Christmas in New York City!

Christmas in New York City!

 

It’s not every year that you get to visit the most magical place in the world at Christmas with your family. In a year as tough as this one, with assignments and exams piling up, it was definitely a well-needed trip to escape the world of final year (even if only for a few days).

One thing I learned from my trip is that you can never be fully prepared for New York. Having been there before during Summer, I thought I was prepared for the ‘city that never sleeps’ but one thing that is for sure, New York in Summer and New York at Christmas are like two different places. I would highly recommend researching and having your days planned out, this way you don’t waste time. Here are a few other tips I learned…

ElfDayPlan

First of all, it is COLD! I opted out of the nice outfits and instead wrapped myself up like a fish supper, with barely an inch of skin exposed to the crisp December air. As well as this, forget about packing those fancy boots, and throw in the Skechers laying at the back of the wardrobe. In New York, no one cares about your footwear and after walking approximately 77,824 steps (well, according to the health app on my iPhone) I’m definitely glad I had my trainers.

SixSweaters

Before embarking on a trip to the Big Apple, one thing I did was thoroughly research the streets and avenues, attempting to understand my way around Google Maps before I hit the real thing. This might sound strange, perhaps it was, but lets just say I’m very glad I did this as on the first night, my brother (who has NO sense of direction and would get lost if you spun him in a 360 degree turn) ended up wandering off on his own, only to end up on 20th street…our hotel was on 40th. Quite convenient that his name is also Kevin!

Another thing that I did before the trip was researched many different types of restaurants, making sure we stayed well clear from the Caviar, lobster and $300 bottles of wine type places. New York at Christmas is crazy, with people flocking from all over the world, so having your reservations made and tables booked makes life a lot easier. I would highly recommend downloading the app ‘Open Table’, it helps you search a specific area and restaurant and tells you which reservations they have free, allowing you to book your spot there and then, super handy!

As well as this, occasionally it is worth it to avoid the tourist activities (I’m quite the hypocrite as my video below has TOURIST written all over it) however visiting smaller villages, classic boutiques and drinking at dead-end bars with the locals, sometimes turns out to be one of your favourite days.

Lastly, remember that you really would need a few weeks in New York to do EVERYTHING, a few days simply doesn’t cut it, but try and squeeze in as much as you can! And, don’t just do things for the ‘Instagram pics’. I learned this the hard way after standing in a line to have cocktails in the Plaza Hotel for over 45 minutes to find out that Taylor Swift was inside, probably with her 13th boyfriend this year, and they weren’t letting anybody in. Thanks Taylor!

MUST DO:
Central Park – This really is a must, especially if it is snowing. It is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Saks on 5th Avenue Christmas Lights – I think the light display happens every 10 minutes, so if your passing and it hasn’t started yet, it is definitely worth the wait.
Katz Deli – A real traditional American diner with SERIOUS sandwiches, it would knock O’Brien’s and The Sandwich Co. way out of the park.
Rockefeller Tree and Top of the Rock – The Rockefeller Tree is the most magical thing to see while in New York at Christmas.

Loren 32
Broadway show – Shows such as the Lion King and School of Rock play all year round, but it definitely is worth it to splash out and see the Rockettes or Elf!

IF YOU HAVE TIME:
Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to Soho
Have a drink in the Plaza (as long as T.Swift isn’t there!)
Visit a Rooftop Bar, this one is amazing.

Have a look at my video below for some other top activities to do in New York at Christmas!

 

 

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/loren-ward-b93049a8

The strange thing about Stranger Things

The strange thing about Stranger Things

Two unheard of writers with no previous television hits, a bunch of dorky Dungeons and Dragons playing kids, and a random girl with a shaved head and some freaky powers. How did all of this turn in to the most watched Netflix series to date?

Note: For those who do not watch Stranger Things, I do apologise for the references in this post that you will not understand.

If you haven’t yet seen Stranger Things, then you must be living under a rock (or in the ‘Upside Down’, but you obviously don’t know what that is). The thrilling Netflix series is set in a small fictional town in Indiana named Hawkins and stars four young monster-obsessed boys.

The sci-fi sensation crept on to our Netflix home pages with an unanticipated effect. Fans of ET and the Goonies would be patiently waiting for the series arrival. But how did the non-monster loving fans get so hooked?

The phenomenon that is Stranger Things took the world by storm, so much so that people are wondering what they ever did without the show.  According to the shows writers, the Duffer brothers, the show was rejected 15 to 20 times by various networks before Netflix took it on (Thank you Netflix).

 So what is the strange thing about Stranger Things?

 Unfamiliarity 

Prior to watching Stranger Things, had you heard of any of the cast before? Probably not.  Most of them have had brief TV appearances before, except of course for Winona Ryder (Will’s mum) who is said to be one of the most iconic actresses of the 1990s.

The unfamiliarity of the cast is immensely successful, despite all odds. It is interesting to watch the characters and develop your own opinion on them, rather than comparing them to a previous show you’ve seen them in. Think about it, do you really see Daniel Radcliffe in any other film and not instantly think of Harry Potter?

Dustin GIF

 The kids

There is typicality about shows on Netflix nowadays with most being drug, prison or White House related. So what made Stranger Things stand out?

It’s simple – the kids! Of course, the story line itself is a very far stretch from drug mules and prison gangs but ultimately it’s the use of unheard of kid actors that make it so original. I think Stranger Things has everything that Netflix was missing – a cute adorable little dork like Dustin.

It’s difficult to grasp the challenge of a series starring teenagers, but not specifically directed towards a teenage audience and the Duffer Brothers did this perfectly! The average age of the Stranger Things fans is 18-29, a social media obsessed audience, which is evident in its media coverage online.

As well as this, there is a relatability about Stranger Things.

Dungeons and Dragons author David Ewalt says,

“You don’t have to have been a nerd in the 1980s to see yourself in one of those kids,” Ewalt continues. “We were all kids and we were all kids who faced our own monsters, whatever they were, and we’re going to relate to these characters who have a mission and troubles they have to face. Even a kid who’s that age today can look at Stranger Things and relate to it.”

Group GIF

 Nostalgia and the absence of tech

Imagine if Lucas, Will, Dustin and Mike could Snapchat each other instead of using walky-talkies? What if Will could somehow text his mum from the Upside Down instead of talking to her through the light bulbs? Or if Nancy put out a ‘Missing person! Find Barb, please like and share’ on Facebook?

Lightbulb GIF

The absence of modern technology makes it for a much more exciting series. By stripping communication lines back to that day in 1983, it has our adrenaline racing considerably more.

 What is even stranger about Stranger Things?

As I previously said, there was nothing to warn us about the arrival of the demogorgon, the shadow monster or the darkness of the upside down.

So how did this sci-fi thriller turn in to an overnight sensation?

Just plain and simple Word of Mouth marketing

It’s easy, we trust our friends! If your friend tells you with their blood shot eyes that they have shamelessly been living under a duvet and bingeing on Stranger Things for two days, you are going to believe that it really must be something worth watching.

I need Help

Sometimes, word of mouth marketing is the only option, and it is a huge risk. The Duffer Brothers had a low budget and therefore had to gamble that people would love the show, and then talk about how much they loved the show – and this is exactly what they did.

Thanks to the success of Season 1, The Duffer Brothers had extra budget to splurge out on the ultimate advertising opportunity for the Season 2 premiere – The Super bowl. It captured the most social media buzz out of the 65 ads that were showcased during the game and generated an undeniable excitement 9 months before the series even returned to Netflix.

Strange Partnerships

What could be better than Topshop AND Stranger Things? The quick-witted Topshop launched an exclusive collection in partnership with Netflix to join in on the Season 2 excitement, and obviously massively increase their sales – clever Topshop! They flaunted Stranger Things retro inspired tshirts, jumpers and bags as well as a massive in-store Hawkins experience at their Oxford Circus store.

There is no doubt about the massive buzz about the new sci-fi Stranger Things, a show you never thought you would be this obsessed with (I know I didn’t). However, if you made it to the end of this blog and still haven’t watched Stranger things…

ST Shocked

…why haven’t you?

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward and LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/loren-ward-b93049a8

Stateside Summers

Stateside Summers

Every summer, there is a reoccurring theme that happens on our Facebook timelines. Groups of 18/19 year old Ibiza-goers checking in at the Lagan Bar at Belfast International Airport with a caption along the lines of ‘are you even on holidays if you don’t check in at the Lagan?’

For me, I opted out of the tradition and the alcohol infused headache as I can barely cope with a hangover on a Sunday morning, never mind one that lasts for a week or more. Instead, I chose to spend my summers of 2015 and 2017 in the States, and not one ounce of me regrets it.

So, if you are the same as me and are thinking of doing something else with your summer, here is a little about my experience.

In 2015, I got my first J1 visa and worked at a summer camp in upstate New York called Camp Hilltop. I was hired at Hilltop to be a lifeguard (despite the fact that I wasn’t qualified and hadn’t dipped as much as a toe in a swimming pool in 5 years) but luckily I was fully trained on my first week and spent the most of my day in a swimsuit topping up my tan and watching American kids scream at each other.

One question I’m always asked is about my typical day at camp, a question I always find difficult to answer. There really is no typical day at camp because every day brings something new. I could have been lifeguarding and teaching Gaelic in the morning, building rockets or making tie-dye t-shirts in the afternoon, and dressed as an absolute horror in the evening. (Hoping the picture doesn’t scare you too much!)

11986417_10153308741206865_2325171885901179144_n

The best way to describe camp is that it really is its own little world and it’s a world you will learn to love, to be yourself and to meet people from all different backgrounds. When you leave that world, the real world doesn’t seem as fun anymore.

As accommodation and food is all taken care of at camp, it leaves you with quite a bit of saving for travels. After camp, myself and a few others decided to spend a few days in New York and Boston before flying to Las Vegas, driving to LA, Santa Monica, and Santa Barbara.

Loren

When I finished placement in 2017, heading to the States again for the summer was a definite, the decision was to return to camp or try something new. I opted for something new – working in a Mexican restaurant in Boston.

I had originally been hired as a waitress in a Sports bar at the Boston Seaport, but instead the managers landed me in the job of a ‘host’ – where I made $12 an hour and no tips (some could call it slavery). Shortly after, I found myself a new job in a Mexican restaurant as the only Irish, non-Spanish speaking person. I had to learn how to pronounce and recite the entire Spanish menu, greet customers with an ‘Hola!’ and prepare fresh guacamole tableside – you could say the craic was great, and the money was even better!

Living away from home, even if just for a few months, is an incredible learning experience. One of the most important lessons for me was to value your money. I saw first hand how tough it is to earn it, so I was very reluctant to spend it as easy as I usually would have in Zara when my student loan comes in. I’d be lying if I said it was all smooth sailing, it really wasn’t, but I can’t help but feel a sense of pride looking back on everything I have accomplished.

After saving every cent that we made, myself and my boyfriend decided to finish out the summer with a road-trip to Philadelphia, line dancing in the Honkytonks in Nashville and snorkelling in the Bahamas.

So if you are thinking of heading off on a J1 visa, this is my advice to you:

  1. Don’t think you are missing out on party holidays; there is plenty of time for that. You are only applicable for a J1 when you are a student, make the most of it (especially before Trump scraps it).
  2. Whether you choose Camp America, working in a restaurant or playing for a GAA team, research the state you want to go to, the location of your J1 can have a huge impact on your experience.
  3. For Camp based J1’s, you can definitely go by yourself. If none of your friends want to go, it’s fine; you will meet people from all over the world who will become friends for life.
  4. ENJOY IT! If you are ever having a bad day, remember that in a few weeks/months time you will be back in university sitting in lectures or studying for exams wishing you could be back in the states, I know I do!

As cheesy as it may sound, the summer is short but the experience, memories and friendships last a lifetime. If I haven’t yet persuaded you to consider doing a J1, have a look at my video from this summer!

Loren Ward is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @lorenward