A Look Back at This Semester

It seems like just yesterday that I returned home from Washington, D.C., moved into my first apartment, and embarked upon my last Fall semester as an undergraduate. Sometimes, we all get so caught up in school, work, clubs, our social lives, our families, our relationships, and our daily to-do lists that, before we know it, an entire 16-week semester has passed us by.

If you read this post, you know that I love taking time to reflect. So, in the spirit of personal reflection, let’s recap this semester, shall we?

There were new beginnings…

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My bedroom in my new downtown apartment

And chapters closed…

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I turned 22…

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Oh, Zephyr Cove

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And caught up on much needed beauty sleep…

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There were surprises…

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Celebrations…

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And remembrances…

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In memory of the lives lost during the 9-11-2001 attacks

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There were big moments…

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Serving as the Chapter President for the College Republicans

With Reno's Mayor at the time, Bob Cashell

With Reno’s former mayor, Bob Cashell

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At the Nevada Governor’s Mansion before walking in the Nevada Day Parade

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With Nevada’s 2nd District Representative, Congressman Mark Amodei

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Presenting my “idea worth spreading” to the University of Nevada

Little moments…

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And sassy moments…

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There were group projects…

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Early morning classes…

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Long days at work…

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Long days in the library…

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And lots and lots of Starbucks…

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I spent far too much time with this guy…

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And not enough time with these guys…

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There were quiet indulgences…

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Christening my new apartment with a margarita

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And rambunctious ones…

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There were Sunday mornings in church…

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And Sundays watching football…

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There were campus events…

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Football games…

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Weddings…

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Festivals…

Reno's annual Italian Festival

Reno’s annual Italian Festival

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And birthdays…

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I added to my stuffed giraffe collection…

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And had a few good laughs…

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There were new places…

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Familiar faces…

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New friendships were formed…

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And apparently I took a selfie to commemorate it all!

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Looking back, I’m reminded of all the wonderful memories I made this semester. When all is said and done, I think this semester was a successful one, and maybe even one of my favorites. Clearly, I had a lot of happy moments, and I learned from my moments of doubt. I reminisced on the time I spent in D.C., and I made a little home in my new apartment. I must say, however, that my favorite part of this semester was being surrounded by such incredible people.

Now, I have one final semester of college to look forward to! Ahhhh, that feels so weird to say!

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What was your favorite part of this semester? Show or tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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She Doesn’t Even Go Here

This weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting my dear friend Lexi whom I met while interning in Washington, D.C. this summer. Though she now works full-time in D.C., (Oops, she actually has her life together, graduated in four years, and started a career…) she makes trips back to her home state of Georgia as often as possible. Particularly, she goes home to visit her alma mater, the great University of Georgia.

Having an inexplicable affinity for the South, despite having never been there before this weekend, I did not hesitate to book a round-trip flight to Georgia when Lexi told me two months ago that she would be visiting. I mean, what was I going to do, pass up an opportunity to watch an SEC football game in person? Be serious.

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So, this past Friday, I did the unspeakable and woke up BEFORE THE SUN WAS UP in order to drag my tired butt to the airport (Code for: I made my friend wake up at 4 a.m. in order to drag my tired butt to the airport. Sorry Kevin.) just to make the trek from Reno to Las Vegas, from Las Vegas to Atlanta, and from Atlanta to Athens. Now that’s dedication.

Let’s skip over the parts when I shamelessly passed out on my first flight, when I wandered around like a lost puppy in the Vegas airport, then gave up and spent 30 minutes in line at Starbucks, and when I may or may not have shed a tear as I caught my first glimpse of the South from my airplane window while the flight attendant announced that a U.S. soldier on the plane was returning home from his tour of duty.

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So we’ve skipped ahead. I grabbed my bag from the overhead bin (Can we take a moment to appreciate that I managed to pack everything into ONE bag?) and practically RAN off the plane. You can imagine how Lexi and I looked when we first saw each other…

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Then we headed to Athens. I gazed out my window in awe as we drove by the beautiful Georgia countryside. My heart was happy to see a part of this beautiful nation I’d never seen before. As the sun set on the state of Georgia that day, I felt fulfilled knowing that I couldn’t have dreamt of a lovelier view.

Lex and I talked at a million miles per hour as we tried to cram four months of catching up into a one-hour car ride. It’s almost as if we hadn’t been texting, calling, FaceTiming, SnapChatting, Instagramming, Tweeting, and Facebooking each other all that time. Add the entire 1989 album to this madness and you’ll begin to form a picture of what that car ride was like.

And then we were there. Lexi played tour guide by pointing out the locations of where her college memories took place as she drove. It seemed that each little spot, even the most seemingly insignificant of them, held a little part of her heart; a moment captured in her mind, that when all pieced together, formed the scrapbook of her life in college. Though everything in Athens was new to me, everything there was home for Lexi. All I could hope is that I one day feel the same way about my little college town.

Athens. What an incredible town. The biggest difference I noticed between my university and the University of Georgia is that, whereas the University of Nevada is a university that just so happens to be based in the city of Reno, the University of Georgia is based in Athens — a town built around its university. Everything in that city revolves around its university, especially game days.

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EVERYONE in the area is a die-hard Dawgs fan, and even if they aren’t, they wouldn’t be caught dead rooting for any other team. So that was my excuse for stocking up on lots of red gear, even though that’s the color of my own school’s rival. (We may or may not be playing them this coming Saturday.) What, am I not going to flaunt my new spirit jersey? I bought it so that, to the naive passerby, I may give the appearance of actually belonging at the University of Georgia.

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And why wouldn’t I? The campus itself is beautiful, with traditional buildings and gorgeous landscaping, it felt like the classic American university. Everywhere we walked, Lexi had some fascinating UGA tradition to tell me about, such as the chapel bell or the Georgia arch.

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The Georgia arch is one of UGA’s most recognizable symbols. Built in 1864 (ten years before my university was even established), the arch stands at the entrance of the university, but is only to be used as a walkway by UGA graduates. It is said that any UGA student who walks underneath the arch before graduating will never do so, and that any non-UGA student who walks underneath the arch will encounter bad luck.

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UGA’s chapel bell can be rung by anyone by pulling the rope that stretches to the ground. Built in 1913, the bell used to signify the beginning and end of class periods, religious services, and emergencies, but is now rung to mark special occasions, such as athletic victories and graduations. The bell is not, however, to be rung before any sporting event, as it is bad luck for the Bulldogs.

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One of the few living collegiate mascots, UGA’s aptly named “Uga” comes from a prestigious lineage of English bulldogs who have served as the face for UGA athletics over the past half a century.

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The Dawg Walk is a game day tradition of UGA football players walking through the marching band and a crowd of fans before entering the stadium. Georgia fans come from all around to partake in the tradition of school pride and celebration.

Lexi and I spent the majority of our time catching up with her college friends, touring the campus and surrounding town, and doing quintessential “Georgia things,” like dining at Waffle House. Side note: as a California native, I had never even heard of Waffle House until about three years ago, and even then, I didn’t know that it was a real chain. Any doubt I had of Waffle House’s existence was quickly diminished when we passed nearly 30 on the drive into town.

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And yes, the waffles were actually pretty good.

As one of its former bartenders, Lexi wanted to spend a lot of time at Pauley’s, one of the downtown bar/restaurants, which was nice, considering that it is a central gathering place for Lexi’s friends. We sipped on manmosas — Pauley’s speciality drink, which are made like classic mimosas, but are topped with a splash of vodka — and hung out with the bartenders. One thing that I loved about the downtown scene in Athens is how the bartenders are current students, and are not only encouraged to invite their friends to the bar during their shifts, but are welcome to hang out with their friends while bar tending. This phenomenon made the downtown scene very relaxed, and is something I think my college town could stand to mirror.

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Double-fisting Starbucks and manmosas with new friends at Pauley’s the morning of game day.

We hung out at Pauley’s at all times of the day — morning, midday, afternoon, evening, and late night — and it was always a blast. I loved how versatile the bar/restaurants of downtown Athens are, in that students can seamlessly move from a low-key dinner with friends into a rambunctious Friday night on the town. Moreover, each bar/restaurant is mere walking distance from another, or a darling boutique, parking garage, or campus building. The barrier between the university and its downtown is non-existent, which allows for a safe, comfortable environment that students can call home.

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Although I only visited for a short weekend, I fell in love with the charming city of Athens, Georgia, and its beloved university. I’ll miss the rounds of bombs that Southern boys just love to buy, and the way I could effortlessly walk from bar to bar. I’ll miss the new people I met, from old friends of Lexi’s to Georgia alumni with whom I shared a drink and a spirited “Go Dawgs!” I’ll miss the stories Lexi told me about each new person and place I encountered, and I’ll daydream about what it would be like to park in the Clayton Street garage one morning, attend class, walk to a shift at Pauley’s, and move seamlessly into a night out with friends. I’ll wonder what it would be like to walk under that infamous arch.

But for now, it’s time I return to reality, and prepare myself for a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend at home! Thank you, Lexi, and Athens, for an incredible trip!

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What dream school would you spend the weekend at if you could? Tell me on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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Make Time for the People You Don’t See Everyday

It happens to all of us. We say we’re going to keep in touch with someone after high school, over the summer, during the school year, or after some life-changing experience like studying abroad. But then, you don’t. You go back to school and slip back into your normal routine, and everything and everyone that doesn’t fall into that routine just, sort of, takes the back burner. It happens to the best of us. And I would know, obviously, because I AM the best of us.

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Just because we don’t talk to certain people everyday, however, doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as important to us as those we do talk to every day. Honestly, who’s more important to you, your best friend from high school or that one annoying kid who has a class with you every day of the week?

That being said, it is important that we do nurture those relationships that are important to us, whether it be via a text or phone call every once in a while, old-fashioned letter-writing, or a timely visit. That’s why, this weekend, I am packing my bags, hopping on a 6 a.m. flight (THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, LEXI) and heading to a place in this country I’ve never been before — the South.

That’s right, this weekend, your girl will visit her former roommate, Lexi, who is currently holding down the fort in Washington, D.C., but just so happens to have graduated from one of my dream schools, the University of Georgia. I’m not saying everyone can just hop on a cross-country flight at the drop of a hat just to see one of their best friends, but then again, there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned, in-person visit.

So, this weekend, while I venture into Dixie Land, try my very first manmosa from Pauley’s, and root on those Dawgs, I urge you to call up an old friend, write a letter to someone you miss, or just send someone a heartfelt text. More likely than not, they’ll be glad you did, and they’ll be thinking about you, too.

Also, if you need help understanding the header picture for this post, watch the following video. Try not to cry. Cry a lot.

Who have you been missing? Tell me about them on Twitter and I might retweet you!

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You Can’t Be Friends With Everyone

You may have seen my most recent post, about why everyone should try to establish connections with the people around them. With that being said, I feel it necessary to clarify that it is okay to not be friends with everyone in college, or in life for that matter. If you’re anything like me, this lesson does not come easily.

My mother is people-pleaser — her most important goal at any given time is to make those around her happy. So, as her daughter, you can imagine how the same quality rubbed off on me. Whereas my mom comes off as sweet and genuine, however, I tend to come off as unsure of myself, as I never want to give anyone a reason to not like me. So, in high school, I remained relatively reserved. I didn’t say anything that could offend anyone, but then again, I hardly said anything at all. If you know me now, you would not believe the person I was just five years ago.

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Don’t get me wrong, I was still quintessential Erin. I had the same interests and personality traits then as I have always had, it’s just that, for a period of time, I didn’t let some of my greatest qualities shine through.

Great, now I sound like a narcissist.

The truth is, I changed schools when I was eight years old, and lost most of my friends in doing so. When I graduated into middle school, I didn’t know the majority of the students anymore, and when I finally graduated into high school, it was, again, a different environment and different set of people. It seemed that every few years, I had to reevaluate what environment I was entering, who I was, and how I fit in. Overtime, I learned through a process of trial, error, and reinforcement, that ultimately, I was better off just keeping my mouth shut rather than saying the wrong thing.

How sad is that? I was so afraid of being myself, and therefore doing the wrong thing, that I swept parts of my own personality under the rug. And my personality is, like, amazing. Obviously.

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I am naturally an outgoing person; just ask my parents to show you home videos of me performing concerts for my family at four years old. It’s no coincidence that they’re all wearing ear plugs and drinking wine, by the way. So where did that fearlessness go? How had I lost confidence overtime without even realizing it?

I guess that is just the nature of the beast. In growing up and learning about your environment, yourself, and your place in your environment, you inevitably face pressure from peers, parents, school, and society about what you should look like and how you should act. That’s how you learn how to assimilate into your environment — from modeling your behavior after what you’re taught. The first time you do anything — try on makeup, highlight your hair, wear a new outfit, make a joke, hang out with a certain person, try a new activity, and so on — you subconsciously test your own ability to assimilate into your environment. And the judges of that test? Your peers. Your cruel, teenager peers who are going through the same struggles, and who want to make themselves look and feel better by making you the subject of their laughter.

So now I sound like a high school counselor who was bullied in high school. But the truth is, I wasn’t. I had friends — lots of them, in fact — but none of them were true friends. When I go home for Thanksgiving next week, there will only be a handful of people I will go out of my way to see. Why? Because, back then, I didn’t let hardly anyone see the real me. Whenever I would try something new — subconsciously putting myself up to that test — I would get shut down, whether my friends actually liked the something new or not. The truth is, they saw my vulnerability, and they took advantage of it. More often than not, the only time people seemed to pass “the test” was when they took advantage of someone else’s vulnerability. This behavior is learned through the process of trial, error, and reinforcement, because when we pass the test (when our friends compliment our outfits or laugh at our jokes), we learn that we have successfully assimilated into our environment, and we repeat the behavior.

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Maybe that’s why I study public relations — I aim to always say the right thing. But my desire to say the right thing, or more accurately, my fear of failing to do so, is what hindered me throughout high school. Overtime, I learned to keep my mouth shut, get good grades while simultaneously “hating” school, hang out with boys but not be a slut, and dress, wear my hair, and style my makeup just like everyone else. The sad part is, I just wasn’t being myself.

In college, you can be anyone you want to be. Since starting college, I’ve gained back so much of my confidence and personality that, sadly, I didn’t even know I had lost. I’ve regained confidence by joining a sorority full of strong, beautiful women, who want to support me and see me thrive. I’ve regained confidence by taking risks and succeeding. I’ve regained confidence by overcoming failures. I’ve seen myself regain this confidence, and I’ve learned how much I let external factors interfere with my own happiness. I’ve learned how to recognize this in case it ever starts to happen again. I’ve learned that it is okay to make mistakes, and that mistakes can actually be a good thing because they show that you’re a human. As a wise speaker once told me, we should all aim to be “flawesome,” and own our flaws, rather than hide from them. The most important part of this? Truthfulness. Let your flaws show. Neigh, let them shine. Be yourself.

In being yourself, you will inevitably come across people whose personalities you don’t mesh with, just as you will come across personalities with which you click instantly. That is okay. Be who you are. Sometimes, even when you state your opinions with respect, other people won’t like them, and that’s okay. Sometimes, people won’t like you because of the way you look, and that’s okay. Sometimes, people won’t like you for inexplicable reasons, and that is okay, too. Those things are all their problems. You can’t be friends with everyone; if you try, you’ll likely end up doing more damage than good. In the end, all that matters is that you be yourself, and that you don’t let one person’s opinion change who you are.

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These are the types of things that make you stronger, that you can’t learn in high school, that you can’t be told by others, and that you don’t learn inside of a classroom. These things take time to learn, and they make you a better person for it.

What are your thoughts on the last two posts? Comment below or tweet me and I might retweet you!

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Why You Should Say “Hi” to the Person Next to You

It was four days after Christmas. At my parents house, I somberly packed my bags into my car and drove back to school for the rest of the holiday break. Well…it was still the holiday break for almost everyone else. I, on the other hand, would start a Wintermester class the very next day.

Believe me, I was not looking forward to dragging myself out of bed to spend time in a 9 a.m.-1 p.m. class, five days a week, for three weeks. Because almost everyone else I knew would still be relaxing at their parents’ homes or on vacation, campus was eerily vacant, and very very cold. Side note, freezing temperatures and snow are only fun between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Anything after January 1st is just a nuisance.

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So there I was, my first day of a class I didn’t want to be in, and I didn’t know anyone. I arrived just five minutes or so before class was scheduled to start, and I looked around to find an open seat. In the second row from the front, one girl sat toward the middle with the two seats to her right open. So, after a moment of hesitation, I decided to sit in the seat directly next to her. Why not? I would only be in the class for three weeks, and I thought it would be nice to have someone to talk to. Little did I know the friendship that would soon blossom.

The class was sign language and we were immediately taught how to introduce ourselves. I signed: “Hello, my name is E-R-I-N.” The girl next to me signed: “Nice to meet you. My name is A-U-T-Y-M.” Over the next three weeks, Autym and I sat next to each other every day, getting to know each other through sign language. Autym and I discovered that we have plenty of mutual friends, foes, and interests, and were actually quite surprised that we had never met before.

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When Wintermester ended, we discovered that we would be in the same section of sign language for the Spring semester. To no one’s surprise, we continued to sit next to each other, and grew to be close friends. I am so happy that Autym become part of my college experience. She and I often joke about how I randomly sat next to a girl I didn’t know on the first day of class, and how we might have never met had it not been for that brief moment of gumption.

I’ve had the same experience several times throughout my college career, each more positive than the last. Meeting new people starts the day you are born, and should truly never end. Making new friends has opened so many doors for me and brought to much joy into my life. Having the courage to simply talk to the person next to me, in hopes of establishing a new contact, has proven more beneficial than harmful in my life, leading me to believe that there’s truly nothing to lose when meeting someone new. Starting a conversation can be as easy as giving a genuine compliment. Most people are friendly, receptive to compliments, and truly enjoy talking about themselves. More often than not, you’ll find that when you decide to actually tell the girl standing next to you in Starbucks that you admire her sweater, she’ll have a compliment cued up for you that she’s been too shy to tell you.

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This is a real example of a person I met on campus, who I later had a class with. When she was looking for somewhere to sit on the first day of class, guess who she chose to sit next to. That friendship has led us to successful group projects (and consequently, good grades), and could lead us to help in other classes, future careers, even being in each other’s bridal parties. Just as you never know how you’ll meet the most important people in your life, you’ll never know what a stranger could grow to mean to you one day.

So, the next time you’re thinking of talking to the person next to you, whether it be in class, in line at Starbucks, at the bar, on an airplane, in an elevator, or even while studying abroad, just think of how that person could become the reason you pass a class, your future roommate, the person you invent a billion-dollar idea with, or the person you get married to. But you’ll never know unless you just say “hello.”

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Check out my friends’ blogs, Selfiez with Strangers and Biggest Little Stories to see what can happen when you meet new people! What’s your craziest story of meeting a new person? Tweet it to me and I might retweet you!

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