Study Abroad FAQ: Packing, Budgeting, a Vlog, and MORE

I have received quite a few questions on Instagram throughout the semester about my study abroad experience and I thought I would throw them all together in one post. Also, exciting news: I found a fully edited vlog in my iMovie archives that I never uploaded, so I have been waiting to write this post to publish it! I started vlogging about 4 weeks before and then up until the day I left for Barcelona, so everything I bought and did to prepare is documented in the vlog, which I think will be super helpful if you're getting ready to go abroad. As always, my Instagram DM's are open for any other questions and I hope this post and vlog is helpful! Click here if you want to open the video in YouTube.

☆ How did you fit everything into your suitcase?!
You'll see in my video, but I bought organizer bags and compression bags from Target. These really helped me stayed organized and fit things in, so I highly recommend those- especially the compression bags. I wish I would have had more of those.

I borrowed a massive suitcase from my dad that probably could've fit two people inside. I think if you are an efficient packer, you could get away with one large checked bag, a carry on suitcase, and a big backpack (if you can take two items with you on the plane). I got the Patagonia Black Hole Backpack in the biggest size and I'm SO glad that I did. It was a little pricier than my usual school backpack, but it was perfect for everyday and long weekend trips.

☆ Other Packing Tips:

- Tons of underwear and socks: I had to pay for laundry so I tried to bring enough underwear and socks to last me 2-3 weeks.
- Wait to buy shampoo/conditioner, body wash, lotions etc: you will be able to find everything you need.
- Extras of products you love: you can get a ton of stuff abroad, especially in Europe, but if you have skincare or makeup products you love, it never hurts to purchase more ahead of time.
- Empty travel sized containers and products (toothpaste, dry shampoo): really helpful for weekend trips because you can only take travel sized products in your carry on bags.
- Go through your daily routine on paper so you make sure you don't forget anything
- Power adapters/converters: don't take expensive hair tools
- Check with your insurance about getting all your prescriptions covered for an extended period of time
- Bring more comfy clothes than you would think! I spent a lot more time lounging in my room than I expected that I would.
- Don't overpack shoes! You aren't going to wear heels out and about because there's so much walking.
- In terms of clothes: pack extra jeans because these will become your everyday staple if you're in Europe. I never wore jeans to class before this semester. Also, neutral colored jackets (I had a green military style jacket and a jean jacket) that you can pair with tops and jeans and dresses. Pack lighter for the season that you are going into and more for the season that you will be leaving in (so for me: I came in the summer and am leaving in the winter) : I wish I would have brought more fall and winter clothes as opposed to so many summer clothes and shoes.

☆ Do you feel the same stress with classes abroad as you would at UK?
Classes are very different abroad than at home, not necessarily "easier". They tend to be longer (mine are 1 hour and 40 minutes) and there are a lot of group projects. There is a little bit of homework, but, in my experience, I've had 1-2 group projects and 2 exams per class to focus on. You can't really get by not studying or doing any work, but I would definitely not consider it as stressful.

☆ How many euros a day should I budget if I'm studying abroad for the semester?
Oy.... I'm probably not the best person to answer hahaha. No, actually I feel like I've done an okay job budgeting. It was important for me to travel as much as I could, so I definitely did that, but I'm coming home with verryyyy few pennies in my pocket. In my opinion, I get to work for the rest of my life, so having these experiences is worth it to me.

Answering the question, I would budget an average of $200 per week. You definitely won't need that much every single week if you don't travel a ton because some weeks I would only spend 20 euros in one week when I stayed in Barcelona. Traveling can get pricy, so that's why I say "an average". However, I've also become a frequent Zara shopper, so there's that LOL. My tips for saving money are cooking and making coffee at home. Buy tupperware and pack your lunch during the week, so you have more money to eat out or shop on the weekends. If you're like me and have been working and saving money for years for this experience, I think now is the time of your life when it's okay to spend on experiences.

☆ Best places to visit in Spain?
I travelled to Sitges, Valencia, Peniscola, and Sevilla. All of those spots are incredible. I wish I would've made it to San Sebastian because I've heard it's amazing.

☆ What did you do for a phone plan?
I have Sprint and they offer a pretty great international plan, so it didn't end up costing anything extra to text or use very slow data and my calls were 25 cents a minute. My friends with AT&T and Verizon got a new SIM card from local cell phone carriers that cost ~20 euros per month.

☆ What was your Spanish visa process like?
You have to have a visa if you are planning on being in Spain for more than 90 days. Spanish visas require you to apply in person and the closest embassy to me was in Chicago (every state has a designated location). I went to their website, requested my appointment, and printed the application paperwork. You fill out the application, get all your documents, photos, and prepaid envelope together, and head to your appointment. It's super quick (mine was around 10 minutes)- they take your application and passport  and mail your passport back to you within six weeks. Mine actually was mailed to me within two weeks of my appointment. It feels super stressful trying to get everything together, but the appointment itself is no big deal.

☆ What was included in the price of your program?
I did my program through ISA and the price of my program included tuition, housing, 2 full weekend trips + 1 day trip to Spanish cities, insurance, airport transportation, and a full staff in Barcelona that was available for support. I have had zero issues this semester and I'm so thankful I chose to go through ISA.

☆ What is your housing situation like?
So I live in a "residencia" which is basically like a combination of a college dorm and a hotel. We have 24/7 front desk staff and a weekly cleaning service, but only students live in our building, I share a twin bed room and a small bathroom with my roomie, and we share a kitchen with everyone on our floor. It's been an interesting experience for sure and, looking back, I'd probably choose a regular apartment, but I definitely have some great stories from living here haha.

I think that's just about everything! If you have any more questions about study abroad, my DMs are always open. This has been an unbelievable experience and, if you're getting ready to go, get ready for the time of your life!!

Check out some of my other study abroad posts:
Applying for Study Abroad
Healthy Hacks for Study Abroad + Travel
Week One + Adjusting

A Letter To Me

One week from tomorrow, I will be packing my bags and heading home to Kentucky. For my final assignment for my online study abroad class at UK, I had to write a letter to myself before I studied abroad. I mention this in the letter, but I really never expected to feel such sadness in getting ready to go home. Not because I'm not excited to see my family and friends (I actually can't wait to eat my grandma's Christmas lasagna), but it always hurts a little bit to turn the page on such an incredible chapter and this one has been so so good. My heart is so full and I'm just really grateful. So while I go get a tissue or five to wipe my ugly tears...enjoy my letter :)



You are getting ready to embark on your study abroad journey to Barcelona. You're nervous and excited about leaving home for the first time in your life. You will learn how to be independent like never before. You have no idea what the future holds, but that's okay. The unknown of the future is what is so exciting- the possibilities are endless! Your worries about adjusting to this new chapter and making new friends are totally valid, but there are far better things ahead than you can even imagine. Be open to new friendships and experiences. Say yes, even when you're scared. Don't pack so many shoes! Call Mom and Dad and say thank you for everything and how much you miss them. Oh, and resist the urge to pop into Zara and spend $100 on random Tuesday afternoons!

You will spend every penny you've worked so hard to earn, traveling exactly where you wanted to go and it was SO worth it, I promise. You saw Sitges, London, Italy, the Canary Islands, Portugal, Valencia, Dublin, Paris, Sevilla, and Germany---freaking amazing!!! But Barcelona will always be your favorite. You will meet Jess, Nellie, Kat, Wes, Mac, Arturo, and so many others and form incredible relationships with each of them. Together you will travel to new cities, eat amazing brunch food (your favorite), and stay up way too late at Spanish night clubs. You are going to realize how, despite so many differences and being from all over the world, people are a lot more similar than you think. It will blow your mind how so many people with different goals, dreams, and stories can come together and share such incredible memories. Traveling with Drew is going to end up being the best decision we've ever made for our relationship. You're going to see just how lucky you are to share these experiences with him and how special your bond really is... I mean who gets to watch the sunset at the top of the Eiffel Tower with their boyfriend at 20??? You'll begin to understand that your past fears about the future are so small in comparison to the greater plan that exists. God has a plan and He has your back! Everything is going to play out exactly how it is supposed to.

I'm so grateful to you for believing in yourself enough to take this leap and grow beyond your comfort zone. For a really long time, you've been a "box checker"- moving through life at lightning speed just to get things done and check the boxes of what you're supposed to do. I can tell you now, after four months of simply following your heart, it's okay to trust your instincts and stop and enjoy little moments and victories. You are way more capable than you give yourself credit for and you know what's best for you. It's okay to be proud of yourself for all that you've accomplished and how hard you've worked.  In this moment, getting ready to go home and end this chapter, I never expected to feel such sadness, but this is only the beginning of everything that is to come. For the first time in your life, on December 11th, 2018, you can look back on this chapter of your life and know you did everything that you set out to do. You have zero regrets and, for once, the unknown of the future is really exciting. Never lose that feeling, promise? I'm so proud of you.


6 Healthy Study Abroad Hacks + a VLOG

Today I am finally sharing some healthy's about time! I wrote about some of my "health/wellness" fears going into study abroad in this post, but I've gotten some questions on Balanced Baig about staying healthy while actually being abroad. Being abroad, in general, is a learn as you go situation. I'm constantly proving myself wrong and learning new things. I've been working on strengthening my relationship with my body and shifting my perception of what it means to be healthy (go read my recent post on wellness if you want to hear more about this). I am so grateful to be healthy and able to travel and push myself out of my comfort zone physically, mentally, and emotionally during this time, but it never hurts to figure out how you can eat and move to feel your best.

First things first, I shared a what I eat in a day vlog on Youtube a few weeks ago. I was waiting to write this post to share the video, so that I could link the video and have all my tips in one place. This vlog is just a quick little glimpse into my day, but hopefully you can see how I put some of these tips into action!

It helps that I have a kitchen in my building and can cook during the week, but I've definitely picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that I'm going to share. I'm only sharing these tips because I feel most confident when I know I'm doing what I can to feel good. Am I at the top of my fitness game right now? Not really, hahaha. But whenever you're traveling for a long period of time, you do what you can to make it work while still indulging and exploring new places and cultures. I freaking love food. Last week, I think my mom and I ate gelato 5 nights in a row and it was incredible. 

TIP #1 // Movement
This might be boring/common sense, but moveee! It's easy to call an Uber or ride public transport around, but I think walking everywhere has helped me the most. Obviously sometimes it thunderstorms or places are far away, but so far, I've only ridden the metro to class one time! It does take longer, but when you're in a new place, it's fun to explore new streets and get moving. I share this way too much on Instagram stories, but I am in love with Melissa Wood Tupperburg and her workouts. Any time I feel like I've been way too overindulgent, I do her workouts (in my tiny little room with zero equipment) and my mood is instantly elevated. Not that this is the most important thing (although it never hurts), but I feel like I see a change in the appearance of my body almost immediately.

TIP #2 // Intermittent Fasting
Did you read my latest post with Kelsey Boudreaux all about intermittent fasting? I love what she is doing with the FASTer Way to Fat Loss program and I may have signed my boyfriend and I up for her New Years round...I love weaseling him into little fitness challenges with me hahaha. Anyways, I mentioned in the post that I try to do it casually. Basically, I try to wait at least 12 hours in between eating meals, but ideally, like 14 or 16. If I eat dinner at 9, I try to wait to have breakfast til like noon. I think the most important thing to note here is to listen to your body and eat if you're starving. For me personally, something about getting my walk to school in on an empty stomach really makes me feel good. Read Kelsey's post to learn more about the science behind IF. 

TIP #3 // Greens, greens, greens
I try really hard to get my greens in every day. Even if it's a handful of spinach on an egg, cheese, and avocado bagel, I add it in. Travel is tough because sometimes greens either aren't on the menu or Nutella pancakes sound so much better. I'm guilty. Do what you can here. If you're a student/have access to a kitchen, fresh veggies are so cheap in Europe. I like to add tons of greens and veggies to scrambled eggs, pasta, or salads when I'm home.

TIP #4 // Buy Tupperware
I've been horrible about budgeting being abroad. Every time I check my bank account, I think I kill a little piece of my soul. Buying tupperware helps me to a) save money by not eating out every day and b) make healthy meals to pack and throw in my backpack. I share a lot of my Tupperware meals on Insta stories, but I could do a blog post on some of my fave "recipes" if it's something you're interested in. I also bought a to-go coffee cup last week to save money on my morning coffee. I kind of think it might be too little too late on that one, but do what you can, right?

TIP #5 // Supplements
If you go to my "Gut Health" highlight on Balanced Baig, you'll see a series of snaps where I got super into supplements this summer. My two faves that I'm pretty sure you can just pick up at Whole Foods are Oil of Oregano and Digestive Enzymes. I ran out of my probiotics and, like I mentioned, my bank account is a scary place these days, so that is unfortunately taking a back seat right now, LOL. Oil of Oregano is really good for inflammation and is a natural antibacterial product. This is great if you feel like you're getting run down or when you've been really indulgent. I take the Digestive Enzymes after I've had a huge meal and it helps me feel better. I'm not a scientist, but I feel like these are really helpful.

TIP #6 // Stay Present
I've mentioned my Headspace obsession, but I feel like being abroad and traveling has helped me to value the present moment so much more. Getting to see new places and make memories has been the most beautiful experience. I get emotional at least twice a day about how grateful I am to be able to experience this life the way that I have. My past fears and obsessions about being "healthy" are so small compared to how incredible our world is. Listen to your body and do what makes you happy. Memories and experiences are so much more important, so I have really tried to just embrace and enjoy every moment of this season that I'm in.

Thanks for reading xx.

Kelsey Boudreaux: All About Intermittent Fasting

A huge fitness "trend" I've been seeing recently is intermittent fasting. I've been casually doing it while traveling just to stay feeling good, but I am super intrigued by the FASTer Way to Fat Loss program that I've been seeing all over social media and IRL... Enter Kelsey Boudreaux! Kelsey was my cheerleading coach my senior year of high school and I'm so glad that we have stayed in touch through social media. This spring, I saw her post her FWTFL transformation (which is amazing!) and, when she became a coach for the program, I knew I had to ask her some questions and bring them to the blog. This is one of my favorite posts I've done in a while, so I hope you enjoy!


Tell us a little bit about your health and fitness journey.
I've been an athlete my entire life. I've tried about every sport, but was mainly a swimmer and cheerleader for the majority of my middle and high school years. I was the girl who put on the "Freshman 15" because my eating habits went down the drain and I never made time to workout. After starting PT school, I gained another 30 pounds and felt really terrible. Fatigued, foggy, and constantly in a funk. That's when I started the FASTer Way to Fat Loss program, and it's changed my life forever. A long time friend of mine, Chasity Givens, was posting about the program on Facebook and Instagram. I was pretty skeptical at first and put the cost of the program on my credit card. I had no clue what to expect, but I would do it 100 times over again in a heartbeat!

What are the basics on Intermittent Fasting and how have you been able to incorporate IF into your busy lifestyle?
There's a couple different types of intermittent fasting. The one we follow is the 16/8 rule. We fast for 16 hours a day then eat for 8 hours a day. Some people look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them that, but it's actually pretty easy!! Intermittent fasting is not a diet, it is simply an eating schedule. I still consume about 1900 calories a day, I just do it within an 8 hour eating window. When it comes to digestion and metabolism, your body can be in 2 states: fed or fasted. When we're in a fed state, our body primarily uses sugars (ie glucose and carbs) as its main energy source to burn for fuel. When we're in a fasted state, our body now has to turn to a new energy source to burn for fuel and that's fat. It takes about 12 hours after we've stopped eating to burn off the readily available carbs in our body that we use for energy. After that 12 hour mark, our body turns to burning off readily available fat for fuel. Most people come to me saying "I'm eating clean, but I can't get this weight off!" Implementing intermittent fasting is such an easy way to ramp up your fat loss results.

I live on such a busy schedule that I've termed my life a "grab-n-go" lifestyle. Every morning, I literally have to "grab-no-go" out of my fridge for the day. Whether it be leftovers from the night before, chicken salad, snacks, etc. The key to being successful is to make sure you're eating things you love! You do NOT have to settle for meal prepping 6 days of plain rubber chicken and mushy broccoli. I love food and I love a lot of flavor, so I've found things that I like and that I know work.

What inspired you to become a FWTFL coach?
The success I had with the program was obviously a huge part, but the community I found through the FWTFL was seriously unlike any other. Everyone is so positive, motivating, and empowering! We all have come together to live healthier and more energetic lives, so that we can be the best versions of ourselves, and to me, that's the best part of this program.

What are some of the biggest mistakes/misconceptions about health and fitness that you've seen from others and/or from yourself before starting the program?
"So if I only eat 1000 calories a day and then burn off 1200 working out, I'll be sure to lose weight right?" NO! Under eating and over exercising will give you very short term results, but in no way is that healthy or sustainable. We have to have the right amount of nutrients to function. Severely restricting food and over exercising is putting incredible amounts of stress on every cellular process in your body and it will actually cause you to retain the weight you're at. We have to feed and nourish the wonderful bodies we've been given!

What is some advice for anyone interested in the program and/or just putting their health and self first and where can everyone find your program? 
My life motto is "you have one life to live, don't waste it on other people." This is YOUR life and you only get one of them! Don't waste it by compromising your health. You have to put your health and well-being first, so that we are able to give back to our families and communities. We all have struggles financially, but I promise you that you can work out for $4 a day for 7 weeks to work towards putting yourself first! The program is entirely online- no meetings, weigh ins, etc. I'll be your coach and teach you EVERYTHING you need to know!! You can follow me on Instagram @kelseyannboudreaux and click the link in my bio there!

A huge thank you to Kelsey for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions and be sure to check out her Instagram for her link to the FASTer Way to Fat Loss program!

Follow my Instagram accounts to keep up with my travels abroad:
@baiginthiel + @balanced_baig

Thanks for reading! xx

What Really is Wellness?

Lake Como, Italy

The term "wellness" is such a buzz word right now, but what does it actually even mean? At first, I think I was guilty of thinking of wellness as working out 7 days a week and drinking protein shakes.
However, the more I'm on this journey of figuring out life, I'm realizing that I think wellness is figuring out how to live your best life and it isn't a one size fits all kind of thing. In terms of the health aspect of wellness, I see it as being able to nourish and move my body the way that makes me feel good. Going on a walk for an hour listening to a podcast feels better to me than trying to do 100 burpees every day right now. Although sometimes crushing some burpees feels great, just showing up to move my body still makes me feel my best. Eating a super yummy salad or a smoothie with spinach and chia seeds makes me feel amazing, but you know what else makes me feel amazing? Having 2 hour conversations with amazing new friends in Italy while sharing the most delicious pizza and wine. I love food, but I think I love the experiences that come with food more. Finding those amazing moments that light you up and making an effort to chase more of those moments are what wellness is really all about, in my opinion.

Quinoa Bowl at Sandwichez in Barcelona

Peanut Butter Toast at Nicolau Lisboa
I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that one of my biggest fears about studying abroad was the unknown of whether or not I would gain weight from eating unhealthy or not working out. Wtf right? The longer I'm here, the more it hits me: what a STUPID fear, Baigin. But hear me out. I was afraid that being put out of my comfortable bubble would rock my view of the role of health and fitness in my life and, I guess, in a way, it has. Like, is this really what I'm interested in and passionate about or is it a "passion" that has developed out of this fear of gaining weight or being "unhealthy"? When thinking about this, I tried to pinpoint when exactly I decided I was going to be a "healthy" or "balanced" eater (whatever that really means). It brought me back to when I was in 4th grade and I gave a presentation to my school's PTO about why we need to make our school lunches more nutritious. As a 4th grader, I was still innocent and social media didn't even exist to influence me to feel one way or the other; it was just something I was genuinely interested in as a 9 year old. As I've thought about it more, I think in terms of healthy eating, it's less about being passionate about the act of eating a healthy meal and more about being passionate about the way eating a healthy meal makes me feel.

I was listening to an Oprah podcast recently (click here to listen) where she asked her guest, "When are you your absolute happiest?" and the guy answered, "I'm happy in every moment I'm alive." Normally, I would hear that and laugh a little, but something really resonated with me in that moment. No matter what's going on in our lives, there's something we can choose to be grateful for, all it takes is a little shift in perspective. Being able to shift a moment of stress or anger and turn it into a happy, grateful one is wellness.

The best pizza and wine I've ever eaten in Milan, Italy
Worrying about gaining weight or not working out while living in one of the most incredible places in the entire world was a thought rooted in fear. Fear of the unknown of what this experience was going to be like for me and of being taken out of the comfortable bubble and routine I've always known. Trying to shift this perspective to one of gratitude for my experiences in every moment I'm here has lifted a weight off me and allowed me to feel joy and happiness literally in every moment. But you know that feeling when you're really sore from the best workout and even though it was amazing, you literally can't move? That's how my mind feels when I get into bed at night because I'm working muscles of my brain and heart that I never have before. Isn't that crazy? I have never consciously chosen joy in every moment. Of course, I'm not perfect. That's why "wellness journey" is in the tagline of my blog lol. Some days, I let that consciousness slip and am a total Negative Nancy about school or people or my body. The good feeling is in the process of learning and knowing that I tried my best at the end of the day. That's what wellness is, guys. Wellness is showing up for yourself every day to try to your best. We'll never be perfect and sometimes we have silly fears about things we can't control. If you're still reading my ramblings, I'm grateful for you! Let's choose in this moment to be grateful, trust the process, and be our best.


Barca Reflections + How to Choose Your Energy

At Castello de S. Jorge in Lisbon, Portugal.

I will admit, I have not been as good about journaling and blogging as I wanted to be in Spain... I can't believe it has been a month since my last post. I thought I would post a recap every week, but I have really been trying to focus on being present in the moment and not worrying about documenting every single thing on camera which has been really refreshing. I've mentioned my thought provoking morning walks a zillion times, but it has been my time that I absolutely cherish in the morning, by myself just listening to a podcast. I reflect every single day and I need to be better about getting those reflections in writing, so that's what you are reading today.

Both photos from Lisbon, aka my new favorite place on Earth.

Before I came over to Barcelona, I was really stressed on how I would be able to create a peaceful routine that was similar to what I had been trying to do at home. I'm a morning person so it's really important for me to set myself up for success in my morning routine. Thankfully, Headspace has changed the game for me and I am still able to meditate almost every day. During the week, I wake up a little earlier and sit in my bed in meditate and if I'm traveling, I can do it on the bus to the airport or on a plane. It changes my mood drastically and gives me space in my mind to focus on what really matters throughout my day. I highly recommend it.

Today in my meditation the idea was presented that anxiety and negative feelings are like dark clouds covering up a blue sky. The blue sky is always there, but sometimes the clouds are in the way. Similarly, I guess we can think of our dreams and the person we're constantly striving to be as our own personal blue sky. Some days are cloudy, but other days we feel on top of the world, sunny and 75. I guess the take home message here (for me anyways) is that the person that we want to be is who we already are, the clouds get in the way- our fears, self imposed limitations, etc. The difference between the weather and our lives is that every day we are faced with a choice: is it going to be a sunny day or a stormy day? We get to choose. A lot of times, my anxiety or negative attitude follows me because it's a habit that I can't kick. I'm used to feeling anxious and, although I'm uncomfortable, it's an easier and more comfortable choice. However, what we choose to feel every day is either revealing or covering up that blue sky.

Beautiful blue sky views from Castello de S. Jorge.

Time Out Market Lisboa

For me, my focus right now is finding peace. Being at peace in my mind, spirit, and body, but also with the negative energy that has come into my life in the past. Choosing a positive energy is quite simple if we allow it to be. Choosing to say no to negative people, situations, or energies is the way to move forward and get to a peaceful state. I know you have experienced some form of negative energy at some point in your life. You can feel it the second you walk in the room! But have you ever thought to yourself, "you know what? I'm actually going to say no to letting this into my life." It's something I recently realized on a morning walk and am incorporating that into my journey to finding peace. It seems crazy and maybe even a little silly to place such an emphasis on just saying no, but it's actually harder than you might think.

I posted about this on my Instagram story last week, but I was working on a school project with two girls that I had just met and their energy was so positive, it was contagious. It really lit me up and made me feel like I needed to share that energy and that kindness and joy to everyone. So often, we dump our problems on other people- it's normal and it's okay to a certain extent. But we all have that one friend or even those couple of days where we are the friend that is "the dumper": filling up someone else's time and energy with whatever negativity and stress is going on in our life. Unfortunately, I can think of a couple times where I've been a dumper.

Kind of similarly, something I've noticed since being away is that I let the thoughts, opinions, and actions of other people have too significant of an impact on my energy. Whether it's thoughts on my future career or my relationship or not getting some validation or credit that I think I've earned, it seems like things I can't really change are negatively impacting my energy. What's even more frustrating is that I'm not saying no! I'm the one that is allowing that into my life.

Snaps from my daily walk in Barcelona.

My roomie, fellow Gemini, and soul sister Jess. Seriously could not be more thankful that the universe brought us together.

Circling back to my main point here, after I met with those girls, I felt so inspired and energetic and really motivated to only be a positive energy for someone else. It can change someone's whole day to share your light and kindness instead of being a negativity dumper and I realized in that moment that that is exactly who I want to be. We have the power literally every second of every day to choose the blue sky. When we walk into room, we are choosing to either share a positive energy or a negative one. We all make mistakes, but being able to be aware of the present moment and check yourself is what counts.

Wow that was a lot! If you're still reading, you rock! I guess I've had a lot on my mind in the past month haha. While I share a lot about my life on my blog, I always try to think about what I want the takeaway to be and, lately, I think my focus is being able to share some positive energy. In a world where there seems to be so much negativity, my goal is to just share my journey to choosing to find the light and good energy in every moment.

Thanks for reading. xx

Being on a Spiritual Journey + A Prayer for Overcoming Fear

Every day it takes me about 40 minutes to walk to my classes, which gives me a lot of time for reflection. It's my guaranteed alone time where I can practice gratitude and put myself in a grateful headspace. If you follow my Instagram, lately I have been sharing a lot about Melissa Wood of Melissa Wood Health. I just started doing her workouts (in my tiny little room on the floor, lol) and everything she stands for is really speaking to me right now, so when I heard her recommend the book "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson, I immediately purchased it. I have been reading it a little bit every day, along with listening to Oprah's Super Soul Podcast. Today I was listening to an episode (click here to listen) that really shed a light on everything that I've been reading in A Return to Love and something in me just felt like I needed to get home and immediately write this blog post.

Going to Catholic school, we prayed before every home game, no matter the sport, and, as a senior, I got the privilege of reading the prayer. Instead of finding something online, I chose to write them myself, which sparked something in me that really began my spiritual journey. Normally, people constantly being on their phones is my absolute pet peeve, but, today, I was that annoying person that walks on the street on their phone without looking up because I didn't want to lose my thoughts and my prayer in that moment. I know not everyone believes in God or organized religion and that's totally okay, maybe prayers just aren't your thing. I believe every human is on their own journey and has the right to choose what they want to believe or read. I'm only sharing my journey and my experiences and, although I choose to talk to God, you can just as easily talk to the universe or your own inner self. I think that we all have that inner voice inside that can come out and make you feel afraid or like you're not good enough. What I've been reading and what I felt compelled to share (to myself and to you reading) is that we are capable of changing our own minds and (without getting too "woo woo" hahaha) really manifesting our dreams into our lives. Sometimes we just need a little help.

My Prayer Today:
Dear God, my prayer today is that you allow me to tear down the walls and barriers of fear that I've created in my heart that make me afraid to love and accept the much bigger plan you have for me. Allow me to be present in every single moment and carry gratitude in every breath that I take for all the blessings you continue to bring into my life. So often, I feel like my plan and the narrative I have created for myself is more important than the greater plan that you have created for me. When I feel afraid of all that I know I am created to be capable of, open my heart to LOVE your plan, whatever that looks like. I am grateful for your constant presence in my life and that you continue to provide everything that I don't even realize that I need. Even when I feel like I'm totally alone, I know that you are there. Walk with me and help me to choose to show up in every moment, so that I can be all that you have created me to be.

Sending you so much love,

Week 2: Getting into a Groove + London, England

September 11th is actually the National Day of Catalonia (kind of similar to 4th of July here), so we were off school that day. There were tons of crazy things, like protests, human towers, and rallies, going on in the city because of current political events in this region of Spain, so it was very interesting to experience that and having that go own literally blocks away from our apartment. We spent some of the day at our apartment pool (actually on the roof which is nuts...and yes, I know we are spoiled haha). I spent the rest of this week in Barcelona getting back into "school" mode and into a routine. 

London, England was our first weekend trip and we learned a lot to say the least.....First, I guess I should mention that our expectations were pretty high because it is a pretty iconic place. Second, obviously, we've never really traveled on our own before so we didn't really know how to plan a trip or know what we were getting ourselves into, LOL. SO, with that being said, here's what we did:

Transportation: We flew Vueling Airlines there and had no problems. This is what I was most worried about because I had never heard of this airline and have heard some horror stories about budget airlines, but we had a great experience there and back. We had to take the train and then the London subway (called the Underground) to our hostel from the airport, which was pretty expensive....we spent about $100 on transportation roundtrip, which we just weren't anticipating. We bought the 2 day Underground pass which was pricier than we thought, but it ended up being worth it because we never had to cab. 

Hostel Experience: I went with my roommate, Jess, and another sweet new friend, Nellie. The three of us had never stayed in a hostel, so again, had absolutely no idea what to expect. We stayed in an inexpensive hostel near Hyde Park/Kensington, which we didn't know, is one of the priciest areas in London LOL. The hostel itself was not sketchy or run down at all and we never felt unsafe there, which was obviously the most important thing. Looking back the whole experience of staying in a bunk bed room with 10 strangers was actually hilarious... Anyways, not really sure we will stay in a hostel again because the price of some Air Bnb's is very similar for way more privacy, but never say never.

Eating Out + Nightlife: First to note here is $$$$$$. Food, drinks, and even just getting into bars and clubs was absolutely outrageous. At one point, the bouncer to a club asked us to pay and we turned around and walked the other direction. We would get breakfast and coffee and think it was cheap in terms of pounds and then when I went to look at my bank account, the amount that cost in US dollars made me want to weep hahaha. In terms of the "going out" atmosphere, we didn't do a ton of research before hand because had high expectations because Barcelona is so amazing, so we were definitely let down a little bit.

What We Did: We paid for a Hop On, Hop Off bus which allowed us to see everything we wanted to see and get off when we wanted. I would highly recommend this if you have a lot of things you want to see in a short amount of time. Friday, we got to shop all around Regent Street and saw Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben (which was under construction which was a let down), and Tower Bridge, which we got to see lift up and that was really cool. Saturday, we went to see Abbey Road (if you're a Beatles fan) and explored all around Camden Market which was so cool. There were tons of yummy food trucks and vendors we could check out, so we really loved that.

What We Learned: Because we had high expectations like I said, our trip didn't really measure up to what we thought. Because there were so many "famous" spots, we didn't really feel like we had to plan that much, but we definitely learned how important it is to have at least a rough schedule of what we were going to do on such a short trip. We also definitely should've researched more about restaurants, clubs, and bars more geared towards our age and price range LOL. No regrets though, I'm still really glad that I got to experience the city.

I wrote this post on two different days, so hopefully I didn't leave anything out, but I just wanted to document this trip and share all my photos with my family and friends on my blog. Now that it has officially been three weeks, I have a lot on my mind that I want to share in more serious post, so I'm going to make time to write that this weekend while I'm not traveling. Unfortunately for my wallet, I've eaten SO much good food everywhere so make sure you're following my Instagram accounts for all the pics! If you're reading this and you're someone close to me, just know I'm thinking about you every day and I miss you! 

Sending sooooo much love,

One Week In Barcelona: How I'm Adjusting, Sights We're Seeing, and What's Up

Hola from Barcelona!!! I can't believe 1) that I'm finally here and 2) that I've already been here for one full week. I thought I would share some photos and a brief overview of what we've done each day so far to update my friends and family. But first, a little on my transition...

The transition into the culture has actually been a lot easier than I thought. Of course, it is obviously different than Kentucky and there is a language barrier, but the "intense" culture shock that I was expecting hasn't really hit me (yet anyways!). I'm hoping to pick up a little Spanish while I'm here, but because Barcelona is a bigger, more tourist-y city, I can get by with the bare minimum for now haha. 

I really have had a stress free time traveling here and navigating the city so far which I'm grateful for. I am taking all the classes that I needed to take for my International Business minor, but we've only had two days of class, so I can't speak on that just yet. Being in a city that is much bigger than Lexington has been a little overwhelming, but the public transportation and walking has been easier than I expected. I'm excited about continuing to build friendships with all the incredible people that I've met so far. It is a weird feeling making so many memories and meeting totally new people without my friends and family on the same continent, but I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I just want to take advantage of every moment. I actually just planned a trip to London for this weekend with my roommates, so I'm excited to explore England, which I've never been to before. Before that, here's a little glimpse of Barcelona!

Sunday + Monday 9/2-3: Travel days. I got in around 9am Monday, Barcelona time and took the bus with my group to where I'm staying. It's called a "residencia" and it's kind of like a dorm/hotel situation. I share a bedroom and (teeny tiny) bathroom with my roommate, Jess, and there is a kitchen on the floor that everyone shares. I tried to include a quick little video, so you can hopefully kind of see what it's like. There is a restaurant right next door that has super cheap croissants and coffee in the AM + tapas and sangria at night, so can't really complain about that. Monday night we had our first program meeting and after that decided to attempt to beat the jet lag with pizza and wine because duh. 

Tuesday 9/4: We got to sleep in a little bit, but we had another program meeting that ended up being pretty long, but when we broke for lunch, we headed to check out Placa de Catalunya briefly. We also got to do a bus tour of different parts of the city and then explored our area for a little bit. Tuesday night (after an obligatory siesta), we decided to go to a couple bars with other people in our program and eventually ended up at Opium, which is a pretty popular, tourist-y night club-- haha. It's been very interesting seeing how different the "nightlife" culture is. 

Wednesday + Thursday 9/5-6: I had a pretty chill day Wednesday, but in the evening, we got to tour La Sagrada Familia which was pretty incredible. Thursday was my first day of classes. I have two classes Monday/Wednesday and two classes Tuesday/Thursday. We discovered we are a 10 minute walk from a really awesome shopping mall (which could be dangerous...), so to celebrate our first day of school we headed over there and had the most amazing Italian meal and cava sangria.

Friday 9/7: I'm really lucky because we get a few tours and trips that are included in our program. Our first one was Friday and we started with a tour and tasting at Codorniu, where they make cava (the Spanish version of champagne). Then we spent the day exploring Sitges, a little beach town about one hour from Barcelona. Friday night, we siesta-ed and checked out Razzmatazz, which is another night club that's pretty close to our place.

Saturday 9/8: Another chill day. We got brunch and shopped around our neighborhood. We spent a lot of time planning our trip to London and mapping out what other countries we wanted to visit and the spots we wanted to see in Barcelona, so stay tuned for that!!

Sunday 9/9: I'm going to wrap it up quickly I promise.... Sunday we had a day full of sightseeing: Casa Mila, Brunch + Cake, and Park Guell. All must see spots in my opinion and I think the photos speak for themselves really. Also, I know I'm not Bella Hadid or anything, but I was really just having a moment in some of these photos LOL.

So that's all for now! It's been a really fun week and has definitely gotten me so excited for what's to come. I just want to reiterate how unbelievably grateful I am for this opportunity. I've been in such a great place in my life the last few months and this semester is no exception. There are always going to be high's and low's and different seasons of life, but this is a really good one for me right now and I feel really blessed.

I've been on Instagram a ton the last week updating stories and posting, so for more "personal" pictures and photos around the city, follow @baiginthiel . Obviously Balanced Baig is in full swing as I am eating my way through the city pretty much LOL, so click here to follow all the food pics.

Thanks for reading. xx