The Logistics of Moving To A New Country

February 6, 2017

A Quick Weekend in London

February 5, 2017

How To Fit Your Life In A Suitcase When Moving To A New Country

August 6, 2016

So You Graduated College Early... What Were You Thinking? The Realities of Graduating College Before Your Peers

June 8, 2016

Must Do's in The City Where The East Meets The West: Istanbul

April 1, 2016

The Logistics of Moving To A New Country

Maybe you've done it, maybe you've studied abroad or backpacked throughout foreign lands, but really truly moving to a new country is a whole different ball game. There are so many logistics to figure out before and while moving to a new country that are incredibly overwhelming. I've been living in Madrid for five months now and it just now feels like I'm in the groove of things in this city, now I'm actually living here. 

As you can expect, the pre-move paperwork is a bit of a nightmare. Trips to the consulate, your local government office, stamps here, background checks there, doctor visits, visas, passports... so glamourous. Getting everything in order to legally move to a new country is not an easy task, just stay organized and prepared for anything. Once that's all out of the way, your visa is in your hands and you're ready to go, that's when the fear and excitement starts to take over. Once you land in your new home, there a few things to get out of the way first...

Get A Local Phone Number

For me, getting a local phone number is step number one after arriving in your new country. Need an apartment? Well, you need a phone to call the landlords. Can't live without data on your phone while walking new and confusing streets? Get a plan with data. Figuring this out first things first will help you immensely with all the other logistics you have coming your way. Have an idea of a local phone company that you want to use and if you have an iPhone, be sure to unlock it with your current provider so it's ready to go for a new sim card! In my case, I went to Vodafone with my unlocked iPhone and left with a new number with data all within 15 minutes. Then tell everyone from home your new number, download WhatsApp, and you're in business to contact everyone you need. 

Don't Be Homeless

I moved to Madrid to work. When I first moved here five months ago, I had one week of accommodation planned to find an apartment. I have to admit, finding a place to live was by far the most stressful experience I had after moving. Madrid is the third largest city in Europe. In Europe, it's common for people to flee the hot cities in the month of August and return back in September. If you're moving to a European city in September, that means there's a whole lot of other people trying to find an apartment in the same place and at the same time as you.  

To start, find popular websites that post apartment listings and create a list of decent enough apartments. Then CALL the numbers listed. If you're moving to a new country with a different language, well, either know enough of it to get by or have a friend willing to help because you need to be able to communicate. I often had the experience of a landlord finding out I'm American and then raising the price of the rent... so so annoying. Be prepared to deal with that. 

View apartments with the mindset that it's like a blind date, the apartment will more than likely not look like the pictures online. Also, go to the apartment viewings with your down payment and paperwork (passport copy, etc.) ready to go. If you like the place, sign the dotted line right then and there. Also, don't settle for a place just because you're stressed, you'll get your dream place, terrace and all, before you know it.

Become Legal

Ah yes, you already succeeded in getting your visa to enter the country... now it's time to become a real foreign resident. I'm not sure how it works in all countries, but in Spain, you need to get a foreign identity card to really become legal. It's tedious, it's more paperwork than necessary and it includes standing in really long lines. Be mentally and logistically prepared for this. Find out what paperwork you'll need and try and have as much of it ready before leaving your home country, this will help you running around trying to find print shops to print another copy of your passport that you didn't realize you needed. Keep a check list and handle it one step at a time. 

Figure Out How To Navigate In Your New City 

Getting lost every day for a week? Not the worst thing in the world, but also not the most stress-free thing in the world. New cities are big and confusing, there's hundreds of people surrounding you who know exactly where they're going and you're just trying to find a street sign. That's ok, you're new to town and yeah, you're going to get lost. Does your new city have public transportation? Figure out your metro or bus routes before attempting to dive right in at the station, this will save you some stress as well. Try and plan your routes if you can and if you have phone service, use Google Maps like it's your best friend. Give yourself a few weeks to really feel like you know where you're going, and eventually you'll feel like a local too. 

Immerse Yourself In Your New Culture

Hey, you just moved to a new country, go out and enjoy it! Spend your days at a cafe, spend your evenings in bars, eat the food, drink the wine, kiss the people, speak the language. This is what moving to a new country is all about. Enjoy it!

A Quick Weekend in London

Navigating the city in a few days
I've decided to end my five month hiatus by talking about one of my new favorite cities, London, baby! These past five months have included a number of trips, but London has been my favorite so far. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed simply walking through the streets of downtown London for a quick weekend trip. I have to admit, after living in Spain for so long, it was a nice break to hear English everywhere around me... even if I struggled to understand a taxi driver or two! If you're only visiting London for a few days like I did, then here are your must do's to navigate the city - 

First, Figure Out The Underground Metro British Style: The Tube

In an expensive city like London, figuring out the public transportation system can save you a lot of time and money. Compared to the Paris Metro, London's Tube is fairly clean and easy to navigate. Not quite as cheap as Madrid's Metro, the Tube still offers fares that are lower than taking a taxi everywhere... even though I did use a taxi once or twice for quick trips. Figure out where you need to go and the Metro stations close to your destinations before leaving your wifi, it will save you a lot of stress!

Make All The Tourist Stops

Despite being the largest city in Europe, London's cites are fairly close to one another, which makes checking each one off your list easy. Big Big, Westminster Abbey, The London Eye, London Bridge, etc. are all grouped together in the City Center. Be an extra tourist and take a picture posing with a red telephone booth, I highly recommend it despite having to stand in line to get an Instagram worthy shot. 

Visit Soho 

My favorite neighborhood in London is, by far, Soho. This is the place to find the perfect cafe, restaurant or bar. Trendy and full of pop up shops, it's also a great place to simply walk around and find cool places during the day. Be Soho on a weekend night and you'll find the streets filled with 20 somethings drinking beers outside of trendy bars, so if you're into that, head on over. 

Walk Down Oxford Street

Oxford street is busy and crowded, but it's where you'll find all the best stores if shopping is what you're after in London. Every big name store you can think of is right on Oxford street, making it easy to be a one stop shop. 

Only having one full day in London myself, I felt like I was able to see a fair amount of the city before returning home to Madrid, though a quick weekend simply isn't enough in my opinion. I fully plan on returning to London sometime soon to see much more of this awesome city! Pro tip: don't speak with a British accent while around British people, I know it's hard.. but they're not a huge fan of it. 

How To Fit Your Life In A Suitcase When Moving To A New Country

Where Noelle Goes
So you made the decision to pack up and move across the globe? That's pretty sweet! There are so many hurdles that you have to jump in order to move to a new country, even if just for a restricted amount of time that's longer than three months, and the final step in the entire process is packing up your bags and getting ready to set sail (via airplane). You have your visa, you have your proper paperwork, you have your eyes wide with excitement... and then you look over at the brooding pile of stuff that's hanging out by your empty suitcase and your excitement fizzles slightly. 

Packing a suitcase or two can be intimidating, especially when you compare the size of your suitcase to the size of your closet and bathroom vanity, but coming to terms with the fact that you can't pack your entire life will save you a lot of anguish. Here are my tips, in depth, (this is long, I am sorry) for packing up your life, as much as you can fit, into a suitcase when moving to a new country! Also, this is really focusing on your checked luggage, your carry-on is a whole other beast to tackle. 

First off, Pick The Right Suitcase

You need a place to put all these things, so make sure it's a good one. Figure out what you want from your suitcase, then start looking in person. Picking out your new suitcase is like picking out a new car, you gotta give it a feel first. No, I'm serious. I suggest going to your local retailer store, such as TJ Maxx, Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack, etc. and finding your suitcase based on important factors, like durability and size, and not just because it has a super cute design. Trust me on this, get a STURDY suitcase that will not fall apart on you, I just have to share with you why. 

I have a quick story, last time I was living in Sevilla, I had to move out of my apartment and take my bags to a hotel where I was meeting my mom. Now, the hotel was "too close" to my apartment for a taxi to come and take me, apparently it wasn't worth their time or money to drive me less than a mile. I had to lug my giant (huge!) and heavy suitcase across cobblestone, narrow streets at 2 p.m. on an August day in Southern Spain, jumping out of the way from cars, sweating my life away. Señoras were sitting on benches watching me, waving their fans with sad eyes. Long story short, my suitcase handle broke mid-way and the sides starting splitting, and it was horrible and I almost cried, but I just kept chugging along. So, please buy a quality and sturdy suitcase, ok? 

Where Noelle Goes

Packing Toiletries And Beauty Products 

Now, if you're moving to a progressive country/city (i.e. not a village in the jungles of Tibet), you need to realize that you will be able to buy nearly all of your hygiene essentials once there. Yes, people in Spain do in fact use shampoo and conditioner, so don't pack your own! I do recommend packing a travel size set for your carry on to get you through a few days, but nothing full size. This one is especially hard for me because I tend to prioritize my beauty regime above many things. Yep, I'm vain, it is what it is. 

For this, I am packing only the products that I know for a fact that I cannot purchase once there, primarily because a few brands I use are not sold or easily accessible in Spain. Hello, tarte, why aren't you sold in Sephoras in Spain?! If you are beauty product obsessed like I am, I highly recommend doing a simple Google search of your favorite products to see if you can get them in your new country. 

I am choosing to bring backups on the products that I use every day that I know for a fact I cannot get in Spain... and I will be really sad when they're all gone. Keep your giant makeup bag at home and pack ONLY WHAT YOU CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT when it comes to toiletries and buy the rest once you're settled. This includes hair dryers, curling irons, body wash, toothpaste (bring a small tube with you, please) and other easily accessible products. Trust me, you do not want to deal with fried hair from your hair dryer because you forgot about the voltage difference (there is one). 

Where Noelle Goes

Pack Minimal Clothing, Shoes and Accessories

I use minimal in two ways here: 
1. Pack clothing and shoes that are minimal in style. Stick to the basics that you can mix and match easily, everyone in Europe always sticks to a neutral color palette anyway. Anything that is black, white, beige, grey or striped is a safe bet. 

2. Pack minimally by only packing 2-5 of each item. Do you really need to pack all three pairs of black boots (that you love) but that essentially all look the same? No, sorry. Pack one pair and maybe wear another pair on the plane. 

I recommend packing 3 pairs of jeans (black and denim), one pair of casual leggings (wear them on the plane!), one pair of black boots, one pair of streetwear sneakers, one pair of sandals, one pair of running shoes (if you're into that), 2-4 workout outfits, 5-10 tops (blouses and T-shirts), 1-3 sweaters if you can fit them, 2-3 of your favorite dresses or a dressy outfit if you're a dude, 2-3 favorite jacets and then any other standout item that you really can't live without. Stuff as many pairs of socks and underwear into your shoes as you can and you're good. It's hard to say goodbye to your closet, but just know that a H&M or Zara is probably only a few minutes away from where you're living, if moving to Europe. 

Where Noelle Goes

Gather and Pack ALL Your Necessary Medications 

Even though faramcias (pharmacies) are greatly accessible throughout Europe, it's still a good idea to bring as many prescriptions of your medications that you can. Also, keep the original boxes and pack them in your carry-on, if you can. For any other over the counter drugs, I think those are ok to go in your checked luggage, but don't quote me on that. I plan on doing a whole post dedicated to getting your necessary prescriptions before and while abroad, because I've had a lot of troubles dealing with it.

It's a much simpler process to get prescription drugs in Europe than it is in America, and much cheaper, but be sure to find the generic name of your medication if you plan on picking it up once there. If this is your plan, bring your prescription boxes into the faramcia to give to the pharmacist to make sure they're getting it right. Simply look for the lit green cross on just about every street in Europe and ask the pharmacist any questions. Luckily, pharmacists typically speak English and are great resources to use while abroad. Though, be cautious of their hours, many close after 2 p.m. I can only speak from experience of using a Spanish farmacia, but I believe the same applies for just about any pharmacy in Europe. 

Where Noelle Goes

Chargers, Electronics, Etc.

I much prefer to put these items in my carry-on suitcase, but I do pack chargers for other small devices (like for my toothbrush or camera) in my checked luggage. I also always travel with my handy-dandy portable steamer. It's honestly one of my favorite gadgets because I despise looking wrinkled and this is so easy to plugin and steam my clothes wherever I am. I highly recommend it! If you have any backup chargers, throw those in as too. 

Where Noelle Goes

Bring A Little Something From Home

You can't pack your dog in your suitcase, unfortunately, so be sure to bring a little something from home that will keep you calm during a moment of homesickness. I highly recommend bringing a few printed pictures to hang up in your new home, they're small and light and are direct image of who/what you are missing. If a teddy bear from you childhood is your thing, by all means, bring it!

Where Noelle Goes

Roll Your Clothes Tightly, Squeeze Everything Else

I'm sure there is a much more glamourous way to explain this, and I'm not going to go in depth about it, here's a great How-To Guide to Packing a Tight Suitcase that will tell how what to do. Simply speaking though, tightly roll up your clothes and try to pack them as strategically as you see fit. 

Where Noelle Goes

So there you have it, all my advice for packing a checked luggage suitcase that I got in me. Do you have any must-share advice for packing a checked suitcase? Let me know, please. Happy packing! 

So You Graduated College Early... What Were You Thinking? The Realities of Graduating College Before Your Peers

Where Noelle Goes, Noelle Nercessian
My face says it all, right? 
I finished college, diploma in hand (well, in a frame, on the wall) three months ago, and let me tell you, post-grad life is not all it's cracked up to be. Yeah, I read countless blog posts and articles warning me of the harsh realities that follow graduation, but I chose to think that all those people were dramatic, and that post-graduate life couldn't possibly be that horrible. I thought, and was wholeheartedly convinced, that there was no way I would miss taking classes, sitting through lectures, writing essays and studying for tests when compared to the post-graduate world of making money and gaining independence. Sounds so glamorous, right? 

I made the decision to graduate a term early from my university. At first, I didn't even mean to finish early, it just kind of happened that way with my schedule, and then the more I thought about it, the more excited I was to be finishing school. In my mind, the idea of working a mediocre job to save my money sounded much more reasonable (and responsible) than paying to take classes, especially when I was just so over it all. What I forgot to account for was, well, a lot of things. Here's what I wish I would have considered before graduating early...

You Will Be Working All Day, While Your Friends Only Have Two Classes Per Day

I had a pretty beautiful schedule my last year of college, and it was also never that bad throughout the other three years. I often only had one or two classes a day and almost always had Fridays (sometimes also Mondays) off. I forgot to account for just how long a work day is. How does one forget such a thing? Denial, I think. More like ignorance, though. 

Waking up to get to an 8 a.m. class twice a week was always hard, but waking up to start a work day at 8 a.m. is way worse. The difference is that usually when I had an 8 a.m. class (which wasn't often anyway) I would probably have the whole rest of my day free after. Offices doesn't work like that. You have to get up to be in by 8 and you have to stay there all day. By the time you're done at work, you're probably tired, grumpy and more than likely having visions of your bed and Netflix. This makes it really hard to be social. I regret not pushing through this better and making more of an effort to spend time with my friends. I seem to have forgotten that this was their spring (and fun) final term of college, and I wish I would have been able to enjoy it with them. 

You're Starting Adulthood Before You Really Have To

This one is obnoxious and probably only relates to those who have very supportive parents, but nonetheless, I started being an "adult" sooner than I really needed to. I get it, I am 22 years old and I should be accepting responsibilities and yada yada, but the reality is that if I were still taking classes and living as a college student, I wouldn't need to quite yet, because my parents are awesome and fully supported me through my studies. Why didn't I take advantage of living a cushy life for one more term? Great question, I ask myself that every time I have transfer the near entirety of my paycheck into savings and buy groceries with the remaining $50. 

It's not that I don't still have support from my parents, because they still help a lot, but now that I'm making my own money, there is a level of responsibility that is now expected of me, and quite frankly, it's boring. 

You're Living In A Weird Limbo 

To say that I am in a weird transition phase of my life is an understatement, but I am living in a weird transition phase of my life. I'm half into the working world and I'm half into the college world. I spend my days working but the rest of my life is still revolved around college. I live on campus, every single one of my friends has still been in school, I go to the college bars (rarely) and then I switch over to driving to work to reach a completely different world. Did I say it's weird enough? It's WEIRD. To say I have a lack of identity is dramatic, but it's how I've been feeling. Until I leave for Spain in August, I believe this is just how it has to be.

You WILL Miss Classes

So mad at myself for this one. I can't even count how many times I said that "I am so over taking the same classes over and over again." While this was true, because towards the end there I was essentially taking the same two types of classes over and over again, I miss learning new things and asking questions and investigating interesting topics. I miss sitting in a classroom and getting genuinely excited about the topic being discussed. I'm bursting with anticipating to start teaching in Spain because I am excited to start learning again, though not in the same style or capacity, I will be back in an environment for learning, whatever that may mean. 

It's Not All Bad

The bright side of graduating early is that yes, you will probably start saving money and start living a more responsible life earlier than your peers. In the long run, I know that there will be moments when I will be very grateful for working and saving money before arriving to live in a foreign country, especially considering that I am moving there a month before actually receiving a paycheck. I think if someone is making the decision to graduate early, or even if you're not graduating early and you're simply making the adjustment into the real world, I encourage you to deal yourself a very crucial reality check. Gone are the days of having classes only twice a week and drinking too many vodka sodas on the weekends (though, you could still do that, I suppose)... and here are the days of reality. Enjoy the relaxed life while you have it folks!

I'll end that I am very much so looking forward to my adventure in Spain, and I am sure that I will look back at this phase in my live and laugh at myself for being so silly and dramatic. For now, I am keeping on and figuring out my life in this newfound world! 

Must Do's in The City Where The East Meets The West: Istanbul

It's a cliched statement, "where the East meets the West", but if you've ever been to Istanbul, you understand how true that description is. Not only does Istanbul straddle both Europe and Asia physically, with the Bosphorus Strait separating the two continents, it also straddles both cultures and lifestyles. Istanbul feels incredibly modern and innovative, yet it also maintains its very traditional feel. You see women in high heels and pencil skirts mixing among women fully covered in burqas, you see groups of teens walking while checking their phones dodging men carrying dozens of rugs on a hand-drawn trailer. While I know other cities also have this feel, such as Beirut or Amman, Istanbul does it in a very profound manner. 

Unfortunately, given recent events, Turkey has been rattled with terror in the past few weeks more so than it has ever experienced since the time of the Ottoman Empire. As I mentioned in my post about Paris, I believe continuing to live your life without fear is the best method of defeating the enemy, and I feel that way about continuing to travel to Turkey as well. Always exercise caution, be aware of your surroundings at all times and do create a higher sense of awareness. If something doesn't feel right, walk away, always follow your gut. I will say that there is currently a travel warning for Americans traveling to Turkey right now, but if you ever have the opportunity in your lifetime to travel to the country, I do recommend it, but remember that there is also a travel warning for all of Europe right now as well. 

But anyway, back to the magic of Istanbul. Istanbul is a huge city, with a population of over 14 million people, so there is lots and lots to go and see. I wrote this post a few days ago but then this article popped up on Buzzfeed that's 15 Ways To Enjoy Your Layover in Istanbul, which is perfect to take a look at as well if you do happen to have a layover in the city. If you only have a day or two to spend in Istanbul, these are the things and places that I believe you absolutely must do - 

Be Impressed by The Hagia Sophia

A former Greek Orthodox basilica transformed into an imperial mosque, Hagia Sophia will shock you just at its sheer splendor. The amount of intricate detail spread throughout the walls and ceiling is impressive and the overall size and grandeur of the main room is enough to leave your jaw at the bottom of the floor. Dedicate at least two hours to make it through the long line to enter and to make your way through the entire building, inside and outside.

Experience Cross-Cultures at The Blue Mosque

When I visited Istanbul, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or the Blue Mosque, was the number one place that I wanted to see. Similar to Hagia Sophia, the size alone of the Blue Mosque is enough to impress anyone, let alone the intricate details painted throughout. The ceiling inside the Mosque is worth hurting your neck to stare up at, and you'll finding that getting a picture good enough to capture the essence of it is simply impossible to do it justice.

This is a religious site that is still actively used for prayer, so be courteous of that when you visit. Women should be prepared to cover their hair, arms and legs to show the proper respect upon entering. If you're not wearing appropriate clothes, but still want to venture inside, the Mosque offers the correct clothing available to rent and return. Traditionally, those who enter the Mosque for prayer are expected to wash their feet upon entering, but you are not required to do so if you are visiting - you will have to take off your shoes though! Simply be respectful and understand that this is a holy place.  

Explore Through The Grand Bazaar

The grandest of grand bazaars! The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is the biggest souk, or market, that I've ever been to - it's awesome! The bazaar covers over 60 streets and has over 3,000 shops to choose from. Many of the shops are selling the same or similar items, but it's still fun to browse a lot of them. Generally, there are shops selling ceramics, spices, sweets, shoes, (fake) designer bags, jewelry, rugs, etc. - you get the idea. Take your time strolling through the bazaar and try not to get lost... it's very easy to do, seriously, stick close to the people you're traveling with.

As I mentioned in my post about Morocco, practice bargaining! Never, seriously never accept the first price as your final payment. Always bargain back and forth with the vendor to get your price down, or move to the stall next to him and try again! Bargaining is not as scary as it seems, and if you're interested in a more in-depth post regarding the "how-to's" of bargaining, let me know in the comments!

Visit Topkapi Palace

Slightly harder to get to than the other places I mentioned, Topkapi is a beautiful palace that is definitely worth the travel for! Again, with the intricate detail, Topkapi has countless walls and ceilings that are breathtaking. There are also beautiful courtyards and gardens surrounding the palace that are the perfect place for a relaxing stroll.

Indulge in a Cup of Turkish Coffee

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that will give you more of a caffeine boost than Turkish coffee, be prepared! I grew up with my parents and family always, and exclusively, drinking Turkish (or Armenian, or Greek, or Arabic) coffee. I threw in the other names because they're all essentially the same style of coffee, each just maybe throwing in their own unique touch. This tiny cup of coffee is enough to last you all day, and if you've never tried it, I highly recommend that you do while you're there! You can't go wrong with picking a café, just find one that seems charming, order yourself a cup of Turkish coffee and feel the buzz. 

Clad Yourself With Protection From an Evil Eye

Like the coffee, the evil eye is something that I grew up with. I was always finding an evil eye bead tucked into a blanket or one stuffed into my pocket by a relative. The evil eye is a symbol commonly found and used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures to bring good luck and to repel the "evil eye", or envious bad luck given to you from other people. One wears the eye to protect themselves, and I honestly never leave the house without one somewhere on me. Silly superstition or not, evil eye medallions are everywhere in Istanbul, and they make great souvenirs!

Overall, it's hard to go wrong in Istanbul. With such a rich culture and history, there are plenty of sites to visit and see before leaving the city where the East truly does meet the West.

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