If you follow me on social media, mainly Instagram, you might know that I have recently been traveling in Spain and Portugal.

When I was in Lisbon, I didn't have a lot of time and I felt like there was so much that I wanted to see. I searched for some online itineraries and I really just wanted one that was like a schedule, with specific times and time intervals for things to guarantee that I could see everything that I wanted to see. I ended up not being able to find an itinerary that I really liked, so I had to form my own by doing lots of research.

Here was the travel itinerary that I formed while exploring Lisbon, but modified with a little bit of hindsight from what I learned would work best based off of my experience. If you are traveling to Lisbon, I encourage you to use this as a resource for forming your own travel itinerary. I don't expect you to follow it perfectly, as this has been customized towards what I valued seeing most, but I think it's a good starting point if you're planning on traveling to Lisbon.

8:00 AM | Ride Tram 12 or 28

The tram is one of the icons of Lisbon, similar to a San Francisco trolley. It's on all kinds of travel sites as a must do, as it's a fun way to see the city's main tourist attractions. However, it is very touristy and you may end up crammed in a tram without any view due to the large numbers of tourists. 


Tram number 12 in Lisbon, Portugal
Tram number 28 is the most popular tram for tourists, but can get very crowded. At 9am, I saw a completely full tram number 28 and later in the day, there were long lines. Some tourists online said that they had to wait about 45 minutes to get a spot on the tram. 

Read more: Lisbon Tram 28 Guide - lisbonlisboaportugal.com

If you want something that is quicker and less packed with tourists, the number 12 tram takes a similar route to the 28 but is shorter and sees fewer of the main attractions. This is the tram that I took. I aimed to take the tram around 8 am, but ended up being late and didn't catch the tram until around 9 am since I had to buy tickets and wait for the next tram. I boarded at Praça da Figueira, which is located right by the Rossio metro station. When I boarded the tram, there were only 2 other people on it at the time, so it was super private and nice because I didn't have to worry about pickpockets. The ride was about 15-20 minutes long to go around the whole loop and return to Praça de Figueria.

Regardless of which tram number (12 or 28) you take, you will ride in one of the Remodelado trams like the one pictured, which are the cutesy traditional trams. 

How to buy tickets for the tram:


  • Option one: Go to the metro station and purchase a via viagem card (€0.50) and put a ticket on it (€1.45)
  • Option two: Purchase tickets on the tram (€2.90)
  • Option three: Purchase a 24-hour public transport ticket (€6.15) which includes all metro and bus fares


If you decide to follow this itinerary exactly, I advise you to purchase a via viagem card (€0.50) and put 3 tickets on it (€1.45 x 3) which is slightly cheaper than the 24 hour transport ticket. 


9:30 AM | Breakfast in Rossio Square

Rossio Square in Lisbon, Portugal
Rossio Square
Rossio Square is home to lots of delicious pastry shops. I personally wasn't a big fan of Portuguese food, but I did really enjoy the pastries. In Rossio Square, I visited two pastry shops: Pastelaria Suiça and Confeitaria Nacional. They were both delicious. However, I think that Confeitaria Nacional has more of the complex and fancier pastries while Pastelaria Suiça has more of the classic pastries.

When you eat breakfast in Rossio Square, I recommend that you eat outside so you can enjoy the view of the square. 

pastries and coffee at the Pastelaria Suiça in Lisbon
Pastelaria Suiça

10:15 AM | Explore Martim Moniz, Alfama, and Castelo de São Jorge


Castelo Sao Jorge over Portuguese buildings
This seems broad, but exploring these areas is a "choose your own adventure" kind of thing. All of these places have lots of different shops to stop into and great places to take photos and take in the tiles and pastel buildings. While exploring, check out the Santa Luzia Cathedral for a city view and search for the great lookout points that these areas all have.

I didn't have a lot of time to explore these areas more in depth, but if I had more time, I would go into the Castelo de São Jorge, which I didn't have a chance to do, I only looked from the outside, and maybe visit the the Azulejos musuem, which is a museum of the Portuguese tiles.

1:00 PM | Check Out Praça do Comércio and Baixa-Chiado

The Praça do Comércio has picturesque yellow buildings, an arch, and statue. Additionally, it's by the water, which makes it even prettier. Conclude your explorations for the morning around here and venture to Baixa-Chiado where there are lots of restaurants.

Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal
Praça do Comércio
There's lots of restaurants around the Baixa-Chiado area, so you can explore here and pick whatever kind of food that you're in the mood for. I tried out the codfish cakes at lunch, which I felt were pretty similar to Spanish croquettes, but with a more structure in the filling (less mushy).

2:30 PM | Take the Number 15 Tram to Belém

The number 15 tram runs from Praça do Comércio to Belém in approximately 20-30 minutes. The way that you purchase tickets for the tram is the same way as buying tickets for number 12 or 28.

3:00 PM | Explore Belém

There are quite a few things that you can visit in Belém that makes the ride away from Lisbon worth it. Here are a few of them.

A visit to Pastéis de Belém (also called Antiga Confeitaria de Belém)

Pastéis de Belém or Antigua Confeitaria de Belém by Lisbon, Portugal
This bakery is the bakery that in 1837 originally made the famous pastel de nata seen in Portuguese bakeries. If you don't know what a pastel de nata is, it's basically a custard tart. The shell is flaky, almost croissant-like, and the inside is a thick and sweet egg custard.

From the outside, there are long lines that make it seem like there will be a long wait, but it only takes a quick 15 minutes to get in and out if you get your pastries to go. The staff is quick and efficient, which I was pleasantly surprised by. You can sit down and get served, but it's much quicker to get to go and find somewhere to sit or stand outside to eat. Make sure to eat the Pastéis de Belém while it's hot, it's much more delicious then.

Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, Portugal
Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is huge and doesn't look like a monastery from far due to its size and stature. I didn't go into the monastery since I've seen a lot of cathedrals, churches, and religious buildings while traveling, making it less appealing considering the number that I had visited previously and I also didn't have enough time. Regardless, I did get a chance to see the outside.

Tower of Belém

Buy your tickets online because the line can be long. I didn't, causing me to wait about 45 minutes. Even if you buy your tickets in advance, you can still expect a little bit of waiting, since they regulate the number of people inside the tower. Note that they stop allowing people in at 5:00pm.

Tower of Belém in Portugal
Tower of Belém
You can probably see the whole tower in about 30 minutes, it took me only about 20 minutes, but that's because I was speedy. From the tower, there's a pretty nice view, but you will have to go up some steps in a narrow staircase. It's a one way staircase with some confusing arrows and directions that you need to follow, so read the instructions before dashing up the staircase.

6:00 PM | Tram Ride Returning to Lisbon

Take tram number 15 again back to Lisbon.

6:30 PM | Rest at Hotel

This part is up to you, but after a day of rushing around, I would prefer to take a rest, which is exactly what I did. If you're following this itinerary, you are free to substitute this time period with seeing something else, but I think that it's nice to refresh and stop with the fast pace for even just a little while.

9:00 PM | Dinner in Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto has a ton of restaurants and bars and comes to life at night. When I was in Bairro Alto, it was the day before Portugal day and also a Saturday night, making it extra lively. You have so many restaurant and bar options here that it's not necessary to do much prior research for where to eat/drink. There also may be live music in many bars and restaurants in this area if you're looking for some entertainment.

24 Hours in Lisbon

You know what they say, beauty is pain. But what if you could have it all? The main reason why I steer away from comfort shoes is that they're not the prettiest things. However, just because most comfort shoes lack the aesthetic that a fashion blogger loves, doesn't mean that there aren't some gorgeous shoes out there that just so happen to be incredibly comfortable as well. 

I'm currently traveling in Portugal and Spain, which involves a lot of sightseeing and consequently a lot of walking. Therefore I've been on the hunt for some comfy sandals to wear on the trip and also in general. However, I don't want to compromise style and I don't want to compromise comfort? So how can I find a middle ground?

I know what they say, "beauty is pain," but if it doesn't have to be, why wouldn't I be taking the option of a good comfort shoe? Because having a great sandal that I can walk for miles in is so important to me, I decided to put the style spotlight on them, talking about some that I have and love, as well as other options that you can get so that your feet and your eyes can be happy.

What makes a shoe comfortable?

Shape. The last shape is the shape of the shoe. Most are curved, as our feet are naturally curved at the bottom, but there are variations of the curve. Some of them are straighter and some of them are more curved. Based off of the shape of your foot, find what kind of last shape is most comfortable to you so that you can easily be on the lookout for whatever shape best fits you.

Cushion. This one is the obvious one, but cushioning at the sole of the shoe is key. Our feet naturally don't have much fat, causing us to not have much cushion in our step. If your shoe is heeled, look for shoes with more cushioning at the ball of the foot. Personally, I have found it comfortable to have some cushioning beneath the natural curve of the foot to add that support.

Thickness. Building off of cushioning, having a completely flat shoe with a thin sole not be comfortable. Otherwise, it's like not even wearing shoes at all. Look for shoes with slightly thicker soles, wedges and platforms, can add a bit more cushioning in your step and be almost like shock absorbers.

Sources: www.faant.com
www.oprah.com

Where to find fashionable comfort shoes:

Born
b.o.c.
Naturalizer
Dr. Scholl's
Clarks
Eurosoft


My picks + thoughts:



Born Casma Sandal in Black
Born Casma Sandal

Born Casma Sandal


Style: 4stars
Comfort: 4 stars

The style is definitely nice considering the comfort, putting it above average in terms of the aesthetic. I love the tie front, it adds a great little compliment to the shoes. The great thing about the design of it is that it looks so nice that you can't even tell that it's a comfort shoe. Maybe I would have picked it regardless of its comfort, the comfort is just a plus. I guess that my only complaint would be that it just doesn't fit the shape of my feet, the sole is a lot more pointed at the toe, which is not how my feet are shaped. 

As for the comfort, I love that the tie front of the shoes can be adjusted, I can loosen and tighten the straps around the ankle as necessary, allowing me to have more control over the sizing. In addition, there is a ton of cushioning at the bottom of the shoe which supports my feet and cushions my steps. Although the thickness of the sole isn't much, it's still enough that I can't feel the ground.



Dr. Scholl's Encore Gladiator Sandal

Dr. Scholl's Encore Gladiator Sandal in Olive Green
Dr. Scholl's Encore Gladiator Sandal

Style: 5 stars
Comfort: 3.5 stars


I absolutely LOVE the look of these shoes. They can be dressed up for nicer occasions or dressed down for every day wear. The olive green color matches with basically anything and the little tassels for embellishment make the sandal look even nicer. Even if this wasn't a comfort shoe, I could still see myself picking these sandals just for the sake of style.

As for comfort, I do like the material of the straps, they're soft enough that they don't rub against my feet but they're still rather sturdy. However, my biggest complaint would be the sole. Although there is some cushion, it's not much considering that it's a comfort shoe brand. I would have liked more cushioning from these shoes in order to make them more comfortable for long wear.







Kork-Ease Lyell Sandal in Gold
Kork-Ease Lyell Sandal

Kork-Ease Lyell Sandal

Style: 3.5 stars

Comfort: 4 stars

I don't love the style of these shoes, but I don't necessarily hate them either. They definitely aren't something that I would normally pick out (aka I would not buy them if they were not a comfort shoe). However, they still look nice enough.

Comfort wise, these shoes have a great sole. With a thick cork footbed and a rubber sawtooth sole, these sandals give you a little spring in your step. The material of the straps will need to be broken in to avoid it rubbing against your feet, but overall, pretty comfortable sandals.



Shop My Picks:

While the shoes that I spotlighted are not only stylish but comfortable, there are still so many more options that definitely grabbed my attention. Plus, they're by comfort shoe brands. Comfortable and cute! Who could resist? I know I can't. Happy shopping! May your feet be happy. 



Style Spotlight: Comfort Sandals

5 Ways I Need to Improve Myself

On the blog, I spend a lot of time talking about ways that you can improve yourself and what you can do to live your best life. However, part of understanding how you can grow is through understanding what you need to work on and acknowledge in your life. Because of that, I'm taking a moment to consider all the ways that I can improve myself.

01 | I need to stop caring what other people think.

This one is a HUGE thing that I am constantly aware of as one of my flaws and also a seriously difficult one to shake. In times of insecurity, I often imagine myself in the way that other people might see me. I might sit there, very self conscious of the way that I look, act, and react, when in reality, I'm sure that no one is watching or thinking about it nearly as much as I am. This is something that can be really damaging to my self-esteem and my self-perception. By focusing so much on trying to be what other people will like, I find myself confused on my identity.

I feel like I'm always pretending to be someone else and the only way I truly feel like myself if when I'm alone. 

I have one friend that is fearlessly able to be herself and I envy her for that trait. I wish that I could go around and stop worrying about what other people think about me, but it's not something that can just change overnight, it's something that will just take time.

02 | I need to be more open and willing to form relationships with people.

One thing about me is that I am very reserved, which is strange considering how I am always encouraging people to be vulnerable, truthful, and authentic. Although I feel that I have gotten better about doing so online, in person, I am still very reserved and unwilling to put myself out there.

In referring to relationships, I mean all types of relationships: in social friendships, with my peers, with the general community around me, professionally, etc. I have a tendency to keep to myself because that's where I'm comfortable: being independent and self-sufficient. However, that doesn't mean that I should close myself off from meaningful relationships, which I tend to do.

03 | I need to stop comparing myself.

This is something that I feel like I have improved upon lately, but it's the kind of thing that doesn't disappear in an instant. Although I am aware that I have gotten caught in the comparison trap, it doesn't stop me from walking into the next trap.

Related: How I Got Over the Comparison Trap and Learned to Love Myself Instead

Academically, one thing that I felt like wasn't necessarily good enough was my standardized test scores. I knew that I did pretty well, but compared to my peers, my scores just weren't as strong, which made me feel poorly about myself. However, I remember speaking with another girl that was not from my school and I told her that I felt like my score was pretty average. She asked me what I got and when I replied, her eyes went wide. Her target score was lower than my worst score on the standardized test.

That was a reminder that while in my little bubble I might have not scored as strong, in the grand scheme of things, I did really well and it was something to be proud of. 

It occurred to me that perhaps the way that I was treating my scores, like they weren't good enough even though they were still strong, was the same way that the people I was comparing myself to acted. For her, I was like one of those people that made me feel poorly about my scores, even though her scores were still good. My point is that the comparison trap is all about perspective and that moment was a good reminder and check in to myself to stop comparing myself.

04 | I need to become more assertive.

One of the ways that I might describe myself is nice. I try to be nice and kind to people. And I think that it's a good thing. However, being nice sometimes means that I let other people take advantage of that, not standing up for myself or forgoing an opportunity so that someone else might have it.

I tend to associate being assertive with being a mean person, the kind of person that lacks compassion. It is true that some people that are assertive can lack compassion, these are the people that are cutthroat and are exactly the people that will take advantage of someone like me that won't stand up to them.

However, there are ways to be assertive without being that kind of person: standing up for yourself in moments when it really matters, saying no even though people are trying to convince you otherwise, letting your voice matter. And that's the kind of person that I need to be, someone that won't compromise my own needs and wants in moments where it really counts.

05 | I need to appreciate my successes more.

There's definitely some social pressures that tell you that you need to be humble and not to flaunt your successes. However, recently I have been thinking, why shouldn't I appreciate my successes every now and then? I have found that due to my aim to be humble, that has stopped me from really being proud of what I have accomplished. When big things happen, I should be able to share the good news.

Related: Why You Shouldn't Skip Celebration of Your Accomplishments

There's obviously a little ebb and flow with this, sharing some accomplishments but not every little thing, but for me, I feel that right now I haven't really been fully appreciating my successes, which is why my improvement would be to give more notice to them.

How do you plan to improve yourself?


5 Ways I Need to Improve Myself

DIY Planet Pins and Keychains

I usually don't do DIY posts, but I decided to post this one anyways, just because I'm proud of them.

I recently made these pins and keychains for my friends, each one a different planet. I made 9 planets because I included pluto. I am aware that pluto is now classified as a dwarf planet, but I grew up during the time in which pluto was classified as the ninth planet in the solar system, so it feels wrong not including it. Not to mention, I have 8 friends that I wanted to make these pins and keychains for, so there are 9 planets including me, which allowed for it to be the perfect number of pins.

I was trying to come up with a gift idea to give some of my friends for a while. I wanted something that was a) cheap, b) an easy DIY, c) usable, d) cute, and e) symbolic. I knew that I wanted to make assorted keychains and pins because they're usable and cheap. In addition, whether or not people got pins or keychains could be easily changed so that its use can fit the person. However, I struggled for a while coming up with what to make them of and how to make them.

DIY Planet Pins and Keychains

I don't know how I came up with the planet idea, but it was absolutely perfect. The message behind these planet keychains/pins is that each person has their own individual and unique gift that says something about their personality, it is something that can stand alone, just like we can. However, when you look at them, they prompt the reminder that it is a part of a group, there are other planets as well. Although everyone has their own orbit, you can still find a place where you belong among the other 8 (since we're counting Pluto) planets.

These keychains and pins were super easy to make and I think that they turned out sooo good. While they might not look as professional as an enamel pin or a metal keychain, these are a lot more do-able for a DIY and are still very cute. I did end up using Shrinky Dink plastic, which is intended for kids to use, but it worked really well for making these pins and keychains.

If you want to make them for yourself or you're just curious, here are the instructions.

Materials:

  • Shrinky dink shrinkable plastic
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Permanent markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Cardstock (optional)
Additional materials if making pins
  • Jewelry pin backings
  • Hot glue gun or super glue
Additional materials if making keychains
  • Key rings
  • Jewelry jump rings
  • Hole punch
  • Jewelry pliers

Step One (optional): Make a shrinky ruler.

One thing I was worried about was knowing how big to draw each of the planets so that they would turn out the correct size once they shrunk. I found a recommendation on Pinterest to make a ruler on the plastic and then shrink it so that you know how big you should draw your pin/keychain. 

I made a ruler on the plastic with centimeters and then shrunk it. After that, I drew a little sketch of a planet around the size that I wanted the final product to be and measured it. The one I drew was a circle a diameter of approximately 5.5 mini-centimeters (the amount of centimeters that the shrunken ruler read), which meant that I needed to draw the planet as a circle with a diameter of 5.5 (real) centimeters. This yielded planets that had diameters of approximately 2.25 real centimeters after they shrunk. 

Step Two: Sketch your planet template on paper. 

I sketched out the circular shape of the planet on a sheet of plain white printer paper and then drew the banner on top of it. Since the Shrinky Dink plastic is clear, I could put the plastic over the sheet of paper in order to use it as a template. I did not sketch out any of the designs of the planets in terms of their colors, I improvised that. 

Step Three: Draw and color the planet on the Shrinky Dink plastic. 

With the help of the template, sketch out the shape of the planet and banner with a permanent black marker on the Shrinky Dink plastic. Color the planet accordingly, use pictures online to color the planets. I used a mix of permanent markers and colored pencils since I don't have a large variety of permanent markers. Permanent markers generally turn out the best though, just keep in mind that they tend to get darker upon baking. 

Step Four: Cut out your planet(s) and hole punch them (if making keychains).

I cut out the planets with a border of plastic around them, but you can cut on the lines, it depends on the look that you want for your pins/keychains. If you are making a keychain, don't forget to use a hole punch to punch a hole into your plastic. You can use a regular hole punch, it will turn out the perfect size after shrinking. 

DIY Planet Pins and KeychainsStep Five: Shrink those planets!

Follow the Shrinky Dink instructions for baking the Shrinky Dink paper. After you take out the shrunken Shrinky Dink, make sure to press down on them while they're still warm if they are not completely flat.

Step Six: Turn it into a keychain or a pin.

For pins:
Use super glue or a hot glue gun to attach the pin backing to the planet. 

For keychains:
Use a pair of pliers to attach the jump rings to the hole on the planet. I made a link of 7 rings before attaching the key ring. 

Step Seven (optional): Make the pin backing card. 

When you buy enamel pins, they generally have these backing cards attached to them, which is what I tried to make. For these, you can see that I added the gift recipient's name to the top of it, the planet name, and also a little description of why that planet fits them. This is much more functional to if you're making pins, but I still attached the keychains to a backing card by cutting a hole in them and putting the keychain through it so that they all have the same look.

Here's an example description that I wrote for the Mars backing card:
Like Mars, you are fiery and passionate. As you head into your own orbit, let this (keychain/pin) be a reminder of your place among the other 8 planets. 

And you're done!

Why It's Okay to End Friendships


Ending a friendship is something that no one really ever wants to do. However, sometimes it's necessary and the best thing that we can do in a situation, especially with the case of toxic friends. I'm not trying to say that you should be ending all your friendships, you should cherish the ones that you have and aim to be a good friend, but in situations when you feel mentally strained by friends, I want you to know that ending a friendship does not make you a bad person.

For the most part, I think that the problem with toxic friends is because there's a difficult balance. At one point, you feel like you absolutely cannot be friends with this person and you feel that you want to end the friendship. However, at another point, you feel happy and you feel like it's a normal friendship. It's this awkward situation that you're not really sure how to approach.

Ending friendships are difficult. It feels wrong to have to "break up" with a friend.

In the toxic friendships that I've had, I think that in each one, what really defined it was the gut feeling that I had that I did not want to be friends with them anymore. I had less moments of "this is a good friendship and I'm happy being in it" and more moments of "how can I avoid spending time with this person" or "I can put up with them," both thoughts that I should not be having if it were a healthy relationship. And to me, that's a sign that maybe the friendship isn't meant to last.

Toxic friendships can be a two way street. 

It's worth considering that perhaps ending the friendship might be the best for both parties involved. If the friendship is toxic to you, it is possible that it could be toxic to that friend as well, especially as the dynamic of your friendship changes. As you tense up and push away that friend, that could be emotionally damaging to them as well.

Not all friendships are meant to last. 

Think of romantic relationships. People fall in love, they laugh, they smile, but they cry, they struggle, they fight, and sometimes at the end of the day they realize that the best thing that they can do for their significant other and themselves is to let the relationship go. People break up. And that happens. Just like romantic relationships, some friendships aren't meant to be forever. And while that's disappointing, it's just something that you have to accept.


Friendships that have ended are not failed friendships.

While a friendship may be over, it does not mean that the moments that you shared together were any less real, any less authentic. Sometimes people just grow and drift apart. Maybe the people you are now are different, but the people that you were then made lots of great memories together. 

For example, think of your best friend from kindergarten (if you even remember them). There's a possibility that you're still besties now, but I think that for the majority of people, they're not as close to or don't talk to them anymore. That's because it was a long time ago and since then you have changed, grown, and discovered yourself, which can cause you and your friend(s) to drift apart. And that's natural. But you can still look back on those memories from way back then and smile. 

Ending a friendship doesn't mean that you can't be friendly anymore. 

It seems like a contradiction, but ending a friendship does not mean that you have to start acting like you're strangers. You were friends once, so there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that you know each other by being friendly if you run into each other or congratulating them on good news that they shared on Facebook.

There are varying levels of friendship and while you might not be besties, you can still be amicable and kind.

For example, I had a toxic friend for most of elementary school and after we stopped being friends at the beginning of middle school, we still would smile at each other in the hallways and be friendly whenever we chatted. She might have been a toxic friend, but she still deserved to me happy and be treated kindly, just like anyone else.

Moving on from friendships can allow you to find healthier ones. 

Often, toxic friends can be things that hold us and those friends back. It's almost like you're left clinging to something that just doesn't work anymore and expecting them to magically make you happy. For one of my friendships, I felt that we drifted apart a long time ago, but despite that we were still trying to hold onto that friendship even though we just didn't click as well together anymore. That just left us both feeling unhappy.

Related: How a Toxic Relationship Changed Me

Additionally, by trying to stick with her, I felt like I was closing myself off from meeting new people and forming new friendships because at events I would always spend time with her only or sit with her in classes. Moving on from friendships can allow you to focus on finding people that you click with and mesh well with rather than struggling to keep a toxic friendship going.


Why It's Okay to End Friendships

5 Ways to Reduce Stress While Applying to College

If you're a high school junior, you're probably starting to begin the college applications process. While it's not necessarily the time to start writing those essays yet, college is probably still on your mind.

For me, applying to college was an incredibly stressful experience. There were the college entrance exams, the letters of recommendation, the essays, and the deadlines. It was something completely new that I really hadn't gone through before. I felt worried about picking the perfect colleges to apply to and then I felt inadequate worrying about whether or not my applications were good enough, if I was good enough.

As a note to students beginning to apply to college, I want to let you know that you will probably face some sort of doubt and insecurities in your abilities and strengths as you go through the process, which is normal and 100% okay. It's something new that you don't exactly know how to do yet, so you don't need to be perfect in it.

While I wish I should say something to you to help you alleviate those doubts, during my process, I felt like no matter what anyone said and no matter what I told myself, I could never shake that doubt. Although I may not be able to give you a magic solution to ridding that stress from your life, I can help offer some ways for you to alleviate stress in other forms.

Before starting, I just want to give a little notice. This post is a sponsored post in partnership with College Board and Her Campus Media. However, all the opinions and ideas are my own. 

One of the easiest ways that you can reduce some stress is by getting organized and mapping out a game plan. The College Board Big Future website is an incredibly helpful (and free!!!) tool in the college process that can help you get organized, do research on schools that you're interested in, and expose you to advice resources to help you through the applications process.

While this is a sponsored post with College Board, I do want to clarify that I did use the college search feature on the Big Future website during my college applications process, which was before I partnered with College Board for this post. This is not a lie to make this sponsored post flow better, I did actually use this website to help me.

01 | Start early. 

Now that we're nearing summer, it's a great time for all of you high school juniors to start doing a little college research with your free time. If you're already reading this post, then good for you, you're already on the right track. You don't necessarily need to be worrying about the actual application until it opens on August 1st (I think that's when most applications open?) but keep in mind the schools that you want to apply to, what you need to fulfill for each one, and just be aware of what you need to accomplish in order to perfect that application when the time comes.

And if you're younger than a high school junior, my advice to you would be to start your standardized testing in your first semester of junior year. One of my regrets in the college application process was not starting my standardized testing sooner, I didn't begin until the second semester of my junior year and things were so hectic in school already that I felt stressed trying to juggle college entrance exams with schoolwork. Additionally, if you start earlier, you have more time if you find that you want to take another test than expected or want to add a subject test.

02 | Create a list of the things that you MUST HAVE in a school. 

Before applying, there's no pressure to create a list of super specific details about a school that you want to have, you should at the minimum have a list of "musts" in a school. If you feel that you know a little more about what you want, you can create a list of "likes" that you must have in a school.

I indicated an urban setting as my preference,
but indicated it as a "want" rather than a "must have"
For example, one of my "musts" was diversity. Coming from a high school with a very ethnically diverse background, I strongly felt that I needed diversity at college as well. All of the colleges that I applied to had strong diversity, so when the time to finally choose which college I would be attending came, I no longer had to consider diversity as a factor for my decision, as I was sure that at any school I was accepted to would have that "must" of diversity.

As for my "likes", I really wanted a school in an urban atmosphere. However, unlike diversity, I was willing to slightly compromise on that urban atmosphere by considering schools that were physically surrounded by an urban area as well as schools that would be close to an urban area but not directly in it. Unlike diversity, there was a little more flexibility with that urban environment that made me classify it as more of a like.

The college search function on the Big Future website is really helpful in helping you narrow down the colleges that you should consider applying to based off of your preferences for a college. You can classify your preferences as "musts" or "wants" and the website will generate colleges that fit you based off of what you are looking for, helping you eliminate time researching colleges to apply to so you can spend more time on your application. I thought that this feature was super user friendly and helpful for visualizing some of your options. 


03 | Don't be afraid to ask people who have completed the process for advice. 

Some of the best resources out there are simply the advice and perspectives of people that have experienced the stress of the applications process already. When I was applying to colleges, I felt so lost and confused. However, after completing the process, I feel like I understand it a lot more and also look back on it and realize all of the strengths and weaknesses of the way that I approached the experience.

Big Future College Search
For example, one of the recommendations that I received was to create a spreadsheet documenting all of the colleges that I intended to apply to, the requirements needed (letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, etc.), and the application deadlines, in order to help keep track of everything. I did end up doing that and I found it very helpful in allowing me to see what I needed to complete, whether it meant completing my application by a given date or striving for an SAT score of xxxx.

Considering the advice of others around you can be incredibly helpful. However, I tend to be pretty shy and I was scared to reach out. If you're like me in that sense, you like that the Big Future website has a video gallery of student stories talking about their college experiences and their applications experiences. I did not actually use this video gallery while going through the applications process because I didn't notice it before. Seeing this resource now, I definitely think that it would have been a great resource to hear from real people's perspectives because I think the best learning tool is real life experience.

04 | Limit your applications amount to 10 or less.

This is a general rule of thumb. I think that anything over 10 colleges to apply to is going to just add extra stress and extra costs to college applications. I applied to 7 colleges, all varying on a spectrum from safety to stretch school. I personally thought that I applied to a perfect amount of colleges, at least for my needs and wants, but I do know that some people apply to even less and find that it's a good amount as well, it's all about selecting a few colleges that you feel that you can potentially be happy at to apply as well as having a solid backup plan if all else fails (which hopefully it won't). I ended up getting accepted to 4 out of the 7 schools that I applied to, which allowed me to have some options after receiving my decisions, but not an overwhelming amount.

However, there are a lot more than 10 colleges out there. The Big Future college search function is great for helping you narrow down some to actually apply to, but if you feel that you have too many, the compare colleges feature is really great for getting a big picture idea of the similarities/differences between the schools. It can also come in handy when the time rolls around that you're deciding which college to enroll at, which was also a very difficult decision for me, but that story is for another day.

Big Future Compare Colleges

I'll be honest, the compare colleges feature will likely not have the same effect as getting on campus and visiting schools, talking to students, and getting that first-hand perspective of campus culture and lifestyle, but the compare colleges feature is great for understanding the numbers and the straightforward facts that will still play a big role in your college decision. I think that the Big Future website is a great place to see the big picture information regarding each type of college and get started in your college research.

05 | Create a few strong essays and re-purpose those ideas to incorporate into other applications. 

College applications consist of a lot of essays that can make the whole process seem overwhelming. However, what I found was that each of my applications had a lot of similarities in the essays, even though they were answering different questions. When crafting an application, of course you want to put your best foot forward, which usually consists of showing off your best qualities, maybe through anecdotes and stories. Because of that, all the essays I wrote, even if they were sent to different schools, had the same stories and ideas in them.

Although I may have needed to write 1-4 (that's just an example) essays per school, I really only needed to come up with a few really good ideas and then re-purpose them to fit various essay questions. For example, one of the essays that I wrote was about cake decorating. Although the essay prompts for each school was different, I used one main essay and then condensed it, expanded on it, and morphed it to fit the prompt so that each school got to hear about my interest in cake decorating.

In doing so, you ensure that each university gets to see the best parts of you and also helps you to cut down on some of the time and stress of writing so many essays.

If you're applying to college, I wish you the best of luck!

The college applications process is difficult and stressful and new. A lot of the takeaways that I learned from the process were ones that people told me along the way, but I didn't quite believe them until I finished the process for myself. I can't tell you any magical words of wisdom that will make the stress completely disappear, but I hope that these strategies will help you to minimize stress as much as you can. Take advantage of the resources that you have, there are so many free resources to help you through this process, Big Future being one of them, so don't let them go to waste.

Additionally, Her Campus is having a giveaway of a $500 Visa gift card that you can use to visit any college you want! All you have to do is build a college list on the Big Future website. It's super easy to enter, so I highly suggest that you check out the giveaway.

I wish you the best of luck in beginning this college applications period! Even though you might have doubts or feel like it's too much for you to do, I promise you that you can and you are more than capable. :)

Big thanks to College Board and Her Campus Media for sponsoring this post!

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#MyBigFuture

5 Ways to Reduce Stress While Applying to College


School is wrapping up (or has already wrapped up), and summer is beginning! Because of that, I decided to create a list of some of the things that I plan to do this summer, kind of like a checklist for myself but also to share with you all.

01 | Travel!

This summer, I'm going to be traveling to Portugal and Spain, which is SUPER exciting. I've never been to either country before, so I'm currently trying to do some research on things that I should do and food that I should eat while traveling. Let me know if you have any travel recommendations for Spain or Portugal, especially food-related things, like where I should eat.

02 | Deep clean my closet

I guess that I've never really realized how much stuff I have until recently. I have a ton of junk in my closet and what I really need to do is a deep clean of it, throwing away all the stuff that I don't use (because yes, I'm kind of a hoarder) and making more space for the things that I really do need.

03 | Bake macarons

If you've been following the blog lately, you might know that I recently went to a cooking class to learn how to make macarons. The macarons were delicious and looked pretty nice, but they weren't perfect. What the pictures don't show is that the macaron shell was kind of hollow, so I want to try and practice a bit more this summer to see if I can get better at making them.

04 | Exercise more

I guess that this is always a goal that I tell myself I need to achieve and then never really do. I think that my biggest problem is really developing a regular schedule to work it into my daily routine. So if you have any tips for me to help with implementing exercise as a regular routine, let me know, because I would definitely appreciate them.

05 | Summer online course

I'm planning on taking an online course for school over the summer, just to try and get ahead before the school year starts up again. It probably won't be the most exciting thing to do, but hey, I gotta get it done sometime right?

What are you going to do this summer? 



5 Things I Plan To Do This Summer


I am scared of a million things, the biggest probably being my own insecurities. Yes, I’m terrified of heights and spiders, but the things that scare me the most are the ones that are there every single day.

I’ve always been insecure. I’m insecure about the way that I look and the way that I act. Will people like me? Am I not smart enough? Am I not good enough? Will I fit in? Because of all these daily insecurities and fears, sometimes I let them stop me from doing more, experiencing more. Maybe I’ll say no to applying for a summer program because I’m so afraid that I’ll get rejected. Maybe I’ll skip out on the opportunity to write online because I’m afraid of what my peers will think.

Am I not smart enough? Am I not good enough?

When I look back on my life, I don’t think that I ever truly started to step out of my comfort zone until middle school. It wasn’t until then that I started taking bigger steps, maybe even jumps towards new things.

As a tiny little sixth-grader, I stumbled upon a moment that didn’t just challenge me to take a step out of my comfort zone, but forced me to. In sixth-grade, theater class was required and it was about the last thing that I wanted to do. Although we put on a play in elementary school before as a class, I opted for a backstage role, as it was more in my comfort zone.

However, in my sixth grade theater class, I was forced to step into the spotlight, whether I wanted to or not.

As a small child with a strong fear of public speaking, I was not too excited about it. I couldn’t even imagine it. Actually no, I could imagine it, and that was the most frightening part. I could picture all those people staring and I knew that once I got on stage, I would inevitably shake and turn red, as that was always my default when it came to public speaking.

Going up there was the last thing that I wanted to do. But I made it out alive. When I was done, I realized that it wasn’t so scary.

The earth was still spinning. The world didn’t swallow me whole. Life went on. 

My fears were so insignificant in the grand scheme of life that it seemed silly that I was so frightened. And honestly? I kind of enjoyed it.

I wouldn't say that the moment onstage transformed into a lifelong passion. While that might have been the fictionalized version, in reality, I formed a new appreciation for it instead. It was a less frightening version of facing my fears.

In theater, it’s easier to be blinded by the lights and pretend to be someone else than it is to give a speech, and maybe that’s why I was drawn toward it, as a middle-ground for my fears. However, I don't really think that why I was interested in it really mattered, what mattered was that it was something new and completely out of my comfort zone that I was suddenly open towards trying.

If someone had asked my sixth-grade self what she might imagine my future would look like, she probably would not have expected that I would have gone on to participate in more plays. 

I realized that theater could be fun, that public speaking was not as scary as it seemed. Stepping out there, putting myself out there, was one of the best things that could have happened to me. Although it wasn’t necessarily a life transformation, every moment on stage helped me to get over my fear of public speaking, to stop my fears from stopping me.

After that moment, I think that I finally realized that there was more that I could do, that I could be. It was like opening the first door (of many) of trying new things, even if they were scary and uncomfortable. While I have not performed in any plays beyond middle school, for me, theater was the thing that forced me out of my comfort zone and gave me a little taste of what it was like.

Following sixth-grade was a series of leaps out of my comfort zone. It was then that I realized how rewarding it could be once I got over the initial discomfort. I learned to start trying new things: cake decorating classes, applying for leadership positions, learning HTML. These things were all entirely different. And the thing is that with some of these steps out of my comfort zone, I felt vulnerable, completely out there, but I learned to deal with it. It’s not fun at first, but all of the uneasiness and self-doubt eventually fade away.

I found that when I step out of my comfort zone, I have no regrets. 

I learned that it was important to have more experiences, even though they might be scary and could end up poorly, because even if they did, I would be able to walk away knowing what would have happened instead of always wondering, “What if?” The only regrets that I have with stepping out of my comfort zone are the moments that I didn’t step out enough, and that’s what I’m trying to eliminate.

Stepping out of my comfort zone is not a one time thing. It’s not something that I can just check off a to-do list, saying “That’s done!” Because every day that I try to step out of my comfort zone, there’s always the fear stopping me from doing what I want with my life, and I have to overcome it.

The insecurities are always there. But just because they’re there, doesn’t mean that it’s not impossible to shake, I just have to weather the storm in order to see the rainbow on the other side. 

I mentioned before that I had a lot of insecurities and fears. However, at the end of the day, the biggest fear that I have is not being happy. Would I be happy if I said no to new adventures? Would I be happy if I missed out on something that could have been the best experience of my life?

There are millions of opportunities in life, but I realized that I won’t be able to experience them if I stay within my bubble of comfort. When I step out of my comfort zone, sure it’s scary, but I’m happy after. I’m happy that I tried something new and didn’t let my fears stop me. All those little fears in the moment are nothing compared to the fear of missing out on life. Yes, I’m afraid and insecure, but I’m not going to let my comfort zone stop me from living more, learning more, and smiling more.

What Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone Taught Me

A Message If You're Scared of the Future


The future scares me. It's all unknown, but at the same time, it's already entirely written out. I know about the big milestones that stand in my future, but I don't know how I'm going to get there and if I'm ready for them to happen. The future is a scary place and if you're scared of the future like I am, here's a message for you.

Just because you don't feel ready for something, doesn't mean that you aren't prepared and capable of taking it on. 

I remember in my sophomore year of high school, I was nervous about starting my junior year. People always said that junior year was the worst year and that it would be when things really get stressful. I was scared to take on all of those things; I thought that I just wasn't ready. However, when I started the next school year, I found that it wasn't so different and while it was more challenging, I could still handle it and I was still capable of doing these more complex research papers and projects.

This situation reminded me of a quote that I saw online: "Great people do things before they're ready." 

I believe that this quote does hold some truth, but also some faults. The idea of readiness is meant to help you gauge what you can and cannot do: what is possible for you and to prevent you from risk. Therefore in some situations, not doing things before you're ready ensures your safety.

However, on the other hand, doing things before you're ready can encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and potentially do amazing things. While it's risky, it has a chance to pay off. Sometimes you won't feel ready, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't. Consider your fear of not being ready, but also consider taking a leap every now and then because you are capable of amazing things and you might not discover that if you let yourself play it safe all the time.

If things go wrong, you always have a chance to change things. 

I feel like when we make plans for the future, me included, we feel that our decisions today will remain permanent for the rest of our lives. However, it is possible to change your mind and to change the outcome.

Some of the best things can come out of terrible situations. 

It sounds cliche and at times I don't really believe it, but I know that it is true. This is something that is a huge theme in the Hindsight personal growth series (check it out, you won't regret it!) because I believe that it's worth considering.

The future is partially scary because of the fear that you will do something wrong that will make your future a mess. It's scary to me because I fear that I'll make the wrong choices today and it'll make my future self unhappy. However, one thing that I always need to remind myself is that I will make mistakes. And it's natural. But one thing that I need to remember is that the negative repercussions of mistakes are not permanent. 

Between now and this vast future that you're imagining, you will grow and you will change. While things may be scary now, in a few years, they might not be.

When I was younger, my parents suggested moving so that my sister would be able to go to a better high school with stronger academic programs. It wasn't far away, but it would mean that I would have to change schools. At that time, I felt like it was the end of the world. I couldn't imagine leaving my friends and having to start over in a brand new school.

When I went to high school, I was given the same choice: stay in the academic program that I was already in or switch to a different program that would be away from my childhood friends and everything that I was familiar with.


While years ago, my decision would have been to stick with familiarity, my mentality changed. 

I wanted to have a stronger academic future and I was open to going to a new school. As I grew up, the idea of a brand new school was much less scary than it was in the past. In fact, it was kind of exciting.

The point of this story is that with time, you can change. You will learn and grow as a person and in time, that scary future that you're envisioning might not be as scary anymore.

So what do you do if you're scared of the future?

Personally, I feel that no matter what I do or say, I will always be a little bit scared of the future. These ideas presented throughout the post are absolutely true and I try to remind myself of them, but they don't always permanently ease my worries. I'm always scared of it until it becomes reality and then at that point, I'm worried about the next immediate moment in my near future.

I think that while you can't do much to banish those worries, you can try to alleviate your fears a little with some reality checks like the ones mentioned in the post. I feel like these are things that we all know and sometimes ignore.

While I wish that I could give you some kind of magical potion that would make those worries disappear, there's really not much that you can do except push yourself out of your comfort zone and start tackling your future as it becomes reality. Take it day by day, because you'll find that reality seems a lot less scary than the future. 


A Message If You're Scared of the Future

Aerie leggings and pink adidas sneakers

There's one thing that people praise for helping them maintain their physical and mental health that I can just never successfully incorporate into my everyday life: exercise. While I exercise from time to time, I really can never stick with it. And it was occurring to me that maybe I just haven't found the right workout style yet, so I started looking into a few different workout styles, tried them out, and evaluated the pros and cons of each one to help me (and you!) find out which lifestyle they fit.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Similar: Tabata
High-intensity interval training is a workout technique. It alternates between periods of (you guessed it) high intensity training and short periods of semi-active recovery. According to Eric Salvador from the National Academy of Sports Medicine in an article from dailyburn.com, "intense exercise will help burn more fat and calories than regular aerobic and steady state workouts" because of the "excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)".

Pros:

1) short periods of activity for each move - great if you just can't power through long workouts
2) I noticed that a lot of the moves are rather repetitive, I'm not sure if that's true for all HIIT, but that's just what I felt it was like, which is good if you need a little practice to get the move just right.
3) can choose between a more specialized workout (ex: HIIT ab workout) or a body workout, depending on what you like.
4) generally has modifications depending on your strength and fitness level

Cons: 

1) back to how I found that it was repetitive, I personally got a little bored after a while repeating the same move so many times.

SUMMARY: You might like high intensity interval training if...

you like short and effective workouts!

Dance Workouts

If you read my post, I Tried 4 Things in a Month and This is What I Learned From Them, then you would know that I recently tried zumba for the first time. Dance workouts (zumba included) are exactly what they say they are: workouts where you dance.

Pros:

1) great full body workout
2) does not even feel like you're working out
3) can do at home with no equipment - there's tons of online videos for it

Cons:

1) if you're not a good dancer, you feel a little weird doing the dance moves
2) can be very sweaty

SUMMARY: You might like dance workouts if...

a) you get easily bored with workouts
b) are not targeting a certain body part and are aiming for overall body fitness
c) traditional workouts scare you

Yoga

Pros:

1) can be a great moment for mental health and meditation
2) increases flexibility
3) very calming and stress free
4) it's acceptance and encouraged to go at your own level of comfort, allowing you to modify based off of your fitness level, flexibility, and strength.

Cons:

1) can be a bit boring for some people with shorter attention spans

Pro or con:

Not as vigorous if you want an intensive workout, but of course whether or not it falls into the pros or cons depends on you.

SUMMARY: You might like yoga if...

a) you are looking for a focus on your mental health
b) aren't looking for anything too high intensity
c) you are able to focus on things to a long time

Which is the best fit for you?

This is just a quick little evaluation on some of the generalities of each workout type, however, sometimes you just need to try it out yourself to know what it's like and if it really fits you. For me, I feel like my favorite ones were yoga and dance workouts (which I was not expecting AT ALL), but the one that fits best for me depends on what kind of mood I'm in and the intensity that I'm looking for. 

I encourage you to try out other different workout styles besides the basic treadmill and weights to try working out different parts of your body and make working out a little more engaging and fun.

I Tried 3 Different Workout Styles to Find Out Which Lifestyles They Fit