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A Winter to Remember

The new semester has officially begun, and not only are we hitting the books, but we’re also hitting Instagram by looking back wistfully on our winter breaks. This break, our Alpha Xis made their mark on the globe far and wide. Here’s just a sampling of what some of our sisters did to make their winter break so special!

Chelsea Perry, PC ‘15

Chelsea (right) and Alaina (left) pictured smiling through the pain of 12-degree weather.

What were you up to this break?

I spent five days touring Tennessee with Alaina Graham (PC ‘15) and her family! We started the trip in Alaina’s birthplace, Memphis, then we went to her hometown, Jackson, and visited what we like to call the Graham Castle. Then we visited Nashville (you know, where Taylor Swift and so many others got their start)!

What’s your favorite memory from the trip?

This trip has been one of my favorite memories of college! On New Year’s Day, we woke up and went hiking in 12-degree weather at a state park outside of Jackson. A 3.5 mile hike, the Graham fam’s newest puppy, a beautiful Tennessee sky and 2 hour car rides full of talking to Alaina about anything and everything made for a great start to 2018!

I think it's unanimous that the Graham fam's new puppy, Zeke, is the cutest addition to the fam.

What were your favorite spots in Tennessee?

Definitely Biscuit Love. It’s a restaurant dedicated to the artistry of biscuits and brunch! Second was Radnor State Park, which is a hidden lake in Nashville. Lastly, the Graham Castle. Alaina is the oldest sibling and has four younger brothers, so it was so much fun to just get to be around her family and hang out with them! (Even though Alaina and I may or may not have lost to her bros in Scrabble.)

Yum! No extra caption needed.

How did you and Alaina meet?

Freshman year, fall semester! I knew her twin, Kiannah Lagunas, and then we all started hanging out. Our friendship really grew sophomore year when we were neighbors in Xi House. (S/O to my Second Floor Women!)

What’s a fun fact about Alaina?

There are literally so many because she is one of the most amazing people I know! But one of my favorites is that for both of her college spring breaks, she has gone on a mission trip abroad. She’s so selfless and gave up the time that most of us spend lounging at the beach or sleeping to help others instead.

What’s your best travel tip?

Find an Instagram blogger for whatever city you’re visiting. You’re sure to find yummy restaurants and fun activities that locals go to!

Mckenna Phillips, PC ‘14

Mckenna and her boyfriend at the Virginia Governor's Inauguration Ball. Just your casual winter break things.

What were you up to this break?

My last winter break at UT consisted of quality time spent hanging out with family, friends and my boyfriend. The best part, however, is I got to spend time with them while experiencing the magic of New York City during the holidays and going to the Virginia Governor’s Inauguration!

What was the Virginia Governor’s Inauguration like?

The entire weekend in Richmond is packed with events! Friday night there are three welcome receptions. Saturday, the inauguration takes place on the steps of the Virginia Capitol, followed by a parade and a Governor’s Mansion open house (my HGTV girls this one’s for you). Saturday night is arguably the most exciting part... the inauguration ball! Think women in long dresses, men in tuxedos, champagne glasses on silver trays, and everyone dancing the waltz in between bites from an extensive oyster bar. Finally, Sunday morning is a TLC day where you go to the First Lady’s brunch full of yummy food and mimosas!

What was your favorite memory from the trip?

I am a musical and play junkie! I’ve seen some amazing Broadway shows, but I had never seen Hamilton. If you aren’t familiar, this musical is wildly popular and sells out in minutes. During the break, I was surprised with front row tickets to the show! Long story short, multiple tears of joy were shed and I was hands down the happiest girl in New York City.

Along with being a huge musical fan, Mckenna is also a huge hockey fan. At the time this was written, Mckenna was tied between the Washington Capitals game or Hamilton being her favorite memory. We made it easier for her by showcasing both. Go Caps!

You’ve already been chapter president, are there any political aspirations for the future?

After I graduate, I will be working at an investment firm for two years and after that I will pursue law school. The ideal end goal is to become an appointed judge, but hey, if I get the opportunity to do something else politically, who knows where I’ll end up? Stay tuned!

Mckenna touring Washington D.C. and quite possibly also her future home? ;-)

Can you give us your best travel tip?

Pictures are great to capture the moment but don’t get too hung up on taking the “perfect picture.” I had the chance to enjoy good company while doing great things in New York... and I didn’t take a single picture. Sometimes it’s nice to just live in the moment rather than trying to take a million pictures of it. You will still remember it, I promise! That being said, taking a few pictures is good! I’m still working on that myself.

Makenzie Kulhanek, PC ‘16

Mackenzie thought the Vegas strip at night was pretty... but I thought she was prettier.

What were you up to this break?

This break, my family and I decided to go on a spur of the moment trip to Las Vegas!

What was your favorite memory from the trip?

I love Las Vegas because there are so many people just there to have fun. My favorite memory would have to be just spending a day shopping with my mom. It’s something we always love to do together, so it’s especially fun in Vegas with all of the designer shops to look at! And with my dad away at the casino (hopefully winning some money) it’s a little easier too!

You got to see Celine Dion! What’s your go to song of hers?

This is a really tough question. I’ve already decided “Power of Love” and “Because you Loved Me” to be somewhere in my wedding mix, so maybe one of those. But then again, “All By Myself” is great for those Bridget Jones’ Diary vibes!

Mackenzie with a fan.

If you only had one day in Vegas where would you go?

Just walk up and down the strip! There is so much to see just walking around! You can stop by the Bellagio fountains, watch street performers and just enjoy the neon lights.

Give us your best travel tip!

Always leave extra room in your suitcase because you’re bound to pick up something extra before you leave!

Maria Varela, PC ‘17

Maria Varela comparing wingspans in Colombia.

What were you up to this break?

I went to visit family in Cali, Colombia. It’s really fun to go in December because there is a huge festival full of concerts, bull fights and shows galore!

What’s your favorite memory from the trip?

I went to a reggaeton concert with my brother and saw some of the best Latin American artists such as J Balvin, Ozuna, Wisin Y Andel, Bad Bunny and many more. It was such a good time and my brother and I are very close, which makes it even more fun. I also love meeting new people at festivals because you never know who you’ll run into! For example, James Rodriguez, a Colombian soccer player, also happened to be at the same concert my brother and I went to!

Speaking of bull fights... fill in the blank: “I would participate in a bull fight if I was given this as a reward.”

It depends! If I was the beautiful woman that opens up the bull fight by riding in on her majestic horse I would do it for free! But if I was the matador... then at least a million dollars! Bull fights are a big cultural thing in Colombia. I’ve grown up seeing them and they are a ton of fun, but it’s also sad seeing the bull get killed. I would not be able to do it.

Maria and her mother pictured where they like to be seated in a bull fight... as far away from the bull as possible.

What’s your favorite Colombian food?


Anything else you’d like to share?

Growing up my mom would volunteer at an orphanage in Colombia called Casita De Belen. As my brother and I grew up, we also did the same! I remember the first time, I was in complete shock seeing the condition of some of the children there. It felt so nice to be able to play with them and comfort them and to show them they were regular kids just like us. The second time we went to Casita de Belen, we threw them a Christmas party and they absolutely loved it! Spending time with these children made me feel so grateful for the life I have. This year, instead of the orphanage, we threw a Christmas party for some of the poor families that come from a small village in the mountains. We had such a good time with the children and seeing the smiles on their faces was such a blessing and reminded me of what’s important during the holidays!

Last question, do you have a travel tip for us?

Always keep track of your personal belongings! Airports, especially during the holidays, can get very busy. Speaking from personal experience, stressing over lost items during a vacation is no fun!

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