Summer 2020 looks nothing like what I imagined or planned and I’m definitely not the first person to feel this. My work went into a full work from home and Zoom meeting from 9 to 5 model and my life on red eye flights was put on pause. For those who don’t know, I work in communications and marketing in the entertainment industry. (To learn more about my job check out my first YouTube video here.) Believe me, I quickly got over the news of work trips being paused and award shows doing digital. One thing that I have always valued is knowing that there’s a real world outside of my work. And the world around me is the beautiful and comforting area that is the San Fernando Valley.
While I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, this summer marks my 1-year anniversary of moving back and living in the Los Angeles, CA area. In my grand scheme of reaching my Hollywood dream, I imagined living in L.A. but for those in the know, that didn’t go as planned. (Yes, I landed an amazing job in the industry. However, I spent the last 4 years in college in Upstate NY.) Again, while I grew up around San Fernando, I am pretty unfamiliar with the scene here.
I’ve never actually had this much time to just be in both San Fernando and the Valley to explore and get to know the people and places that make it up. With my life no longer on endless red eyes, I wanted to take this moment and really explore the community around me. As the first in series of local travel blogs, I wanted to highlight some local and small business that have helped me call the San Fernando Valley home. I’ve not only enjoyed reinvesting into my community, but I’ve also enjoyed discovering the people that make these businesses a quality place to both eat and visit.
I’ll be listing these local restaurants and business in no particular order. By no means is this list comprehensive – these are the spots that I just happened to visit in the week of researching and writing this blog post. Let it be known that I’m writing this post because I’ve loved these places and want more people to know about them. I’m not an expert food reviewer, but I do love spotlighting places and people worthy of it! Here’s to my first shopping locally blog post where I traveled to small business around San Fernando, CA that I think are worth checking out.
Traveling/Shopping Locally in San Fernando Valley: 5 Restaurants to Know About
UCRAVE Grill - 110 Maclay Ave, San Fernando CA, 91340
When it comes to restaurants, I always check a menu to see if they serve iced coffee and/or avocado toast. And UCRAVE café in San Fernando had that and plenty more. My friend and I went for dinner and it soon become a whole mukbang! The menu at UCRAVE has something for everyone from breakfast, to lunch, and dessert options and more. From my first visit with one of my best friends, to running there for my morning iced coffee, and even taking my dad for brunch, UCRAVE Grill is one of many great small business in San Fernando, CA worth checking out. To check out their website and menu click here. Follow UCRAVE Cafe & Grill on Instagram @ucrave.cafeandgrill
My go-to order: Chinese chicken salad and a watermelon refresher.
POPS Artisanal Creamery - 450 N Maclay Ave, San Fernando, CA 91340
There is literally nothing better than a nice cup of ice cream on a hot summer-San-Fernando-Valley day, and that is how I discovered POPS Artisanal Creamery. Located up on Maclay Ave, this boutique ice cream shop warmed my heart (luckily the sherbet I got helped me cool down) with its charm and its history. POPS Artisanal Creamery is a family-owned Artisanal ice cream shop with specialties including: Coconut sundaes, Hawaiian floats, Pineapple sundaes, and so much more. I snapped a picture while I was there displaying my sorbet. You can check out the menu and website for POPS Artisanal Creamery by clicking here. Follow POPS Artisanal Creamery on Instagram @popscreamery
My go-to order: Small cup with coconut and pomegranate sorbet.
Sweetness Cakes And Cafe - 128 N mACLAY sT, sAN fERNANDO, ca 91340
When it comes to satisfying my sweet tooth, candy just does not do it for me. I am a true and blue pastry lover and Sweetness Cakes and Café in San Fernando, CA is where I get my sweet treats. A cute local bakery, Sweetness is another of the many treasures I’ve discovered in re-discovering the San Fernando community. I was honestly hooked when I saw that they offered a vegan cupcake in their shop. Let’s pause here-let me repeat that-yes, a vegan cupcake! Again, with my limited knowledge of local and small business in San Fernando I was so excited to find a bakery with both a good matcha latte and vegan pastries. Not only am I saving gas by not having to cross the Valley, but I am also reinvesting it into a local bakery with great options for breakfast and lunch. You can follow Sweetness Cakes and Cafe on Instagram @sweetnesscc
My go-to order: A vegan cupcake and iced matcha latte with almond milk.
Teriyaki Madness San Fernando Station - 1240 Truman St #165, San Fernando, CA 91340
One thing that I cannot live without is some good teriyaki chicken, and the Teriyaki Madness in San Fernando always serves it up right! In researching local restaurants for this blog, I remembered that Teriyaki Madness serves some of my favorite bowls around. Whether I’m grabbing an order or having it delivered, Teriyaki Madness always caters to my love of something that’s savory and sweet. As mentioned, I've enjoyed looking at the community around me and finding ways of shopping locally, and Teriyaki Madness offers that small business quality while having a successful franchise. Teriyaki Madness in San Fernando is a local option with a commitment to quality and serving fresh Asian-inspired food.
You can check out the San Fernando location’s site page and menu by clicking here. Follow Teriyaki Madness San Fernando on Instagram @teriyakimadness_sanfernando
My-go to order: Chicken breast teriyaki bowl with a vegetable base, and of course, the thick sauce.
Truman House Tavern - 911 San Fernando Rd, San Fernando, CA 91340
The first time I stepped inside the Truman House Tavern in San Fernando, CA was during a New Year’s celebration night. My friend who lives down in San Diego came up to see her family and I convinced to have a night out. Our Uber map history was disorienting as we jumped all over Los Angeles. The best thing that came out of this night was that I discovered the Truman House Tavern. One thing I loved about researching for this post was getting to visit these places again and be reminded of why supporting local business matters. The Truman House Tavern opened in 2018 and has grown to be a great spot for people of all ages to grab a drink. I’ve gone to catch up with friends, for the Sunday Brunch menu, and to introduce friends to their amazing Mimosa flight. From the brunch menu, to their current online to go menu, it's a great local restaurant for a quick bite or something more filling - and oh boy, are those paninis filling and delicious!
You can check out the Truman House Tavern's online to go menu here. Follow the Truman House Tavern on Instagram @trumanhousetavern
My go-to order: Chipotle chicken panini, minus the cheese, or the Quinoa avocado salad with chicken
I hope you enjoyed this shopping locally inspired travel blog! Let me know what local restaurants in the San Fernando Valley I should visit next! Comment below or tag me on Instagram @Willsshowem
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post!
HOW I Made the decision to study abroad in england
In these difficult times that we’re living through I often reach for a journal full of pages and photos that captured one of the happiest times of my life. This journal is from my experience studying abroad. The polaroids and ticket stubs taped in these pages remind me that my time abroad will always be with me. I will forever be grateful for the forces that helped me find both Norwich, England and the University of East Anglia (UEA). Because while my time in Norwich was short, a piece of my heart will always be in England.
From the seminars taught by leading scholars to the nights getting ready for a Damn Good Tuesday, I cannot write enough about why UEA was perfect for me. While the educational and extracurricular opportunities at UEA ended up enhancing all aspects of my life, I went there almost by accident. Honestly, I studied abroad on a whim!
1. How Study Abroad Benefited Me – Teaching Me to Be a Better Listener
Before I even studied abroad, one of the benefits that became clear is that I became a better listener thanks to anticipating my international experience. Of all the spontaneous decisions I could make in my life, perhaps the best I ever did was deciding to leave the country! So extra, and so very on brand for Will Samayoa. My second year of college, a private liberal art in Upstate NY, I was eligible to study abroad. I attended a 1-on-1 meeting with my college’s study abroad officer to find out what program would suit me. Obviously, the meeting was very productive because I not only applied to UEA, but it was my only option.
Again, before I even studied abroad, I was becoming a better listener. In meeting with the study abroad officer I did come in with points, but I also heard her advice clearly. She told me about the unique character of not only the international partners but also of the cities we’d be living in. “Big but not too big,” she said when talking about Norwich. “Great media programs and renowned professors.” I did more than just research the numbers and sites, I heard from her testimonials of students who had ventured before I did.
In case you may not know, I went to college with a clear vision of working in the entertainment industry. I never wavered in my passion to work in media and I even meticulously designed a master plan to on how to major in writing & rhetoric with a media minor. The study abroad officer knew this, she admired my focus, and she said, “You need to go to Norwich!” I left this meeting and then went to meet with my professors and advisors. I wanted to genuinely hear them. And when I told both my writing and media faculty that I wanted to study abroad at UEA it was resounding, “Yes, Will!”
2. Study Abroad Benefits - Teaching Me How to live in the moment
Since my semester abroad, I stay living in the moment! Before I studied in Norwich, England I had no international experience. While I studied abroad, I learned how to live in the moment meaningfully. Whether my flat mate invited me to go grocery shopping or I was just invited to join a study group, my time at UEA helped me learn how to say, “yes” to new experiences. Little did I know that in my full-time job after college traveling and having those, “OMG” moments would become my new normal.
Studying abroad benefited me in that I learned how to be present in the most spontaneous and amazing moments ever. I can vividly remember every detail of the Oscars red carpet (oh yes, I was at the 90th Academy Awards, more on that later) because I learned how to live in the moment in Norwich. Without studying abroad, I don’t know that I would even have this blog! Yes, that’s right. This blog and my love for social media flourished while I studied abroad.
Part of how I learned to capture the moment was by starting to play with writing and media. The details in my daily walks from the Ziggs to my seminars in places like the Enterprise Centre stay with me. As many moments as I could capture in words or pics I did. This helped me remember the name and pronunciation of every classmate I met. My time abroad pushed me into the unknown, but the city and people of Norwich welcomed me. My best advice is that if you travel abroad worry less and celebrate more. Celebrate yourself, your work to get there, and the moment.
3. Study Abroad Taught Me How to Embrace and Appreciate Different Cultures
I wish that everyone could study abroad because I think it could help people learn acceptance and tolerance. While I was at UEA I listened to voices from people all over the world. From classmates to strangers I met through everyday tasks, I learned how to listen, embrace, and truly celebrate diversity.
In my case, I was an American student studying British media. I figured that I was not an expert in not only these programs, and I was fine with that. Much like my point of learning to listen, I learned how to listen to voices different from anything I ever heard. What I read and saw was unlike anything my studies in America had shown me. In these seminars I had peers from different countries, different ages, and beyond different life experiences from my own.
Needless to say, my study abroad experience benefits include learning how to embrace and celebrate different cultures. I truly became a global connoisseur of media. My latest work trip included working on world premieres at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The films and storytellers I met came from places like South Africa, the Philippines, China, Canada just to name a few. Thank you UEA for teaching me how to respect and cherish different cultures! I’m a better person and storyteller for it.
4. Everyone Should Study Abroad and To Know Why International Students Matter
When I was in college, I remember an established discourse about international students. Candidly, it's not always a fair one too. But being in the U.K., I was considered an international student. I found this super interesting because I consider myself the "norm" and here the norm has nuance things that made me stick out. "Oh, you're so American," I heard.
What does this even mean?! What do you mean I have an accent?! Wait why is everyone driving on the other side?! There are dozens of questions I asked myself. Learning how to embrace different is important. But actually, feeling different is an even better learning experience. At UEA I stood out and I learned how to honor my identities, as an American, as a Latino, and as a son of an immigrant family. I saw how my friends and faculty made my voice matter.
That’s why I came back to the States knowing that international students’ matter. Students from abroad at universities and colleges bring their own insights and experiences that can enrich us. And this is a dialectic relationship.
5. Study Abroad Taught Me to How to Be Okay Being Alone
As much as I write and talk about how my study abroad experience helped me develop friendships, I’m grateful for the personal growth as well. A lot of my fear in studying abroad came from how I went alone at first. In my study abroad program there were a total of 4 of us from my home college. Granted these 4 people would grow to be some of my lifelong friends, there was a 48-hour period where I was alone in Norwich. No one lived on my flat yet and there was no one I knew yet.
I was lucky that UEA lead some mixers for international students. Because in attending these mixers I met more people who would become travel companies and confidants abroad. But I couldn’t always be around people. My flat mates had their commitments and I had to also find a daily rhythm. My days outside of class were long and I found how to fill them with my own company. Whether I went to the gym, read outside, or wrote my blog at a coffee shop, I was as happy being alone as I was in a crowd.
Studying abroad taught me how to be alone but not be lonely. What I believe is that studying abroad in Norwich, England changed my life for the better. I'm proud to write this blog and reflect on my time at UEA, the friends I made, and the experiences that have defined my life.
I'm curious to know, did you study abroad? Or have you traveled abroad?
Let me know on social media where you went! Share this post and tag me with your answer on Instagram/Twitter @ Willsshowem
Here's to #UEADoesStudyAbroad and #VisitingUEA
Thanks for reading these Words by Will! See you in the next post
The week leading up to Christmas is a crazy time full of races. These races include, but are not limited to dashing through department stores for deals; sprinting to studios and gyms for their promotions; and jotting down goals for -now- the new decade. I realized that when I went to write down my goals one thought did NOT cross my mind. It was halfway through my chicnscratch-style-cursive when I hadn’t yet thought 2019 sucked!
Like the saying goes, You are your own worst critic and I believe this carries into how we plan for the new year. Because for most people the first thing to cross their mind is Wow this last year sucked! I can say with confidence that yes 2019 did suck. But it also had some unforgettable moments. For me, this year was when I finally got to reap basically everything I sewed this past decade. Ah - as I walk down memory lane, ofc in my Gucci Aces, I think about the moments that defined it… You might not be surprised by some of the top moments that made it for me, but again my life is an open book. So sit back, scroll on, and I hope you have some laughs and awws!
Getting My BA, Despite All my BS
While there was never any doubt I’d graduate from college, there were many times when I doubted my talents in what I was studying. I majored in Writing & Rhetoric, a degree that for the most part is pretty made up for liberal arts in the undergrad. I’d say it was more like studying communications then English. But it still baffles me how I could jump from drawing diagrams of sentences, to writing about Beyonce and making videos about Ariana Grande. I can honestly say I loved my academic journey as it wrapped up in 2019. My last year was all about studying things that I wanted to, and challenging myself to prove that it mattered. Journalism and politics weren’t my focus in writing. However, I am proud to have earned distinction in my major, I was one of 3 y’all, and prove that pop culture is political.
Securing the Bag After College
Now I truly am writing this in the most humble sense, but I knew I would find my way back into the industry after college. In the last decade, I cannot tell you how hard I worked in breaking into the world of Hollywood. It wasn't just enough to be a fan of the industry, I became a scholar of it. Even when I was too young to intern at a studio or production company I was building my vernacular and skills regarding entertainment. From reading the trades at school, to constantly being on the radar at open houses and emailing recruiters, I made sure that everywhere I went someone left knowing my name. That's why when I finished school the challenge wasn't finding out what to do. My challenge was finding out where I'd want to start my career. Luckily, through the networking I'd done and work I put in I found a job that gave me a chance to do more and do real work with real talent.
Treating Fitness as a Celebration of my Body
When I came back from my semester abroad I was sure that yes it changed my life, and I wanted to work on myself. One of my biggest insecurities has always been my weight. I have been plump for as long as I can remember. And while I am truly lucky to never have faced animosity because of my weight, I was constantly beating myself up. I used to think I wasn't attractive enough to post pictures of myself, make friends, and even land my dream job. Luckily, we live in a world that is less superficial, but still is, then what I imaged in my head. This past year is when I started to focus on my health and wellness seriously. I was eating healthier and starting to be a regular at my school's gym. However, the change didn't come until I stopped having the mindset that every mile I ran was for every cookie I ate. By that I mean that I started to see fitness as a way of understanding and accepting my body. When the miles became goals I had and not a punishment, not only did the weight come off but the rest followed suit. I left my insecurities at the door and stepped into things like spin classes, weight training, heck even Crossfit! So in this past year I'm so proud to be where I'm at, and I am eager to keep it up in 2020 and see how much more I can improve my relationship with my body,
Owning Up to My Own Bills
This is something that came on later in 2019, but bills bills bills they're here to stay. I am blessed and fortunate enough to have parents who have supported my sisters and I as much as they have. I graduated college without any debt, my own car, and that's on top of the funds my parents made sure I had in school. So when I finished school, I made it a point to show my parents that their investment in me could pay off. My phone, my groceries, and gas expenses were now my own. Every trip to Starbucks was now my responsibility. Don't get me wrong, for someone who is truly new to the working thing I had no idea how to budget. But when my parents saw me making a spreadsheet with my bills and managing my money they seemed proud. I am too. I'm still a long ways away from my fortune 500 lifestyle, but I am understanding that ordering a Venti iced mathca latte with two scoops and coconut milk errr day maybe isn't the best thing to do.
Finding a Group, Or Should I Say Posse, and Sticking To It
Back in high school, I was in a cohort of students who would stay together for 4 years. At least, that was the plan. But thanks to the encouragement of the teacher leading us, I moved up to an AP track. Now moving onto to AP English from Honors wasn't major, yet I did act like I was gone all together. I grew apart from this group and notably felt sad when we graduated from high school. It wasn't that I couldn't stay friends with them, I just didn't put in the effort. That's why this highlight means so much. In this last decade, I've belonged to a posse for almost 5 years now. We've known each other since high school, went through college together, and now we're like kinda adults out in the world. These individuals all grew up with me and saw me when I was batsh!t crazy in school. And this group also saw me reach some of my greatest goals in the decade. I'm proud that in my own way, and on my own terms, I remained apart of a posse, crossing the finish line with them in 2019.
Planning a Friend's Vacay
Just like every basic girl whose IG posts about Rome reference the Lizzie McGuire movie, I came back from abroad with a travel bug. During my senior year in college, I'll admit I got some good trips in. Going to Rochester and Syracuse, NY became normal, and I got to visit Boston for the first time. (Then there was that weekend my friends and I piled into my car and partied in Toronto during senior week, ugh miss those clowning days.) As I wrote about in a previous post, planning a trip was something I needed now as a kinda real adult. It was an utter treat to reunite with some of my closest friends in the city that is full of flavour; Boston. Cheers to all of my friends who were always down to clown, and here's to my friends who have always had a couch for me to crash on. May 2020 bring more trips, more fun, and more life abroad!
Write On Willy!
I am a writer through and through. Before my love for social media or PR comes the power of the written word. Studying writing and getting to write about writing this past year was exhilarating. In 2019, I got to geek out with faculty and staff members at school about things like grammar and style. I doubt most people could understand or get excited when they read a spicy lede, but this past year I was all about it! As part of my college experience, I created a final writing portfolio. In those nearly 80 pages I made a case for who was Will and what is his voice. This past year was traced in my work with prose. I became a Writing Fellow and helped students with their process, I grew in my process, and I felt like I made a mark in my writing department. In the new year I want to continue to write for myself. I want to maintain my voice and amplify it. Connecting with people is what I love to do, and all I can hope for in 2020 is that I can do more of it on a scale I could never imagine.
Family Finally Meaning Something
Family is something that means different things to different people. Nonetheless, it's something that every person defines for themselves. However, I never really had a focus on defining family. I loved my immediate family of course. It was the idea of embracing people, trusting them, and growing with them that seemed alien to me. I'm a pretty abrasive person. I like to keep it this way to not get hurt. But 2019 was the year where I finally started to let people in. And not like fake in with banter about the weather and all that, but I really let people in. From my hopes, dreams, fears, and more, people at school and even my own family began to have pieces of my heart. I think people noticed I was more genuine. But it was only because in 2019 I learned from some of the kindest souls I will probably ever meet.
Honoring My Process of Becoming...
Hannah Montana said it first, nobody's perfect, and she was right. I don't really adhere to the idea that life is a river and you go with the flow. I believe more that we are the masters of our own fate. The universe is chaotic and there's things out of our control. One thing that each of us controls is our reaction to what comes our way. This past year I started to both own my decisions and own my mistakes. In the year I plan to continue to be a better person than I was the day before. Whether it's saying, "Please" and "Thank you," running at a .1 faster pace, or just spending 5 more minutes with a friend, I want to do things to feel like I'm growing into a person I want to be.
I had probably never, and I mean never, like never ever, been so excited to ditch the west coast than I was this past weekend. After surviving a work trip in Arkansas, I knew that it was time for me to take a break. It was actually during my time away that I started sewing together a plan for my first ever vacation since being an undergrad.
I’ve been working full time since about July and I definitely was starting to feel fatigued. All of my friends, professors, and family members warned me that the real world was not going to be easier than school. I knew better than to imagine it would be easy. But now that I was, and am, in the thick of it it’s been such a sobering experience. Like it really has been sobering, because I hardly go out and party now!
Before I talk about my trip to Boston, I think it’s important to talk about my thought process leading to this mini vacation. I’ve been working full time since July, reminder I graduated back in May. I had a very good amount of time to still have fun and live my life responsibility free. My only real commitments were paying my phone bill, filling up my car, and feeding our dog Peggy. I still had savings from school, so even these small pressures weren’t weighing on me. Something that I had not expected was that when I started working the weight and stress would start to pile on over time. For some reason, I thought that starting a job was like a sink or swim type scenario. I expected the start of this race to be the hardest. However, like any race, the real challenge is keeping your pace. With this being my first job I must admit I ran out of steam around mid-October.
I don’t remember where I saw it, but there was an article that caught my attention talking about work and stamina. There was a point made that Americans pride themselves in literally working themselves to death. This is a thought process that I not only don’t condone but can’t accept. I believe and advocate for a healthy balance of home/work life. I could never be that person who lives on red-eyes.
While some people thrive off the adrenaline of constantly being under pressure I realized that this is not how I operate. Accepting my physical, mental, and emotional stamina early on is what has made my life all the more enriching. If I had tried to match the sheer will power of my colleagues I would have burned out. If I crashed and burned not only would my team suffer, but then I’d be left without an income and no way of getting more drip for the gram. Now how I could let my fans down on the gram?!
I had never imagined that my first real vacation would take me back to a place where down jackets and Bean boots were expected. But I admit I loved my time back east! If you didn't know, I decided to head back to Boston, Massachusetts for a mini reunion with some of my closest friends. #Squadgoals cannot even contain how much these girls meant to me! And its also not bougie enough for our lifestyle brand image! Anyways, it was Veterans Day weekend and after trying to plan a trip in June, all of my friends and I finally found a time to make it happen. Allie and I were taking the weekend off and getting away. This was the second time our group would all be in Boston together since our senior year fall break. It's also kind of poetic how we reunited about a year after this trip.
The first time I ever came to Boston was to celebrate our friend Eliza's birthday. Just like that first trip, this break was an invite to do it all! We ate good food, bought some good drinks, and of course Allie and I made even party as hard as we to in The Beef and Brew! I was so glad to see my friends and just take a minute to forget about the deadlines and drama that my job was all about. I got to shut off my mind from worrying about what other people needed from me. Here I was with some of my best friends just doing as we pleased. Every night we went out and I never worried about waking up early. HA- in fact there was a day where Allie and I woke up at like 1pm to see that Eliza had already lived her life for like half the day.
While some of our friends live in Boston, I think that seeing us out-of-town friends activated their inner vacation mode too. I was proud to see my friends adulting and hearing about their lives since we left Seneca Lake. Our conversations started off in the realm of nostalgia, but ended in a sobering dose of reality. We laughed, we talked about love, and them drank to the bills we had to pay later that month.
There was a lot of fun on this trip, and thankfully many moments captured by our momager LK. I want to dedicate a separate post to that, so stay posted!
In the meantime, to all my friends and those who read this, I hope this offered you a good break. Taking a break isn't a bad thing after all! Whether it's just taking a breath or going to an intense workout, or anything you can imagine, just take a moment for yourself.
We had just arrived at my friend's house, and I announced myself through saying, "I'm home." My friend's dad said, "Welcome back...I guess." While no one thought much of it, his utterance resonated with me. It proves to be more true every-time I come back for a break.
I can call Los Angeles home, but in reality for the last 3 years Geneva, NY has been my residence.
When I talk about school, I'm constantly smiling. I am well too aware of the rose colored glasses I wear when sharing my anecdotes. But, the truth is that whether I genuinely like HWS or I've made the best of my situation, in less than a year I'll be on the steps of Coxe Hall grabbing the diploma that equated to 4 years of hard sacrifices.
I've recently worked out something harder than moving away from home. Moving away from the person you used to be. I used to think that I really knew myself. However, we are always in the process of becoming. And I have become a version of myself that is hyper focused, sharp, and also sometimes erratic. One of my strengths is how I can go from 0 to 100 in .5 seconds. It can also be my greatest weakness. I can get passionate about something so quickly. Yet, I can also jump off ship before we even hit the ice berg. It's been my time at HWS that has helped me realize this fury that is double sided.
In talking with a close friend, I know that I have a lot of potential to do amazing things in life. And I also have the potential to crash and burn if I'm not ready.
So here's to a summer where No Chill Will gets some chill. Because, we all have to grow up eventually.