Rachel Beihl
Rachel Beihl
Spain 2018 - 2019
Hi! I'm Rachel Beihl. For the next few months I will be going through a life changing experience in Valencia, Spain working in child care and social welfare. I will be working with children from under privileged backgrounds, providing them with a safe and fun space to learn. Additionally, I'll be organizing all kinds of workshops, sports, or cultural activities, serve as role model and mentor, be an international friend for the children, and help create networks for marginal neighborhoods. Read More About Rachel →
IMG_5327

A Closing Note

Two quotes to start this off,

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” —Nikola Tesla

“You get to choose how you perceive your reality. So why, when it comes to perceiving yourself, would choose to see anything other than a super huge rockstar of a creature?” -Jen Sincero

I chose these two quotes because they relate to my work in Spain, the work I intend on continuing, and the mentality I choose to bestow upon myself and others.

I’m emotionally driven and connected to my work as an agent of social change. I’m attune to the needs of others, I observe the work of other humanitarians, and I take moments to observe myself. These three actions are crucial to anyone working as a humanitarian. Why? Because I believe that in order to serve others, we must be willing to serve ourselves. I cannot empower others if I have yet to love and empower myself. The two can be done simultaneously. It takes time, as all good things do.

My three-month journey in Spain allowed me to discern my role as a humanitarian. I entered Spain with little to no expectation other than to be both a student and a teacher of life. I acted, observed, and listened. My heart and mind were in-sync.  As a result, I watched my life’s purpose manifest itself in the relationships I built with the teachers and children at Gaspar Gil Polo (the school I worked at). I realized that I belong in a career that actively engages in interpersonal interactions. This reaffirmed my passions as a mental health therapist.

See, I am keenly interested in effective strategies and exercises that help build mental health awareness for children and adolescents, as well as empower them. That’s why I specifically chose to work in childcare and social welfare. I knew I would be surrounded by kids who needed guidance, love, and support; work that I feel is taken for granted more often than not. Although this work could be down anywhere, my curiosity led me to Spain. It was a culture similar, yet different, to my own. It was a place where I could work on improving my Spanish, travel, and still immerse myself in a project that impassioned me.

When I began working at Gaspar Gil Polo, I made it a priority to help empower these children emotionally, mentally, and academically. My ambitions stemmed from personal experiences. Over the years I have become more aware of various limitations that have been created by our own kind. Thus, I believe in empowering others and providing youth, with at least the basic tools to help them navigate through life; no matter the circumstances. But this work looks differently depending on the community I work with.

In order to properly serve these children, I had to observe for quite some time. This was their home, not mine. All of the children shared one thing in common – lower income families. However, their home and family circumstances ranged. It was not my job to be intrusive and ask personal questions to the kids. My main priority was to ensure the children that I was not going to be a visitor, but a member of the school.

I allowed the teachers to teach and guide me through their everyday routines, as well as the rules that needed to be enforced. The first two weeks were crucial in developing a trusting relationship with the kids. I was the teacher’s assistant and served as the English tutor for my classes. It seems like a very small job, but in the long run, those few acts served as a bridge between the children and myself. By the third week, I was helping the students with English, Spanish, Math, and other subjects. This meant a great deal to me because it let me know that I was gaining both the teacher’s and student’s trust. As a result, I gained responsibilities such as guiding their classes and helping develop learning activities.

As the months went on, I found myself serving as a confidant for a handful of children. This was a role that I took seriously because I knew it could either build or break a child’s spirit. It was my job to instill confidence in my children and ensure them that their voice and opinions were being taken seriously. I worked with mainly four, five, six, and seven year-olds. Although they were too young to truly understand what it meant to have a voice, they were at the perfect age to learn by example.

That’s the thing about working with children. They are a mirror image of our adult actions in society. They observe, absorb, and react to what they see, hear, feel, smell, and touch. Yes, that is something we all do as humans. However, a six year-old relies on the guidance of their elders and knows no better than to mimic the actions of their role models. Therefore, it is extremely important to not only set good examples, but to be consistent in doing so.

Consistency and perspective, that is what I could offer these children. Mental health is all about consistency. It is the way we interact with ourselves and others. It is the way we perceive and react to our personal and social worlds. It is the way our social worlds perceive and react to us. Call me redundant but IT MATTERS! Thus, I believe it is important to empower children, especially those of marginalized groups. They deserve to believe that they are worthy of respect, love, and all good that the world has to offer. It is important to provide them a safe space to think critically, ask questions, and receive feedback that is both realistic yet empowering. That’s the crux of empowering our youth; ensuring them that their voice and opinions matter and will be viewed as equally important as any one else’s.

I let my volunteer trip unravel my purpose as time went on. I let the experience speak to me. In turn, it helped me align with my truest-self. I’m a humanitarian who best serves this world through interpersonal communication and empowerment. My ability to serve as a guide and mentor to children is what impassions me the most. I am here to set a better example and change the script following mental health. But here is the best lesson of all:

Who are you doing it for?

That is the question that this trip led me to asking. Who are you doing IT for? By it, I mean life, living, my life’s work, my life’s purpose… The first part of that answer is “For me,” and it will always be based off the premise that in order to serve others, I must be willing to serve and honor myself.

I look forward in continuing my engagement with Save the Children in Valencia. I am thankful and honored that the teachers want to stay in contact. Most of all, I am thrilled that I get to  stay connected with my children. It may not be in person but at least I can let them know I’m still around.

Now, I’m off to new adventures.

Thank you for this journey,

Rachel B.

IMG_3355

A Home Reflection

To be honest, I’m still reflecting on my emotions towards being back home. It’s only been a week and I need more time to process it all.

My last day at work was the sweetest! The teachers I worked with threw me a small party. The three teachers gathered their classes and made a circle, placing me in the middle. They danced around me and expressed their gratitude. I explained to them that I was forever grateful for having been apart of such a beautiful community. These teachers were beyond ordinary and I made sure to let them know. They gifted me with a large photo of them with their classes and individual drawings from the students with an address attached to stay in contact. As I said my good-byes, I had one of my little children in my arms. She dug her face into my shoulder. I asked if she was okay and when she looked at me, she had tears coming down her face! My heart broke. I know it’s part of the journey but walking out of a child’s life is not easy. I’m going to stay in contact with the teachers via e-mail but I still wish I could have stayed with my little babies forever! I can’t wait to hear from them!

Now, my arrival into J.F.K was not as bad as I expected it to be with the government shut down. I made it through customs in less that 15 minutes. I filled out a quick questionnaire on a computer, the guard asked me, “Are you declaring anything?”, I said no and went on my merry way. I walked out of customs and broke down in tears when I saw my dad smiling at me near the entrance. I missed my people! I have thoroughly enjoyed being around my family. I love being in their presence and being able to hug them. I cannot begin to explain how tired I grew of Facetime. On a scale of one to ten for connectedness, one for low and ten for high, I give Facetime a big fat three. I prefer to “talk to ya when I see ya,” when it comes to long conversations. In the states, I typically use Facetime for silly, short conversations. However, I checked in on family on a weekly basis and sometimes daily. It was bitter-sweet to say the least. All-in-all, I am taking advantage of the time I have back at home.

Aside from working, I spent majority of my time in Spain applying to graduate schools. Thankfully, I completed all of that work before coming home but Uncle Sam still found a list of things for me to take care of. Welcome home! Jokes aside, I do enjoy staying busy, but I would enjoy it more in Valencia, where the sun is always shining, the coffee is 1.50 euro, and everyone takes a siesta. That’s the one thing I would definitely bring back from Spain if I could. If dying and taxes are inevitable, why not throw a siesta in the mix to make it more bearable? Ah, one can dream.

Overall, I am extremely excited to see what 2019 brings. By February, I will find out my status for graduate school! I’m honestly at peace with whatever the outcome is. I just have this feeling that everything will play out the way it is meant to. Spain helped me focus on my strengths as an individual and it assured me that I am on the right path. 2019 is my year to further engage in activities and conversations surround topics that I am passionate about, i.e. mental health, mental illness, child-care and development, social issues etc. I dedicated myself to my undergraduate work and received wonderful opportunities because of it. Now, I am prepared to take it to the next level.

This scholarship helped me immerse myself into work that I care about dearly, but it also allowed me to hit the reset button. I know that I earned my awards and opportunities because of the work I put into it all. However, it put a strain on my mental health, and I know this is an issue for millions of students across the world. That’s why I am beyond thankful for this scholarship. I needed it more than I realized at the time. Now, I am prepared for what’s to come.

Talk soon,

Rachel Beihl

fullsizeoutput_2ebc

A Bitter Sweet Beginning

For the past week, I have been re-adjusting to the eerie silence of my apartment. My boyfriend flew back to the States on Monday. Yes, I was in tears. Our 10-day-break in Spain was better than I could have ever imagined. We spent our five days in Barcelona getting lost the streets, tasting local beer and wine, and stuffing our faces with paellas, tapas (picking food), and bocadillos (small sandwiches). We paced our days by exploring different sections of the city. Our journey took us through Las Ramblas, El Gotic, El Born, and El Parc I La Llacuna Del Poblenou. Each destination had a different flavor to it yet, simultaneously added to the unique beauty of Barcelona. We entered the New Year in one of the restaurants that were opened. However, we enjoyed ourselves so much that we missed the actual turn of the new year. Hello, 2019!

We spent the last five days of the trip in Valencia, Spain. Again, we used each day to explore various parts of the city. Since it was the back end of our trip, we spent more time relaxing wherever we went. That meant BEACH TRIPS. We even made it to a small town called Alboraya outside of Valencia. During our last days, we went to a minor league soccer game – Levante versus Girona, two Spain teams. It was a confusing/amazing experience. We hadn’t eaten dinner because we expected to buy food the stadium. To our surprise, they only accepted cash and did not have a.t.m machines in sight. Also, as large football and hockey fans, we were usure of the rules of soccer. The game lasted an hour and a half, ending in a tie without going into overtime and WITHOUT going into a shoot-out. We were utterly confused. Nevertheless, the crowd kept our excitements up throughout the entire game. Our time in Spain ended up being the most beautiful experience of our lifetimes. We inevitably became tapa connoisseurs.

It’s been difficult adjusting to being alone again. However, the finalization of my graduate school applications kept me on my toes! I now have less than a week of work till I head back to the States. Time has moved both fast and slow during my time here. I am amazed by all that I have experienced. This opportunity has reinforced my beliefs as an individual, as well as an agent of social change. It feels bittersweet now that it’s coming to an end, but I know it will open a world full of new opportunities for me. I am forever grateful.

See you on the flip-side,

Rae

 

IMG_4763 IMG_3992 IMG_3682 IMG_3361 IMG_2694 IMG_2823 IMG_2860 IMG_3290 IMG_2544 IMG_2195 IMG_2053 IMG_1590 IMG_0160 IMG_0361 IMG_0917 IMG_0951 IMG_8288 IMG_8051 IMG_7974 IMG_7179 IMG_5392 IMG_5711 IMG_5727 IMG_6048 IMG_4842 IMG_4836 IMG_4773 fullsizeoutput_2ed2 fullsizeoutput_2ed6 fullsizeoutput_2ed1 fullsizeoutput_2ec3 fullsizeoutput_2ebc IMG_2295

IMG_3367

Somos Juntos – We Are Together

 

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

I wasn’t sure what to expect when Christmas break arrived. I’d spent the last two months adjusting to living with new people and having a new work schedule and now I was going to be the only volunteer left in a three-bedroom apartment. The apartment felt eerily quiet. At first, I enjoyed dancing around the apartment without having anyone around, but by the third day I started to feel like a mad-woman. Working with the children and Face-Timing my loved ones just wasn’t enough. The idea of Christmas in Barcelona was the only thing keeping me going at that point.

However, the 20th of December lifted my spirits. It was the last day of work but also the day I would sing Christmas songs with the children. When I arrived, I was elated by the presence of all the children and their families. The school was giving out hot chocolate and pastries. There was music playing and a do-it-yourself (DIY) photo booth. I no longer felt unsure of how my Christmas would feel. I’ve never felt more at peace than with the children and their families. It reassured my purpose in life and my intentions within my career, which is to consciously engage and have direct relationships with the groups and individuals I work with.

That day was magical! When the time came to sing Christmas songs with my children, all the teachers and families gathered around us to listen. I grabbed my ukulele, counted to three, and my little ones sang “Feliz Navidad,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” It was the sweetest thing I could have ever experienced. I was close to tears as I watched my class smile and sing along. Their eyes were filled with such love as they looked to me to guidance. It has been such an honor to be a part of their lives. They have made me a better person and I love those children more than I can express.

After we finished, the crowd asked me to do a speech. Oh, my lanta. Ha, I was nervous but I got through it. The teachers then proceeded to ask families from different countries to sing a Christmas song in their language. We were a family, enjoying and respecting each other’s’ cultures; from Spanish, Moroccan, Nigerian, to Gujarati and more. It was the beginning of the best Christmas ever.

On the 23rd of December, I traveled to Barcelona to meet my Second cousin and her husband for the first time. Prior to us meeting, we had only spoken through Facebook. The family resemblance was uncanny. It was comforting to see a familiar face and be around a culture more familiar to my own as a Honduran. They gave me the REAL Spain experience. They lived on the outskirts of Barcelona in Vallirana, Cataluña, Spain. This is the ore country side of Spain, where the pueblos (small towns) are located. I felt lucky to be staying with them because it added depth to my experience and knowledge of Spain. It was without a doubt my favorite part of Spain.

During the first two days, we visited the church La Sagrada Familia and drove around Vallirana. Catalan is the language spoken in this area. When I joined them for the Christmas mass, I could barely understand what was being said. It was definitely not the Spanish I had grown up around. Nevertheless, I was beautiful.

On Christmas day, we drove to Barcelona to join my cousin’s husband’s family for dinner in a hotel. The dinner was superb from start to finish and the family was more than welcoming of my presence. They asked me to play Christmas songs with my ukulele and so I did. Their singing captured the entire hotel floor’s attention. Everyone enjoyed themselves greatly. After dinner, a few of us went off to visit Montjuic, a hill surrounded by a national museum, a castle, and a 5-Star Hotel that hosted for the 1992 Summer Olympics. Only the pictures can truly describe the beauty of it all, but even then, it’s something you have to experience.

My cousins and I spent the next day at Mont Tibidabo, which overlooks Spain and is surround by an Amusement park and a telecommunications tower as well as the famous catholic church Sagrat Cor. The view was breathtaking; and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my cousins took be to Montserrat the next day.

Montserrat Mountain is both a natural park and monastery, and home of Our Lady of Montserrat, which is also known as “La Virgen Negra” – The Black Virgen Mary. It was the highest I have ever been on a mountain. It was truly heavenly. I was in the clouds. Again, this was an experience that is better illustrated through photos and 100% better in person. Every day here has been a dream.

December 28th completed my Christmas break. At 10:40 a.m., I ran into the arms of my boyfriend Trevor who in July, decided he wanted to spend New Year’s with me in Spain. I’ve been speechless ever since. Traveling is a beautiful experience but it is much better when you’re surround by people you love. I cannot wait to see how the rest of this break plays out.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year filled with love.

-Rachel B.

IMG_3367 IMG_3294 IMG_3305 IMG_3310 IMG_3355 IMG_3468 IMG_3484 IMG_3473 IMG_3494 IMG_3502 IMG_3505 IMG_3529 IMG_3516 IMG_3522 IMG_3580 IMG_3582 IMG_3584 IMG_3585 IMG_3588 IMG_3669 IMG_3677 IMG_3689 IMG_3794 IMG_3814 IMG_3830 IMG_3829 IMG_3834 IMG_3852 IMG_3855 IMG_3856 IMG_3866 IMG_3915 IMG_3917 IMG_3929 IMG_3943 IMG_3951 IMG_3954 IMG_3960 IMG_3961 ACS_0227 IMG_4059 ACS_0225 IMG_4018 IMG_4090 IMG_4144 IMG_4148 IMG_4157 IMG_4163

fullsizeoutput_2d23

The Privileges of My Life

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”  -Maya Angelou

Kudos to the individuals who choose to travel by themselves for six months or even a year. I have been counting my blessings and my privileges during these last two weeks. Traveling is an exciting and life changing experience, but not for the reasons that we romanticized in our society. Spain is beautiful country with breath taking sights all around. There is ancient history is all around me and I am taking it all in. I still can’t believe that I’m even here. But I also can’t believe that I’ve been here for 51 days without my family and friends! Technology has been blessing and a curse for sure! I’m to the point where FaceTime is becoming a nuisance.

I’m a proud emotional human who values the importance of physical touch. I love hugs! I’m not mentioning this to sound sweet, but to point out that something as simple as a hug can be taken for granted. As I mentioned earlier, FaceTime has become a nuisance. I see and talk to my loved ones but what I really need is to be with them. I have realized how privileged I am for the simple fact that I get to go back home to the people I love. Lately, I’ve been thinking about how many families are separated by choice or by force. I think about how many of them will never get to see their loved ones again and how this will shape their lives. Most of all, I think about my mother, my aunts and uncles, and my abuela. I think about the sacrifices that were made just so that they could come to the U.S. and live a better life.

See, my mother immigrated from Honduras to the United States at the age of 26. Her older sister, my Tia Rina, was the main reason my mother was able to come to New York. Tia Rina left Honduras first to find work in the U.S.. My abuela followed and then eventually my mother and her other siblings did as well. Now, my mother is a citizen and lives 30 minutes away from her mother and her siblings. Can you imagine that journey? Can you imagine the struggles that came with it? I’ve heard these stories first hand and I still can’t imagine having to go through that.

This story is my reminder of why I am on this journey. Despite the days when I am overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness, I remember how lucky I am. It hurts to go through struggles but that’s a part of life. I know this. I also know how hard my mother and father worked to provide me with an education that could expose me to greater opportunities than what they had access to when they were younger. Just thinking about them makes me tear up because I am so proud. I am proud of them and I am proud of myself.

I hope when present and future travelers read this they pause and reflect on the value of their trip. The mixed feelings and the struggles are inevitable. It’s all part of the journey. I’m coming to see that the purpose in “traveling with a purpose,” is more about self-growth than it is anything else. Unless someone has partaken in this journey, no one can truly understand the difficulties that come with it. It’s probably one of the most humbling experiences as well. Close your eyes and open your heart. The message will be clearer.

Con cariño,

Rachel

P.S. – The children at work continue to fill my heart with so much love. I’ve been teaching them Christmas songs with Lola, my ukulele, for the last two weeks, preparing them to present it to their families on Thursday! To no surprise, music has been extremely therapeutic for the kids. It’s worked magic on their little hearts. It has helped some calm down after a tantrum and has brought others out of their shyness. Lola has a place in their hearts for sure. I can’t wait to join them in singing Christmas songs this Thursday.

P.S. – Here are some more pictures of Valencia! xoxo

IMG_1890 IMG_1911 IMG_1921 IMG_1929 IMG_1943 IMG_1950 IMG_1953 IMG_1956 IMG_1997 fullsizeoutput_2ce2 IMG_2031 IMG_2039 IMG_2040 IMG_2041 IMG_2047 IMG_2063 ACS_0210 fullsizeoutput_2d23 ACS_0215 IMG_2914 IMG_2918

Unraveling My Purpose

In the dream of heaven, you completely surrender to life, knowing that everything is just the way it is. And because you accept everything as it is, you no longer worry about anything. Your life becomes exciting because there’s no more fear. You know that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, and that everything that has happened was meant to happen because they have led you to greater awareness. Even the worst thing that can happen to you is meant to happen because it’s going to push you to grow. – Don Miguel Ruiz

Adjusting to Spain has been easy, but I can’t the same say in regard to having no local support system. While I enjoy the presence of my fellow volunteers, it is exhausting to constantly be around individuals with journeys that do not align with mine. I mean, I’m a 23 year-old who is ready for a more serious part of her life, while the other volunteers are 18 years-old and dying to finally have some control over their own lives. This is 100% natural! I’m only mentioning it because I want all future travelers to know that it is okay to feel like the outsider of a group, to realize that who you are may not fit into the group’s agenda. Raising our awareness and respect for others is the best thing we can do for ourselves in these situations. Be social when you can but also honor the moments when your body tells you you’ve had enough for the day. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you. I promise.

On a different note, Spain has been treating me extremely well. From time to time I reflect on the Lumos catch phrase, “Travel with a purpose.” My purpose has unraveled little by little each week, but I’ll wait till the end to share that with you. I will say that my Spanish has improved significantly. I’ve let the children I work with correct my Spanish. For 5-7 year-olds, they are pretty intelligent. Mind you, some of them are from different countries and have to learn Spanish, Valenciana, Castellano, and English! These little sponges are way smarter than I was at their age! After 23 years, I can finally hold a conversation with my Abuela (grandmother) back home and it warms my heart. Common now!

I’m impressed with the way the teachers work with the children. In my experience, I have never seen so many teachers treat their “wild” students with so much love and patience. I love it! I’m so use to watching teachers get frustrated with these types of students. I have the utmost respect for these kinds of teachers because they volunteer the best parts of them. I first heard this idea from a college professor of mine in NY. He said, “I get paid to teach you. It doesn’t matter how I teach you because I still get a pay check. But if I expect you to learn, that means I have to volunteer my best self.” He then went on expressing how fed up he was with teachers who don’t get personal with their students; but I digress.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, these children come from all over the world and they are all from lower income families. Additionally, the teachers in this school all have fair skin, while the students vary from tan, to brown, to black. Now, I am only mentioning this because I have observed the teacher-student relationships. I have yet to see one teacher pick on a student for their race or ethnicity, or looks for that matter. Not one teacher favors one group of students more than the other. This may not be true for all of the schools in Spain, but I recognize the genuine love and respect that these teachers have for each of their students. I’ve watched some of the children struggle with accepting that not everyone looks like them. Little fights break out here and there, but the teachers are always there to set a good example. They always tell the kids, “It doesn’t matter what you look like. I’m no better than anyone here. We are all a team and we have to respect one another and love one another equally.” It’s beautiful, necessary, and powerful because there are plenty of schools in the world that don’t adhere to this belief. Also, this is a crucial developmental stage in a child’s life. I comforted and honored to work in an environment that takes their role seriously. My mind screams, “Family!” every time I think about it.

Oh,  and speaking of family – my soul sister and her fiance came to visit me in Spain! What? Do y’all understand how excited I was to see a familiar face? This is a woman that I look up to. We are about 9 years apart, she is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (the profession I am going into), and she is one of the individuals who sparked my new life journey back in 2015. Needless to say, she is very special to me.

We took tourism to a whole other level. I spent a day and a half with them in Valencia just catching up on life! I then spent another day and a half meeting them in Barcelona, where we saw about 6 amazing sights within 5 hours. Crazy, I know but it was amazing. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything!

*Side note* Spain’s trains are not cheap and the U.S. dollar does not work in our favor here, at least not right now.

Okay, back to it!

I purposely spent a day in a half in Barcelona because I knew I’ll be returning during Christmas time, which is three weeks away.  Again, what? Where is the time going?  Soon I’ll be meeting family that I’ve only ever known through social media. Am I blessed? Yes. Oh, and then my boyfriend is coming to visit for the remainder of the break! When I signed up for this trip I thought I was going to be solo. Thankful is an understatement! It’s a peace of mind to know I have these events to look forward to, especially after the emotional and physical fiasco my body went through prior to the GRE, which I am so glad is over by the way!

I went m.i.a. the day before the test. I did not have the energy to talk to anyone. I was overwhelmed and had knots in my stomach. I can’t express enough my dislike for these types of tests; a test that measures absolutely nothing about who I am and what I am capable of doing. I process things at a slower pace and I need time to grasp concepts. I learn better through writing and discussing the material rather than memorizing it for the sake of getting a good grade. It doesn’t align well with who I am. Nevertheless, I still gave my best on test day, and luckily I don’t get nervous once a test is in front of me. I accept the moment, I breathe, and I do what I can.

When the day of the test arrived, I had to travel three hours on train from Valencia, Spain to Madrid. During that time I had journaled to myself. In that journal entry I wrote:

 ...You did your best. You will do your best. You challenged yourself. You rose to the occasion. Be proud. Smile. Feel love. Be love. Be.

After writing, I let go of all the pressure I had placed on myself. Once I arrived in Madrid, I spent an hour in a coffee shop catching up on some reading. As I drank my delicious mocha coffee and ate my cinnamon bun soaked in Nutella, I came across the passage in the beginning of this blog. I had chills, y’all! I felt at such peace with myself. My world aligned again and I was ready for whatever was to come.

Taking the GRE in a different country was probably the best decision for me. It felt more relaxing to be amongst individuals from different parts of the world. I can’t explain it, it just felt good. At the end of it all, I can honestly say I am content and EXTREMELY thankful for the experience. Oh, I’m also thankful that it’s over! Out of sight and out of mind!

I called everything post-GRE “The journey back to myself.” Between being sick and stressed out about the test, I definitely fell out of touch with myself. I needed to socialize, start working out, and do more sight seeing. This was my new mission. To hold myself accountable, I began writing a list titled, “What do I want to accomplish today?” I would even list something as simple as waking up, which is a great accomplishment for anyone. As someone who is active in the mental health community, I find it extremely beneficial to notice all the “small” things. This type of mindfulness is powerful because things such as waking up can be a difficult task, especially for those like myself who battle depression.  It helps reprogram the brain in more ways than one. For me, it sends a message to my brain that everything I do matters. It reminds me to be impeccable with my words and my actions, especially towards myself. It’s a reminder to never feel less than or shrink at the presence of challenging situations.

So, yeah. All is well my friends. I am learning, growing, and embracing this journey that I am on. I wouldn’t change a thing about this experience.

Talk to you soon,

Rachel

Life Beyond the Vines

P.S. Enjoy the pics! There are some things that don’t need to be put into words.  A picture can say it all.

fullsizeoutput_274f fullsizeoutput_275a fullsizeoutput_2739 fullsizeoutput_270f fullsizeoutput_2757 fullsizeoutput_271b fullsizeoutput_2738 fullsizeoutput_2747 fullsizeoutput_2748 fullsizeoutput_2746 fullsizeoutput_2721 fullsizeoutput_2751 fullsizeoutput_2737 fullsizeoutput_2992 fullsizeoutput_299d fullsizeoutput_29ad fullsizeoutput_2994 fullsizeoutput_299a fullsizeoutput_29a5 fullsizeoutput_2987 fullsizeoutput_2989 fullsizeoutput_2982IMG_1674 IMG_1727 ACS_0128 IMG_1812 IMG_1806 ACS_0126 ACS_0124 IMG_2021 IMG_2047 IMG_2048 IMG_2216 IMG_2057 IMG_2132 IMG_2217 IMG_2220 IMG_2219

ACS_0098

Expect the Unexpected

*Leaves the U.S. with a week old cold and no medicine.*

Me: I’m fine. It’s just my body re-adjusting to this Northern weather.

*Arrives in Spain with flat mates who are also sick.*

It’s fine. I’ll just clean, eat really healthy, and drink some tea.

*Has Bronchitis during second week in Spain.*

“I’m so tired. I’m dyinnnggggg. I can’t sleep. Ahhhh!”

*Goes to a doctor in Spain – Begins 3rd week in Spain.*

See, I knew it’d pass. (Meanwhile I’m on steroids and antibiotics and two other prescriptions).

__________________________________________________________________

I am overwhelmed at the pace of life right now. On the 19th of November I’ll be on my way to Madrid to take the GRE. A part of me is anxious because I’ve been extremely sick and unproductive these last two weeks (at least in my eyes). Yet, I’ve given my best along the way and the other half of me is a bit more understanding. Nevertheless, I am still trying to jump into a healthy routine and it’s already my 3rd week here. Trying to reach my normal energy level has been a challenge. I can’t wait to finally feel 100%!

Anyways, let me fill you in on my two-week journey thus far.

As my mini-dialogue expressed, I’ve been sick since the week before I left for Spain. This made my departure from the U.S. quite interesting. My flight from Newark, NJ to Charlotte, NC  was just fine. At this point I could deal with my sniffles. However, traveling grew more painful as the day went on. On my eight-hour flight to Madrid, I was lucky enough to have an entire row to myself. Yes, I sprawled out across four seats during the entire flight. I wish my body would have let me fall asleep on that flight, but instead it kept reminding me of how sick I felt. By the time I reached Madrid the next morning, I was EXHAUSTED. Oh, how I wished I could have been in Valencia already. Instead, I spent seven hours in the Madrid airport. The “best” part of it all was getting lost and having to check back in with customs. Ha! I was a walking zombie. I could not even process what was going on. I remember facetiming my boyfriend and tearing up because I was past the point of exhaustion. I did my best to stretch, read, play music, and keep my mind busy. Unfortunately, my immune system said, “Sorry girl. I’m clocking out,” and it did.

I was beyond grateful to have finally reached Valencia, Spain. Sleep was the number one thing on my mind, but it was not the first thing that I was able to do. Instead, I bonded with my flat-mates and fellow volunteers. They have been such a sweet, fun, and lively group of individuals. A few of them are from Germany, one is from Switzerland, another from Poland, and another is from Washington State. I was surprised to find out that I was the oldest in the group. I expected to volunteer with a variety of ages. Instead, they’re all 18 years-old, straight out of high school, ready to drink and party. Then there’s me, your 23-year-old nanny and college graduate, who’s ready for bed by 11:00 p.m. I suppose our priorities are just a tad different, but that’s okay! I’ve enjoyed working and growing with them these past two weeks.

However, in regard to my health, these past two weeks have been a fiasco. The medicine I picked up from the pharmacy was 100% ineffective. My body was not having it but I still tried to stay active during my first week in Spain. From bicycle rides to the beach, to joining the other volunteers on early afternoon excursions, I pushed through it all. I even joined them on Halloween night.

Side note: the night I learned that Valencia parties until 7:00 a.m. Can you imagine my face when I was told this? My jaw dropped and I shook my head. I was used to my own family parties lasting until 3:00 a.m. in the morning, but 7:00 a.m. Excuse me, what? New York City, you are not the only city that never sleeps. I can’t hang and I’m not ashamed!

I digress. Anyways, my cold escalated and turned into bronchitis. I grew miserable.  My energy and moral was low. I was coughing so much that my sweet elderly neighbor Keke knocked on my door to make sure I was okay. I cried. I was so tired of being sick and I missed having my loved ones around. I’ve also been anxious about the GRE and my college applications. My body needed time to relax and I was not giving it what it needed. It took me until the end of my second week here to finally go to the doctors. Four medications later and I’m slowly getting back to feeling like myself again.

_________________________________________________________________________

Now, I’m sure  you’re wondering how the volunteer work has been. It’s been an amazing learning experience. In the two weeks I have been here, I have journaled endlessly about all the things I have learned, the things that I’d like to do, and the things I never knew. For example, I came across a video one day discussing the cons about certain volunteer trips. I was a bit disappointed at myself for not thinking twice about the matter.  This was my response after watching the video:

It’s interesting to watch this now that I’m already on my “Travel with a Purpose,” scholarship. I’m glad that I came across this video because it raised a perspective that went unrecognized in my mind. If I’m being honest yes, I feel a built guilty after watching this video. However, I believe that video has added on and changed how I will spend my time here for that same reason. How can I give back in a way that will actually be helpful to the children I work with? That’s the question I’ll be asking myself everyday. If nothing else, I want to be a role model and help these children use their minds and embrace the process of learning and thinking for themselves. I wish I had the money to help the organizations here, but I can’t change their situation at the moment. But I can give them the tools they need to grow. The next couple of months will be filled with learning. I’m still thrilled to have this opportunity but even more thrilled to learn how to be a better advocate for the children here.Volunteer Tourism

The children I work with range from six to seven years old. Majority of them have come from different parts of the world, some from Africa, Pakistan, and South America. In the time that I’ve spent with them so far, I can tell that these children need structure, consistency, and better examples of of how to interact with different cultures work as a team. However, it’s been a challenge for me to maintain order in the class room while the teacher is gone. The children aren’t difficult to be around. What’s been difficult is  trying to tell them to be quiet and sit down when all they want to do is hug, talk, and smile with me. It’s unfortunate that I’ve been sick for the first two weeks, but I am so grateful to have 3 months with these children. Week by week I’ll be learning more and hopefully adding to their activities and helping open their minds. Next week, I’ll be playing the ukulele for them!

Hopefully my blog post improve from here on out now that I am starting to feel better! Enjoy the photos! (If you click on the images they will automatically rotate themselves.) Technology can be weird sometimes.

I love you all.

Xoxo!

Wish me luck on my last week of reviewing for the GRE. Been studying since May (on and off) will I ever feel ready?

 

ACS_0047 IMG_2682 IMG_4316 IMG_2111 IMG_4265 IMG_3672 First 2 Weeks in Valencia, Spain IMG_6177 IMG_1731 IMG_0913 IMG_0922 IMG_0921 ACS_0089 IMG_1101 IMG_1122 ACS_0098 ACS_0097 IMG_1020 ACS_0067 IMG_3672 IMG_6147 IMG_7074 IMG_7164

Last Day in the U.S.A (Until 2019)

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.  – Maya Angelou

More than a month ago I compared myself to the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. I was hustling and rushing to get everything done. Can you imagine what the end result was? Ha, let me tell you.

From September 28th through October 13th, I tried to check everything off my to-do list, from packing and sending e-mails, to studying and saying my goodbyes.  Just when I thought I covered all my bases, I realized I had dropped the ball on obtaining my Spain Visa earlier this summer. I thought I still had time to contact the embassy and  Spain consulate in the U.S. Clearly. I knew I needed a visa to stay in the Schengen area for more than 90 days.  I had contacted both the D.C. and N.Y.  consulates via e-mail, in hopes that they would be able to answer some of my questions, but they did not. After informing them of the steps I had taken, they shut me down before I could ask my questions. Who’s to blame? Me. Life moved extremely fast this summer and I shouldn’t have underestimated this process. Everything about that experience screams, “First time traveler.” But that’s alright, I accepted my mistake and made the necessary adjustments after. As the singer Aaliyah cantered, “If at first you don’t succeed, you can dust yourself off and try again.”

On a more personal note, saying good bye to my Nashville family was not easy.  The day I left Nashville, I was with my boyfriend Trevor and holy cow did I cry! I knew I was going to. I live in the moment and when the emotions roll in, I let them come full force so that I don’t let them linger any longer than they have to. I cry because I love deeply. I don’t know what tomorrow may bring but I do know  I am loved and I value every moment I share with others.

Now, the driving part was actually easier than I expected. It was a road trip party for 1. I drove 10 hours to Washington D.C. to see my childhood best friend Bella. The next morning  finished the last 4 hours of my drive. Since then I’ve been seeing family and friends non-stop. Studying for the GRE was not a thing these last two weeks, but that’s okay. When I look back at my life at least I know that I prioritized the things that matter most to me.  It’s important for me to be around my loved ones because we have such a unique relationship. Plus, I know that I’m a hard-working, driven individual. I may not know what lies ahead, but I know it will be rewarding.

Everyone asks me if I’m excited or nervous for this trip. My response is, “Neither.” I’m more curious than anything. My social and cultural upbringing, along with my life experiences, have prepared me for this trip. It’s going to be a new experience, a new world, a new life style, and I am prepared for this new journey. It’s going to be challenging but that’s the point; I want to be pushed out of my comfort zones. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I am beyond thankful for this Lumos scholarship. The journey continues my loves.

Follow my blog account on Instagram for more photos and posts of my journey! @lifebeyondthevines.

Life Beyond the Vines

Con cariño,

Rachel Mercedes Beihl

P.S. I am 100% balling my eyes out tomorrow when I say goodbye to my parents. (:

 

 

The Smiles Before Spain

7 Weeks and Counting!

I feel like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland when he says, “I’m late! I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!” While everything is set up for Spain, I am scurrying to finish my home “to-do list” before I leave. During these past 18 weeks post-graduation, I have been hustling! I’ve been nannying, tutoring, adjusting to living on my own,  preparing for graduate school and experiencing everything else in between. It has been a summer for the books for sure! With all the events that have happened this past year, it feels as though time is flying more than ever, for better or worse. But I am extremely proud of all that I have accomplished along the way. Before I know it, I’ll be headed on a 14 hour drive home to spend time with my family and then off to Spain for four months.

I have not spent a significant amount of time thinking about the trip. Honestly, I try to practice not fixating on anything but the present moment. It’s healthier for me to live that way. Plus, I’ve been preoccupied with an eventful summer. Realistically, the present is all I have time for. The emotions have come in waves and up until now they’ve been extremely spread apart. At this moment I am filled with curiosity and excitement. The only one thing I worry about is what might happen to my loved ones when I’m gone; ya know, the type of things that are out of my control. Unfortunate events occurred while I was away this past year, and it’s natural that this is a worry of mine. Although it’s not easy living 14 hours away from large family, I’ve managed to do very well thanks to FaceTime and the amazing group of individuals I’ve befriended in Nashville. Our special bond has carried me a long way.

That’s why I remain positive, happy, and thrilled for this trip because everything in me can feel that this is where I need to be and what I need to be doing, and it feels right. New beginnings like these are my favorite. It can be unnerving, but I love the emotions attached to the unknown. I’ve always believed in the wanderer that lives inside of me. I can’t wait for what this new experience brings.

Con cariño,

Rachel Mercedes Beihl

P.S.

I want to end this post by promising to be extremely honest with you and with myself during this journey. Honesty is humiliating, humbling, and beautiful but it is also misunderstood. We expect others to be honest with us, yet we spend more time lying to ourselves than anyone else. I myself have done this numerous times but I am not ashamed. I remind myself that perfection is not the goal, growth is. That is why I have spent the last four years seeking the most authentic version of myself before the lies altered my perception of life. Although it has been a personal journey, I have opened my world to the public through blogging and Instagram in hopes of inspiring others. By no means has this journey been easy but it has most certainly been gratifying. I am beyond excited for the new journey that is to come and the lessons that follow. For more insight on this journey follow my Instagram blog @lifebeyondthevines! xoxo