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.