I had the privilege to spend two weeks in Oahu, Hawaii with my family in May. It was the perfect vacation after graduating. Salt water heals the soul! My favorite parts were watching my baby cousins sink their chubby toes in the sand, slobbering over banana macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup, and waking up to the salty breeze brush over my face. When it’s time to leave, we all sit at the airport asking ourselves why we don’t live here.

It’s been a month since I got back and I’m in denial. I’d like to keep goo goo gawing at my pictures forever. So hey! Here’s all of my favorite things to do in Oahu.

Things to do in Oahu at


Continue reading Things to do in Oahu

One of the million things that make me anxious is fall. Fall brings its radiant leaves during the busiest time of school–when I can’t get my butt up the canyon. I’m nervous that I’m going to “miss” fall, that I’m not going to enjoy the leaves as much as I want.
It’s true that the leaves only stay until a wind picks up or until it rains. But on Monday we still got to see a lot of the golden trees up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Anytime I go up the canyons I remember why Utah is so, so beautiful. This is only twenty minutes away from my house.
Spencer was trying to be dorky and pose a few of his “contemplation” faces. I just think he’s hot.
I finally bought something with the $20 Down East gift card I got from winning the 5K and bought this rad sweater. I’ve worn it everyday since.

We went around two thirds of the lake with the cool breeze and didn’t expect to see this at the end. It looks like Narnia!

Ugh, look at that yellow. Look at the mountain.
My last day of school before fall break was last Thursday. That night I pulled an overnighter trying to get a group project and some of my watercolor paintings done. I knew as I was walking into my watercolor class that I had done the painting wrong and I hadn’t spent a lot of time on it. Heavenly Father, cut me some slack. I’ve been working on that darn group project for 14 hours. Please, please, cut me some slack.
Diana got to my painting that was pinned on the wall along with the others. She chewed me out.
Why didn’t you save me? Gosh, that was so embarrassing. I haven’t slept at all and I’m so tired, I just want to cry. Why didn’t you help me out here? Helloooooo?
At the end of class period, Diana said, “You know what? I really want you guys to master this, so if there are some who don’t feel great about their paintings, you can redo them over fall break. If you’re not happy with these ones, they won’t be counted against your grade. Enjoy your break!”
Oh. Right. On Your time. That was even better. Oops. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Oh gosh, thank You.
I’ve been sick since Thursday, trying to get back to my sleeping habits after that all-nighter. I also haven’t been running and it’s killing me. We have still been super busy, but I think today I’ll get a nice break. I think I’ll work on something around the house–something that I’ve been wanting to work on. Or I’ll go on a run. What are you doing today?
Have a lovely Wednesday.

My mom texted me the other weekend and said, “Do you want to have a picnic on the beach?”

For half a second I thought Mom, my sister and I would transport to California and spend a miraculous evening on the beach, watch the sunset, and then transport back to Utah. But then I remembered I live in Utah. And there are no beaches. Except for the Great Salt Lake.

Continue reading Swimming The Great Salt Lake

Fellow travelers!

It’s the summer time, which means many of you wanderlusters are heading out for a big adventure as a foreign exchange student next month. I am always thrilled to hear about another person leaving high school to take on this amazing (and underrated) experience living abroad.

Whether you are googling the crap out of your host hometown, Facebook stalking the other exchange students in your program, or still waiting to know who your host family is, I want to share with you 10 tips that helped me as a foreign exchange student.

1. Make friends at language camp.
For many exchange programs, you may spend a few weeks at language camp with other exchange students before going to your host family. This is a time to make friends! I promise, these students will be your lifesavers on your fall breaks or long weekends. My favorite moments were being able to visit these guys when I wasn’t in school. Be social.

2. Spend time with your host family.
It’s easy to hide away in your room when you’re in a new environment stuck in a house with strangers. But take the courageous step and spend as much time as possible with them. If everyone is watching TV downstairs, go downstairs and watch TV. If the family goes to church on Sunday, go to church on Sunday. If your host mom asks if you want to go to the grocery store with her, go! You are in your host country to learn, and spending time with your host family is the best way to do it.

3. Avoid the computer.
Talking to your family and friends back home is essential, but not for hours a day. If you’re on the computer all day, you’re probably not speaking your host language or learning about the culture (which is why you are there!). It is too easy to feel inadequate or become jealous when you see friends back home posting photos together, or when other foreign exchange students are posting about their awesome new friends. Give yourself a computer limit and also limit the time you spend talking to your parents back home.

4. Ask about the house rules.
A common reason for tension between host parents and exchange students is not communicating each other’s expectations. Even if your host parents don’t tell you the rules, ask them–What is the curfew on weekdays and weekends? How does the wi-fi work? Are there rules about the computer? What can I eat out of the refrigerator? Can I invite friends over to the house? These questions might feel silly, but it’s better to know the rules upfront than three months into the exchange after breaking the rules and not knowing.

5. Culture shock is real.
You might be the most accepting person on the planet until you’re three months into your exchange and turn into a racist bigot. Culture shock is a cycle, especially during a 10-month exchange. Everything will be exciting and new at first, then it loses its charm a few months later, then you hate everyone around you a few months later, and then there’s a moment where it finally hits: hey, this isn’t so bad… this is great! The hardest time for any exchange student is generally October through December–the holiday months. Remember this, remember it is normal, remember you can do it and it will totally pay off.

I wrote a post about the different phases of culture shock. Read here!

6. Be honest.
Don’t let anger or sadness wallow up inside of you. Open up to your host parents and tell them how you feel. If you usually spend an hour to yourself after school to relax, let them know you need that time. If you’re having a hard time in school, tell your teacher you’re struggling with the language–more times than not, they will make an exception for you. If your host parents offended you at dinner, don’t let that stir up inside of you–let them know. You come from a completely different culture. This is a learning experience for everyone.

7. Say yes to friend invites.
Especially at the beginning when you’re the cool, new, exchange student. Say yes to everything (except drugs…)! Diskos, birthday parties, study sessions–if you say no a lot at the beginning, they’re least likely to keep asking you later on. It might not always be the best time ever like with your besties back home, but it’s all about experiencing a new culture and getting to know other people’s perspectives (and you need to get out of the house!).

8. You’re going to look stupid and that’s okay.
How can you not look stupid? You’re a 17-year-old speaking with an 8-year-old language proficiency. People will say to you, “He’s so cute,” or “Isn’t she adorable?” and you’ll want to throw a rock at them, but hey! You’re learning a different language! You are living in a different country! Be patient. Keep trying to speak the language. Let them laugh at you when you say “you taste good” instead of “you have good taste.” Be vulnerable and keep going. You’ve got this.

9. Say thank you. A lot.
We’re often so shy as foreign exchange students. We’re not fluent, we’re different than everyone else around, and sometimes our tongue just doesn’t want to speak the host language that day. But ALWAYS remember to say thank you to your host family. They’re doing a huge favor taking you in. Even if you’re shy, they need to know that you appreciate them or they will start to worry.

10. It’s normal to feel weird when you come home.
Culture shock keeps going, even when you’re back home. You might have a hard time speaking your native language or even articulating your experience. Your friends will ask, “How was Germany?” and you won’t know how to respond. “Good” doesn’t cover 10 months of anyone’s life. Your own country will give you culture shock, like your extremely loud friends, or the jokes people make. Give it a month of two and it will wear off. You are going to have so much fun!

What did I miss, wanderlusters? What were important things for you during your foreign exchange?
To those of you going on a foreign exchange, what are your most excited about? What are your concerns?

Days 114-116.
On Saturday morning Josa, Herbert and I drove to the Holland market, about fifteen minutes away from home. They often go Saturday mornings to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. I love seeing all those double a’s and e’s on the dutch signs. I love hearing the Dutch people at their stands, yelling “Mandarins, Mandarins right here! Come get em!” And I listen and I’m like, holy crap that is the weirdest language but I just understood everything they said. 
I love that the Netherlands is fifteen minutes away and it feels like totally different people. Dutch people immediately feel more laid back and silly. Look at these two:

“Are you taking a picture of me?!” the guy yelled.
“Um, uh, no, but can I?”
“Yes, take a picture!” he yelled at the woman at the other stand, “Hey get over here! We’re taking a picture!”
She jumped up immediately. “Here we go, we’re taking a picture,” and she crawled over the table to stand next to the man. 
Even though I’ve been in and out of Holland, I always feel when I’m there that I need to eat up all my time and look at everything as much as possible. My grandma lived here, my great grandparents lived here, and it’s like I need to catch a glimpse of my ancestors as much as I can. 

Later in the day Josa, Herbert, Marie and I went to Jülich and checked out the little Weihnachtsmarkt. I also went into a store and BOUGHT something–a blue big sweater shirt thing. It felt so good. When I get home I really need to invest in some cute, warm, long sleeved shirts.

Look at this cute growing girl.

I’m always lucky to get a piece of this family. I’m so, so happy I got to see them again before I head back.

Good day! Day 111!

Tonight was the Christmas party at my work. I’ll tell you what I ate, so you get a glimpse of my day:

1. Hot chocolate, with whipped cream and a cookie.

I feel like the most high maintenance person on the planet sometimes. While everyone else can drink coffee and tea, I’m like “Oh yeah, sorry, but yeah, I can’t drink any of that.” And I feel so stupid. I guess if that’s the only thing I feel stupid about than I’m okay. I’d feel stupider if I said, “Oh yeah, my religion asks me not to drink hot chocolate or tea, but I don’t want to be high maintenance so I’ll drink it anyway,” but STILL. Germany is so different because people just drink all the time. You sit down at a meeting at work and there’s coffee and tea. You get invited to someone’s home and there’s coffee and tea. And I LOVE that about European culture. It is a wonderful time to chat and get together and snuggle in the winter time next to the Christmas markets and drink some hot glühwein. It is a beautiful part of the culture. My hot chocolate makes me feel like a four-year-old.

Sunna, though, is a sweet heart and doesn’t blink an eye. She just knows to get me hot chocolate, she knows I like it with whipped cream, and all is well. It’s my own self-consciousness. (Gosh, have I told you how much I love my co-workers?)

2. One fried mozarella stick.

After Sunna, Petra, and I set up decorations at the city gallery for the Christmas party, we walked across the street to the Christmas Market and got some lunch. The mozarella stick was a delicious choice.

Also, why don’t we do Christmas markets? What is up with that? Why? Like here you are again, University of Utah. What to do with all that giant cement space in front of the Marriott Library. Christmas Market, duh. Get on it. (For how much I have complained about this giant space of nothing at the Marriott Library, I might as well devote the rest of my college experience to doing something about it.)

3. Hot cranberry punch, alcohol free.

At the Christmas Market if you bought a drink you could keep the mug that came with it. So along with my yummy cranberry punch, I get to also take home a bright orange cup that says “Kiel’s 41st Christmas Market.” Bomb dig!

4. Cake.

Our Christmas fest started at the opera house where we got to tour the stages, dressing rooms, where they make the costumes, etc. After the opera house, we walked over to the city gallery and had cake. I got the chocolate cake with whipped cream on it.

Cake is another German culture thing. Along with coffee and tea, there’s always cake. I’m sure we could do this in America, but if you did this we’d all be dead. There is so much more butter and sugar in our cake at home. I love American cake more than anything, but there’s a reason we only eat cake on special occasions.

Unless you’re me, then you bake a cake every week, hide it from your husband, and eat it all by yourself.

Don’t judge.

5. Another cup of hot chocolate.

We don’t need to go over this again.

The thing is, I love hot chocolate. I will always choose hot chocolate over herbal tea or any other hot drink.

6. Cauliflower curry soup.

With bread.

What else about today except food? At the city gallery we watched an improvisation performance. I have always wanted to go to an improv performance. Super fun.

Pictures will be up tomorrow. I’m too tired to sort through them and wait for them do load.

Kiss kiss, friends.