What It’s Like to Speak Multiple Languages

This photo was taken on my recent winter break trip to South Korea.

“Welcome to the first day of class. I want everyone to go around the room and say their name, hometown, major, and a fun fact.”

As much as I dislike these kinds of icebreakers, I have perfected my introduction that I use in every class. My fun fact is that I am trilingual in an interesting combo of languages: English, Korean, and French. When this time of the year comes around, I can always rely on this trusty fun fact.

English is my first language, of course, as I was born and raised in the United States. My second language is Korean, which is the language of my parents, who immigrated from South Korea in the early nineties. And although I never formally learned it when I was young, Korean was the language I spoke at home growing up. And finally, French was the language of choice throughout my entire K-12 education. I also studied abroad in Paris, France after my first year in college and am now pursuing a French minor.

While I use English in my day-to-day life, Korean and French are two languages that I don’t get to use as much. I speak Korean less frequently than when I lived with my mom, and I only practice my French now in classroom settings a few times per week. The only other times I’ll hear these languages is when it’s sprinkled into conversations I overhear in random public settings.

For example, I was sitting at a Starbucks in Durham by myself last week to get a fresh breath of air and escape campus for a few hours. It was a beautiful day, so I worked on assignments at an outdoor table. All the other tables were full of people, young and old, also enjoying the sun. Next to me, I started to hear the chatter of two elderly Korean women, gossiping about some other women in the neighborhood. They looked over at me a couple times, probably because they could gather that I could understand what they were saying, but they continued their conversation anyway.

I wasn’t intentionally listening to them and I obviously couldn’t stop my ears from doing what they were naturally wired to do, but these moments always make me laugh to myself because I remember doing the same thing with my mom. Those who speak multiple languages know that this is a huge relief to be able to switch to a different language when having to gossip or making a decision with your own discretion. It has come in handy in crucial situations, such as when my mom and I had to make sure the car salesman wasn’t ripping us off when I was buying my first car. However, it can also make others feel like they’re being left out of the conversation–it’s like when you go to the nail salon and everyone there isn’t speaking English to each other.

About a month ago, I was sitting shotgun in an Uber with some of my friends. I am the type of person to be conversational with my Uber drivers, and so I found out that our Uber driver had immigrated from Morocco, which meant that he could probably speak French. Soon enough, we were having an entire conversation in French–we talked about moving to North Carolina, how I studied abroad in Paris, and what it was like to live in Morocco. Not only was I able to confuse my friends, I also made my Uber driver feel happy to speak French, a language he knows far better than English. Language can be a unique force to connect two strangers together beyond the surface level.

Although I live in North Carolina and I don’t normally expect to practice these languages on a daily basis, it always makes my day when I get the chance to hear or speak it with others. It inspires me to learn more languages and to travel to countries where these languages are pervasive.

The Seine River in Paris during the summertime

Navigating Paris Like a Local

My love for traveling didn’t truly start until I studied abroad. Summer 2017, the summer after my first year at Carolina, was when I embarked on an incredible journey called UNC Summer in Paris. For someone that studied French all of her life, I was eager to immerse myself into the culture immediately and take advantage of everything that Paris had to offer. Additionally, I had never been to Europe before this experience. But by the end of the program, I was able to navigate Paris like a local.

On the Notes app on my phone, I have a running list of my favorite memories, places, and experiences from Paris that I share with others who may be visiting the area. I am excited to share this list with you in this blog post, as it will have some classic tourist sites but also underrated hidden gems that you should visit.

The Parisian Lifestyle

In the 14th arrondissement

Anytime you travel somewhere new, it’s really important to read up about the local culture, as there will be etiquettes that are different than your way of life. Being aware of these differences will also ensure that you are safe and respectful as a tourist.

In Paris, I would say the number one difference that I noticed is that not everyone may be nice to you. As Americans, we are taught to smile and greet everyone that we see, even if they are strangers. Parisians typically are more private than we are, but don’t mistake their behaviors as being rude or discourteous. In fact, if you are polite enough, most Parisians will be willing to help you out.

While most Parisians can speak English, don’t assume that everyone has a perfect knowledge of it. You won’t have to master French perfectly in order to feel like you fit in, but you should know the basic words to be courteous. Saying “bonjour” in every shop you enter is important and is a sign of respect, and simply saying “merci” can go a long way.

City life in Paris, while busy, also can seem a bit slow. Parisians prioritize their leisure time, hence why many work 35-hour workweeks and why the majority of shops are closed on Sundays. To truly live like a local, slowing down the pace of your vacation will help you relax and immerse yourself into the Parisian culture. That’s why the best (and also free!) things to do in Paris include just walking around, sitting at a café, or sitting outside to enjoy the nice weather. These are some of the elements I miss the most about Paris, and it’s hard to enjoy your free time when everyone around me seems to always be on the go.

What’s an arrondissement?

Paris is divided into twenty arrondissements, or neighborhoods. An important geography note: the city of Paris is roughly a circular shape, and the arrondissements may seem randomly placed at first glance. However, they are actually organized in a snail-shape, starting from the 1st arrondissement in the center, then spiraling clockwise until you reach the 20th arrondissement.

Paris is also divided into the left bank and right bank, according to the Seine River that cuts through the city. The left bank is south of the Seine, while the right bank is north of the Seine. This division has a lot of historical context; for example, the left bank is where a lot of artists and students used to live as it was considered as the inexpensive part of town. The right bank was considered to be more wealthy. This is definitely not the case anymore, but this is a fun fact to note about the context of the city.

Where to stay in Paris

My apartment in the 14th arrondissement

The length of your stay in Paris is a large determining factor in where you stay in the city. If you’re only there for a few days, you should definitely stay in areas that are near the sites you want to see. The arrondissements I recommend for a short visit include anywhere in the 1st through the 7th because they are centrally located. Accommodations will generally be more expensive here, but it’s definitely worth staying here to maximize your time.

If you have a few weeks or longer in Paris, staying in a more quiet and residential part of the city isn’t a bad idea, and you’ll be able to save more money that way in the long run. However, the metro is extremely easy to use and gives you quick access to any part of the city. I recommend the 11th, 12th, 14th and 15th.

My own apartment was located in the 14th arrondissement, which is a safe area where a lot of families and university students reside. It was a quick 15-minute metro ride to my classes at the Sorbonne, located in the 5th arrondissement.

And as an overall note, I always recommend staying in Airbnbs over hotels, especially in Paris, where Airbnbs are abundant.


While I have recommendations for places to visit, I do not have any specific recommendations for must-visit food spots. This is because Paris is a foodie’s paradise and is not short of amazing restaurants. In fact, I ate mostly within my neighborhood, which is where I found the best sandwiches, cheeses, pastries, baguettes, chocolates, and more.

Feel free to Yelp restaurants beforehand, but everything I ate was so good that I can’t pick my favorites.

Places and spaces


Montmartre: located in the 18th arrondissement. Put on your walking shoes because the neighborhood is quite hilly. However, there are many beautiful views and rich history to be enjoyed here. In Montmartre, the arts are widely celebrated. Here, you’ll find the Moulin Rouge, a famous cabaret theatre founded in the late 14th century. You’ll also find Sacré-Cœur, a beautiful Catholic church atop a hill dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Rue de Crémieux

Rue de Crémieux: a beautiful street located in the 12th arrondissement. It looks vastly different from the rest of the architecture in Paris, but it is a row of pastel colored homes. This is a great place to take pictures.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Jardin du Luxembourg: a lovely garden located in the 6th arrondissement. This was one of my favorite places to picnic, as it was in between my apartment and where my classes were located. Enjoy a nutella crêpe here, walk around and take in all the scenery.

Le Tour Eiffel

Le Tour Eiffel: located in the 7th arrondissement. How could I not mention the Eiffel Tower? While it’s a large tourist trap, seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time is a moment in my life I will never forget. My favorite time to visit was just around sunset, when you can enjoy wine and cheese in the grass. Once the sky gets dark, you can see the tower sparkle. You can also pay about 17 euros to go up the Eiffel Tower and enjoy views of the entire city.


Trocadéro: located in the 16th arrondissement. This is another great view of the Eiffel Tower, but from a distance. It’s a perfect place to take a picture of the entire monument.

La Seine: located across multiple arrondissements. Another one of my favorite activities was walking along the river, having a picnic, and reading a good book here. Time seems to slow down when you’re hanging around by the Seine.

Le Quartier Latin

Le Quartier Latin: located in the 5th arrondissement. This was my favorite arrondissement in Paris, as there is so much to see here here. The Latin Quarter is where the Sorbonne is, the school I attended while in Paris. You can also find Shakespeare & Company, the must-see bookshop. I also thought that the Latin Quarter was the prettiest neighborhood in Paris.

Rooftop Café Oz

Rooftop Café Oz: located in the 13th arrondissement. This was my favorite bar because it sits along the Seine and is beautiful to visit at night. There is also great music, a young crowd, and overall a good time here.


Le Louvre

Le Louvre: located in the 2nd arrondissement. The Louvre can take you an entire day to go through, as it is truly a maze. This is a must-visit museum, as it is stunning and has many famous artworks that you must see in your lifetime.

Le Musée de L’Orangerie

Le Musée de L’Orangerie: located in the 2nd arrondissement. This was the most memorable museum I had visited in Paris, as it had these beautiful Monet paintings located in an oval room.

Le Musée d’Orsay

Le Musée d’Orsay: located in the 7th arrondissement. This museum is full of Impressionist paintings.


Rue de Rivoli

Rue de Rivoli: located in the center of Paris along multiple arrondissements. This street is bustling with the best stores and trendy fashion.

Rue de Rennes

Rue de Rennes: located in the 6th arrondissement, near the Montparnasse Tower. Similar to Rue de Rivoli, but has some more affordable stores. I visited Rue de Rennes much more frequently because it was right next to my classes.

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann: located in the 9th arrondissement. This is a huge luxury department store with multiple levels. I couldn’t afford anything here, but it is so fun to walk around and has beautiful architecture.

Paris has become a huge part of my identity and my Carolina experience. It is an unforgettable memory that I often feel nostalgic about. My hope is that this blog post showed off how amazing the city of Paris is, and makes you want to visit sometime soon.

A Guide to Making Homemade Dumplings

Growing up, my mom would make the most amazing homemade dumplings. It was a whole day affair: shopping for the ingredients at the local Asian market, prepping these ingredients for the filling, sitting down together around the kitchen table to fold the dumplings, waiting for them to steam, and finally eating them all together. As the youngest child, my mom would always put me on garlic peeling duty—which by the way, I absolutely hated—as I had to peel over 100 individual cloves, leaving my fingers smelling like garlic all day.

Through the diligence and time my mom and I spent together in the kitchen, I didn’t just learn a great recipe for homemade dumplings. I learned about the communal aspect of Korean food, and how my mom communicated her love through each and every meal she made for me.

Now that I don’t live at home anymore, I obviously don’t get to enjoy her home-cooking as much as I used to. So for a fun and cheap double-date night, I proposed leading a workshop on making homemade dumplings. I was nervous at first, as I had never done this on my own, but they turned out to be really delicious. Making dumplings at home can be time-consuming, but with multiple people helping you out and dividing tasks, it takes no time at all.

Best of all, I found all of the ingredients at my local grocery store to make 200 dumplings for just $25. We had a ton leftover, so if you wanted to make fewer dumplings, simply half the recipe.

Homemade Steamed Dumplings


  • 2 Packs of Nasoya Won Ton Wrappers
  • 2 lbs of ground pork
  • ½ head of red cabbage, grated
  • 2 cups of green onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup ginger, minced
  • 2 cups mushroom, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • ¼ cup sesame oil
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Important Notes

You should be able to find every single ingredient in your typical grocery store. The only trouble you may run into is finding dumpling wrapping papers. I found the Nasoya brand of won ton wrappers near the prepared vegetables/herb section of the grocery store. These are square-shaped and small because they are technically for won tons, but they work perfectly fine for wrapping dumplings.

A great thing about making dumplings is that you have the complete freedom to add or remove any of the ingredients listed above! For example, if you’re vegetarian, tofu is a great substitute for the pork. However, I would say the most important ingredients of this recipe are sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. These really illuminate the flavor of the meat and vegetables, so these are non-negotiable ingredients for me.


Prep the vegetables according to how they’re listed in the ingredients. You want to make sure that each is sliced, chopped, or grated into the smallest pieces as possible. Mix your red cabbage, green onion, ginger, garlic, mushroom, carrots, and bean sprouts, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a medium bowl. You might have to use your hands in order to incorporate everything together well.

In a separate large bowl, mix the ground pork, salt, and pepper together.

Combine the vegetable mixture into the pork. Again, using your hands is the best way to ensure that everything is well-mixed.

Beat the egg into a small bowl. You will use this to act as the glue of your dumplings.

Once your filling is complete, coat two of the adjacent sides of the dumpling wrapper with a thin line of the egg. Take a small spoonful of the mixture and place it on your dumpling paper. Be careful not to overfill the wrappers, as this is how your dumpling will explode or break while steaming. Fold in half, and meet the opposite corners together. Repeat until all dumplings are filled.

In a large skillet, fill the bottom about a quarter of the way with water. Pour about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the water—this is important so the dumplings don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. While on medium heat, place the dumplings into the skillet. Put a lid on the skillet for 5-10 minutes, until much of the water has evaporated and the dumplings look softened and cooked.

Enjoy with a side of soy sauce!

Dumplings are relatively easy to make, but if this is your first time, reading these instructions may seem daunting. I recommend watching Tasty’s video on making dumplings, as they walk you through the similar process in a visual manner.

My Summer 2019 Plans

My last summer as an undergraduate is just about a month away, and I am excited to take advantage of this free time to further my personal and career goals. In this blog post, I will be detailing my summer plans, as I want to keep myself accountable for everything I want to accomplish over the course of three months. My hope is that by the end of August I will be able to reflect on my achievements before entering my final year at Carolina.

I am thrilled to announce that I will be a copywriting intern for JetBlue Airways this summer! I will be moving to Manhattan for 10 weeks, working full-time and living on my own for the first time in my life. If you already know me or have been following my blog closely throughout the semester, you would know that one of my greatest passions is travel. What better opportunity is there for me to combine my interests together than working for an airline?

I began the interview process for this position back in November, and it wasn’t until the end of January when I got an official offer. During the span of a couple months, I had the chance to learn more about JetBlue’s brand and the company culture. I immediately accepted the offer because I wanted to be a part of a company that prioritizes fun and passion. JetBlue’s mission, “Inspiration starts here,” proves that this is an innovative and inspiring workplace. JetBlue is constantly coming up with initiatives to foster creative solutions and give back to the community.

I will be living in an NYU-affiliated apartment called Alumni Hall. Located in East Village, this is exactly where I want to be, as I will be able to meet other twentysomethings working in the city. East Village also has amazing restaurants, nightlife, and events going on in the summertime. It’s been my lifelong dream to live like a New York local, learning about the best coffee shops and hidden gems throughout the city. I know that a ton of friends and family are planning on visiting me at some point in the summer, so I want to be well-equipped to show them around.

Another goal of mine while I’m in New York is to network with as many professionals as possible. There are thousands of Carolina alum who work in the city, so I hope to connect with these individuals to gain new insights about the advertising industry.

And by working for an airline, I will be able to redeem free travel benefits. While I want to see New York as much as possible, I hope to fly to cities I’ve never been to and explore other parts of the country on weekends.

I know that this summer will fly by, and I want to cherish every single experience. Above all, I want to learn more about myself, gain a greater sense of clarity for my postgraduate plans, and savor the last bits of fun and freedom as a college student.

Central Park, Summer 2018.

Why Puerto Rico Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

Loved Puerto Rico so much that I went back this past June!

For your next tropical vacation, consider visiting Puerto Rico. Flights from the East Coast are just a few hours long and are relatively inexpensive–you can find deals for under $300 roundtrip. Because Puerto Rico uses the American dollar, you won’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees. And according to Forbes magazine, tourism is a way to quickly inject money into the economy, as the island wasn’t receiving the federal assistance it needed from the damages of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

My group of friends and I flew into San Juan Luis Muñoz Airport on a Monday afternoon. Ubers aren’t available from the airport, however, you can taxi to your destination for a flat rate to avoid petty crime. The five of us hopped into a van with all of our belongings for $20.

We stayed in Isla Verde, which was recommended to us by multiple people who are from Puerto Rico. I highly recommend staying in this area because it’s centrally located: it’s 10 minutes from the airport and Old San Juan is just 15 minutes away. Ubers were also very cheap.

Our apartment in proximity to the beach!

Our Airbnb was an oceanfront property in walking distance to a ton of shops and restaurants. We felt very safe the entire time with 24-hour security in the lobby. We ran into four other groups of Carolina students who had Airbnb’s in the same building. All the amenities were fantastic for an affordable price, and I would stay here again if I go back to Puerto Rico.

Try the Puerto Rican hot dog!

The weather was perfect the entire week–sunny and 85. There were also multiple food carts on the beach, where I grabbed a quick bite to eat for under a couple of bucks. There were also multiple beach bars and cafes where you could sit in the shade and eat if you wanted to. We could have occupied our time in Puerto Rico completely by just laying out on the beach all day.

Our favorite activity in Puerto Rico was the catamaran boat tour. We booked ours with Salty Dog Catamaran, which had great reviews on TripAdvisor. For just about $70 a person, you’ll get to go on an amazing 6-hour boat tour with unlimited drinks, lunch, snorkeling, and a visit to an island. All of the boat tours leave out of Fajardo, which is about an hour east from Isla Verde.

Another must-do is to check out Old San Juan, and we especially loved visiting before sunset. Old San Juan is picturesque laid out with cobblestone and colorful rows of homes. The famous pink umbrellas are located next to the governor’s mansion on Calle Fortaleza. You can walk around all of Old San Juan in a short amount of time. At night, the streets are well-lit with crowds of people moving from bar to bar.

Puerto Rico is a wonderful place and I am so glad I got the chance to visit for spring break!

Here is a list of my recommendations for must-do activities and restaurants.


  1. Raíces (Old San Juan): an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant! Try the mofongos, which is a signature Puerto Rican dish featuring plantains.
  2. Señor Paleta (Old San Juan): refreshing popsicle shop with a variety of flavors. A great treat after dinner!
  3. Panaderia Alturas (Fajardo): an amazing bakery featuring sweets, coffees, and deli meals. In close proximity to the ports for all of the catamaran tours.


  1. Salty Dog Catamaran: half-day long boat tour.
  2. Calle Fortaleza: street featuring the pink umbrellas.


  1. La Placita (San Juan): historical landmark known for its many bars and exciting nightlife.
  2. Calle San Sebastian (Old San Juan): a street located in downtown with fantastic bars.

How to Beat the Post-Vacation Blues

I was inspired to write this blog post because one of my best friends texted me this earlier today. He just came back from a spring break vacation in Madrid, Spain.

The worst part of going on vacation is coming back from one.

Let’s face it–it’s difficult to go from sipping a piña colada on a beach to immediately come back to miserable weather and sitting in classes all day. I just came back from an incredible and relaxing vacation in Puerto Rico, and there’s no doubt that it was hard to adjust back to my normal routine. I constantly find myself daydreaming about the memories from last week.

It’s natural to have these feelings of nostalgia after coming back from a trip. But when post-vacation blues starts to affect your productivity levels and work habits, this becomes a problem that you need to tackle from within.

Puerto Rico with my best girl friends!

Here are my tips for getting over those post-vacation blues to take charge to find the beauty in your own life.

Be in tune with your surroundings.

On vacation, I love being able to turn off email notifications and forget all of my responsibilities back at home. Catching a break from the mundanities of life is essential to feel recuperated from your day-to-day routine.

Instead of feeling dread about returning to work or school, take some valuable time to see the positives in your everyday life. I am guilty of this, as I am always dissatisfied at my seemingly boring life.

However, while vacations are amazing, we forget that constant travel and moving from place-to-place can take a toll on you. At least for me, I was getting pretty tired of having to Uber everywhere instead of having the convenience of my car back at home. Travel can also be stressful, as you want to try to see as many sites as you possibly can in a short amount of time. Also, when you’re traveling in a group, you do not have any privacy or time to take care of yourself.

I was running on campus when I stopped to take a picture of this beautiful view.

Therefore, it is nice to come back home to a routine that you feel comfortable and confident in tackling. It might not be the most exciting place in the world, but it is important to be mindful and grateful of where you live and your routine that keeps you grounded. Chances are, where you currently live will not be where you live in a few months or years down the road. Cherish every moment you have, even when it’s not on vacation.

Learn a new language.

Every time I travel, I always leave with an admiration of foreign languages. Being trilingual, I have been lucky to travel to destinations where I can understand and converse with natives.

However, I still have a desire to improve my conversation and listening skills in Korean and French. I have also created a goal for myself this summer to start learning Spanish, as it is a language I have always wanted to learn. By doing this, I will want to continue to travel so that I can practice these skills on future trips.

Some resources I recommend include Duolingo, listening to podcasts, or watching films or Youtube videos in the language you wish to learn.

Plan your next trip.

In six weeks, I will be wrapping up the semester and enjoying the last summer as an undergrad. I will have about a month before my internship starts in New York City, but before then, I have been thinking of possible trips I can take. Sometimes, all it takes to beat the post-vacation blues is keeping yourself motivated.

So excited to work in my favorite city this summer!

By planning your next trip, you’ll feel more motivated to work hard and save your money so that you can have another awesome experience. If all my time was spent vacationing, I wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate living in the moment.

Spring Break 2019: Puerto Rico

This year for spring break, my friends and I traveled to Puerto Rico. We had a blast, and I would absolutely return in a heartbeat. Our Airbnb was located in Isla Verde, but we also visited awesome sites in Fajardo, Old San Juan, Condado, and more. Stay tuned for a future blog post detailing everything we did in the trip!

Five Best Secrets for Finding Cheap Flights

Ever since I studied abroad in Paris during the summer of 2017, I had this ever-growing desire to keep traveling and see the world. Because I grew up in the same town where I now attend college, I gained a newfound appreciation for traveling, especially to big cities that are bustling with sightseeing opportunities.

So in 2018, I wanted to make traveling a priority. Given my busy schedule as a college student, I would say that I was pretty successful. In the span of one year, I visited eight major metropolitan cities: Miami, Las Vegas, NYC, DC, Philadelphia, Seattle, Vancouver, and even Seoul.

As a college student however, I have many limitations, especially when it comes to budgeting. Flights are a huge cost when it comes to traveling. There are some obvious tips that most of us know, such as purchasing flights earlier rather than later and flying on discount airlines such as Frontier or Spirit Airlines. But in this blog post, I will bring you my five best secrets for scoring your next flight deal.

Use Google Flights as your flight search engine.

In 2018, Google improved the design and functions of Google Flights. I now use it as my sole search engine for flights because of its simple and customizable interface. I do not use other websites such as StudentUniverse or Expedia anymore, because I have consistently found better deals from Google Flights.

Do you know when you want to travel but are unsure of where your next destination should be? By simply inputting the dates you would like to travel, Google Flights can show you a list and map of different destinations and their respective prices.

This is a game-changer as you can explore various options for both domestic and international travel. Especially as a college student, you may be limited to just weekend trips or over holidays and long breaks. By knowing which dates you are free, you may find yourself traveling to a place you never considered before.

Most people know that return flights on Sundays are expensive, and flying on weekdays is significantly cheaper. Therefore, if you have a little bit more flexibility on your dates of travel, Google Flights can show you a price grid showing how much you could save if you simply adjusted the days you travel.

You can also check out the price of flights over the next few months by using their price graph. Depending on where you visit, flights in the summer and winter will typically be more expensive.


Caution! Google Flights does not show flights from Southwest Airlines. Don’t forget to double check Southwest’s website when conducting your search, as they can have some pretty awesome deals too.

Consider flying out of a different airport (somewhat) near you.

My local airport, Raleigh-Durham International, is the second-largest airport in North Carolina. While I have found many cheap deals out of RDU, it is still pretty expensive to fly out to certain cities in the United States, such as to the West Coast. Additionally, you will almost always have a connecting flight if you are flying internationally at RDU, which can make flights more expensive.

A huge tip that I have learned for saving money is to fly out of different airports that are bigger and tend to have more flights available. For me, Washington D.C. is a good option to look at, as there are three major airports that are a four-hour drive. Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, the largest airport in the United States, is about a six-hour drive. I have even considered flying out of any of the airports around New York City, which is an eight-hour drive. The sheer volume of flights at these larger airports makes driving instead of taking a connecting flight worthwhile.

For my upcoming spring break trip next week, my friends and I are flying out of Atlanta to catch a direct flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico for just under $300. Meanwhile, flying out of our local airport cost upwards to $800.

Again, for international flights, this is an excellent way to save money. There are many direct flights out of New York to destinations in Europe or Asia for under $400.

Find out which flights and airlines are most popular at your local airport.

If you don’t have a car and driving to a different airport isn’t a viable option for you, getting to know what your local airport has to offer can help you find cheap flights.

A quick Wikipedia search can tell you important statistics about your airport. At RDU, the top destinations are Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Dallas, and Orlando. Typically, flying to these cities will be cheaper, because there is a larger number of flights that service to these areas. On your search for your next trip, consider flying to any of these cities.

Furthermore, if certain airlines have larger shares at your airport, they will offer more flights that will also be cheaper. At RDU, Delta, American, and Southwest are head-to-head on their percent of market shares. Understanding this will help you narrow your search on which airlines to fly when you’re going to a specific destination.

Sign up for rewards programs or credit cards with travel benefits.

Check out the rewards programs for airlines that you fly most often. Signing up for these is essential, as the miles you fly can translate into steep flight discounts or even free flights. The more you fly, the more benefits you can redeem in the future. Airlines will also have credit cards that will offer amazing travel benefits such as free checked bags and priority boarding.

Credit card companies such as Chase or Discover will also have their own type of travel cards that translates your everyday spendings into rewards for flights on any airline.

By signing up for any of these programs, you will also receive exclusive emails for flights, so it is worth subscribing.

Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a free newsletter that emails you some of the best flight deals to international locations as they pop up. There is a premium version of $39 per year, where they email you ALL of the deals that they find. However, as a free user of the service, I have gotten about 2-3 emails per week, which I have been satisfied with thus far.

Each email will detail the location they found, the dates to fly, and which airlines these deals are on.

If you’re feeling spontaneous and want to travel somewhere new, Scott’s Cheap Flights can show you some really great deals across the world.

Let me know if you use any of these tips to find yourself a great deal!

Escaping Hurricane Florence

…and we ended up in New York City.

Some of the best adventures happen when you’re not expecting it.

The start of the fall semester seemed to be going normally, as I was finally getting settled into my routine.

Then, out of nowhere, there were rumors about a Category 4 hurricane ravaging the Carolinas. Everyone panicked—buying cases of water and stocking up on canned goods—and eventually we were told by the university to evacuate.

But to where?

For students that lived on the coast, they were definitely safer in Chapel Hill than at home. And for someone like me, who only lives 20 minutes from campus, it really didn’t make a difference where I was.

Many people escaped to other parts of the state where the hurricane was not supposed to hit as hard. Some had no choice but to stay in Chapel Hill.

My best friend Jaein jokingly suggested that we should go to Villanova University, where the majority of her friends she met from studying abroad in South Korea went to school. I didn’t know a single thing about Villanova, except for the fact that their team shot a last-second three pointer and stole our chance at a national championship title in 2016. I didn’t even know where Villanova was located until I pulled up Google Maps.

Seven hours away, I thought to myself. The drive can’t be too bad. 

What Jaein thought was a joke quickly became a plan that I was devising in a matter of minutes. We called up her friends about coming up for a few days, and they welcomed us with open arms.

So that’s where we decided to go. Not to Charlotte, or Boone, or Atlanta like the majority of students did. But to Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, September 11

Jaein’s study abroad roommate Tori, who is a senior at Carolina, also decided to accompany us on this adventure. We packed up our bags, loaded them into my SUV, and left that Wednesday evening, just hours after we got the alert to evacuate.

And so we drove. Instead of driving for seven hours straight, we decided that DC would be a good place to stop and rest. While this trip had no limits at this point, we made the smart decision to take care of ourselves and to slow down time a bit. And we also wanted to do some sightseeing while we were at it.

The three of us split a budget-friendly hotel room at the Hampton Inn, which was located in the middle of the city and had free breakfast. We explored downtown, walking by the White House and the National Monument.

After just three more hours of driving and passing through Maryland and Delaware, we made it to Pennsylvania. It was a state that I had never been to before. We pulled up to a dorm where Jaein’s friend, Tim, met us and helped us unload our bags. We moved my car to the guest lot, in which we had to explain to the parking attendant why exactly we were visiting from North Carolina.

Tim was extremely kind and selfless to let us take over his single bedroom in the dorm while he slept in his other friend’s room. Then we met the rest of Jaein and Tori’s study abroad friends, such as Ivan and William. Even though I knew none of them, I immediately felt as if I had been friends with them for a while too. They were all so eager to host us, even though it was a completely random occurrence.

It’s weird to spend time on another college campus. Especially at Villanova, which is a small private school that has about a third of the undergraduates that Carolina does. The dorm where Tim and William lived in also housed the main dining hall and many classrooms. There was no “Franklin Street,” as Villanova is tiny and is certainly not a college town. Instead, the students had the city of Philadelphia in their backyards.

While the school itself was not too interesting, the guys took us downtown for dinner, and we ate at an amazing dim-sum restaurant in Chinatown. In North Carolina, authentic Asian food is hard to come by, nevertheless dim-sum. We feasted on our food.

The hurricane was getting worse at home, and the university also canceled classes for Thursday and Friday. We were stuck in Pennsylvania anyway, so there was no way we were coming home before then.

Thursday, September 12

Tim and Ivan skipped their classes that day to continue hanging out with us. Tim is a huge foodie, so he knew the best spots to go in Philly. We went to Chinatown again, eating the most amazing dry hotpot. They customized our orders, so we got to pick all the different kinds of meats, vegetables, and noodles we wanted. Another round of food coma for us.

After walking around the city for a bit, we visited Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, an indoor and outdoor mosaic art gallery. It was beautiful to walk around.

For dinner, we ate at the best Korean barbecue restaurant that I’ve had in the United States. We could grill unlimited meat, vegetables, and had all of the side dishes we could ever want. This whole trip was basically defined by us obsessing over Korean food, as there really are not many options back in Chapel Hill.

While all of this was happening, Ivan was having difficulties with his bank account over at Chase Bank. After talking to a customer representative, Ivan needed to go to NYC to the headquarters to resolve the issues he was having.

We all looked at each other, knowing exactly what each of us was thinking. Let’s go to New York together.

So we booked an Airbnb for the five of us and a $14 Greyhound ticket for the next day to New York, which was less than two hours away.

Friday, September 13

The Greyhound bus was a pleasantly comfortable ride, and it dropped us off right at Times Square. I had just visited the city last month, so I still had my MTA subway card. We first took care of Ivan’s business with Chase bank of course, and then it was time to explore.

We spent the rest of the day shopping and dining in SoHo, and afterwards we decided to check out some of the nightlife. After an extremely long day, we crawled into bed at 5AM.

Saturday, September 14

After rushing to check out of our Airbnb, Ivan brought us to his cousin Danae’s apartment, who lived in Midtown and works for Yves-Saint Laurent. We also met Ivan’s other cousin and younger sister. Danae’s apartment and lifestyle was everything I wanted for myself in ten years.

The eight of us went to brunch at 11AM. We figured that we had plenty of time to eat and chat, given that our bus was departing at 2PM. But instead, we got lost in conversation. At my end of the table, Danae, Tori, and I were having a serious heart-to-heart as we talked about our lives together. We laughed–and even cried–by the end of the brunch. We almost missed our bus back to Philly.

Back home, the hurricane was thankfully not as severe as we had all anticipated. Class was going to resume on Monday, which meant that it was time for Tori, Jaein and I to make the seven-hour drive home.

We packed up our bags and left Villanova that same night. We said our goodbyes, and hoped that Tim and Ivan would be able to visit us at Carolina sometime soon.