Fall 2017

A Crazy Adventure: Living Out of a Carry-On for a Month and Traveling 6 Different Countries

Last Spring, I decided to make a major leap into the unknown and spend one semester studying abroad in the United Kingdom. My study abroad placement took me to the city of Bradford, England. While the city itself was far from picturesque, I was able to form some of the most life-changing friendships.

This year for Christmas break, I made a crazy, elaborate scheme to visit almost all of my friends from my semester abroad. Though they were scattered all over Europe I was up for the challenge. Plus I would be able to see incredible new places along my journey. One month, 6 countries, and 13 friends to visit. But how was I going to live out of just a little carry-on-sized suitcase for a month?! Packing was a definite challenge, but here is what I did:

Thea's luggage by the baggage claim belt

I didn’t want to bring too much luggage or luggage that was too big. I was going to be traveling by plane, train, and bus. I would be changing my location every 3-5 days, so I needed to be very mobile and able to pack quickly and carry all of my stuff easily. I opted for my large Jansport backpack and a duffle-like bag. I also brought along a large tote bag to fill with things I might purchase or acquire along my journey.

Four pairs of pants, three sleeves from 3 shirts

I didn’t want too many clothes – just the essentials and a little extra just incase. I initially decided on four pairs of pants, but at the last minute (after the picture was taken) opted for three pairs. I wanted all of my clothes to be able to be worn together in an outfit and look decently put together, so I chose basic but very comfortable items.

All of Thea's packed clothes

I would be traveling around during January, so I wanted to be sure I would stay warm enough. One of my best packing decisions were long john pants and wool socks. These really came in handy when I was exploring Prague in 30°F weather. I knew I would want layers, but that I would also want T-shirts for my time in the warmer countries. I packed 3 pairs of jeans, 3 button-up blouses/sweaters, 1 wool peacoat, 5 shirts, 1 blanket scarf and 2 beanies, 1 pair of pajamas, long johns, 1 sweatshirt and 1 light jacket.

Non clothing items Thea packed

I wanted to keep the extra, non-clothing items I brought to a minimum as well. At the last minute, I decided to leave my camera at home and just use my phone for pictures. I think this was a pretty good decision, but if I had been going on a shorter trip or changing locations less, I would’ve liked to have had my camera. I really tried to go for minimum toiletry and makeup items. This has also been a struggle for me – my bathroom bag usually ends up being monstrous. I am super proud of how much I was able to consolidate. I brought along the flip-flops, little padlocks, and quick-drying travel towel for the time I would be spending in hostels. Bring locks and shower shoes if you’re going to be in a hostel! My universal plug adapter came in VERY handy as did my portable battery pack. Lastly, I think one of the most essential things to bring while traveling is a journal. Being able to reflect and think about the experiences you’re having is such a valuable thing.

Here are some bonus photos from my trip!


Sunset in the south of Spain


Cathedral in Madrid, Spain


Poseidon’s Temple in Greece


A church in Vienna, Austria


The Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic


A palace in Bayreuth, Germany

Christmas Market

Christmas markets in Cologne, Germany

Fall 2017

Dating a Military Man in College: 4 Tips for Long Distance Relationships

By Shayla Hansen

Hi there! My name is Shayla and I am dating a Marine who I get to see maybe every two or three months for a week at a time. Usually when I say this, people look at me like this…

Jennifer Aniston shaking her head sadly

But really, dating someone in the military or long distance isn’t that difficult. Here are some tips that have really helped me get through the hard times.

1. Communication is everything!

Shayla and her boyfriend hugging

I am sure everyone in a relationship of any kind has heard this. But for couples that don’t get to see each other very often, communication becomes so much more important. I dated Ethan (my boyfriend) for only a month before he left for boot camp. That is not very much time to establish good communication. Then, during the 13 weeks of boot camp we were only able to communicate through snail mail letters. I’m not going to tell you guys that was easy. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But, I am so glad that we went through it because we got to learn so much about each other. In fact, I learned more about him in those 13 weeks than I did in the whole year I knew him before we started dating. After boot camp, Ethan got his phone back. Now, depending on which training he is in, I get to talk to him almost every day. This is great and because we know each other so well we can easily tell when the other is upset. We also feel comfortable enough to tell each other what is wrong. When you don’t have that long to talk, you tend to get to the point quicker, so you can have more happy time.

2. Get interested in the things your S.O. is doing.

Shayla smiling, Ethan kissing her cheek at a lake

It is so much easier to talk to someone about what you do in a day if they have a basic understanding of the topic. For me, this was learning lots and lots of military acronyms, ranks of enlisted and officer Marines, and the kinds of exercises that Ethan would typically do in a physical training session. I made a point to learn these things so that when Ethan talks to me about his day he doesn’t have to dumb it down. As for Ethan, he has learned my class schedule so when I say, “I went to class” he doesn’t always have to ask, “which one?” He has also learned the not so secret language of the food service industry. So I can talk to him about my day at work.

3. Don’t get jealous.

Ethan making a silly face, Shayla kissing his cheek, at the Tamarack restaurant

I understand that it is human instinct to get jealous sometimes. So, what I am really saying is tone it down and be trusting and understanding. Just because Ethan is not here doesn’t mean I don’t go downtown and let loose. I go out on the town with my friends quite often, and so does Ethan. Yes, it sucks that I don’t get the pleasure of “getting down” on the dance floor with my boyfriend. And, fending off the guys that think I am single gets annoying. But, you have to go out and have fun. If you stayed at home all the time and just thought “it would be nice if my S.O. lived here so I could go out” you will end up very depressed. That being said, you also have to be okay with your S.O. going out and having fun without you.

4. Distractions are good.

Ethan wearing reindeer ears, making a silly pose at Walmart, Shayla in a silly red top hat laughing

Like I said in the last paragraph, you have to get out of the house and have fun. This is a great time to enjoy the things you love doing. Or, if you are me find out what you really enjoy doing. Before getting in to my relationship with Ethan I didn’t really have an answer to the question “what do you like to do for fun?” my life consisted of going to class then work then hanging out with my S.O. at that time. Since being in this long-distance relationship with Ethan, I have gotten to learn quite a bit about myself. Plus, another great thing about distracting yourself is you have more stuff to talk about with your S.O. other than getting stuck in and “I love you I miss you” rut.

So, there is my advice. These things have really helped me in my relationship so hopefully they can help you. But, I know every relationship is unique what might work great for me might not work at all for you! Thanks for reading.

Ethan and Shayla posing for a selfie

Photos by: Giphy.com, Alyssa Braun, Tanner Thill, Kasey Mayberry, Mariah King and Shayla Hansen