Undergraduate Admissions

Victoria Malstrom

Trip to Spain – Sevilla, Part II; Madrid

Monday – Lunch by Conchi, Alcázar

On Monday, I went for a run in the morning along the Canal de Alfonso XIII.  It was so nice! The weather was beautiful – I wore a t-shirt and shorts!! Check out this picture I took after my run:

Decent running scenery, I’d say!!

In the afternoon, Shannon’s host mom, Conchi, had me over for lunch again!! This time, she served tortillas de bacalao (fried codfish), patatas alioli (potatoes with a garlic mayonnaise sauce), and picos for tapas, and a delicious garbanzo/navy bean stew with chorizo for the main dish.  Afterwards, she gave us oranges and torrijas (a typical Spanish dessert, made of bread soaked in milk and honey) to eat!

Shannon and I then went to the Alcázar, a beautiful royal palace surrounded with equally beautiful gardens, for their weekly free hour visit! There was so much to see, so I went back the next day 😀 Here is a photo I got with a peacock who lives at the Alcázar on Monday:

And here is a photo of me and Shannon standing in part of the palace, overlooking part of the gardens!

On Monday night after Shannon’s class, we met up again and went to bible study! Shannon met a few people through CIEE, her study abroad program, who were interested in setting up a bible study so they have been meeting every Monday for a few weeks now.  I really enjoyed it! The other people in the bible study were so incredibly sweet, and they led a great conversation about being foreigners.  It was interesting to connect being a foreigner in Spain/Scotland to being a foreigner on Earth and seeking to spread God’s message.

Tuesday – Alcázar (again!)

On Tuesday morning, I met up with Shannon before her class and we went to the Convento Madre de Dios, a convent where the nuns make delicious baked goods and sell them!!  I had already tasted their delicious muffins since Shannon generously brought me some on Friday 🙂 I bought a bag of really tasty ring-shaped hard vanilla cookies! They were called mantecados de vainilla and they were SO good.  Unfortunately, I did not take a picture, and I cannot seem to find even a photo online of this type of cookie. I guess you’ll just have to go to Sevilla to see for yourself 🙂

Later in the day, I went back to the Alcázar – I did not have nearly enough time on Monday to see everything! I stayed there for over two hours but I could have easily stayed longer.  Here are some more pictures I took on my second visit:

The Alcázar is phenomenally beautiful. Six years ago, during my first trip to Sevilla, I visited the Alcázar, and it stood out in my memory among all the other beautiful sights I saw!  Yet, it was still even more breathtaking than I remembered!!

On Tuesday night, Shannon and I met up for our last dinner together in Sevilla 🙁 . Dinner was delicious, as usual – the Spanish really know how to make food right!!

Wednesday – Puente de Triana and Plaza de España

On my last day in Sevilla, Shannon and I went to the Mercado de Triana!  This market is right by the Puente de Triana and it offers all sorts of shops and stands.  There are stalls dedicated to produce, meat (some to just ham!), fish, pastries, soap, wine, oil, and so on.  There was a stand for cooking lessons, and they were teaching how to make paella.  There was even a shoemaker stand!

Under the Mercado de Triana, there are old ruins, so we walked through a guided tour of those.

Then, we went back to three of my favorite places in Sevilla (I’m a copycat, though, as they were Shannon’s favorites first 😀 ).  We went to the bridge (Puente de Triana), and took one last bridge photo together:

We also went to Parque Maria Luisa, which was beautiful as ever.

Our last stop, of course, was Plaza de España.  Shannon took this photo of me there… notice anything?

A rainbow! Okay, so maybe there was no rainbow in the sky, but a fountain rainbow is still pretty magical.  It was a perfect ending to a perfect week!

We said our goodbyes, then parted ways 🙁 – Shannon went to class and I went to the train station! Onward… to Madrid!

Thursday – Madrid

I arrived in Madrid at about midnight.  My goal for Thursday was to have the most fun-filled and cultural experience possible during my one day stay in Madrid!  I wanted to see and experience as much as possible.  My friend Gabri studied in Madrid last spring, so I asked her for a must-see/must-do list.  I made it to all the places she suggested…and then some!

My first stop of the day was La Mallorquina, a pastry shop Gabri recommended.  They are most famous for their napolitana de chocolate, so of course I had to get that…

It was phenomenal.  No wonder they have been in business since 1894!

La Mallorquina is in the Puerta del Sol, which is a really cool place.  Not only do about ten streets intersect here, Kilometre Zero is located here too.  There is a marker on the ground which indicates Km. 0! The square itself is very lively and full of activity.

My next stop was to Plaza Mayor, the main old square of Madrid.  I loved it here:

Then I went to the Mercado San Miguel, which was much like the Mercado de Triana.  I bought a delicious juice here from one of the vendors… I cannot explain how good this juice was. It was raspberry, pineapple, and coconut juice.  I want more…

After the Mercado San Miguel, I went to Plaza de la Villa.  It was so pretty here!! Next, I went to a  cute little garden nearby that has been around for quite a while – it was called Jardín de Príncipe Anglona.  I then went into the Iglesia de San Pedro, which was also close by.

I then went to the Catedral de la Almudena.  This cathedral was so beautiful, and it had such cool ceilings!! I stayed in here for a while, marveling at the beautiful architecture, statues, and symbols in the cathedral.

Next, I went to the Palacio Real! Well, kind of.  I just looked at it from the outside.  If I had more time in Madrid, maybe I would have gone in. I guess I just have to go back now!  Here is the palace (it is enormous!):

There are beautiful gardens right next to the palace, so I went there next.  They are called the Jardines de Sabatini.

I went to the Plaza de España (quite different from the Sevilla Plaza de España!), then walked along Gran Vía, the main street in Madrid.  There are countless shops and interesting buildings located on Gran Via!   I stopped for lunch, then continued onward to my next destination.  I stopped for a minute at Plaza de la Cibeles, which was very pretty.

Finally, I made it to Retiro Park, a huge park that Gabri put on her must-do list.  I spent over two hours here, but still did not see everything there was to see. In fact, I did not even come close.  The first thing I came across was the Monumento a Alfonso XII, a huge and stunning monument with an artificial lake in front of it.  There were people in boats in the lake, which looked fun!

Within Retiro Park is the stunning Palacio de Cristal…

And lots and lots of incredible landscape.

I went to the Prado Museum for about an hour.  This was another place I would have loved to have gone back to if I were in Madrid for longer.  The Prado Museum offered free entry after 6 PM, so I took advantage of that opportunity!

My last stop on my busy day in Madrid was another location on Gabri’s must-do list.  I went to Chocolatería San Gines, where I got chocolate con churros.  I lost track of how many chocolate con churros I ate in Spain… so many, but still not enough.  Back to San Gines – this chocolatier has been around just as long as La Mallorquina… since 1894.  It is no surprise that both of them are in business and flourishing… their food is so delicious!

And one more picture from Madrid, just for kicks…

On Friday morning, I headed back to the airport (but not without stopping at La Mallorquina once more first) to board my flight to Edinburgh! It was bittersweet to leave, but I am so glad I went to Spain and had the opportunity to explore two of the most beautiful cities in the world!!

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed following along.

– Tori

Trip to Spain – Sevilla, Part I

This past week was Innovative Learning Week at the University of Edinburgh.  There were no classes, and the school offered workshops all week for students who chose to stay on campus.  I took this opportunity to travel to Spain, where I visited Shannon in Sevilla for 6 days and then spent a day in Madrid.  I had the most magnificent time! Here is a summary of the first few days of my week in Spain 🙂

Thursday – Arrival

I arrived in Spain on Thursday night, checked into my hostel, and met up with Shannon for dinner and exploring. We got tapas for dinner… actually, we got tapas every time we went out to eat.  Tapas are small dishes which can be served as snacks or, if you order several, as a whole meal.  I am the most indecisive person when ordering at a restaurant, but tapas make it a little easier… I don’t have to commit to just one dish!  After dinner, Shannon showed me a bit of the city and we went to her favorite heladeria (ice cream shop), Bolas.  It was just okay.  I went back two more times during my five-day stay purely for research purposes.

This is a small. Awesome, right?! I got Dulce de Leche (caramel colored, left) and Galletas de Maria (cream colored, right).

Shannon and I walked around the Alameda de Hércules (Hercules Mall; also referred to as just La Alameda), a square in Sevilla and popular hang-out spot.  We made a canine friend in La Alameda! While we were talking, a dog ran up to the water fountain a couple feet away from us, looked at the button, then looked at us.  I ran over to the fountain and pressed the button, and the dog started drinking :’) I got a picture as it was running away after drinking its water, but Shannon got a picture as it was happening!!

Friday – Lunch by Conchi, Torre del Oro, Plaza de España, Churros, Art Gallery

Friday was a very fun and busy day!! I went for a run in the morning – which I was already very excited about since I have been unable to run until recently due to my 2 knee surgeries!  Being in such a beautiful city made it even more enjoyable 🙂

In the afternoon, Shannon’s host mom, Conchi, very graciously invited me to come over for lunch!  A week later, I am still thinking about the food she made.  It was all so good.  She set out some tapas (chorizo and cheese, fried fish, bread, and picos), water and red wine to drink, and the most delicious rice for our main dish.  I had some really phenomenal food in Spain, but Conchi’s cooking was definitely my favorite.  After we finished all of that, she brought out fresh melon and oranges, which made the great meal even better.  Here is a picture of me, Shannon, and Conchi all together!

After lunch, Shannon and I went to the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold). The view from the top of the tower was so pretty.

We then went to Shannon’s favorite place, the Plaza de España.  I loved it there so much and went back two more times during my stay in Sevilla!

We also walked around in some nearby gardens, where we saw a flamenco class occurring!  After the Plaza de España and gardens, Shannon and I went to get churros con chocolate.  We went to the same place that Shannon had her first churros con chocolate, and I was not disappointed in the least!! The churros were so tasty and greasy and all sorts of unhealthy, and the chocolate was rich and sweet… the combination of the two was just marvelous.

While walking around and exploring after churros, Shannon and I stumbled across an art gallery dedicated primarily to the works of Amalio Garcia del Moral, who created hundreds of pieces of art all centered around La Giralda, the tower of the Catedral de Sevilla.  I had never heard of Amalio, nor had Shannon, but we loved his drawings and paintings and were so thankful to have come across the exhibit!

Saturday – Independent Exploring and Casa Anselma

Shannon had a day trip to Córdoba, so I spent most of the day exploring the city on my own! I had a very successful day of exploration.  The first place I went was Parque Maria Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), where I spent a good chunk of time.  The park is huge and beautiful and it was so calming to be surrounded by nature.

After walking through the park, I went back to Plaza de España, which is right next to Parque Maria Luisa.  Then, I went to Iglesia del Salvador, which was once a mosque and is now a Catholic church.

It looks like this from the outside…

…and this on the inside.

I then went to what is officially called “Metropol Parasol“, but called Las Setas (the mushrooms) for its appearance.  This is a large wooden structure which, in all honesty, is rather ugly… I am not alone in saying this, though! The construction of Las Setas is a point of contention among Sevillanos.  Regardless, it provides some pretty unique views of the city.  Here I am on Las Setas:

I met up with Shannon that night after she got back from her day trip.  She was very excited to take me to her favorite bar in Sevilla: Casa Anselma.  This is an authentic flamenco bar in Triana (the neighborhood where Shannon lives with her host family) that is popular among locals. At Casa Anselma, four very talented Spanish men play instruments and sing while a duo dances the Sevillanas.

We went with Shannon’s friends from school, Kathryn and Kate, and loved it.  The atmosphere was so lively and homey – the majority of the people there knew the words to every song and would sing along and dance.  The crowd was composed primarily of middle-aged Spaniards, presumably Sevillanos.  I am fairly confident the four of us were the only Americans there, which made for a very authentic experience.  And, presumably because it was technically Valentine’s Day while we were there, we witnessed a proposal!!! It was so cute.

Sunday (Valentine’s Day!)- Mass, Catedral de Sevilla, Chocolate-Filled Churros, and Fancy Dinner

On Sunday morning, I went to mass at Iglesias de Santa María Magdalena.  The mass was in Spanish (which I have not studied since high school), so I did not understand everything, but I followed along pretty well.  I took some pictures after mass was over, check out how beautiful it is!

In the afternoon, Shannon and I went to the Catedral de Sevilla, which was breathtaking.  This cathedral was also originally a Muslim mosque, and there is still clear evidence of the difference in architectural styles between what the Muslims built and what the Christians built.  Here is a photo from inside:

While there, we climbed La Giralda, the Cathedral’s bell tower.  The views from the top were stupendous!! Here is one photo I took:

Click the photo to see a larger version!

Here is a photo of me and Shannon inside La Giralda.

And here is a photo Shannon took of me in the Cathedral’s Orange Tree Courtyard:

After the cathedral, we got chocolate-filled churros. YUM.

Shannon’s mom generously treated us to dinner – all the way from America! – at a restaurant right on the river. The food was SO good and I had so much fun talking to Shannon about anything and everything. It was so great to be reunited with my best friend… and in Spain on Valentine’s Day?! It cannot get much better than that!! Really, it could not have gotten any better unless there were puppies there too.

Here is a picture we took in front of Shannon’s favorite bridge, which she crosses every day to get from her apartment to school. It is called Puente de Isabel II, but people refer to it as Puente de Triana.

Stay tuned for the highlights of my last couple of days in Sevilla and my day in Madrid – coming in next week’s post!

Thanks for reading!!

– Tori

Lunar New Year and Dumfries Trip

Hello readers! I apologize for the tardiness of this post; this past week I was in Spain, which you can read about here. In this post, I talk about what I did two weeks ago.

On February 4, Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) hosted a free Lunar New Year celebration.  I went to the event and had a great time!  I am interested in Chinese culture but know very little about it, so this was a wonderful chance for me to get a taste of it.  There were several performances by very talented students; my favorite was a duo who performed a sword dance. It was the first sword dance I have ever seen and I loved it.  Here is a photo I took:

At the celebration, there was a table where anyone could write a Chinese calligraphy character on a piece of special red paper – this paper is then hung upside down on your door and is supposed to bring good fortune.  I was very humbled by the incredible difficulty of calligraphy.  I was aware of how highly valued precision and artistry is in calligraphy (admittedly, I only knew this from having read Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter in high school – a great book, I must add)… but to really try it was certainly an altogether different experience.  The student working at the table helped me with my technique, but my paper did not even hold a candle to the example paper.  She (the student) worked on one at the same time as me and then generously gave me hers!! Hers was perfect, of course.  Here I am with my friend Carla, who is holding the paper with the very talented student’s calligraphy (I am holding the paper I wrote on… I did not intend for it to be in the picture, 😆 ).

As if it could not get better, there was also an impressive array of Chinese food: young chow fried rice, egg fried rice, Singapore noodles, plain noodles, chicken and cashew nuts in char siu sauce, sweet and sour pork, Szechuan vegetables, vegetable spring rolls, chicken wings, prawn crackers, and rice crackers.  I ate more than my fill of food 🙂  It was a great night and I am so grateful EUSA hosted this event and that I went!

On February 6, I went on a day trip to Dumfries, a town in Scotland which is a former royal burgh.  I went on this trip with the ISC as a volunteer, so I did research on the town and helped make the itinerary! The famous Scottish poet Robert Burns lived there for several years of his life, so a great deal of the city attractions are focused on him.

First, we visited the Caerlaverock Castle, a very unique and interesting medieval castle – it is triangular and surrounded by a moat!  Much of it was destroyed, but the parts that still stand are pretty magnificent.  Here are two photos I took:

Castle exterior (the hills are hiding the moat, but you can see it a bit in the next picture)

Castle interior (notice the moat on the left side)

After visiting the castle, we drove into the main area of the town of Dumfries.  I ate lunch at The Globe Inn, Robert Burns’ favorite pub, with a few friends.  We then walked around, took photos by the river, and went to the Burns Centre and the Dumfries Museum.  I had a great time on the trip, even in the pouring rain and freezing cold 🙂 . The Dumfries Museum was my favorite part of the day, so if you ever happen to find yourself in Dumfries, go to the museum! It’s free!

I took this photo by the river; unfortunately, the grey skies exude a gloomy feeling, but the town really was quite lovely.

On Tuesday, February 9, Alex and I went to Mary’s Milk Bar, located on Grassmarket in Edinburgh. We got hot chocolate floats to celebrate Mardi Gras and the re-opening of Mary’s! The milk bar was closed for about a month while Mary traveled so this was our first opportunity to go since arriving in Edinburgh. Here is a photo of our floats:

So yummy. New favorite spot in Edinburgh.


Thanks for reading!

– Tori

Durham Day Trip

To everyone back at Scranton – congratulations on finishing your first week of the semester!! 🙂

Last weekend I went on a trip with the International Student Centre to Durham, England.  The city was adorable and I had a great time!  Durham is home to the Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle.  You may recognize the courtyard and cloisters of the cathedral…

No? That’s okay, me either. 😳 (I know, I know, I’m a savage!)  This courtyard and the surrounding cloisters were used in the movie adaptations of the first two Harry Potter books!  It was pretty cool to see in person, even though I know close to nothing about Harry Potter.  I wish I could have brought along my older sister and all my other friends back home who are big Harry Potter fans!

The cathedral was massive. I took lots of pictures of it since I couldn’t possibly fit the whole thing in one picture.  Check out how beautiful it is!!

One view of the cathedral

An attempt at a panorama of the cathedral (it’s not actually curved, that is due to the panorama!)

Between visiting the cathedral and visiting the castle, my friend Alex (from Scranton!) and I went to a nice little cafe called Saddlers for lunch – incidentally and serendipitously, right before the rain started.  Lunch was delicious, and by the time we left the cafe the rain had stopped. 🙂

Then we went to our tour of the castle, which was fantastic! Our tour guide was very friendly and informative, and the castle was so beautiful.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside the castle, but here are a few photos of the outside.

Just like the cathedral, the castle was massive, so I could not possibly capture it in one photo.  I recommend a visit if you ever come to the UK, then you can see it for yourself 😉

Something really cool about the castle is that it is actually used for student housing!  Students at Durham University have the opportunity to live in the castle given that they are in a specific college within the university.  Imagine living in a real castle!!

I had a great time in Durham, and I was glad to spend my first-ever visit to England in such a beautiful and history-rich city!


The weather this past week in Edinburgh has been all over the place! The winds have been unbelievable – loud enough to wake me (keep in mind I have slept through a fire alarm…) and incredibly strong.  There has also been quite a bit of rain, which is not unusual here; combining the two yields a nasty combination!  But it certainly has not been all bad… the winds eventually give way to a beautiful calm and the rains to clear skies.  There was even a rainbow the other day!  I have taken advantage of the days with glorious weather by taking walks through The Meadows (right by my flat).  There really is nothing like being out in nature, breathing in the fresh air and walking alongside the trees! Here are two photos I took on one of my walks.

The Meadows, with nearby apartments that look like castles

Lovely view of Arthur’s Seat from the Meadows

As I have already mentioned, I love living so close to the Meadows!  I love taking walks to de-stress and rejuvenate, and I am so glad to have such a perfect place to do so right near my flat 🙂

Tomorrow I am visiting Dumfries and the Caerlaverock Castle. I cannot wait to post all about my trip!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend 🙂

– Tori

International Student Centre

Hello and happy move-in to all the Scranton students! Good luck with your first day of classes on Monday! 🙂

This week I want to focus on one thing specifically, because it has been largely responsible for making my first three weeks in Edinburgh incredible… The International Student Centre!

The International Student Centre (ISC) is a completely student-run organization; it branches off of the International Office at the University.  All the students running the ISC are volunteers, and they put on social activities for other students.

Every weekday from 12 until 4, the lounge is open for free tea, coffee, and biscuits (cookies) for anyone who wants to come in! They also have board games, but most importantly, kind volunteers for nice conversation!

Tuesday nights from 4 to 6 is their weekly Coffee Evening, where they (as usual) have free coffee, tea, and biscuits, as well as other delicious snacks like carrots & hummus and french bread & brie cheese!  Typically, we play a game at Coffee Evening – the first two weeks we played Articulate! which is very similar to Catch Phrase, and this past week we played Dominoes.

They also host movie nights and pub nights! The first week, they hosted a pub quiz in the ISC lounge.  I went, and my team came in second! (I cannot take any of the credit, though… I’m great at Taylor Swift trivia and that’s about it.)  Here is my team 😀


Angela, me, Alex, Sarah

The International Student Centre is also responsible for hosting weekly trips for students.  In my previous post, I shared pictures from St. Andrews – that was an ISC trip!  There are day trips every Saturday, with the exception of the weekends where they host weekend trips (Friday evening to Sunday evening).  This Saturday I am going to Durham, England (parts of Harry Potter were filmed here!) with the ISC.  Next Saturday I am going to Dumfries and the Caerlaverock Castle!

These two trips (Durham and Dumfries/Caerlaverock Castle) are especially exciting for me because I am actually going on the trip as a volunteer.  I helped plan each trip along with two or three other volunteers;  we generated publicity and created a poster, constructed an itinerary, worked out the details, and created an information sheet to be handed out on the day of the trip.  Our job tomorrow and next week will be to make sure everyone is accounted for and that everything runs smoothly!

I have had a lot of fun being a trip volunteer! Each trip volunteer chooses a couple of trips to help plan, so these were the two I chose.  If another volunteer ends up backing out of a future trip, I could help plan that, but as of now I will just be attending future trips as a participant! 🙂

I am also a lounge volunteer for the ISC.  Being a lounge volunteer is very simple –  I just have to be in the lounge during the times I signed up for, refill the coffee, and clean up any mugs or dishes.  I always end up staying much longer than my designated volunteer hours, though, because it is so fun to hang out with the people there.

I cannot say enough good about the International Student Centre!  I have made some really wonderful friends there already, and everyone I have met is incredibly kind and interesting.  I love learning about everyone’s different cultures – I have met people from Switzerland, Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Zambia, Mexico, as well as other people from the USA!

Check in next week to hear all about Durham! I am so excited – this will be my first time in England! 😀

– Tori

Hello from Scotland!

Happy New Year and happy spring semester!! I am writing from the beautiful city of Edinburgh, Scotland.  Tomorrow marks two weeks since I arrived and I am loving my time here.

I am studying this spring semester at the University of Edinburgh as a study abroad student.  Classes started last Monday, so I am in my second week of classes.  I am taking three philosophy classes over here: (1) Philosophy of Well-Being, (2) Puzzles and Paradoxes, and (3) Logic, Computability, and Incompleteness.

Classes here are quite different from how they are in America – for example, I only have each class once a week.  The grades (which they call “marks”) are also very different – a 70 is an A here, and it is extremely difficult to get a 70.  I do not think anything will prepare me for receiving my first mark here – I am so used to mid-60s being a failing grade, but here that is a good grade!

I love my classes so far, especially Puzzles and Paradoxes.  I find the material for this class especially fascinating!! Last week, we discussed the question “What came first: the chicken or the egg?”.  This week, we discussed the Liar Paradox, which has many different formulations, but one of these is “This sentence is false.”  I am looking forward to learning about some other paradoxes in the coming weeks!

Having fewer hours in lecture means I have a great deal of independent work, so I have kept myself busy with that.  However, I still have quite a bit of free time to participate in the University’s social events and explore!

I have attended so many events already, but the most stereotypically Scottish are definitely the “Taste of Scotland” held the first night I arrived and the ceilidh held on Friday.  At Taste of Scotland, I witnessed the Address to a Haggis, which involved a dramatic reading of a Robert Burns poem by a man in a kilt, and a procession with another kilted man playing bagpipes.  Then, we all ate haggis, neeps, and tatties (Sound Scottish enough?).   Here are photos:

New friends and kilted Scottish men! (Jennifer, Me, anonymous kilted bagpipe player, Carla, Alex, Bobby, anonymous kilted poem reader)

Address to a Haggis

Haggis (brown), Neeps (orange), and Tatties (white)

The ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), hosted by EUSA (Edinburgh University Students Association) was the first of several throughout the semester, and it is a social gathering featuring Gaelic music and dancing.  And yes, there were more kilted men here – this time, though, students!

And as far as exploring and traveling…

I still have a great deal of exploring to do around Edinburgh – good thing I have all semester 🙂 For now, I know the area surrounding my flat the best.  I was very lucky to end up where I did; I live a 10-15 minute walk from main campus in Meadow Court student housing.  I have my own room in a four-person flat; two of my flatmates are first-year students at the university, and one of my flatmates is a fellow study abroad student from the United States.  They are all very sweet girls and I am glad to live with them! My favorite part about this location is what is practically in my backyard (well, I don’t actually have a backyard, but this is a one-minute walk from my door)… The Meadows 😀 Here is a photograph I took of the Meadows (I actually took this from the opposite side as the side I live near because I wanted Arthur’s Seat in the background!)

Speaking of Arthur’s Seat… I climbed it on Friday! Arthur’s Seat was formed by an extinct volcano, and it is part of a group of hills in Holyrood Park in Edinburgh.  I climbed it with my friend Alex (from University of Scranton!) and some new friends she introduced me to: Angela, Rachel, and Sarah. Here are some photos I took during the climb:

View of Edinburgh (this wasn’t even taken from the top!)

Panorama of Edinburgh – click to enlarge!

On Saturday, I went on the International Student Center trip to St. Andrews, which was lovely! It was bitterly cold but the sights and structures were beautiful.  Alex also went on the trip, and we got brunch at Northpoint Cafe, which I strongly recommend… in fact, my temptation to go back to Saint Andrews is largely fueled by that cafe.  I got one of their griddle melts: ciabatta with goat cheese, roasted bell peppers, pesto, and spinach.  Oh my gosh, I want another.  Moving on… here are photos from St. Andrews!

View of St. Andrews from St. Rule’s Tower

Panorama of St. Andrews from the MUSA (Museum of the University of St. Andrews) viewing terrace – click to enlarge!

Like I said, I went on this trip with the International Student Center, or the ISC.  I have so much to say about the ISC, so I will definitely write all about that soon! (But in summary for right now… I LOVE IT)

Last thing for this week’s entry… Monday’s happenings.  Alex and I went to Scotland’s very first cat cafe, Maison de Moggy, conveniently located right in Edinburgh.  It was absolutely adorable and such a fun, happy, and relaxing experience! Of course, photos:

This is Guillaume 🙂

Me and Guillaume!

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more adventures!

– Tori

Early Christmas Celebrations

Happy finals week!

This past weekend, (the last weekend of the school year 😥 ), my friends and I celebrated Christmas together!  On Friday, we exchanged gifts for Secret Santa, and on Saturday, we all dressed up in Christmas sweaters.

Secret Santa was so much fun!! Katie was my secret santa, and she gave/made me an adorable hand-decorated mason jar tumbler.  She knows I love smoothies (I make one every morning for breakfast); her thoughtfulness makes her gift even more perfect! 🙂 I loved seeing everyone’s reactions when they opened their gifts.  Everyone was so thoughtful in giving, and the gifts were perfect – some hilarious, some adorable!

Here is a photo we took on Friday after exchanging gifts… I was already in my pajamas 😳
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Left to right: Me, Jess, Cait (black shirt), Shannon (white shirt), Katie (black shirt), Natalie, Emily, Kate (gray sweater), Abby (red sweater)

On Saturday we all dressed up for Christmas and celebrated early! I went to my room for a little while to work on homework, during which time the others built a gingerbread house and sung Christmas karaoke!  I came back down in time to watch It’s A Wonderful Life 🙂 Here is a photo of us in our Christmas sweaters!

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Left to right: (Top Row) Kate, Jess, Natalie, Emily (Bottom Row) Abby, Cait, Me, Shannon, Corinne

Sunday was the annual Advent Mass and Tree-Lighting Ceremony.  I went to the mass, which took place in the Byron center; there were so many people, as usual, and the mass was beautiful, also as usual!  Immediately after the mass was the Tree-Lighting Ceremony on the Dionne Green.  Check out this beautiful picture of the tree, courtesy of Natalie (thanks Nat!):
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Monday was the last day of classes, which I still cannot believe… 🙁
Finals started Tuesday, and the last finals are on Saturday.  I have one final every day except Saturday, so wish me luck!

As I promised last week, I have a very exciting announcement… next semester (this upcoming spring), I will be studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (!!!).  I cannot wait for the experiences I am going to have, and I look forward to sharing them!


Good luck on finals – show your professors how much you know!

Have a safe and blessed Christmas and a very Happy New Year 🙂 I’ll be back next year… from Scotland!

– Tori

Last Week of Classes

I cannot believe it! The semester is coming quickly to an end, and soon we will be home for Christmas break. I love being home with my family, but I wish I could spend more time at school with my friends. I have especially loved my classes this semester, and will be sad for them to end. This week is the last full week of classes 🙁 I could go on and on about how bittersweet it is, but I have some happier notes instead!

The weekend before last, my older sister, Alexandra, came to visit me at school! It was her very first time coming to Scranton!! I was very excited for her to meet my friends and have a little bit of her own Scranton experience. I took her around campus; admittedly, it was actually my first time going into the new building, Leahy Hall… which is absolutely beautiful. We also went to Adezzo, a cute coffee shop downtown that opened this year; it was my first time going here, too! We both loved Adezzo; it has a really nice atmosphere for hanging out with friends or studying for classes.

Here is a picture we took in front of The DeNaples Center (I insisted we include the quote):

I had a great time with my sister, and I am so glad she came to visit me! 🙂

I missed her as soon as she left, but luckily I did not have to wait long to see her again… two days later, I headed home for Thanksgiving break.  I LOVE Thanksgiving.  Why? Well, not to state the obvious, but… food… 😆 and I love my family’s tradition of hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house (thanks Mom!)  I have a huge family on both sides, but for Thanksgiving our guests come from my mom’s side of the family.  Every year we have a slightly different crowd, and this year’s was the smallest in a while – just 18 of us for dinner – but lots of hectic fun nonetheless.  My mom is a very talented chef, and she made most of the food; however, everyone brought a dish to share.  Apparently, it runs in the family, because there was SO MUCH good food (as always!).  Now, if I can stop thinking about food for half a second… I love Thanksgiving because it is so important to take the time to be thankful for what we have.  I wish everyone took time more often to appreciate their blessings.  I am thankful every day, but it is really special when we come together as a family to give thanks together for each other and all the other great gifts we have been given.

Now, I am back from break for the last week of classes of the semester! Final exams are next week, and then we go home for the long Christmas break.  Good luck to everyone with their last few days of school, and stay tuned for next week’s blog post… I have a very special announcement! 🙂

– Tori

P.S. Happy December!!

Two Eventful Weeks

Hello everyone! I apologize for my lack of a blog post last week.  These past two weeks have been jam-packed with fun activities, and I am excited to tell you all about them.

New York City

Two Sundays ago (November 8th), I spent the day in New York City! This was made possible by USPB’s Travel and Recreation committee, who hosted a NYC Trip for just $15, or $25 for a bus ticket and ticket to see Aladdin on Broadway!  I opted for just the bus ticket, and I got to spend the day with two of my very best friends from home.

Shortly after arriving, I met up with my friend Monica who goes to Fordham University.  I was so excited to see her!  We see each other constantly during breaks, and talk every day, but I had not seen her since August.  Here is a picture we took when we first reunited!
We walked through Washington Square Park, got lunch, and walked around the East Village.

Later on, we went to Momofuku Milk Bar, where we met up with my friend Gabri who goes to NYU.  I have wanted to try their ice cream for a long time, and I can confirm it was everything I imagined!!! I got the cereal milk soft serve with cornflake crunch, and Gabri got the cereal milk / “crack pie” twist soft serve with sprinkles.  Monica was full, so she did not get any ice cream 🙁 Here is a photo of our tasty treats:


We spent over an hour sitting outside Momofuku and talking, and before I knew it, it was time to head back to Times Square to get on the bus back to Scranton.  I had a great day with Monica and Gabri, and I am so grateful to USPB for such a great deal!

Comedy… and More Comedy!

Last Tuesday, the USPB Comedy committee brought Geoff Keith to campus.  He put on a terrific show; he was so funny, and he had great energy!  I really enjoyed myself, and I would love for him to come back to campus to do another show.

On Thursday, some of my friends and I attended the MTV Comedy Jam at the Radisson Hotel (about a 3-5 minute walk from campus) to support one very special performer: Scranton’s own Ryan Burdick!! Ryan won this year’s Last Comic Standing (and won crowd favorite!).  His hilarious set scored him a spot at this comedy show, alongside Esther Ku from Girl Code!  I have been friends with Ryan since our freshman year and it was so cool to see him up on stage (he did phenomenally).  Besides Ryan, my favorite performer was Jacob Williams.  He was absolutely hysterical; our entire table could not stop laughing.

Food As Medicine

I think it is pretty clear that I am a very excitable person… but when I found out Dr. T. Colin Campbell would be coming to Scranton, I was truly beyond myself.  I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives (which is based largely on The China Study, co-written by Campbell, and stars Campbell, among others) just about two years ago, and it completely changed my life.   Dr. T. Colin Campbell is a biochemist who has done extensive research in the field of nutrition and has revolutionized the way we look at food.  He advocates for a whole-food plant-based diet, which serves as a natural medicine and not only prevents but reverses disease in the body.  Dr. Campbell’s talk was astoundingly well-attended (the event was hosted in the ballroom, and it was packed), and deservedly so.  I loved his presentation and feel so lucky to have been able to hear such an incredible man speak at my school.

University of Maryland

Last but not least, I spent this past weekend with my family! On Friday and Saturday, I visited my younger sister, Rebecca, at school.  Rebecca is a freshman at the University of Maryland.  With the exception of seeing her very briefly over fall break, I had not seen Rebecca since August, and I had not met her school friends!  That all changed this weekend – and I am so glad it did!  I laughed so much this weekend with Rebecca and her roommates, and I was so happy to spend time with my little sister.  On Saturday, we walked around campus a little bit, but we spent the rest of our time together just hanging out!  I love being with Rebecca because we have fun even when we do absolutely nothing.

Here we are in front of McKeldin Library, touching Testudo, the school mascot:IMG_4364

On Sunday, I spent the day at home in Baltimore (about 1 hour from UMD).  So, I got to see my entire family in one weekend! I saw my parents, my older sister Alexandra, and my dog Molly on Sunday.  We went to church together on Sunday, then spent the rest of the day at home.  Again, I always have fun with my parents and Alexandra (and Molly) when we’re together!  After eating a delicious homemade (thanks, Mom 🙂 ) dinner, I hit the road to go back to Scranton.  I had a great weekend with my family, but, as always, was thrilled to be reunited with my wonderful roommates 😀

I am so thankful for these past couple weeks, surrounded by great friends and family!  Speaking of being thankful, guess what’s next week…. 😀

Until then!

– Tori


USPB Movie and Coffeehouse

Last Thursday, I attended the USPB Movie showing of The Gift.  I am not sure if it was intentional or coincidental that the movie was a mystery/thriller and they showed it two days before Halloween, but either way, that’s how it worked out!  I love scary movies so I was very excited to see the movie.  I sat with my friends Ryan and Jenn, and I have to say… I was more entertained by them than I was by the movie 😆  I found the movie to be pretty bizarre, but their reactions were so funny.  Ryan made some pretty funny comments on the absurdity of the movie.  He made me laugh the most when something came up on the screen, causing the whole audience to scream… except for Ryan; he just laughed and said “SCARY MOVIES ARE SO FUNNY.”  Jenn made me laugh with her sarcastic comments, from “I don’t like you, mister, you are MEAN” to “don’t you dare hurt that dog, I did NOT sign up for that”, and her occasional narration of the movie (such as “Yup. The fish are dead.” when the camera showed dead fish).  They are two of the funniest people I know here and I always have fun with them! So, even though I did not love the movie, I still had a great time at the event since I was with them!

This past weekend was Halloween! I have to apologize for the lack of exciting pictures – I am not a fan of Halloween, so I did not dress up.  However, my friends dressed up as Cruella de Vil and the Dalmatians!!! They looked incredible.  Shannon was Cruella de Vil, and Abby, Cait, Emily, Jess, and Natalie were dalmatians.

There was one more dalmatian – Josephine, or “Jojo”!  Our good friend (and neighbor! – he lives in the apartment next to ours) Kyle’s sister came up to visit this past weekend.  Jojo is a senior in high school and Kyle wanted to show her what it’s like at Scranton.  Anyway… my friends had enough extra materials for another costume, so Jojo dressed up too!  She seemed to enjoy her stay here, and we all adored her. Hopefully she comes to Scranton next year 🙂

Tonight, I attended a USPB Coffeehouse event.  The singer Noah Guthrie, who played Roderick on Glee, performed an acoustic set on the first floor of The DeNaples Center.  He did a phenomenal job!  His voice is very soulful, and reminded me of Gavin DeGraw.  He sang a combination of cover songs and original songs, and both sounded incredible.  I loved his cover of “Valerie”!  Shannon was a faithful watcher of Glee, so she knew who he was prior to the show.  She loved his performance, too.  The event had a great turnout, and it was the perfect way to spend my Tuesday night 🙂

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of their week.  Happy November!!

– Tori

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