Unlock your potential

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“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

 

About a year ago I went through a really low point in my life. I fell into a routine of using my imagination as an outlet. When I closed my eyes I was able to picture a better, healthier version of myself. I fantasized about what my life could look like. But with time I realized something that would soon lead me to a life transformation: you can’t dream if you don’t use it as inspiration. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not writing this as if my life is all of a sudden figured out, it’s not. I am simply writing this because I was able to realize the change I needed so that I could grow. And if this happens to help someone else out there, then that is even better.

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My story:

Going into college, I felt this immense amount of pressure that I had to live up to. It wasn’t pressure from any one in particular, but the pressure I put on myself to be great. For pretty much my whole life, I had a roadmap of my future. I put all I could into one basket because that was what I knew. That was what I was comfortable with. But one day I realized that maybe it was time for me to find what else I am meant for.

The pressure to succeed in one aspect of my life was limiting my growth in everything else. I wanted to become the best version of myself but I felt that under the circumstances, it was not possible. I constantly played different scenarios in my head, but I always ended up avoiding the change. 

My reality was that I not only had to change my life drastically but I had to immerse myself into new environments that I was not comfortable in. It was 100% up to me to see the change I wanted and to act on it.

“You can’t just have a dream, you have to have a plan”

And guess what happened? 

All that pressure that I was putting on myself and all of that stress about what people would think, it suddenly went away. Because work ethic and determination isn’t something someone can just give you, it’s something you created for yourself. And it doesn’t end when you quit a sport. If you were able to work hard to get to that point of success, you will be able to outwork people throughout your whole life. That urge and grit you had to be the best will continue to translate into all aspects of your life. 

So my advice to you, identify what in your life is holding you back. What is stopping you from becoming the best version of yourself? Is it someone? Is it fear? It is embarresment? Or is it simply that you will be uncomfortable with change?

When you start to only dream, you are failing yourself. 

Act on those dreams. Make a plan for yourself. Figure out what makes you happy and start designing the best way to utilize that. Because there are so many things out there now, there is no need to drown in anxiety when you can plant your seed and start growing somewhere else. 

 

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.

 

 

8 Foods You Must Try in Barcelona

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Traveling to Spain anytime soon? Not only will the sites and the great weather amaze you, but you are in for an even bigger treat when it comes to food. Whether you are looking for a Michelin star restaurant or some cheap tapas, Barcelona has it all. Each region of Spain is known for its specialty of food, so don’t leave without trying it all. Here is a list of the top 8 foods that you must try in Spain.

 


Paella

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No Spain vacation is complete without trying a fresh plate of paella. This rice and seafood dish is the number one food that Barcelona is known for and can be found at most major restaurants. They also offer chicken paella or strictly vegetables if you are a vegetarian! If you want to taste the best, here is a guide to the best Paella in Barcelona.

 

 

Tapas

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When arriving in Spain, tapas and sangria should be the first meal you sit down to. If you don’t know what they are, tapas are small dishes of food that are typically served with drinks. They are the most common Spanish meal and can be found in every city across the country. The best way to get a real feel for Spain is to come hungry and order a lot! The plates are small and super cheap so make sure you order a few!

 

Patatas Bravas

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This dish is very common in tapas bars and goes very well with a cold beer. Patatas bravas are cut up cubed potatoes that are baked in oil to give them the perfect crunch. They are then topped off with spicy tomato sauce. These are one of the most commonly ordered tapas, and you can taste why.

 

 

Jamón

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Jamón is a classic piece of the Spanish diet. If you are unsure what this is, think prosciutto but half the price and just as good. This dish is served in every tapas bar and can be paired with bread, cheese or a piece of melon (my fav). Restaurants and stands also offer to-go cups of Jamón and cheese, so make sure to grab one as you explore the city.

 

Pa amb Tomaquet

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Pa amb Tomaquet, a staple part of the Spanish diet. If you’re a fan of bruschetta, this is a good choice for you. You will find this in every restaurant as it is hands down one of the most popular foods in Spain. This dish varies a bit between restaurants but it consists of baked bread, tomatoes and olive oil. So yummy.

 

Tortilla De Patatas

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These Spanish omelets are found all throughout Spain and are made from egg, potato, onion, garlic, and olive oil. They are many times served cold as an appetizer, but are even better when they are hot. It’s super delicious and is a must try.  These can be found at most tapas restaurants!

 

 

Olive Oil

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You have never really tasted olive oil until you come to Spain. This is pretty much used in every form of cooking but tastes even better with just a piece of bread. All throughout the city you can find stores that offer premium olive oil. This is personally one of my favorite foods in Barcelona and you absolutely cannot look it over.

Sangria

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Your Spanish vacation doesn’t really begin until you order a pitcher or two of sangria. This sweet alcoholic beverage is filled with red wine and fruit and brandy… what could be better? Pretty much every restaurant will offer this drink, in many different forms too! Although it is not super common among locals, is it essential for people coming through.

 

Study Abroad: Spring vs. Fall Semester

Study Abroad: Spring vs. Fall Semester

If there’s one thing I wish I knew prior to coming abroad, it’s that spring in Europe is not anything like spring in California. This shit is cold. As my study abroad experience is coming to an end, I thought I would give some suggestions for those of you who are deciding between coming in the spring vs the fall.

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When I started planning to go abroad, it seemed as though it was decided for me which semester I would attend. Majority of people studying abroad decide to go during second semester of junior year. This being said, if your school holds big events, that is also a factor to consider. Michigan kids don’t want to miss football games. Tulane kids don’t want to miss mardi gras. Every school has something. But as I’m here I have started to wonder if I came for the right semester. Lets break it down.

Fall Semester

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Fall Pros

  • Easier to find a subletter – I would say the majority of kids study abroad second-semester junior year. This makes it super difficult, if not impossible, to find someone to sublease your apartment. And trust me when I say, it sucks going abroad and paying for two rents. Going in the fall gives you a ton of leeway to find someone, or to sublease someone else’s apartment while they are abroad in the spring. This is a HUGE thing to consider.
  • Internships – Because the internship process takes place in the spring, this gives you an advantage over other kids. You are home and have more time to spend focusing on getting the job. Trust me, this is a pretty major.
  • Airline Tickets are cheaper – This is one thing that most people don’t realize, but flying within Europe during the fall is much cheaper than during the spring.
  • Oktoberfest – One of the wildest weekends of your life. Endless beer, schnitzel and Dirndl.
  • Warm Weather – I feel like fall in Europe is the perfect temperature. It’s not unbearably hot but you can also get away with wearing shorts and a tank top. It’s easy to pack light when traveling, which means you don’t have to pay for extra luggage.

Fall Cons 

  • Missing Thanksgiving – I don’t know about you, but going home for Thanksgiving is one of my favorite parts of the year. All your friends are home for break, so much good food and moms cooking. It would definitely be a bummer missing out on this.
  • The semester is shorter – Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime experience so even losing out on a few extra weeks is a huge bummer.
  • Limited time to travel after – After the fall program comes to an end, the weather has dropped and it’s not as convenient to spend time traveling. At this point, it is also getting close to the holidays which people generally want to spend at home.

Spring Semester

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Spring Pros

  • Time to travel after – One of the biggest pros of studying abroad in the spring is that you have the chance to stay and travel after your program ends. At this point, you have made so many new friends and you will get the chance to roam around Europe for a bit before getting back home. Most programs end in April so you have time before internships really start.
  • The people – Because spring is the more common semester to study abroad, you will be surrounded by so many students/ friends from home. Having good company is one of the best things about studying abroad, so this is definitely a plus.
  • Getting to attend Football Season – Obviously, fall is football season, so if you attend a school that has a good football team you will still be able to attend game days.
  • St. Patricks day in Dublin – I don’t know how to describe this weekend other than pubs, pubs and more pubs.

Spring Cons 

Depending on where you decide to study abroad, the weather at the beginning is pretty cold. This not only means some days will be miserable, but your skin almost forgets what sunlight feels like. Also, packing for winter takes up way more space than dresses and sandals.

  • Packing for the cold – Try to squeeze 6 pairs of jeans, and 8 jackets into a suitcase (plus all the other shit you need.) Packing for a semester in the spring is much harder than the fall. Most places you will visit are in the peak of their winter, so it is essential to bring warm clothes.
  • Most places are freezing – You don’t think much about this before, but try exploring all these new cities wearing leggings under your jeans and three jackets. It gets really cold and can really affect your experience in most places.
  • Internships – For internships, the job applications don’t start opening up until around January. This means that you will not only be spending significant time applying to jobs, but you will also have to find the time & good internet service for interviews. The time difference doesn’t help either. It can be a huge pain in the ass so try and plan early or just get ready for some stress.
  • Seniors are gone when you return – One of the downsides of studying abroad in the spring is that when you return to school in the fall, all of the seniors are gone and the overall atmosphere is much different.
  • Weight gain before Summer –  Trust me, “Abroad10” is a thing. It’s no surprise that you will gain a little weight in the four months you travel across Europe, so it’s a bit of a bummer when you return home for summer and your pants don’t fit.

No matter when you go, your study abroad experience will be amazing. However before you let your emotions dictate your decision, make sure you consider all of the factors. If you don’t like the cold, I don’t suggest the spring. If you want to be surrounded with 91873819828 other study abroad students, then Spring is for you!

European Budget Airline Review

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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

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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

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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.