clinton, but these three women embody my life goals.  I dream of not only becoming Secretary of State, but of being as strong and badass as these women are.   Also, I wrote an article for Smart Girls Group on Hillary Clinton so click here to check it out! 

 

Hermione Granger / Emma Watson

     Like I’ve said before, I’ve been a huge Harry Potter fan since I was seven years old.  Not only were the books the most beautiful examples of master storytelling that I’ve ever read, but no character has ever spoken to me quite like Hermione.  (As a testament to this, I was Hermione for Halloween three years in a row and used to put mousse in my hair to make it bushy like hers!)  Before she became friends with Harry and Ron, she was on her own, working as hard as she could so she could always raise her hand in class.  She didn’t care what anyone thought of her and wasn’t afraid of working hard.  She stood up for those who needed an advocate and was so loving and supportive of her friends and family, no matter what.  Emma Watson is embracing her inner Hermione, as well!  She graduated from Brown and is a champion of the #HeForShe United Nations campaign — she is truly using her position for the best.

 

Abbey Bartlett, Amelia Gardner, CJ Cregg, Donna Moss, Ainsley Hayes

     I grew up watching The West Wing with my parents and it is because of that show that I am a political science major.  This show sparked and fuels my interest in politics and diplomacy, and it also has given me incredible role models.  The women in this show are tough, and smart, and witty, and fabulous — each of them.  I think of them each time I am talking about politics with someone and they have inspired me for years.  Want some classic scenes?  Click here, here, here, here, and here, and try to not feel inspired.

 

My Smart Girls Sisters!

     How could I not mention my sisters from Smart Girls Group???  They inspire me each day to be a Smart Girl, to be myself, and to share this with the world.  They are incredibly positive, driven, and ambitious women and I am so lucky to have them in my life!

 

I could go on and on about the people who inspire me…but you’ll have to keep reading KatherInspired for more!

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine

[Always] Inspired by...My Mom

Disclaimer: there are no recent pictures of me and my mom!  Seriously, the last picture was taken two years ago and it’s horrible so we’re just not even going to go there.  I am such a bad millennial because I can’t do that obligatory Mother’s Day picture post on Facebook, but I do have two things.  1) a blog and a challenge that is conveniently telling me to write about the most important thing my mom taught me. 2) This picture, taken in Bordeaux after my mom and I went to the mecca of all boulangeries and had the most incredible pastries I have ever and will ever have in my life.  How cute is she???


My mom taught me about dedication.  She worked from home while my brother and I were growing up so that, if one of us got sick at school, she could come pick us up. or so she could spend time with us on school vacations; so she could come to all of our various meets, performances, kindergarten graduations — you name it, she was there.  Never have I known a person who has given everything she has for her family like my mom did.  I remember the summer before fourth grade, for example, when my dad was away the entire summer at the FBI academy in Virginia, and it was just my mom taking care of me and my brother for those 10 weeks.  I was only eight years old, so I couldn’t really realise how excruciating that must have been for her.  She had always taken care of me, my brother, and my dad, but she still had my dad to lean on, and be the other parent.  That summer, it was just her.  And, while still working from home, she did it, and we survived the infamous summer of 2003.  There are a thousand more memories like this, but it would take an entire book, rather than a blog post, to go through all of the specifics.


My mom has been there for me in every sense of the word — the good, the bad, and the awkward.  She has been a part of some of my happiest memories, like when I came out of school in April of 7th grade and she was sitting in the car holding up a big packet from Choate Rosemary Hall with my acceptance letter to their summer program inside.  (Choate’s on my mind right now for several reasons)  She let me be homeschooled for my freshman and sophomore year of high school and spent two years driving me around to classes and co-ops and things and because of her I experienced another huge shift in my academic mentality.  She was there when I was in the middle of an abusive and manipulative relationship and struggling to fight my way back to the surface.  She held me as I learned to breathe again, still shell-shocked, and as I navigated “normal” school again.  She became my closest confidante as I entered happy times again, always listening to the stories from my day, no matter how late I got home.  When I fell in love and was terrified of losing myself again, she was there.  She had my first acceptance letter displayed on the kitchen counter when I got home from school one day in February.  She came to every single performance of Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang and Titanic, every track and cross country meet, all the little senior events…everything.  When I was a complete emotional disaster during my first year at Fordham, she would always answer the phone, even if it was the fifth time I had called that day “just to say hi.”  


My mom is my lookalike (seriously, the resemblance of our childhood pictures is a little scary) and we have been told a thousand times that we look like Molly Ringwald.  In fact, for my 18th birthday, I got the DVD of Sixteen Candles and we watched it together (a year and a half later :) ).  She is my style guru because I’m absolutely hopeless.  From her (and her mother), I inherited a love of all things food.  She taught me how to not just follow a recipe, but how to actually cook for myself.  She helped me come out of my shell and become independent, and has taught me — actually, she’s still teaching me — to accept and love myself.  When something happens, whether it be good or not-so-good, she is the first person I think to tell, because I know she will understand without me having to explain myself too much.  My mom knows me better than anyone else in the world, and that is an immense comfort that is impossible to put precisely into words.


So, my mom taught me not only dedication, but about immense love and devotion, both to yourself and those that you love, and I hope that I can come even a little close to doing for my family what my mom has done for the past 21 years.  Here’s to you, Mom.  I love you.


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...A Mom Memory

This is technically Day 9 of the challenge, so the official Mother’s Day post will be going up tonight, but this prompt is to share a favourite memory from my childhood and it actually does involve my mom!  I can’t say that I have a favourite memory of my childhood — how can I pick just one moment that makes the rest pale in comparison? — because I had a great childhood, but I love telling this story.  It’s a simple moment from sixth grade, but it always makes me smile.

 

At the beginning of sixth grade, the fourth Harry Potter movie came out.  I was a huge Harry Potter fan (some would say fanatic) growing up; I had read all of the books several times, whizzed through the new ones when they came out, constantly made Polyjuice Potion with the kit I had gotten for my birthday, was Hermione for several Halloweens in a row, and the list just goes on and on.  Naturally, I was dying to see the movie.

 

I was in the jazz band in sixth grade (#BandGeekForLife) and back then, rehearsals were held after school until about 4:30 or so.  I remember my mom picking me up from rehearsal and it seemed like any normal day…until we weren’t taking the usual route home.  We seemed to be driving as though we were going to the YMCA where I swam.  My mom pulled into a convenience store and told me to go in and buy two packs of M&Ms.  I assumed she needed them for a recipe, so I didn’t think much of it.  Then, before I knew it, we were in the movie theatre parking lot and my mom was telling me that we were going to see the Harry Potter movie!  

 

That night, we had popcorn and M&Ms for dinner (big deal, trust me!) and I got to feel all grown up and special while watching Harry Potter with my mom.  Mind you, my mom knew very little about Harry Potter so it’s a testament to her that she sat through the entire movie with me.  

 

Like I said, it’s a simple memory, but every time I eat popcorn and M&Ms (world’s best combination), I think of that night and my mom and everything feels okay.

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine

Inspired by...20 Years From Now...

Today’s #BlogEverydayInMay prompt — writing a letter to myself 20 years into the future —  really spoke to me because I feel as though I am right on the verge of some major change in my life.  With that in mind, here’s my letter.  [Also, I hate starting letters to the future with “Dear Me” or something like that, so I’m just going to write]

 

It is May 9th, 2015.  Big things are coming.  Some of it is coming home from London, but a lot of it has to do with growing up, in general.  I’m entering my final year in college (let’s talk about that for a minute), which is also, I believe, going to be one of the most pivotal years for me in my time at Fordham.  I’m going to be going to class, as per usual, but my focus will not just be on being a student.  I’ll be interning, working, tutoring, and continuing some of my positions from this year and last year, so I’ll be taking on a more professional lifestyle.  It’s terrifying because sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.  Sure, I have this whole academic/career plan, but the little things seem to escape me.  I am not financially independent, for example, which is a huge thing for me right now because I want that freedom.  I want a job and source of income, so I fund my own lifestyle.  I feel like I’m at this in-between stage, like a flower that’s just about to bloom.  It’s close, so close, but it just needs a liiiiitttle more sun, a tiny bit more water, and a teensy bit more love before it can just burst open and take on the world.  In 20 years, I’ll be 40, almost 41.  I have no idea what my life will look like, just like I have no idea what my life is going to look like at this point next year, but I think that’s the beauty of this stage of my life.  There are a million things that could happen, and the possibility is exhilarating. 

 

Life is so beautiful right now.  It’s also uncertain because I’m coming home in 25 days, and the adventure of a lifetime will come to a close.  I say that, but just because I won’t be in Europe doesn’t mean that this summer and next year and the year after won’t be an adventure in themselves.  I know that sounds so cliche, but I want you to never forget that.  This year has been so many things for me — at first, it was the kind of excitement where you don’t really know what you’re doing.  For me, that was getting on the plane and having this grand notion about what my enchanted life in London would be like.

 

 Then the jet lag and the general feeling of “Oh my GOD what have I DONE?” set in.  That’s the reality (and lack of sleep).  The first few months here were rough, to say the least.  I spent a lot of time on Skype crying to my mom and having this horrible tightness in my chest that always signalled a wave of anxiety about to knock me over.  The rough edges softened a bit as I began to travel and see the sights and begin to have an idea of how to survive classes here.  I still knew, however, that I would be home in just a few weeks, and that became my rock.

 Then I came home: relief.

 I could breathe because I was where everything was familiar…but that time ended way too quickly and my little bubble was burst as I made my way to the airport for the long stretch of my year away and it wasn’t pure excitement I was feeling because I knew how hard it was to fly away, now.  I was terrified of not being able to make it through the next five months, and it wasn’t exactly relief that I felt when I walked in the door to my room again.  Things were definitely familiar here, but it was anything but easy.  Classes were still a mental boxing match and I wasn’t on the winning side, still.  I got stronger, and was able to fight back more and more, but I can still feel my head spin in class.  I still missed my family and home, where everything made sense, and I still wondered if I was ever going to make it to June.

 

As the weeks went by, however, I began to feel something growing inside me: joy.  The good began to outweigh the not-so-good (because nothing here has really been “bad” per se).  I had my Community and Culture class that took us around London and introduced me to some amazing people, I got to travel a ton and have my solo adventure, I had Adventure Weekend, my Faith and Leadership class, and the days took on a more comfortable rhythm.  It was more than that, though.  I started to feel real, true happiness — not the happiness that masked the terror that I felt first term, but the feeling that I knew what I was doing.  I wasn’t longing for home anymore, because London felt like home.  I wasn’t dreaming of my “real” life at home or at Fordham, because this place, this school, this city, these friends, was and is my life.  I had more and more of those moments where you’re in complete disbelief that you are in this place because you’re just so damn happy that you can’t even begin to soak it all up and breathe it all in. 

I suppose that’s what life is like and what it feels like to truly grow and change, for the better.  So, I don’t know what’s going to be my life in 20 years, but I do know that whatever it is, I can do it.


Inspired to be,


Katherine

Inspired by...A Cause I Support

I’ve already blogged about Smart Girls Group, and what I do as part of the Smart Girls Sisterhood, but let me explain exactly why I am so obsessed with any and all things SGG:

Smart Girls Group is something that, had it existed back then, would have made my entire middle school and high school experience so much better.  I felt so fundamentally different during those long six years, and while I’ve struggled with feeling this way for most of my life, it became most profound during this lovely point in my life.  Some of it had to do with being an introvert and not liking what apparently everyone else liked.  In middle school, I was the girl who could spend hours in her room reading and not think twice about it, wore skirts and dresses all of the time, swam instead of playing soccer, hated sleepovers, and listened to the Annie and The Sound of Music soundtracks instead of the Jonas Brothers (#2008Life).  In high school, material-wise, I wasn’t quite as different from everyone else, but I was still this old soul introvert-type, and I constantly felt on the fringe of the general population that was my age.  Add that to being smart and nerdy, and you’ve got a recipe for a social disaster.  Mind you, things have gotten so much better as I’ve gotten older, but something that made it all click has been Smart Girls Group.

 

Smart Girls Group’s mission is to unite and empower ambitious young women, but for me, it goes so far beyond this.  It is such a positive community of bright and engaged women who are spreading sunshine and smarts wherever they go.  Smart Girls Group encourages you to live your best life and be smart in whatever it is you are smart in.  The way I’ve conceptualised it is that in Smart Girls Group, everyone is unique, but no one is “different.”  I was the girl who was different and liked what no one else liked, but that doesn’t matter with Smart Girls Group, because everyone is different and it’s encouraged and celebrated.

Their various social media platforms make my day so much brighter whenever I come across a post or a tweet or a picture, the website is full of articles and content from girls who want to help you live your best life, the newsletters that I put together not only give me something fun and non-academic to do, but getting them in my email inbox is just as fun as putting them together is.  Not only have I made some incredible friends from being a part of Smart Girls Group, but I am learning to be the Smart Girl that I wish I had been years ago: one who is different, smart, unique, whatever she is, embraces it, and shares it.

Inspired to be,

Katherine 

Inspired by... 5 Books That I Love

I’ve been so excited to write this post because who doesn’t love talking about books?  Also, it makes me remember that I do love reading, especially when it’s not course-related, as much of a nerd as I am :).  While there are sooooo many more books that I love (stay tuned for a list of all of my favourites), here are 5 books to give you a taste!

 

1. The Century Trilogy - Ken Follett

          These books were amazing.  As someone who loves history, especially 20th century history, the fact that the books trace several different families from Britain, the US, Germany, and Russia throughout the 20th century and talk about how all of their lives intertwine, each of these books struck a perfect chord with me.  They were set against real-life events and people, too, so one of the characters works closely with President Wilson on his Fourteen Points in the first books, for example, and I think that makes the story that much richer.  

 

2. My Sister’s Keeper - Jodi Picoult

          Actually, all of Jodi Picoult’s books are works of a true master, but my relationship with Ms. Picoult began with this book.  My mom had been reading My Sister’s Keeper and I remember coming out of swim practice one day to find her sobbing hysterically in the car because she had finished the book…and I’ll leave it there.  With her books, I’m completely sucked in and I literally cannot put the book down until I’m done.  I’ve done this on several occasions and it’s such a satisfying feeling.

 

3. Harry Potter - JK Rowling

          I first picked up the Harry Potter books when I was in second grade and I whizzed through the first four books!  From there it was history and I dove into a world that defined my childhood, and is still a major part of my life today.  I was Hermione (the ultimate Smart Girl) for at least three Halloweens and I read the books and watched the movies over and over and over.  I especially loved the audiobooks, because Jim Dale’s voice is pure magic — I remember listening to the tapes on my walkman when I was about 10 — and is so soothing.  I actually listened to the first few books again this summer when I was commuting into the city and it made mornings so much better.  I could go on and on about Harry Potter, but I wouldn’t do it nearly enough justice.

 

4. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

          I’ve read all three of Khaled Hosseini’s books and they are so beautifully written! Each is set in the mid-to-late-twentieth century in Afghanistan (with some characters moving to America at some point) and as a student of the Middle East, I think he paints an incredible picture of this region and its history.  The characters are so deep and the endings are always bittersweet and they leave me feeling so fulfilled at the end and all throughout when I’m reading them.  Each has made me cry (out of joy and sadness), and gasp with a surprise plot twist, and close my eyes to picture these worlds.

 

5. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowen

          My mom and I actually read this book together while we were travelling around France and I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.  It’s set in the 80s and is the story of two teenagers, who are misfits in their own ways and who fall completely in love with each other.  I won’t say any more about the plot because you really do have to read it to appreciate the beauty of it, but like the back cover says, it will remind you of what it was like to be in love for the first time and how it just pulls you right under.  The writing is sarcastic and smart, and clear, and it grabs at your heart and never lets go.  In fact, I loved it so much that I’m re-reading it!  HIGHLY recommend this book! :)

Inspired to be,

Katherine :)

Inspired by...Never Have I Ever

Woohoo Day 5!  Today’s prompt is to play a little solo and sober game of “Never Have I Ever” so without further ado, here goes!

Never have I ever...

 

1. Eaten fish and chips! (#BadBritishStudent)  I will be going to Brighton in the next few weeks, though, where I am determined to have the full experience of eating fish and chips from a paper cone on the beach.

 

2. Seen Friends.  Carolyn is currently cringing.  I’m sorry.

 

3. Gone farther west than the east coast of the US.  See my Travel Bucket List for future plans!

 

4. Lived in a country with a female president.  But I will.  #Hillary2016

 

5. Read Pride and Prejudice.  I keep meaning to, and how can you live in the UK and not?  On my 101 Things in 1,001 Days list!

 

6. Dyed my hair.  It’s been this colour for my entire life and I will keep it that way!

 

7. Enjoyed painting my nails.  Am I a real 20-year-old girl?

 

8. Done a handstand.  One of my top yoga goals!

 

9. Gone skinny-dipping.  Not entirely sure of the appeal but it’s in all of those coming-of-age movies, and I live in New England so I feel like it’s a must.

 

10. Knitted.  It’s been on my mind lately since it looks oh so relaxing.  Also, who doesn’t love a homemade scarf?

 

11. Taken a taxi to work.  I’ll be interning in the city this fall so this will definitely happen #GrownUpGoals

 

12. Been drunk, smoked, or really done anything illegal.  Have you met my dad? :)

 

13. Made creme brûlée. 

 

14. Pulled an all-nighter for academic purposes.  I’ve made it 3/4 of the way through my undergrad career so I’m not in any rush to break my streak now.

 

15. Run a half-marathon or a Color Run, both of which I am determined to do in the next two years. 

So, some goals, some not-goals but that’s the best part about being #KatherInspired!

 

Inspired to be,

 

Katherine

Inspired by...Saying Thanks

Welcome to the Blog Everyday in May Challenge Day 4!  Today, I am writing a letter to say thanks to a very special lady in my life: my dear friend Farishta who I met on the first day of eighth grade and who has been my friend and sister ever since.

Dear Farishta,

We have been friends for 6 and a half years and you have made those years so beautiful.  I don’t really remember meeting you on the first day of eighth grade or even how we started talking, but one day we did, and then one night we talked on the phone for hours, and the rest is history.  Something about us clicked and you fell into place in my life and fit perfectly.  We survived the last bit of middle school together, and then I left to be homeschooled and kind of abandoned you to face high school on your own, but it didn’t matter that we didn’t go to the same school anymore because we could pick up right where we left off when we saw each other again.  I remember riding my bike to your house (#PreLicenseLife), making hummus in your kitchen, and having movie dates. 

Then, I came back to Valley at the beginning of junior year, and what a miracle because we were in the same math class!  My very first class at a real high school was with you and I was so grateful for that.  We had another survival story: Advanced Topics with Mrs. White and we came out with most of our sanity left.  Remember musical?  It was great having you there, too, especially because we got pictures like this:

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And then we had junior prom, at which we only got one picture together, but I think it’s a funny picture:

We had senior year together, too, and even though we didn’t have any classes together, you were still there through happiness and the occasional heartbreak.  We had plenty of fun times, though, like Titanic, Senior Reception (looking classy, as always!), and of course, GRADUATION!  This picture is hanging on my wall right now and I can’t believe it’s been three years since it was taken.

We’re in college now, and since I’m in London, we’re farther apart than ever, but even just texting you is enough for me because we still never run out of things to talk about.

Thank you for being more than my friend and for being my sister.  You were my friend in that horrible part of middle school when no one was my friend, you were my friend when I was homeschooled and we weren’t at the same school, you were my friend at one of the hardest most wrenching part of my life, the most cringe-worthy part of my life (a.k.a most of high school), the best parts of my life, and six and a half years later, you’re still here and I love you for it.  You have a beautiful spirit and are so strong.  You do my makeup, listen to my crazy stories, and are so kind to me, so I am grateful every single day that I have a friend like you.

I love you and miss you so much!  See you in a month!

Love,

Katie 

Inspired by...Blog Everyday in May Challenge Days 1, 2, 3

I am so excited to announce that I will be participating in the “Blog Every Day in May” challenge, organised by Belinda at FoundLoveNowWhat.com.  My friend Alex at AlexGoesToEurope.com (with whom I also go to school at LSE!) told me about the challenge and I think it will be a great way to escape from the stress of revision and give my blog a little TLC.  I really want to grow this blog, so in order to do that, I need to put some serious work into its content, hence this challenge!  I am, admittedly, starting a little late (it’s been a crazy weekend) so I am combining days 1, 2, and 3, but tomorrow we will be back on track!

Day 1: Introduce Yourself

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Katie (I also go by Kate and Katherine)!  I am a 20-year-old student at Fordham University and the London School of Economics where I am studying Political Science, Middle East Studies, and Theology, with a bit of international history.  This year, I’ve developed a concentration for my studies in democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa.  I am also passionate about international politics and development, women’s issues, and foreign affairs.  My dream is to work in the foreign service and eventually become Secretary of State.  I am an introvert, meaning I value my “me time” and am generally more reserved in unfamiliar situations and large groups, but I can connect with people on a very deep level, once I get to know them well.  I love to read and can spend hours in a bookstore, flipping through books, adding to my list of books to read, and soaking up the sounds of pages turning.  I am originally from Connecticut, but I go to school in New York, and have been living in London since September.  This year has been an incredible adventure for me — I’ve gotten to travel around Europe, study at one of the world’s best universities for social science, explore a beautiful city, and learn so much about myself.  Since living in London, I’ve developed a deep love for cappuccinos, though not for the caffeine boost.  Other things on my “love” list include museums, Pinterest, yoga, cooking and baking, The West Wing, blogging, chocolate, TED talks and podcasts, magazines, organising (especially with my Erin Condren planner!), and tea.

 


5 Photos That Tell My Story:

Where would we be without family?  This is me and my brother at Thanksgiving 2013, which is also the last Thanksgiving I spent with my family (I was gone for 2014!).  [Ignore the ridiculously long fringe :)].  My brother and I were very close growing up — we went to the same summer camps, made our stuffed animals go “bungee jumping” off the knee wall in our family room, and made up stories on the swings in the backyard.  Now that we’re older, we bond by driving around at night while we listen to music and talk a little.  He goes to boarding school and I’m here, so it’s hard to stay close, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job.  Also, he graduates high school in exactly 35 days and I get to be home to be there as an obnoxiously proud big sister. 

 

Smart Girls Group has changed my life.  I wish something like this had existed when I was in high school because having a sisterhood of ambitious and kind girls would have been a total game-changer.  I have had the opportunity to connect with amazing women and girls and being involved in all the ways that I am makes each day brighter.

 

This is my classic “inspired” pose and also part of my KatherInspired logo!  This was me back in October on my second trip to Paris and my friends and I had a lot of fun taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower :).  To me, this is my ultimate expression of joy — throwing your arms up in the air because you’re so happy and excited and inspired that there’s no other way to describe it.  I am constantly inspired by the world and throw myself into everything that inspires me, and this pose pretty much sums it up.

 

This picture was taken my third week in London when my friend Claire and I went to tea at Harrods.  What could be more English than tea with scones with clotted cream and jam?  Few things, in my opinion.  This was one of those afternoons that the sheer reality of where I was — London— really hit me.  I was in a brand new city and exploring as much as I could, I had a new friend, and we had tea with amazing scones, so life for me was complete.  I look back at the girl in this picture and I can’t believe it’s been almost 8 months since it was taken.  I have grown and changed so much in the past 8 months and it is one of the best feelings in the world.

 

This was me in Scotland when we were driving through the Highlands and we stopped to take pictures at the Three Sisters mountains.  It was rainy and freezing and the wind almost knocked you off your feet, but I was still laughing, whether it be because of how beautiful the mountains (and Scotland in general!) were, or because the whole setup here was just so ridiculous.  

 


 

My Travel Bucket List:

As you’ve seen throughout my year in London, I’ve been to 11 countries and more cities than I want to count right now, so I’d say I’ve checked quite a few places off of my travel bucket list!  I do have some places left, however:

 

Morocco:

I would love to see the sand dunes in the desert, ride a camel, and eat hummus and turmeric on pita bread while sitting on a pouf.  I’ve been fascinated by Arabic culture since high school and I can’t wait until I get to see it for myself.  I also need to learn Arabic at some point, so Morocco will be a great place to practice!

 

Italy:

I didn’t make it to Italy this year, but as a huge fan of art history, architecture, food, and Eat, Pray, Love, I will definitely be visiting Italy at some point in the future!

 

Istanbul:

I mean, how could you not want to visit the Hagia Sophia and eat Turkish food?  I’ve taken two classes on Ottoman history and even more on the Middle East, so it would be incredible to see it come to life.

 

India:

Yoga has been a big part of my life for the past two years, so I would love to study it at an ashram in India.  Also, elephants are really cool so riding one would be amazing!

 

Peru:

I took Spanish in high school and at Fordham, and while I’m not fluent, Spanish still comes pretty naturally to me.  I love the way it sounds and the way it feels to speak it!  Machu Picchu has always fascinated me, so I would really love to climb it and practice my Spanish.  

 

Southwestern USA:

My neighbour is currently living in Arizona and I can’t get over how beautiful that part of the United States is!  I want to see wide open sky, the sun shining on the desert sand, and, of course, the Grand Canyon.  

 

Stay tuned for Day 4 tomorrow!

Inspired to be,

Katherine