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Final Reflections about Barcelona

Time May 21st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Well, Barcelona, it has been real. The best experience of my life, but also the worst, simply because nothing will ever compare.

First of all, EVERYONE SHOULD DO THIS PROGRAM. It was the most perfect program in every way. We had all the nice amenities that programs had- walking tours, a cooking class, and FC Barce game, a welcome lunch and farewell dinner, a history class, an emersion Catalan language class, 20 metro tickets, etc. I had a guaranteed internship- all I had to do was submit my resume and a statement about what I wanted. Not only did I get another internship to add to my resume, but I got credit for it, and actually really enjoyed my work. I only took two classes, which means not much homework, or time in the classroom.

Also, everyone should come to Barcelona, Spain. It has everything that a person could want – the beach, the mountains, a great party scene, social and nice people, famous cultural sites, many English speakers, a great transportation system, and a beautiful city. Spain is also gorgeous, and there are many great towns to visit. I have learned and grown so much from coming here.

If anyone is reading this who is going to study abroad in Barcelona, I have 10 quick pointers.

1)      The metro is your best friend. Learn how to use it. Buy the T-Jove, unlimited pass. Its 105 euros, but gives you 90 days of unlimited TMB metro and bus use, which you will definitely use.

2)      Do not take pickpocketing lightly. Most all of my friends got pickpocketed while here. You can avoid this by always holding onto your stuff, never putting any phone or wallet in a shallow pocket (but more of a purse with a zipper and a clasp both). Don’t bring your wallet and iPhone to the clubs in a purse. Most all of my friends were pickpocketed at a club because it is really easy to be distracted. I always wore tall boots to the club, and put my phone, wallet, and keys in there.

3)      Don’t bring more than one suitcase. I lived out of a suitcase and carryon bag for four months, and saved time packing, space in my small room, and money checking a bag. Spain isn’t a third world country- you can easily buy everything you need there. Don’t bring unnecessary hair products, high heels/ uncomfortable shoes, or something that will blow out the outlets here.

4)      Don’t travel every single weekend. You’re living in Barcelona, and it’s a fantastic city, so you should stay there and get to know it really well. Plus, the parties in Barcelona are better than anywhere else.

5)      However, do travel. I got the opportunity to go to Portugal, France, Andorra, Sweden, and Ibiza. Many of my friends travelled to a lot of other popular destinations such as Amsterdam, Rome, and Paris. It is cheap, comparatively, and a time to play tourist in many different beautiful cities. 

6)      Don’t be that annoying American who only speaks English to people and remains closed minded about other cultures. It is great to try and speak the language, and become more accepting of other people and their ways of life.

7)      Café con leche and crossaint all day, every day. You will be very happy to get used to it.

8)      Ask locals about where they like to go. The local places are much more charming than the touristy ones. They also may know when places like museums are free.

9)      Don’t forget to stay on your budget. It is easy to spend a lot of money, but remember: the 10-15 euro drink at the club is definitely not worth it.

10)   Make the most of your trip. Hang out with everyone, meet people from other countries, eat the good food, drink Sangria, and go out every weekend until 5 or 6 am. You won’t regret the money you spend abroad, and you will regret staying home more often than going out.

Barcelona is the best city in the world. Apply to this program, and I guarantee you will have an amazing four months partying the nights away and taking in the culture, while also adding tangible experience to your resume.

Thanks for following along, y’all. It sure was the experience of a lifetime. <3

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Barcelona – week 17

Time May 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The final leg of my trip was bittersweet. I was dreading the idea of leaving my favorite city in the world, but was also really excited for my parents to come visit me. I got to do some touristy things that I had not done before, and even went to two other countries, so it was definitely a good way to end my trip. I took so many great pictures, but unfortunately, my computer kept freezing while uploading them to my blog, so not many are here. Sorry!

The first day that my parents were here, we went on the Barcelona Tourist Bus tour. Classic tourist, and I felt kind of stupid for doing it because I had already lived there for four months, but I actually did learn some new things and see places that I had never been to before. We rode through the entire bus ride before deciding that we wanted to get off at Montjuic. I showed them old Olympic Park, we watched the light show, and then ate a delicious dinner of paella on the 4th floor of the Arena de Espanya, the old bull fighting arena which converted to a mall after bullfighting was outlawed in Catalonia. 

The next day, my family woke up early and went to Mt. Tibadabo. We didn’t hike it this time (like I did with Linn), but instead took the lazy way up in the funicular. It was fun to see their expressions on their faces when they saw the entirety of Barcelona and its suburbs from the top of that one mountain, in addition to the majestic church that overlooks the city. What was even better was that after we left Tibadabo, we went to the Sagrada Familia. I have never been, but have always been told that I had to come to “one of the wonders of the world.” I was completely in awe by the architecture, high ceilings, colorful windows and designs, and intricacies of the church. Gaudi really was a genius. I then showed them my residencia, introduced them to some friends, and showed them my neighborhood of Gracia. We then ate at a really cute place in Gracia- the same place I took Linn on her last night. I ate some delicious, Catalan pork cheeks and enjoyed a bottle of wine with my parents. Then I went to a bar with some of my friends. [Gallery not found]

The next day, my family and I left our apartment near the Sagrada Familia and drove to Andorra! Andorra is one of the smallest countries of the world with about 70,000 people, and is located between Spain and France. It is in the middle of the Pyrenees, and perfect for skiing. It took us a while to get there, because the car was stick shift (and so my dad stalled many times and drove really slowly), and our navigations systems weren’t always correct. But, when we got there, we were definitely glad we took the road less travelled and explored another beautiful country. We ate lunch at a TexMex restaurant, and then walked around the capital city, taking pictures in the mountains and doing some beautiful hiking. We went swimming at our hotel, played minigolf on the rooftop, and ate a delicious dinner at a ski lodge. We were even overcharged 400 euros for our meal, and got that money reimbursed to us in cash, along with an apology shot of alcohol.

We left the next day and started our drive to Carcassone, France. What a beautiful drive, weaving in and out of snowcapped mountains and French chateaus! Carcassone was a beautiful and fun city. We explored some of the medieval part of Carcassone, which is supposedly one of the best preserved medieval castles in Europe. We went into shops, had Nutella crepes, walked along the fortress wall, and ate a meal in a plaza inside the walled city. We also took a tour of the old palace area of the medieval section. In addition, we drove about an hour away (through beautiful one lane roads in the hills) to get to a winery and purchased some delicious French champagne and wine.

The best part about France, though, was just relaxing at our hotel. We landed at the Dominac d’Auriac, a 5 star hotel on a golf resort. The hotel only had about 18 rooms, all individually designed and decorated with antique French tastes. The land it was on was large, green, and full of benches, greenery, a pool, and pond. We played scrabble in the rooms, as well as ate chocolates they left in our room, and drank wine. One afternoon, we sat outside for hours, just talking over a couple of bottles of champagne and wine.

In addition to the beautiful facilities, the hotel also had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Every morning, we were attended to like royals while drinking our hot chocolate, coffee, and fresh squeezed orange juice. For breakfast, we ate eggs, mixed fruit, ham (from a 700 lb pig), French cheese, and all the fresh bread a person could want. On the last night in Carcassone, my family and I ate at the 5 star restaurant at the hotel. It was one of the most expensive, but also best foods, I have ever eaten. My father and I started off by drinking some Champagne. Our first course consisted of fresh vegetables and sea bass. Then, I got snails in red wine sauce. For the main course, we all got sea bass and other seafood dishes. Then, as a dessert before our dessert, we got a chocolate pudding to help wash down our grand marnier soufflé. I didn’t even want to leave after the two hours, because it was such an amazing night.

After our trip to France, and our drive back to the car rental place (which turned out to be a nightmare because we were driving a manual car, in a city, getting on the wrong one way streets, and had a flat tire), we just explored the neighborhood of our next apartment. We found the La Rambla de Poblenou- a lot better than the tourist La Rambla. It was weird for me to keep finding places that I had never been to! I went to the bar Sonora that night, and then Razzmatazz with Martine and Ines. I was so sad that it was my last Wednesday night at one of the best clubs.

The next day was very relaxing for my family. We went to a nearby town named Sitges. I went there for Carnaval in February, but it was really nice to go when the weather was nicer. We walked around the beautiful town, lounged on the beach, and ate seafood for lunch at a place called Lizarran. That night, we went to the Bunkers del Carmel at sunset. I was so glad I could go to one of my favorite places one more time, and show my parents one of the best views of the city.

Friday was my last day in Barcelona, so we had to pack it tight with activities. We woke up at 6 am to go watch the sunrise over the beach- something I had always wanted to do. I then took them on a tour of the gothic quarter, we went up and down La Rambla, ate a tapas lunch, bought smoothies and chocolate at the boqueira market, bought souvenirs, sat in Plaza Catalunya, walked to Palau de la Musical, and finished the tour with the Arc de Triumf and Parc de la Ciutadella. We then spent our last night at Parc Guell. I still had not been to this iconic Barcelona site yet, and it was fun to go someplace new and marvel at the Gaudi architecture. We ended our relaxing night with having paella on the Rambla de Poblenou near our apartment. I ended my last night by meeting my friends, having everyone on the metro cheer for me to finish my bottle of wine, going to the L’Ovella Negra bar, and then club Catwalk. It was a great night!

I’m going to miss this city so much <3

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Barcelona – week 16

Time May 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This weekend, two major things happened: my program officially ended, and my best friend from Norway came to visit.

My Farewell Dinner was on April 23rd, Sant Jordi Day. This holiday, honoring a Patron Saint, also commemorates a legend popular in Catalonia. According to the legend, a dragon was attacking the kingdom of Cappadocia. People of the village sacrificed two lambs a day to satisfy the dragon’s hunger. However, when the lamb population dwindled, the people of the village had to give one human and one lamb to the dragon to prevent an attack. Tired of not having a member of the royal family sacrificed, the village sent the princess to the dragon. On the way to the cave, the princess found Jordi, who slew the dragon. From the blood of the monster stemmed a rose, which he gave to the princess.

Therefore, on April 23rd, men give away roses to women. In return, women give men a book, remembering the death and burial of Miguel de Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Inca Garcilaso. I received two roses from my boss and my program director.

My Farewell Dinner itself was so fantastic. We went to a flamenco show, which was very different but very intriguing. We got there early so that we could watch the feet of the dancers tapping on the floor. Sometimes you could hardly see their legs, but more of a blur moving swiftly back and forth.  After, we walked a couple of steps over and landed at one of the best restaurants in Barcelona, located in Placa Reial. I was told I could order whatever I wanted, so I got patatas bravas, a plate of bite-sized fried fish, salmon and vegetables, and a chocolate lover’s dessert. We talked for hours and enjoyed our last time together. 

By this time, my best friend from Norway, Linn, arrived at the airport! She and our other mutual friend Tomy came to my residencia, and we went to OttoZutz together. We danced for a while, and then went out on the street to talk for a couple of hours.

The next day was pretty chill. Linn and I went to the beach for hours and got killer sunburns. We then met up with Sammy and Marianna to celebrate Sammy’s last night in Barcelona. We got doner kebab on Ciutadella Villa Olympica, went back home to hang out and drink wine, and went to Bling Bling. We saw some of our American friends there, and Linn had a great time dancing to their fun music. It was really sad to say goodbye to one of my best friends, but at least we went out with a bang. 

On Friday, Linn and I enjoyed Barcelona on a budget. We ate a picnic lunch in my favorite Plaza in Gracia, complete by watching a homeless man make weird art from a broken umbrella and discarded DVD player, and the scariest dog fight that I have ever seen. We then went to the Labrinth Park- the oldest park in Barcelona made by some rich person in the 1700s, but now open to the public. After enjoying the park and some smoothies at a café, we walked to the Bunkers Del Carmel, and watched the sun set over my favorite city. I bumped my head on the concrete there, and probably got a concussion, but it was worth it :) Since I was dizzy in the head, we went to the supermarket and made a healthy dinner, and my friends went to a bar that night and just got mojitos. We even got free roses from a local vendor. 

We had a huge day on Saturday. I finally made it to Mt. Tibadabo, the tallest mountain in Barcelona! We hiked up the mountain for about an hour and a half, and landed at the amusement park. We rode rides that overlooked the entirety of Barcelona, as well as many suburbs, which was a little scarier than I thought it would be. We did scenic rides, rides that overlooked the city, roller coasters, bumper cars, and more. We also climbed to a huge church on top, which majestically overlooks the city as well. After hiking down the mountain, we went to another flamenco show (which was even better than the first one I went to), got gelato on La Rambla, and then drank with my friends and went to Opium. We danced for hours, and Linn said she had a lot of fun! 

We had a tourist day the next day. Linn and I ate lunch on Port Vell, at Tapa Tapa in the mall Mare Magnum. We ate delicious tapas outside on the shore, and waited for Tomy to join us. We walked around the gothic quarter of Barcelona, saw some street shows and shops, then walked to the Arc de Triumf to go to a huge outdoor market/hippie festival, full of organic herbs, odd rituals, and a lot of dreadlocked hippies rolling joints. We sat in the grass, enjoyed the greenery, and then decided to walk to Montjuic. We walked around a part of Barcelona I had never seen, and eventually sat on the steps in front of the National Art Museum overlooking the city. Linn and I ate a delicious dinner at a local place in Gracia. We decided to splurge, and got some Spanish specialties, and even a molten chocolate cake for dessert. 

Sadly, the next day Linn had to leave. I dropped her off after having café con leches and crossaints. I will miss my favorite Norwegian Viking, but am SO happy she got to come visit, stay at my residencia while my roommate was travelling, and explore my city with me. Trinity University reunion at last!

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Barcelona – week 15

Time April 23rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I should title this post “Stockholm- week 15,” but I figured I would stay with the pattern.

Also, unfortunately, the system wouldn’t let me upload pictures to this blog, so I apologize for the lack of visuals.

Stockholm was everything I dreamed it would be and more. What a beautiful city! I stayed with family friends, Lennart and Eva, who stayed at my home in Texas about 5 years ago for a couple of nights. Our families bonded, and it was fantastic to see them again and live under their hospitality.

The first thing we did was ride the subway to the city and see the cherry blossom trees. They were in full bloom, and what a beautiful site to see! It was a little cold, but nice weather for them, but still not crowded because many locals go to countryside homes for Easter. We took some pictures, and then settled down for lunch at a place called Victoria- delicious food and view of the cherry blossom trees at day, club at night. I had traditional Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and Scandinavian lingonberries. Yum!

Lennart and Eva then took me on a tour of the city. We walked by the Nobel Museum, the square where they used to have local executions, touristy alleys with Viking shops, the Parliament building, and also the King’s Palace.

We then met up with Lennart and Eva’s son and girlfriend, Fredrick and Matilda, and went to the original Ice Bar! It was inside this really nice hotel, and they bought tickets early to reserve a spot. They gave up capes and gloves, and then we entered into the bar made of ice from a northern sea- the same ice used to make the Ice Hotel. The bar is different every year, and they had fun facts in the wall about the bar itself. We got two drinks while we were there- delicious, fruity, and served out of ice glasses. It was a lot of fun, and funny to go outside into the cold weather and feel warm!

Fredrick and Matilda left us, and Lennart, Eva, and I went to Stockholm Fisk- a very nice fish restaurant inside a hotel. We lounged and talked for a while, and then sat down for our delicious meal. We had bread, toast skagen (bread with a topping of shrimp, fish eggs, and more), a Swedish fish that tasted similar to Salmon, and then a truffle and cappuccino for dessert. It was so delicious, and very authentically Swedish! We then went home and watched some TV, Forrest Gump, and drank whiskey.

The next day, the Gullbergs celebrated Easter with the family. We all slept in, and then we went on a walk around their neighborhood. They live right next to downtown (on one of the 300 islands of Stockholm), but still on a quiet bank on a scenic skyline of the city. We saw their version of a beach, old factories, a preschool, docks, and women who swam every day- no matter the time of year.

When we got back to the house, we began to prepare for Easter lunch. I cut vegetables, peeled boiled eggs, deshelled shrimp, combined the eggs and shrimp and fish eggs to make a Swedish dish, and rolled raw salmon in order to make a delicious feast fresh seafood. At the meal, we had lovely conversation (in English) and sang drinking songs when we took a shot of the schnapps (even the grandma participated). We all hung around, ate, talked, drank wine and schnapps, and played board games while waiting for dinner to cook. At 6:30, we ate fresh lamb, rosemary, and garlic, and fresh oven-baked vegetables. For dessert, we had “fika,” which is essentially a coffee break accompanied by something sweet. Swedes take multiple fika breaks a day. Ours consisted of fresh coffee and a homemade Swedish dessert that reminded me of baklava, topped with whipped cream and raspberries. We then drank mojitos and talked until late in the night. What a perfect way to spend Easter!

On Sunday, the family woke up early and went to Skansen, the first open air museum and zoo in Sweden. It was founded in 1891 to show the ways of life in Sweden before the industrial revolution. We walked around the “old town,” going into the glass shops, bakeries, and furniture stores to go back in time. We also saw a lot of wild animals- a bear sitting on a tall post, wolves being fed, reindeer and elk grazing, etc. We had lunch in the main plaza there. My lunch consisted of a “Swedish pancake”- which is essentially 1 part pancake batter, 1 part bacon bits, and 2 parts lard. These ingredients sat on a charcoal oven for a couple of minutes and then came out as a greasy, delicious, fattened pancake. But, of course, we topped it with lingonberry to make it healthy.

After this adventure, and dropping Matilda off at the hospital to see her recently born neice, we went rock climbing! I haven’t been in years, but it was a lot of fun, and I even made it to the top of some of the easier courses. It was definitely a good workout!

Then, the entire family went and ate at “Same Same but Different,” a very fun Thai food place. The place was adorned with a koi pond leading to the bathroom, Christmas lights around all the wood posts, and every table having a different design. That was the second time I had Thai food in my life, and it was so delicious! We then went home and watched YouTube videos of great artists, like Home Free and Pentatonix.

The next day was sadly my last day. But, we celebrated the day right, by going to one of the more famous museums of Stockholm- the Vasa museum. The Vasa was a ship that set sail in 1628, and sank on the Stockholm harbor on her maiden voyage. The wreck was salvaged in 1961, after 333 years under the sea. We saw the reconstructed vessel, which is surprisingly 98% original. We learned about why she sank, how she sank, the process of finding her and taking her out of the harbor, and even saw the bones of the 30 who died on board, along with stories about them and facial reconstructions. It was really interesting to see a part of history so nicely preserved.

For my last meal, Lennart, Eva, Fredrick, Matilda, and I went to a place near the Vasa Musuem. It was very fancy, and aparrently had some of the best wines of Stockholm. I had some bread, toast skagen, and then cabbage-wrapped meats with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. I ate this because it was the only thing I had yet to eat on the “traditional Swedish” menu, and it was a delicious choice.

I had some particularly fun moments on this trip. Some of them were “lost in translation” moments, like Eva saying “pass away” instead out “pass out”, and the large rock climbing handles were called “big jugs.” Another fun moment was facetiming with my parents, bringing the two families together again. I also really enjoyed eating a lot of traditional Swedish food.

I have to give a special Thank You to Lennart and Eva, for hosting me the entire weekend. They were the best hosts that anyone could ask for. They gave me a bed to sleep in, a huge deal considering a basic hostel would cost about $80 per night, and a hotel would costs about $220 per night. They fed me breakfast every morning- boiled eggs, yogurt and cereal, and a sandwich with fresh ham, cheese, and a liver spread. Of course, multiple cups of coffee were consumed, because the Swedish drink about 4 cups of coffee a day. They paid for every single meal of mine, despite my protests, and we ate at many expensive, beautiful, delicious restaurants. They also paid for my admission to the two museums we went to, as well as the ice bar. The only thing that I paid for this weekend was my souvenior shot glass from the Vasa Museum.

Y’all made my Easter weekend family-oriented and homely, full of delicious meals and fun sites around Stockholm. I cannot thank you enough- I could not have asked for a more perfect weekend!

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Barcelona – week 14

Time April 16th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Spring break has started, and I have already been to Ibiza, Spain!

Ibiza was everything that a vacation should be. There was a prepaid trip called TripIbiza that probably 300 American students paid 200 euros for, but my friends opted to save the money and just go on our own and make our own fun. Turns out it was worth it- we snuck into one of their events, and another event was canceled due to one person’s drug use. Regardless, we had a much chiller, hanging out and drinking wine on the beach, trip.

The first day, after breakfast and a power nap, we went to a day party through TripIbiza. Hundreds of students were at a hotel pool and beach, dancing to music and socializing. My friends jumped right in, and had a lot of fun. After we went to get dinner and hung out in the hotel rooms all night. 

The next day, after I tanned on the beach alone for a couple of hours, my two friends Jordan and Sam found the most perfect beach with me. It was about a half hour walk on the sand and rocks on Ibiza, but completely worth it. The water was crystal clear, there were rocks to hike into the shore, and hiking to do. Most importantly, we just soaked up the sun, ate food, and drank beer. That night, we continued to go to dinner and hang out. My friends went to a club, but since it was 30 euros, I didn’t go (and am happy I didn’t- apparently it wasn’t anything like Barcelona night life, despite all of the rumors. I think we went during the off party season, whereas Barcelona is always busy). 

The next three days we all just chilled by the beach or pool. We tanned, went out on the rocks and jumped off, went on a couple hour-long hike to a far rock above the rest of Ibiza, listened to music, played games, ate good food, cooked some of our own food, and drank mojitos and wine. Loads of sunscreen later, I had a decent tan, no sunburn, a lot of wine, and bonding time with friends. 

Before I went to Ibiza, I started my break early by finishing a paper eating strawberries in the most beautiful park in Barcelona, and drinking wine on the Barcelona beach with friends before we all travelled different places over break. 

Next stop, Stockholm, Sweden to see family friends! Önska mig lycka till i Sverige, vänner!

 

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Barcelona- week 13

Time April 8th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Some awesome things happened this week for sure.

My internship is going really well. On Monday, all of my coworkers went to get beers after work. We found this cool bar in John Lennon Plaza in Gracia, and talked for hours over multiple rounds of beer and chips. My boss even paid for it! Then, on Wednesday, my bosses invited me to lunch. They took me to this beautiful, expensive, and local place in Gracia. I tried the most “Spanish” things on the menu- cooked eggplant and pork cheek meat. It was so good, especially with the white wine, bread, and ice cream with chocolate! They also told me that they loved all the work I was doing for them, and one client loved my creative PowerPoint work so much that my bosses are getting more future business from them! 

The next night, I went out to get Greek food with my residencia. One of my friends is from Cyprus, and she took us to the best place in Gracia. She told us what we should order, and it was delicious! After, we got ice cream and watched a movie :)

On Thursday, it was raining pretty badly. So, I took that opportunity to go to the chocolate museum with a friend. It was really cool! We got to see entire figurines (like the Sagrada Familia and the house from the movie Up) made out of pure chocolate, and learn a little about the history. Our tickets to the museum were even a small chocolate bar. After, we went to an awesome local bar called Xampayenria. It had cheap wine, tapas, and was really casual and Catalan. We got to hang out there, go back to my residencia, have some wine, and then went to a club. 

On Friday, we started celebrating Sammy’s birthday weekend. We went to the light show on Montjuic, Plaza Espana for shopping and tapas, the 24 hour bread store for dinner, and my residencia for wine. 

 

Saturday, Sammy’s birthday, was a beach and bars day. We spent 4 hours on the beach, just hanging out, drinking wine, talking, and tanning. It was the most perfect day for hanging out at the beach, and it finally feels like summer. We got to climb a jungle gym and get into the sea! We went to this club we haven’t been to yet called Costa Breve. This local club played the perfect mix of top 40 hits and latino music, and we danced until 6 am!  

Holi, the Indian festival, was on Sunday, and my residencia went to go celebrate it! It was free entrance, and only 5 euros for 3 bags of color, so we had a great time throwing color at each other, seeing a parade, listening to India music, and dancing like lunatics. After, I went to the beach again – I’m definitely all about that beach life. 

<3

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Barcelona – week 12

Time April 1st, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Five more weeks left, even though I feel like I just got here yesterday.

Though this week was a little rainy, I still managed to find some Barcelonan adventures and treasures.

On Wednesday, I had the privilege to go to an FC Barcelona futbol game. The stadium was packed, everyone cheering about the game and Catalan independence. My group of friends tried to cheer with everyone else, though failed at the Spanish and keeping time with the natives. Barcelona won 3 to 0 against Celta, and because Real Madrid lost that night, Barcelona become second in the league. I really want to go to another game- it really is a Barcelona must-see! 

This weekend, since it was really rainy, I stayed indoors all day on Friday and Saturday. But, on Friday, I hung out in my friend’s room for four hours before we went to our favorite club, Opium. I saw one of my coworkers there, as well as two of my friends from back home. We got to hang out and dance and had a good night! 

On Saturday, I went to lunch with my residencia friends. We went to a really good Brazilian food place, and since my roommate is from Brazil, she ordered us all of our drinks and food. After waiting over an hour for it to slow cook, we had delicious Brazilian coke, rice, beans, bread, spices, meats, fruits, and more. 

That afternoon, some friends and I went to buy a birthday present, and after I went to a tapas restaurant dinner with American and Swiss friends, I went to a birthday party! Ten or so of us met at a Colombian friend’s apartment, where she had sandwiches, champagne, and birthday cake. After celebrating for a couple of hours, we went to a club. We got VIP, danced, and hung out at the beach for hours. 

The next day, I woke up at three, but hung out at the residencia with friends all day until I went to dinner and Karoke night with American friends. George Payne’s is an Irish bar, but always seems to be full of Americans. I tried apple cider beer, and got to listen to some of my friends sing Beyonce. 

Other random things I did this week included dinner at my favorite .50 cent tapas place, Moulin Rouge with my residencia girls, perfecting cooking TexMex on a budget, skyping multiple friends back home, getting a new and more comfortable bed, and applying for internships at a cute coffee shop and eating an entire baguette. 

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Barcelona week 11

Time March 25th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week wasn’t anywhere near as eventful as last week, since I don’t have any visitors and had to go back to the “real world,” but some cool things still happened this week.

The weather is finally beginning to be nice in these last couple of weeks, and Spain has transformed into all that I imagined a Spring would be like. Days on the beach, people already swimming, low winds and peaceful walks, and the smell of flowers in the parks and gardens. I studied out by the beach a couple of times this week, which basically just meant that I studied 25% of the time, and watched the waves the other 75% of the time. Later in the week, I walked along the entire beach, which was a lot longer than I thought. Did you know that Barceloneta’s sand is fake, and imported? It kind of ruins the illusion of the beach, but if you forget about it, it still seems beautiful and natural. 

I also went to see the Montjuic light show again this week. The first performance of this coordinated display of color, light, motion, music, and water acrobatics was actually in 1929 during the Great Universal Exhibition. The 2,600 liters of water pumped through the fountain per second do make for a spectacular show. 

There are many museums and sites that are free on Saturdays and Sundays in Barcelona, so on Saturday a couple of friends and I went to enjoy the National Museum of Art- for free. From the outside, the museum appears to be a castle, and inside it is almost equally as grand. There were many nice exhibits ranging thousands of years. The recent Barcelona photography exhibit was my favorite- some pictures made me laugh out loud, and I enjoyed seeing pictures around the city that I love so much. 

On Sunday, after running and finding a beautiful part and canoeing area near the Arc de Triumf, my friend Martine and I went on a picnic to the Botanical Gardens on Monjuic. She made a delicious meal (full of fresh vegetables, fruits, and treats from her home in Holland), and I brought Nutella and Sangria. We hung out outside for hours, eating and talking and having fun. We were going to do homework, but in Spain, that hardly ever happens :) 

I went out with groups of different friends this week, and we went to some different places, which was really cool. On Wednesday, I went to Razzmatazz, a rock and roll club known for its many rooms, proud gay people, and fun environment. We went to a bar first, on the other side of town, which was also a good (but loud and busy) time. Wednesday night is Erasmus night (Or, in American, Study Abroad night), so I got to meet people from all around the world.  

On Thursday, Martine and I went to our favorite club for the chocolate fountain (which is always delicious), but then left to join our residencia friends at OttoZutz, a club that plays a lot of Top 40 and American music. Most every song they play there is “my jam,” and really easy to dance to. 

On Friday, I went to my favorite club (Opium), after hanging out with my friend from my program, Sammy, and my two Mexican friends at a bar and on the beach.

Then, on Saturday, some of my friends had a going away party for a local friend who is moving to Andorra. So, we went to his apartment and then headed to a really upscale club (where I actually wore heels- shocker) and danced to both Latina and Top 40 music, in two different rooms. It was a really fun way to say goodbye- minus the two drunk guys who almost tried to get in a fight with one of my friends for no reason. 

On Sunday night, I went to watch part of the FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid futbol game. We watched the game and had free champagne, and the stayed around later for a free Asian dinner. We were sitting around talking casually, when a promoter came over and told us that Beyonce was at the same club, eating dinner as well. She was behind a curtain with bodyguards. It was pretty painful to know she was in the same place as us, and we couldn’t see her, but we eventually saw her coming out of the bathroom, which was pretty stupid but also kinda cool! 

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Barcelona week 10

Time March 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t believe I have made it to double digits. 10 weeks. It is too surreal. I would be pretty sad about the time passing by, but luckily I had one of the best weeks of my life this week :)

I had a visitor from home this week, and so I literally got to play tourist all week long. I used vacation days for my internship, and skipped a day and a half of class. We went on many adventures- some old for me, some new for me, but all exhilarating for Evan.

We didn’t do too much on Monday because he was really tired. We did accomplish some main things though: planning our trip, napping, eating, and going to some touristy places (like a main road La Rambla and seeing the center of the city- Plaza Cataluyna). 

On Tuesday, I took him on a walking tour of the city. His hostel was in the Gothic quarter, so I took him around there and showed him some historical parts of Barcelona. I explained the significance of some statues, gave him some history about Christopher Columbus, some of the shops and squares, showed him where Gaudi was fatally wounded, and took him to one of the biggest churches. We went to the top of the church and got a pretty cool view of the city, too. That night, we had a picnic on the beach. We bought our own material for sandwiches, watched the sunset, and stayed outside for hours. Then we got gelato, walked down one of the main plazas of the city (La Rambla), and ended at the old center of the city (Plaza Catalunya). 

On Wednesday, I had one of my favorite days here. Evan and I went to Montserrat, a city about an hour away. The city has a beautiful Monastery on top of a mountain, as well as many hiking trails. Not only is Montserrat Monastery of significant religious importance, but the natural beauty surrounding the monastery is breathtaking. Montserrat was founded in 880 when pilgrim children saw a light descending from the sky in the mountains.  Montserrat is also home to the Virgin of Montserrat, Catalonia’s favorite saint. It is said the monks could not move the statue because the powers were so strong, so they built the monastery around it. After looking at the Monastery and seeing the legendary boy’s choir, Evan and I hiked up the Sant Jeroni path. Seven kilometers to the peak, and 500 meters vertical, it was definitely a work out. It took us about two hours to get there, and an hour and a half to come down. But the views at 1236 meters were so amazing that the hike was worth it. 

On Thursday was another great day, filled with a lot of memories. After sleeping in, eating some fresh doner kebab and walking around Plau de la Musica, Evan and I headed to the Labrinth d’Horta park. This is north of the city, and it feels like you’re in a whole new world. The park had reflecting pools, flowers, rivers, waterfalls, nice buildings, sculptures, and a cool labyrinth maze. We spent hours there enjoying the practically deserted park. From there, we walked to the Bunkers del Carmel, one of my favorite places in this city. I was frustrated because we got a little lost, and I was sore from the hike before, but we once again bought sandwich materials and had a picnic at sunset. We stayed for a couple of hours, until it was very dark and we could see every star in the sky. Later that night, we went to one of my favorite clubs, Bling Bling, for the chocolate fountain. Delicious! 

On Friday, I left Evan alone to work on grad school applications and papers, and went on a day trip to Tarragona with my program! There were only 10 of us girls who went, because everyone else was in Dublin celebrating St. Patty’s day. I, however, think it was worth it to visit the little gem of a city. Tarragona is an old, important place with Roman significance. It houses Roman ruins, used to have chariot rides, gladiator showdowns, theaters, and fresh stone work. We started a tour with looking at an old coliseum (which prosecuted Christians in the 1st century, as well as housed shows for citizens, but had a church built in the middle of the circle in the 14th century to honor the persecuted Christians). We walked around the town and saw the old forum, and buildings with the original architecture and arches from the time period. For lunch, we were privileged to go to this beautiful and expensive restaurant. I devoured vegetables with sauce, a paella dish, and a chocolate molten cake. We even had chocolate chupitos and coffee to finish our 2 hour and fifteen minute lunch. After a spontaneous trip to the beach, it was a great day. At night, I took Evan to my favorite club (Opium).   

On Saturday, we slept in and went to lunch at two. Evan and I went to a place on La Rambla where you got 3 tapas, paella, and a dessert for 7.95 euros- a steal! We then went to Montjuic- the “Jewish Mountain” where the 1992 Olympics were held. Evan said this was his favorite part of the trip. We saw the old Olympic plazas, fields, and some surrounding gardens. At 7:00, another friend of mine met Evan and we watched the light show on Montjuic together. The giant fountain there has coordinated lights and fountain streams to different songs. We watched it for an hour and a half, and then grabbed chocolate con churros :) 

On Sunday, we got the best sandwich in town at Bo de B- delicious and cheap. Not to mention, close to the beach, so we could eat our sandwiches on the beach and enjoy the perfect weather. We went to the Maritime museum for free, and took a cruise at sunset that night! The cruise around Port Vell was fantastic. We bought sangria (a famous Spanish wine), hung out on the semi-private boat, and watched the sunset for an hour and a half while listening to a jazz saxophone. At 10:00, we went to a free dinner at Shoko (though Evan had to pay 10 euros, he said it was worth it). We ate delicious sushi, listened to a singer, watched a fashion show, and hung out for the beach—all for free! 

Monday was Evan’s last day, which was pretty sad. But, we did have a great time eating lunch together and seeing the outside of the Sagrada Familia, going to Bo de B again and getting a sandwich, watching the sunset over the Arc de Triumf, getting cheap tapas at Cien Montaditos, and going to the beach for several hours after dark. 

Overall, what a fantastic week with some of my favorite people <3

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Barcelona week 9

Time March 10th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I must admit, I have missed some things about home. Peanut butter, TexMex food on the reg, BBQ in Texas, living on campus, and knowing the language. But, my friend who is visiting me tomorrow is bringing me peanut butter, I ate at a TexMex restaurant this week and now know where to buy tortillas, I do love living in my residencia, and I am learning the language faster and faster.

On Monday, after work and talking to my parents for an hour, I watched a Carnaval parade that was outside my residencia balcony. The people in the parade even threw candy up to us. 

My internship was also pretty great this week. On Wednesday, my bosses were both gone, so I did some fun work on a PowerPoint and then hung out and listened to music with the other intern for a couple of hours. When I went home, I got ready to go to the Rosario Flores concert! Sammy and I got to go to Plau de la Musica, which is such a beautiful venue with such intricate architecture. The ceiling was really high and the tiling was so detailed. The concert was actually really good too- she sang cool pop flamenco songs, danced a lot, and I really liked the music. 

Another fun thing that happened this week was I went running three times, and one of them was on the beach. The weather was so perfect this week that it was impossible to not grab some pictures. After I went running, I celebrated a friend’s birthday at La Rosa Negra, a delicious TexMex place here. That is only the 4th TexMex restaurant I’ve seen, and the only one I have been two. Having a margarita and tacos reminded me of back home, and it was beautiful. 

I went to the beach twice this week. On Friday, after internship catchup meeting with my adviser, I went to the beach for 5 hours, read Angels and Demons, and dozed. My friend Martine came and joined me, and we ate chips and apples, drank Sangria, and talked for a couple of hours while watching the sunset. The next day, 7 of us from the residencia went to watch the sunset at the beach. We went and bought stuff to make for sandwiches and ate dinner on the sand at sunset. I will never get tired going to the beach. 

Another really fun thing I did this week was go to a concert. My friend’s cousin was performing, and we went to this cute bar called Cara B. They played American 70s music, had so many beer options, and we got to relax while listening to Indie music for a couple of hours. 

I also went to Brunch and Cake again on Sunday, with Sammy and her boyfriend. I had a delicious sandwich, which has filled me up until I go to a free dinner at Shoko tonight!

This week, the clubs that I went to were Otto Zutz, Bling Bling, and Opium. I even had VIP access to all of them. I have gotten into a pretty similar rhythm and go to a lot of the same clubs, but I really like them. At Otto Zutz we were celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday, and they played a lot of really good American music. Bling Bling’s chocolate foundation is always delicious. Opium, however, was kind of strange. It was Abroadfest this weekend, meaning that thousands of American study abroad students in Europe came to Barcelona to party for one weekend (meaning, that for those of us lucky ones that live in Abroadfest for four months, this weekend was just overcrowded and not near the Barcelona fun that I experience). We just sat in VIP at Opium for hours because it was too busy for them to give us anything for free, and too crowded for us to dance.

One of my friends back home is coming to visit me tomorrow! That means that I am taking vacation days at the internship, and skipping a day of class. I will have five whole days with him, and then a couple of afternoons and nights. I can’t wait!

 

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Barcelona week 8

Time March 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I can’t believe that I am about halfway done with my abroad experience. These past couple of months have taught me so much that cannot be learned in a classroom, and I have had some of the best experiences of my life.

This week, I had a particularly good time at my internship because my boss was in Madrid. My other boss, who is only here half the time, didn’t have much work for me to do (meaning I got to listen to music, work on school projects, and listen to music), and when he did, it was editing a PowerPoint presentation (which I really like doing). My boss even bought me a really good lunch one day!

I went to the Bunkers del Carmel again at sunset this week, but this time it was with a friend that I met in Porto, Portugal. She volunteered at my hostel, and I hung out with her quite a bit. She wanted to come to Barcelona, and so I got to take her to a cool, “local” site. We sat up there for hours, eating sandwiches, and enjoying the view. I also took her to my favorite tapas bar, and walked her around my neighborhood. 

I gave my first presentation in my Marketing class, and my teacher absolutely loved it. I based the project on a business model from my business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi, which lowered the amount of work I had to do.

I got a progress report in my Spanish class (meaning that I got to sleep in an extra hour and a half and only go to class for 5 minutes), and my teacher said that I have made a lot of progress in class! She said that she could tell a difference, and I just needed to improve my grammar (which is really hard, considering she teaches in Spanish, which I don’t understand…)

On Friday, I went on a random adventure. After waking up at 3:00, I went to Placa Espanya. I was going to go to she shopping mall there (which is an old bull fighting ring, but since bull fighting is now outlawed in Barcelona, it is a popular mall), but instead saw a beautiful huge art museum at the top of the hill, and I climbed to it. Little did I know that I was climbing Montjuic (“Jewish Mountain”), which is where the Olympics were held in 1992. I got to walk around the old Olympics sites and it was all really beautiful. Not to mention, a cool view of the city and the sea. I later met up with friends and went to dinner, where I had the best patatas bravas of my life. 

On Sunday, I went on a day trip to beautiful Sitges for Carnival! Carnival is located in most cities in Spain, and it is an exhilarating festival celebrated before Lent. The streets and towns are filled with wild partying, humor, costumes, parodies, parades, and more. The city was so beautiful; I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I was so happy I went. I wore a mask, and still wasn’t dressed up enough. We saw a children’s parade, and then headed to the beautiful beach. It was actually hot (a lovely change from the last couple of months), and I even took off my long sleeved shirt. We laid outside on the beach for over an hour, watching a surfer, talking, laying out, and sleeping. After, we walked around and found some of Lucy and Silvana’s friends. We went a got pizza and drinks, and then saw a wild adult’s parade. Everyone in Sitges was in costume, drunk, throwing confetti and bottles of alcohol everywhere, which was just hilarious. We then found the Lizard Lounge club, which was free entrance on our trip, and danced for a couple of hours. Fun, but exhausting, day. 

I had pretty awesome night life experiences this week. I went to Shoko on Wednesday, Bling Bling on Thursday, Razzmatazz on Friday, Opium on Saturday, and Lizard Lounge in Sitges on Sunday. A lot of good memories with good friends. The best part was, it was all free. At Shoko I got free drinks as well as free entrance, Bling Bling always has the chocolate fountain, Razzmatazz is usually 17 euros entrance, but Martine’s brother had a friend of a friend who got us in for free, and Opium and Lizard Lounge were both free entrance. All clubs had a different atmosphere (for example, Shoko was playing 70s music, Razzmatazz plays rock music in 2 of their 5 rooms and attracts a, um, different/edgy crowd, and the others played Top 40 hits and have dress codes). My friend Martine had her brother Anton visit her this weekend, so I always went out with them and showed him a good time in Barcelona. 

Next week, a friend of mine from back home is coming to visit me! In addition, I’m going to see my Norwegian friend soon :)

Stay classy, San Diego.

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Barcelona week 7

Time February 24th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I feel like I am becoming more and more like a local- which I have to say is a pretty fantastic feeling. Some odd things that have made me realize this: I have lowered my voice (people here are really quiet when they talk, and I hate being in a place and hearing loud Americans ruining a perfect afternoon with their screaming voices), I stand on the left side of the escalator at the metro and scoff when people don’t (for context: if you don’t walk up the steps, you stand on the left of the escalator. People who walk stand on the right side. No one likes that ignorant person who stands on the left side, and you have to walk up to them and angrily say “perdon” so that they move), and I have started to talk more and speak more in Spanish. When I first got here, my first question to people was “Hablas Ingles?” But now, I speak to them in Spanish- and have made full transactions and conversations work in Spanish. I am also trying to think in Spanish, or think in English and think of how I would translate that. My Spanish is really improving here, too- which isn’t saying much I guess, since I am still a pretty big gringo.

Another thing that I realized this week was that I would much rather hang out with my residencia friends than my American friends. Not that there is anything wrong with my American friends- though many of them are in Greek life, which I despise. It is more because it is cool to talk to people from different cultures on a regular basis. My best friends, who I eat dinner with, go out at night with, and talk to daily, are from Mexico, Holland, Italy, Cyprus, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Spain, and Italy. Everyone has a different take on any subject, has a different accent, loves something different, celebrates something differently, etc. It is great experience to speak Spanish with them, and hear them speak it all the time, but I more just love that we all get along, are all friends, and fate has brought us together for 4 months to grow as global citizens.

Anyway, I had another amazing week (which, I am sure you can guess, considering that I am literally living in paradise).

On Monday, I went to dinner with my friend from Holland. The next day, I watched a movie with my residencia friends after studying for my marketing midterm at a cute coffee shop in Gracia. 

On Friday, after a nice long 4 mile run, I and went to George Payne’s to watch the Men’s Olympic hockey game. George Payne’s is an Irish bar in the middle of the city, and it was really cool! I felt like I was in America because everyone was speaking English, and they sold hamburgers.  I got a euro Estrella Damm, and hung out with Blair, Marissa, Sammy, and Callie, while watching the game and listening to a lot of Canada chants from the obnoxious Canadians. 

I went to some pretty awesome parties this week. On Wednesday night, my friends from Holland and Mexico and I went to Shoko, a beach club. They had a special where girls got anything and everything free for an hour, so we took advantage of all the specials, danced for a while, hung out at the beach, and had a fantastic night. On Thursday, I went to Bling Bling and (yet again) enjoyed the chocolate fountain (which is actually becoming an addiction). The music is always good, and I am down for free chocolate and fruit! On Friday, a group of us went to CDLC, another beach club, though the music wasn’t that great and we ended up leaving pretty early. Everything here is free because of promoters, and I love it!

This weekend, I got to go explore Spain! On Saturday, I went to Figueres, Banyoles, and Girona! The trip was pretty magical. When we arrived to Figures, we went to the Salvador Dali museum. It was centered around an interesting courtyard with a car and a boat in it, and the architecture was pretty interesting. I only knew him for the “time” painting (which, unfortunately, it in New York), but his other works were intriguing. He was completely in love with his wife, and a lot of his work was dedicated to her or about her. We also saw jewels that Dali designed, and I can’t fathom the fortune that Dali had access to in order to create those gems. For lunch, Kiara, Jordan, Blair and I went to this fun place with a good menu del dia, and ate in the sun with a lovely conversation. It was really nice to get away from our big group, and I was getting so exhausted of the sorority girls. They spend way too much time being particular about every little thing, say “oh my god” way too much, and don’t have conversations that interest me. 

We next went to Banyoles, where we went on a bike ride in the mountains. The weather was absolutely perfect, the lake water was crystal clear blue, and the grass was vivid green. We rode around the bikes for about an hour, and I had casual conversations while enjoying the views. 

We then went to Girona, where I walked around and got to know La Rambla and the beautiful town a little better. A group of ten of us had dinner at a nicely priced placed and then we kept walking around and started bar hopping. We went to a couple of different bars and eventually landed up at a cool club. Sunday was also magical. I had such a delicious breakfast (included with the hotel- I had 3 fresh crossaints, yogurt, two apples, pineapple, and a tomato sandwich). We then we went on a pretty cool walking tour of Girona, and I got to see new and beautiful sites. The town has “the best restaurant in the world” as well as “the most romantic restaurant in the world,” as well as an old city wall, a romantic history, and more. We had some free times, so Kiara, Jordan, Blair, and I went to a cafe and hung out in the sun, and then I went off an a 45 minute adventure to see the city more while my friends kept chilling. We went to lunch and I had bread, cod fritter vegetable soup, sea bass and vegetables, flan, and a lot of wine (all included). What a fantastic trip! 

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Barcelona week 6

Time February 19th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I had another amazing week. :)

First, and the most lame, is that I finished watching Game of Thrones with my Dutch friend Martine.

More importantly though, this was one of my favorite weeks and weekends in Barcelona.

On Monday, my boss informed me that I could take home a 24 pack of Estrella Damn. They recently got paid in beer, and had so much that they had no idea what to do with it all, so I lugged that home. I got the weirdest looks on the metro, and people were laughing at me, and I could barely feel my arms, but it was so worth it! Here is also a picture of my (tiny) office. 

On Thursday, I went to an adventure to the beach… again. But I got off at a different stop, and found a port near yachts. I had this amazing view of the beach, the pier, the W, Montjuic, and more. I climbed a fence and found some things from the 1992 Olympics while I enjoyed the view of the stunning sunset. 

On Valentine’s Day, I had dinner with Martine, Josefina, and Silvana. We celebrated being single with Italian food and Nutella crepes. We were dressed up nicely and even had two groups of desperate single men cat call us.

On Saturday, Martine, Stephanie, Silvana, Josephina, and I all went to the Bunkers Del Carmel! This is an old Spanish fort built during the Spanish Civil War, and it is on top of a mountain in the middle of the city. It has the best view of the entire place, and is even free. It was so awesome and beautiful. We bought stuff to make sandwiches, and then we went there at sunset and had a picnic. Who knew that it would be one of my favorite experiences here? It took 50 minutes to get there, but it was worth it. 

This weekend, I hung out with my residencia friends constantly, and it was so awesome to get to know them even better. We had so much fun! We went out to the clubs Bling Bling once and Opium twice. At Bling Bling, they had a free chocolate fountain, sushi, and a magician. What a good, free night with good friends and good music! At Opium, we met so many random people, danced until 6 am, and got VIP entrance. 

On Sunday, the best thing that happened was that I got a free dinner at CDLC! Ines, Jimena, and I went to CDLC at 10:30 and had a delicious dinner and drinks. We had like 4 courses of sushi, some pita bread and hummus, a noodle bowl, chicken, and then fruit and chocolate for dessert. Then we danced and went and hung out on the beach. We met some really interesting people, too. We were sitting next to this 27 year old Argentinian promoter, and 33 year old Polish woman. The Polish woman had 2 children in Poland, and worked in Poland, but spent every other week in Barcelona just hanging out because she loved it so much. Further, she and the man from Argentina met a year ago after finding out they were half brother and sister! How you can go that many years in your life and not know that information baffles me. But now they live together in Barcelona and are good friends!

Overall, one of the best weeks here, and I can’t wait to see what more will come <3

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Barcelona week 5

Time February 10th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I learned three major things this week:

One, is that Spanish people aren’t my size. At all. After January 7th, Spain has their equivalent to “after Christmas sales,” and they are still going on. Now, because it is a month later, many clothes, shoes, purses, etc. are so ridiculously cheap that you might as well souvenir shop now instead of at the end of the semester. So, I have bought some skirts and shirts and whatnot, but I have been trying to find shoes. So many places have 10 euro shoes. Do you know what so many places do not have? Shoes in size 42 (AKA 11). Everyone here is so tiny, that whenever I ask the store clerk “Tienes zapata cuarenta y dos?” they literally either laugh in my face or look shocked.

Another thing I learned more about is the Catalan independence movement. Almost every weekend, they have tents set up to lure citizens to sign an independence petition. Essentially, almost 300 years ago, the Catalan people were revolting, but overtaken by the Spanish. On the 300th anniversary, hundreds of thousands of Catalonians formed a human chain that stretched across the entire state to symbolize their unity. They are still bitter at the Spanish government for conquering them, and also not letting them be their own country. Currently, the wealthy state of Catalonia makes up something like 60% of tax revenue for the entirety of Spain, but they only get a portion of that back, because a lot of the money goes to poorer areas. In the space of a few years, public support of independence has shot up to 56 percent. Tensions continue to rise after the Catalan president Artur Mas announced that he will hold an independence referendum on November 9th. With this, Mr. Mas launched the biggest challenge to Spain’s internal structure in recent history. However, the opposing Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has the backing of Spain’s main opposition party and will suspend the referendum as soon as it is approved in Catalonia. 

I don’t think Catalonia will ever gain independence, and they may not want to; if they break away, so much of the economy would change, they wouldn’t be a part of the Eurozone, and wouldn’t have the financial backing of other countries. That was a really bad summary, but it is interesting and I encourage whoever is reading this (which, let’s face it, is probably just the Hennerberg family) to go research more about it.

Anyway, the third thing I learned this week is that sometimes, travelling to random, different places for cheap turns out to be the best experience of your life. This weekend, I travelled to Porto, Portugal, and words cannot describe how amazing that place was.

I had no idea that Portugal would be that beautiful and that fun. The hostel was so fantastic. It was only ten euros a night, and voted the third best hostel in the Western Europe, and the best party hostel in Western Europe (Porto Spot Hostel- look it up). It had a TV, bar, nice kitchen, beautiful facilities, great bathrooms, free breakfast, etc. We started walking around Porto, and found some beautiful areas such as a blue hand tiled church, the sixth best café in the world (Majestic Café), and some of the best franchesina’s possible (this is a Portuguese dish- full on 4 kinds of meat, bread, a fried egg, fries, cheese, and a special sauce. Invented by drunk friends but enjoyed by an entire culture). A group of 10 friends and I walked down to the port, which was too beautiful for words. The side we were on was pretty, but then we crossed a famous bridge to go to the side with the wineries and were in utter awe by how beautiful one place could be.

We went to a wine tasting at a place called Calem, and learned about how they make wine, where, and how different wines tasted. After, we took a hike up to another wine place called Taylors, which had a glorious view of the city (though it seemed like everywhere had a nice view!). Then, a trip to Majestic Café to have to best croissants of my life. This is actually where J.K. Rowling wrote some of her first Harry Potter book. She used to teach English in Porto, and got many ideas for Harry Potter from there. For example, she used the Portuguese school dress code (of cloaks and long black uniforms- which was actually an elite club of Portuguese students; if you wanted to enter you were hazed for a year. They take the uniforms very seriously- they even wear the cloaks to bars at night). Rowling also stemmed her ideas from a bookstore in Porto that reminds me of Flourish and Blotts.

That night, we went out on the bar crawl. For 10 euros we got entry to multiple places, multiple drinks, and great times! Just because, I convinced these Australians that I was from Perth and we talked for 20 minutes about Australia and how much we loved it but how expensive it was. We went to a bar and then two clubs, and it was awesome!

The next morning, I woke up bright and early so that I could go on both the ancient and the modern walking tour. The tours were through a company called Pancho tours- free tours (tips appreciated), but the guides were fantastic and really catered to students. We started in the main square, and learned cool stories about how a heart was under a church because “his heart would always be in Porto”, we learned about an old jail that you had to pay to be kept in a cell on the top story and the architect had a million mistresses, and we saw some of the best views (even though at times it was pouring rain). We went to a little market and I had hot wine and bought a blue scarf, and then we went to the second tour.

On that tour, our guide interrupted the tour to take us to a bakery that served the best chocolate cake in Porto, and we saw a beautiful church and more of the blue hand tiles, a street artist’s work, and so much more. After the tour, we just went shopping, and admired the beauty more. My Mexican friend Marianna and I bought the famous Porto wine and cheese and bread for a classy night.

Overall, the people were so nice, it was cheap, and it was beautiful. The only bad thing was the bipolar and rainy weather. So, moral of the story: sometimes not going to touristy European cities (such as Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Berlin, etc.) and instead going to other touristy cities, but off the beaten path, are the best decision- like finding a cheap hidden gem that is worth 5 times its weight in gold. 

The only other really fun thing this week was that I met a friend of a friend. Sammy met a 50 year old woman named Lisa at the airport when Sammy was in the middle of a snowstorm trying to come to Barcelona. They instantly bonded, and have talked every day since. We went to Lisa’s cute apartment, and walked around until we found a nice Italian restaurant in Barceloneta. The food was delicious- we had Catalan bread, hummus, a turkey and avocado sandwich, and then a delicious chocolate sausage roll thing for dessert. We had lovely conversation and it was nice to get out. After, Sammy and I went to Chupitos and then the Teatro Principal on La Rambla. 

Porto will forever have my heart, and it was such a great vacation <3

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Barcelona week 4

Time February 4th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’ve noticed some interesting, and different, things about living in Barcelona for one month- 3 of which come to mind as I write this (If you want to skip the rant, skip the next 3 paragraphs).

One, is that every cultural difference is fascinating. For example, I was talking to my friend Lorenzo (from Italy) about Socialism, Palestine vs. Israel, and Guantanamo Bay. He says that in Italy they are pro socialism. It is so interesting because in the U.S., we are taught that socialism has never worked, bad leaders rise in the ranks, the economy worsens. However, Lorenzo said that it did help with inequality. All I could think about was that Benito Mussolini was a dictator, and killed so many Italians. However, I do think that socialism on paper makes sense; however, it has never historically worked, and probably won’t in the future. Lorenzo also sided with Palestine more than Israel, though the U.S. has always help Israel.

Along those lines, I have noticed that every American I have met thinks that America is the best country in the world. This has really annoyed me, and I can tell it annoys the locals (or foreigners) that I have encountered in this situation. Many Americans are so closed minded by our flaws because all we can think about it “’Merica.” Now, I want to specify that I love my country, and really am patriotic and thankful for the opportunities it has given me. However, if we are globally ranked 17th in reading and 32nd in math, and continually take money away from our schools, how can we brag that we give the best education? We spend so much on foreign aid, which I personally think can be excessive, and yet our economy, unemployment rate, and infrastructure is still not up to par with other countries. I think that every culture and country runs things differently, and some (yes, just some) may do it better than the U.S. (though, I have to again reiterate, I love my country, just not some of the egocentric people).

The last couple things I have noticed are that everyone is short, and everyone stares. There have been plenty of times where my 5’9’’ self has almost had to duck under a doorway, or where I look around and am a full head above everyone. There have also been times (or, basically, every time I leave the residencia) where people just stare at you. And stare. And stare. Here, it’s not rude, or awkward. I know I don’t look ridiculously attractive or obviously American with my darker features. People just have no shame staring.

Anyway, a couple of really cool things happened this week. On Tuesday, I went to a “fashion show” at the W hotel! The W hotel is a 25 floor hotel that sits right at the coast of the beach. And okay, it wasn’t really a fashion show. But there were designers there of the brand MarcLuis (spelling?) and the fashion slow was a slideshow. But the view was beyond incredible. Eclipse is on the 24th floor of the W hotel, and so we saw the city bright up at night with incredible views. They played excellent music, and me and Fred almost snuck into the VIP section. There were a lot of older people there, so it was a little different crowd than I was expecting, but it was still very cool. 

On Thursday, I decided to go on an adventure and see the beach at sunset. I just sat there and watched the crazy surfers (surfing in January?) and enjoyed the view. A dog even came up to me on the beach and sat next to me for a minute, so I got to pet and love it while enjoying the sunset. 

I got to see some of my best friends back home this week. They are both studying abroad in Barcelona, though they live on the other side of the city. On Thursday night we went out with them and had a crazy night filled with the police randomly stopping us on the street, meeting a lot of my other friends, and dancing the night away. The next day we went to Port Vell, got gelato, and walked around La Rambla. Then, on Sunday, we got Kebab together and again went to Port Vell and walked around the Gothic quarter. 

The best part of my week came on Saturday. After having a calm night in, cooking Salmon, brussels sprouts, and rice with Sammy, then watching Super Troopers, I woke up at 5:15 in the morning to go on an all day trip to France! The trip was so cheap because I went through a promoter, and it was the best and cheapest way to see France. I slept on the bus, but woke up in time to watch the sunrise over the mountains. We got to Narbonne at around 10, and it was beautiful (but cold). We started off the tour by going to a Cathedral that was built in the 14th century, next to a tower built in the 9th century. We went in and it was one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. The high walls, images, detailing, and stained glass were unmatchable. We also went to some underground storage parlors, where they used to store salted meat. It was even colder down there, and really creepy- it reminded me of the catacombs in Italy. Sammy, Lauren, and I then went and found some freshly made delicious Nutella crepes- the best I’ve had in my life. We then went shopping and went to this cute French café.

After Narbonne, we then travelled to Montpellier. Unfortunately, it was raining the entire time we were there, though the city still managed to be beautiful. The tour took us to a majestic church, walked around the city, past fountains and plazas and beautiful places. It was hard to hear to tour guide because of the rain, but it was still nice to walk around. After the tour, we found a place to eat. I got a really good sandwich with French fries, and we had calamari to start. We then went shopping (I bought a shot glass for my collection), and just walked and took pictures. Great day :) 

The only disappointing this about this week was that my plans to watch the Super bowl with 3 different groups of people failed, and I (unknowingly) fifth wheeled my friends to dinner and a bar. But if those are my only complaints, I am obviously still living the dream.

 

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Barcelona week 3

Time January 27th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I had another great and busy week!

First off, I want to say how much I love living in a residencia. I have met so many people from so many different countries that it is unreal. They also know the places to shop, the sites to see, and the local festivities. Every night, you see people cooking in the kitchen or studying in the living room, and it is really easy to hang out and learn what other cultures have to offer. Also, it is fun to go out with them and making more friends! Plus, my best friend Sammy lives in a residencia too, so my friend group has enormously expanded. I have 4 groups of friends- my residencia, Sammy and her residencia, two friends from back home, and another abroad program here from Maryland. I was telling Sammy the other day that I am so happy that I don’t live in an apartment like the other abroad program, or with my two friends from back home. All those people live together, go to the same school, and hang out together. Everyday. I, however, am not getting tired of anyone, always have someone to hang out with, and get invited to all these different events.

I went on some cool random adventures this week. First, on Tuesday, after another day of long classes, I asked Sammy if she wanted to go to the beach. She said yes, and so after her classes we headed to Drasseneus- the La Rambla metro stop. We walked along to find Port Vell, the Port of Barcelona. We actually went at the most perfect time- sunset. The pictures I have of Monjuic and the Mediterranean are absolutely beautiful- worthy of a postcard (which, as a matter of fact, I did send them via Postgram- a cool app that sends a personalized postcard for pretty cheap). It was so cool! They also have a real shopping mall there, and I definitely want to go get tapas on the shore. We then walked to Barceloneta- the beach. It was a little farther than I thought, and it was dark when we got there, but it was still beautiful.

Another adventure that I went on was seeing the Festa Major in my district of Gracia. My Italian and Egyptian residencia friends invited me to go “see a bonfire,” and we walked about 5 minutes to this giant festival. They had bonfires, dancing, music, shows, devils, even a human tower (a big Spanish tradition)! Apparently they celebrate a Saint and also “honor” the devil. People dressed as devils lit fireworks and scared people there as a part of the show- very interesting!

My last adventure of the week was running to the Mediterranean and back. It was our first time together, and she is definitely above my level. We ran to Port Vell, and it was such a beautiful day that we just sat down and chilled for an hour and a half. Crazy! We then ran back (La Rambla to Passeig de Gracia) and it was really cool to see some places I hadn’t noticed before. I was proud of myself. Sammy kept having to slow down and wait for me, and at the end she had to cheer me on so I wouldn’t give up, but I am definitely proud.

I also had some good food this week. I also found a place that has 1 euro tapas on Sundays and Wednesdays, and .50 euro tapas on Mondays!  So, on Wednesday night, me and some of my friends from Maryland (Kiara, Blair, Maggie, Lauren, Alec, and Sam) went to 100 Montaditos! I got 3 sandwiches, a desert sandwich, a beer, and chedder fries for 6 euros, and it was pretty decent!

I had two “potluck” dinners this week- one with my Maryland friends, and the other with Sammy! I only brought some vegetables and chips, while they cooked rice, chicken, tortillas, sandwiches, spinach, mashed potatoes, and pizza. Then, the next night, I taught Sammy how to cook. We made chicken fettuccine alfredo with vegetables and bread. She was proud, and I was too!

Finally, on Saturday, my Maryland friends, Sammy, and I went to Ripoll, a city an hour and a half North of Barcelona. The city in the mountains was really cool. It was the first time I left Barcelona and it reminded me so much of Italy- random towns and hills and houses at the top of a green mountain. At Ripoll, we went to this pretty church and ancient monastery. The courtyard was beautiful, and it was neat to walk around and see the city- even though it was freezing. It was poorer than Barcelona, and a lot of it was run down, but it was pretty in its own way. Plus, it had so much history. It was the capital of Cataluyna at one point (I think), or at least where it originated, and the church we went to started construction in 870.

We had lunch at this awesome place- I had veggie soup (because I was cold), rabbit (complete with the kidney and lungs), and we had a special Catraluyan cake for desert. After, I had a 1 euro European brownie with my program advisor- worth it :)

My internship is going pretty well! I am currently working for a potential client, and making a Prezi for my company’s pitch, as well as researching more background information. I like doing the work, and I get to listen to music while I do it :)

This week for night life, I went to Otto Zutz, Hot Bar, and Bling Bling. Bling Bling had a chocolate bar (for free), which was obviously the highlight of my night. Otto Zutz has 3 different music rooms, so you can choose what music to dance too. I really enjoyed it!

I might go to France this weekend, and then Portugal in two weeks. The weather will hopefully be nicer here soon, so I can be outside more, go shopping, and hit the beach!

<3

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Barcelona- week 2

Time January 20th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This week has been amazing! I do still love life here. I just love how relaxed everyone is in Spain- you can do what you what, and a lot of people don’t care if you do it on your own time. People eat really late, and actually care about their food and their people. No one eats in the streets , or in the car “on the go” here- natives really want to order, sit down, have courses, and socialize over an hour long lunch. Relationships seem to really be cultivated. For example, I see old couple still holding hands, couples stealing kisses when they can, and when you greet someone, you kiss both of their cheeks (or touch cheeks, more like)- so endearing and inviting.

Another thing I love about Spain is that everywhere you go, there is something to look at. Architecture is the biggest thing, because buildings are all different, and many different colors. Plus, if you live in an excellent neighborhood like Gracia (which I am lucky enough to say that I do), everything is just beautiful and central to the city. I don’t think I have taken so many pictures of buildings in my entire life, but hey, it’s Europe.

So, this week I started my internship! So far it has been really good. I intern for a company called International Policy Group, and am doing marketing/research for them. I work Monday and Wednesday from 9-5, with an hour for lunch. I have researched this one topic category, and gave it to my boss, who loved it and said that was exactly what she was looking for :) I also made friends with another intern from Britain. We had lunch together on Wednesday, and he showed me this cute place where I got a salmon, avocado, cream cheese sandwich for pretty cheap! I celebrated my first day at my internship with going out that night with friends :)

Another thing that is cool about Barcelona is that you can go on a random adventure, even alone, and still have fun. I went to a place that Sam (the other intern) told me to go- with a “better view of Barcelona than Parc Guell.” Los Bunkers del Carmel is the name- apparently it is an abandoned war zone that has cement blocks overlooking the city. I would love to go there at sunset and have a picnic- we will see! I tried to find it, got a little lost, but still found a beautiful hill to climb and snapped a picture.

Classes are great so far. I am taking two- International Marketing Strategies and Spanish 1. My entire Spanish class is in Spanish, which for the very beginning level is a little… different. We are going pretty fast but I am excited to learn the language! Here, university is pretty chill. You call professors by their first name, and you don’t have much to do unless it is project time/final exam time. So, with that, I haven’t been too stressed :)

I went to a cooking class this week! It was so fun! We met our chef Manel at the marketplace on La Rambla, and he showed us some of the good places to get food. There are stands for just potatoes, or mushrooms, and a lot of fresh fish and fruits and vegetables! So good! So we bought pork, rabbit, and chicken, among other things, for our cooking class. We went back to the shop and started to cook! We had a delicious Spanish omelette, meat paella, and custard desert. It was great to cook it and eat it.

My favorite food this week was definitely at this place called Brunch and Cake. My friend Sammy and I split eggs benedict on waffles, and then a sandwich with cheese, mushrooms, caramelized apples, onions, spinach, and nuts. For desert, we had pancakes under melted chocolate, fruit, powdered sugar, and nuts. It was so good that no dinner was needed. We sat outside, under a blanket, facing a beautiful building, and lived the dream. We decided every Sunday we will do that- have brunch somewhere nice.

One night after walking home from a free museum (on Sundays, a lot are free, so hey, why not get cultured about a new city every week) and going out with friends for churros dipped in chocolate, I saw a street quartet jamming to Pachabel’s cannon- one of my favorites. It didn’t matter that it was raining, or on a Sunday night. What mattered was the beautiful music in a beautiful city <3

This week, I went to BlingBling, Sala Apolo, Ottozutz, Sutton, Hot Bar, and Soho. All great nightlife areas, and definitely places to go to if you’re looking for some fantastic fun within walking distance.

I am going to Ripoll next week, and booked my trip to Portugal in a couple of weeks! So excited for what is to come!

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Barcelona- week 1

Time January 13th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Barcelona in three words: beautiful, lively, amazing. I have been here less than a week, but I already know that this is the experience of a lifetime. It still hasn’t hit me that I have four months to live in this beautiful place.

So far, I am good friends with another girl in my program, Sammy. I have also made friends with people in my residencia: my roommate Carolina (from Brazil), Lucia (from Colombia), Lorenzo (from Italy), Lobke (from Belgium), and more. I also know people from Sammy’s residencia, so I have met many new people from around the world. In addition, we have hung out with another study abroad group from Maryland a good amount, and I have a couple of friends from my home university who are here!

My residencia is located on Gran de Gracia, in the Gracia district. The location is amazing- a five minute walk to Avenue Diagonal, two metro stops from Passeig de Gracia (which has many landmarks and shopping areas), and three metro stops from Placa Catalunya, the center of the city. I have a balcony overlooking the street, and it is beautiful (though loud).

On the first day, my program advisers and Sammy ate at the top of the Claris hotel. We had a beautiful view of the city, with the mountains and an old church on the hilltop. I had goose liver, mushroom ravioli and a poached egg as an appetizer, fish and rice, And banana crepes for dessert. All so good, and cost my advisers more than 100 euros! We had a lot of greenery on top of the hotel, and I hope to go there again.

Restaurants in Barcelona have a good lunch menu- they give you a three course lunch for under about 10 euros- a pretty good deal! We have been doing that, and I always get two things Barcelona is known for: fresh fish and delicious chocolate. I am also cooking in my residencia to save money.

I have been on two awesome tours so far. The first one was a Gothic tour of Barcelona. We started at an ancient church, and worked our way around. We went to the steps where Columbus first told the king that he had found America. Who knew that he also kidnapped six slaves and had a really sketchy past? We also went to a 600 year old cathedral that had an antique marketplace outside. We then went to the oldest temple in Barcelona, and saw the place where Gaudi (a famous architect) was fatally wounded and where 40 children died in a Spanish civil war bombing. We then went to las ramblas- a marketplace. They have homemade chocolate (that started in Spain after colonization of the new world) where you dip it into random things. They have all sorts of shops, an erotic museum, and a huge marketplace with amazing fresh fruit, vegetables, chocolates, meats, fish… everything. I definitely want to go back!

Then, I went on a modern tour! It was really quite cool. We had the same tour guide as the other day, and he was very intelligent and informational. We learned about Placa de Musical (beautiful concert area 100 years old), went to the 4 Cats (Picasso’s hangout), went to Passeig de Gracia and saw Placa Catalunya, Casa Amatller, and Casa Batllo, as well as another Gaudi work and a store. It was cool to hear about the history and see the architecture of the modern days.

Today, I went on a run and found new places. I finally saw the Sagrada Familia- what a breathtaking site! I also found dog parks, playgrounds, and other cool places that you can only find by wandering around a city. I then went with friends to the Picasso museum- for free! Barcelona has a lot of free museums on Sundays. After, we went to this delicious place called Farggi, and had fried dough dipped in a bowl of chocolate!

Almost every night, I have gone out with friends and really explored the city. I have met locals, people from around the world, and have not had the same nightlife experience twice. Going to new sites and seeing new people every night is a norm, and I will never get tired to finding new places to dance, socialize, and meet locals :)

I start school on Tuesday, and my internship (I think) next week. Many good things to come! 

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Five days until Spain!

Time January 3rd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I am in absolute utter shock to realize that I leave on Monday. 5 days. 120 hours. 7,200 minutes. 432,000 seconds. As you can tell, I am inexpressively excited.

I have been nothing more but enamored with the ideas of exploring Barcelona, getting to know the people that I meet along the way, becoming more culturally aware, seeing what the nightlife has to offer, working for an internship with International Policy Group, and learning Spanish (because as of now, I have taken beginner Spanish six years ago… so I am basically fluent).

I know I will get lost on the streets and the metro. I know I will be that American that will expect people to talk to me in English, or basic Spanish. I know I will that American with a million questions, striving for self-sufficiency, but never quite making it. However, I will also be that American who has the time of her life, that American who will make such good friends with fellow travelers because of the unique shared experiences, and that American who will never let a language barrier get in the way of exploring.

I haven’t started packing yet, but am definitely ready to face any obstacles and adventures that await for me overseas!

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