January 15, 2020 – Bienvenue à Paris (OOTD #596)

Finalement, je suis ici à Paris! 

It’s hard to believe that I finally made it here to Paris. It’s been a whole year since I first committed to study abroad at Sciences Po Paris for a semester, and it’s been over a year since I first submitted my application. My arrival in Paris has been a long time coming.

It almost didn’t happen either. My last blog post, I wrote about going to the Chicago visa office to submit the last of my paperwork. I thought that was going to be the end of it — I’d hand it my papers at the office, and then they would issue me my visa right there. I was deeply wrong. As it turns out, after I handed in my papers, I had to hand in my passport as well, leave it with in Chicago so they could send it all the way to Washington DC, and then, finally, they would send it back.

You can imagine how anxious I was as my flight departure date grew nearer and I still didn’t have my passport back from the DC visa office. I braced myself to have to reschedule my flight, potentially missing the Sciences Po Welcome Programme in the fallout.

I got lucky though — my passport, with my visa attached inside, arrived literally one day before my departure. A word of advice, though, if you’re going to be studying abroad in France and don’t want to deal with the stress of waiting for you passport to be returned to you via snail mail — do your visa appointment early! Don’t wait until the last second like I did.

Believe it or not, this is actually my first time in Paris. I feel like almost everyone (at least, those of my friends who had to go on international family vacations when they were kids) has been to Paris. It isn’t the number one tourist destination in the world for nothing.

My first few days in Paris were relatively uneventful. The grève, or strike, against the retirement pension reforms was still going on, so the RER and several métro lines were down, making getting from CDG Aéroport to my apartment in the 14e arrondissement more difficult that I had anticipated it being. In the end, rather than braving a taxi or a bus, I called a car service to pick me up and drive me to my apartment. It was perhaps the less “authentic” choice, but it got me where I needed to be.

After arriving at my apartment, I spent a good chunk of the day asleep. I was hardly able to sleep on the plane, despite my attempts, and so I was exhausted when I arrived. Unfortunately, since I arrived in the morning (7am to be exact), I still had a full day ahead of me to try to stay awake — a task that I admittedly didn’t do amazingly at.

When I was finally able to stay awake for more than five minutes at a time, I decided to take the bus into the city to walk around a little, as well as to get some paperwork from my landlord’s office. Completely unintentionally, as I was wandering around, I ended up bumping into the Eiffel Tower.

I still think la tour Eiffel looks a little like an overhyped telephone pole, but don’t tell the French I said that about their most iconic architectural structure. I’m sure it’s gorgeous at night when it’s all sparkling and lit up, and I’m sure it offers a beautiful view of the city if you go to the top. During the day, though, when viewed as a spectator from the ground, I think the romanticized idea of the Eiffel Tower is cooler than the reality.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester abroad in the Paris, France. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: Thrift (Goodwill)

Turtleneck: Express

Jeans: Hollister

January 2, 2020 – The Chicago Sun (OOTD #595)

I don’t care what anyone says; the sun feels the best in the winter in the Midwest.

I’m sure the sun is lovely in California. I’m sure it’s wonderful to live in a state where it never dips below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, where you see the sun every day no matter what the season. I’m sure the sun is lovely elsewhere too. But in the Midwest in the winter — in places like South Bend, Indiana or Chicago, Illinois — where you can go the entirety of December through April without once seeing a ray of sunshine, it hits a little different. The sun is special there; it’s sacred.

When I hopped onto the plane in the wee hours of the morning on one of the first days of 2020 to head to the French visa office in Chicago, I braced myself for the worst. I expected winds, snow, ice — maybe hail. I may not have been in the Midwest since the first half of 2019,  but believe me, I remember how winter there works. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget how winter there works.

So imagine my surprise when it was actually…kind of nice out? Arguably even nicer than Kentucky had been during the same time?

I mean, I still needed my coat and scarf. I definitely didn’t regret bringing those. But as winter days in Chicago go, it was about as beautiful as it could be. For starters, the sun was out — and the sun is never out in that part of the country during that time of year. The permacloud life is real.

And not only was the weather beautiful, but my father and I got to spend nice day together in the city. I had my visa appointment in the morning, which went fairly smoothly, and after it was done, we were free to enjoy ourselves until our flight back to Lexington at 9pm at night.

I’ve been to Chicago several times, so I know most of what it has to offer, but every time, I feel like I discover something new. For example, I realized during this trip that I’d never even seen the Chicago River before. I’ve also never been to the Lincoln Park Zoo (that I remember — apparently I went once as a kid, but since I don’t remember it, I don’t count it). The more I go to Chicago, the more I learn to like it; my appreciation for it is growing.

The accent still kills me though. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get over the way they all talk through their nose. They do know that they can pronounce words using their chest and throat, right? It’s Chi-augh-go, not Chi-cah-go. 

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this winter break in the States. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Coat: Thrifted (Goodwill)

Sweater: H&M

Turtleneck: Amazon

Jeans: Altar’d State

December 6, 2019 – Farewell, DC (OOTD #588)

My semester in DC felt like my shortest semester of university yet.

To be fair, I think it literally was — because it was administered through the University of California and not Notre Dame, my schedule turned out a little differently than a regular ND semester, and I wound up finishing classes and my internship about two weeks before everyone back on campus.

But the actual timing aside, in terms of personal lived experience, this semester just flew by, especially the second half. I’ve discussed this a little already, but after my 21st birthday weekend, the whole semester really picked up, and things improved exponentially. The first half of the semester, from September to October, was kind of a drag. It was hot and miserable and I felt like I hadn’t made any good friends to do things with. Then, come mid-late October, the weather cooled down, I finished up my domestic violence liaison trainings at the MPD that had been taking up several hours each week, and I finally established a solid group of friends. After that, everything turned around.

I think each weekend after my 21st birthday, I had something fun to do — the following weekend, Jane visited, then Mariana visited, then it was Thanksgiving, then the semester was over. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun.

The Friday of my last day of work and my last day of the semester, my friends and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner to celebrate the end of it all. In preparation for my upcoming semester in Paris, I chose a French restaurant called Le Diplomate. Then, we headed to the Smithsonian National Zoo for their Christmas lights show.

The zoo was one of the sites in DC that I had wanted to visit all semester, but that I hadn’t gotten around to. And in an almost poetic manner, when I finally did visit, it was my last night in DC.

It was a nice way to say goodbye to the city. I got to spend time with my friends, enjoy the lights, and relax knowing that all of my work for the semester was done. Even though it was a short semester, it was a productive one. It was my first time working a full-time politics-related job, my first time living in an apartment, my first time cooking for myself every day, and my first time living in a real American city. I know what I experienced in DC wasn’t full-blown independent adult life — I still had the help of my family and university to support me —  but I think it was the closest I’d been up until that point.

And you know what? I think I did an okay job.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Cape: Vintage (thrifted, Street Scene Vintage)

Blouse: A boutique at a mall in Kathmandu, Nepal

Skirt: Abercrombie

December 2, 2019 – Legally Blonde (OOTD #587)

I guess dreams really do come true, sometimes.

Attending a session of Supreme Court oral arguments has always been on my bucket list. I attribute it to the Schoolhouse Rock song about the three branches of US government, “Three Ring Government.”  I had a DVD box set of all of the old School House Rock songs, and that, along with “No More Kings” and “Telegraph Line,” (and probably a dozen more songs whose titles I can’t remember right now), I would play on repeat. This was before I had YouTube or Spotify — or even an iPod or MP3 player — so the only way I could listen to the songs was by playing the DVDs on my big square television in my room.

Just describing that makes me feel old. I know I’m not even that old, but the fact that I am now able to describe how life “used to be” makes me feel like my parents.

Anyway, I attribute my early interest in politics and government (and to a slightly lesser extent, US history) to Schoolhouse Rock. I loved that box set — in fact, I bet I still have it in a drawer somewhere in my parents’ house. I got a weird sense of superiority from knowing the three branches of government and basic early US history before all of my other classmates. I was never one to raise my hand much in class, but just knowing that I knew how the balance of power at the federal level worked while other kids didn’t made me feel special.

That’s not to say those feelings of superiority were good feelings, or that I still have them. But they did inspire me to take more interest in government and politics — an interest that died off in middle and high school and was really only renewed after the 2016 election. And just as importantly, they inspired me to consider a career in law for the first time.

I never dreamt of being president — I’m not a natural born citizen, so that’s never been an option for me. I did take some smug satisfaction from telling adults who tried to be inspiring with that even YOU could become President one day propaganda that I literally could not due to centuries-old irrelevant laws, but that’s beside the point. What I did dream of becoming was a Supreme Court Justice.

And no — the dream I referenced in the opening sentence of this blog that came true was not becoming a Supreme Court Justice (yet) — it was simply getting to visit the Supreme Court and observe oral arguments. I had visited the building earlier in the semester for a tour, but the season hadn’t yet begun, so we didn’t get to watch a case unfold.

My friend, Joanna, and I got there at 6AM for doors that weren’t due to open until 10AM. By the time we had gotten there, there was already a line snaking halfway down the street. From our online research, we’d found that they typically only allow in around 50-60 people; from a preliminary headcount, we were in spaces 55 and 56.

We had a mini-panic attack around 8 or 9am when they let in the first round of people to get out of the cold, and they cut off at fives spaces ahead of us — at number 50 exactly. We knew the number of people they let in each session varied, but we were afraid that maybe they would just cut it off at 50, and we were going to have been literally a few people away from being let in. We decided to stick it out though, hoping that they would let more people in just before 10am.

Turns out, they did. There was some speculation for that first case we went to hear (New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs the City of New York) might end up being a landmark 2nd amendment ruling. Though it became fairly clear that, due to the law that was up for debate being revoked before the appeal made it to the Supreme Court, there’d be no guns rights showdown like some people hoped, I still think they knew it would be a case that a lot of people would want to hear, so perhaps that’s why we got in even after the first round cutoff.

Despite the fact that the case didn’t end up being a big deal in the gun control vs. gun rights debate (protesters showed up anyway — some with free coffee, which Joanna and I much appreciated after standing outside for four hours) it was still fun to watch. I’ll admit, I was a little starstruck seeing the Justices in person, even from the very back of the room. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the chamber, but even if I could, you’d probably only be able to see a blurry image of RBG scowling and Clarence Thomas slumping in his seat, bored out of his mind.

The second case — something about copyright law — was less exciting. Justice Thomas and I definitely nodded off a few times.

I’m so glad I got to go though. Getting no sleep the night before, waiting outside for four hours, panicking when we thought we had just missed the cutoff, and then going to work after it all for three hours in the afternoon — it was all worth it, in my opinion. Honestly, it was possibly one of my favorite things I did the whole DC semester.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: Banana Republic

Blouse: Banana Republic

Sweater: Aeropostale

Trousers: The LOFT

November 27, 2019 – Familiar Faces (OOTD #586)

The day before Thanksgiving, I asked off from work so that my good friend, Mariana, could visit me in DC.

View this post on Instagram

i failed geography

A post shared by Meilin || L'ensemble du jour (@lensembledujour) on

Brookings’ Thanksgiving holiday was only Thursday through Friday, but no one was going to be in on Wednesday anyway, so I simply took off. As it turned out, my roommate from freshman and sophomore year, Mariana, was going to be driving into Baltimore for the holiday, and she offered to meet me for a day in DC before she headed the rest of the way home.

Just as was the case when Jane came and visited a few weeks previous, it was so refreshing to see a friendly face from somewhere other than the DC  cohort. Don’t get me wrong, by late November, I was really starting to feel comfortable with my group of friends and beginning to really enjoy life in the city. But even the friends I did make I had really only known for about two months; in comparison, Mariana I’ve known for two years and Jane I’ve known for nine.

Mariana, like me, is a big fan of plants, so naturally I had to take her to the Smithsonian Botanic Garden. It was my second time there (the first time being with Jane), but it was still just as magical. It’s maybe not quite as spectacular as the University of Copenhagen Botanic Gardens that I saw with Anna over the summer (that one had butterflies), but I loved it all the same.img_1388

Afterwards, we wandered around the National Mall a bit, got lunch at a vegan restaurant, visited a small Christmas market (nothing compared to the one in Munich, but still very cute), and then decided to visit the National Portrait Gallery, something that had been on my bucket list since day one.

And I’m glad I went! I love portraiture; I think in another life, I would have wanted to be a portrait artist for 19th century aristocracy and have exhibitions at art salons and hang around and drink wine and smoke all day. People have always been my favorite subjects to draw. I was a touch disappointed that they didn’t have all of the official Presidential portraits (I guess they hang in all different places — some are in the Presidential Libraries, some are in the White House, etc.), but it was a really neat place anyway.

img_1398

My favorite’s is Jimmy Carter’s — one look and you can tell that it’s from the late 70s. The beige aesthetic paired with the retro gadgets on his desk (I think it’s a pager? Or an intercom?) immediately gives it away. But rather than looking tacky or dated, it looks vintage and cool. If I’m ever President, my portrait had better be as cool as his.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Turtleneck: Express

Skirt: Forever21

Jacket: Forever21

 

November 23, 2019 – Rainy Days (OOTD #585)

Apparently, even a light drizzle can make your photos blurry.

I took my phone out onto the terrace to take some pictures of my outfit, and I realized that it was raining. Not a real rain, not a downpour — just a flight mist that makes the air feel wet. Whatever, I thought to myself as I set my phone up on a lawn chair and prepared to take pictures of my outfit, my phone is waterproof now and it’s not even rainy enough for my hair to really get wet. 

Turns out I shouldn’t have been quite so flippant, I guess. The drizzle kept getting on my camera lens no matter how much I wiped it off, making this whole set of photos slightly blurry. Don’t worry, I didn’t have any issues beyond blurry photos (no water damage, thank goodness — I’d had enough issues with breaking my laptop and losing my glasses in that same week), but I was a touch annoyed that I couldn’t get anything better than these. This was a cute outfit.

I’ve taken to wearing this coat more and more often on days when it’s chilly but not freezing out — I think it’s become my new favorite mid-weight jacket. I bought it this summer while in Budapest, but it wasn’t until this fall that it actually started getting wear. I love it so much — it makes me feel like a whimsical 18th century pirate or maybe a French revolutionary. And I get compliments whenever I wear it. I think it dresses up just about every outfit I pair it with. It sure beats the ratty white coat I used to wear all the time back in fall semester freshman year. I wonder whatever happened to that?

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: A vintage shop in Budapest

Sweater: Forever21

Skirt: Forever21

 

November 22, 2019 – Drunken Noodles (OOTD #584)

At about T-minus two weeks before the end of the semester, my friends and I made a pact to try to sample as many DC restaurants as possible.

We’d been making money from our internships all semester and saving up our stipends, and we realized that we had enough leftover to splurge on some nice meals. None of us were from big cities; we weren’t used to living around a huge variety of food in walking  distance, and so we wanted to take advantage of it before we had to leave.

I’ve described this a bit before, but it seems that when you live in a city (as opposed to just visiting it as a tourist), it’s harder to convince yourself to go out and see things or eat out. When you live there, you’re focused on just living — going to work or school or whatever. Most nights, I’d just come home and eat some ramen that I boiled in a pot with some chopped green onion. I had the ability to go out to eat all semester, but I almost never did.

Hence the pact to try as many restaurants as possible before I left. Obviously, I couldn’t go out every night (I had class from 6:30-9:30 every Tuesday and Thursday, which complicated things), but on the nights that I could, I’d do a quick Google search for restaurants and pick the first one that interested me.

I imagine that’s what being rich is like — just finding some recommendations on TripAdvisor and then going for it. How much longer until I get to do that every day?

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: Ann Taylor (thrift, Clothes Mentor)

Blouse: Abercrombie

Skirt: J. Crew (thrift, Clothes Mentor)

 

November 21, 2019 – Last Seen (OOTD #583)

Two items of mine made their final appearance on November 21 before being lost forever — these glasses and my MacBook Pro.

That’s actually not quite an accurate statement in regards to the glasses. Their actual last appearance before I lost them forever was Monday, November 25. I don’t have any pictures of myself while wearing them after November 21, though, so I’m lumping them in with the laptop’s disappearance date.

The laptop was dead for about a week before I caved and brought it to the Apple Store. On Saturday, November 16, I took it with me to a café to do some studying with friends, where I ordered a “deconstructed sushi roll bowl.” It was rather tasty — so much so, that I decided to put the leftover bowl in my bag.

That was my fatal mistake. When I opened my bag later that day, I realized that the soy sauce from the bowl had leaked out over everything — including my laptop. I then made a second fatal mistake — trying to turn it on.

Rather than letting it rest to dry out, I immediately tried to turn it on. And it did, for about ten minutes. Then the screen went black, and it never came back.

I gave it a few days, but it became increasingly clear that it was toast. In defeat, I brought it to the Apple Store in Carnegie Library to send off for repairs, which is actually where some of these photos were taken. The rest were taken nearby with CityCenterDC’s Christmas trees.

As for the glasses, I didn’t lose those until a few days later — and even then, I didn’t realize they were missing for a few more days still. This is their last photographic appearance. More on that later.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: Forever21

Sweater: Thrifted (Goodwill)

Trousers: Express

November 19, 2019 – Coffee Breaks (OOTD #582)

Starting around early November, I became a coffee break person.

I think it stemmed from the way that starting around early November, I became a fun person again. Once I became more comfortable in the city and with my internship at Brookings, I became more willing to explore the city on my own, and so I started spending more time checking out different coffee shops.

I actually became friends with two of the girls I met in DC through coffee shop outings — I think every weekend starting in early November, we’d choose a random new coffee shop to visit for the afternoon to study. Since I was getting paid, I didn’t mind the expense of buying coffee so much, and it felt really good to get away from my stuffy windowless apartment and my cubicle at work.

I think my favorite coffee shop in DC was Tryst, in the Adams Morgan area. I’ll admit, I didn’t go terribly often because it was about a 30 minute walk away and there were no metro lines that ran in that direction, but the two times I did go, I loved it. And the thing was, the coffee and the food weren’t even necessarily all that spectacular. What I loved was the atmosphere. It was open late (1AM on weekends) and located in an area with a lot of bars, so you’d get all sorts of colorful people coming in that you could watch while you worked. They didn’t have Wifi on the weekends (boo), but if I used my mobile hotspot, I was fine.

The other two places I really liked were The Coffee Bar, which was in walking distance of my workplace, and Pitango Gelato, also in Adams Morgan. The Coffee Bar had one of the best iced lattés I’ve ever had (seriously — it was life-changing), and Pitango Gelato had an amazing leek soup (didn’t end up trying the gelato though, so I can’t speak to that).

I think trying different coffee shops ended up being my favorite part about living in DC for the semester. I don’t know, I don’t tend to do a lot of restaurant exploration when I’m traveling otherwise — especially if I don’t speak the language of the country I’m in — and so it was nice being in a city in the US were I was completely comfortable just walking into any random café or restaurant by myself. It was also nice because I didn’t have to go by myself since my friends and I made it into a weekly thing. It made me feel more like someone who actually lived there rather than just a visitor.

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: The LOFT (thrift, Clothes Mentor)

Dress: The LOFT (thrift, Clothes Mentor)

November 18, 2019 – Can’t Somebody Open Up A Window? (OOTD #581)

The best part of the Brookings Library was that I could open the windows.

I didn’t realize until after I’d lived in an apartment with limited natural light and un-openable windows for three months that I really value the ability to get fresh air indoors.   In my entire apartment building, which I don’t believe had been updated since 1990 when it was built by the University of California, I don’t think there was one openable window.

At first, I hardly noticed — it’s not like I open every window I come across. And for weeks, it was too hot in DC to want to let any hot air in at all.

But think about it — when you do want to open a window, however rarely that may be, you really want to open it. Maybe you burned something in the kitchen and you want to let the smoke out before it sets the alarm off. Maybe your neighbor’s plumbing overflowed and you currently have sewage seeping into your living room carpet (that actually happened to me and my roommate twice). Or maybe you’re just feeling bothered and anxious and you know that some fresh air would make you feel better. Not being able to open a window in any of those situations ends up being quite a nuisance.

So I couldn’t open the windows in my apartment, and I couldn’t open the windows in any of the student lounges or study spaces (not that most of them even had windows), and there were no windows to be found in the cubicle where I worked. Thus, when I found that I could open the windows of the Brookings Library, I knew I had found my favorite study space.

I say that, but funnily enough, this is actually my last blog post from the Brookings Library — or Brookings itself. I still had about three more weeks of my internship to go, but I sort-of ran out of locations to use for backgrounds, and so I saw no need to continue taking pictures there. Besides, I started going out more and doing things outside of work and school. Who needs to open up a window to let fresh air in when you can walk out the door and into the fresh air itself?

That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, BloglovinTwitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at lensembledujour@gmail.com!


Jacket: Thrift (Goodwill)

Sweater: Thrift (Goodwill)

Trousers: Banana Republic Sloan