How to get a Student Visa

One of the least talked about struggles of studying abroad is applying for a student visa. Unlike passports, obtaining a visa is a long, tedious process that cannot be expedited. Before you start dreaming about living in another country and traveling around the world… plan out how you are going to get this done. The visa application program differs depending on where you study abroad, so make sure you check with your abroad counselor as well as with your local consulate.

What is a student Visa?

In order to visit another country for longer than 90 days, you must have government approval. For students, this is approved as a “student visa.” In order to get your visa accepted, you must go through an application process and provide proof that you are enrolled in a school in your host country. This being said, you cannot apply for a visa before getting admitted to your program.

How do I get it?

There are a few different ways to apply for a visa, but each one of these takes time. Every country offers various ways of obtaining a visa, some stricter than others. Depending on the country you study abroad in, they will have you attend an application center or make an appointment at a consulate. Visa’s take about 6-8 weeks to be processed so make sure you take this into consideration when making an appointment.

1.) Make an appointment at your local consulate.

Months before you plan on traveling abroad, go online and make an appointment at the consulate, in the state of your home school. For example, if you go to the University of Texas and are planning on traveling to Barcelona make sure you make an appointment at the Spanish embassy in Texas. This is not always emphasized and has caused so many issues for students. These appointments need to be booked MONTHS in advance, as they fill up fast. Applying at a consulate is the cheapest option since you are not going through anyone else.

2.) Visa Application Center 

Some countries give you the option to apply for a visa at application centers. If this is the case for you, the process is way less stressful, but should still be taken seriously. (Spain does not allow this). This being said, make sure you get an appointment and give yourself enough time for it to be processed and sent to you.

3.) Travel Visa Services  

Many abroad programs offer visa programs that make it easy for students to apply. This can be pretty costly but is generally the easiest option. You will be required to send in all the paperwork along with your passport and proof of residency. They handle the rest and then mail you back your passport and vias. BUT, the process takes longer than other options AND means you will not have a passport for about two months. This being said, do not plan on traveling or leaving the country during that time because it will not be possible. (This happened to me and it sucked) Again, make sure you are proactive and give yourself enough time to send in all the required material.

Things to Consider

You will not be allowed to travel abroad without a visa. I have heard actual horror stories about students not being able to go because they didn’t figure out their visa situation. You don’t want to be one of those kids. Make sure you give yourself time and plan appointments far in advance. Although your study abroad coordinator might think she is giving you the correct information, double check with your local embassy that you are following the correct procedures.

 

 

European Budget Airline Review

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.25.58 AM.png

As a college student, I find myself frequently using cheap, budget airlines while traveling abroad in Europe. Studying abroad is filled with constant weekend getaways, exploring new cities and really embracing the culture you are immersed in. However, these cheap flights do tend to cause a lot of stress. Now that I have studied abroad twice, I have spent a good amount of time and energy dealing with these companies. Here is a breakdown of the positive and negatives that come with Budget airlines.

 

Ryanair

This is one of the most popular airlines to use while in Europe. It generally has the cheapest flights, but it comes with a lot of traps. If you book in advance, you can get a flight for as low as 14 euros. This airline, although it is not the best, does have a wide range of flights for a very good cost. However, they are very strict on bag policy and will frequently stop you at the gate and charge you a 25-40 euro fee. Flights are almost always delayed, and I have had multiple flights canceled. Be prepared for some issues.

Bag Policy 

Free: One Personal Item: 40cm x 20cm x 25cm – 10kg  (strict)

Available for Purchase:

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 9.59.50 AM

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.00.14 AM

 

Vueling

Hands down my favorite budget airline. Their hub is located in Barcelona, so they have a wide variety of flights offered in and out of Spain. An airline ticket comes with a free personal bag, as well as one carry on. The planes are generally in good, clean condition and they are not typically delayed as much as other airlines. If you are flying in Europe, I would recommend this airline over others.

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 35x20x20 cm
  • One Carry-on: 10 kg and no larger than 55x40x20 cm

Available for Purchase:

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.09.08 AM.png

 

Norwegian

Norwegian offers very cheap airline tickets to and from the US. They also offer cheapish flights between the EU, but they are generally a bit more expensive than other airlines. Norwegian provides the option for one free carry on bag and one small personal item. If you are traveling a bit further, with multiple checked bags, I would recommend buying their economy plus ticket. It comes with two free checked bags, super comfortable seats and two meals (depending on the flight time).

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 25 x 33 x 20 cm
  • One Carry-on: 55 x 40 x 23 cm

Available for Purchase:

  • Checked bags: 1st bag from $12 – $47, 2nd bag from $20 – $86
Norwegian airlines bag policy differs from other airlines regarding the weight of bags, so make sure you check before your trip!

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.18.54 AM.png

EasyJet

Easyjet is another very inexpensive airline that is popular for study abroad students and backpackers. This airline flys to over 30 countries and offers trips all over Europe. It is very convenient if you want to get somewhere for cheap. This airline, much like Ryanair, does come with a lot of extra hidden charges. Bag policy is taken very seriously and will cost you. Expect frequent delays and bad customer service. I have had multiple flights canceled, and have had to deal with the inconvenience of airport/airline employee strikes. Not my favorite airline, but for the cost, it is okay.

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 56 x 45 x 25 cm (including handles and wheels)

Available for Purchase:

  • 15kg bag
  • 23kg bag
  • 32kg bag

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.08.30 AM.png

Wizz Air

This Hungarian airline is quite possibly the worst budget airline you could fly. I tried this airline while studying in Prague, since most of the flights are within eastern Europe, and it was a disaster. The bag policy is insanely strict, so be prepared to pay up to 40 euro for a cabin bag. The airline is low budget, so the seats are not very comfortable. Flights are frequently delayed and the customer service is poor. I wouldn’t recommend.

Bag Policy

Free:

  • One Personal Item: 40 x 30 x 20 cm

Available for Purchase:

  • Checked bags: 20 kg bag from €14-€60, 32 kg from €19 – €120

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.46.03 AM.png

 

There are pros and cons with every airline you chose to fly. Make sure you give yourself enough time and try to pay close attention to their guidelines, to avoid getting charged extra fees.

One day in Bruges, Belgium

 

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

Bruges, Belgium… this place is unlike any other city in Europe. It’s like walking through an ancient fairytale. The small town is filled with endless chocolate shops, cobbled streets, horse carriages, and cute canals. As one of the biggest tourist locations in Europe, it can get a bit crowded at times, so going in off months is suggested. Either way, the experience is worth it.

How to get there

Every 20 minutes or so a train runs from Brussels city center to Bruges. It only takes about an hour to get there and is a beautiful ride. The train station in Bruges is an easy 20-minute walk from the city center.

  • They also offer direct buses and trains from the Brussels South Charleroi airport. This takes about two hours.
  • Many other cities in Europe have transportation services that can be taken into Bruges.
Processed with VSCO with aga2 presetMy 6th waffle of the weekend.

Where to stay

Because I was only in Brussels for three shorts days, I decided I only had enough time to take a day trip to Bruges. At first, I was a little bummed but with the right planning, it was totally possible to see everything in one day.

If you have decided to stay overnight, here is a list of recommended hotels and Airbnbs that will not break the bank.

  • Hotel Academie
  • Hotel Aragon
  • Flanders Hotel
  • Hotel De Goezeput
  • St Christopher’s Inn at the Bauhaus (Hostel)

 

0.jpg

What to Do in Bruges

  • Attend local chocolatiers
    • It seems like every other shop is Bruges is a local chocolate shop. Each shop offers different variations of amazing chocolate. The shops smell delicious and the chocolates taste even better.

 

  • Take a canal tour
    • All through the city, beautiful canals stream through the streets. Depending on what time of year you go, they offer 30-minute canals tours. I didn’t get the chance to take one, but in the summertime, it is highly recommended.

 

  • Explore Museums, Art Galleries, and Cathedrals
    • Although this is a small town, it is filled with things to see. They offer specialty Museums which are very fun to walk through, as well as beautiful cathedrals filled with breathtaking artwork.

Some of these include:

  • Bruges Beer Experience
  • Choco-Story (Chocolate Museum)
  • Bierpaleis
  • Frietmuseum (Fry Museum)
  • Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Potterie
  • Anne’s Church

 

  • Drink Beer at a local Pub
    • Bruges really has a different feel than most cities I have traveled to. The bars are very authentic and offer unreal beer. Make sure you visit Delaney’s Irish Pub.

 

  • Walk through the beautiful Grote Markt
    • This is the main square in Bruges and is filled with colorful stores, restaurants and beautiful churches.

 

  • Belfry Tower
    • The Belfry Tower offers one of the most beautiful views in the city (maybe even in all of Europe.)

 

0-3 

Food in Bruges

  • Old Chocolate House*
    • This place is a must. Hands down the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life. The tiny little chocolate shop sells chocolate and other goods on the first floor and has a sit-down restaurant on top. The place offers 27 types of hot chocolate you can choose from, but the best is the simple classic hot chocolate. They bring over a tray of chocolate and cookies, as well as a soup bowl mug of steaming milk. You then stir in as much chocolate as you want until it is melted and ready to drink.

 

D3054A39-AD0F-42FB-838D-DED3416AAB5D

0-5Un. Fucking. Real.

  • Delaney’s Irish Pub
    • Not only is this place a fun pub, but they also have a huge variety of really good food. The portions are huge and not as expensive as most restaurants in Bruges.

 

  • Bones
    • If you love ribs as much as I do, this is the place for you. They offer great ribs as well as traditional Belgium food. This place is a bit pricier but has really good food.

 

  • Chez Albert
    • This is one of the most popular Belgium waffle shops in Bruges. You can get waffles for as low as 2 euros and they are super gooey and delicious. They weren’t the best waffles I had all weekend, but definitely tasty.

 

0-1

 

Peggy Porschen Cakes Review 

 

IMG_1337.JPG.jpeg

I mean if you’re in London for the weekend; obviously you have to eat cake for breakfast at least once. On our second morning in the city, we made our way across town to the infamous Peggy Porschen Cake Shop. As we approached the bakery, it was very clear this place was designed for an Instagram influencer.

It’s about a five minute stop for Victoria Station, and incredibly easy to spot. As you approach, girls are lined up outside waiting to take pictures. The pink ambiance and flowers are designed to perfection. I visited during the last weekend of January, so the shop was already set up and ready for Valentines Day. Everything in the bakery is incredibly picturesque, almost like a dream. Pink lush cupcakes, heart-shaped cookies, and amazing designed cakes.

IMG_1334.JPG

The downside- the cake is honestly not spectacular. We ordered one slice of vanilla cloud cake and a second piece of dark chocolate truffle cake. In most situations, I am more of a vanilla type of girl, but the chocolate truffle cake was MUCH better. We also ordered pink champagne, cupcakes, coffee, tea, and a hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was easily the best thing we ordered. We’re talking a huge cup of warm, rich, dark hot chocolate. Yum.

Although I was not impressed by the food, I would totally recommend this place for the atmosphere. I would suggest arriving somewhat early to avoid the hectic Instagram frenzy. We got there at about 11 and it was just starting to get packed (and it was a weekday.)

IMG_1335.JPG

Lastly, be prepared to pay for the ambiance… because it is not cheap. My hot chocolate was like 8 US dollars, so as a college student, that’s quite a lot. We got a very cute table outside and was entertained by the photo-shoots happening before us. Some people came with tripods, took pictures and left without buying anything. Hahaha I’m not sure I would stoop to that level, but that is also an option.

So next time you’re in London and need a cute Instagram picture, this is your place.

Website: www.PeggyPorschen.com

Address: 116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9QQ, UK

Time: Everyday 8am-8pm

IMG_1338.JPG

IMG_1336.JPG

 

xoxo liv

IMG_1126

How to Stay Healthy while Studying Abroad

1.)       Walk- One of the best things while studying abroad is the amount of walking you do. The first time I was abroad I walked everywhere I went. I had a metro pass but it was much easier to get around on foot. I gave myself extra time in the mornings and it became normal to walk at least 7-8 miles a day. Even if you have an unlimited metro card, make sure you make time in your day to walk around the city. It is a good source of exercise and keeps your body healthy. Incorporate this into your daily schedule and you will see results.

 

2.)       Join a gym– Over the summer I studied abroad for 5 weeks in the Czech Republic. The weather was amazing and since I wasn’t there for long, I decided not to join a gym. At first, I was constantly going on runs through the city, but this began to fade over time. This time around I made it one of my priorities to join a gym. I did some research and found an amazing gym a few blocks from my house. I went ahead and bought a 4-month plan, for the entire time I am here. In my opinion, when you are paying for a membership, you are more inclined to go. I highly suggest joining a gym if you are studying abroad for more than a month. Many offer student discounts and come with a lot of perks, including spas and saunas.

 

3.)       Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks – One thing that I started to notice in college is that if there are snacks around, I will eat them. So the best thing to do is either do not buy them or stock up on healthy snacks. Since I have been in Europe I find myself eating WAY more chocolate than I ever would at home. If you’re strolling down the unhealthy isle at the grocery store, restrain yourself. You might get midnight cravings or a sweet tooth but if you don’t have anything to cure it, you won’t eat it.

 

4.)       Cook your own meals– I cannot emphasize this enough. Learn to cook before you travel across the world by yourself. This will not only save you money, but it will make you feel way better about what you are putting into your body. Although it is fun to go out to eat, this can get tiring after a while. You are aware of exactly what you are putting into your food and you won’t be as tempted to order something unhealthy off the menu.

 

5.)       Save the “splurge” for the weekend– Most weekends during studying abroad are typically spent visiting other cities. This means you will be eating out way more and trying all the best local foods. During the week try to eat as healthy as you can and restrain from empty calorie meals that really aren’t worth it. Each city offers something totally new and the food is definitely worth trying. At home during the week, stick to salads and low-calorie meals so that you can splurge all you want on the weekends.

 

6.)       Drink water- When people say, “wine is cheaper than water” they are not joking. Don’t get me wrong, for the first week in Europe this was amazing. But soon this started to hit me hard. I was constantly dehydrated and my body was feeling it. Make sure to always bring a water bottle around with you no matter what. It is a lot cheaper to buy disposable water bottles than it is to buy water at meals so I suggest stocking up on those at the grocery store. You NEED to be drinking water especially since you are drinking alcohol and doing a lot more walking than usual. It will get annoying constantly paying for water, but the money is worth it.

 

7.)       Bring vitamins- Unfortunately, I figured this out the hard way during my first study abroad experience. After my first couple of weeks exploring Prague, I started to feel very depleted all the time. Although the food wasn’t totally doing it for me, my body was reacting to something else. I soon started to realize I hadn’t been taking my iron pills. The second time around I made sure I had enough vitamins for the full time I was here. Although vitamins are small, it does have a strong effect on your body. Trust me on this one, just bring some.

 

8.)       Take advantage of good weather- Studying abroad in the spring can be a bit difficult when it comes to weather. Every day is honestly a mystery and it is never clear what the weather will be like. Every once in a while you are blessed with a random warm day, so take advantage of this. Walk to school instead of taking the metro, find a park and bring your computer to do some work. It will surprise you how much your body appreciates some fresh air every once in a while.