I’m basically halfway through my program here in Spain (cue the tears) but I feel like I’ve gained several years’ worth of wisdom since I’ve been here. Being a firm believer in everything happens for a reason, I can see all kinds of different situations that have occurred over the course of my life that have been wonderful learning experiences (even though they didn’t feel like it at the time). Spain is no exception to this. I’m here today to share with you five things that I’ve learned so far during my study abroad experience. If you’re thinking about studying abroad or you have any questions regarding it, be sure to let me know via comments, email or on Instagram (@oliviableeker).

1. You will absolutely make lifelong friends. 

No matter how ridiculously cliche and cheesy it sounds, this is so so so important. When I came to Spain to study abroad, my boyfriend also did too. To say that the time we’ve spent together traveling and exploring Alicante has been wonderful would be the understatement of the year. However, I’m so thankful that we’ve been able to also go our own separate paths and make tons of incredible friends for ourselves. Alicante is a very international city so not only have I made a plethora of friends from Spain, I’ve also made friends from Argentina, England, Germany, South Africa, and many more places. All of this being said, I haven’t even touched on the people from my university that came here, too. I have met some of my best friends here in Spain, but the best part is…they go to my university so the party won’t stop when I leave Spain. With some of these girls on the trip, I know I have friends for life. That is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

2. You’ll find a second home. 

Because of the program I chose, I was given the incredible opportunity to live with a host family. My wonderful host family consists of my Madre, my Padre, two host sisters and host brother. Living with them, I have gotten a completely new outlook on all kinds of life issues, learned about all kinds of Spanish customs, and {IMPORTANTLY} eaten some of the best food I’ve ever had. My host family is actually from Argentina so I eat this beautiful mix of Italian, Argentine, + Spanish foods. It’s the absolute best. I can already tell you that I’ll definitely be visiting Alicante again in my life, and I have a good idea of where I can crash if I ever need a place to stay. 🙂

3. You’re given an irreplaceable chance to see the world. 

I’ve already grown so much to feel like Alicante is my second home while I’m studying here, but that’s not even to mention the other incredible aspect about living in Europe ~ travel. Currently, since I am on my spring break from the university, I am taking a three week trip backpacking Europe. Seville {Spain}, Brussels {Belgium}, Copenhagen {Denmark}, Venice {Italy}, Milan {Italy}, Budapest {Hungary}, + Dublin {Ireland} are all the places that I’m exploring right now and I couldn’t be happier! When airplane tickets from the U.S. to Europe are so expensive in the first place, this is a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of while you are studying abroad! Most of my flights for these three weeks cost me under 20€, so basically $22 or less for every flight. To me this is something that I would never be able to afford if I kept flying from the U.S. to visit each one of these places individually, so I couldn’t be happier for this opportunity!

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4. You will improve your second language skills. 

Coming to Spain, I could speak Spanish más o menos, but after being here for several months, I’ve noticed several things about myself. Not only am I learning how to speak a lot more rapidly, but I am also gaining so much in my confidence. Even if I don’t know a word, I just say it and hope for the best. Before Spain, I would think and think and think in order to pull together several sentences ahead of saying them. Now I notice that I can just speak freely without even thinking about it and it is starting to come so naturally. I’m so happy to see the progress that I’ve made and I highly recommend this to you when you think about studying abroad. Of course I know people who have gone to Australia, Ireland, England, etc. where they have had incredible times, but I definitely think that there is something to be said for the added layer of learning a foreign language when you go.

5. Food. 

Well, this really is pretty self explanatory but the food abroad is incredible. Honestly even every different city I’ve visited in Spain has had their own type of cuisine so it’s amazing to see the differences as you move from north to south or east to west. Coupled with fresh fruits and fruit juices everywhere you go and regionally specific dishes of paella, Spain has gifted me the most incredible thing of food. I’m sorry if I come back to the U.S. with my jeans fitting a little tighter.

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I hope this has shown you just a glimpse into my life right now and some of my favorite aspects of studying abroad so far! I can’t wait to make a final post when I get back to the U.S. recapping everything I’ve learned over the five months that I’ll be here in Spain! Stay tuned!

Much love,

Olivia

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Saving money in college. It’s a tricky thing, isn’t it?

Depending on what your situation is, you could be potentially paying for everything on your own, including tuition. So, there are several ways that have really come in handy for me to save a few extra dollars here and there besides the money that I’m making from my part-time jobs.

I’m here today to share several ideas with you so that you can bring in some cold, hard cash while simultaneously studying for that Organic Chemistry exam.

The past few semesters for me have been very intensely focused on making money, so that I had enough in order to be able to turn my dream of studying abroad in Spain into a reality this semester.

1. Bring a specific amount of money with you for a shopping trip or night out. 

Concerned on how much money you might spend on a shopping date with your girls or a night out on the weekend? My favorite thing to do is set an amount before I leave the house and only bring that much cash with me. This helps me have a tangible way of knowing exactly how much money I’m spending throughout the period of time that I’m out. It also helps so you don’t check your bank account to realize that you’ve gone crazy and put $100 on your credit card after going to the mall to buy a pair of socks. While I’m on this note, I might as well say that the equivalent to this when I’m shopping at the grocery store is to make a list. Seriously once I make a list, nothing else goes in my cart other than what’s on my list. This is really helpful for me because I’m pretty sure otherwise I would load up on literal bags of Babybel cheese (it’s SO my weakness).

2. Take the occasional trip to Plato’s Closet.

If you’re anything like me, you’re always stumbling upon the occasional top or pair of shoes that you no longer use very often. My absolute favorite {and instantly gratifying} way of making money is by collecting a bag of clothes from my closet and bringing it to my local Plato’s Closet to sell. If you don’t have Plato’s Closet near you, you can always sell your clothing on eBay or by creating your own Instagram account specifically to showcase your clothes that are for sale. This option always leaves me with less clutter in my closet and more money in my bank account, so it’s most definitely a win-win.

3. Bring out your crafting skills.

This isn’t something I’ve done so far in college, however, several of my friends have been quite successful by going this route. Whether you like to crochet, paint, or anything else in the craft world, you can get paid for your hobby! Start an Etsy shop and get to work creating goods for your customers. Be careful though, or your store might get too successful. I’ve had several friends have to quit their part-time jobs simply to keep up with fulfilling all the orders that they were receiving from Etsy!

4. Track your money. 

Hello out there, are you still with me, friends? Well, guess what? I’m not even telling you to make a budget here. My #1 way of cutting down my spendings is to track it, so I actually have a way of knowing where it’s all going. Since I make this list while I’m on-the-go, I simply use my iPhone’s “Notes” app to write down the price and place/thing that I spent my money on. Last semester, I felt soooo guilty reading my list and seeing how much money I spent while I was out on coffee so I changed up my coffee routine, leading me to number 5…

5. Eat + drink at home as much as possible.

Unless you’re ever so lucky as having a meal plan for the dining halls {oh how I miss freshman year and alllll those meal swipes}, it really is the most economical to do your shopping at the grocery store and prepare meals for yourself versus going out to eat. I also take my lunches with me to campus each day which helps me avoid spending $3.55 for lunch every day {FYI that’s the price for my favorite ham + cheese croissant on campus}. At the beginning of the school year, I begrudgingly told myself I was going to meal plan, start couponing, and reading the sale ads that came in the mail. While it took awhile to learn to love, it’s now something that I really enjoy doing…especially knowing that I am saving lots of money by doing this. One of my favorite tricks as far as meal planning goes is to cook a large pan of pasta and divide it up into reusable bowls so that I can have pasta for dinner one night, and then easily have it for lunch for a few more days.

6. Grab up all those student discounts. 

While it doesn’t seem like much, 15% off here and 20% off there really do add up. You don’t have your student ID card for that long in the grand scheme of things, so you might as well take full advantage of it while you still have it! Some of my favorite stores to go shopping at offer great student discounts {for example: J.Crew, Madewell, + Kate Spade all give 15% off student discounts}. Not only are there comprehensive lists online about stores that give student discounts, I’ve made it a point to always ask at the register if the store gives a discount with a student ID card! I really believe that this one ends up paying off in the long run.

 

Well, there you have it! Those are my top 6 tips for you as a college student trying to earn/save money! I wish you the best of luck! Feel free to comment or email me with any more questions that you may have!

Much love,

Olivia

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Hello friends!

Thank you so much for all the words of encouragement, texts, comments and emails that I’ve received here in Alicante. It really is so fun to keep relationships going strong even while I’m on the other side of the world and sometimes feel a bit cut off from social interaction with everyone at home. This past week was a busy week as Josh and I visited Granada, Spain (a post about Granada coming later this week…I promise!) last weekend which totally stole our hearts. The city’s history was so fascinating to learn about and I ate waaaay too many tapas!

I was chatting with my good friend Bri (by the way, check out her adorable blog, The Wanderlust Ginger) this morning and we were shocked how we have been here in Alicante for three weeks already! How is that even possible? I can’t believe how fast the time is flying by. The other day, Josh and I spent the evening all cozied up with café con leche in my favorite coffee shop here and started planning our spring break adventures. With the University of Alicante getting an almost three week vacation from school, I’m all over using that time to really get some countries checked off of my bucket list!

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This is my favorite coffee shop that, more often than not, I’m on the couch reading a book with café con leche.

Since the very beginning of our spring break starts right before Easter, it is Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is a huge deal here in Spain. So, some friends and I are packing up and heading to Sevilla, Spain to experience it for ourselves. We’ll spend a few days there before Josh and I pack up and head to Brussels, Belgium. After Belgium, it’s still up for discussion but we are most likely headed to Copenhagen, Denmark for a few days, then, from there headed to Dublin, Ireland for the rest of break. One of my favorite things to date about living in Europe is the fact that I can so easily look at Google Flights, find the cheapest flights possible and ask myself, “What country do I want to go to this weekend?” There are a lot of perks to living here but that is a pretty hard to beat perk.

Speaking of perks of living here, I want to share some of my favorite little tidbits of information about living here so far that make me incredibly happy.

1. Panaderías. Enough said. These bakeries are on seemingly ever corner and carry some of the most delicious croissants, cakes, and tarts that you could ever imagine. These cute little places are the biggest blessing and curse rolled into one. With free wifi, endless possibilities of new pastries to try, and cute interiors, these places just get me every time. It’s honestly a struggle getting off the tram and walking home without being tempted to stop by and grab something from one. I simultaneously want to live in a panadería forever and never go there again. I’m looking at you, you little chocolate croissant that costs only .25 euros ~ you are the prime culprit here.

2. A great public transport system. I live one block away from both the city’s main train station and the main tram station, which is a wonderful perk in my opinion. Yesterday I was able to head to a little city about 45 minutes away from Alicante for the day. It boasted a beautiful beach and a fun market lining the road by the beach. Mostly though, I was thankful for the relaxation that came with yesterday, because we were able to lay on the beach with the sun brightly shining above us and the waves beating in front of us, and that truly feels so serene. Also, I use the tram each morning to get to the University, which is about a 30 minute ride. Sometimes it feels like a drag, but most mornings it is a welcome ride, as I spend it either finishing up some homework (oops, this happens more often than I’d like hehe), listening to music, reading a good book, or talking to Josh. It’s a nice way to start the morning very peacefully.

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This is a picture I took Friday morning from the window of the tram on the way to school. The sunrise at the beach is pretty great.

3. Fashion, fashion, fashion. Well duh, this would be on my list of perks of living here. But seriously. Of course, having a fashion blog and majoring in Textile and Apparel Management, I’m clearly a prime candidate to go crazy with all the fashion here. But honestly half the time I feel like I’m absolutely no match for the European fashion here. With high heels, lots of black clothing, and full faces of makeup every morning for school, the Spaniards honestly bring their A-game when it comes to fashion. While I’m sure this is something I’ll find out to be similar as I travel throughout Europe, it definitely makes me realize actually how lousy everyone at a U.S. college campus dresses most of the time. That’s one lesson I hope to learn here, is to ditch the messy bun and learn how to look a little more professional going to class. It’s definitely not necessary in Missouri, but the days that I do dress up and look nice, it’s quite a confidence booster. Thank goodness I live right down the street from ZARA. It’s been a lifesaver.

4. The weather. This is probably the most obvious thing on my list, but living in the Costa Blanca region of Spain is really a fabulous thing. Alicante is the capital of the Costa Blanca and it is such a difference from living in the Midwest to all of a sudden having the ability to walk to Playa San Juan in under fifteen minutes. Later today, we’re going to play some volleyball down by the water, which is a great way to spend the afternoons after classes or slow Sunday afternoons and evenings.

5. Sundays. Sundays have seriously always been my favorite day of the week for as long as I can remember but in Spain, I am loving Sundays even more. Most stores and even a lot of restaurants are closed on Sundays, so it is really viewed as a day of rest and relaxation for everyone in Alicante. The streets are honestly eerily bare most of the day which is a stark contrast to the city’s constant hustle and bustle the other six days of the week. My host family doesn’t even usually leave the house for anything on Sundays. To them, Sundays look like movie marathons on the couch in their pajamas. How great is that? On any given Sunday, you can find me probably either hanging out with my family or tucked in some small coffee shop reading a book. Whatever I’m doing, I’m definitely embracing the relaxation aspect.

Those are just five of many incredible aspects of my time here in Alicante that really stick out to me. Thank you again for keeping up with my adventures and for sending notes or texts my way just to say hello! Have a wonderful Sunday + a next coming week!

Much love,

Olivia

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Do you ever just feel like your life is a little too cluttered at any given moment? I don’t know about you, but I feel like even if everything is in order, I always find something to stress out about or worry about. 2016 is going to be the year that I work on reducing this. Usually, I always refer this stress back to my desire to have control over things….I am a planner and I like to have every. little. thing. in order. Since this obviously isn’t exactly possible or practical, this is my chance to work on myself instead.

Here are three little tips and tricks that have helped me destress my life by a lot that I thought I would share with you, as 2016 is only beginning.

  1. Get Your Email Under Control. Simply waking up in the morning and checking my phone was a huge area of  such stress for me because I would wake up to literally hundreds of emails. And I felt like I had to get my inbox under control right when I woke up, which caused a lot of unnecessary stress. Like I said, I probably bring most of this stress on myself anyway. I have done several things to majorly help with this problem. First, I set specific times to clean my inbox. When I wake up, I don’t feel compelled now to delete and reply to every single thing. Currently, I have two mornings and one evening that I dedicate about fifteen minutes to deleting and responding to other people’s emails. This helps me not spend much time in my email anyway. Then, I reduced the actual amount of emails coming in, too. Search your mailbox for the word “unsubscribe“. Doing this was a complete game changer for me. All kinds of emails popped up from different stores, services and actually a ton of companies I wasn’t interested in anymore. I believe I unsubscribed from every email that had the word unsubscribe on it except for about two stores.
  2. Get Your Mornings Under Control. As you could probably tell from the last tip, mornings are a little rough for me. I am such a night owl and mornings are just awful. I’m constantly running, yes running, through my apartment trying to pull on shoes, brush my teeth and text my friends all at once. It’s a little bit of a problem. So, something that was a total game changer for me was preparing everything for the morning the night before. This was everything from looking at my weather app and picking out my outfit to putting a K-cup in my coffee maker so it was all ready at the push of a button when I woke up (I told you it was rough). This maximized my getting ready time and shaved a lot of minutes off of my routine, which was amazing. It is such a different feeling to not be starting my day feeling stressed to the max.
  3. Get Your Student Life Under Control. Maybe I feel compelled to talk about this because I’m still high on the life from finishing last semester with my highest GPA of college, but this is a really important thing that I wanted to touch on. When I think about last semester, sure, I remember a lot of long nights studying. But I also remember a ton of fun times. Being successful in college, I’ve realized, doesn’t always equal shutting yourself in your room and studying 24/7. Last semester, I set personalized goals for myself for each class that I was in. For example, I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t get as good of a grade in Microeconomics as I would in International Marketing (I was right, lol). So I set different goals for myself for each of these classes. But, being the extremely competitive person that I am, I hung these goals by my desk, and I was oh-s0 determined to stick to them. I ended the semester doing even better than I set my goals at, which was such a rewarding feeling. But, setting your sights on something is the first and so important step.

There you have it, friends. Those are some of the ways I have minimized all the stress that I carried with me. Sometimes I still stress out…I mean I think stressing out is pretty much inevitable, but it has been drastically reduced. So, who’s with me? Here’s to a low-stress 2016!

Much love,

Olivia

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Hey lovelies,

I feel like when you hop onto Pinterest, there’s about a million and one articles referring to the things you’ll need for your college dorm. But the reality is, colleges send out thorough packing guides, friends can give great recommendations, + online articles provide some great insight. Last year while I was living on campus in the dorms, I really didn’t need all that much. I had my bed, my books, + my laptop and I was great. Well, I was great considering the campus’ largest dining hall was right outside my window, haha.

This year, however, was a little different since it was my first time living in an apartment. Things are different, you need SO much more stuff, and it can be a little complicated considering you most likely have a roommate or two to coordinate who’s bringing what. However, there are some things that might not be that obvious to bring but are actually a really great idea. Some I just happened to bring at the beginning of the year while others I learned lessons when I didn’t have them. So now, as the end of the semester is not even a week away, I can tell you with certainty how useful the below items were to me this past semester.

1. A Slow Cooker. I don’t care if you think I sound like a Grandma when I say this, but seriously, a slow cooker became my best friend this year. There is nothing more fulfilling than coming home after a long day of classes only to realize that I put dinner in before I left that morning, and it has been just cooking away all day long on the lowest setting, and it’s ready for me to eat. Also, PSA, using the slow cooker also makes your apartment smell all kinds of wonderful, so you should jump at the chance for basically a free air freshener. I’m not kidding.

2. Batteries + Lightbulbs. I’m not joking here, bring an arsenal. For example, when you’re leaving for an Economics exam and suddenly the batteries in your calculator die and you have to run and beg your neighbor to borrow his calculator for the exam (holla at you, Jared for saving my life last month. You da real MVP…I hope you like the brownies I baked you in return!).

3. Reusable food containers. This one has been a game changer for me. Money saving and easy? Count me in. Since I’m not living in the dorms anymore, I’m making a whole lot less microwaveable food and a whole lot more nice dinners. My nightly dinners now consist more of salmon, pasta, and casserole dishes rather than Pizza Rolls or Ramen noodles. So, I just make a slightly larger portion of dinner than I would eat, package up the leftovers, and bring the container to school the next day for a great meal that all I have to do is warm up.

4. Tapestry or other wall hangings. Living in a dorm, I thought my neighbors were loud. However, I was in for a rude awakening once I moved into my apartment this year and discovered that the walls connecting to our neighbors’ house were absolutely paper thin. I could hear my neighbor’s every move, even the little clicking noise that iPhones make when you text! I looked into some solutions to make my room a little quieter, and to my surprise, one of them was very practical and chic. I redid the wall between apartments and hung an American flag and a tapestry on the wall, to block some of the sound. While the sound still is there, it is much more muffled than it was before. This was an effective solution to me, because I was able to keep my room looking super cute, all the while solving a minor problem!

5. Containers on containers on containers. So, I am most definitely a neat freak. I like everything to have its place and look organized. The one way that I have been able to successfully do this in my apartment this year has been because of containers. This year was the first time in my life where I had a walk-in closet, so I took full advantage by purchasing different tubs and bins to keep scarves, purses, craft supplies, paint, school supplies, and printer paper in. It was wonderful.

These were definitely some things I really appreciated having this semester, even though some of them didn’t arrive at school with me during the beginning of the semester and had to be purchased later. However, I would highly recommend each and every one of these to make that transition to an apartment as seamless as possible!

Much love,

Olivia

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