Preparing for Studying Abroad

How To Prepare For An Unforgettable Study Abroad Trip

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity so take full advantage of it!

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As I prepare to begin my study abroad program in a few days in London, I am both extremely excited to experience life overseas, yet somewhat nervous, as I haven't been out of the US since I was 7 years old. As a constant worrier, I fear the unknown. What will it be like over there? How will I get around? What's the food like? Etc. But this is only a small part in relation to my excitement to finally have a reason to get a passport and start filling it up with stamps.

Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity and I've only heard great things from friends who have traveled across the world during their college experience. I've lived through my friends' Facebook and Instagram posts of exotic locations and now it's finally my turn to experience a new place. As I get ready for an incredible and unforgettable month in the UK, here are some things I've found to help prepare myself for my time out of the US.

Don't procrastinate; you just gotta get it done

Packing is the worst. Who actually enjoys trying to stuff your life into a tiny little suitcase? No one. It's the worst part about getting ready for a fun trip and it's definitely the easiest thing to procrastinate on. "I have so much time, it'll only take like an hour." Ya right. Of course as a natural procrastinator, I decided to wait until the day before leaving the country to think about packing. Big mistake. Why add to the stress of preparing for a trip out of the country with something so avoidable? Who knows, but we all do it.

It's the hardest thing to avoid: Over packing

With a large wardrobe, there are so many pieces of clothing to choose from to bring. How the heck can you lighten your packing load if you have so many clothes you want to bring with you for different occasions? Obviously you're going to take tons of photos and don't want to be wearing repeated outfits in them. But with a weight limit at the airport, you gotta strategize and only bring what you truly need. Sometimes you gotta give up the cute pair of shoes to save some money.

Make sure your passport is valid

There's nothing worse than stressing days before your huge trip about your passport being expired. Allow enough time to get the documents you need. It's not worth freaking out and paying a fortune to get documents shipped overnight or even not being able to get on your flight for not having valid documents.

Constantly being aware of your surroundings

This is especially important when traveling to an international city like London. Keep your belongings close and keep your eyes open. You have to constantly remember that you're in a different place and people target tourists to steal their valuables. Don't be stupid and make it extremely obvious that you're either lost or confused.

Get in the habit of walking everywhere

If you're traveling to a city, odds are you're probably going to be walking everywhere alongside taking the train or bus. Walking is the best way to learn the area and experience the everyday culture. So get some good shoes to bring and exercise before your trip so you're ready for the amount of walking you'll be doing.

Having a plan so you don't waste any time

Make an itinerary of places to see and do. The last thing you want to do when you're in a great city is waste time because you don't know what to do. Don't spend the whole day sleeping. You can sleep when you get home. Get an early start to the day and get exploring.

Keep an open mind to trying new things

New food, new activities, new people to meet. Live in the moment and go out of your comfort zone. Anyone who's been abroad will tell you that you won't regret putting yourself out there. What do you have to lose?

Be grateful that you have this once in a lifetime opportunity to travel

Not everyone has a chance to go abroad during their college experience. As an out-of-state student, I can tell you that it's definitely not cheap and is why a lot of people have to give up the opportunity. So don't take it for granted and make it worthwhile. You have an incredible opportunity to grow and flourish and you'll make memories to take with you through the rest of your life.

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12 Struggles Only Portuguese Girls Can Relate To

It's like "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" but Portuguese edition.
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As mentioned before in my "8 Ways You Know You're Portuguese" article, I'm 100% European Portuguese. Which means that if you're reading this, you're probably somehow related to me (see #5). You know these 12 things to be true if you grew up in a Portuguese household:

1. You're pressured to marry a Pork Chop.

A Pork Chop is a Portuguese person. The older generation feels that this term is derogatory, but Portuguese Americans self identify as 'Pork Chops.' Some families will probably disown you if you don't marry a Portuguese guy, but I lucked out and my family is pretty open minded. Let me put it this way, if you're not married by the time you're 28, your grandma and your mother are going to take you to the Portuguese club to find a nice Pork Chop to settle down with. You may not be forced into a Portuguese marriage, but it's highly preferred that you marry within the culture.

2. You're always too fat, even if you're skinny.

Portuguese people are a feminist's worst nightmare. They will body shame the hell out of you and feel no remorse. You could lose 20 pounds and look/feel amazing and a Portuguese person will still say "well, you could stand to lose a few more pounds."

3. You must remember your Portuguese classes that you took when you were five years old.

It is a crime against humanity to a Portuguese person if you don't at least understand the language. If you can speak it, read it, and understand it, you've automatically earned yourself the "golden child" title. Every time I move to a different state, my Grandma's only warning is "don't forget your Portuguese," because someone's got to carry on the culture.

4. Am I white? Mixed? Hispanic? Unclear.

I grew up thinking I was some kind of Latina just because the Portuguese language is so similar to Spanish. You probably feel comfortable in Hispanic communities because of your Portuguese background. I eventually realized that I'm white, but I still get told that I look racially ambiguous. Whenever someone asks what nationality I am, I give them three guesses. It's rare that people ever guess Portuguese, but upon finding out that I am, I suddenly become "exotic."

5. You have 55 first cousins.

This is not an exaggeration. My dad actually has 50 first cousins. I have 13, but I have way more cousins in Portugal that I've either never met, or I've met them, but wouldn't be able to pick them out of a line up. If you go to Portugal and visit all of your relatives, the faces and names start to blur together and it's safe to call every man "Joao" and every woman "Maria" or "Ana Maria" and they'll be delighted that you remembered their names.

6. You have to make sure you don't marry your own cousin.

Portugal is such a small country that if you meet a fellow Pork Chop in America, chances are, you're somehow related or your families are friends. I suggest drawing an extensive family tree before shacking up with a Pork Chop.

7. Somebody is always praying for you.

Portuguese people are devoutly Catholic, so it doesn't matter if you're temporarily down on your luck or a self made millionaire, you have a tia (an aunt) that you probably only see when someone in the family passes away, who prays on the rosary every night for you.

8. You must have a name that can be pronounced in Portuguese.

There are two criteria for naming a Portuguese baby: is it the name of a saint, and can it be pronounced in Portuguese? If your uncle twice removed that you see every six years when you go to Portugal can't say your baby's name, you need to pick a new one. Names like "Riley" and "Jackson" won't get Grandma's approval.

9. You're considered adventurous if you move out of your parents house before you're married.

It's rare that Portuguese women don't live with their mothers until they find a spouse, and even once they do get married, it's not uncommon for their mother to move in with her daughter and her (hopefully Portuguese) husband.

10. You've been given something with Our Lady of Fatima on it.

Fatima is Portugal's claim to fame. It's the city in Portugal where three kids claimed they saw the Virgin Mary in 1917 and it's now a popular, religious tourist destination. Your grandma has probably given you something with the Blessed Mary on it to put in your car or in your bedroom so that you stay '#blessed' all the time.

11. You're not allowed to be a vegetarian.

Portuguese people are fishermen and their specialty is codfish, so it's nearly impossible to maintain a vegetarian diet in a Portuguese household. You can be pescatarian though!

12. You have to warn people before you introduce them to your family.

Have you ever seen "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" That's what it's like to bring a non-Portuguese boyfriend to a Portuguese family gathering. Good luck.

Cover Image Credit: CDMPHY / Flickr

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6 Reasons Traveling Is Good For Your Mind, Body, And Soul

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

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Have you ever traveled to a new destination and felt your mood instantly improve? Are you like me and feel happiest when you're on vacation? This is because traveling is a way for you to renew your soul and step out of your comfort zone. It keeps you happy and allows you to experience new things.

Visiting new destinations can open your mind to experiences you didn't even know were possible. You can meet new people, fall in love, try new foods, and see remarkable sites all while traveling. There are no limits to the places you can visit, and the things you can see. Currently, I am on a mini weekend trip to Arizona, and being here has opened my eyes and made me realize how impactful traveling really is on your mind, body, and soul. Traveling should be something you do as often as possible and whenever you get the chance. Here's why:

1. Traveling makes your heart happy 

Traveling is something that most people enjoy. It keeps the heart young and childlike. Traveling brings people joy because they get to experience new things that they love with the people they love.

2. It teaches you to embrace every moment 

Traveling can be unpredictable, especially because you are experiencing new things. Although it can be challenging, we learn best from these unpredictable moments. When we travel we learn to embrace every situation that is thrown at us.

3. Traveling relieves stress and improves mental health 

Traveling reduces stress and allows you to relax. More often than not, you take off work when you go on vacation and you focus on renewing your self. You get away from all the crazy things going on in your life, and you can just relax and focus on your own happiness.

4. It broadens your horizons 

Traveling lets you branch out and experience different cultures. You can try new foods, new activities, and meet all different types of people. You learn diversity, and you learn respect for other people and their culture's. Traveling helps you learn other perspectives around the world and lets your mind think in ways it never has before.

5. It keeps you healthy 

Traveling actually plays a big part in your physical health as well. During vacations, you often walk a lot to destinations and participate in calorie burning activities like hiking and swimming. Activities like these are often why you still are able to get your workout in while on vacation.

6. Traveling reminds you what is important 

Most importantly, traveling reminds you of the important things in life. We live day by day forgetting that every moment is remarkable. Sometimes, we get stuck in the same old boring routine and take for granted the life we have been given. Traveling reminds us that memories are valuable and that our lives should be cherished.

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