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Hey Loves! I’m Caitlyn the girl behind ChemGradBoom. A blog about taking life with a little salt, a slice of lime and shot of tequila or life of a graduate student, whichever version you prefer!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

The end of an amazing adventure

Today it's official, or at least the papers have been signed, the tickets are getting booked, and real plans are starting to happen - today is the day that I am sad to announce the end to my time in Edinburgh.

Over the last 3 years, I was fortunate to have a student visa and the opportunity to live abroad. Edinburgh was the first place that I could call home since moving out of my hometown and heading to Wingate University for my undergrad. Edinburgh is a place that opened my eyes to life outside of the US and life as a kinda adult.

I had the pleasure of living here with the BF in our one-bed flat that we have called home for the almost three years. We have explored Scotland, travelled abroad and kinda made life as real adults here. Sure I was (and still am) a student, but the move to Scotland represented a place where home wasn't a quick drive or an easy plane ride away. Scotland was the place that allowed me to figure out what I want in life, that a PhD with all its magnificent plans goes terribly wrong and that I have a love for life anywhere that is new.

It was last Wednesday that the BF told me today was the day that we would find out about the visa, his company offered to keep us here with a Tier 2 visa, keeping my life abroad as an option for a few more years. Well while I never thought about the what-if options, it happened. There was an option to re-apply, requiring us to head back to the States and wait it out, but life in limbo wasn't really something we wanted. Then there was option 2 - he could transfer within the company to either California, or our soon to be new home Portland, Oregon.

So with a little under 3 weeks to go before our time in Scotland is officially over, I am taking in every moment, every view of the castle on the hill, and every cobblestone street that I walk up. Scotland will forever be a place that I am in love with.

As for what's next, all I know is that Portland will be our home for a bit and that I still have my PhD to finish, which also means I get to come back and visit Scotland. With everything that has happened, and the swiftness of figuring out whats next I am kinda in a shock. Sure I felt myself stroll through the gardens just a little bit slower, and I find myself just looking around and observing a tad bit more than usual meaning that I know my time is here is coming to an end, an end that is a bit too early for my liking.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

North Coast 500 Day 2

The day we planned to wild camp on a secluded beach for our North Coast 500 Roadtrip.

We started off the morning heading down to the only place for food in the village where we stayed in Big Sand, the local campground. The breakfast was delicious. The weather was even better, as the sun was out and not a cloud in sight. A rare sight in Scotland.

Once we finished our breakfast, we headed down to the beach, enjoyed the view and then hopped in the car and headed onto Day Two of our trip.

Inverewe Garden

Our first destination - a tropical garden in Scotland! With possibly the cutest story of its origins -- a father-daughter team made this paradise in the 19th Century from barren land. Now a site that includes plants from China, Nepal and India, Himalayan poppies, Tasmanian eucalyptus, and California redwoods. 

One of the most enjoyable things during our visit here included leisurely strolls around the gardens, you can spend as little time as you would like by taking one of their shorter paths, or explore all the gardens have to offer as we did.

We strolled the gardens for close to three hours, with the final bit including a succubus garden (hello flat inspiration) with the far end of the gardens having fabulous views overlooking the sea.

Bone Caves

With all the driving (which I had been doing) and the beautiful weather, we wanted to stretch our legs and try out one of the hikes I had found when pre-planning. We decided to go on and explore the Bone Caves or at least try to. We managed to head along the route for close to 40-ish minutes with no caves. Now I am slightly impatient and not the most interested hiker, so we turned around to head back. The cave would have been impressive to see, although if anything you can head to the National Museum of Scotland and check out the collection of bones ranging from wolves, bears, lynxes and arctic foxes  that have been unearthed in the cave.

Fun fact about Bone Caves: a 2000-year-old walrus ivory pin was found in one of the caves indicating that people were here by the Iron Age (~700 BC to AD 500)!!!

Smoo Cave

Partially created by the sea and part freshwater also happens to be one of the largest cave entrances in Britain. We were 'fortunate' that we got here and needless to say we were having typical Scottish weather - rain. That meant that we pretty much had the whole cave to ourselves and it was a nice stop to see along the way. 

Important note: Be aware that crossing over the footpath in the cave leads to where the fresh water enters the cave very forcefully - aka you will get sprayed by the water. 

Bettyhill Beach 

Last but not least our campsite for the night - we finally decided to stop when we drove past the beach. A bit secluded, blue water, and amazingly calm as it was kinda hidden away in its own little cove. 

We pitched our tent and cooked out our meal for the night! We had the beach to ourselves (minus the midgies) and had a fantastic time. It was amazing to wake up to the sound of the ocean just outside of the tent door. Even better is we made it through the night with very little rain (a rare and appreciated treat in Scotland). 

The end of Day 2 and halfway through the NC500 road trip! Possibly one of my favourite days as it ended with a secluded beach campsite all to ourselves, there is nothing like falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean!

Have any of you ever tried wild camping? Camping? or do you only stay in hotels?

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Monday, April 9, 2018

90 Day Lifestyle Challenge Update #1

Day 30. Somehow I have managed to make it through 30 days of my own personal lifestyle challenge. Today I review what I originally intended to do, how I have been doing, along with what I want to improve on for the rest of the challenge.

Life Challenge, Goals

My Three Goals are

  1. 30 Minutes of exercise (Going to the gym for a workout or cardio)
  2. Writing / Editing / Revising my thesis (Goal 500 words or 30 minutes of substantial revision)
  3. To ''Try'' every day
I mentioned in the original post that I needed to address these three for various reasons, but mainly because I felt that I was in a slump and 90 days was kinda perfect as it leads into my 10-year anniversary with the BF.

I felt that these three goals would help improve my overall happiness, my overall mood and in all honesty just help me to start some healthy realistic goals in my life. 

So how have I done...

30 Minutes of exercise (Going to the gym for a workout or cardio)

Happy to say this is the one that I have crushed. I have got a 30-minute workout every day over the last 30 days - including having to do an at-home workout during a mini snow storm we had. I have been doing 5 days of weights and 2 days of a full body or cardio routine. 

As for what I plan on changing - not much really. I enjoy weights, the idea of getting strong keeps me going. For cardio, I am going to try and add in two runs per week. I have an idea to run to a bridge and back and keep track of my times, eventually, once I can fully jog there and back add some distance. Side Goal -- Run a 5k

Writing / Editing / Revising my thesis (Goal 500 words or 30 minutes of solid revision)

This was probably the goal that I was the worst at. But no worries another plan that I have in place to get this going. The 100 Day Thesis... 

Now this is a bit longer and in truth adding to this challenge, but I have been reading/listening to how to just get the first (and complete) draft DONE. This is the biggest hurdle because after that there is feedback, revisions, and corrections - but the primary thing is done - the complete draft. 

To ''Try'' every day

I again didn't do the best at this one but am feeling pretty confident where I am headed. I have done a few things - like leaving my naturally curly/wavy hair as my go-to style. This means no more straightening my hair, only to have it up in a ponytail, I just wear my hair down and its natural style. 

I PURGED my closet, with the goal to figure out my own 'Capsule Wardrobe.' 
Now I am nowhere near done and on my way to the stylish Capsule Wardrobe that seems to dominate the blogging world, instead, I am working to figuring out how to wear what I have and make sure that it is not Jeans and a T-shirt every day. 

Overall Day 1-30 

I am pretty excited that I have somewhat stuck with what I set out to achieve, I still have work to do mainly on number 2 & 3, but I am getting there. My main goals over the next 30 days include 
  1. Watching what I eat and add in the run days
  2. REALLY write and track my progress. Start a writing habit (first thing in the morning or a pompadour technique)
  3. 3 days a week (when I am headed to university) try some outfits that I usually wouldn't wear (aka no trainers, jeans and t-shirts my usual go-to outfit.)
Of course, I would love to crush all of these for the next 60 days but I just think that looking at setting up sub-goals to achieve major goals works best for me.

So there it is an honest update, along with what I want to focus on next. Of course, if there is any advice that you have on how you have set out to achieve and succeed your goals, please share! I love hearing what others have done to work on their own goals. 

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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Journey to a 'Capsule' Wardrobe - The Purge

Fascination and my lack of being a put-together stylish person led me to work towards building (purging) to a Capsule Wardrobe. The idea that you can have under 50 pieces in your closet and walk out the door looking put together BLOWS MY MIND. (Probably more so the idea of walking out and looking put together or easily picking something to wear for the day)

There are tons of resources out there that go over the 'why', 'how' and 'what' in terms of a 'Building a Capsule Wardrobe' but I am nowhere near as stylish as all of those people. I have no idea on what works well with what, or how to style '5 pieces 10 Ways', but still I am ready to try.

Last night I managed to go through all most all of my clothes and probably get rid of at least half. I still have my gold glitter pencil skirt that I thrifted over 5 years ago in Chicago and still have yet to wear - but that to me is a 'GOAL' item (aka continue on my workout / get fit streak and rock the shit out of that skirt on a night out piece) along with 5 too many pairs of trousers, but I started.

How did the purge go you may wonder???!?

It included trying on everything and looking in the mirror only to realize all of the oversized sweaters from H&M that I bought actually look like a giant bag on me or that while I firmly will defend my gold glitter pencil skirt, there was no need to keep jeans that were tight in all the wrong places.

That was my start to my 'Capsule Wardrobe' - sure I am not down to 36 (or even 50) pieces, but I did clear out 16 tops, 4 pairs of pants, 2 dresses, 1 cardigan, 2 Jackets, and 3 'Fancy tops'. That is a solid start in my book.

What's Next?!?

I still kinda have no idea, while I have a Pinterest board full of ideas on what makes a 'Stylish Capsule Wardrobe', plus maybe I need to figure out what I need my wardrobe 'for'. The problem is my typical outfit is jeans, a baggy t-shirt and trainers.

I know that needs to change, I need to 'try' maybe a pair of jeans and a fancy shirt with a pair of flats (oh my insanity I know), but that is a goal that I have made for myself, to try (which in turn I believe will help me feel more confident).

While I may be planning to try sooner rather than later - unfortunately today is not the day, as I am currently in jeans, trainers, and my BF's old cosy sweater, what can I say it was rainy out and the sweater is oh so cosy!

So cheers to step one of the 'Journey to a Capsule Wardrobe' - The PURGE. It is a small start, one that feels good to take as holy crap I had a ton of STUFF I never wore. Now onto the next step and figuring out what I have/ my style / what I need / Outfits.

Any advice is apperciated or any Capsule Wardrobe Blogs that you have for a 'style' challenged person! 

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Five Reasons to Study Abroad

I fell in love with the idea of 'studying and travelling' during my undergrad. The university I attended had in place an opportunity during your Junior Year to take a course and then spend two weeks in the country experiencing and getting to visit the country that you focused on.

This international experience was one of the reasons I picked the university I went to, and without a doubt, my visit to Switzerland (FREE OF CHARGE) inspired me to one day have the opportunity to live (or learn) abroad.

I had no idea that 4 years later I would be accepted to study for my PhD in Scotland, and now 3 years here I can genuinely say this will forever be one experience that I would recommend for everyone.

Here are my top reasons for considering studying abroad! No matter the time frame - 2 weeks, a semester, a year or three years - living and studying abroad is indeed a life-changing experience!

Studying & Travelling 

You're already in school, why not take the opportunity to study and travel. While a semester is the most common study abroad time frame - in Europe that gives you plenty of time to explore. There are cheap train tickets and even cheaper flights to some of the most amazing sites in the world. (My flight from Edinburgh to Rome cost under $50 Return)


I went to a small university about 2 hours away from home. I was dependent (no matter what anyone says) on the fact that I had my family and support system so close to me. Now 5 time zones away and one costly flight - I have been able to stand on my own and challenge what I can do without my family so close. 

Seeing the world

Again, I got the travel bug from Switzerland, so one key thing that makes studying abroad so amazing is the ability to see the world. I knew people from where I did my Masters that hadn't left the State (in fact never went more than an hour from where they grew up). I have been able to visit, see, and experience cities, festivals, and sites that I would have never thought of visiting before - all of this because I am studying abroad. 

For your CV

Believe it or not - showing that you did a study abroad can help when applying for jobs. Knowing that you were able to go out on your own, into a new culture, and a new country shows that you can adapt and face challenges! 

Breaking out of your comfort zone

I am a person of comfort, and I HATE going out as the 'new person' - I suck at making friends - and am even worse at just having a good time with new people around. That has slightly changed while being here (although I still need to work on this a bit more). When I first got here, I moved in with two girls that introduced me to their friend group, invited me to nights out and was there for anything I needed. Being ALONE in a new country forces you to get out and live, something I could avoid if I would have stayed in the US. 

Overall I would recommend that EVERYONE who has the opportunity to study abroad to do it! I have been able to explore and experience numerous countries and cultures during my time here, which is something that I probably couldn't have done without living abroad. 

Interested in studying abroad? Just do it. 

If you have studied abroad what were your favourite things that you took away from your time abroad? 

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Isle of Arran - Day Trip

One problem with not having a car in Scotland is getting to unusual places which are shall we say ''difficult'' without your own set of wheels. Lucky for me, possibly not so fortunate for the people I tag along with, is the ability to set out on a day trip to see some sites, while they are usually busy working. Such can be said for this trip to the Isle of Arran - although I did have a friend tag along with me as well!

The sad bit about having so many fantastic sites around Scotland is that many of them go undiscovered until I am lucky enough to go and visit them. The Isle of Arran happens to be one of these places that I am grateful to visit and want to go back to!

Getting to the Isle of Arran

The easiest way to get to the Isle of Arran is by Ferry. For our journey we  Ardrossan to Brodick journey which cost us just about £15 (probably less) for a return ticket the same day. The ferry takes only about an hour - leaving plenty of time to take in a view on the observation deck or grab a hot breakfast and coffee!

How to get around the island?!? 

Without a car - as we were just there for the day - we relied on the local transportation. As it is a rather small island there were a few options, we decided to head directly across to the west side of the island and then head north toward the distillery. Overall renting a car would probably have been the best option, even if we only had it for 6 hours, it would have allowed us to see more and do more without worrying about missing the last bus back to the Ferry. 

What we did while there for approx. 5 hours

As I said he hopped on the bus and headed west, I had dreams of seeing the Machrie Moor Standing Stones, but due to time constraints that didn't happen. Our first was the end of 'The String' bus line at Blackwaterfoot. The view was amazing, the rain cleared up, and we had a lovely little walkabout while waiting for the bus to head up to our next stop at Lochranza to explore the castle and the distillery. After a nice lunch at the distillery and some whiskey, we headed back to the Ferry - ending our day on the Isle of Arran.

Top sites to see 

Isle of Arran Distillery

You cant have a visit to an isle with its own distillery without a stop - in fact it was possibly one of the best breaks in our adventure filled the day. We had a light lunch, some whiskey and dessert all to finish out the day before heading back to the ferry!

Machrie Moor Standing Stones

The central part of Arran has more stone circles per square meter than anywhere else in Scotland.  Machrie Moor date around 1800 to 1600 BC with evidence of much earlier use, with their usage endures as a mystery.

Kildonan Beach and Castle

While I love the fact that there are castle ruins right off the beach, there is also the sandy beach with a view overlooking the Pladda lighthouse (dating back to 1790)

King’s Cave  

Rumoured to be the cave Robert the Bruce is said to have had his famed encounter with a spider. This circular heads down to explore a dramatic section of coastline with a series of caves. Total time for the hike: 1.5 - 2 hours

Broderick Castle 

While this was closed while we were there due to extensive renovations - this is one of the main places to visit on the island. The castle grounds are filled with formal gardens, woodland, waterfalls, and bathing pools. It is due to open back in June 2018 and is a must visit if you are there!

Has anyone been to the Isle of Arran - what sites (or probably, more importantly, hikes) did I miss out on?

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