Sephora Haul: What I Bought During the 2017 Winter Sale

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It doesn’t snow in Los Angeles, so feeling the holiday spirit can be a bit difficult. Luckily, Sephora was around this year to brighten the mood with its semiannual sale. At the time, I was a VIB (but hit the Rouge mark because of this sale). That meant I was eligible to stop the store for five days of 20 percent off. Stuff at Sephora basically never goes on sale (though I am obsessed with their weekly wows), so this was a big change to stock up on some favorites and try out a few new things. There won’t be another sale till the spring, so I made sure to go all out.

Here’s what I picked up:

Clarisonic Mia 2 BlendXCleanse Holiday Gift Set $169. Sale Price: $135.20
I was hesitant to buy this product. Even as a gift set and even with the 20 percent off, this was still a lot of money to drop. But I decided to commit to healthier and better-looking skin. And I love it. The brush head is gentle for my sensitive skin. I do have to reduce my usage to once every other day, however, because my skin gets incredibly dry using this with my proactive. I think if I had a gentler cleanser, I could use this every day. The foundation brush is awesome for foundation but even better with creme contour. It blends my Anastasia Beverly Hills Creme Contour Kit beautifully. Note: This product is currently sold out at It is sold at Ulta and on Clarisonic’s website.

Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder Tres Invisible Dry Shampoo Mini $14 Sale Price: $11.20

The original Prêt-à-Powder dry shampoo powder is my ride or die dry shampoo. I cannot live without it. So I was super excited to try it in a new formula. I still prefer the powder over this spray, but I will say that this dry shampoo does an awesome job of keeping my hair looking fresh. I don’t like the smell, though, so I’m not sure I would purchase it again. I’ll probably stick to the powder.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Collection Mini (Mood Exposure) $24 Sale Price: $19.20

This blush has awesome reviews, but I feel its tiny size makes it difficult to swirl a blush brush in it. I like the color, but I think some of their other colors are prettier. They just weren’t available in a mini size. I don’t think I’d buy this again, and I don’t think the larger versions are worth their high price tag. But again, I can really only speak for this color and this size. The other colors swatched beautifully on my hand in the store. This blush doesn’t last very long and is definitely for more subtle occasions.

Beautyblender blendercleanser® solid $16 Sale Price: $12.80

I was frustrated that nothing was seeming to clean my beautyblender like I wanted it to, so I decided to cave in and purchase this solid. It works well to clean my blender as well as my other brushes. It’s a simple and easy process. Worth it. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Touch In Sol No Poreblem Primer $18 Sale Price: $14.40

Despite saying it will make pores disappear, I have a problem with this no poreblem primer. My makeup does seem to apply easier with this as a base, but it doesn’t make my makeup last longer and it definitely—sadly—doesn’t minimize my pores. I think I’ll be returning this because it doesn’t do the one thing it’s supposed to do.

Laura Mercier Silk Crème Moisturizing Photo Edition Foundation (Rose Ivory) $48 Sale Price: $38.40

I first tested this foundation when I got my makeup done at Sephora for an event. I absolutely loved how this looked in photos. Overall, I’m really satisfied with the color and coverage. I wish it lasted as long as my Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation, but I am happy with the finish of this. The tube packaging is effective but not very beautiful. I’m not sure if it’s worth it’s high price tag, but I plan on using it and will consider repurchasing it.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm $29.50 Sale Price: 23.60

I’ve been using this product since April and love it. Nothing else takes my makeup off as flawlessly and effortlessly. Everything from basic work makeup to Halloween make up comes off quickly. I have super sensitive eyes, and a lot of eye makeup removers clog the pores in my eyes and give me infections. This is gentle, and I can trust it. A must buy.

**all photos taken from

Review: Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette (+ my intro to contouring)

Contouring was a pretty scary thing for me at first. I didn’t exactly know what it was,  but it seemed to be something I’d be into learning. And if it’s trending? You bet I want to try it.

Back in 2014, Kim K made contouring a thing. Or at least, that’s when I remember it becoming a thing that crossed my radar. Those were simpler times in my life when I focused on school instead of obsessing over beauty accounts, YouTube videos, and reading Allure on the daily.

Where to start:

What I did know was that I wanted to give it a try. A slender noise and defined cheekbones? Sign me up! I walked into Sephora and explained my situation: I was a beginner. I perused a few items but ultimately decided on the Smashbox Step-By-Step Contour Kit ($45, Sephora). It was probably the least intimidating kit. There’s only three colors, there are instructions on where to put each product, and it even came with a brush. I was sold.


Nearly three years later, I still love the kit. I would definitely recommend it to someone looking to learn the basics in contouring. I even continue to use the brush today (yes, it’s held up!) because the size and angle of it are the perfect size for my cheekbones.

Mix your elements:

As my makeup obsession grew, I eventually realized that I wanted to explore more complex kits. At the time, I was a broke college kid, so I turned to YouTube and discovered LauraLee. She does some amazing videos, but my all-time favorite video she’s made is about using creme highlights and contour shades from the drugstore (watch it here).  After watching her video over and over, I became incredibly comfortable with highlighting and contouring, and I loved that I could learn without worrying about wasting expensive makeup.

Advance your craft:

But finally, I found my holy grail product: the Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette. OK, I have a confession. It took me a really long time to finally buckle down and purchase this product. But now I don’t know how I ever got ready in the morning without it. Here’s my full review.

The Basics

Price: $46, nonrefillable, $49 refillable (refills sell for $14-16 per shade)

Sold at: Sephora, Kat Von D, Amazon

Colors: Lucid, Lyric, Levitation, Sombre, Shadowplay, Subconscious

Product texture: Powder. A creme version is also now available, but I haven’t tried it.

When I use it: Daily

How long I’ve been using it: Since March 2016

Would I repurchase? Absolutely!

**all images taken from

The Breakdown

I was hesitant to give up my Smashbox contour set for this larger and more advanced kit (I know it’s only three more colors, but this was the set all the beauty pros recommend, so I just wasn’t sure my skill level was to par). But from the moment I first took this product out of the box and sat down at my vanity, I knew I had made the right decision. The products are perfectly pigmented and the shades blend beautifully. I never worry about looking muddy, and the bronzer shade is honestly better than any other single bronzer I’ve been able to find (even better than the Benefit Hoola Bronzer.

I’ve had this palette for just shy of a year, and I still have so much product left. I’ve hit pan on the first two dark shades, but I think I should be able to last through the end of the year without needing to buy any refills. And the best part is that when I do run out, I can easily and (cost effectively) replace those two shades without needing to buy an entire new palette.

The bottom line: I absolutely love this product and couldn’t recommend it more. I do see some negatives in that I tend to stare clear of the darkest shade and the orangy shade, but overall, I’m very happy with this product. My sister will probably end up with her own for Christmas (she loves mine so much she’s always stealing it).


Champagne Campaign: Protecting the Name that Matters

A rosé by any other name wouldn’t taste as sweet. For centuries, winegrowers in a pocket of north eastern France–just 145 km from Paris–have embedded their rich soils with grape varieties that cannot be grown the same way anywhere else in the world.

But the grapes aren’t what is important. According to the Bureau du Champagne, USA, which is the American representative of the Comité Champagne, “the United States is one of the last countries in the world to not reserve the Champagne name exclusively for wines from Champagne.” For many, it’s a disgrace to a nation, its people, and its history.

Meryl Muldoon is one of Champagne’s biggest supporters. A Wisconsin native, Muldoon moved to Chicago two years ago to work as a Champagne specialist for Moët Hennessy USAHer job involves education, advocacy, and branding through the creation of unique food and Champagne pairings.

Muldoon says the French are responsible for the advancement and perfection of Champagne. The Champagne we know and love today is because of a series of tiny improvements made by the French along the way; they chose English glass that was fired by coal for their bottles, corks instead of wet rags, and created the concept of Champagne’s wire caging.

But what it means to bear the name Champagne is about more than scientific advancements. It’s also about history.

I was in a little grocery store in Fallbrook, California, and there was this $8 California sparkling that had the word ‘champagne’ on it,” she says.  “And for me, it’s frustrating because it perpetuates the idea that sparkling wine is one thing. They’re not giving the Champanois credit for hundreds of years of history and to trial and error.”

Today, this history continues to run rampant in the cities of Reims and Épernay, which are home to an abundance of Champagne houses with various capacities. Thirty eight meters below the French soil are cellars whose musty smell comes from their chalk-lined walls, which extend for an average of 8 km. The oldest of these cellars belong to the Maison Ruinart and date back to 1729. Ruinart’s chalk pits have a constant temperature of 11 degrees Celsius with a high humidity rate and low lighting. This creates the ideal environment that Ruinart’s entrepreneurs have desired since its beginning.

Founded by Nicolas Ruinart, it is the oldest Champagne house in the world. Ruinart was created following an edict under Louis XV in 1728, which authorized the transportation of wine bottles. Prior to this, wine could only be sold in casks, which were too large to maintain the sparkling sensation of Champagne. Ruinart sold 170 bottles of Champagne in 1730, but by 1789 that number had increased to 65,000 bottles.

Since then, Ruinart has become a prestigious name in the champagne industry. It attracts visitors from around the world and exports 35 percent of its production to foreign countries.

But the serenity and beauty that is echoed in the caves today masks their troubled past. From 1940 till 1944 France was under Nazi control. Governmental takeover by Germany also meant a takeover of the Champagne houses.

During World War II, the city of Reims was not bombed, but the region was quickly invaded. Mylène Gastard who is a guide at Ruinart says that Champagne was greatly desired by the German soldiers.

“The Germans, they didn’t destroy anything, but they really liked the Champagne,” Gastard says. “They didn’t steal much, but they fixed the bottom price so they could buy a lot of bottles of champagne at a very low price, and the houses of champagne were obliged to sell at that fixed price.”

A few houses were able to save some of their production by building walls to hide the bottles. But Ruinart’s caves were listed on the historic register since 1931, so the house could not make any changes without the Germans noticing.

“Ruinart sold all of its champagne during the second world war,” Gastard says. “That’s a pity because our house, being the oldest house of Champagne, we would like to have much older Champagne. But that’s all we have.”

Its oldest bottle might only be 50 years old, but the traditions and practices that Ruinart was established on are still maintained today. All of the production is done on Ruinart’s property, and they are able to produce 3 million bottles of Champagne per year. But their main goal isn’t to become the largest producer if it means sacrificing their traditions.

“Our aim is to provide a fine Champagne,” Gastard said. “We are not going to change the taste of our Champagne just to make it easier [to produce].”

Ruinart’s philosophy of quality over quantity is in line with the Bureau du Champagne’s emphasis on the exclusivity of sparkling wine from the Champagne region. Legal restrictions in France for creating this iconic beverage are stronger than anywhere else in the world. These laws include the use of just three authorized grapes–Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier–short pruned vines, limitations on juice extraction, minimum annual required alcohol levels and a minimum 15 months storage process of bottled wines prior to shipping.

For Champagne specialists such as Muldoon, this knowledge of history and legislation makes working in the country with less legal restrictions such as the U.S. a unique task to navigate.

“The minimum age of a vintage is 12 months plus an additional three months under cork,” Muldoon says. “Our brands–even Moet Imperial and Clicquot nonvintage–they spend two years, [every single bottle] spends two years, aging. And I guarantee that a California bottle does not follow those same regulations.”

Although U.S. restrictions on bubbly has increased in recent years, loopholes exist that allow sparkling wine from other areas of the world to be classified as Champagne. But perhaps worse, is that the loopholes also allow for genuine Champagne to be devalued and sectioned instead as sparkling wine.

But the real problem expands beyond the legal realm. The U.S. ranks in fourth place for the largest countries which Champagne is exported to, and Muldoon says the reasoning behind this ranking is cultural.

“The average American drinks ⅓ of a glass of Champagne in a year,” she says. “What does that tell you? It’s like a little celebratory toast at a wedding or it’s New Years. It’s totally cultural.”

In other countries, such as Italy and Japan, Champagne is being recognized for its properties and its potential in food pairings. But the U.S. has crafted a different image. “With Champagne, you have a specialized flute, and it’s considered expensive,” Muldoon says. “Yes, it’s a celebratory item. This is a  libation that can be consumed on special occasions. But what I believe, and what many people I’ve come across in the culinary scene here [believe], is truly that Champagne is one of the most versatile food-pairing wines. And you have to celebrate every day. Every day really is a celebration. I don’t care if it’s a Tuesday afternoon, and you’ve had a bad day at work. Have a glass of Champagne.”

She says that Champagne specialists and chefs in America are tasked with changing the perceptions of the American consumer. “It’s a pretty daunting task,” she says. “It’s not gonna happen overnight. But you know, that’s kind of what we’re here to do little by little. It’s one Champagne and food pairing at a time.”

In order for Champagne and the Champanois to gain their respect in the U.S. legally, they must first change the American ideas of the beverage. The most important way to do that is through education and food experiences, Muldoon says.

“Champagne is about more than just the flavor profile,” she says. “It’s not just about the texture of Champagne being good with things. Yes, the acidity of Champagne can cut through the fat of a fried chicken, whatever. So there is that straight-on flavor profile of the wine that is great with food. But an experiential form of it that you can have every day. You might not be able to purchase yourself a fur coat, but you can maybe purchase yourself a glass of champagne. It just enhances the experience overall. So approachable luxury, affordable luxury.”

Muldoon spends her time hosting various events throughout the Chicago area to educate locals on the versatility of Champagne. She believes that education is key in the process of bringing the U.S. up the standards of many advanced countries who are more knowledgeable about Champagne.

“It’s not just about educating the consumer, it’s also about educating the staff members of every restaurant that pours champagne,” she says.  “It’s about creating ambassadors every single day in different atmospheres and getting Champagne in front of people. It’s demystifying it because it’s for everybody and for every meal.”

A new adventure for my blog: Bubbly & Beauty

Bienvenue! I’m so excited to start sharing my beauty blogging experiences with you. As a beauty addict with a journalism background, I’ve been trying and critiquing beauty products for years. But it wasn’t until recently that I decided to use my professional blog as a place to share my knowledge and opinions with you.

Of course, beauty products weren’t enough. After spending six months living in Reims, France, I saw my passion for Champagne come alive. I’m interested in expanding my knowledge on Champagnes and sparkling wines, while also educating my readers on the legal restrictions of the industry.

I hope that you’ll find this new addition of my site both helpful and fun. After all, I can’t think of a more perfect pairing for bubbly than beauty. Merci beaucoup for going on this journey with me. Santé! 18519894_10213562837809527_4759824427833058176_n

An open letter to the Missouri School of Journalism



They say a cat has nine lives.

I’m unaware of who “they” are, but I’m confident that students at the Missouri School of Journalism are required to have more like 100 lives. And any lost lives must replenish every year.

If we’re being completely honest (which, I mean, I should be because I’m a journalist), there’s a very real part of me that is surprised I’ve made it to this point; I survived the Missouri School of Journalism.

The 2015 NewsPro-RTDNA survey of the country’s top journalism schools ruled MU as the best of the best. It cited:”If you really want to know what your field is like, go to Mizzou. They throw you in head first, and you learn quickly whether you can swim. No sugar-coating, no sick days, no excuses. In many ways, it’s actually much tougher than being in the real world.”

As I embark on this mysterious “real world” and leave the apparent “fake world” I’ve been living in for 22.5 years, I can’t help but reflect on my time as a member of this arguably crazy, but out-of-this world journalism school (which, BTW, told me I couldn’t use that phrase as a headline on a feature about outer space).

A few things to note:

  • There are people out there who are going to read this and say I cheated because I left Columbia for a year. But here’s the thing:
    • A T-shirt used to hang in the window of a clothing store downtown Columbia. It read: “Leaving college after four years is like leaving the bars at midnight.”
    • It’s July 2016, and I’m leaving MU after only three years. That’s like leaving the bars at 11.


To my beloved alma mater (it’s still weird to say that),

The past four years have been the most vigorous and demanding four years of my life. And to quote ( but also miss quote — GASP!) Mean Girls, I feel like I’ve been personally victimized by the Missouri School of Journalism (for the readers, here’s your chance to raise your hand if you have been too).


From the moment we first met (s/o to my high school choir teacher, Mrs. Marianetti, for the introduction), I was skeptical. A school in the middle of Missouri sounded like a pretty terrible option for a Chicago girl yearning for life on the East coast. I mean, why would the world’s best journalism school exist in a city with a population of just over 100,000? It didn’t help that I first witnessed the beauty of your campus in some not-so-stellar circumstances: 98 degree weather and sidewalks that were covered in cicadas. Yuck. 

Luckily, I learned a very important lesson that day in June 2011. Skepticism should be your first instinct, but don’t let any preconceived notions deter the facts. I walked into the Columbia Missourian’s newsroom to find an electric energy that the other 10 schools I applied to were lacking. I was hooked.

When we decided to take our relationship to the next level in the fall of 2012, I sat in Fisher Auditorium and watched as my professor wrote a single sentence on the board: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

One sentence changed my entire outlook on the world. It’s not that I read these words and suddenly became a terrible human who doesn’t trust anyone, but they paired well with the next three years of college where I’d have to learn to abandon a lot of things I held dear and true for most of my life. I had to adapt. 

One of those things was the Oxford comma. My love of grammar started in third grade when my teacher, Mrs. Car, made my class diagram sentences. I’m going to note that this is the same point in my life where I started to hate math (her Magic T’s were torture). For the next 10 years of my life, the Oxford comma was GOLDEN. I never understood why an argument to remove it even existed. The Oxford comma just made sense. 


But you had much different plans in store for me. Not only did you remove my best punctuation friend from my skill set, but you also forced me to fail papers for misspelling a name in J2100 (FYI I would have received an A on that paper if your grading wasn’t so cruel), spend 12 hours out of my comfort zone on an eco-village, and memorize an absurd amount of communication laws.

I spent two semesters trying to master disciplines outside the written word. I took some pretty-OK photographs:


(Humor me)

But also truly didn’t deserve an A on this Photoshop assignment:


(Goodbye, career in design. Hello, being able to read between the guidelines so that your project is technically correct).

I, along with the hundreds of other journalism students who are daring enough to devote four years of their life to you, saw trials and triumphs. I learned that crying over one F wasn’t going to solve anything (and that nearly everyone else had also received an F on an assignment at some point in their four years.) 

Instead, I chose to work harder. I took my time in writing down proper names while reporting and read them over a few extra times before turning my stories in. Instead of being upset about my multimedia skills, I worked on them and saw a potential to really refine my passion for the written word.

My emphasis in magazine editing didn’t come without its struggles. But as I spent time away from MU for an entire year, I learned just how valuable my education had been and would continue to be. As a student at the Missouri School of Journalism, I not only had access to the best equipment and facilities, I also had some of the greatest professors. They cared about seeing me succeed and making sure I understood the material. They were tough, but they gained my respect.

The skills taught at the Missouri School of Journalism aren’t taught anywhere else in the world. That’s because it’s the one educational institution for journalism where students are treated like working professionals. It’s about more than attending a few lectures and studying for exams. It’s devoting any and all of your free time to your craft. It’s about seeing journalism’s role in the world and striving to make that world a better place. 

From day one, a legacy is expected of you. You can either achieve and advance that legacy or bring it down. Some of the hardest working, honest, and forward-thinking people I’ve ever met are graduates of this school. And I’m honored to now consider myself among them.

If I had to do it all over again, I would do it exactly the same. And I know that sounds cheesy and picture perfect, but it’s the truth. And the truth, my friends, is what we aim for. But in typical journalism fashion, feel free to fact check that statement with me a few years from now. I think (and hope) that answer will be the same.



Mary Kaleta


When I made the decision to attend MU back in May of 2012, I had a lot of haters from back home. People told me that I was “making a big mistake” and that I’d “never be successful if I went to school in Missouri.” I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve heard “You should have stayed in Chicago” or “You know it’s spelled like misery for a reason.” Even today, four years later, I still get comments like “IF you get a job in journalism.”

And to those people I have only one thing to say: Thank you!

Thank you for the extra motivation. Ask most journalism students and they’ll tell you they didn’t go in to journalism because of the money or the plethora of available jobs. I chose journalism because I full heartedly believe in the craft. I believe in the purpose of journalism and its role in democracy. I believe in journalism because I believe in correctly used hyphens, memorizing AP Style, and then breaking the rules and supporting the Oxford comma. Thank you for the doubt. Thank you for letting me work hard to achieve my dreams.


I spent the first seven weeks of summer eating fried pickles

These pickles from Billiards on Broadway stole my heart


The headline says it all.

When I moved to Missouri from Chicago in 2012, I didn’t have high expectations. And that’s saying a lot because I certainly am known for expecting too much.

I was well aware that the closest Apple store was nearly two hours away, that I wouldn’t ever be able to eat good pizza, and that the closest I’d come to a skyscraper would be Columbia’s Tiger Hotel.

But 18-year-old me was pretty naive. The only time in four years I needed an Apple store was in France,my pizza void was filled by Gumby’s (passive voice, I know) on numerous occasions, and Columbia’s constant struggle with building high-rise student housing options would prove to be enough of a hassle that I wouldn’t miss tall buildings.

Luckily, Missouri had its ways of surprising me. One of those ways was an introduction to fried pickles. I’m sure there are places in Chi-town where one can find these delicious treats, but I’ve never bothered to check because it just felt wrong eating them that far north. Since the first moment I tried fried pickles, I’ve been in search of a list of places to eat them. Even in a city as overpopulated with journalists as Columbia, no one had dared to come up with a ranking of the city’s fried pickles.

So I did.

For seven weeks, I took advantage of my time as an editor for Vox Magazine and ate as many fried pickles as I could. And even though I’m slightly ashamed of the number I ate (my friend Paul told me it was unhealthy), I can rest my head at night knowing that I did it all in the name of quality journalism.

I ate some great pickles and some truly nasty ones. I visited parts of Columbia I hadn’t ventured to over the course of four years, met some interesting people, and now feel that I have enough street credit to become a self-proclaimed fried pickle expert.

Think you’ll agree? Read the ranking below, which includes links to my more in-depth reviews.

The definitive guide to Columbia’s best fried pickles

Two months back: aka how I transitioned to life again in the U.S. of A.

Before I left for France, I did a lot of research. Like a lot. I perused too many websites that claimed to offer me esteemed advice in order to prepare me for my time abroad. I had everything figured out.

Biggest advice: throw aside all those flashy, tight, and brightly colored clothes in your closet. And while packing was a lot easier (even if it did feel like I was packing for a five month funeral for my social life), I would have saved bunches of money while in France if I had just brought my favorite items instead of trying to be someone I wasn’t.

But what’s important here isn’t that I was forced to live five months in a wardrobe I didn’t love. It’s about a key lesson I learned the hard way:

No amount of self help books, travel guides, or advice from so-called friends can actually prepare you for the real deal. And here’s why:

In May when I returned from a trip to Italy, I received some pretty eye-opening (and quite frankly, pretty rude) advice from a friend. He told me that I would “never be French.” I’ll admit that at first I was pretty stunned. Mostly by his abrupt lack of concern for my feelings, but also because my world was pretty much left crashing down.

I had studied French for seven years, took courses and read books on French art and culture, and I had just spent thousands of dollars and four months of my life living in his damn country.

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe I don’t want to be French?”  I screamed back.

That didn’t go over too well. But nearly three months later, I still think about it quite often. Especially since I’m back in the U.S., and major life decisions are right around the corner.

The problem with self-help articles is that they’re too wishy-washy. It takes them forever to give advice, and even when they do it’s often generalized to the point that no one truly knows what to do with it. So you’re left in the situation of trying to decipher a few words that you’ll eventually consider valuable enough to take with you.

So I’ll be blunt.

How did I transition back to life in the U.S. of A? Short answer: I didn’t. I haven’t as of today, and I probably never will.

But before you tell me to fact-check myself, you’re right. Obviously I had to transition. I don’t walk around the streets of Chicago pretending to be in Reims, asking for pain au chocolat and champagne. I certainly don’t get upset when stores are open past 8 p.m. or miss having a higher concentration of cigarette smoke in the air than oxygen. My BlablaCar account is no longer active; I’m more than happy to drive my own car. I haven’t complained once about having to live in something bigger than the shoebox some refer to as Residium. And I absolutely am not about to trade 35,000 overly supportive Mizzou fans and Truman the Tiger for a wooden beaver (sorry, Sciences Po).

My point (10 paragraphs into this post) is that France changed me, and all that “reverse culture shock” shit is, in fact, bullshit. The person I was when I left for France in January is simply not the person I am today. But I’m also not the 16 year-old version of myself who spent Saturdays wearing a suit and talking to walls for speech competitions (hey, it’s a real thing).

Believe it or not, humans are capable of change. And change–not rain, Luke Bryan–is a good thing. Just ask the 2008 version of Barack Obama, gumball machines, or someone who’s forgotten to switch positions while suntanning (throwback to myself in Greece).

If you Google “How to handle reverse culture shock,” you’ll receive answers from Forbes, Marquette University, and of course incredibly reliable and reputable sources like

And while their advice is seemingly quite helpful, it’s also kind of just like well DUH.

  1. Reconnect with old friends. Obviously. But 1) how do you summarize 5 months into a conversation 2) you might share a lot of memories with them, but they don’t understand the memories you’re trying to cope with
  2. Make a photo album. Just in case you wanted to see your tears fall on physical photographs
  3. Stay connected with the friends you made there. Group messaging is great, but a 7-hour time difference? Not so much
  4. And the worst advice: keep traveling. ****If this were possible, would we really be Googling reverse culture shock?******

So this is where I reiterate my point: you can’t beat culture shock. I wasn’t 100% happy with America before I left for France, I wasn’t 100% happy with France when I lived there, and now that I’m back I’m still not truly satisfied with either country or culture.

I’ve woken up to realize that I want to live among people who care about their appearance, but don’t judge me if I want to wear sweatpants and a tshirt to the grocery store when I’m hungry at 1 a.m. I can’t seem to reconcile between people who are cultured enough to learn another language without being a snob about their own. I want to eat meals that have the luxury of endless time without terrible service. I want my friends to be people who care about art and literature while still being able to laugh and be loud in public without caring about what other people think (exchange friends, you covered that one).

Transition is defined most basically as “a change from one state or condition to another.” So I juggled with the idea for quite some time. To me, that word meant moving on. Moving on, of course then, meant forgetting.

Transitioned: no. Instead, I’ve learned that I have to deal with the situation. To cope, to evolve, to figure out some way to mesh all these different experiences together. The opportunity to live in another country–regardless of the degree it differs from your own–is an experience that shouldn’t be tossed aside and forgotten about.

A geographical location and a culture have a lot of influence over the person you are and the person you’ll become, along with a variety of other factors. Europe taught me a lot of lessons that the U.S. never could have, and I know it still has a lot to teach me.

I will miss the culture of France the most. In France, people are just on a different level than in the U.S. They tend to care a lot more about academics, quality of life, and the arts. There is a larger focus on personal development and time with family and friends. They really take the time to stop and appreciate the little things.

At the same time, the U.S. will forever be “home,” and I will always be proud to be an American citizen.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that your time shouldn’t be spent balling your eyes out because your study abroad experience is over. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t woken up in my room and freaked out that Reims wasn’t outside my window and that some of my greatest friends live thousands of miles away. But it didn’t help.

Here’s where I’ll insert some inspiring quotes:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” -FDR

“Don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened”-Dr. Seuss

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on” -Robert Frost

Great quotes from three pretty amazing people. But my favorite advice?

“I think you’re just remembering the good stuff. Next time you look back, I, uh, I really think you should look again.” -500 Days of Summer

I’m not encouraging you to think negatively; rather, I’m pinpointing the very real human reaction we often attribute to the past. As moments in our life fade, we tend to blanket them. It was either “the best time of my life” or “the worst vacation ever.” We either “loved every second of high school” or “couldn’t wait to graduate.” Our ex-boyfriends and girlfriends are either “the only person I’ll ever truly love and lost” or “a total loser.” It just seems easier–especially in reference to the whole story-telling aspect I mentioned early–to generalize.

So while my study abroad experience may seem to be “breathtakingly amazing” when a Tuesday night means going to bed at 10 p.m. because I have work the next morning, it’s important that I remind myself that life without a working cell phone and real pizza wasn’t all that great either. Or when I think to myself “wow, Mizzou is the best journalism school in the world,” that I remember that it also, sadly, has maybe 50 people in total who appreciate that French language for its real beauty.

That’s the secret. Life in the past (whether it was in May or in fifth grade) was awesome. It also had really shitty moments. And guess what? I can pretty much promise you that by May 2016, the sting from “reverse culture shock” will be replaced with the sting of graduation.

No matter how hard we try, life throws us curve balls (yay for cliches!!). We can’t predict it (though some people say they can). All we can do is know there will be moments that make us laugh, cry, or both. There will people we fall in love with, people we can’t stand, etc. There will always be a “transition” to make. But if it wasn’t for transitions 1)  a lot of people would write run-on sentences and that would probably be the end of advanced society 2) we wouldn’t grow.