Tips & Tricks: Scheduling Your Classes

How is it possible that it’s already July?! Summer usually seems to fly by but none as fast as the summer before your freshman year of college. I remember feeling like so much had to still be done even the week of move-in; but everything works out and I promise, you’re more prepared than you’re giving yourself credit for.

Sooo let’s just take it one day at a time! If your school is like mine, this month is around when you would be scheduling your classes. At Michigan State University we get to schedule ours during orientation, the first time you have some assistance from students working at the program, but every other time it’s completely on your own. Of course you can receive guidance from your counselors with specific questions to keep you on track to graduation, but there are a few things to keep in mind when scheduling for the first time.

Some students go into scheduling thinking that they should take advantage of their new freedom and spread their classes out so they have large blocks of free time between each. I found it to be much more effective if my classes were for the most part, back to back. The likeliness that I would use an hour or two between class to study rather than sit on social media isn’t extremely high..soo knocking my classes out right away left the afternoons dedicated to studying.

The above being said; distance needs to be factored in as well. Michigan State has a very large campus, getting to class isn’t always going to be a five minute walk. Take this into consideration when deciding on your classes. Have a campus map near by while scheduling – would it be easiest to take the bus, walk or bike? I found myself using my bike more than anything and even made 20 minutes between classes doable.

Time; are you more productive earlier in the day or later in the afternoon? Having class in the morning gets you up and going, starts your day off at a good time to use the maximum amount of hours (which still somehow there never seems to be enough of in a day). But, maybe not too early; if you think you’d be more focused in class if they began in the afternoon, the beauty is you can do your best to pick that too. Keep in mind though, some classes are only offered at certain times – you can’t win them all, but you can try 😉 Personally I have found that I do my best with my classes ideally starting around 10am, it allows me to feel fully rested while still having enough time to get ready and eat something quick for breakfast too.

Something I think some students overlook while scheduling are thinking of factors that don’t exist for them yet. For example, eventually having a job. At this time you possibly don’t have a job but maybe at some point during the school year you will. Of course assignments and class come first but it is helpful to have an idea. Would you like to potentially work before class, after or in between? With my on campus jobs my bosses have been very helpful with scheduling work around classes and haven’t run into any issues. I will usually just bring my work uniform with me in my backpack so I can head there right when class gets out.

It can take time to get your schedule the way you pictured it. I have spent hours reorganizing mine over and over to make everything work. You’ll have the perfect idea in your head and truthfully it probably won’t ever end up exactly that way. You’ll realize the classes you want overlap or they’re not offered on the day you hoped they were. Maybe you’ll get stuck with a Friday class you didn’t want or a class you need to take is full. As frustrating and time consuming as this may be, it always ends up working out – sometimes even better than you had originally thought. Keep optimistic and don’t give up on rearranging; keep an open mind. Even when you think you can’t figure it out, you can. Some of the schedules I ended up with that I thought were going to be absolutely terrible turned out to be some of my favorite semesters ever.

Once your schedule is finalized you’ll be able to get an understanding of how you can start to fill this new life of yours. You’ll be able to see where you have time to do the things you have always loved doing and also find new things you don’t even know you love yet. With my first semester’s schedule on some days I had time to work out at the gym in the morning before class, after class I had time to join a club where I met lifelong friends. Quickly my new life – which was very different than high school – became to feel better than any days I had known. It has only consistently gotten better year after year; this is one of the first steps as it’s all starting to get real – but don’t stress, I know you’ll love it!

Sincerely, Sienna

Updates from the Eternal City

Funny thing how life works, six weeks ago I would have never used the word “spontaneous” to describe myself. Quite the opposite actually. I would’ve told you I like schedules, I like to be organized, I like to know what’s coming next. Six weeks ago I had no idea how life in Italy would change me. A little life update: here I am sitting in a cafe in Rome at the exact time my flight home takes off – and I’m not on it.

Spontaneity is a funny thing too because I don’t think you choose to be it. Something happens, somewhere along the way where you just realize life is too damn short to miss out on it. I have learned more about myself in the last 42 days than I have in my entire 20 years of existing. I spent six whole weeks surrounded by the best people I have ever met. Ones who supported me, encouraged me and trusted in all I could be. They brought out my spontaneity and believed in me sometimes more than I even believed in myself. I got bit by the travel bug, hard, and when I was presented with an opportunity, I just couldn’t turn it down.

During our time here we used a student travel company, Bus2alps, to book our weekend trips. As the unofficial “tour guide” and navigator of our group, it was very tough to try and plan weekend travel on our own for 19 people so this business was really special for us. Everything was so easy and organized, we could completely enjoy our time without worrying about the details. Everything was already figured out once you book, transportation, accommodation, activities and the best part was that a guide was sent with you. We felt so comfortable knowing we had an expert traveling too to show us around, give recommendations and look out for us. There are lots of options to travel Europe for weekends, day trips and even longer periods of time. The trips are affordable, well planned, the guides are absolutely fantastic and quickly became close friends. I loved observing them while we were traveling, it seemed like a job I could see myself doing. Looking into the company further I found they had sales and guide intern positions available throughout the year. Immediately I fell in love with the idea of coming back to Rome next summer to work for the company. Never in a million years would I have imagined my current situation.

After showing interest in ways to get involved, kind referrals and conversations led to being offered staying for July. All in a single day I accepted the offer and changed my flight back to the U.S. Definitely the most spontaneous thing I’ve done and I couldn’t feel more grateful to be joining the team. Bus2alps is Europe’s number one tour operator for student travel, no matter where you are studying in Europe you can book through them. Learning from my coworkers while seeing the world seems like something of a dream. I couldn’t have had a better study abroad experience and I’m so looking forward to helping other students make the most of theirs as well.

Check out Bus2alps at their website as well as on Facebook and Instagram. If you or any of your friends are studying abroad to anywhere in Europe I’d love to help you travel and even save you some money when you book with my discount code: SIENNA

As always, updates from life abroad can be found on my Instagram at sincerelysiennablog!

Ciao!

Sincerely, Sienna

Rome Sweet Home

WE’RE HERE, WE’RE HERE! Finally after dreaming of this for so long, my first couple weeks in my new home have already come to a quick close. It has been nothing short of incredible and some how, each day has consistently been better than the last – if that’s even possible. I find myself saying “this is the best day of my life” every. single. day.

Arriving to the airport was so exciting, my flight buddy Annie and I could not wait to meet up with the 17 others in our group. The majority of the group just happened to be arriving around the same time on Sunday morning – a little bit jet lagged but smiles and hugs everywhere when we were all reunited! We had been told the cab ride to the center of Rome would be quite the rush and we had no idea what was in store for us. All of us were quickly shuffled into cabs in groups of four, being shouted at in Italian we couldn’t help but laugh as we tried to tell the driver our school’s address. First zipping through the streets of the Italian countryside, into weaving through the tiny streets of downtown Rome, we had wide eyes the entire time. Praying we made it there in one piece I couldn’t believe everything passing my windows was real. It looked like the pictures on the internet, but better if that’s possible. Colored buildings with balconies, flower boxes, adorable restaurants, vespas, – it was all real and I get to call it all home for six weeks. I felt the luckiest.

We then arrived at the ACCENT center which is where we take our classes. We were almost in tears laughing at each other trying to drag our 50lbs+ luggage across the uneven cobblestone streets and up the three flights of stairs. We all checked in and received our very own map of the area, apartment keys and finally our address of where we would be staying! There are 19 MSU students on our program, 8 boys and 11 girls. We have 4 private apartments in Rome, the boys are split 4 and 4, and the girls are split 4 and 7. I am in the larger of the girl’s apartment and have loved every minute so far! It’s a beautiful place in an adorable location with 4 bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms and a kitchen with a little balcony. Its a funny feeling to unpack and essentially “move” into an apartment in Rome. The feeling of walking to and from class each day makes us feel like true residents. Shops become familiar, restaurant owners begin to recognize you, and you start forming favorite places. I cannot think of one thing I dislike about Rome, it’s just feels so comfortable and normal – like I’ve known it my whole life. You could walk the streets for hours and never get tired of looking up. Instead of having our faces locked into our screens, we have found we are constantly mesmerized by our surroundings and making sure we are living in the moment every second of our days.

All study abroad programs vary in the amount of credits, hours in a classroom, and the way they are taught. The 19 of us are taking four classes while we are here and working to receive 9 credits. All of us on this program are studying within the college of communication arts and sciences with a sales leadership minor so our main area of focus while studying here is Communication and Sales but this time, it’s Italian style. Only one of the classes is taught by our advisor Jen who is also our professor from Michigan State. The rest of our classes are taught by equally incredibly intelligent and special Italian individuals. Everyday I am blown away by the fact that I am receiving such a unique education from some of the most extraordinary people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We have a survival Italian to learning basic language as well as helpful tips while living here taught by Mario. Andrea who is a strategy consultant for the top management at NTV teaches our Made in Italy course. Sean is the communication director of the Vatican ( no big deal 😉 ) and he teaches our Italian Communication class. Our class times are scheduled for Monday through Thursday 9am to noon, and 2pm-5pm. Some days these times are spent inside our classroom at ACCENT and other days we are out doing experiential learning somewhere in the city. This is the way life should be lived, there is no better way to learn than to live. One day we are speaking about a place while sitting in class and the next day we are seeing it in person, taking it all in and immersing ourselves in it. It is such a special feeling to have to pinch myself for a reminder that this is real life each day. To say this experience has changed my life already would be such an understatement. I couldn’t be more thankful to be receiving this education while living in a dream.

The first two weeks were filled to the brim with incredible experiences and memories I know I will never forget. For the second half of week two our whole group took a trip into the southern part of Italy to the Libera camp, an anti-mafia organization, for some volunteer work.

Below are a few pictures of my time in Rome so far! Follow my Instagram at siennamohl for more updates.

Sincerely, Sienna

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Exploring the streets around the ACCENT Center between classes.
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View from our living room window.
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The beginning of my gelato addiction.
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Unbelievable. Always has fresh fruit in it.

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My cute group! Love them all so much. This is in front of The Four Rivers Fountain.
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Trevi Fountain.
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St. Peter’s Basilica. Took an amazing tour inside from our professor Sean.
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The Pantheon.
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The Colosseum.

“Paris is Always a Good Idea”

Aside from deciding to study abroad in the first place, one of the best decisions I have made was choosing to travel early before the program started. I was lucky enough to click with someone in my program right away during our pre-departure meetings. After talking about it we decided that Paris was always somewhere we had wanted to visit and starting planning our first trip abroad, alone. It was an extremely daunting thought, we have never been abroad before or flown internationally, we only speak English and honestly don’t know much about France. Despite these fears, I would consider myself independent and confident in taking care of myself. I am not naive, I know the dangers of traveling especially to a foreign country but, I really felt like I could handle it.

I am blessed to have parents who knew I could handle it. I am so thankful to have two people who believe in me and allow me to grow independently but most importantly, parents who trust me. You will never learn how to become an independent adult if you do not take on independent adult responsibilities – this was another chance to practice.

Oddly enough, traveling before the program started brought a sort of ease to the chaos that was preparing to study in Rome for six weeks. We were able to get used to the jet lag of a six hour time difference instead of arriving a day before our classes began. We became familiar with the differences between the United States and Europe – even the little things that you would never think about. Do you seat yourself at restaurants? How much do you tip? What do we wear to fit in? Is there anything we usually do that is considered “rude” here? All of these things we slowly figured out which prepared us for our upcoming short residency in Rome.

You might think traveling to Paris before an already quite expensive program would break the bank, but we definitely did it on a student budget. I found an adorable little Airbnb apartment in the perfect location for only $100 each in total for 3 nights. It was tiny but it was all we needed since we spent all day out exploring, we just needed a safe place to sleep. It was right off of the iconic shopping street, Champs-Elysees where the Arc de Triomphe stands. This was fantastic for us because not only was it in a safe area, it was right near the metro station as well as the bus stops with routes to the airport. Keeping all of these things in mind while searching for a place to stay was crucial. I did so much research before we left on the best ways to get from the airport into the city center, where to buy bus tickets and how to use the metro system so that when we arrived we wouldn’t feel lost and overwhelmed. I had maps printed and highlighted, our flight itinerary and all of our Airbnb information at hand in my purse I started to feel like my mom. It seemed like a lot of work, but being smart and prepared keeps you safe.

We kept in budget by sightseeing and doing things that were of no cost. Visiting monuments but saved money by not paying to go in and take a tour, eating meals at small markets or bakeries instead of fancy restaurants etc. which kept the trip affordable. There was so much filled into our three days we just felt like we did it right! It felt so empowering to accomplish something so big alone and made me feel so independent and confident for my upcoming travels. Below are some of our adventures! You can follow my Instagram for more updates at siennamohl. Up next, Roma!!

Sincerely, Sienna

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Eiffel Tower

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Louvre

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Arc de Triomphe

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Laduree Paris
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Notre Dame Cathedral
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Eiffel Tower at dusk
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Eiffel Tower at night

Ciao For Now!

The Sincerely Sienna blog is about to get a whole lot more exciting! Tomorrow I head out on the adventure of a lifetime. Seven months ago I applied, interviewed and was accepted into a six week study abroad summer program in Rome, Italy. At that point it felt so far away, traveling was something that was so easy and exciting to daydream about but truthfully still it didn’t feel like it would ever be real. But whether I’m ready or not the day is finally here!!

Michigan State University has over 275 programs that take place in more than 60 countries around the world. Studying abroad in college was something that I had always dreamed of doing and more than anywhere I wanted to study in Italy. (Fun fact: I was named after the Italian city “Siena”.) When the time came to get serious about applying for programs and making it happen, I started with going to the Study Abroad Fair at the Breslin Center. Everything was very organized, you could explore by location, major/minor, interests or just browse around. I am a Communication major with a Sales minor so naturally I found myself in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences section. That seemed to be the best part for me – the fact that I could not only experience the adventure of a lifetime overseas, but that I could do it while receiving credit for my major’s graduation requirements. I fell in love with the “Made in Italy” program – six weeks in Rome earning 9 credits while studying intercultural communication, sales and marketing from an Italian perspective. I was told spots were highly sought after so I applied and interviewed right away. Ecstatic to find out I had been accepted, I could not wait to find out who else would be joining me. Beginning in January, our program held bi-weekly meetings where I got to know my fellow “Romies” (who I seem to love already) as well as go over expectations about our summer together as each week grew with more excitement. Actually, we got along well so quickly that a couple of us planned to visit Paris together before our program begins in Rome!

I moved everything out of my dorm room to bring home and had five short days to get ready for Europe. Lots of unpacking and repacking – I’m the worlds worst overpacker so trying to keep my luggage under the 50 pound airline limit has been a real challenge. All these months anticipating the departure but today it’s so odd to say I’m leaving tomorrow. Today, the floor of my bedroom is covered in piles of neatly folded clothes waiting to be stuffed into my suitcase. Today all of my exciting daydreams are now a bit of anxious nerves. Today it’s starting to hit me – this is actually happening.

I know that I will never have an experience like this ever again. Sure, if I’m lucky enough later in my life I’ll travel back to Europe but I will never again “live” in Rome with 18 incredible people my age learning in such a unique setting. I am beyond ready to jump in completely open-minded and up for anything. I could never say thank you enough to my parents for making this possible for me. There is no greater gift than that of life experience. Seeing the world is an absolute dream come true and I will never take these moments for granted.

So, ciao for now! I would love to have you along for the ride, first stop will be a little pre-Rome trip to Paris, France for a few days. You can check back at the Sincerely Sienna blog for updates abroad as well as all of my adventures through photos on Instagram at siennamohl!

Sincerely, Sienna

Why I Chose Michigan State University

National decision day, May 1st, is right around the corner and the pressure is on. Seniors, I remember the stress like it was yesterday – this decision is no small task but you can do it, promise. In honor of this monumental day I thought I’d share how the most indecisive girl made the biggest {and best} decision of her life.

Like I mentioned above – I’m more indecisive than I’d like to admit, so when the time came for the biggest decision of my life, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I didn’t grow up “bleeding green” as some Spartans do. My parents are not alumni, they both grew up in Ohio so they were unfamiliar with Michigan schools and knew nothing about MSU. I’m the oldest child in our family so there was no big sibling to figure it all out before me, the whole process of the college search was new for us. Although I enjoyed my time in high school, when it was time to graduate I was so extremely ready to embark on a whole new independent “grown up” life. I had always been a city-lover so I had my heart set on a small school in Chicago. I had this daydream in my head of a “grown up city life” while also earning my degree. I visited the campus multiple times, I stayed overnight and tried to really see myself there. I wanted so badly to see myself there because it’s what I thought I always wanted. It just didn’t feel like college…that stereotypical “best four years of your life” type of place. While being on campus you couldn’t tell what life was like there. No one was walking around wearing their spirit gear with pride, no one was laying out studying on the lawn, there was no football or basketball teams to cheer on…I just didn’t ever see myself not doing those things. I left thinking “did I love the school or did I love the city?” and I knew deep down it was the latter. I wanted four years of the “full college experience” and the city could wait – it would still be there when I finished. It was then I decided to return with a more open mind; it was time to broaden my search and pursue something totally different than what I saw in Chicago – Michigan State was bumped up on my list and it was time for a tour.

Of course, everyone is looking for different qualities in a University – ones that make it perfect for you. These are some of the reasons MSU stole my heart ( & kept it ) and why I knew it was the perfect place for me.

In no particular order.

The college town. I loved the fact that everything was in such close proximity to campus. The main street had numerous restaurants, stores, coffee shops and places to hangout all right in the same area. Student housing was located in the surrounding blocks, it was all students everywhere – a true college town. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to experience that until I saw it. Everyone hanging out on their porches, shopping around, getting a meal with their friends. There was ALWAYS something to do in walking distance and it looked so fun. After getting to enjoy it for almost two full years I can honestly say there is nothing quite like living in a college town, it’s even better than I expected.

The quality education. Aside from all of the fun parts of attending college, I was extremely drawn by Michigan State’s quality of education. There are so many distinguished professors teaching the courses and alumni that have gone on to become very successful. The student to faculty ratio at MSU is 17:1 which I thought was impressive for such a large university. Not only are there professors who instruct the courses, there are teaching assistants to help as well. A large lecture of 200+ students (taught by a professor) is paired with a small recitation class of around 20 students once a week taught by a graduate teaching assistant. I found this setup to be so beneficial because I could attend my lecture, take good notes, then really dive into the material in the smaller class and ask questions to get the help I needed.

The college of Communication Arts and Sciences. Most importantly the school offered what I wanted to study, and an amazing program at that. I came in as a freshman knowing that I wanted to study Communication – the major itself is quite broad with various career paths that attracted me. I could see myself being happy doing a lot of things within Communication and have come to love the courses and experiences within the major thus far.

Collaborative student body. The minute I stepped onto the campus, people were asking what I was interested in, what goals I had and what career I wanted to pursue. I had a fantastic meeting with a Communication advisor that gave me her full attention and interest in my academic success. Right away it just seemed like people cared about me as a potential student, more than other places I had visited. My fears of being treated as “just a number” at a school with 50,000 people wasn’t even a worry. I can attest to this even more now, students here have such a collaborative mindset. Spartans work together to achieve more, there is no competitiveness in the sense that others will not knock another Spartan down to better themselves. In all of my classes students are always forming study groups and creating collaborative online study guides with each other. I have honestly been so surprised at how truly friendly I have found my peers to be during my time at MSU, it’s very encouraging.

Resources. The amount of (FREE) resources on campus for student success was overwhelming in the best way possible. Of course, each college and major has very specific resources for their direct students, but something that is very broad are the tutoring centers. The large campus is split up into neighborhoods with engagement resource centers located in each. I personally am not the best at math so I spent many hours with the graduate students at the Math Learning Center preparing for exams and getting help with homework. Although the professors and teaching assistants in each class have office hours available to attend for help, the tutor center had a wider schedule and improved my scores immensely.

Campus. The overall look and feel of campus was just what you see in the movies. It is absolutely stunning at all times of the year, trees everywhere, beautiful buildings old and new, it just never gets old. Besides the aesthetically pleasing look, I am always finding places on campus that I have never seen before. After two years I still can find a place to study that I haven’t used before. Buildings that I haven’t stepped foot in, dining halls that I haven’t tried, classrooms I haven’t had classes in. It keeps campus feeling fresh and new all the time which I absolutely love.

The Big 10 pride. I remember taking my campus tour thinking to myself how cool it was that a vast majority of the people I passed by were wearing something Michigan State related. Everyone was so proud to be a Spartan which made me even more excited about potentially becoming one as well. The feeling of game day is electric and the Spartan bonding is real. There is nothing like a Big Ten sporting event and being a part of the student section is a feeling of pure pride.

Study Abroad opportunities. I always knew study abroad would be something I wanted  to participate in during my college career. Michigan State offered over 275 study abroad programs to more than 60 countries. Specifically I have found the perfect program for me – I will be completing 9 credits this summer on a six week program in Rome, Italy through the college of ComArtSci. All of the credits are going toward my Major and Minor requirement which is fantastic.

The size. Funny right? In my initial college search I always pushed large universities aside because I thought they were just plain too big. I was worried about finding my way around, the trek each day to class, if I would be treated as just a number, or if I would find friends – all of these thoughts kept me up at night. It really wasn’t until I stepped on campus for a tour that I realized how wrong I was. It felt like it’s own little city and I loved it. After almost two full years here I can say the large size of this school is one of my absolute favorite parts about attending Michigan State. It truly only works to your advantage, all of these fantastic opportunities and resources are right at your fingertips. Anything you could ever imagine getting involved with is right here – all you have to do is get out and go for it. Every single day (no exaggeration) I meet someone I’ve never met before. Every single day is an opportunity to make a new friend, make a new connection or try something you’ve never done and that is so exciting. There are so many incredible experiences I would have never had if this University wasn’t as big as it is. You make your friends, you find your groups, you settle in and suddenly it doesn’t seem like this big, daunting place. It feels like home. You can always make a big campus feel smaller, but you can never make a small campus feel bigger.

Sincerely, Sienna

(You can follow me on Instagram for more updates!)

How to Deal with Freshman Year Homesickness

Whether you absolutely love college so far or are still getting adjusted, there is one thing that can creep up on you at any moment: homesickness. I remember around this time last year, about a month into living on campus for the first time, it really began to sink in; this is how it’s really going to be, this is real life now. The work load starts to pile on, it begins to feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day and the stress is real! My hometown is only about an hour away from where I go to college and believe me, I was just like you- I could not WAIT to get out of that little town and start a brand new life. But just like you, there are things I sometimes miss and that’s normal too. You miss your home, you miss your pets, you miss your family, you miss your friends, and you even miss things you never thought you would. Along the way during my freshman year I discovered some things that snapped me right out of those homesick blues, hopefully they can be of use to you!

Take a break from school work, go out and do something to take your mind off of it! I know here at Michigan State University, there are plenty of places to explore. I love to ride my bike around campus maybe with some headphones in listening to my favorite music. Countless times I’ve stumbled on a beautiful part of my own school that I never even knew was there.

Switch up your routine, if you usually study and do homework in your dorm, try to change it up and find somewhere nice outside or a different place on campus to do your work.

Walk around your college town! I am absolutely in love with our college town of East Lansing here at MSU; whenever I’m feeling homesick a nice walk around reminds me how lucky I am to live in a place so great. There are so many places to go shopping with friends and always a new restaurant to try if you’re getting sick of dining hall food. Look up fun things to do in your area, maybe there’s a show coming to town or a concert that you can look forward to.

If you’re feeling really down remember it’s okay to cry it out! Truly everyone has those days; take a breather, take a nap (lol college), you’ll be feeling better in no time!

Call your parents!! They will LOVE that you took time out of your day to do this, it always feels so great to catch up on things going on in each others lives or even vent a little. Keep in touch with those you miss, FaceTime is a wonderful thing 🙂 I love scheduling regular FaceTime sessions with my friends and family during the week, I know it makes me feel better to hear their voices and see their faces.

I know I’ve written about this before in my previous blogs posts, but I cannot say it enough: step our of your comfort zone, JOIN A CLUB and meet new people!! The moment I decided to do this, it changed my entire college experience. Although I was (and still am) absolutely in love with my school, there were times in the beginning when I did feel homesick. A couple weeks into my freshman year I went out searching for a club that I had interest in and one where I could meet people who had similar interests as well. After I joined Sideshow I made the friends I had always hoped I would in college. The friends that turn into family, the friends that make you a better version of yourself, and the ones who make you look forward to every single day at school. It keeps me busy participating in things I love doing, makes me excited to be staying at school and has given me the best support system at my home away from home.

I know personally when homesickness creeps in most is right before I go to bed. Usually right before I’m about to fall asleep, I start to overthink EVERYTHING in my life – funny how that works out. Something that I realized was helpful to me was to write down something positive that happened during the day, everyday. I typically go to bed late and didn’t feel like I had enough time to keep a full journal each night but I did find something equally as beneficial. Each night I would write one sentence on a sticky note – something great about my day. It was so easy and just reminded me that even if I didn’t have the best day ever, I still always could find something great. This left me thinking about my great moment of the day and helped me fall asleep faster. Then at the end of the year, you’ll get to look back, read through all 365 of your sticky notes and enjoy reminiscing on all of your favorite memories.

Lastly, I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but the best thing to remember when you’re feeling homesick is that you are so lucky you have something so great to miss. Enjoy these days, they’ll be some of the best of your life. Be proud of yourself; this independent thing – yeah, you’ve got this.

Sincerely, Sienna

(Follow me on Instagram at siennamohl for more updates!)

Packing For College: The Ultimate Checklist

It’s August which means it’s almost time to move into your new ‘home’, how exciting!! Now, I am fully aware it can be overwhelming to pack up your life and try to move it into a shoebox sized dorm room, but I promise it can be done! It’s tricky to know what you need to bring and what sounds like a good idea but really will just go unused and take up your precious space. Well I’m glad you’re here; although I’m sure you’ve started packing a little already, you can use this ultimate packing list to guarantee you won’t forget anything on move-in day!

Of course this list is going to be different for everyone (especially you boys, I’m sure your list is MUCH shorter!). Just bring as much or as little as you think you want or need; whatever will make you feel the most comfortable is what’s important! Note: for the big items on this list, talk with your roommate and discuss what you can share and who will bring what so you’re not buying two of the same things!

 

ROOM:

  • Additional seating. Although your room most likely comes with some desk chairs they aren’t the most comfortable thing in the world. It would be a great idea to maybe bring a futon or a comfy folding chair in addition to what they give you for more comfort, as well as extra hangout room for your friends! I brought a cute fuzzy chair similar to this one from Target and loved it!
  • Area rug. If your school has room’s like mine, they do not come with carpeted floors. Although there is an option to pay for carpet to be installed, I personally didn’t find that to be necessary and decided to bring a cute area rug that did the job and also matched my decor! Target has great affordable rugs and that is where I found mine.
  • Bulletin board or dry erase board. I absolutely loved having both of these in my room to stay organized all year.
  • Command Strips. These will become your best friend, you really can’t have too many!
  • Full length mirror. My dorm room did not come with a full length mirror when I assumed it did. I would suggest checking on your school’s website to double check if yours does or does not.
  • Hangers.
  • Hanging shoe rack. This was a HUGE space saver, highly recommend. I hung it in my closest and was able to store my shoes vertically instead of horizontally. Found mine at Target.
  • Photos, picture frames, lights and room decor. I loved adding my personal touch to make my dorm room my own and feel like home. I hung my photos using string and clothespin clips below my lights and also brought other various decorations as well.
  • Trashcan. Most likely your room will come with only one trashcan. I brought my own and it was very nice to have one for just myself underneath my desk.
  • Under-bed storage. I brought plastic stackable bins to store my clothes underneath my bed instead of all in my closet and dresser.

Below are some pictures of my freshman year dorm room.

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Here you can see the area rug as well as my under-bed storage.
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My desk space as well as some decor. In the corner there is the folding chair I mentioned.
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My lights and photos.

 

BEDDING:

  • Bedbug-protecting cover for mattress. You never know, better safe than sorry!
  • Comforter set. I was the typical indecisive girl when it came to picking this out but decided on a nice neutral theme. I found a solid gray comforter and a cozy creme knit blanket which allowed me to be unique with an assortment of throw pillows.
  • Foam topper for bed. Not completely necessary but I absolutely loved having mine and made my dorm bed much more comfortable.
  • Mattress pad.
  • Pillowcases. Yes plural, it was very nice to have more than one if one was waiting to be washed.
  • Throw pillows. Like I mentioned above I had so much fun picking these out!
  • Twin XL sheets. Remember, most dorm room beds are size twin XL instead of just a regular twin. Keep that in mind when picking out sheets because really the twin size will NOT stretch to fit. I would again recommend you bring two sets of these just to have when one set is waiting to be washed.

 

DESK SUPPLIES:

  • Backpack.
  • Binders.
  • Calculator.
  • Calendar.
  • Clicker (if needed for class.)
  • Desk lamp.
  • Desk organizer. Loved having this to keep my things organized as I collected more and more papers throughout the year.
  • Erasers.
  • Folders.
  • Highlighters.
  • Hole puncher/three-hole puncher.
  • Index flashcards.
  • Journal. I kept one during my first semester which I really enjoyed doing.
  • Notebooks.
  • Paper chips.
  • Pencil sharpener.
  • Pencils.
  • Pens.
  • Planner. Personally a total NEED.
  • Post-It notes.
  • Rubber bands.
  • Scissors.
  • Stamps. In case you want to send letters or packages.
  • Stapler.
  • Staples.
  • Tape.
  • Textbooks. Okay so this one I have some advice about. Before I moved into school I was naive and thought I needed to buy (used) my books and get them right away. I was wrong. I would definitely say that there is honestly no need to buy your books if there is an option to rent them. Much less expensive and it just makes more sense since when you’re done with the class, you’re done and won’t be needing the book ever again. Also you can totally get your books the week your classes begin or even the week after. Sometimes you find out from your professor you won’t be needing the previous said book or maybe you need a different version of it. That way if something has changed you won’t be stuck with a book you bought that you won’t be using. Second semester I decided to rent my books and waited to get them until after I had gone to my first day of each class. Definitely do what you’re most comfortable with but this is just what I learned from my first year experience.

 

TECHNOLOGY:

  • Batteries. For calculator etc.
  • Chargers. Phone, laptop, etc.
  • Ethernet cable.
  • Extension cord. This was nice to have to help my chargers and things reach me while sitting on my bed.
  • External hard drive. Life saver.
  • Flash drives.
  • Headphones.
  • Laptop. I got a great deal on my MacBook Air at the Apple Store for being a college student.
  • Laptop Case. I picked out a really great quality Kate Spade case from Best Buy.
  • Printer. Not completely necessary and most likely your school has public printers that you can use and pay for per page printed. That being said, it was still so nice of my roommate to bring a printer and I absolutely loved the convenience of having it right in our room. We shared the cost of refilling ink and paper.
  • Router for wifi. Double check if your dorm hall has wifi in the rooms or not before you move in. For example at MSU some halls did and some did not. Mine did not, but it was very easy to hook up the router I brought for our room.
  • TV and TV stand. It’s extra great if you can find a TV stand that also has storage.

 

KITCHEN SUPPLIES:

  • Coffee maker or Keurig. If your a fan of coffee, tea or hot cocoa.
  • In room food. It’s always nice to have some food in your room. Things like bottled water, cereal, easy Mac, granola bars, popcorn and your favorite snack foods!
  • Microwave.
  • Mini fridge.
  • Mini vacuum. Although my school allowed you to check out vacuums from the lobby of the resident hall for free, I brought one of those little rolling sweeper vacuums just to quick clean up our carpet which was convenient but not completely necessary.
  • Mugs. For your coffee, tea and hot cocoa 😉
  • Paper plates. Always nice to have some in your room in case you need them.
  • Paper towels.
  • Reusable water bottle. Nice to take to class with you.
  • Trash bags.
  • Utensils. I brought plastic ones that were great to have because I could use them and just toss them out after instead of having to wash them.

 

LAUNDRY:

  • Drying rack. I didn’t bring this right away until I realized after a couple weeks that I could really use one. For the things I didn’t want to completely dry in the dryer, I was at a loss of space to hang clothes in my dorm to dry. A folding drying rack was perfect because it could just be put away folded up and out of sight when I wasn’t using it.
  • Ironing board. Not completely necessary, I did not have one but one of my best friends who lived in my building brought one and let me use it when I needed to. If you have an extra to bring it’s really nice to have.
  • Laundry detergent. I used Tide Pods detergent all year which I HIGHLY recommend. They are literally so easy and perfect for college students. Drop a pod into the washer and you’re done.
  • Laundry basket or bag. I brought both, usually I would put whites in one and colors in the other so I could save time and not have to sort through my clothes when I got down into the laundry room.
  • Lint roller. This was great to have when getting ready for my job interview to clean up my nice dress clothes a little bit.
  • Portable stain remover pen. Tide To Go Stain Remover is perfect.

 

BATHROOM: (this could vary due to if you have suite or community style bathrooms)

  • Air freshener.
  • Bath towels.
  • Bathroom cleaning supplies.
  • Bath mats. Talk with your roommate and suite mates if can before so you don’t all bring these!
  • Hand towels.
  • Loofah.
  • Shower Caddy.
  • Shower shoes.
  • Washcloths.

 

TOILETRIES:

  • Body wash.
  • Conditioner.
  • Chapstick.
  • Deodorant.
  • Face wash.
  • Hairspray.
  • Hand soap.
  • Lotion.
  • Makeup.
  • Makeup remover.
  • Medicine.
  • Moisturizer.
  • Mouthwash.
  • Nail polish.
  • Nail polish remover.
  • Shampoo.
  • Shaving Cream.
  • Sunscreen.

 

  • Blow dryer.
  • Bobby pins.
  • Comb.
  • Contact supplies. (If applicable).
  • Cotton balls.
  • Curling iron.
  • Eyeglasses. (If applicable).
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Floss.
  • Hair clips.
  • Hair straightener.
  • Hair ties.
  • Hair brush.
  • Headbands.
  • Nail clippers.
  • Nail file.
  • Q-Tips.
  • Razor.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Tissues.
  • Toilet paper. My resident hall building actually gave us free toilet paper. It wasn’t great quality but it was free so it’s up to you what you would prefer!
  • Toothbrush.
  • Toothbrush holder.
  • Tweezers.

 

CLOTHES: (the essentials). If you go to school close enough to home you won’t have to bring all of these items right away. For example, my parents came and exchanged my summer clothes with my fall and winter ones when I needed them.

  • Athletic shoes.
  • Bathing suites.
  • Belts.
  • Boots.
  • Coats.
  • Dresses.
  • Flats.
  • Flip-flops.
  • Everyday shoes.
  • Formal interview clothes.
  • Gloves.
  • Gym bag.
  • Hats.
  • Heels.
  • Jeans.
  • Jackets.
  • Jewelry.
  • Leggings.
  • Long-sleeve shirts.
  • Pajamas.
  • Pants.
  • Purse.
  • Rain boots.
  • Rain jacket.
  • Scarves.
  • Short-sleeve shirts.
  • Shorts.
  • Skirts.
  • Snow Boots.
  • Socks.
  • Sweaters.
  • Sweatpants.
  • Sweatshirts.
  • T-shirts.
  • Tank tops.
  • Tights.
  • Undergarments.
  • Workout clothes.

 

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS YOU MAY NEED:

  • Bank documents.
  • Copy of birth certificate.
  • Copy of social security cards.
  • Credit card.
  • Debit card.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Insurance cards.
  • Student ID

 

OTHER:

  • Art supplies.
  • Bike. Loved, loved, loved having my bike. Highly recommend bringing a bike especially if you are attending a big university like me. Not only did it saving me a ton of time getting to class but it was also so fun to ride around campus with friends.
  • Bike lock. Definitely bring a lock if you plan to have your bike on campus. Unfortunately bikes often get stolen if not locked on a big campus with a lot of students.
  • Fan.
  • Lanyard. Great to keep your ID card in.
  • Musical instruments. If you play one it’s a great way to make friends. I know I stopped by some rooms with the door open while they were playing the guitar to give them a compliment on their talent.
  • Pepper spray.
  • Playing cards.
  • Suitcase. Nice to have to pack for a weekend visiting at home.
  • Umbrella.

 

I hope this list can be helpful to you as you pack and I wish you the best of luck this school year! Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Sincerely, Sienna

(follow my Instagram at siennamohl for more updates!)

 

 

Guide to a Chicago Getaway

Chicago has always been one of my very favorite cities. There’s just such a great vibe that surrounds the stunning architecture of the skyline; even in a simple walk around it can start to feel like home. I visit as often as I can and have accumulated some of my absolute favorite “must-do’s” of the city as well as some travel tips!

  • Travel

Although it’s a very easy three hour drive from where I live, taking the train from Grand Rapids is extra fun. We travel on the Amtrak train departing from the downtown Grand Rapids Station located on Century Avenue straight through to Union Station in Chicago. The ticket prices were extremely reasonable and it all can be found on the Amtrak website, link above. Making a couple stops along the way, the total travel time is a little over four hours. It’s a unique experience to stare out the window at the quickly passing scenery, much different than riding in a car on the highway, but the best part is pulling into the city and catching the first glimpse of the skyline. The tracks bring you right to the heart of it all as you step off with your bags strait into the hustle and bustle of the city life. Even if you decide to not take the train, I would still suggest taking a peak inside Union Station, it’s incredibly beautiful!

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Union Station ground entrance.
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Union Station waiting area.
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Union Station street entrance.

 

  • Hotel

There are obviously hundreds of hotels to choose from to stay in while you visit, my personal favorite has been the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront. It is located directly along the river across from the Trump Tower; truly an incredible location with even more incredible views!

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Our room.
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Day view from our window.
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Night view from our window.
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Incredible view from the banquet room.
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My very favorite spot in the hotel: the Penthouse balcony.

 

  • Wendella’s Boat Tour and City Trolley Tour

Wendella’s– This is a fantastic boat tour that takes you through the Chicago River for an up close perspective of the iconic architecture then ventures out to Lake Michigan for a spectacular view of Chicago’s twenty six mile skyline. The full tour is about ninety minutes long, there are two docks where you can board (the Main Dock, 400 North Michigan Avenue and Trump dock 402 N Wabash Ave) where tickets can be purchased. Tickets can be purchased online as well on Wendella’s website, here you can also find directions and more information as needed. This has been one of my favorite experiences I’ve had in the city, the pictures don’t even do the views justice. A definite must do!

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Riding on the top deck of the boat through the river.
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View from Lake Michigan.

 

Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.– Since we didn’t drive our car, the hop-on-hop-off style trolley was the perfect transportation for us! Tickets can be purchased for a 24, 48 or 72 hour period in which you can use the trolley for as much or as little as you’d like for that amount of time. On the downtown tour, you can hop on and off as much as you want at the city’s most popular and famous attractions. There are thirteen different stops along the way ranging from each end of the city. The trolley gets to each stop every twelve to fifteen minutes so not only did we use it to take a tour and learn about the city, we used it to get to where we needed to go regardless if it was an attraction on the tour, just to save us some walking. There is also a double decker bus option to use rather than the trolley if you wish. Each ticket purchased comes with a night ticket tour as well that you definitely won’t want to miss out on! Definitely a fun and unique way to enjoy Chicago that I’d highly recommend. (This company runs all year round.)

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The super cute trolley come to pick us up.
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The inside view.

 

  • Skydeck Chicago, The Ledge

For all who are not afraid of heights, spectacular views can be found 365 days a year on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. The Skydeck ledge experience is one like none other, standing 1,353 feet above the ground in a glass box will provide you with a view of Chicago you can’t get anywhere else. As the eighth-tallest building in the world and a Chicago icon, this is something you have to try. Tickets here.

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Amazing views from all around the 103rd floor.

 

  • NBC Studios, The Steve Harvey Show

Although tickets for the show cannot be purchased, if you know the dates you will be in Chicago you can request free tickets here. We were selected for the free tickets when we went but happened to have a very unique experience. We showed up to the studio all ready to go in our brightly colored clothes we were told to wear, just then to be informed Mr. Harvey was sick that morning and the show taping would be canceled. As a courtesy to those who had tickets we were given the option to come back to the Mother’s Day show taping, since I am in school my mom and I knew that we wouldn’t be coming back to Chicago and were bummed we would be missing the show. So, we stuck around seeing if there was something else we could experience that day. Luckily enough some very nice staff members offered to take us on a private tour of the studios which was incredible and in my opinion even better than the show would’ve been!

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Inside the studio with my mom.

 

  • The Signature Room

The Signature room is a very special dining experience. Located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building, the views while you eat are completely breathtaking. The fine dining experience is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, for my mom and I, we were celebrating our birthday’s as they are in the same week. A place and memory I will surely never forget. Also, located above on the 96th floor is the Signature Lounge and bar as well as an area for private events. More information here.

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My cute mom.

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  • Broadway Chicago

If you’re anything like me you would never go into a big city without seeing a Broadway musical. We were lucky enough to be in Chicago the same time the traveling Broadway tour of 42nd Street was playing at the Cadillac Palace Theater. Spending time in the theatre district you can find great theatre themed restaurants for a meal before the show, or even just walking around you can enjoy the lively energy. The best way to find out what shows are playing while you’re in town would be on Broadway in Chicago’s website.

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The Cadillac Palace.

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  • The Classic tourist locations (of course!)

While you’re in Chicago you’ll definitely want to see the iconic best known tourist locations such as The Bean (Cloud Gate), Millennium Park, the International Amphitheater, the Chicago Cultural Center (where the Tiffany Dome is located), the Art Institute of Chicago, Shedd Aquarium, and the Navy Pier just to name a few. There are honestly endless things to experience in this city you are sure to enjoy yourself while you visit. Just get out and explore, Chicago truly never disappoints!

 

Let me know what you enjoy most when in Chicago, I’d love to try some new things next time I visit!

Sincerely, Sienna

Creative ways to capture your summer memories

I have loved photographs for as long as I can remember. I think what I love the most is that no matter how much the people in the photo have changed, the memory it holds never does. Today I’m sharing a couple of my favorite creative gadgets perfect for capturing your fun summer memories. We’ll chat about the FujiFilm Instax Mini Polaroid camera as well as the iPhone lens kit. Whenever I use these accessories in public I get tons of complements and questions, all the answers you can find here!

First, the FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 instant film camera.

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My parents always laugh when I use this camera, they say “it’s nothing new, polaroids are what everyone used when we were kids. We had it first!” (lol) this little FujiFilm camera has been around for a few years but is still just as popular as ever. It takes adorable mini instant polaroid photos that print on the spot. The mini film is sold in reloadable packs of 10 and are very simple to change in and out. The extra film can be bought in a number of locations such as Best Buy or even Walmart and come in classic white or fun colored patterns. The camera itself comes in a wide variety of colors as well (Raspberry, Grape, White, Pink, Blue, Yellow and Black) and can also be purchased in multiple locations (FujiFilm). The camera has a dial on the front part of the lens that allows you select the amount of light exposure needed for your indoor or outdoor setting. It takes great photos perfect for a little dorm room decor.

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Here are a few of the adorable photos the camera takes.

I found that I had a little trouble fitting the camera into my small sized purse to bring it with me places, so I was thrilled when I found the perfect solution: the Instax case. Not bulky and very convenient for traveling which also comes in various colors. The front opens up so you don’t even have to take the camera out of the case to take a photo. The case can be found at Best Buy.

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Next, the iPhone Lens Kit.

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Fisheye clip lens (smaller). Wide shot clip lens (larger).

These are fun accessories that can really help you step up your photo game and allow you capture moments in quite a unique way. Most kits come with three lenses, the Fisheye, the Wide Shot, and the Macro (not pictured above). They easily clip on to the phone; working best on the bare phone but are effective with a thin case on as well.

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Fisheye lens shown on the back camera.
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Fisheye lens shown from the side.

They look a little obnoxious when they’re clipped on but are easy to quickly attach and detach. I purchased my set of lenses on amazon.com for around $13, but I’m sure with a little searching you could find even cheaper ones as well. The pictures taken with the lenses are clear through both the front and back camera, pictures using each are below.

Fisheye Lens.

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Back camera. (Aerosmith concert)
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Front facing camera. (Florence + The Machine concert with Liv)

 

Wide Shot Lens.

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Back camera. (MSU vs. Oregon game)
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Front facing camera. (MSU vs. Oregon game with Hannah & Lysie)

 

Being able to “save” my milestones and memories with fun, creative tools like these have made me love photos even more. I hope your summer has already been fantastic and you’ve gained some new ideas on how to capture your next moments. Let me know if you have a favorite photography gadget you like to use, I’d love to hear about it!

Sincerely, Sienna