I made it! About a week and a half ago I graduated from the University of Maine with a Bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition. It was pretty surreal because it feels like just yesterday I was a timid, overwhelmed freshman who had never even experienced winter. If you recently graduated, too, I bet you can relate to the extremely bittersweet feeling – I was ecstatic to have done the damn thing, but saying goodbye to all my friends and the life I created for myself in Maine was so hard and involved a lot of tears. Or, maybe you aren’t like me and you were completely ready to be done with college? I just feel like Orono, Maine, has such a special place in my heart because I grew so much while I was there – being 1,500 miles away from home constantly forced me out of my comfort zone and gave me experiences that going to school in Florida wouldn’t have, and it helped me grow. My high school self wouldn’t recognize my current self – in a good way.
The week of graduation was beyond stressful because my emotions were all over the place. That mixed with some alcohol (okay, a lot) and lack of sleep (I just had to go out with my friends as much as possible before grad!) heightened my huge mix of emotions. Let’s just say I was breaking down at random times during the week because the reality of having to leave my friends was hitting me hard. The night after graduation, I had to say my goodbyes and get ready to road trip back home to Florida, and I was an absolute mess. Then after a few days of getting enough sleep and not drinking, I was still feeling sad and already nostalgic, but I also started to have a new frame of mind – I realized that it’s very exciting to be moving on and starting the next part of my life! I realize that college is one of the best times of our lives, but it is still just college. There are bigger and better things coming. If you’re a recent college grad, too, I hope you’re doing okay with the transition to real life!
Two days after graduation, my online Master’s of Public Health courses started through the University of South Florida. Nice break from school, right?? As much as I didn’t want to jump right into grad school, I also realized how thankful I am for the opportunity to continue my education and set myself up to be the best registered dietitian I can be. Anyone else getting going right away with grad school?
Anyway, the day after graduation, with my Nissan Sentra packed to the brim, my family and I started the 1,500 mile road trip back to my hometown in Florida. But, part of my graduation present was that we would meet up with some family who live in New Hampshire and stop in Portland, Maine, for the night so that we could go to a nice celebratory dinner at Fore Street, arguably the best restaurant in Maine. It was unbelievable – every dish was made with local ingredients, and it was great to catch up with my some extended family I hadn’t seen in months.
The next day, I said bye to my mom and sister who were flying back to Florida (they couldn’t take as much time off as my Dad could), and my dad and I hit the road. However, instead of splitting up the 25-hour drive into a couple days, we had planned on making a fun vacation out of it. We could’ve made it home in about two days, but we made it a five-day trip with lots of stops – Boston, Philadelphia, Virginia Beach, and Charleston, South Carolina. Here’s a little recap of some of the cool things we did/saw and some of my favorite eats on the trip!
I hadn’t been to Boston for a while, so it was so fun to explore the city again before I left New England! My dad and I arrived right around lunch time, so we found a parking garage and then walked along Boylston Street to find a place to eat. We decided on Tatte Bakery and Café – I’ve been there before and wanted my dad to try it! I had the kale, cashew & chicken salad and my dad had the prosciutto & fig panini – both were stellar. And, it was so nice to eat outside on the cute patio right in the middle of downtown. After we finished lunch, we walked around downtown all afternoon and hit the best spots – Boston Commons, Copley Square, the Boston Public Market, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Marketplace, and the North End. The weather was sunny, warm and absolutely perfect, especially since we were coming from Maine where it was still pretty chilly and windy, unfortunately.
For dinner, we went to Eventide Oyster Co., and I had lobster stew and a pickled vegetable salad. The stew had massive chunks of fresh lobster – I was very happy to get my lobster fix since I was going to be leaving New England indefinitely the next day. The highlight of the day was definitely going to my first Red Sox game that night. Fenway is such a cool, picturesque stadium, and the atmosphere was incomparable. It was so awesome finally getting to experience it!
The next day, we faced the horrific NYC traffic and made the six-hour trek to Philly. I had never been there before, so it was interesting to see a new place! We explored downtown and went to Independence Hall and saw the Liberty Bell.
For dinner, we decided to go to the Reading Terminal Market – it’s basically a giant food court and marketplace with every type of food imaginable. We had a hard time deciding because it all looked so good, but we settled on pastrami sandwiches from a place called Hershel’s East Side Deli. Probably the best sandwich I’ve ever had – pastrami, coleslaw, Russian dressing, and Swiss cheese on rye bread. It was massive, so I ate half and saved the rest for breakfast on the road the next day (weird breakfast, I know, but it was actually even better the next day!). For dessert we hit up this bakery in the market and split a chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookie that was amazing and a cream cheese brown
ie that was average. We then walked around downtown a little more and then headed back to our hotel – we were both pretty tired after a long day.
We left Philly early in the morning and drove a few hours to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We took this route because we wanted to avoid Washington, D.C. traffic at all costs. We both
had never been to Delaware, let alone the beach in Delaware, so it was cool to see a new place. What I thought of it: very touristy and probably considered a pretty nice beach if you live in the area, but since I’ve been spoiled with nice Florida beaches all my life, it seemed very meh!
After our little stop, we hit the road again and drove to Virginia Beach, another place my dad and I both had never seen before and were curious to check out. When we arrived, the reality of grad school hit me, and I had to spend a few hours in the hotel gathering my bearings and starting on some preliminary work for the three classes I’ll be taking this summer. It would’ve been nice to explore the area more, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. When I was done with my work, we briefly checked out the beach (it was a lot nicer than the Delaware beaches) and then went to a casual dinner.
Charleston, South Carolina
We left Virginia Beach early in the morning and drove 7 ½ hours to Charleston, South Carolina, the last stop on the trip. I was really looking forward to this one because Charleston had been on my list of places to visit for a while! It was so cute and quaint, and it has a ton of Southern history. For dinner we went to Rodney Scott’s BBQ, whose chef was just recently named a James Beard Award winner for best chef in the southeast United States. My dad and I both got the exact same thing: pulled pork, ribs, collard greens, and mac and cheese. This is very weird for me to say because I am definitely a meat person, but the collard greens were actually the star – they were by far the best I’ve ever had and were so flavorful. The mac and cheese was kind of dry and lacking flavor, and the pulled pork and ribs were solid. But, I was honestly not a huge fan of the Carolina-style bbq sauce – it was a bit too vinegar-y for my liking. Overall, it was really good, though! We then walked around downtown Charleston – there were so many old historic homes and buildings that made you feel like you were being taken back in time. There was also a lot of good shopping and other cool looking restaurants – I wish we had been staying longer so I could’ve checked out the town more!
For dessert, we went to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, and it did not disappoint. It’s a pretty unique ice cream shop because they use milk from grass-fed cows, focus on using good quality ingredients, and have such different flavors! After lots of samples because I can be super indecisive, I settled on a scoop of Gooey Butter Cake and a scoop of Brambleberry Crisp in a waffle cone. My favorite was the Gooey Butter Cake – cream cheese ice cream layered with crumbles of homemade vanilla cake and swirls of caramel-butterscotch sauce. The Brambleberry crisp, basically like blueberry crisp, was a close second, though. Exhausted after a long few days of driving, we then headed back to the hotel to watch some playoff hockey (go Bolts) and get ready for the final leg of the trip tomorrow.
The next day we drove 7 hours from Charleston to Tampa, Florida, and I moved back in! The next few months I will be adjusting to life back home and working hard on my online Master’s classes before my dietetic internship starts in early August. In about two years I should be a registered dietitian with a completed Master’s of Public Health. Life is getting going! It’s pretty weird being back home again and it’s going to take a lot of getting used to, but I know that there are a lot of exciting things to come. If you just recently graduated from college, too, I hope that you’re excited for what’s to come and are ready to start a new chapter in your life!
Thanks for reading! <3