Back to Reality

The year 2020 felt like something you would see in a movie. The world has seen a handful of unfortunate events and circumstances unroll that will make this year go down in history. I left Florida back in April when the pandemic was starting to break out. I was fortunate enough to go back home and stay over the summer with my family in South Korea. I recently made my return to the US as I prepare myself for the fall semester. It’s time to get the gears turning but during my “jet-lag period”, I was able to reflect on a summer break that I will never forget.

Korea has somewhat flattened the curve in terms of COVID so during my stay, all businesses and services were open to the public with very little restrictions. Everyone was wearing masks and health precautions were in place. Most new cases were quickly identified and announced by the government to avoid contact with impacted places or people, so it felt strangely normal considering the gruesome situation of this pandemic.

Me and my family got to spend some quality time as we stayed home most of the time. We did some local traveling to places that were isolated in nature as we attempted to physically and socially distance ourselves from crowded places.

A small town near Ji-ri san (famous mountain range in south west Korea)
Gang-neung (Coastal city on the east coast of Korea)
Sok-cho (Another coastal city on the east coast) & Mt. Seorak (famous mountain range in the east coast of Korea)

I got to enjoy a ton of natural landscape and scenic views of Korea and it definitely helped with the isolation part of self-quarantine. Summer in Korea is very similar to that of Florida where the humidity and the 80-90 degrees weather makes it tough to do anything active outside. However, getting to enjoy a bit of a cool sea breeze and the shades of trees on the side of a mountain, it was nice to get some fresh air and a change of scenery.

On my way back to the states, I was able to enjoy the entire row of Delta’s A350-900 to myself as the flight was operating at its minimum capacity. All the seats were spread out and none of the middle seats were available for purchase. Everyone at the airport was wearing masks and it was definitely a strange travel experience.

The future of our semester is in the unknown and it is slightly intimidating as we prepare to open up to our full capacity. The university is doing the best they can to minimize the spread of the disease, but it’s hard to imagine this semester looking anything like our previous semesters here. Our best bet is to be cautious and aware of those around us and to do our best to practice active mask-wearing and social distancing inside and outside of classrooms. Here’s to the rest of 2020 and hopefully a healthy fall semester.

This little guy knows what’s up

Quarantine Blog

Greetings from my room in Seoul, South Korea. I have been isolated in my quarantined house as the government requires all individuals coming into Korea to be tested and quarantined for 14 days in light of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the world. It works out perfectly as I prepare for my final exams coming up near the end of April so I have been studying and catching up on my readings.

The past two weeks have definitely been an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Starting from my first flight out of Daytona Beach, it had a whopping total of 9 passengers on board and my second flight to Detroit had every middle seat empty. The check-in gate for my trans-pacific flight, we had gate agents conducting temperature checks before boarding. The majority of passengers had masks and gloves on and many of them had cautious looks on their faces as they carefully boarded the airplane.

McNamara Terminal in Detroit Airport
My flight from Detroit to Seoul Inchon on this A350-900

Upon landing in Inchon International Airport, I noticed the taxiways had multiple planes parked and stored along with dozens of gates closed for parked aircraft. The customs and security was more intense with members of the Korean army and their version of CDC dressed in full body hazmat suits. We had to wait in line to fill out a number of documents and answer questions from those agents.

Planes are parked everywhere

Day 2 upon my arrival, I was tested negative for the COVID-19 and my 14-days began. I couldn’t hug my family or go outside of my place and it can be very tempting especially when the spring weather outside is so pleasant. However, the government here is trying their very best to contain the second wave of COVID-19 and everyone is encouraged to practice social distancing and stay home.

I had to sit at a separate table while we had dinner at the airport (Better safe than sorry)

As an aspiring airline pilot, it hurts to see how heavily the global airline industry is hurting from the impact of COVID-19. After going through a firsthand experience of seeing empty seats on my flights and the deserted terminal buildings, it is difficult to see the daily news of more airlines cancelling their operations and losing money and pilots.

Many people in small, local businesses and medical / first responders are struggling more than ever. I can only imagine what some people are going through during these rough times. I hope everyone can stay safe and healthy. However, I think it is more crucial that we can all be a little bit more selfless and thoughtful by actively practicing social distancing and being more conservative with stocking up with supplies.

Now would be a great time to find a good book to read, a TV series to binge watch or a new hobby to pick up as you spend your days at home.

Travels & Thanksgiving

Greetings and salutations folks! I am currently blogging from Charleston, South Carolina at the airport en route back to Riddle in all my post Thanksgiving glory.

I started my break migrating north from Daytona Beach to Norfolk, Virginia where the November weather was blissfully crisp for about 5 seconds before I got cold and realized that my Florida wardrobe was not prepared for 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Once back in VA my family packed up and road tripped it to Charleston, South Carolina where I spent the remainder of my holiday. 

In Charleston, my family and I ran a 5k in the historical district on Thanksgiving morning, followed by heading back to our hotel to get ready then driving a few hours to our cousin’s house where we spent the remainder of the afternoon eating and napping.

We spent the rest of the break exploring the outdoor city market in downtown Charleston, stopping at local eateries and coffee shops, as well as sight seeing and of course making a stop at the beach.

I wish the Thanksgiving break had lasted longer, but because of how late the holiday fell in the month of November this year, upon getting back to school we only have one more week until finals!

I wish I spent my break relaxing and sleeping a lot, but honestly I stayed up late doing homework in hotel lobbies, came to the airport early to knock out assignments before my flight, and hid out in multiple coffee shops during the trip trying to catch up on assignments. I came back from break a day early to do homework and work on projects before class on Monday too. It’s super difficult relaxing knowing I have a bunch of deadlines and final exams looming around the corner. On the bright side though, I suppose there is only a few weeks until the semester is over, and I plan to sleep a lot over winter break!

I hope all of you find your post Thanksgiving Break groove and proceed full speed ahead to finals season! Will report back soon. Winter break is around the corner, keep on keeping on!

I get paid to travel for Embry-Riddle

If the title didn’t hook you, I don’t know what will!

For those of you who do not know, I am a Women’s Ambassador – which means I work for Admissions. This position allows me the opportunity to travel to Accepted Student Receptions (aka the dinners/lunches across the country where accepted students have the chance to meet other accepted students and learn more about the school).

Some previous trips I have been on with the Admissions team include: Charleston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and most recently, Boston. These trips are typically one weekend long and are completely paid for by Riddle, so it is free for me (even my meals). You also get to pick when you travel *+(out of a list of dates), so it is very flexible with school.

When I travel, I normally go with a team of 3-4 others depending on how big the reception is planned to be. These are all people who bring a unique skill to the trip. For example, one person will be from Financial Aid, one from Housing, one from Admissions, and a student (me).

This particular trip was to give a presentation about ERAU (meaning it was geared more towards recruiting). The Accepted Student Receptions are more focused on preparing students to come to school in the fall!

In our free time we like to go sight-seeing. Most of the other people from Riddle travel often and know super cool places or very delicious restaurants. In San Francisco we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and in Boston we walked through Little Italy. In Los Angeles we went into downtown LA for a bit!

Your flights are booked for you and sometimes you even fly on the same flights as the team. This makes it super simple and easy. I have always flown out of Daytona Beach International Airport, so it is also very convenient. Hotels are also booked for you and as for transportation, either the team will have a rental car or they will Uber/Lyft/taxi with you. They also send itineraries way in advance, so you know who, what, where, and when!

My most recent trip was to Boston. I went last weekend and traveled with a very nice lady from Financial Aid. In Boston we met up with the rest of the team (traveling from other receptions) and ate some AMAZING food. We also got to see some Boston history, like the Boston Tea Party harbor. I left Friday afternoon after my classes and then flew to Atlanta and then to Boston. We took a taxi to our hotel, checked in, and then walked to dinner.

My dinner at a small Italian restaurant. It was the best gnocchi ever!

The next day we went to the reception and met nearly 100 students and families. We did our presentation and answered questions. Students mingled and families shared contacts! I got asked a lot about how to save money while at school. I discussed how I worked for many different departments, such as Admissions and Housing! These are our versions of “work studies”. I also applied for donor scholarships often and got very involved on campus! Just like this gig where I get a stipend and free travel, there are amazing money-saving gems all around Riddle.

The view from the Accepted Student Reception restaurant!

I did homework at night to keep on track. I typically do homework on the weekends instead of during the week. Since I had known about the trip in advance, I tried to do more homework the week before. I was also able to do homework on my flight home on Sunday, but I got a bit distracted by the movie selections (Instant Family and Crazy Rich Asians are such good movies). Once I landed, I went to the Blue & Gold week (our homecoming) comedy show! It was super good!

This was my last trip ever and I was quite nostalgic. When I was a senior in high school I actually went to the Accepted Student Reception in Denver. Now, every time I go present about our school, I fall even more in love. It is so unique and we forget this when we live it every day. To see the families and students get excited and blown away by what we do on the norm is very humbling. I am just excited these students are following their dreams and will living their best lives here soon!

Ultimately, while it is fun to see new things in new cities, the best part of this job is meeting the accepted or potential students. I love helping families and the students learn more about the school or ease their minds. Some families are very excited and others are more nervous. While their technical questions are answered by the rest of the team, I am there to help answer questions about student life, how I pay for school, my experience, and transitioning into college. At the end of a reception, it feels great to know you just helped so many people!

Let me know if you have been to or are planning on going to the Accepted Student Receptions!

Best, Maddie

Fun Weekend Getaway

Hi everyone!

One thing I love about Florida is how much there is to do. We have the beach minutes from our doorstep, Walt Disney World down the street, and beautiful springs in our backyard.

While there is an endless amount of things to do locally, it is always fun to sneak away! Many of my friends travel the WORLD over weekends, but I am on a budget, therefore you can find me local most of the time and jet-setting rarely. This past weekend I went to Savannah, Georgia with some friends.

I was beginning to feel bored and burnt out by all I had to do, so I decided to head out of town to refresh my mind.

Savannah is only 3.5 hours away from our campus, so the drive is not bad at all. I left after a test in my 2 o’clock class and then made it to our hotel at 6 pm. The hotel was very nice and once I dropped off my bags, my friends and I left to go downtown!

My friends, Lauren and Jorge, have been friends with me throughout college. They are always so much fun and make Chris and I laugh like crazy. They are also super easy going – like us – so traveling with them is never stressful.

Lauren and Jorge drove up separately, but the short drive wasn’t bad to make by myself. Chris drove 5 hours from Alabama, but he likes driving, so I wasn’t worried.

We tried lots of different restaurants, but they were all delicious! Our favorites were Treylor Park and Tequila’s Town.

We also went to the park where part of Forest Gump was filmed and took lots of pictures! We propped Chris’ phone up against the wall and were able to snap these shots, but people were definitely judging us – haha!

We also went to a the BEST ice cream shop I’ve ever been to – Leopold’s Ice Cream. If you are ever in Savannah, I highly recommend walking the cute downtown and grabbing an ice cream.

The trip was only two days, but it felt like the perfect amount of time. When I got back, I still had time to make it to my group meetings and get homework done. My freshman-self would’ve never imagined I could make the most of a weekend as much as I just did. We got so much done and I did leave feeling refreshed.

Sometimes we need a break. That can be a walk, a workout, a Starbucks break, or a weekend getaway. Take it. Take a break because I promise you it will do you well in the end.

Overall, it was great to see Chris and beautiful Savannah with friends! It is so easy to get bogged down with school and find yourself in your dorm cranking out homework. Since this is my last semester, I am challenging myself to go out and do more. As cheesy as it sounds, we should be making memories. I encourage all of you – whether you are already on campus, considering coming to ERAU, or already packing for next semester – to go out and make the most of your time here. I promise it flies (Riddle pun intended)!

Best ~ Maddie

Friends & February

Happy February folks! Recently I’ve had the amazing opportunity to take a weekend to travel to Savannah, Georgia, in between classes and training and working, and it was a well needed break.

February is a very busy month at Embry Riddle, most organizations are doing a lot of volunteer work, there are a lot of car races happening at the Daytona International Speedway, a lot of people are touring the campus, and tons of people are visiting Daytona Beach as the weather warms up, so things can get a little hectic. The atmosphere is a definitely busy, and everyone seems exhausted and highly caffeinated. So, naturally I figured it would be a great time to take some me time and get away to clear my head and reset before diving back into reality.

Thankfully, before the chaos of all this began I had a great opportunity to travel north! I took a Greyhound bus Friday night up to Savannah, Georgia and arrived early Saturday morning, before returning on Sunday. I got the chance to stay overnight with my best friend, tour the downtown historic district a little, go by the river, do some yoga, and stop by my newly acquired favorite shops and restaurants from my visit to the city with my family over Thanksgiving break.

First on my list of things to experience was of course The Coffee Fox coffee shop, where I escaped the cold 50 degree weather and wind to indulge in some coffee and cozy up in a corner doing my Differential Equations homework. To my dismay, although it’s fun to travel, I can never seem to escape the homework.

Next I ducked out of the cold and grabbed breakfast at the Maple Street Biscuit Company where I ordered a dish called the Iron Goat, consisting of a homemade biscuit with sautéed spinach and goat cheese, along with a side of fried green tomatoes, which were absolutely delicious. One of my favorite parts about going to new places and different cities is the food. I don’t have the opportunity to get good homemade cooked food a lot at school, because I’m usually very busy, which made every bite of fresh breakfast all the more satisfying. 

Breakfast from one of the most amazing biscuit places in Savannah, Georgia!

This semester has been extremely stressful and sometimes it’s hard to de-stress living at school, where I study, work, go to class, sleep, workout, and then repeat. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the opportunities that I have earned and, along with that, some of the few people who keep me sane through the chaos and are my friends. Most of my friends at Embry Riddle are in AFROTC, because we naturally spend A LOT of time together, in and out of training, but another one of my good friends is a resident advisor in the same hall that I live in, and one of my best friends I got to meet up with over the weekend while I visited Georgia!

Will report back soon. I have some Aerospace Flight Vehicles homework I need to tend to. Spring break is around the corner. Keep on keeping on!

Summer B: EE in Berlin – Week 4

And just like that, four weeks have come and gone. I’m going to miss my time here in Berlin. It was, as all cliches go, a life-changing experience that I would definitely do again. In typical Billy Nguyen fashion however, life is not always a walk in the park.

A week ago, I lost my camera and have been absolutely devastated. There were some photos on the camera that I might never get back, but the memories that remained will always be with me. But, I’m relatively optimistic. I know that I will never see my camera again but there is big news on the horizon soon for me. That, or it could just be another jab at my ankles while I’m already knocked down.

Anyway, let’s not dwell on the past. Actually, lets dwell on the past, but the fun part!

Last week, I traveled to the wonderful city of Budapest, which would make Hungary the fifth European country I’ve visited in my life. The city was originally split up into two different cities by the river. Not surprisingly, the names were Buda and Pest.

The city was super quirky and beautiful at the same time. Much like most major cities in Europe, a lot of the original architecture remained the same, though with some slight modern touches. Budapest’s transit system was also very unique in the offerings it provided.

The people we’ve encountered were super friendly, and the views were breathtaking. I definitely recommend visiting Budapest if you ever have the time to do so. Even if you can only do a day trip like I did, it’s totally worth it.

As I sit in my flat typing out this post, I know that another chapter of my life is coming to an end. While I’m very sad that it may be a while before I come back to Europe, the memories I’ve made and friends I’ve found are reminders of a time well spent in Berlin.

Traveling abroad is a surreal experience, and it makes me sad knowing that not a lot of people are as lucky as I am. Maybe that will change one day. For now, I think this is goodbye for now.

 

Summer B: EE in Berlin – Week 3

It’s a somber feeling knowing that for each post I make, I’m one week closer to leaving this beautiful and vibrant city. Thankfully, these past few days have been nothing but fun. And, they have put my worries to ease…for now.

This has been my lovely home for the past three weeks. It’s near the middle of the city, with great access to a supermarket, public transportations, and local restaurants. Look closely and you’ll see one of my friends.

Sometimes me and my friends go explore the city at night. Here, a bunch of us are debating where should we go play soccer in the middle of the city.

Last Wednesday our whole class took a big trip to Vienna, Austria. We only stayed in the city for a couple of hours, but it was really nice to see another city, let along another country, other than Berlin.

Sometimes, guest appearances are scheduled, while others are not.
Top: My good friend Piers Chapman and his friend Kim George paid me an unexpected visit while in Berlin.
Above: Another one of my friends, who I know from back home, is studying in Vienna and it just so happened that our schedules lined up when I was set to visit the city.

I think this trip was the first time I boarded a plane from the tarmac. It’s definitely nothing earth-shattering, but it’s definitely something that all avgeeks should experience at least once in their life.

With my third week completed, it’s time to take care of some loose ends and to really make my last few days in Berlin count.

Summer B: EE in Berlin – Week 2

Hello, hello! I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I’ve stepped foot into Germany. There’s just so much to do, but so little time to do it. I guess I need to make these last two weeks count.

Aside from the large assortment of Audis and Mercedes(es?), Berlin has a lot of really quirky and classic cars. Everything from Volkswagen Microbuses to Porsche 911s, Berlin has it all.

It rained consistently for a few days last week. A lot of thunder and lightening, but mostly just light to moderate rain. It almost reminded me of home.

Given how easily our professor, Dr. Ilteris Demirkiran, is able to traverse the city and seems to know everyone we run into, we low-key think his is a spy.

The city has such a rich and diverse mix of architecture styles, and every section (or district) of the city is different from the next.

With class starting to wind-down, there’s going to be a lot more time to travel and explore Berlin. My class is also taking a trip to Vienna, Austria this Wednesday! Not super excited since it’s a 6 a.m. flight and we need to be up by 3 a.m., but it’s worth it.

Summer B: EE in Berlin – Week 1

Hello!

After a very long, an rather unexpected hiatus, I’m back! This time, I’m coming to you all the way from Berlin, Germany where I’ll be spending the entire month of July doing Electrical Engineering classes! Me and approximately 18 other Embry-Riddle students will be studying with one of Riddle’s finest professors: Dr. Ilteris Demirkiran.

My journey begins after a 16 hour journey from my hometown of Eatontown, NJ. Upon arriving in Berlin, I quickly found myself in a busting, vibrant city.

Classes were held in Embry-Riddle’s Berlin campus. After class, we would often travel as a group throughout the city.

The food in Berlin is also fantastic too! Though to be honest, with Demirkiran at the wheel, we mostly ate Turkish food.

The people I’ve met are so friendly and wonderful to talk to. This lovely dog is Minki. She belongs to a lovely couple we met while exploring our city. She’s four months old and is a giant fluff ball.

Berlin is extremely diverse when it comes to geography. One minute you’re inside a concrete jungle and the next you find yourself inside a massive park.
There is so much to do in Berlin that it honestly makes New York City feel super small.

Overall my first week was absolutely fantastic. I’m super excited to spend more time here, but am sad to know that every day I spend here puts me closer to leaving.