Surprise, I’m Home!


As spring break was quickly approaching, my mind filled with the thought of rest and relaxation for 9 days straight. Finally, time to lay around and do nothing, because I had no stressful obligations holding me back. Except for one important factor: I would be stranded alone in Orlando for that time.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking, being in Florida for spring break sounds like a dream. And I agree, I love everything about this wacky state, and the sunshine and warm weather is nothing but perfection. yet as I was gathering my thoughts about how I would spend the week, I realized I had no car, no money, and no friends in town to hang out with. That simple math told me I’d be spending the week in my apartment, and that just didn’t sound appealing.

So I stealthily checked my bank account and my family’s schedules for that week and booked a flight home to Pittsburgh to surprise everyone. My mom was in on it, of course, because I couldn’t figure out how to pull it off alone. But for three weeks, I secretly made plans and packed my bags for the winter weather, and before I knew it I was home.

Now let me just take this moment to advise you never to leave sunny and warm Florida, for windy and cold Pittsburgh between the months of October-April. It was a culture shock, and my body was not prepared. But as soon as the weather started to numb me, I was able to warm up from hugs from surprised loved ones.

Crosby came first. I hadn’t seen my favorite pup since July, so eight months of belly rubs and cuddles came flooding back as he excitedly jumped all over me. One of the hardest things about college is being away from the puppy love that kept me sane growing up.


After that, my sister walked in the door, completely dumbfounded by the fact that I was not 800 miles, as she expected. Not sure if that was a positive or a negative surprise for her, but none the less, I was back home stealing her stuff and eating her food.

A few hours later my dad came home and stopped immediately in his tracks. I think he was speechless, but I don’t want to flatter myself. He wasn’t planning on seeing me until this coming September, so I knew I caught him off guard in the best way possible.

Later in the week, I was able to surprise all of my grandparents, and none of them were expecting to see me. It’s not always the easiest to stay in contact with them, but I know they were excited to see me.

Despite the frigid weather, this trip was worth it just to see the look on my families faces. Although I don’t plan on coming back to Pittsburgh until the weather hits at least 65 degrees, I am glad I was able to make it home this spring break and make the most out of my time off from school.


Magic is Universal


So in case you haven’t heard, Walt Disney World isn’t the only magical place here in Orlando. Although I like to believe UCF is the most enchanting place in this city, I’m sure plenty beg to differ. Yet there’s a happy medium between the two, and that’s where Universal Orlando Resort falls. I moved to the city of vacations, so of course I had to experience all of the exciting things to do here!

This past Saturday, I was able to go to Universal for the first time in quite a while. As Disney’s competitor, I feel like UO often falls by the wayside, but after my visit there this past week, I can confirm that it has jumped to a number one spot in my heart.


Deep down, I’m a thrill seeker, and as we all know, Disney’s strong end is not with their intense attractions. So Universal is an amazing change of pace in all of the right ways. We started the day off strong with all of my favorites, Rip, Ride, RockIt and Revenge of the Mummy (which is arguably the best ride crafted in any amusement park ever). It was so much fun riding real rollercoasters again, and we had express passes, so no waiting in line for us!

We then explored Universal Studios for a while, which is my preferred park over Islands of Adventure. I hadn’t been to this park since summer of 2015, so it was great getting to re-experience everything that I’ve missed in the past couple of years.

We of course then had to head into Diagon Alley to geek out over all things Harry Potter, before hopping on the Hogwarts Express over to IoA. This was my first trip without a drink of Butterbeer, but I substituted the beverage for Butterbeer soft serve ice cream instead, and honestly I think it might be better.

We then ran through Platform 9 3/4 so we could travel over to Hogsmeade at the other park. It was Emily’s first time experiencing all of this, and I can promise the magic was real.

After running around as witches and wizards for a few hours, it was time to revert back to our muggle selves and check out the rest of the park.

Suess Landing quickly became one of my favorite areas, filled with bright colors and whimsical atmosphere. I was able to run around like a child, and my worries disappeared.

The last item on our bucket list for the day was to ride The Incredible Hulk Coaster, which is always a crowd pleaser. In previous visits, I’ve always preferred the now extinct Dragon Challenge Coaster over The Hulk, but this trip made me fall in love with it. Maybe because I no longer had anything to compare it too? Or maybe because I didn’t get a migraine from being tossed around too much. Either way, I’m super excited that I now love it.

We pretty much finished up our time at IoA after that, because we will be back next month for Universal Knights. So we headed back to the Hogwarts Express to take us home to Universal Studios for the remainder of our night.

We grabbed some tacos and enjoyed the streetmosphere of the Mardi Gras parade before heading on our favorite rides one last time. You always need to end where you started, so we finished our day off with another ride on Rip Ride RockIt, and this time I was front car.

This day was beyond fun, and made me fall in love with the atmosphere of Universal so much. I have always really enjoyed the park, but Disney was my main priority when it came to Orlando attractions. Yet after this visit, I know I’m going to be longing to go back. UO annual passholder in the future? Or fingers crossed that I’ll become a team member at some point before I graduate. Regardless, I’m so happy I was able to make amazing memories, and discover that magic really is universal.