Inspired by...Accomplishments

First exam: CHECK!  I survived my Islamic Empires exam with only some minor pain in my fingers (anyone up to give me a hand massage???) and the majority of my sanity, so I am feeling quite accomplished this evening.  Speaking of that, here are a few more accomplishments for Day 19 of #BlogEverydayInMay!

1. Smart Mail: When I got the Operations Intern position with Smart Girls Group, I never imagined that I would get to create something like Smart Mail, and run it a year and a half later!   With support and advice from the lovely Smart Starter of SGG herself, Emily Raleigh, I started a weekly newsletter with a tiny little staff that showcased what was going on in Smart Girls Group.  The staff grew…and then outgrew our weekly spot, so I designed and relaunched the all-new Smart Mail to span four days and give you a little dose of SGG in your inbox in the morning, Monday through Thursday.  Today, we number 22 amazingly dedicated team-members and it has been a privilege to work with them.  (Want to sign up?  Head to!)

2. My study abroad year at the London School of Economics: 2 weeks premature, but I am on the other side of my study abroad adventure year!  Between all of the preparations to come here (the visa process was quite a hassle), and everything I’ve experienced and learned throughout the year, this is a huge accomplishment that I will remember forever.

3. My 17-day, 9-city EuRail tour of Europe!: Years of dreaming, months of planning, and weeks of preparation came down to my massive inter-rail tour of Europe, which I successfully executed and survived in one piece.  I got to see and experience cities and sights I have been dreaming of, and I got to have an adventure all on my own.  If I can tour Europe for two and a half weeks mainly on my own, I think I can do anything :)

4. Publishing 2 articles to the Fordham Political Review: This was really big for me, because I am not always eager to put myself out there.  I had had ideas for articles ever since I started working for FPR, but I just couldn’t get myself to actually write something.  Writing and submitting an article meant leaving myself vulnerable to so many people — my fellow editors, my friends, readers, the internet, etc. — so it took me a while before I was finally able to write and submit my first article on microfinance opportunities for women.  I remember how relieved I was when it finally went live…and then how I felt when some random reader felt the need to email me a diatribe about how wrong I was.  I was a little stung at the time, but if that’s the worst that can happen, who cares?  My friend Dave actually took it positively when I told him — he said I had started an academic dialogue (!) — so looking back, it’s not that bad.  I published my second article on the aftermath of the Arab Spring a few months ago, and I am pleased to say that it is one of the articles listed on the cover of this semester’s edition!  I’m already gearing up for round three, so wish me luck! (Articles can be found here and here!)

5. Learning to eat healthy on a student budget: London is anything but cheap, so let’s just lead with that.  I am responsible for all of my own cooking, so I had to learn quickly how to eat on a relatively small budget, while still eating healthy (it does wonders for my anxiety!).  I discovered the beauty of soup and how I can make a huge pot for around $12 and have dinner for a week.  Sweet potatoes became the ultimate breakfast and quick meal/snack/anything.  Carrots and celery with hummus are relatively inexpensive and are the perfect lunch.  I can buy a container of soup from Sainsbury’s and use it as a sauce for steamed vegetables and lentils or rice and have that make two meals.  It’s been quite the adventure learning how to really fend for myself (kind of; my parents help me out with groceries #ThanksMomAndDad), but I love the feeling!

And finally...

6. KatherInspired: I had wanted to start a blog and have a little corner of the internet for myself and my thoughts for a while, but it took some time before I was finally able to do it.  I think I came up with the name late one night last year and all of a sudden, tag-lines and logos were popping into my head and I had to do something about it.  Next Sunday (the 24th of May) is KatherInspired’s first birthday — it all started during a weekend shift in the Fordham Security Office when I just gritted my teeth and did it, but I am so happy I started this blog.  It’s been so much fun to muse and record my year in London and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Inspired to be,



Thanks to for the challenge! :)


Inspired by...Salzburg!

The next day, I got up around 5:15 so I could get to the train station for my 6:40 train to Salzburg.  It was a long ride — about 5 hours — but it was easily the most gorgeous part of my trip because the whole ride took me through the Alps and there is nothing like sitting in a very comfortable train seat and going through snowy towns and by rivers and woods and such.  It was quite relaxing!

I got to Salzburg around 12:30 and headed to my hostel which wasn’t far away at all.  I think this was my favourite hostel (trying to remember all of them!) because it was pretty cheap, very clean, and it played The Sound of Music every evening at 8:00 in the lounge.  Also, it was located right near the Mirabell Gardens which is where a bit from the song Do, Re, Mi was filmed :)  After I checked in and got settled, I headed out on a walking tour of the city.  I had a fantastic tour book for this city, and the self-guided walking tour took me around all of the major sites.  The catch?  It was pouring rain most of the time…  Oh well, I had an umbrella and a rain jacket so I survived!  My book got a little wrinkled, but I think it makes it look well-travelled.  

I saw the statue of Mozart in the, wait for it, Mozartplatz, that was put there on the 50th anniversary of his death.  Salzburg, and most of Austria in general, makes a big deal out of the fact that Mozart was born there so his face is on everything!  Sometimes it’s a bit tacky, but sometimes it works.  Another one of my favourites was the Neue Residenz and the Glockenspiel, which has been around since about the 17th century and chimes in the morning and evening.  It doesn’t sound like church bells, but more like handbells and the sound is really charming.  I also climbed up the face of the Monchsburg cliff face near the festival hall to get some beautiful (albeit cloudy) views of the city — I got better ones the next day when it was sunny.  My tour book had also recommended a little bakery near St. Peter’s cemetery that is famous for its rolls which it sells for only a Euro, so after walking around in the rain for the longest time trying to find it, I stumbled upon it and was very grateful for the warmth!  It’s the oldest bakery in Salzburg and I think it’s been around since the 13th century or so.  Let’s just say it was so worth getting soaked because it was the best brioche I have had in my entire life— so light and warm and sweet, and there were a few raisins in it — I was in heaven!  I finished my walking tour and headed back to get into dry clothes for The Sound of Music!

The next day was my full day in Salzburg so I had breakfast in the hostel and set out for the city centre again.  I visited a few of my favourites from the previous day and then began a long uphill trek to the Hohensalzburg Fortress which had been highly recommended.  This has been around since the 700s and I got to see an exhibit where they have models detailing how it has grown since then.  It hasn’t been used as an actual fortress in quite some time (since 1860), but Napoleon used it as a military barracks when he was off being Napoleon.  I also got to see the fortress interior which hasn’t been modernised or lived in since the 1500s and at the end of the tour, they took us up top where I saw the Alps in their full beauty and it’s something I will never forget.    

After I had seen as much as I could of the fortress, I took a funicular down to the old city and then crossed over the newer part of the city.  I walked along the Steingasse which is full of history: I saw the alleged birthplace of the composer who wrote Silent Night (Joseph Mohr), and then a wall that had been gouged out a bit at the end of WWII because an American GI tried to get his tank up the street to visit a brothel.  Good job, guys.  

That was it for my day in Salzburg and it was quite a full day, so I was happy to relax with The Sound of Music that night…yes, again :)

5 points to Gryffindor if anyone can guess in what song (from the movie) this fountain is shown!

5 points to Gryffindor if anyone can guess in what song (from the movie) this fountain is shown!

Inspired to be,


Inspired by...Travel Day and Zurich

So, DAY ONE!  On Monday night (the 30th), I realised that, oh my god, I was leaving for Europe the next day and I started to freak out just a bit…okay, a lot.  What had I done???  I had no choice at this point, as I had booked my hostels, my EuRail pass, and all of my train reservations, but still, it was a lot to take in.  Also, there was the whole stress of packing since yours truly in a stroke of genius decided to wait until about 9:00 that night when I had to be up at 2:30 in the morning.  BIG mistake, since I had less room than I thought I had.  Anyway, I slept a little that night but I kept thinking about getting myself to the train station and not forgetting anything major, like my passport for example.  Finally, it was 2:30am and I was dragging myself out of bed, having finally fallen asleep.  I was out the door by 3:15 and on my way to Tottenham Court Road where I would take a night bus a few stops to King’s Cross/St. Pancras International.  This was one of those moments that the Tube not running 24 hours really wasn’t fun.  I eventually made it to King’s Cross, checked in for my Eurostar train, and then waited….and waited…and waited, until it was time to board!  This was it!  I got comfortable in my seat and settled in for a 2.5 hour train ride — I was prepared with a long episode of Sherlock and my relaxing playlist so I could get some sleep.

I arrived in Paris around 8:30 am local time (Paris is one hour ahead of Greenwich time) and had about a three hour layover with no wifi, so I needed to find some way to entertain myself.  It was a gorgeous day so I took a walk and got a crepe since I only get them in Paris and it had been so long.  I was in a much better mood after that :)  Then I had a quick train Lille Europe, which I think is north of Paris, but I didn’t really pay much attention.  After another hour layover, I was on the train to Marne La Vallee Chessy, which is definitely in France, and I think it was farther south.  The layovers were getting shorter at this point, but my train to Strasbourg was delayed so I killed a little time in the station and we were finally on our way!  Luckily, we made up a lot of time on the way to Basel (on the France/Germany/Switzerland border) since this was going to be my tightest connection yet, and I had just enough time to run through the station and make my train to Zurich!  I got in at 9:00pm having travelled for just about 18 hours and I was exhausted and in desperate need of a hot shower and my bed.  My hostel was close to the train station which was lovely…but reception was on the third floor with no elevators, so you can imagine the look on my face when I got in the door. Finally, after checking in, a blissful hot shower, and sheets on my bed, I collapsed!

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And now onto Zurich!  It’s an absolutely gorgeous little city in the German side of Switzerland with a river running through it, and incredible views of the Alps just beyond the river.  Here’s the flip side, though: it’s expensive.  I found out when I went to Starbucks to get a bottle of water and a snack bar and it cost me 8 Swiss francs which is the equivalent of 7 USD.  Good thing I was only there for a day!  I mostly walked around on my day in Zurich since, while it’s a beautiful, quaint city, there’s not a whole lot to do besides poke around in churches and see the river.  I did find a market in the train station and got to sample some cheeses and pastries which was quite enjoyable, and I hiked up this huge hill to get a nice panoramic view of the city and listen to the church bells chime.  I also found a fun music store on the main street near my hostel where they let you open any CD you want (well, they open it for you) and you can listen to it with amazing Bose headphones for as long as you want!  I listened to German music for a bit, and then found a Broadway classics CD that I liked a little more :)  

Also, on a slightly unrelated note, LSE finally released the exam schedule (it got delayed because of a software issue or something so I was searching for wifi all day so I could figure out when my exams are), and I’m coming home on June 4th!  I’ll be home in time for David’s graduation which I thought was a long shot, but it worked out and I am so relieved!

After a long walk by the river and a few more pictures, I called it a day and headed back to the hostel.  The next day was going to be an early wakeup, so I needed to get some sleep!

Inspired to be,


Inspired by...My European Adventure: The Beginning

I’m back!!!  I returned on Thursday from 17 days of travelling around Europe and I can’t wait to share it with you!  Before I go into all of the lovely pastry/Alps/castle/ beach-infused details, let’s talk logistics:


Who: Yours truly, the brains behind Katherinspired, the 20-something living in London for the year with a long break in between spring and summer terms who had (and still has) incredibly itchy feet.

What: Seeing the farther-away places I didn’t go last term, because how can you not when you have the perfect break in between terms?

When: March 31st - April 16th

Where: Zurich, Switzerland; Salzburg, Austria; Munich, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Berlin, Germany; Paris, Bayeux, and Bordeaux, France; San Sebastian, Spain.  WOW.

Why: Why not?  Seriously, though, I did this trip so I could get out and explore, so I could marvel at something (Eat, Pray, Love, anyone?), so I could have an adventure beyond the adventure that this year has already been.


     Travel: I had a few different options for how I wanted to travel around Europe, but I eventually chose a EuRail pass.  I love trains and the scenic views they provide, so I thought it would be a fun way to enjoy the journey.  EuRail has several options, including a one, two, or three-country pass, a flex-pass that allows you a certain number of “travel days” within a set period, or a global pass which gives you unlimited travel within a certain amount of days.  I opted for the global pass options because I didn’t want to be limited in case of train delays or anything, and because I would be travelling through so many countries.  I do think it would have been cheaper to fly (…Ryanair), but then you miss the scenery and “on the ground” interaction, I think, so it was worth it.  What I didn’t realise before purchasing the pass is that certain trains (especially ones in France and Switzerland) require you to make reservations in addition to having a pass, which also cost more money.  That was a bit frustrating, but even with the additional cost of the reservations, the pass pretty much paid for itself if you factor in the cost of all of the train tickets.  I was pretty intimidated by the idea of planning this huge trip itself, so I procrastinated a bit, but I eventually sat down one day and just began booking my trains and the dates I would be in each place, and it fell into place like a puzzle.  Best feeling ever.

     Accommodations: I was especially worried about hostels because I had never stayed in one by myself before.  Obviously, the concern here is security both for myself and my stuff, so I thought I would have to book single rooms in all of my hostels…which is really expensive.  Luckily, I found HostelWorld which is a website that lets you search for hostels using specific filters.  So, when I was looking for hostels in Zurich for the nights of March 31st and April 1st, I used filters like “luggage storage” and “hairdryers available” (trust me, it was a concern).  The website was fantastic — I was very satisfied with all of my hostels.  They were fairly inexpensive (with the exception of Zurich, but nothing in Switzerland is cheap, anyway), clean, and all were centrally located.  Also, I wasn’t expecting this, but all of them had free wifi!  If you’re going to be travelling, definitely use HostelWorld so you can get the hostel you want and need.

Touring: When you’re planning a trip like this, you want to make the best use of your time.  I was going to have between a day and a day in a half in each city, so I wanted to see all of the major sites and get as much of a feel for the city as I could.  Luckily, I live right near one of the best travel bookstores I’ve ever encountered: Stanford’s.  This place is a goldmine.  They have maps (both vintage and modern), tour books, novels about travelling, and basically everything this wanderlust-filled traveller could ever dream of.  Once I had booked all of my trains and accommodations, I popped on over to Stanford’s to get tour books on all of the cities I was going to.  Hands-down my absolute favourite were the books by Rick Steves.  This man is a genius when it comes to travelling around Europe, I promise.  He has a show on PBS, as well as an app, but I relied on his tour books because they helped me make the most out of each day.  What I love about his books is that they teach you the smart way to travel.  He has a walking tour of the city in each book with an easy-to-follow map that takes you around the major sites, while also making it logical.  Additionally, he divulges the tricks of the trade that he’s learned throughout his extensive years of traveling.  For instance, when I was in Salzburg, he had rated visiting the Hohensalzburg Fortress an absolute must, but what he also did was talk about how to visit the fortress — when I first got there, he said rather than turning right at the entrance to a certain site, turn left for fewer crowds, and things like that.  Some of my best memories from the solo bit of the trip were my walking tours so I highly recommend him!

Packing: I know some people are able to “backpack” around Europe with literally nothing but a backpack, but I am not that kind of person.  Seriously, though, how do people do that???  17 days of the same clothes from my suitcase were enough to push me over the edge so I can’t imagine.  Anyway, I digress.  I took my carry-on-sized suitcase, and a good sturdy shoulder bag and that was it.  I packed basics that I knew I would be able to mix and match since I had very little room (light sweaters, layering pieces, leggings, a good skirt, my tall boots, and a pair of sneakers, etc.) and I organised them in big ziploc bags.  This is especially useful for saving space since you can squeeze the air out of the bags, and is good to keep things clean because god forbid your shampoo spills or something.  I packed all of my toiletries, stress remedies, first aid stuff in plastic pouches (these are my favourites), and then squeezed whatever else I thought of at the last minute somewhere else in there.  My advice?  Don’t leave packing for a few hours before you have to go to bed before you have to get up at 2:30 am.  Trust me, don’t do this.  You always have less space than you think you do and you want to walk out the door feeling like you have your life together, at least partly :)

Well, that’s it for the logistics of my trip!  Stay tuned for details of my travelling day and my day in Zurich, coming soon to KatherInspired!

Inspired to be,


London Musings

On September 24th, I will embark on what is surely to be the greatest adventure I have ever had.  I will spending my junior year at the London School of Economics (and Political Science!). This is also, coincidentally, Jed Bartlett's (President on The West Wing tv show) alma mater.  Every time I think about this experience coming up, I am filled with excitement, fear, and exhilaration.  I'm excited because what could be better than spending your junior year in London and being able to travel all over Europe and immerse yourself in a foreign country and study at one of the top schools for social sciences in the world?  I have a list of so many countries and cities I want to visit and sights I want to see and foods I want to try.  I think about the classes I requested and the unique lecture/seminar mixture model that LSE uses.  I think of the beauty of London and the prospect of an adventure.  

Then, of course, I start thinking about being on another continent, an ocean away from my family and basically everything I know.  I have relatives in Ireland who I kind of know but are very kind, but I text my mom multiple times a day, just to say hi and tell her a funny story.  She is my go-to when I can't figure out what on earth to pair with my cream-colored JCrew Sylvia skirt.  My dad is my go-to for political discussions and help with professional development and book recommendations.  My brother is my 17-year-old best guy friend who I can be silly and serious with, no matter what.  I had a very difficult freshman year at Fordham, also.  I was homesick and overwhelmed by the idea of "being in college" and having to "grow up" and all of that.  It took me several months to feel like I knew what I was doing here and I'm afraid that the immense transition is going to undo this sense of well-being I finally found last year.  I don't have several months to "figure it out."  I want to enjoy myself and make the most out of my time.  What if I'm a mess or don't have any friends or classes are ten times harder than they are here?  What if, what if, what if?

But then this sense of exhilaration washes over me: a mixture of pure excitement, and clenching fear.  That's the energy that inspires me.  It's the good and the bad that drive me.  Yes, I was scared to death during my freshman year of everything unfamiliar but I grew so much that year into who I am now so fear isn't necessarily a bad thing, I've learned.  And, again, I'm spending my entire junior year in EUROPE.  That also helps calm the fear =)

I found the study abroad-specific view book online yesterday while I was supposed to be studying for an exam, and I sat there and combed through the whole thing.  I read about cultural attractions in London, clubs and organizations at the School (as it's colloquially called), famous figures who have spoken there, residential life, course descriptions, and I remembered why I fell in love with this school.  Oh, and I also re-read the program dates on the study abroad website and, instead of finishing in May like I thought, I'll be there until July!  That threw me for a bit of a loop because a) October to JULY?  Wow, that's a long time!  I'll probably come home for Christmas but I'll definitely be immersed after all that time!  b) My brother graduates in June so I'm either going to fly home or someone's going to have to prop me up on Skype so I can see the whole thing. 

Then I watched Downton Abbey since the fourth season was finally released on Amazon Prime and I hear the British accents and mannerisms and I smile and remember that, in three months, I'll be a Brit!  Cheerio!

Inspired to be,