If you’ve read any of my Moving Series posts, you will know that Z and I were planning to move to Florida in the next year.
After giving it some thought and talking extensively about it, we’ve decided to put moving plans on hold for now. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll still move south, we just don’t know when.
There are a couple things going on in our lives that are making us realize we need some more time before taking that step. One of the main reasons being our job situation. My current full-time job is going great, there is so much growth and learning opportunities and I believe it would be wasted if we decided to leave in a year. I’m also very blessed that Z agrees with and supports me in this matter.
We have also decided to move into a new apartment, closer to a train station so we can more easily get to work and university. And this is one of the most exciting parts for me. Z and I don’t “own” a lot of things; some kitchen ware, clothes and a couple more things. Which means that this apartment is a completely white canvas that we get to personalize and adapt to what we want it to be. And I couldn’t tell you how excited I am about this. New decor, Pinterest ideas galore… (P.S.: you should follow me on Pinterest to see all the ideas I have for the new apartment!).
If you know me, you know I love Ikea. And since we’re still young and relatively broke (that sounds kind of bad but I just recently graduated Uni so you can imagine that money doesn’t fall off our ears over here…), it’s the best place to get started [no worries though, one day I’ll have my Pottery Barn/ Williams Sonoma/ Z- Gallery home!].
So I was thinking that since plans have changed, I would put our moving series to the side for now and start a new one (can you tell I don’t have this blogging and “being consistent” thing down yet?): our New Apartment. I thought I’d take you guys with me through the shopping, decorating and inspirational process. It’s going to be on a tight budget and for a relatively small apartment, so it should be interesting to see how we achieve that.
What do you guys think? Is that something you guys would like to read about? Let me know in the comments below!
I have debated long and hard about whether I should write this post or not. “Should I make it a series?” “Will people even like this?” “Is this something I should even talk about…)” etc.
But recently, I came across someone who clearly didn’t know anything about people like me: international students. Living in the U.S., and particularly in Denver, a lot of people live side by side with this huge current issue of immigration. Considering all the political and media focus this topic has had, I was surprised by how little this person knew about the difference of me and an illegal immigrant. And before I continue writing, let me make a huge disclaimer:
I am in no shape or form against anybody moving to a different country to improve their life and/or the life of their children and family. I am in no way judging the manner in which people do it. This is simply a blog post to explain MY personal situation and how it differs from other people’s.
Now that this is clear (I hope), let me give you an insight into what it is to be an international student. Technically we’re not considered immigrants (we are: “temporary/ non-immigrant aliens) but I feel like not too many people are aware of that.
For starters, getting to where I am now has neither been easy nor cheap. Coming to the United States with a Student Visa is a very long, intimidating and tedious process. When you decide you want to come and study in this country, you have to apply to the U.S. Embassy in your country for a student visa. And it is not as easy as it sounds. To try and keep this process explanation short, there are 5 things you need to provide BEFORE you apply for this Visa:
You need to provide them with a very long list of documents about yourself and your family, demonstrating “strong ties” back to your home country (meaning: that you intend on going back once you’re done with university);
You need to prove foreign residence, your and your families;
You need to demonstrate/ adhere to the rules that you will only study in an academic environment once you get to the U.S. (and not work unless it is in a campus location with very limited and supervised hours);
You need to prove that you have sufficient financial support and ability to not only study but also to live in the U.S.;
And finally you must show prove that you have been accepted by the university: which requires that you travel to the city you intend to move to, apply for the university/universities, show prove of sufficient funds to them and that you can support yourself, and show prove of a very good health insurance with coverage requirements that include travel back to your country if needed…
In case you didn’t catch it, these are requirements you MUST meet prior to applying to attempt to get your visa. So all this time, you are not guaranteed to be approved to come to the U.S., but the trip, the applications to universities, bank documents that need to be translated, health insurance coverage that also needs translation… they all cost money. And before you go and think that money comes out of my ears: no, I am not rich. Neither is my family. But we saved up for quite a while before even starting this process.
So lets say that you do get approved by one of the universities you applied to (because if you didn’t, then there is obviously no point to the next step), then comes the application for the student visa, also known as F-1 Visa. Keep in mind that every single form, document and photo you send to the embassy requires payment as well. So yes, saving money is almost a requirement for all of this so: PLAN AHEAD!
To start this application you need to submit an application fee (this changes every year so check the USCIS website for updates on that), Form DS-160, which comes with all the same required paperwork that you previously accumulated, valid copies of your passport and passport-style photos (I believe at least 2). Submitting all of this does NOT guarantee that you will get approved. Now, you have to wait to see if you’re granted an interview with the U.S. Official at the Embassy.
Once you receive notice that you have, you will have to choose a date and go to the U.S. embassy that is closest to you (mine was the one in Madrid because it’s the only one in Spain), and go through that. After being through the whole process I am glad people ask me for advice because I believe the only reason why my interview was fairly short (almost 3.5 hours) is because I kept a huge binder with copies of every single thing I had send them. They couldn’t find one of my papers, but luckily I not only had a copy for myself but also one for them to keep (Score!).
And it is at this interview that they tell you whether or not you are approved for a student visa. If and when that’s the case, they will charge you an issuance fee, take your fingerprints and your passport will be taken by them in order to get your visa (which is glued/ stapled into your passport). Then you can either pick it up or have it mailed to you if you don’t live by the embassy. It is advised to you on every official website, and by me too, not to make travel plans prior to this last step, because as mentioned there is no guarantee.
So as you can see, this is no quick trip to the embassy or short application to fill out online. It takes a long time (mine was close to 8 months), quite some money and a lot of commitment. And once you’re in the U.S. you are closely monitored and have to keep in constant contact with USCIS and SEVIS (both of which monitor your every move in the country) to make sure everything you’re doing is legal and allowed.
After four years in Denver and finishing my university degree, I got approved for OPT, which is a program that allows for international students to work during one year in the field they studied (I did Journalism and PR so now I work at a PR firm).
If you’re wondering if I want to stay, I do. But it’s going to take a very long process to switch visas (from student F1 to work H1B) and I could write a whole other blog post on that. Like I said, I’m just trying to explain the process to those who don’t know about it and maybe even help somebody out who is trying to do the same.
If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below. I’d love to hear what you think about this, if you knew about the process or even help you if you have any more questions.
It feels weird starting this post. Even more to be thinking about things this way. But it’s true.
I’m not Wonder-Woman. And that’s OK.
Today I was looking over my agenda and my notebook (post about these coming soon), all the things I had to do, the things I wanted to do, prioritizing and all while staying sane. I’m going to be very honest that even though I love writing and keeping this blog, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to write.
Worse thing is that I know there are plenty women out there, that do it and do it well. Emily Ley, Jillian Harris, Emily Ann Gemma, Alexandrea Garza, Courtney Shields Albright… These are just some of the few that inspire me and are constantly on my browser when I need inspiration, advice or maybe just something good to read or watch. These women inspire and encourage me every day, in an indirect and genuine way, to become a better version of myself.
And so in this post I wanted to share with you a couple of things that have been going on in my life, how I’m trying to overcome them and what has helped me so far.
My daily dose of inspiration
Almost every day, during lunch or when I’m on the train heading home from work or right before going to bed, I go onto one of these ladies’ websites/ blogs/ YouTube channels and take a look at what they’re writing about, what they’re doing or things they’re reviewing. A lot of times I love just browsing their websites just to find small or big things that have helped them get through tough or new situations. And I LOVE IT. I love watching how they get through these new life events and figure it out just like I’m doing now with my life.
To give you a little background on what has been going on in my life, let me tell you how my last year has been:
I graduated at the end of last August from university. One of the best feelings I have ever had and yet, one of the worst transitions onto what now? Since then I have had an internship, two jobs and a confrontation with a company that was less than legitimate. It has been a true roller-coaster. Now I have two jobs, one full-time during the week and another one part-time on nights and weekends, to keep me going until I figure out how long I will be at this full-time job. Yes, it’s madness. And no, I don’t know how I do it. Sometimes I cannot tell apart if it is the weekend or the week, if I’m supposed to be up or sleeping or if it is one of those rare days I have “off”. What I tell myself to keep going and stay positive is that we all go through tough and unknown moments in our lives. Just because they’re difficult, it doesn’t mean they’re impossible. And I am lucky enough to have the love and support of my boyfriend on every decision I make.
With all of that being said, and as I’ve mentioned, I have been looking at ways to improve my life schedule, routine and balance of those. That’s how I found my new and currently favourite blogger, business owner and mom-goal: Emily Ley (also current fave: Simplicity and Grace! Thanks Emily!!). She really has influenced and shaped the way I think about life, simplifying everything and being happy. So I am very happy because I have just ordered my first Simple Planner and cannot wait to get started. She also sends the sweetest weekly emails with advice, tips and tricks on how to simplify your life, home, work schedule, etc. I love reading her emails on the train on my way to work. It truly is relieving when you see that someone else went through these struggles and had to figure it out. But now, they’re there to help you resolve those.
Trying to keep things Simple and give yourself Grace
Whether you’re religious or not, Grace Not Perfection is a book I will from now on recommend to every woman I know to read! It is incredibly eye-opening and gives you a sense of relief and love for things like I haven’t felt in a long time.
Just as I said at the beginning of this blog, I thought I had to do it all, and do it perfectly. Post on the blog several days a week, excel at my work and be a good girlfriend to Zach. As much as I continue to attempt to do as best I can in all of that, I truly am not perfect. And sometimes, it’s OK to give in and pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished. The other night Zach and I had pizza for dinner on the couch at 22 o’clock (10 p.m.). It was so much fun and so relaxing. Sometimes I forget how understanding, loving and non-judgmental he is, how he is fine with eating pizza late at night and doesn’t need a fancy dish to be ready before 19 o’clock (7 p.m.).
That day I had also been at both my jobs and had worked solo the last couple hours at my second one. Everything that needed to be done was accomplished and I smiled at how proud I was for that and how I deserved those slices of pizza.
I don’t want to spoil the book for anybody, but I truly encourage you to read it and reflect on the small, precious and beautiful things in your life that deserve more your attention than being perfect and busy. You’ll thank me later 😉
Team Work makes the Dream Work
I am beyond blessed and lucky to have Zach by my side. He is such an incredible, hard-working, smart and understanding man, and sometimes I cannot believe I forget. But being with his has been the biggest blessing of my life.
He is always supportive, encourages me to go further and reach my goals but holds me back when it’s enough. After reading Grace Not Perfection, I also realized that he was always there to take part of the load from me and helps so much to keep me sane.
We have now purchased a dry-erase board and match our schedules and responsibilities there, taking such a huge load from having to remember every single little thing that needs to be done and therefore having more time to spend and enjoy with each other. I really cannot complain since he most definitely cooks better than me and isn’t scared to venture and try new recipes none of us has done. But the fact that I know he is there to do things with me, is the reason I can keep going.
I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with him and make memories, traditions and grow old together.
Last but not least, is having grace with yourself and your loved ones. This is going to be a quote I live by now. This misconception that us women have to do everything and excel at everything and keep everything together is never going to stop following us until we decide to cut it off. And that’s exactly what I am doing.
I have the greatest partner God could have send me and I know I don’t need to be perfect. I just need to do the best I can with the means I have. And that is all OK. Forgive yourself and understand that life and things and tough situations happen. You can let them take over your life or you can take control and not let them overwhelm you. There is so much beauty in this world and so many small things that make it worth shutting off the TV. Like when we let Shelby (our puppy) out of her kennel in the morning and she just runs like a maniac and wants to kiss and jump onto everybody. We have now started waking up 15 minutes earlier just so we can all lay in bed and enjoy some time together while sipping on some morning tea and coffee.
It’s small things like those that I now want to cherish and remember. So from now on, I’ll let the chaos and crazy jumping and playing take control, so that I can smile with Zach and enjoy the fact that she’s still a puppy and full of energy and love.
I know this hasn’t been the regular type of post, but I hope that whoever reads this gets some inspiration and encouragement from this. You are not alone, you are loved and you have one life to enjoy to it’s limit. Take advantage of it !!
Gifting is one of my favourite things to do. I love making my gifts personal, and special, while trying not to break the bank (if you know what I mean). But I do try to put as much effort into it as I can. Because growing up, I was lucky enough to have parents and friends who showed me how special it was to get a gift that wasn’t the norm or on every other shelf in town.
Once I moved to the US I discovered Etsy, and fell in love. For those of you who don’t know what Etsy is:
“Etsy is a global creative commerce platform. We build markets, services and economic opportunity for creative entrepreneurs.” It’s a website/store where creators, artist and anybody who has a product that is different, any entrepreneur, can go and sell their items, and people like me who love unique and handmade things can go and shop like crazy.
Since graduation is around the corner (literally!) whether you, a family member or a friend is graduating, there is always the questions of what to gift. There is so much out there and honestly, this is probably one of the “easiest” celebrations to get gift for. I thought I would put together a couple of options from Etsy to give you ideas and inspiration for your own gift.
“The Tassel was worth the Hassle” GlassI’m Spanish and extremely lucky that my friends here are either Spaniards or wine lovers too. So this gift just seemed more than appropriate. If you know your guest of honor enjoys a glass from time to time, this will be a fun and useful little gift.
Personalized Candle This one is my personal favourite. It’s the cutest little detail to gift someone. They offer many scents, you can include the name and even a quote for the person. The best thing is that once they’re done burning it, they can clean it out and continue to use the glass it comes in. Here is another option that is also very cute.
Personalized make up pouch This pouch doesn’t have to be for make up. I have a similar one where I just put everything that has to be in my purse at all times and it is so convenient and cute to have this little pouch. It can also be used as a clutch to go out and is a very sweet reminder of their accomplishments.
Personalized passport holder This gift is great for a man or woman because who doesn’t love a simple passport holder where they can store all the important documents they need? It’s sleek, holds a passport, cards and your boarding pass, and comes in four different colors. Plus, you can add the initials of the person in the back and have a special quote on the front.
Year Planner Just like all the items on my list, this planner can be personalized with a name or date. What I love about these is how useful and necessary they are, especially for somebody who is graduating and starting a new job or job search. They keep you organized and on track of everything. Plus, this again is uni-sex and can be for a man or woman.
And last but not least, a graduation card! These are, out of all the gift options, my very favourite. And that’s because you can really personal and write that person straight from your heart. What’s best about these is that they are small and can be kept in a small box or on the wall or fridge forever. I keep every single one of the cards that my friends and family have written to me, because the thought, effort and time to do it means the world to me. Hallmark has also tons of options, but if you want it to be unique, check Etsy!
What types of gift do you guys like to receive? Is anybody else obsessed with personalizing as I am? Let me know in the comments below!