Positano, Italy

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Positano dreams!! I had seen countless photos of this place long before I ever even dreamed I’d have the chance to visit. This day still doesn’t seem real to me, talk about peaking – pretty sure this can go down as one of the very best days of my life. We followed the winding road down to this picture perfect beach; spent the day wandering the tiny streets, swimming and laying under the umbrellas eating Positano’s best paninis. All time favorite part of the weekend and without a doubt best decision we could have made was renting a boat – a must do here, there’s nothing like the view of Positano from out on the water. Our group of thirteen rented two boats to follow each other for a few hours, both which included captains. I still have never laughed harder than I did that day. Hitting wave after wave with barely enough time between each to catch our breath. Drinks spilling on each other and in tears watching all of us try to hold on for dear life. It was one of those moments where you just wish you could stop time, one where you could believe how you got so lucky to be right here, right now. These moments just didn’t end for the entire weekend. The boats raced next to each other right along the coast of Positano, mansion after mansion flying by as we passed. Stopping the boats to swim, exploring grottos and jumping off of the cliff sides. I’ll never ever forget any of it!

Until next time Positano, see you soon ♡

Sincerely, Sienna

 

Let me know if you’re interested in visiting Positano too, you can always save with discount code SIENNA.

Tips & Tricks: Scheduling Your Classes

How is it possible that it’s already July?! Summer usually seems to fly by but none as fast as the summer before your freshman year of college. I remember feeling like so much had to still be done even the week of move-in; but everything works out and I promise, you’re more prepared than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Sooo let’s just take it one day at a time! If your school is like mine, this month is around when you would be scheduling your classes. At Michigan State University we get to schedule ours during orientation, the first time you have some assistance from students working at the program, but every other time it’s completely on your own. Of course you can receive guidance from your counselors with specific questions to keep you on track to graduation, but there are a few things to keep in mind when scheduling for the first time.

Some students go into scheduling thinking that they should take advantage of their new freedom and spread their classes out so they have large blocks of free time between each. I found it to be much more effective if my classes were for the most part, back to back. The likeliness that I would use an hour or two between class to study rather than sit on social media isn’t extremely high..soo knocking my classes out right away left the afternoons dedicated to studying.

The above being said; distance needs to be factored in as well. Michigan State has a very large campus, getting to class isn’t always going to be a five minute walk. Take this into consideration when deciding on your classes. Have a campus map near by while scheduling – would it be easiest to take the bus, walk or bike? I found myself using my bike more than anything and even made 20 minutes between classes doable.

Time; are you more productive earlier in the day or later in the afternoon? Having class in the morning gets you up and going, starts your day off at a good time to use the maximum amount of hours (which still somehow there never seems to be enough of in a day). But, maybe not too early; if you think you’d be more focused in class if they began in the afternoon, the beauty is you can do your best to pick that too. Keep in mind though, some classes are only offered at certain times – you can’t win them all, but you can try 😉 Personally I have found that I do my best with my classes ideally starting around 10am, it allows me to feel fully rested while still having enough time to get ready and eat something quick for breakfast too.

Something I think some students overlook while scheduling are thinking of factors that don’t exist for them yet. For example, eventually having a job. At this time you possibly don’t have a job but maybe at some point during the school year you will. Of course assignments and class come first but it is helpful to have an idea. Would you like to potentially work before class, after or in between? With my on campus jobs my bosses have been very helpful with scheduling work around classes and haven’t run into any issues. I will usually just bring my work uniform with me in my backpack so I can head there right when class gets out.

It can take time to get your schedule the way you pictured it. I have spent hours reorganizing mine over and over to make everything work. You’ll have the perfect idea in your head and truthfully it probably won’t ever end up exactly that way. You’ll realize the classes you want overlap or they’re not offered on the day you hoped they were. Maybe you’ll get stuck with a Friday class you didn’t want or a class you need to take is full. As frustrating and time consuming as this may be, it always ends up working out – sometimes even better than you had originally thought. Keep optimistic and don’t give up on rearranging; keep an open mind. Even when you think you can’t figure it out, you can. Some of the schedules I ended up with that I thought were going to be absolutely terrible turned out to be some of my favorite semesters ever.

Once your schedule is finalized you’ll be able to get an understanding of how you can start to fill this new life of yours. You’ll be able to see where you have time to do the things you have always loved doing and also find new things you don’t even know you love yet. With my first semester’s schedule on some days I had time to work out at the gym in the morning before class, after class I had time to join a club where I met lifelong friends. Quickly my new life – which was very different than high school – became to feel better than any days I had known. It has only consistently gotten better year after year; this is one of the first steps as it’s all starting to get real – but don’t stress, I know you’ll love it!

Sincerely, Sienna

Updates from the Eternal City

Funny thing how life works, six weeks ago I would have never used the word “spontaneous” to describe myself. Quite the opposite actually. I would’ve told you I like schedules, I like to be organized, I like to know what’s coming next. Six weeks ago I had no idea how life in Italy would change me. A little life update: here I am sitting in a cafe in Rome at the exact time my flight home takes off – and I’m not on it.

Spontaneity is a funny thing too because I don’t think you choose to be it. Something happens, somewhere along the way where you just realize life is too damn short to miss out on it. I have learned more about myself in the last 42 days than I have in my entire 20 years of existing. I spent six whole weeks surrounded by the best people I have ever met. Ones who supported me, encouraged me and trusted in all I could be. They brought out my spontaneity and believed in me sometimes more than I even believed in myself. I got bit by the travel bug, hard, and when I was presented with an opportunity, I just couldn’t turn it down.

During our time here we used a student travel company, Bus2alps, to book our weekend trips. As the unofficial “tour guide” and navigator of our group, it was very tough to try and plan weekend travel on our own for 19 people so this business was really special for us. Everything was so easy and organized, we could completely enjoy our time without worrying about the details. Everything was already figured out once you book, transportation, accommodation, activities and the best part was that a guide was sent with you. We felt so comfortable knowing we had an expert traveling too to show us around, give recommendations and look out for us. There are lots of options to travel Europe for weekends, day trips and even longer periods of time. The trips are affordable, well planned, the guides are absolutely fantastic and quickly became close friends. I loved observing them while we were traveling, it seemed like a job I could see myself doing. Looking into the company further I found they had sales and guide intern positions available throughout the year. Immediately I fell in love with the idea of coming back to Rome next summer to work for the company. Never in a million years would I have imagined my current situation.

After showing interest in ways to get involved, kind referrals and conversations led to being offered staying for July. All in a single day I accepted the offer and changed my flight back to the U.S. Definitely the most spontaneous thing I’ve done and I couldn’t feel more grateful to be joining the team. Bus2alps is Europe’s number one tour operator for student travel, no matter where you are studying in Europe you can book through them. Learning from my coworkers while seeing the world seems like something of a dream. I couldn’t have had a better study abroad experience and I’m so looking forward to helping other students make the most of theirs as well.

Check out Bus2alps at their website as well as on Facebook and Instagram. If you or any of your friends are studying abroad to anywhere in Europe I’d love to help you travel and even save you some money when you book with my discount code: SIENNA

As always, updates from life abroad can be found on my Instagram at sincerelysiennablog!

Ciao!

Sincerely, Sienna

Rome Sweet Home

WE’RE HERE, WE’RE HERE! Finally after dreaming of this for so long, my first couple weeks in my new home have already come to a quick close. It has been nothing short of incredible and some how, each day has consistently been better than the last – if that’s even possible. I find myself saying “this is the best day of my life” every. single. day.

Arriving to the airport was so exciting, my flight buddy Annie and I could not wait to meet up with the 17 others in our group. The majority of the group just happened to be arriving around the same time on Sunday morning – a little bit jet lagged but smiles and hugs everywhere when we were all reunited! We had been told the cab ride to the center of Rome would be quite the rush and we had no idea what was in store for us. All of us were quickly shuffled into cabs in groups of four, being shouted at in Italian we couldn’t help but laugh as we tried to tell the driver our school’s address. First zipping through the streets of the Italian countryside, into weaving through the tiny streets of downtown Rome, we had wide eyes the entire time. Praying we made it there in one piece I couldn’t believe everything passing my windows was real. It looked like the pictures on the internet, but better if that’s possible. Colored buildings with balconies, flower boxes, adorable restaurants, vespas, – it was all real and I get to call it all home for six weeks. I felt the luckiest.

We then arrived at the ACCENT center which is where we take our classes. We were almost in tears laughing at each other trying to drag our 50lbs+ luggage across the uneven cobblestone streets and up the three flights of stairs. We all checked in and received our very own map of the area, apartment keys and finally our address of where we would be staying! There are 19 MSU students on our program, 8 boys and 11 girls. We have 4 private apartments in Rome, the boys are split 4 and 4, and the girls are split 4 and 7. I am in the larger of the girl’s apartment and have loved every minute so far! It’s a beautiful place in an adorable location with 4 bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms and a kitchen with a little balcony. Its a funny feeling to unpack and essentially “move” into an apartment in Rome. The feeling of walking to and from class each day makes us feel like true residents. Shops become familiar, restaurant owners begin to recognize you, and you start forming favorite places. I cannot think of one thing I dislike about Rome, it’s just feels so comfortable and normal – like I’ve known it my whole life. You could walk the streets for hours and never get tired of looking up. Instead of having our faces locked into our screens, we have found we are constantly mesmerized by our surroundings and making sure we are living in the moment every second of our days.

All study abroad programs vary in the amount of credits, hours in a classroom, and the way they are taught. The 19 of us are taking four classes while we are here and working to receive 9 credits. All of us on this program are studying within the college of communication arts and sciences with a sales leadership minor so our main area of focus while studying here is Communication and Sales but this time, it’s Italian style. Only one of the classes is taught by our advisor Jen who is also our professor from Michigan State. The rest of our classes are taught by equally incredibly intelligent and special Italian individuals. Everyday I am blown away by the fact that I am receiving such a unique education from some of the most extraordinary people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We have a survival Italian to learning basic language as well as helpful tips while living here taught by Mario. Andrea who is a strategy consultant for the top management at NTV teaches our Made in Italy course. Sean is the communication director of the Vatican ( no big deal 😉 ) and he teaches our Italian Communication class. Our class times are scheduled for Monday through Thursday 9am to noon, and 2pm-5pm. Some days these times are spent inside our classroom at ACCENT and other days we are out doing experiential learning somewhere in the city. This is the way life should be lived, there is no better way to learn than to live. One day we are speaking about a place while sitting in class and the next day we are seeing it in person, taking it all in and immersing ourselves in it. It is such a special feeling to have to pinch myself for a reminder that this is real life each day. To say this experience has changed my life already would be such an understatement. I couldn’t be more thankful to be receiving this education while living in a dream.

The first two weeks were filled to the brim with incredible experiences and memories I know I will never forget. For the second half of week two our whole group took a trip into the southern part of Italy to the Libera camp, an anti-mafia organization, for some volunteer work.

Below are a few pictures of my time in Rome so far! Follow my Instagram at siennamohl for more updates.

Sincerely, Sienna

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Exploring the streets around the ACCENT Center between classes.

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View from our living room window.

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The beginning of my gelato addiction.

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Unbelievable. Always has fresh fruit in it.

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My cute group! Love them all so much. This is in front of The Four Rivers Fountain.

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Trevi Fountain.

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St. Peter’s Basilica. Took an amazing tour inside from our professor Sean.

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The Pantheon.

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The Colosseum.

“Paris is Always a Good Idea”

Aside from deciding to study abroad in the first place, one of the best decisions I have made was choosing to travel early before the program started. I was lucky enough to click with someone in my program right away during our pre-departure meetings. After talking about it we decided that Paris was always somewhere we had wanted to visit and starting planning our first trip abroad, alone. It was an extremely daunting thought, we have never been abroad before or flown internationally, we only speak English and honestly don’t know much about France. Despite these fears, I would consider myself independent and confident in taking care of myself. I am not naive, I know the dangers of traveling especially to a foreign country but, I really felt like I could handle it.

I am blessed to have parents who knew I could handle it. I am so thankful to have two people who believe in me and allow me to grow independently but most importantly, parents who trust me. You will never learn how to become an independent adult if you do not take on independent adult responsibilities – this was another chance to practice.

Oddly enough, traveling before the program started brought a sort of ease to the chaos that was preparing to study in Rome for six weeks. We were able to get used to the jet lag of a six hour time difference instead of arriving a day before our classes began. We became familiar with the differences between the United States and Europe – even the little things that you would never think about. Do you seat yourself at restaurants? How much do you tip? What do we wear to fit in? Is there anything we usually do that is considered “rude” here? All of these things we slowly figured out which prepared us for our upcoming short residency in Rome.

You might think traveling to Paris before an already quite expensive program would break the bank, but we definitely did it on a student budget. I found an adorable little Airbnb apartment in the perfect location for only $100 each in total for 3 nights. It was tiny but it was all we needed since we spent all day out exploring, we just needed a safe place to sleep. It was right off of the iconic shopping street, Champs-Elysees where the Arc de Triomphe stands. This was fantastic for us because not only was it in a safe area, it was right near the metro station as well as the bus stops with routes to the airport. Keeping all of these things in mind while searching for a place to stay was crucial. I did so much research before we left on the best ways to get from the airport into the city center, where to buy bus tickets and how to use the metro system so that when we arrived we wouldn’t feel lost and overwhelmed. I had maps printed and highlighted, our flight itinerary and all of our Airbnb information at hand in my purse I started to feel like my mom. It seemed like a lot of work, but being smart and prepared keeps you safe.

We kept in budget by sightseeing and doing things that were of no cost. Visiting monuments but saved money by not paying to go in and take a tour, eating meals at small markets or bakeries instead of fancy restaurants etc. which kept the trip affordable. There was so much filled into our three days we just felt like we did it right! It felt so empowering to accomplish something so big alone and made me feel so independent and confident for my upcoming travels. Below are some of our adventures! You can follow my Instagram for more updates at siennamohl. Up next, Roma!!

Sincerely, Sienna

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Eiffel Tower

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Louvre

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Arc de Triomphe

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Laduree Paris

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Notre Dame Cathedral

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Eiffel Tower at dusk

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Eiffel Tower at night

Ciao For Now!

The Sincerely Sienna blog is about to get a whole lot more exciting! Tomorrow I head out on the adventure of a lifetime. Seven months ago I applied, interviewed and was accepted into a six week study abroad summer program in Rome, Italy. At that point it felt so far away, traveling was something that was so easy and exciting to daydream about but truthfully still it didn’t feel like it would ever be real. But whether I’m ready or not the day is finally here!!

Michigan State University has over 275 programs that take place in more than 60 countries around the world. Studying abroad in college was something that I had always dreamed of doing and more than anywhere I wanted to study in Italy. (Fun fact: I was named after the Italian city “Siena”.) When the time came to get serious about applying for programs and making it happen, I started with going to the Study Abroad Fair at the Breslin Center. Everything was very organized, you could explore by location, major/minor, interests or just browse around. I am a Communication major with a Sales minor so naturally I found myself in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences section. That seemed to be the best part for me – the fact that I could not only experience the adventure of a lifetime overseas, but that I could do it while receiving credit for my major’s graduation requirements. I fell in love with the “Made in Italy” program – six weeks in Rome earning 9 credits while studying intercultural communication, sales and marketing from an Italian perspective. I was told spots were highly sought after so I applied and interviewed right away. Ecstatic to find out I had been accepted, I could not wait to find out who else would be joining me. Beginning in January, our program held bi-weekly meetings where I got to know my fellow “Romies” (who I seem to love already) as well as go over expectations about our summer together as each week grew with more excitement. Actually, we got along well so quickly that a couple of us planned to visit Paris together before our program begins in Rome!

I moved everything out of my dorm room to bring home and had five short days to get ready for Europe. Lots of unpacking and repacking – I’m the worlds worst overpacker so trying to keep my luggage under the 50 pound airline limit has been a real challenge. All these months anticipating the departure but today it’s so odd to say I’m leaving tomorrow. Today, the floor of my bedroom is covered in piles of neatly folded clothes waiting to be stuffed into my suitcase. Today all of my exciting daydreams are now a bit of anxious nerves. Today it’s starting to hit me – this is actually happening.

I know that I will never have an experience like this ever again. Sure, if I’m lucky enough later in my life I’ll travel back to Europe but I will never again “live” in Rome with 18 incredible people my age learning in such a unique setting. I am beyond ready to jump in completely open-minded and up for anything. I could never say thank you enough to my parents for making this possible for me. There is no greater gift than that of life experience. Seeing the world is an absolute dream come true and I will never take these moments for granted.

So, ciao for now! I would love to have you along for the ride, first stop will be a little pre-Rome trip to Paris, France for a few days. You can check back at the Sincerely Sienna blog for updates abroad as well as all of my adventures through photos on Instagram at siennamohl!

Sincerely, Sienna

Why I Chose Michigan State University

National decision day, May 1st, is right around the corner and the pressure is on. Seniors, I remember the stress like it was yesterday – this decision is no small task but you can do it, promise. In honor of this monumental day I thought I’d share how the most indecisive girl made the biggest {and best} decision of her life.

Like I mentioned above – I’m more indecisive than I’d like to admit, so when the time came for the biggest decision of my life, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I didn’t grow up “bleeding green” as some Spartans do. My parents are not alumni, they both grew up in Ohio so they were unfamiliar with Michigan schools and knew nothing about MSU. I’m the oldest child in our family so there was no big sibling to figure it all out before me, the whole process of the college search was new for us. Although I enjoyed my time in high school, when it was time to graduate I was so extremely ready to embark on a whole new independent “grown up” life. I had always been a city-lover so I had my heart set on a small school in Chicago. I had this daydream in my head of a “grown up city life” while also earning my degree. I visited the campus multiple times, I stayed overnight and tried to really see myself there. I wanted so badly to see myself there because it’s what I thought I always wanted. It just didn’t feel like college…that stereotypical “best four years of your life” type of place. While being on campus you couldn’t tell what life was like there. No one was walking around wearing their spirit gear with pride, no one was laying out studying on the lawn, there was no football or basketball teams to cheer on…I just didn’t ever see myself not doing those things. I left thinking “did I love the school or did I love the city?” and I knew deep down it was the latter. I wanted four years of the “full college experience” and the city could wait – it would still be there when I finished. It was then I decided to return with a more open mind; it was time to broaden my search and pursue something totally different than what I saw in Chicago – Michigan State was bumped up on my list and it was time for a tour.

Of course, everyone is looking for different qualities in a University – ones that make it perfect for you. These are some of the reasons MSU stole my heart ( & kept it ) and why I knew it was the perfect place for me.

In no particular order.

The college town. I loved the fact that everything was in such close proximity to campus. The main street had numerous restaurants, stores, coffee shops and places to hangout all right in the same area. Student housing was located in the surrounding blocks, it was all students everywhere – a true college town. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to experience that until I saw it. Everyone hanging out on their porches, shopping around, getting a meal with their friends. There was ALWAYS something to do in walking distance and it looked so fun. After getting to enjoy it for almost two full years I can honestly say there is nothing quite like living in a college town, it’s even better than I expected.

The quality education. Aside from all of the fun parts of attending college, I was extremely drawn by Michigan State’s quality of education. There are so many distinguished professors teaching the courses and alumni that have gone on to become very successful. The student to faculty ratio at MSU is 17:1 which I thought was impressive for such a large university. Not only are there professors who instruct the courses, there are teaching assistants to help as well. A large lecture of 200+ students (taught by a professor) is paired with a small recitation class of around 20 students once a week taught by a graduate teaching assistant. I found this setup to be so beneficial because I could attend my lecture, take good notes, then really dive into the material in the smaller class and ask questions to get the help I needed.

The college of Communication Arts and Sciences. Most importantly the school offered what I wanted to study, and an amazing program at that. I came in as a freshman knowing that I wanted to study Communication – the major itself is quite broad with various career paths that attracted me. I could see myself being happy doing a lot of things within Communication and have come to love the courses and experiences within the major thus far.

Collaborative student body. The minute I stepped onto the campus, people were asking what I was interested in, what goals I had and what career I wanted to pursue. I had a fantastic meeting with a Communication advisor that gave me her full attention and interest in my academic success. Right away it just seemed like people cared about me as a potential student, more than other places I had visited. My fears of being treated as “just a number” at a school with 50,000 people wasn’t even a worry. I can attest to this even more now, students here have such a collaborative mindset. Spartans work together to achieve more, there is no competitiveness in the sense that others will not knock another Spartan down to better themselves. In all of my classes students are always forming study groups and creating collaborative online study guides with each other. I have honestly been so surprised at how truly friendly I have found my peers to be during my time at MSU, it’s very encouraging.

Resources. The amount of (FREE) resources on campus for student success was overwhelming in the best way possible. Of course, each college and major has very specific resources for their direct students, but something that is very broad are the tutoring centers. The large campus is split up into neighborhoods with engagement resource centers located in each. I personally am not the best at math so I spent many hours with the graduate students at the Math Learning Center preparing for exams and getting help with homework. Although the professors and teaching assistants in each class have office hours available to attend for help, the tutor center had a wider schedule and improved my scores immensely.

Campus. The overall look and feel of campus was just what you see in the movies. It is absolutely stunning at all times of the year, trees everywhere, beautiful buildings old and new, it just never gets old. Besides the aesthetically pleasing look, I am always finding places on campus that I have never seen before. After two years I still can find a place to study that I haven’t used before. Buildings that I haven’t stepped foot in, dining halls that I haven’t tried, classrooms I haven’t had classes in. It keeps campus feeling fresh and new all the time which I absolutely love.

The Big 10 pride. I remember taking my campus tour thinking to myself how cool it was that a vast majority of the people I passed by were wearing something Michigan State related. Everyone was so proud to be a Spartan which made me even more excited about potentially becoming one as well. The feeling of game day is electric and the Spartan bonding is real. There is nothing like a Big Ten sporting event and being a part of the student section is a feeling of pure pride.

Study Abroad opportunities. I always knew study abroad would be something I wanted  to participate in during my college career. Michigan State offered over 275 study abroad programs to more than 60 countries. Specifically I have found the perfect program for me – I will be completing 9 credits this summer on a six week program in Rome, Italy through the college of ComArtSci. All of the credits are going toward my Major and Minor requirement which is fantastic.

The size. Funny right? In my initial college search I always pushed large universities aside because I thought they were just plain too big. I was worried about finding my way around, the trek each day to class, if I would be treated as just a number, or if I would find friends – all of these thoughts kept me up at night. It really wasn’t until I stepped on campus for a tour that I realized how wrong I was. It felt like it’s own little city and I loved it. After almost two full years here I can say the large size of this school is one of my absolute favorite parts about attending Michigan State. It truly only works to your advantage, all of these fantastic opportunities and resources are right at your fingertips. Anything you could ever imagine getting involved with is right here – all you have to do is get out and go for it. Every single day (no exaggeration) I meet someone I’ve never met before. Every single day is an opportunity to make a new friend, make a new connection or try something you’ve never done and that is so exciting. There are so many incredible experiences I would have never had if this University wasn’t as big as it is. You make your friends, you find your groups, you settle in and suddenly it doesn’t seem like this big, daunting place. It feels like home. You can always make a big campus feel smaller, but you can never make a small campus feel bigger.

Sincerely, Sienna

(You can follow me on Instagram for more updates!)