Alright, I’ll be the first to admit, it has been awhile since I have written anything. To be fair, it has been a very long semester. Way too many things happened, but overall, it has been an amazing year! I have been to so many places this year that I never even thought would happen. One of my resolutions for 2019 was to travel at least twice this year. Last year, as far as I can remember, the only places I traveled were to Los Angeles and New York City. This year provided an array of different places and new experiences. So, let’s dive in!

Austin, Texas:

The first place I traveled to this year was Austin, TX. I absolutely loved it. It was especially nice because I was going on someone else’s dime (*wink*wink*), and I don’t mean my parents. The College of IST at Penn State paid for me and five other freshmen to fly to Austin, meet up with tech companies (from Google to Indeed and so on), network with Penn State Alumni, and just explore the city. I didn’t think too much about Austin before visiting, but that city is just something else. The live music capital of the world definitely lives up to its name. If you want to read more about my time there, click here!

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

The next place was Pittsburgh, PA. I know, not that glamorous, but I had so much fun there. This past summer, I attended a research program at the University of Pittsburgh called iSchool Inclusion Institute (i3). There, I learned how to program, properly conduct research, as well as learn about different areas in Information Sciences, and explore the different districts of Pittsburgh with some amazing people. Honestly, I had so much fun there and learned more than you would probably care to hear…

I am so excited to go back next summer because it truly changed me for the better and allowed me to meet so many really smart and awesome people. I am currently working on a research project with two extraordinary people studying how queer people of color use ICTs to cope with stigma. Let me know if you want info on our project/paper! Also, check out what i3 is about here, who knows you might be interested in research! Did I mention you get a stipend, housing, and money for food the entire program??

San Diego, California:

This trip was too much fun and definitely a well needed break from school. I went to California in mid-September with members of my club, WIRED IN, from Penn State. I got a corporate sponsorship from SAP along with a few other people who got corporate sponsorships while the others were paid for by the College of IST at Penn State. Let me tell you, the sun felt absolutely amazing. I did not need a coat and I could wear shorts, which I was so thankful for. We visited Cali for a conference called the “ACM Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing.” I got a few interviews, connected with some awesome people, and got out and explored San Diego.

I was lucky enough to be placed in the hotel that the conference was happening in by my sponsor. The view from the balcony of my hotel room was absolutely breathtaking. I had a beautiful view of both the city and the water. I also had a really great roommate who had the same sponsorship as me, but went to a different school. She had rented a car for her time in Cali and I convinced her to go to the beach with me. I can honestly say that the beach is my happy place. Just standing in the sand with the waves coming up to my knees, was so relaxing. I went a second time with my club members as well and rode bikes on the boardwalk with my friends. Ah, good times. Check out my friend’s youtube channel for the vlog, zachandbro!

New York City, New York:

This one definitely came spur of the moment. I had applied to a summer internship at PwC and got accepted! I was invited to a “Celebrate You” event in New York City where I would be working if I accepted the offer. They paid for the entire trip for me including flight, hotel, transportation to and from the airport, and even travel food! And, I negotiated with them to stay a few more hours than other people 🙂

It was certainly quite the experience because it was the first time I was traveling by myself. Granted, it was only for a night, but it was definitely interesting to see if I could go to a big city by myself and survive the traveling. I did alright and held my own, but I do say that I much prefer traveling with other people, it’s just more fun. Plus, only your friends now your angles for bomb pics!

East Rutherford, New Jersey:

A few days before Christmas, me and my family headed up to New Jersey to visit the newly opened “American Dream Mall.” It’s like the Mall of America in Minnesota. Since it was so new, everything hadn’t been fully open. We only went to the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park and the candy store, “It’s Sugar.” I plan on doing a separate post about the trip, but just know I had a lot of fun!

So, there you have it, my most traveled year yet. This entire year has been quite an experience filled with ups and downs, but I would not trade any moment. It’s kinda crazy that I exceeded my travel goal and to places I wasn’t even expecting, which is the beauty of it. I already have two (maybe three) new destinations and a few old ones lined up for next year. Here is to more travel, more experiences, and more happiness in this new decade. 2020, here we come!

Happy New Year
Signing Off this Decade,