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Reverse Culture Shock

Time January 12th, 2015 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Returning home after a semester abroad is a crazy mix of feelings. It’s so exciting to see your family and friends after months of being away, but at the same time it is extremely difficult to say goodbye to the new relationships that you have created while abroad. Here are some tips to get through your reverse culture shock.

1) Make a list of the things you want to do a month before your semester is over. This way you can slowly check everything off instead of rushing to do everything in the last week.

2) Spend some quality time with your closest friends abroad. By the end of the semester I found myself hanging out with large groups of people, but I think it’s really important to get one-on-one time with the few people that made a lasting impact on your semester and life.

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Random Study Abroad Tips!

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

I have one week left in Barcelona before I leave for a two week trip with my brothers! We are visiting Amsterdam, Munich, and Berlin for the holidays, and I am beyond excited. As my last blog post I decided it would be a good idea to give some tips to you future study abroad people! So here we go…

1. If possible, travel before and/or after your semester abroad. Even if it is just for a few days. It makes leaving your new home abroad a little bit easier and it give you a few days to adjust before the first crazy week of orientation begins. Also, if you are already spending a fortune on a plane ticket to Europe, make your trip as long as possible!

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Semester Coming to and End

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

It’s hard to believe that I am already reflecting upon my semester abroad. I feel like it is still September and I have the whole semester ahead of me, time sure does fly. Overall, I am extremely happy with my time in Barcelona. I got to travel around Spain and parts of Europe, meet tons of new and interesting people, and experience different cultures while learning more about my own. No matter how spectacular my time was here, there are still a few things I wish I could change.

One, I wish I had lived in the moment more. September was the most exciting month abroad. I was constantly experiencing new things; people, food, museums, languages. During these new experiences I just kept wondering and planning for what came next. For example, during La Merce I was constantly trying to fit in as many concerts as possible in one night. I wish I could go back and tell my brain to slow down to enjoy and appreciate whatever I was experiencing in that moment, instead of thinking about what concert or festival I would go to next. Two, I wish I worked a little harder to maintain new friendships. Back in August I met a great group of Spaniards in Ireland and a few of them happened to live in Barcelona. We had such an amazing time together hiking, adventuring, and going to pubs. Ironically we were even on the same flight from Dublin to Barcelona. At first I sent them a few messages to meet up here, but our plans always fell through. Eventually I gave up trying to see them again, but I wish I had kept trying. I have a few free days between my program ending and leaving Barcelona, so I think I will try to meet up with them again!

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Dream Big

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

My amazing, wonderful, beautiful, brave mother is on her way to Spain!!! My mom has always had a fascination with the Spanish language and culture. She loved it so much that she decided to place my two brothers and I in a program called Spanish Immersion. This programs runs from kindergarten until the 5th grade were you are completely immersed in the Spanish language. I mean everything is taught in Spanish! Math, science, history, etc. For an hour a day we would switch classrooms and have an English class, learning basic vocabulary and grammar. But basically, all day we spoke in Spanish. By the second grade we weren´t allowed to speak English at all in the classroom. Pretty crazy huh?

My mom always talked about taking a family trip to Spain once we all made it through the program. She wanted to show us that all of our hard work was meant for a reason, to be able to communicate and understand another culture on a deep level. For financial reasons and well, life, that trip never happened.

Over the years my mom’s dream of visiting Spain stuck with me. I worked so hard to be here in Barcelona studying, working, living and experiencing the culture every day. My dream has come true, and now it´s time to accomplish hers. Her plane gets in tomorrow. We are spending a few days in Barcelona, then four in Madrid and then we return for another three in Barcelona. She only has a week here so we are cramming in as much Catalan and Spanish experiences as possible!

People, work hard, save your money, and study abroad. You will never have the opportunity for an experience like this one. Make your dreams (and maybe your parent’s dreams) come true!

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Ups and Downs

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

The past month while being abroad has flown by! I spent a weekend in London, visited the Dali Museum in Figures, spent a day touring Girona; all of this while taking classes and working at my internship. No wonder why they past month has felt like just three or four days.

No matter how spectacular living and studying in a foreign country is, all of those wonderful experiences come along with a few not so wonderful ones. Last Friday I was feeling a little stressed with school work. I decided to take my laptop to a quiet cafe and spend the whole day working. About an hour into researching for one of my many papers my computer screen started freaking out and the screen went blue. It shut down and wouldn´t turn back on. My first feeling, panic. I emailed my dad from my iPod which I connect to wifi at times. He told me that my computer definitely had a virus and I shouldn´t do anything until I get it looked at. After days of researching (on a public library computer) I finally found a man that said he could fix it.

It has officially been a week and my computer is still not working properly. The communication between the man and I is definitely a challenge. I speak Spanish fluently, but I don´t understand computer terminology even in English! So in the meantime I´m trying to stay positive, get work done on friends’ computers and at the library, and I just keep hoping that I´m back with a working computer as soon as possible.

So the lesson here for people who are preparing to study abroad; get ready for some stressful times, try to stay calm, flexible, and positive throughout difficult situations. Also, back up all of your pictures and papers! Woops….

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South of Spain

Time October 30th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Unfortunately my program doesn’t give us that much time off. We have no fall break and every other Friday I have class so that makes traveling kind of tricky. I decided to take the last week of from classes, my internship, and all other responsibilities to travel to Córdoba and Granada and get a taste of the South! Boy was that one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was so great to get some time to myself; living with a host family gives me basically no privacy. It was also my first time traveling alone and I really enjoyed the freedom to do whatever I wanted without having to run it by someone else or make compromises. So here’s what I’ve been up to for the past week of ‘vacation’.

Córdoba

I got to Córdoba Thursday night, and my new friend Paul was nice enough to meet me at the train station. I met him in Paris and knew he was studying in Córdoba so when I told him I would be in town he insisted on letting me crash at his place, what a great guy. He lives in an apartment building with the rest of his studying abroad program, they were a crazy bunch but all very friendly. After I dropped off my stuff Paul and I walked around the city for bit. I was surprised by how small yet busy it was. We walked through many courtyards with fountains, a few Roman ruins here and there covered with cats (yes cats! There were stray cats everywhere in the south…) and lots and lots of churches. We ended up on this tiny street filled with tapas restaurants and tons of people. A great thing about the southern cities in Spain are the prices, a beer is less than a euro and the tapas weren’t much more! In Barcelona you would never see those prices with that quality of food. I got my usual patatas alioli, and man they were yummy. That was pretty much it for night one in Córdoba, I had the best night sleep that I’ve had in a long time because all my stress was gone and I was officially on vacation!

The next morning we were up super early and off to see the Muslim mosque, la Mezquita. This is what I was most excited to see in Córdoba, we learned all about the construction of the mosque and the effects that the Muslims had on Spain in my cultures class. I was excited to see what I’ve been learning about in class in real life. I only wish I got to see it before my test that was the week prior; it would have helped me visualize everything. Anyways, the mosque definitely lived up to my high expectations! It was stunning. Construction began in 785 after the Muslims invaded Córdoba, but in 1236 Córdoba was conquered by the Christians who build a massive cathedral in the center of the mosque. So picture this, a Muslim mosque with symmetrical repeating arches, geometric carvings, mosaics; and then smack in the center a cathedral with a huge alter, paintings of Jesus on the cross, a section for the choir, the two images don’t really go together. I actually found it kind of silly that it was all under one roof, but the two structures do serve the same purpose, to allow people the space to connect with God. No matter how beautiful the cathedral was, I enjoyed walking around the mosque more. The cathedral was bright and light up, but when you walked out it became dark and mysterious, I also just really liked walking through the endless rows of red and white striped arches.

La Mezquita was definitely the highlight of my time in Córdoba, we spent the majority of our afternoon exploring and listening to our audio guides, it was great. Afterwards we had a picnic lunch and then headed to a free flamenco show that Paul knew about. The show was fantastic! I swear the guitarist had four hands because he was playing so quickly, the female vocalist and male dancer were also incredibly talented and passionate. By the end of the 45 minute show all three performers were soaked in sweat. It was a blast! The last time I saw flamenco was in Sevilla last summer with my best friend Caroline. Both shows had the same traditional dancing and singing, but I love how each performance adds its own personality to it. You can’t get flamenco like that in the North, that’s for sure.

After siestas, I borrowed one of Paul’s friends bike and we headed out to see different parts of the city. That’s another thing about these smaller cities in the South, no metro system. I’m so used to things being far away and having to use some sort of public transportation to get there, but in Córdoba you have to walk or bike to get anyplace. It was a nice change in pace. After seeing his school, some cool parks and a killer sunset, we met up with his friends for paella and bar hopping. It was an awesome day.

Saturday we went to a super tiny town, I’m going to go ahead and call it a village, named Almodóvar. I woke up after the 30 minute bus ride to find myself in basically the middle of nowhere. Okay, I’m over exaggerating a bit. To my left was a tiny village filed with cute white houses, in front of me up a crazy hill was a caste, and to my right were endless green fields. Once we made it to the top of the steep hill we walked around the castle to get a 360 view, it was spectacular. We finally headed into el Castillo de Almodóvar and were excited to see that we basically had the whole place to ourselves!

My favorite part of our self-guided tour (other than the breathtaking views at every turn) was that the castell was set up to make you feel as if it were still the 14th century. Renaissance like music was playing and old flags were blowing, they even had mannequins in the dungeon to make it look like people were still kept down there. It was the freakiest thing ever; we were walking down into the pitch black when lights shot on and there was a ‘person’ hanging in the middle of the room, it was so realistic and terrifying. I think Paul would agree with me since we snapped a picture for proof and then sprinted out of there. The single greatest part of the castle was in one tower they had metal steps in the center to get you even higher up and give you the absolute best view of the surroundings. Our castle adventure took up the majority of my second day in Cordóba, and it was another great one. That night we coked a delicious dinner and checked out the chill nightlife in the city again. Don’t get me wrong I totally love Barcelona, but I think I would have fit in in a smaller city like Cordóba or Sevilla better, more relaxing and less party central. The next day I was up early and back on a train to continue my vacation in Granada! Paul was the best tour guide ever, and hopefully I can do the same for him when he visits Barcelona in a week.

Granada

By Sunday afternoon I was finally in Granada, and this time I was really really traveling alone. No one was there to meet me at the train station and guide me to my destination; it was all up to me. And of course I didn’t put much thought into that until it was already too late, luckily I had the name, address, and phone number of the hostel written down. So after a few hours of getting lost and talking to some very friendly strangers, I finally arrived! My hostel was so cute, I loved it. It was in the middle of a tiny neighborhood unmarked, from the outside you couldn’t even tell that it was a hostel. The people who worked there could not have been more helpful and kind. And the best part was the rooftop kitchen and patio had the sickest view of Granada! Travelling and getting lost completely drained me, so the rest of my Sunday was getting groceries, cooking a simple meal, planning my next few days, and hanging out on this kick ass rooftop. I was in heaven.

The only teeny tiny complain that I had about my hostel was that I didn’t get a chance to meet many people. That’s my favorite part about traveling and staying in hostels, however this place was relatively empty with the exception of a few couples. It wasn’t all bad though, because I had tons of time to myself and I became pretty close to the owner, this cool chick named Helena who spends all of her time keeping the hostel going, playing guitar on the rooftop, and drinking weird teas….she was great.

After a killer night sleep in my cozy private room, I headed out to La Alhambra where I planned on spending my entire day. Side note: if any of you are planning on visiting Granada and La Alhambra buy your tickets like a month in advance. I almost didn’t get to go which would have been devastating, but the travel gods were on my side and I magically got a ticket last minute. Anyhow, I left for the Alhambra about 4 hours before my tour for a few reasons. One I wanted to figure out how the get their without a map, which isn’t too difficult to do in a small town like Granada but you need to set extra time aside for this. Two I wanted to stop in all of the cute shops along the way. And three, I packed a picnic to eat at the top of the hill before I started my tour.

So after all of that it was finally 2:30 and time for me to enter los Palacios Nazaríes. At first it was difficult to appreciate what I was looking at with the insane number of tour groups pushing by me, but eventually I found my flow. I would listening to the information from the audio guide in the corner and then weave through the groups and take my time soaking in all the beauty. I guess I should probably explain what La Alhambra is first….it’s another structure that I’m learning about in my cultures class, so again I was super pumped to see it in person. It was originally a small fortress in 889 but then converted into a Moorish empire in the 11th century, and finally it was converted into a royal palace in 1333. It has been described as “out of this world” or “paradise on earth”. There are three major sections to tour, los Palacios Nazaríes, la Alcazba, and Generalife.

Los Palacios Nazaríes is where I started my tour. This palace was for the Moorish rulers. It was spectacular. Arches and domes completely covered in detailed carvings. Every inch of space was decorated with a colorful tile, geometric caring, or shimmering paint. So royal and extravagant. Water played an important role to the Muslims. Around every corner there was a different fountain or reflective pool. The pools reflected the image of the palace making it even more overwhelming. La Alcazba is the oldest part of the layout. This structure was much less over-the-top, but from the tops of the towers you got an awesome view of the rest of the grounds and of the city of Granada. Lastly, Generalife was connected to the rest of the area with beautiful sprawling gardens. The building was used as a summer palace for the kings. La Generalife was very similar to los Palacios Nazaríes with its extreme decoration and multiple fountains, but it was much smaller.

It’s really hard to describe the beauty of la Alhambra, I learned about it in class and saw pictures and videos, but I didn’t fully grasp it until I saw it in person. After my time at la Alhambra, I cooked, saw the most beautiful sunset from my hostel roof, and went to bed. It was a thrilling and tiring day.

Wow I just realized that this is going to be my longest post ever. Props to you if you’ve made it this far! I’ll try to summarize my last few days.

Day two in Granada, I accidentally slept through my alarm and woke up at 12. Woops! I switched some of my plans over to the next day and had the most relaxing Tuesday. I spent my day getting lost in Granada, shopping, writing postcards, meeting people, and basically killing time until an hour before the sunset. I listened to one of Rick Steve’s suggestions and went to San Nicolas Viewpoint, Mirador de San Nicolas. Again, this place was completely packed with people. I found a spot on the ledge in the corner and soaked up the view. In front of me was la Alhambra in all its glory and to my right was the sun starting to set behind the mountain. It wasn’t until now that I realized how big la Alhabra really is. The sunset was nice (not as beautiful as the one from my rooftop!) but after it got dark was when the magic really happened. Lights light up all of the palaces from the bottom. It was seriously the coolest thing. People were buzzing trying to get the best picture possible. I hung out here for an hour or two until most of the crowds were gone and called it a night.

For my last day in Granada, I was up and out the door early. I spent the morning finishing my souvenir shopping and bought a ton. The prices were cheap to begin with and I love bartering so I got everything crazy cheap and even got a few free things thrown in for my ‘good Spanish’, whatever that means. I spent the early afternoon wandering the streets and stumbling across awesome street performers including a flamenco show! That was some unexpected fun. Finally I made it to my destination which was the Royal Chapel of Granada and the Cathedral. Both amazing and beautiful churches. I especially enjoyed the royal chapel, because that is where Ferdinand’s and Isabella’s bodies rest. Again, I’m learning about them in my cultures class so seeing their final resting place really meant something to me. The cathedral was also awesome to walk through; it is the second largest cathedral in Spain behind the one in Sevilla. No pictures are allowed in either structure, so it was nice to walk around, enjoy the art, and not worry about getting ‘the perfect shot’.

Well that sums up my week of exploring the South of Spain. My last few hours were spent watching my last sunset on the roof, hanging out with Elena while she played the guitar, and catching my 11 hour long train ride back to Barcelona. It was so nice to ditch the craziness of this big city for a week and experience a different part of this amazing and diverse country. Although, like always, it feels so good to be back in Barcelona.

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Weekend Trip with IFSA

Time October 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This past weekend, my study abroad program took our group of five on a jammed packed overnight trip to Tarragona. We embarked bright and early Saturday morning, after a killer nap on the bus we arrived in a cute small town called Mont Blanc. It was really refreshing to be out of the hustle and bustle in Barcelona which is seriously a city that never sleeps. At all hours of the night there are people and cars nosily going past my window. As we walked through Mont Blanc at 10am on a Saturday, there was not a soul on the street. All of the shops and restaurant, with the exception of one bakery were closed. By 10am in Barca the whole city is lively! We explored for a bit, had a coffee, and then made our way to our first destination, to see ancient cave paintings. We met up with our tour guide at a museum that used to be a prison. He spent about an hour teaching us the importance and history behind the cave paintings. It was a little hard to understand because he only spoke Spanish, fast Spanish with a thick accent. So got about 75% oh what he was talking about. But turns out he is this famous archeologist/professor in Spain, so that’s pretty sweet. After lots of listening, we hopped in two jeeps and started up the mountain!
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Time Flies

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

The last time I had a chance to post was after my weekend in Paris. Ever since then my life in Barcelona has sped up with class and my internship! The month of September was for us to get oriented with the city and living abroad in general. Barcelona had a few holidays which gave us time off from class and work. When October 1st came around, life got crazy. No more days off, the assignments started rolling in, and writing blogs for work became more difficult, and on top of that I was sick for a week. See study abroad life isn’t always fun and games! (only 99% of the time it is…) Anyways, here are the highlights from my past few weeks.

“Octoberfest”
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Weekend in Paris

Time September 29th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past week Barcelona has been celebrating La Mercé, a weeklong festival celebrating Mare de Déu de la Mercè, a patron Saint. Due to the endless parties and events, I had five consecutive days without class, my internship or any responsibilities. You know that that means? I have time to finally take a trip somewhere! A lot of my American friends were heading to Germany for Oktoberfest. After realizing that it was way too expensive and that I’ll be in Germany in just a few months for Christmas and New Year’s I decided to pick a different location, Paris. My friend John decided to tag along. I was excited to be off on my own, but in the end it was nice having a travel buddy along my side. Okay moving on…here is how I spent my time in the magical city of Paris!

Day One: After pulling yet another all-nighter (oh well I’ll sleep once I’m back in the states…) we arrived in France! And after an hour and a half bus ride (thanks to Ryan Air being very cheap but dropping you off at sketchy far away airports) I was in Paris! The metro was much more confusing than the one in Spain but eventually we found out way to the Peace & Love hostel. Very tiny, but still very cool. After whipping up some yummy food (yay for saving money!) we grabbed our cameras and decided to wander around the city in our sleepy confused states. First stop was Notre Dame. John was especially pumped about this magnificent structure. It was so intricately decorated, we spent a long time walking all the way around and taking way too many pictures. My favorite parts were the gargouilles!

Next stop was the Eiffel tower. It was spectacular! Way bigger than I had previously imagined it. We explored and looked at it from different distances and angle, but ended up sitting in a park right next to it having to lean back to see the entire structure, my mind was blown. After a lot of ooo-ing and aaa-ing, we headed back to our hostel to crash for the night and try to catch up one sleep. Oh I forgot to mention that I had my first (and definitely not last) Nutella crepe! So delicious.

Day Two: John and I parted ways for the day since we both have extremely different interests. He headed to the Catacombs while I went off to the Musée d’Orsay. I got there crazy early and was one of the first people in. One great thing that I discovered about Paris is that European students get into practically every museum for free! So I saved 11 euros and was a happy camper. I did pay for an audio guide which I don’t regret, it had a ton of interesting information about the paintings and sculptures that I would have never known without it.  Since I was alone, I took my sweet time wandering around the first and second floor filled with French art created between 1848 and 1915. By far my favorite part of the museum was the fifth floor were the impressionist collections were displayed. Monet, Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh, the list goes on and on.

Once I finally had enough art, I met up with my friend Heather from PhilaU who is studying in France for a year. Lucky girl! She took me to the chic neighborhood called Le Marais. We spend the afternoon wandering around the cute streets, eating crepes, and shopping. What can you expect from two fashion majors hanging out in Paris! Later on she took me to her swanky apartment in the wealthy part of the city. She was sweet enough to cook me a fabulous dinner which included fancy French pasta, shrimp, wine, chocolate mousse, and of course a baguette.

Next, Heather, her roommates, and I headed back to center city to check out the Louvre. We got there at an incredible time, just as the sun was setting. After taking a million pictures of the famous pyramid, we entered the museum (for free!). We went straight for the Mona Lisa and only had to wait a short time to get to the front of the crowd. It was very surreal to see it in person, but after a minute or two we left the crowds and explored other parts of the museum. At this point I was completely exhausted so we focused on the ancient Egyptian art and called it a day. That night I went out with a cool guy named Paul who I met in the hostel. We met up with Heather and some of her friends and went bar hopping. Unfortunately drinks in Paris are outrageously priced, so we split a few rounds of shots, talked, hung out, and called it a night. It was a spectacularly jam packed day!

Day Three: Saturday was less busy but equally as exciting! John and I grabbed a classic Paris hostel breakfast of Nutella and a baguette and headed on a train toward Versailles. We arrived at the peak tourist time, but in no time we were in the spectacular palace. We leisurely walked around the house listening to the story behind each extravagant room. Each area more decorated and royal than the next, we couldn’t help but take a ton of pictures. John was all about the panoramas which turned out really cool. After a few hours we went outside for our picnic lunch which gave us some much needed energy. We checked out the royal gardens from afar but decided not to pay the extra entrance fee.

We returned to the hostel for a siesta, and I woke up feeling as good as new. We hit the grocery store and what I thought would be a simple dinner turned out to be a three course meal. Who knew that John could cook! And thank goodness our hostel had an awesome kitchen with everything that we could need….well expect a cork screw. After our yummy feast, we packed up some drinks and our cameras and headed to the Eiffel tower to check it out at night! Emerging from the metro the first thing we saw was the beautiful structure with a pretty golden glow. We walked away from the masses of people and headed towards the side of the structure. Once closer we could hear some loud music, which turned out to be a live concert about five minutes across from the tower! It was about to end once we got there, but it was still a neat surprise.

Back at the Eiffel tower we started talking to some nice Americans about Paris and the incredible stuff that we have been doing. John and I were about to leave when they told us that in just a few minutes the Eiffel tower was about to put on a show. I was confused since it was already beautifully light, but they were right. At exactly 11 o’clock the tower started to twinkle. It took my breath away. No matter how many pictures and videos I took, nothing can compare to seeing it in person. Five minutes later the tower returned to its normal glow and we headed home. It was quite the evening.

Day Four: I woke up on Sunday feeling sad that it was my last day. But that meant I needed to fit in as much as possible so I was out the door relatively early. My travel buddy tagged along as I went to the Bastille market to meet up with Heather (my personal Paris tour guide). We wandered the fresh food and produce stands for a bit before deciding what to eat. Heather and I branched out and tried some awesome fried veggies and John got his first breakfast crepe. Once we were nice and full we spent hours looking at the all cool stands and listening to the fun street music. The market was filled with great accessories and clothing, my favorite stand was a guy who made one-of-a-kind hand beaded jewelry. It was a little expensive but I ended up getting myself a small pair of yellow beaded earrings, I was especially excited about this purchase. I also got lucky with a few cheap gifts for some loved ones back home.

After an awesome morning with Heather she had to leave us to do homework and sleep since she had class early the next day. We made a plan to meet her for dinner later that night though. Next, John and I took the metro to the Louvre so he could see the iconic pyramid. We people watched for a bit and took a nap in the park out front; I was surprised to wake up to a yoga class happening right next to me! After our snooze fest we started to walk from the Louvre to the Arc de Triumphe. This walk had to be at least two miles. We walked pretty slowly and stopped a few times to watch some awesome street dancers. Eventually we made it to the arc. It was definitely bigger and more impressive than the one in Barcelona, so I’m glad we made the journey.

After yet another nap in our hostel, we meet Heather in her favorite area Le Marias to have a fancy French dinner for our last night in town. The restaurant was very tiny and filled with French people; I was pleased with Heathers suggestion. After wine, bread, cheese, salmon, chocolate mousse, and a few hours of laughing and talking the night came to an end, and so did my time in Paris. We were up the next morning by 4am on our way back to Barcelona. My short adventure in Paris was unforgettable; hopefully I get the chance to return on day.

 

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Hiking Adventures

Time September 22nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The past two Saturdays I’ve gone with my program on some pretty spectacular hikes. Last Saturday Ryan took my small group of five to the city of Olot. After a nice hour and a half nap on the bus we arrived to the small town north of Barcelona. Our tour guide Beth met us for a coffee and then we were off on our hike. Olot is a Natural Park meaning that people can live and work within the park, unlike a National Park. The park has about 40 volcanoes which haven’t been active for about 600,000 years. Our hike was pretty leisurely; we would walk for about 20 minutes and then stop so Beth could explain how volcanoes work, why they are here, if they will ever be active again, etc. She spoke both Spanish and English with us and brought a small white board to draw diagrams and spell words for us. She was very knowledgeable about the volcanoes and a great tour guide!

Olot was nothing like I had expected; while walking up and around the volcano I couldn’t even tell that we were in one. There were a lot of trees and greenery; to me it just seemed like the woods. All in all it was an awesome day; I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Barca in the future!

This past Saturday my IFSA program tagged along with a group of about 12 from Maryland that has the same director as us. We went on an intense hike up Tibidabo. We journeyed uphill for about 2 hours taking water breaks along the way. It was exhausting but felt really great to be out of the city and in the fresh air for the day. Our end goal was the Templo Expiatorio del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Expiatory Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) at the top of the mountain. Her we took our time soaking up the amazing church as well as the spectacular view of the entire city of Barcelona.

Once done exploring the top, we started our journey down the other side of the mountain. To me this was the most difficult part of the hike since it was down a rough steep hill. A few hours later with a lot of breaks, we made it to the restaurant were we ate lunch. At this point we were all completely exhausted, so we sat back, enjoyed another sick view of Barcelona and ate some tasty Spanish food. I ordered tortilla, one of my favorites! Fun fact: Zach Braff was eating at the same restaurant at the same time as us. A girl in the group talked to him in the bathroom and nearly had a panic attack.

After lunch we practically crawled back to the metro and then back home. Both hikes were very different but equally awesome! I’m looking forward to more day trips through the program in the future.

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Diada

Time September 15th, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My first week of classes and my internship were cut short by the National Day of Catalunya also known as Diada. This holiday is celebrated every year on September 11th. It commemorates the day Catalonia lost its independence during the war of the Spanish Succession. This year the holiday was particularly memorable for two reasons; one, because it was the 300th anniversary of the conquest that happened in 1714; and two, because this November 11th Spain is holding a referendum to determine the political future of Catalonia.  Catalonia has high hopes to become an independent state, however many believe that the referendum won’t actually take place at all. It´s a very exciting time to be in Barcelona!

Anyways back to Diada. Practically every school and business shut down for the day to fill the streets with festivities. Each year a different form of non-violent protest takes place. Last year a line of people holding hands went from the boarder of France all the way to Valencia, about 400 kilometers long to symbolize the unity and strength of Catalonia. This year the streets Diagonal and Gran Via were completely filled with people dressed in yellow and red standing in specific lines to form the Spanish flag. The two streets formed a V to demonstrate the vote taking place in November.

It amazes me how such a large group of people can come together to fight peacefully for one cause. Myself and the other American students studying here got emails from the US consulate warning us to not to go outside on this holiday because there would be violence and rioting in the streets. I know the consulate was just being cautious by warning us, but they could not have been more wrong. The streets were filled with families, dogs, the elderly, and everyone in between wrapped in Spanish flags and decked out in red and yellow.

At 17:14 (5:14), the 300th year anniversary everyone began to chant, cheer, sing, and make as much movement and noise as possible as a helicopter flew overhead to capture the aerial view of the human flag and V. It was one of the coolest experiences. At the end of September is another Spanish holiday and I´m so excited to see what Barcelona does to celebrate!

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First Day Interning

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

I just got home from my first day interning with a company called Share is Fashion and I could not be more thrilled! Finding the building was simple; it’s close to center city off of a major road called Diagonal. The offices are on the top floor of a very old building, but the insides have been remodeled and it’s a very sleek modern environment. I met my advisor Jaume and quickly realized how overdressed I was. He was in a denim shirt, shorts, and sneakers while I was wearing a dress, heals and a blazer. I guess it’s better to over dress than under dress. Next time I will definitely dress more casually.

Anyways, the company is so cool. They have only been up and running for about a year now, and I think the entire company consists of 5 people. After lots of hellos and kisses, (which is totally normal in a professional environment here, I know weird!) Jaume and I sat on the balcony and discussed the company and my responsibilities.

Share is Fashion is an app on your phone and a blog/website. The app is supposed to be used when someone needs advice on what to wear. You post a picture and people can vote yes or no. Núria the creator came up with the idea when she struggled deciding what looks good on her while shopping. The website is a place to follow labels, trends, and fashion blogs.

My responsibility for the next month could not be more perfect. I’m supposed to post four blogs a week predicting fall/winter trends and showing the street style of different neighborhoods in Barcelona. I can come and go from the office whenever I please, and he expects me to work the majority of my hours around the city talking to fashionistas and taking pictures along with short interviews.

A month from now the app will be new and improved and my responsibilities will change from blogging to marketing and advertisement. I’m so grateful to have this opportunity in the wonderful city of Barcelona! I’m looking forward to my next day working this Wednesday and tomorrow I start my Spanish and cultures class, let the work begin.

ps- here is a link to the website, check it out!

http://www.shareisfashion.com/blog/

 

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One Week Anniversary

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

I have officially lived in Barcelona for one week and I am completely smitten. It feels vary natural living here. I get along with my family great, I understand the metro system and with a map I can get anywhere that I need to go.

My first week here was a blast; the directors of my program Ryan and Helena jammed packed our week with fun Spanish activities. We a few meetings throughout the week were we discussed many things such as cultural differences, safety, our expectations for the semester, etc…We also took an hour long Castellano class to learn a few phrases in Barcelona’s second language. All I really remember is bon dia, for good morning!

We went out to lunch with our program a few times which was awesome. Helena ordered a bunch of different plates and taught us the names of things. Ordering food here can be a challenge at times because you don’t learn the names of dishes in Spanish classes. Sometimes I end up with something that I didn’t expect but I always enjoy it, good thing I’m not a picky eater.

Thursday night was one of my favorite activities, a cooking class! Everyone was in charge of making one dish. Alex made gazpacho which is a tomato soup served cold, yummy but not my favorite food on the menu. My memory is a little fuzzy, but John made this amazing toast with a mix of meats and chesses on top. I made tortilla, and not to toot my own horn but it was delish. It was a lot easier than I expected, you chop up a bunch of potatoes and onions, cook them in an insane amount of olive oil, and add eggs right at the end, so tasty! Danielle made meat paella, which was the most complicated dish and she rocked it. And for dessert Shaketta made crema de catalane, very similar to creme brulee but a thousand times better! It was a good bonding experience for the group and the most delicious night of my week.

The final activity planned was a scavenger hunt through the city. They combined our program of 5 with a group of 12 students the University of Maryland. We split into groups of 4 and ran around the city solving riddles, taking pictures and talking to locals. The best one was taking a picture with a skater from the city’s biggest skate park. The hunt was a great way to end our week of orientation.

Even though my schedule was packed this week, I still had plenty of time to go to the beach, wonder alone, hang out with my new friends and family, and party at night.

This week has been amazing, but my real life hasn’t even started yet. Tomorrow is my first day at my internship with Share is Fashion and Tuesday I start my Spanish and culture classes. I’m a little nervous to start the internship, so today I’m relaxing and mentally preparing myself for a week with a lot of work and a lot of Spanish.

Time for a siesta, hasta luego!

 

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Arriving in Barcelona

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

Leaving Dublin was bitter sweet. I had such a wonderful experience and met some amazing people in the hostel that I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to! On the other hand, I was going to begin my semester living in Barcelona, so I guess the sweet outweighed the bitter.

My first day in Spain was a complete whirlwind. Just minutes after meeting my group leaders Ryan and Helena, and two of my peers, Danielle and Shaketta, I was off to meet my host family! My mom Teresa is a very sweet mother and a very wild woman! She loves the beach, loud music, and staying active. My sister Carla is 15 and very nice as well. I haven’t gotten to know her yet because she is always off with her boyfriend, but I do know she loves to surf which is pretty cool. My brother Jofre is 14 and my pal! We watch Modern Family together; teach each other Spanish and English, and get along pretty well. He is very shy and sweet. It took me a few days to figure them out, so let me back up a little!

Moments after putting my bags down in a tiny yet lovely room, I was changing into a dress for a cousin’s birthday party and a day at the beach. Did I mention that I pulled an all-nighter the night before? Anyways, I was trying to be flexible and opened minded so I went, but man could I have used a nap first. We arrived and after a million hugs and kisses we were sitting down to a feast on the beach. The uncle order one of everything from the lunch menu, mussels, clams, shrimp, salad, and lots of other tasty mysterious sea creatures! Once we were done eating what I thought was the main course (at this point I was stuffed and practically falling asleep at the table) they brought a huge pan filled with paella. No matter how stuffed I was I ate a whole plate and don’t regret it, it was delicious.

After an extremely long meal we were off to the beach. Here I was happy to go off on my own and sleep. After my nap I went for a walk along the beach and it finally hit me, I was living in Barcelona. Once the sun set I thought we would head home, but surprise, another birthday party. This time it was a little harder to be flexible and happy, but I still tried. This party was one the beach with scarves hanging and candles lit, it was very pretty. By 11 I finally convinced my family to leave and I crashed the moment we got home and left unpacking for another day.

It was quite the first day in Spain! My family is very welcoming which makes me glad. Unfortunately I forgot my camera on this little adventure, so I’ll never know if the day really happened or not…it quite possibly could have been a dream.

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Pre-Study Abroad Travels

Time September 2nd, 2014 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hello and welcome to my study abroad blog! This fall I will be spending four months in Barcelona, Spain studying, interning, traveling and hopefully having the time of my life. If you are at all curios about what I’m up to during this exciting time then you’ve come to the right place!

Last Tuesday I began my adventure abroad by flying to Oslo, Norway with one of my best buds Hannah. Since we were already spending a fortune flying to Europe, why not go a week early and see some cool places?

Our time in Norway was very short and sweet. We got over jet lag pretty fast, spent a lot of time with an awesome chick from Sweden, saw a few neat tourist attractions (the opera house, palace, and sculpture garden); but what I really want to talk about is our week in Ireland!

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