Carly: How To Take Advantage of Your Abroad Experience

Above all, studying abroad is an incredible adventure. Regardless of your destination, packing up and moving somewhere new is both enthralling and terrifying. Everyone enters his or her study abroad experience with certain expectations; after all, we have records of the students who came before us (Instagram). Hopefully, many moments of your study abroad experience will live up to your dazzling expectations. Others won’t. 

But between all the trials and tribulations of your study abroad experience, it’s important to take advantage of the incomparable opportunity you have to live, learn, and even work in a a completely new environment. Here are some key tips to keep in mind while you’re studying abroad:

Be independent.

College is where many adults first establish their sense of independence, and studying abroad is an opportunity to expand that independence to a new level. Take yourself out to coffee. Spend an afternoon exploring your new city or town on your own. Go to a museum by yourself. Wander with purpose. 

Talk to locals.

While the friends you make in your program will undoubtedly be wonderful, take time to get to know those living and working in your host community/town/city. If you’re in a big city, this means interacting with your professors or internship colleagues, and learning more about their background and their life in the city. Homestay programs are a fantastic way to do this and provide the best cultural immersion experience.

Put yourself first.

When making weekend plans or preparing for trips, don’t feel as if you have to settle for something your friends want to do. While compromise and collaboration are key to being a good travel companion, don’t go on trips or outings just because your friends are going. If there is a different site you wanted to visit, or a different trip you wanted to take, put yourself first and do it. Study abroad is your turn to explore, learn, and grow as a student and person. It’s OK to deviate from the mainstream. 

Take at least one solo trip.

It doesn’t have to be an overnight trip. Perhaps it’s a hiking trail nearby, or a day trip up the coast. Maybe it’s a train ride to the next town over, or maybe it’s a flight to a neighboring country. Regardless, make time to take one trip by yourself. You’ll find that you absorb the most when exploring somewhere new on your own.

Ask questions.

After you’ve arrived somewhere new, you’ll spend some time figuring out where to go and what to see. Asking questions – to locals on your plane/train/bus, your hostel staff, your waiter, or even random passersby on the street – will undoubtedly yield the best and most authentic recommendations. Google is good, but the people who live and work there are even better. Moreover, there’s a story behind every site you visit, and travel is exponentially more rewarding when you understand the historical context behind the magnificent sites you’re visiting.

Stay in touch.

Stay in touch with the people you meet both in and out of your program. In today’s world, you are more likely to cross paths with them again than you were several years ago. 

Collect something.

I chose magnets, which now decorate my refrigerator and serve as a daily reminder of my study abroad experience. Magnets were my collector’s item of choice because they’re cheap, small, and intricate, but the same can be said of shot glasses, post cards, mugs, and so many other items. If you’re a writer, collecting your daily thoughts in a journal could suffice. Video diaries do the same. But make sure you have some memento from every journey you take, because you before you know it, you’ll be boarding your flight home.

Carly: An Ode to Home

I hate California. I want to go to the east coast. I want to go where culture is, like New York, or Connecticut or New Hampshire.” - Lady Bird” - Carly Berke

Although I am not from Sacramento, Lady Bird’s residence of origin, nor am I even from Northern California itself, I could not have written a better line to encapsulate my senior year experience. I had pledged to flee Southern California at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I was convinced that I wanted to travel as far away from California as possible and immerse myself in “East Coast culture” (i.e. seasons, snowfall, preppy elitists). So I left. I came to Boston, Massachusetts, one of the furthest possible locations from Los Angeles I could have chosen, save Vermont or Maine.

I was convinced that leaving home would “save me”, and I would blossom into the New Englander (or, alternatively, New Yorker) that I was born to be.

Truthfully, I was really only under the impression (as so many angsty teenagers are) that my family was the bane of my existence, and I felt stifled. In hindsight, a lot of my adolescent experience was tainted by mental illness, which is a story for another time. But nonetheless, my relationship with my family was challenging, and as a result I was eager to send a message by moving so far away. Moreover, the relentless heat in Los Angeles irked me. I was growing increasingly appalled by the Youtube/Vine/Social Media Influencer community that was growing in the city, and I convinced myself that I would never fit in anywhere (disclaimer: this is B.S. There is a place in L.A. for everyone).

Thus when college came, I tried to start over on the other side of the country. At first, I loved it. I loved meeting kids who had grown up in Mass and Jersey and Connecticut and New York, and I loved watching the seasons change. I loved engaging in a “Dunkin vs. Starbucks” debate and I loved wearing heavy winter clothing. I liked that Boston was so incredibly detached from my life at home. I liked that I felt like I was living a double life, with my old life growing increasingly faint.

But then it started to get harder. During my second year, the cold weather affected me more than it had the year prior. I was having trouble connecting with some people and felt more lost than I had on the first day of freshman year. I had a career crisis and was forced to contemplate the fact that a career I thought I wanted my entire life was no longer a path I wanted to follow. This discomfort, loneliness, and unease manifested itself in a general resentment toward Boston and the East Coast, at least for a short period of time.

Don’t get me wrong - I love Boston, and I love the relative ease with which you can travel along the East Coast. I will be looking for jobs in New York and D.C. after graduation, and my heart still very much belongs out here.

But starting my sophomore year, every time I returned home to visit, it became increasingly harder to leave. I’ve grown much closer with my family, no doubt because of the proper treatment I’ve finally sought out for my mental health. But I learned to start appreciating little niches of home - like Malibu canyon, the miles of canyon road that I spent hours exploring in high school, or East Los Angeles, where I worked this summer and got to experience a diverse melting pot of Angeleno culture that I hadn’t been exposed to before. I developed a new appreciation for the community in which I had grown up, one I had previously scorned for its wealth and privilege.

Returning home for breaks and vacations quickly turned into what felt like an illustrious love affair, with me falling a little bit more in love each time I visited. Boston enabled me to finally hang up my tough-chick-home-rebel act and find comfort and solace in my family and my home community.

Two weeks ago, an ex-marine opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, killing 11. Borderline is about 15 minutes away from my house. I grew up playing softball in Thousand Oaks for my entire life. My brother performed in several shows at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Center.

But before the implications of the shooting began to truly register, intense wildfires erupted across Northern and Southern California. Within hours, the fire was nearing my home and incinerating the neighborhoods of my friends and family. My parents lost power, and I was out of touch with them for four and a half hours. I didn’t know where they were or if they had evacuated.

Those ~48  hours are hazy. I crossed campus unaware of my surroundings and unable to be present in the moment. All I wanted was to be at home with my family and friends, even if my home was completely devastated. I longed for the company of someone from my community, anyone who could even remotely relate to what I was experiencing.

This past weekend, I visited my my brother in Baltimore to see him perform in the National Tour of Fiddler on the Roof, the show he first performed in as a kid that introduced him to theater and what would ultimately become his entire career. About a month and a half ago, we lost our Bubbie, who had been fighting a vicious battle against Alzheimer’s in the 3-4 years prior to her passing. We had grown up with her living right down the street, and she played an integral role in my childhood. She always fostered my brother’s love for theater and performing, and she supported us in every single endeavor. I felt her at the show with me.

Between the mass shooting, the fire, my grandmother’s passing, and my brother’s performance, I left Baltimore completely awash in intense emotion. I missed home more than I ever had before, and I was filled with an intense longing to return. I wanted to hold my parents tightly and take a walk through my neighborhood at twilight and drive along the coastline (which unfortunately will be incinerated when I return). For one of the first times since coming to college, I was truly, completely homesick.

How foolish I was to have scorned California. No one comes from a perfect home, nor a perfect childhood nor a perfect family, but I had found enough love at home to satisfy me for a lifetime. And it was only driving through Baltimore at twilight, the sky tinged with pink as night descended over the city, Ravens’ fans flooding the streets after a Sunday football victory, did I realize how immature I was to insist on leaving with such forcefulness. I might not live there anymore, and I might not be on a path that leads me back to Los Angeles, but I know I will always hold my home and my family very close to my heart. And for that, I am thankful.

Carly: The Death and Rebirth of the Romantic Comedy (Relative to my Own Experiences)

I’m sure I speak to many film majors (and non-film major movie buffs) when I discuss the air of authority kids assume when they first discover the art of film.

When I first fell in love with movies, I became a Wes Anderson junkie. I spoke constantly of his organic storytelling and unique aesthetics, and I shamed my friends for being shallow when they insisted on seeing Divergent instead of Grand Budapest Hotel (yes, I was that much of a film snob). As a result, the more I expanded my film knowledge and discovered a community of other cinephiles, I began to scorn the conventional romantic comedy. I scoffed at girls who loved movies I believed contained no depth, and I saw myself as superior because I didn't waste time watching "feel-good movies".

There were some exceptions over the years, including Crazy, Stupid Love, Amelie, and She’s The Man. But for whatever reason, the only movies I insisted on seeing and watching had to be either dark and pervasive, quirky and experimental, or deep and provocative.

And the beginning of last year, I suddenly found myself pining for a good dose of romance. I wanted to watch two people fall in love and I wanted to watch two lovers share an emotional connection.

And thus began my secret binge - it started with trailers for rom-coms both old and new; then I found myself actually queuing up rom-coms on my own time. What was I doing, wasting my time watching What If?, a 2011 rom-com that lost close to three million dollars and starred Daniel Radcliffe and a pre-The Big Sick Zoe Kazan? Why did I repeatedly watch the trailer for Before We Go, Chris Evans’ 2014 directorial debut that received a whopping 21% on Rotten Tomatoes? Because these movies made me feel things. Even if they made me feel more lonely, even if they enabled me to quietly pine for a character in my own life (for whom, yes, I am still secretly pining), they still enveloped me in feeling. I couldn’t get enough. I rewatched classics, and I searched long and hard for indies.

All the while, however, I kept my new interest private. I didn’t feel comfortable enough asking my friends to binge rom-coms with me (how stupid and pretentious is that?), and I felt weak if I admitted in my film classes that the most recent movies that had made me cry were Moonrise Kingdom and/or Wall-E, or even worse, that I cried just watching the trailer for Mamma Mia.

But now it appears as if I wasn’t the only one who missed romantic comedies. As it turns out, quite virtually everyone wanted them back, a development that surfaced with the widespread popularity of Crazy Rich Asians.

Of course, I don’t mean to discount the fact that Crazy Rich Asians primarily served as an important piece of representation for the Asian-American community, and that it will no doubt pave the way for non-white actors who deserve to land roles other than the stereotypical best friend or sidekick. But I also think the movie was a success because it was such a damn good love story. It was so SATISFYING. It made me CRY. It made my FATHER cry. It was so enjoyable, and heartwarming, and it felt good knowing everyone around me similarly loved it.

The revival continues as well with To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before, a Netflix rom-com featuring budding stars Lana Condor and Noah Centineo. I absolutely lost my mind over To All The Boys; I fell madly in love with both male characters and I never wanted Lara Jean to leave the screen. I loved the story and its characters and quirkiness and I loved watching the tale unfold (and yes, I now exclusively refer to Noah Centineo as Peter Kavinsky, and I assume he’ll live on as that character for a good majority of his career).

Yes, romantic comedies can be cheesy, and corny, and unrealistic, and they definitely hit an all-time low in the 2000s, when studios used big ticket stars to generate income on an awful script (i.e. How Do You Know circa 2010, or All About Steve circa 2009). But I finally think the industry is learning how to make them work -- with equal representation and diverse stories, and well-developed characters and plot lines, no doubt.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, as a society, we need rom-coms. We need to believe in the idea of love, and watching others experience the trials and tribulations of falling in love is a method of catharsis. We need to leave our own realities for brief periods of time to fall in line along characters as they reach their happy endings, if not for our own satisfaction then at least to hold on to the slight chance that we too might find such a love in our own lifetime. We need to share the laughs and the tears and the emotions with our friends and family, and we need universal love stories to help connect with strangers, with acquaintances, with budding friends. Rom-coms might just be the comedic relief our own society needs in order to survive this incredibly intense and upsetting time in the world. And so I eagerly saw Mamma Mia 2 its opening weekend, and I felt no shame in listening to its soundtrack for a week straight afterward. And yes, I cried after Love, Simon and The Big Sick. I saw La La Land four times. And I have tickets to see Juliet, Naked next weekend. Because I love rom-coms. I really do.

And now, I leave you with Vanity Fair’s most recent list of top 25 Rom-Coms. Invite your friends over. Bake some brownies. Enjoy.

Carly: “How’s the cold?”

If I had a single dollar for every time I heard this question, I would have enough money to buy a Canada Goose jacket for everyday of the week. Coming from California, I expected to have a hard time adjusting to the Boston climate. Or rather, everyone around me assumed that I would have a hard time living in cold weather.

College shopping for my mother and me included an extra leg of work: buying winter clothes for the first time. My mother, frantic about her child’s ability to survive the cold climate, called every single person she knew on the east coast to get their insight and advice on apparel. She was determined, it seemed, to prepare me to present myself as if I had spent my entire life managing snowy winters. But the truth was that I had spent my childhood and adolescence in sunny Southern California, questioning the existence of four seasons and praying for rainfall. I had never even seen snow before.

As a result, my parents -- and everyone else who asked me where I was headed for college -- seemed to think I would have a hard time with the cold. It was a ripe topic for conversation before I left and when I returned over Thanksgiving and Winter Break.

Unbeknownst to my friends and family back home, I never actually struggled with the cold here on the east coast. In fact, I really enjoyed it during my freshman year at BU. Sure, some days were harder than others, and I cherished every break I spent under the warm, dazzling California sun, but I genuinely enjoyed living in a cold climate. I loved watching the leaves change, and I shed a tear during the first snowfall. I basked in the joy of a cold holiday season, and I absolutely loved experiencing New England culture when I had the opportunity to explore the east coast. I spent a weekend camping in New Hampshire under radiant fall foliage, and I also spent a weekend trekking across suburban Connecticut to reach the Mohegan Sun, a secluded casino and concert venue. Not only did I fall in love with New England, but also, in fact, a part of me felt complete, as if I had been waiting all my life to live among Northeasterners and their classic Colonial architecture. And as I finished my first year of college and watched the Boston skyline recede from the window of my plane home, it hit me: I was an East Coast girl trapped in a West Coast body. And then it hit me again: if I was made to live on the east coast, where should I go after school?

I wish I could take everyone I love and care about from home and move them out here. I wish I could stay in Boston or New York over the summer and still be able to spend time with friends and family from home. Sometimes I even wish I had my car and the gorgeous California coast line on cold, blustery winter days. Thinking about the two lives I have on each coast is so frustrating that I convince myself I’ll never be happy, regardless of where I end up.

But the truth is that I will have many decisions to make as I start preparing for my professional career. Do I want to pursue filmmaking in my hometown of Los Angeles, in accordance with my anticipated Film & T.V. degree from COM? Or do I try pursuing foreign policy and diplomacy in Washington D.C., as my classes for my anticipated International Relations degree from CAS seem to convince me? Or do I want to apply to jobs in New York City, a place I’ve called my second home since the fifth grade and a city that never fails to fill me with a special sense of excitement and hope? A city that houses some of my closest friends from college and my own older brother?

Thankfully, I still have time to decide where I want to live after school. Even still, much of the decision will be out of my hands, as it greatly depends on where (and if) I receive employment offers.

But wherever I end up, I know I’ll keep a part of each coast -- and the people I care about on either side -- with me.

Carly: “Hidden Gems” of Allston/Brookline

It’s easy to feel trapped on campus at Boston University. Our sprawling school covers a large majority of Comm Ave and has everything a student could ever need; thus many students stay on campus for the majority of their time. Commonly dubbed the “BU Bubble”, this phenomenon is well-known across campus, and many students are heard complaining that they don’t spend enough time “ in the city”.

But while trips to Faneuil Hall or the Seaport District might take a little more time out of your day, there are a number of easy places students can hit up off campus to briefly escape Comm Ave. Check out some of the best spots to hit in Brookline and Allston, the places that aren’t quite “in the city” but are well enough “off campus” to feel like you’re actually doing something productive.

Shabu Zen:

Shabu Zen is a hot pot restaurant on Brighton Avenue in Allston, the perfect restaurant to hit up on a rainy weeknight. Hot pot is a style of Asian cuisine during which customers cook their food in giant pots filled with boiling broth. Customers order one or two flavors of broth and then pick from a wide selection of meats -- all of which are served in thinly sliced raw slabs. The meat is then cooked IN the broth, a miraculous process to watch. You can also order raw noodles, vegetables, and seafood, all of which are delicious to cook in the broth. Shabu Zen is hot, delicious, and an extremely fun dining experience. I highly recommend having a meal at Shabu Zen in Allston.

LimeRed Teahouse

LimeRed is a new spot that recently opened this summer. Their speciality is boba tea, but they sell a number of delectable other drinks as well. The interior is decorated with a number of succulents and potted plants, giving the place a very relaxing atmosphere. LimeRed is a great spot to grab a boba or a coffee, chill out, and do some homework. Within walking distance from West Campus and Star Market, LimeRed Teahouse is an awesome new spot that can offer a change of scenery.

When Pigs Fly

Alright -- I’ll admit, When Pigs Fly isn’t exactly a place to hang out, but it sure does have some incredible bread. Yes, that’s right -- bread. When Pigs Fly Breads is an authentic bakery in Brookline on Beacon Street. It sells a variety of homemade, fresh breads, ranging from your classic Sourdough to Pumpkin-Cranberry to Spinach, Onion, and Garlic (yes, all three flavors in one loaf of bread). The store is warm and appetizing and consistently smells of freshly baked bread. So next time you need a study break, refuel your carbs supply by heading into Brookline and picking up a delicious loaf of warm bread.

Bottega Fiorentina

Alright, so maybe this list has turned more into the best carbs outside of Dining Hall breakfast potatoes, but if you’re cool with it, then so am I. Bottega Fiorentina is a corner Italian bodega off Babcock Street in Coolidge Corner. In addition to sandwiches, pastas, and salads, customers can also shop for a variety of authentic Italian grocery items -- imported straight from the motherland of carbs itself. Stop in and meet the owners or pick up some food for a picnic in Amory Park, either way, definitely fill up on what Bottega Fiorentina has to offer.

There are tons of other restaurants and stores in Brookline and Allston, and all of them add their own flair to the community. So get out there, support your local businesses, and “get off campus”. Try a new restaurant, take a walk around, and enjoy these neighborhoods we’re lucky enough to call our own.

Carly: Pondside Pumpkins Pride

First Year Student Outreach PROJECT.

The ‘P’ in FYSOP stands for ‘Project’ not ‘Program’, contrary to what I had initially believed.

That’s because a PROGRAM has a definitive end.

A PROJECT is a continuous event; a project may never truly reach completion. And with community engagement, the project is never really over. So much to my relief – and the relief of most of those who shared my experience – FYSOP never really has to end. 

I first participated in FYSOP as a First-Year Volunteer, during which I volunteered within the Environment focus area. I had an incredible week – I got to engage with the community, learn more about the environmental issues that Boston faces, and meet a variety of new people. It was a wonderful adjustment to school at Boston University, and I made friends with whom I still keep in contact today. 

This year, I returned as a Staff Leader. I was hesitant to participate in FYSOP again – at the end of summer, when it came time to head back to Boston two weeks earlier than the rest of the school, I wanted to stay home with my parents. I had a rough spring semester, and I never wanted to leave home again. I was a phone call away from dropping out of FYSOP, but nevertheless, I packed my life into three large suitcases, hopped on my five-hour flight, and dragged my stuff into Warren Towers. 

From the moment we kicked off Staff Training, I felt at complete ease. Everyone with whom I came into contact was incredibly kind and open, and I found myself sitting with the other Staff Leaders on my floor in Warren ordering Dominos on the very first night. Never had it been so easy for me to talk to people. 

This trend continued for the rest of Staff Training and the week of FYSOP. Every individual participating in the Project was incredible kind, welcoming, and as eager to engage with the community as I was. I had never experienced such a positive, warm environment before. Every single person I met had an enormous impact on me and I found myself making more friends in those two weeks than I made my entire first semester of college.

Aside from the incredible staff and coordinators with whom I worked, I also learned an immense amount about Boston neighborhoods. My focus area focused on the MBTA Orange Line toward Forest Hills, which encompasses Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Hyde Park. I had never ventured into these local neighborhoods – hadn’t even heard of them, to be honest – as I had spent the majority of my freshman year on campus. But as we started to dive into the issues these communities face and began to head out to work with Community Partners in these neighborhoods, I became incredible invested in their stories.

 I am eternally grateful for my FYSOP 2017 experience. I had the opportunity to learn more about the Boston community and neighborhoods I had never explored during my freshman year. I got to interact with residents who share their city with the enormous college population and I got to learn about the issues they face. I got to meet incredible, passionate, genuine individuals who inspired me to work toward the best version of myself. I made strong friendships and bonds and welcomed First Year students to Boston University.

 Most of all, I learned about myself. I don’t mean to be narcissistic – after all, FYSOP is about working with and learning from others – but my personal growth was one of the most important aspects of my experience.

 I learned that I’m passionate about the community – and I enjoy myself most when I am interacting with others who are also passionate about the community. I learned that I spent the vast majority of my first 19 years worrying about what others thought about me, when in reality, being myself will bring me where I want to be. I learned that maybe I have more of a place at Boston University than I initially thought.

 Most importantly, I learned that being a Bostonian is an incredibly special privilege. The residents of this city welcome us college students into their home with open hearts, and it is our responsibility to give back to them and and the city we all call home.

 First Year Student Outreach Project 2017 was the experience of a lifetime, and I miss it immensely. But I know it will never be over.

 O-R-A-N-G-E, and that’s the way we take the T.

Carly: Black Mirror Episodes Ranked

Black Mirror: if you haven’t heard of it yet, you have now.

The British television series is a science-fiction anthology similar to The Twilight Zone in that each episode is a depiction of some sci-fi or dystopian society. With Black Mirror, each story provides a look at innovative technological devices that have enhanced society but at the same time become a tool for destruction.

Given that it is an anthology, each episode is a completely different story. That gives the audience the ability to pick and choose between different episodes rather than watching in order.

The stories are incredibly creative and diversity is plentiful. Episodes like the critically acclaimed “San Junipero” are more lighthearted, and tell a heartwarming tale of love. On the other hand, episodes like “White Bear,” are darker and touch on themes of vengeance and morality.

The underlying theme across the show is modern technology and the horrifying role it can ultimately play in our society. Some are merely entertaining, others are more gruesome. Some have deeper messages woven into their narratives and others just seem to enjoy the destruction. Below are a list of each episode ranked in order from worst to best, followed by their season and episode number.

13. The National Anthem (1.1)

12. The Waldo Moment (2.3)

11. Fifteen Million Merits (1.2)

10. Shut Up and Dance (3.3)

9. The Entire History of You (1.3)

8. White Christmas (2.4)

7. Be Right Back (2.1)

6. Nosedive (3.1)

5. Play Test (3.2)

4. White Bear (2.2)

3. Men Against Fire (3.5)

2. Hated in the Nation (3.6)

1. San Junipero (3.4)

Think these pictures give you a good idea of the journey on which you’re about to embark? You aren’t even close. And before you ask, yes that is Jon Hamm in “White Christmas” and Domhnall Gleeson in “Be Right Back.” Better get to it and hang on for dear life -- Black Mirror is a roller coaster of plot twists, innovative ideas, complex characters, and ominous predictions about our own future.

Carly: 5 Films Celebrating Big Anniversaries This Year

Upon returning home after my first semester of college, I could not help but look around my hometown and feel a sudden sense of lost time. I knew it was fairly common to feel this way, and I knew that most college students experience the same nostalgia as they enter the next stages of their lives. Nevertheless, it seemed as if my childhood had come and gone in a blur and that I was rapidly speeding toward adulthood without any ability to brake. Time flies -- especially when you are having fun during your first semester of college -- but we can easily find time leaving its marks not only on us but on the things we love around us. My favorite films, in particular, were getting old right along with me, as I soon realized. So if you are ever feeling old, you are not alone. These great films are celebrating some pretty astounding birthdays this year too.


Enchanted is not the best movie celebrating its 10th anniversary. 2007 also gave us Superbad, Juno, Zodiac, and, perhaps most notably, No Country For Old Men. But I start this list off with Enchanted simply for the sake of nostalgia. The film is a combination between animation and live-action and tells the tale of Giselle (Amy Adams), the happy-go-lucky soon-to-be princess of fantasy kingdom Andalasia. After getting pushed down a well by the evil witch Narissa (Susan Sarandon), Giselle finds herself in the bustling live-action world of New York City, where she meets and ultimately falls in love with Robert (Patrick Dempsey), a divorce lawyer and a single father. Trouble stirs in the city as the rest of Andalasia quickly comes after Giselle--first her fiancé prince, and then the witch Narissa, who sets a plan in motion to kill Giselle to make sure she never returns to Andalasia. Ultimately, Giselle is saved by true love’s kiss -- not from her prince, but rather from Robert, a regular guy surely does not belong in any fairytale. They end up living their "happily ever after" in the real world.

The movie/musical enthralled an entire generation of children--along with several adults--and I am sure many fondly recollect singing along with Amy Adams to her “How Do You Know” number in Central Park. 10 years later, the children who loved the film have mostly grown up, but if you watch the film again you will find that little has changed in Giselle and Robert’s love story.

Good Will Hunting

20 years ago, the world fell in love with Matt Damon in his debut role as Will Hunting, a self-taught genius whose intellect is rarely utilized as he spends his days drinking with pals and working as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Damon wrote the screenplay along with his childhood friend Ben Affleck, and the two took home the Oscar for Best Screenplay, solidifying their entry into the film industry. In the 20 years since the movie’s release, both Damon and Affleck have gone on to enjoy very successful careers. Robin Williams starred alongside Damon as Hunting’s therapist and mentor, Dr. Sean Maguire. As Hunting comes to learn, Sean struggles with his own inner demons, and as the film progresses the two help each other fight through the pain of their pasts. Williams won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The story takes place in our very own home of Boston, Mass. -- and I guarantee, if you watch it again, you will easily notice and appreciate the various locations within the city where the movie was shot.

If you watch this movie anytime soon, do so not only to enjoy your enlightened sense of Boston, or for a young Matt Damon, or for the nostalgia of Robin Williams, but also as a reminder that even today the message still holds true: we could always do with a little bit of help from others, and we are never alone.


Damon was not the only blond-haired beauty who had a successful year in 1997. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s Titanic, a masterpiece film that documented a fictional love story aboard the Titanic. DiCaprio plays a poor artist who falls in love with Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), a first-class passenger who is unsatisfied with her arranged engagement. As the two experience the trials of a love forbidden by a division in social classes, the tragedy

DiCaprio and Winslet shared an electric onscreen romance. Few can forget the classic scene they share at the helm of the ship, Jack holding Rose up against the wind to experience a feeling of liberation she rarely enjoys in her stifling upper class life.

Though it celebrates its 20th year of circulation, Titanic will most likely survive the tests of time and live on as a powerful love story that will consistently pierce the hearts (and activate the tear ducts) of future audiences.

Star Wars

40 years ago, the very first Star Wars film was released, launching a film franchise that endures and captivates audiences still today. The original Star Wars, what would ultimately become Episode IV: A New Hope, introduced the world to the Rebel Alliance, a revolutionary force attempting to take down the evil Empire that ruled the galaxy. Rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hides the plans to destroy the the Empire's massive space station of destruction, the Death Star, inside droids that ultimately end up in the hands of ordinary farmer boy Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). When Luke discovers Princess Leia’s message, he is led to ancient Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guiness), where he learns of the history of Jedi Knights, the powerful, supernatural energy known as the Force, and the fate of his own father, Anakin, who fought alongside Obi-Wan as a Jedi. Skywalker’s life is then changed forever as the Force calls him back to fulfill his destiny of helping the Rebels. The three movies provide audiences with an eclectic cast of well-loved characters and an adventure tale that will last for ages to come.

After a trilogy of prequels in the 90s, the franchise came back to life in 2015 with The Force Awakens, a sequel that will last two additional episodes. In 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a film that serves as a link between Episodes I, II, and III and Episodes IV, V, and VI, was also released. Star Wars shocked audiences way back in 1977, and it still enthralls first-time viewers today. The original trilogy is a classic tale of good and evil, heroism, bravery, rebellion, and love, and it is a hard story to beat.

On December 27, Carrie Fisher passed away, sending the world into a state of mourning with another tragic 2016 loss. Her charisma and talent will be greatly missed.

The Graduate

And finally, in its 50th year, The Graduate reminds us that the future is never very far away -- and it never ceases to evoke the same sense of distress within all of us. A very young (and very attractive) Dustin Hoffman stars as Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who engages in an affair with Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father’s law partner, over the summer as he avoids thinking about graduate school or future career plans. Ben ultimately ends the affair when he ends up falling for Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), who returns to school in Berkeley when she learns of the affair. A desperate Ben follows her to Berkeley, where he learns that Mrs. Robinson convinced her family that the affair was the not consensual and Ben had seduced her while she was drunk. When Ben tries to explain the truth to Elaine, Mrs. Robinson pulls her out of school, brings her home, and rushes her to marry a college fling. Ben races home and makes it to the wedding just in time to interrupt the service by crying out for Elaine behind the glass doors at the back. After a moment of hesitation, Elaine returns his cries and flees the church with him, escaping the clutches of her mother and hopping aboard a bus outside with Ben. The two collapse at the back of bus, grinning from ear to ear and elated about their success.

The Graduate is notably remembered for its final few shots -- the smiles fading from Ben and Elaine’s faces as the uncertainty of the future settles in. By capturing the few moments that come just after their “happily ever after” celebration, the film reflects the quandary that develops when the story goes on and life keeps moving. With a marvelous Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack, The Graduate is a film that all recent and upcoming college grads should watch or rewatch this year.