dark academia in real life

If you’re on Pinterest or Tumblr, you have probably seen the “dark academia” aesthetic. I came across a few posts, and I realized that DA is something I’ve been a part of for my whole life. I’d like to explain with a list (because lists are just a part of this blog, and you know it).

  • Reading Alice in Wonderland, deciding I didn’t like the ending, and writing my own where Absolem convinces Hatter to jump through a portal and visit Alice instead
  • Filling notebooks with stickers, receipts, little scraps of pretty fabric or flowers, and any thought that pops into my head
  • Making a cup of tea or coffee when something doesn’t feel right
  • Always focusing better when it’s raining or gloomy outside
  • Loving long walks and picnics
  • Craving second-hand bookstores and thrift shops because I like to imagine the lives of the people who owned the things I purchase there
  • Keeping movie tickets, programs, concert bracelets, and railway cards in a lockbox to preserve the memories
  • A shelf of photo albums from my childhood
  • Late-night research about psychology, ancient architecture, or what it would be like to live in 18th-century London
  • Smiling at animals and calling them beautiful
  • Hearing “mystery of love” by Sufjan Stevens and realizing it’s an anthem for life
  • Planning anything and everything, down to the last detail, but always changing something someone else planned because it’s creative expression
  • My favorite color is dark forest/army green, and most of my room is denim, green, gray, and cozy brown
  • Giving each of my plants names, and some of them represent my friends, so if they aren’t doing well I check on the friend
  • Doing nothing on road trips but listening to classical music and staring out the window
  • Owning more jackets than any other item of clothing
  • Preferring to walk or bike rather than drive
  • Hating crowded places, but liking to watch crowds from a distance to see how other people interact
  • Keeping a frantic, giant mountain of different ideas in my notes app (but very well organized)
  • Hiding polaroids and small objects I find on nature walks in bags and jacket pockets, not finding them till later
  • Owning far too many pens, but organizing them by type… ordering refills of the ones I like
  • Insisting on visiting a city strip mall just so I can examine the Japanese paper in that one stationery store, holding a freshly-purchased notebook to my cheek because the pages are so soft
  • Learning better when I hear something out loud, rather than see or touch it
  • Spending hours staring out my window while clouds gather in the sky and a storm pours over the world
  • Watching the entire Harry Potter series every fall, making some of the foods they have in the Great Hall
  • Feeling guilty about keeping books I love because other people should read them, too
  • Highlighting quotes I love in “Looking for Alaska,” specifically the quote that says “NEVER USE A HIGHLIGHTER IN MY BOOKS!”

I’m going to stop here… but I think I’ll do a part 2 later because I really enjoyed making this list! Comment any dark academia things you do in your life and why you like it. 🙂

–ellynn ❤

ways to learn a language.

So, as I might have mentioned before, I am now near-fluent in French (well, as fluent as you can get when English is your first language). Students in my class, as well as friends and family, always ask how I’ve picked it up so quickly. I wanted to answer that here, as I figured some people might be committing to learning a language for the new year.

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that you cannot just absorb knowledge through osmosis. I do spend time studying and working at this; it does take a great deal of work. There are just a few simple things that can make your learning process more fun, and you can get much more out of it with the tips I’m about to show you.

Also, I am not an education specialist of any kind. This is just wisdom from a seventeen-year-old. But I’m telling you, these things work! Alright, now down to the nitty-gritty.

  1. Watch movies in your target language with your native language in subtitles: This is something I’d consider to be a baby step. Maybe even before you start seeking resources for learning the language itself. Sit with a notebook in your lap, and if you hear words you understand, write them down. (Double-check in Google Translate later.) SIDE NOTE: Here’s my thing about Google Translate: you can totally use it if you’re looking for a single verb or noun or something short and sweet. However, make no mistake! Translate is awful when it comes to translating direct sentences, no matter if it’s from English to French or vice-versa. Use it at your own risk. (The risk is insulting someone when you meant to ask where the nearest restroom is.)
  2. Try a free learning app such as DuoLingo, Babbel, or Memrise. When I was first starting out, I thought DuoLingo was honestly the best learning app ever. I was definitely wrong, but it did help me as a beginner. The thing is, DuoLingo teaches you nouns and sentence placement, but it does nothing for grammar or conjugation. It’s great to build up your basics. Babbel has more of a foundation in conversational language, but it only has half the languages DuoLingo has (14+ versus 30+). Memrise is a gamified version of Quizlet but for languages. I would say it’s a fun one, but it’s difficult for beginning speakers. The fact that you can have them with you everywhere makes these apps so important. On the train, in line for coffee, walking your dog, waiting to pick up your kids, letting the bath warm up… Apps are great, and you should take advantage.
  3. Watch YouTubers who speak your language. I love this one! If you’re trying French, ChloĂ© Kian has a beautiful French channel, and she often makes parallel videos in English. It’s hard to beat this experience, as you can slow down YouTube videos, sometimes use subtitles, read the descriptions and comments, and you can watch them as they speak. YouTube videos are usually about a specific subject, which is why they’re great for building new, specific vocabulary and expanding your listening skills. Additionally, watching the person’s lips move and listening to them speaking is usually more effective than just listening. The only downside is, it’s hard to find the right YouTuber because YouTube tends to only recommend channels in your native language. If I’m looking for French creators, I’m going to search in French.
  4. Music! Honestly, this is my favorite one. I’m an auditory learner, which means I learn best through listening. I have a giant playlist of French music, and some of it, I found through an exchange student at my school. She’s super cool, and I learned that a lot of teens in France listen to rap music (which is how, accidentally, I learned a lot of curse words very quickly). Music just makes you want to sing along, and you can look up the lyrics and follow! Rather than pasting the lyrics into translate, there’s probably a website that has translated your song into another language. If not, then I guess Translate is acceptable. This is a good time to mention that a good alternative to Translate is WordReference. It interprets whole sentences, phrases, verbs, slang, and pretty much everything. It’s run by actual people!
  5. Keep a journal. If you’re sitting there and wondering what a certain word is in your target language, search it up, and then write it down. We learn so much better when we write things down. Take it with you when you’re using an app, listening to music, watching a movie or YouTube video… It can come in handy while traveling, too. Look back at all the words you learn after a handful of weeks and see that the more you seek knowledge, the more you’ll find it.
  6. Take a class. Obviously, one of the best ways to learn a language is by learning it from someone with a degree in your target language. That is the best way to go about it (unless you’re that guy who can learn anything in 30 days), and I highly recommend you at least consider the idea. If taking a class is not for you, there are several books that help you learn. The one I use for French is here. It’s a comprehensive workbook that you can write in. I would highly recommend it!

So, there you have it! Six ways to speak a different language. Let me know if you have any questions, as I’d be happy to answer them. Happy learning! 🙂


back-to-school, senior year.

It’s the first weekend of my senior year, and here are the things I have to say about it, in no particular order.

  • I like the computers we were issued; however, my “w” key sticks, so as I’m typing this, I’m using “ctrl v” to type “w.” How sad.
  • I got the chance to meet with all the exchange students, and they’re all amazingly cool!
  • I have two hours of French, so I’m gonna improve twice as fast. Perfect for my biliteracy test.
  • Billie Eilish is honestly a mood for the entire year if I’m honest.
  • I’m currently doing some research for an astrology column I’m hoping to write (oops I pushed w)! It’s pretty fun, so it doesn’t feel like work.
  • I LOVE my English class. It’s the first time I’ve been truly challenged by an English teacher . . . I’m gonna do well in college, I think.
  • Theatre is going to eat up a lot of my time, but I couldn’t be happier! My schedule is probably the best I could ask for this year.
  • Getting a job is hard. Driving needs to happen. Failed my test twice.
  • Dressing up for school doesn’t actually take that much effort, so I might do it more often.
  • I’d really appreciate if the freshmen could learn to walk continuously, without stopping in THE MIDDLE OF THE HALLWAY. It’s just slightly inconvenient.
  • The longer it stays nice out, the longer I can eat lunch outside, but also, I want it to be cozy weather!
  • I walked into a craft store the other day with a friend, and there were autumn and Halloween decorations!!! I just about died. But I guess it’s time for spooky season.
  • My next book is nearly ready for the editing process, but I don’t want to let it be finished just yet. It has a special place in my heart.
  • Being the president of a club (working on starting a second one) is so much fun! I was made for leadership, but I haven’t gotten to use it until now.

That’s all the completely uninteresting ranting I have for now. See you next week, readers.

p.s. If you haven’t bought my book yet, please go and check it out! It’s available in paperback and ebook versions. Tell your friends. 

student of life.

Learning can become tedious to any student, particularly in high school. Why? A high school student has minimal autonomy but growing maturity. They have interests that seem better than the classroom, and they aren’t paying to learn about biology or physics or art. They are placed, for four years, in a building filled with others who are also placed there, and it can become monotonous.

I’m not writing this to discourage parents from sending their children to high school — I’m writing it to emphasize a point. When forced to learn, we don’t like to learn. I’m a senior this year, which means I have a bit more choice in the matter of what I can study and with whom. I get a little more freedom to explore my passions.

I’m a firm believer in the phrase “student of life,” as I’m sure you can see by scrolling through a few of my posts (which I highly recommend you do). When I find myself uninspired, I usually try to learn something new! I like to uncover new ideas about lifestyles, skills, and passions.

Feeling like life is a bit mundane? Sometimes, what we need is a little perspective change. Pick up a book or listen to a podcast about a new way of living you’ve never tried. Try it out for a day or week or month. Even if you don’t stick with it, it’s a fun way to see how it affects you and why other people might do it.

Needing a challenge? There are so many exciting new things to try! See what sorts of new skills you can adopt. Pick something. I’ve tried knitting (in several forms), duct tape art, robotics, kickboxing . . . none of them worked for me, but I had fun trying them! And what’s more, trying new skills gave me a little background knowledge so that when I do run into someone who enjoys those certain activities, I have a little “Rolodex” of information ready.

Simply want inspiration? The internet is a beautiful place. You can find inspiration for your own passions on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, and so much more. You can create playlists of new music or look through curated blog posts to find the spark you’re searching for. What usually gets my creativity flowing is reading a bit, going outside, sipping a cup of tea, and sitting down to clear my head with a little meditation.

You see, being a student of life takes a lot of self-discipline. It can be boring to sift through things that don’t interest us, or trying something new can be difficult or inconvenient. That being said, there’s also something about “studying life” that is so much more rewarding than a classroom setting. It’s a taste of what’s out there: it’s a way to connect to new people, places, ideas, beliefs, and concepts.

I love school, and I’m going to pursue a mastery level education, but I’m encouraging you today to explore something out of your comfort zone. Google “lifestyle” and pick one to try. Or “skill” and do the same, for a little bit, at least. Embrace your Hermione Granger and read all the books! Happy studying.



Ever read a book so magical you can’t put a finger on it? You feel like the story is so beautiful that you could somehow mess it up? It makes you see a few more shining, bright things in the world. It makes you let go of just a little more pain–a little more sadness and darkness–to appreciate something more… palatable. Something that flows, maybe better than things usually do. Here’s my list of books like that.

  1. The Butterfly Clues–Kate Ellison
  2. Famous Last Words–Katie Alender
  3. Looking for Alaska–John Green
  4. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
  5. Let it Snow with John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle
  6. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

And these are just a few, of course. But in all these books… there is a piece of each character that stays with you. You learn from fiction if you pick the right book. You learn to love with more magic, to trust with more bravery, and sometimes, you even pick up new phrases such as, “if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.” (Thanks, J. G.)

Use the books. Absorb the magic. Make friends in alternate universes.