As I mentioned in my previous blog post, we had a three day school week this past week. October 12th is a national Spanish holiday: Fiesta Nacional de España--where the people of Spain celebrate the history of the Spanish and commemorate the day when Christopher Columbus stumbled upon America. (Basically just our Columbus Day.....). It turns out that a handful of other holidays fall on this date as well, so basically, October 12th is just one huge fiesta. Many of the students in my program took advantage of our four day weekend and booked trips to places like France, Amsterdam, and various cities in Spain. I am one of the 7 that traveled to Barcelona for our mini 4-day vacation.
So... Barcelona definitely was a dream come true. I feel like Barcelona is one of those cities that is objectively cool and that everyone would love to visit. I've wanted to travel to Barcelona for as long as I can remember... Maybe the idea sparked when the Cheetah Girls 2 movie came out, but I honestly can't say for certain.
Our bus arrived in Barcelona around 6-6:30 a.m. on Thursday, and we met our Airbnb host at their apartment so we could get settled into our room. We decided to take a short nap before taking on the day--we were all super exhausted after spending TWELVE HOURS on a bus. After our nap, we bought tickets to visit Montserrat. Montserrat is basically a mountain retreat with cool shops and a monastery at the top. It would be a great place to go hiking, but my friends and I just went for the views this time. Whenever I go back, I'd love to hike around there!! I honestly had no idea that the place even existed prior to the trip, but the views there were breathtaking. I would recommend taking the hour bus ride from Barcelona to visit there if you ever find yourself in the area. That night, we went to the Magic Fountain in Barcelona. On Thursday-Saturday nights from 9-10, the fountain does a colorful water show to different types of music. We even stumbled upon a break-dancing group in the park and watched them perform their routine. The atmosphere there was perfect and the fountain show was worth the watch. Someone even got proposed to there!!!!
On Friday, we walked down Las Ramblas--a street in central Barcelona made to be a tree-lined pedestrian mall (perfect for snacks and souvenirs), and then visited the Gothic part of town. Later in the afternoon, we went to La Sagrada Familia. Let me start by saying: La Sagrada Familia deserves every single ounce of hype that it receives. You know how sometimes you visit something or watch a show or read a book that continues to get RAVE reviews, but you just don't understand the obsession? I (mistakenly) expected it to be similar to that. It's not that I didn't expect it to be beautiful, I just didn't figure it would completely blow me out of the water. Boy, was I wrong!!! La Sagrada Familia is probably the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life--at least as far as manmade structures go. There is nothing else like it in the world. Light reflects in through the stain-glass windows, and the colors are casted onto the white pillars and interior of the church. I don't think any amount of time would be enough to fully soak in its beauty. Ugh!!! Amazing.
On Saturday, we visited Park Güell, then grabbed some food and spent the afternoon on the BEACH. I didn't think I'd see another beach on this trip after Portugal, so I was ecstatic to be on one again! It was a perfect day with perfect weather and the Mediterranean is awesome. Saturday night, we ate at Hard Rock Café and it was incredible!!! I had my first hamburger since before I got here. After that, we explored the nightlife of Barcelona.
Sunday morning, we visited the Picasso museum, and even though I am definitely not a big museum person, it was very interesting, and I enjoyed looking at the art more than usual. We didn't have time to do much on Sunday, but we also walked by the Arc de Triomf, and ate McDonald's for lunch. It was the best McDonald's I've ever had in my life! After that, we grabbed our things from the Airbnb and headed to the bus station for our second twelve hour bus ride. The ride home was kinda brutal, but I survived.
Alright, that about wraps it up for Barcelona!!! I 100000% recommend visiting if you can. I wanted to go back before I even left.
Next weekend we take a class trip to Salamanca, and I'll officially hit the halfway mark of my 90 days here in Spain. For next week, I plan to write about my halfway-point impressions, and in each blog post from here on out, I want to start covering topics that I haven't gone into much detail with before--like the culture of Cáceres, my university, transportation within the city, traveling, packing, homesickness, etc.
As always, thanks for reading, and hasta luego!!!! :)
Ok, I've officially been here for a little over a month and have a little less than 2 months left! Spooky!
This last week, classes were normal (as usual,) and we stayed in Cáceres for the weekend. I love traveling and exploring different cities, but I really enjoy relaxing here and experiencing all that my town has to offer.
We didn't have class on Friday, so a group of us got up early to hike up a mountain to La Virgen de la Moñtana--which is basically just a church with a surrounding area with restaurants and shops and ROCKS!! Friday night, Emily and I watched the movie Berlin Syndrome, which probably wasn't the best movie to watch right now--considering we will both be taking solo trips this semester, but we will be okay!!!!
On Saturday, a group of us took a trip to Los Barruecos, which is a natural park just outside of Cáceres. My hair got stuck in some thorn bushes, but mi amigo helped me out and I PERSISTED. Some scenes from Game of Thrones were shot at the park, so it is a pretty popular attraction. The weather was beautiful and the park was too. There were tons of cows and donkeys roaming free, and some of the donkeys came up to us for us to pet them!! We were a little nervous about approaching them, but they came right up to us and wanted attention and affection! Ugh!!! So cute. We also visited the Vostell Museum, which was one of the strangest places I have ever visited in my life. Photos are not allowed inside, so unfortunately, I am not able to prove just how weird it really was. That night, we ate at a local Mexican restaurant, and I was crossing my fingers soooooo tightly that it would taste just like Azteca, but it didn't. :( The food was still super good, but I will definitely be taking a trip to Azteca as soon as I get back to the States. (Study abroad tip: do not constantly think about how much you miss Azteca!!!! It hurts!!)! Afterwards, we spent some time exploring the nightlife of the city. :)
Sunday morning, we attended a church service at the Cathedral of Santa Maria, and afterwards walked to Burger King for some milkshakes, but they were CLOSED. We took it as a sign that we probably really didn't need any ice cream...
This week is a short week and we only have class Monday-Wednesday. On Wednesday night, a handful of us are taking a (TWELVE HOUR!!!!!) bus to Barcelona for the four day weekend. I am super excited and can't wait to share my experiences in Barcelona with you all!!!
Adiós, be back soon:)
This blog post is a little late because I had the busiest weekend and am now pretty sick with a bad head cold... but HERE I AM.
So, this last school week was a pretty ordinary week. Classes are still going well. In my literature class, I read a poem and a "letter" (I guess I'd consider it that...) that I absolutely loved: Instantes by Jorge Luis Borges and Si Dios Me Obsequiara Un Poco de Vida by Gabriel García Márquez. Both are written from the perspective of two men that are dying, and they reveal things that they wish they did while they had the chance. They are essentially giving advice to those who still have time, and while there are so many pieces of literature written about this topic, I still find them very beautiful and inspiring. Both pieces should be translated into English somewhere on the internet (unless you're a Spanish speaker, then just go for it!!! woo!) so I highly suggest you look them up and read them. But only if you're looking for something good to read!!!
I'd definitely say my literature class is one of my favorites, along with my translation class. We are given articles or short stories written in English and have to translate them into Spanish. Doing so has helped me improve my vocabulary immensely and I've learned a lot of new ways to say certain things!! It can be quite challenging, but it is definitely worth the effort.
We learned another song in my Spain Today class: Looking for Paradise by Alejandro Sanz and Alicia Keys. The guys in the class had to sing Alejandro's part and the girls sang Alicia's part. It was a complete mess, but it's one of my favorite things that we do in class. I think we all liked the other song from last week a little better, but this one was still catchy!
On Friday, we took a class trip to Mérida. This was our first trip--we will be going to Salamanca, Granada, and Córdoba later in the semester. Mérida is the capital of the Extremadura region in which we are studying, and was founded by the Romans in the first century B.C. We visited the amphitheater, the Roman Theater, the Temple of Diana, the Los Milagros Aqueduct, the Roman Bridge of Mérida, and their museum there. It wasn't a very long trip, but it was very interesting and the city is super awesome. After that, myself and four friends hopped on a bus to Seville for the weekend.
Seville is super beautiful and super hot. My host mom said it's amongst one of the hottest cities in Spain!!! We stayed at a nice hostel with a rooftop pool, bar and restaurant, and an awesome view. My favorite part of Seville was the Plaza of Spain (or the Spanish Square), where I bought one of those Flamenco fans and castanets, a.k.a. clappers. What will I use the clappers for???? To be determined. Anyway, the plaza was gorgeous and so picturesque and lively. There are 58 benches that represent the provinces of Spain that line the facade of the main structure--each decorated with azulejos (painted ceramic tiles). It was all great, but my absolute favorite part was when I saw this man using a giant bubble wand to make bubbles. I ran over and popped bubbles with adorable Spanish children and my heart was so full and my life is now complete!! We visited other main attractions--like the Cathedral of Seville (which holds the remains of Christopher Columbus) and the Alcázar.
We arrived back in Cáceres around 11 p.m. on Sunday night, and I woke up Monday morning feeling pretty horrible! I went to class anyway, but ended up coming home 2 hours early because I needed some rest. While I knew it was just a bad head cold, my host mom called the doctor, and he came to our apartment to check me out. He talked so rapidly and had such a thick accent that the only thing I understood him say was "orange juice." BUT! He confirmed it is just a cold (thankfully), and my host mom gave me some medicine and I've been drinking tea and resting a lot. I'm hoping I can recover pretty quickly because I'm taking a four day trip to Barcelona next week!! We have a three day weekend this upcoming weekend, so I plan to rest up and drink lots of fluids! If I'm feeling better by Saturday, I'll probably be taking a short trip to a nearby city to do some hiking.
So, that's about it for my third full week here. I'm basically 1/3 of the way done with my semester here, so time really is flying by! While I miss my friends and family from home dearly, I know I'll be seeing them soon, and I am so thankful that I have such great people in my life to miss. I've made some really close friends in my program here in Spain, and I'm very happy and thankful to be here with a great group of people.
Alright, everyone!! Peace out. I'll be back in about a week.
I'm going to be honest: it was a pretty laid-back and uneventful week. Not uneventful in a bad way--it was super nice to relax and spend a full week in Cáceres. Last weekend we went to Lisbon, so I was really looking forward to staying here for the weekend and exploring the city.
Classes are going well. The amount of homework has picked up, so we are decently busy with our class assignments. On Thursday, we spent almost a whole class period learning a song by a Columbian pop band called Morat, and then our professor gave us lyric sheets and had us all sing the song together. We sounded horrible, but the song was actually really good!!!!! It's called "Cómo Te Atreves" if you're interested.
Wednesday night, we went out with some friends and watched the Real Madrid and Betis soccer game, and were all shocked when Real Madrid lost. I guess they're not really losing though, because they have Cristiano Ronaldo... :)
On Friday night, a big group of us explored the nightlife in the old, historic part of town and it was a blast!!! The DJ played every song we requested, so we will definitely take another trip (or two) back there. On both Friday and Saturday night, there were live bands playing downtown. You could hang out down there and get some food and drinks and check out some of the cool stuff that vendors were selling. Emily (my roommate) and I went down and met some American students studying in Seville for the semester, so we spent some time getting to know them, and we might even meet up with them in Seville next weekend!!!! How rad!!!!!!
This morning, eight of us from our program took an 8.85 mile hike throughout the countryside, where I saw TONS of dogs and goats and sheep!!! It was exhausting, but an awesome experience, and we all had so much fun. Afterwards, I was definitely ready for a shower, a big lunch, and a loonnnggg siesta.
Next weekend, we take a class trip to Mérida, which is about an hour bus ride from our town. From there, a handful of us will take another short bus ride to Seville and stay for the weekend. Time is flying by, but I am having so much fun, and I've already met so many amazing people.
Spain is still so beautiful, the soda is absolutely phenomenal (and I'm not a soda person at all), and I can finally say celery in Spanish... so that's cool.
Thaaanks for reading and I'll be back in a week!!!! :)
So, this week was the first week of classes... UGH! (Just kidding). On Monday, we arrived at school a little early so we could get our photos taken for our student I.D. cards. I look like a goof in my picture but it's fine.
Anyway, overall, my classes this week were pretty laid back. The first day, we just introduced ourselves and learned the basics about the courses. For the rest of the week, we started getting into the actual content of the courses and getting homework assignments. We only have classes Monday-Thursday, which is obviously incredible, but also so strange! We have classes on 2 Fridays this semester but that's it!!! It'll be extremely hard to get back into the normal schedule at Iowa State in the spring. The professors at my university (La Universidad de Extremadura) are so passionate and eager to help us, and you can tell they really want to be here, which is so awesome!! At times, it is a little difficult to fully understand the concepts and ideas and information in every class because we speak solely in Spanish. Although it can be rough, my speaking and listening skills have already gotten a lot better. I haven't had a ton of homework so far, but the assignments (and the classes) require your full attention and really work your brain because while you're completing a normal history (or literature or translation or whatever) assignment, you are also translating and interpreting and it can be a little tiring. It's such a cool feeling to complete an assignment in another language and know that you've expressed yourself fully and correctly. I've only been in Spain for a little over a week, but I've caught myself thinking in Spanish about normal, everyday things, like how I really want a dog or how I need to buy myself some pencils at the store or how I really need to learn every single word to Despacito before I come back home. Sometimes when I'm having a conversation in English, I feel myself wanting to speak Spanish instead. It's so crazy how fast it's happening, but that's what full immersion is all about, and that's why it is so successful and fulfilling!!!!
The food here is remarkable. Our host mom is an amazing cook and she has made us something different for every meal so far. She also stocks up on fresh fruit and yogurt, which I love. I'm not a huge yogurt fan, but it's so great here... we eat it for dessert a lot. Out of the fruit I've had, I like the pears the most because they are super sweet and juicy. Also, if you have a chance to try a refrigerated plantain, you should definitely do it!! They are delicious cold and sweeter than normal bananas. Also, WE EAT COOKIES FOR BREAKFAST???? I honestly think I'm addicted to them. And while I'm not a huge soda person, the soda here is much better, and the orange juice is fresh and super sweet and it's wonderful. One thing I've noticed is that they don't use a lot of ice here. If you go to a restaurant and order a soda, sometimes they will give you a can or bottle with a separate cup with some ice in it, but usually, you drink straight from the can or bottle. It's a pretty big adjustment for me because I put so much ice in all of my drinks back at home. Eating here is a big social event. Emily, our host mom, and I sometimes spend almost 2 hours talking during/after dinner. This is something that I really like about Spain because in the United States, we usually just stuff our faces and spend the whole meal on our phones. I've learned so much about the history and culture of Spain and Europe from my host mom during lunch and dinner.
Ahhhh, also!!! Earlier in the week, 8 of us in the program booked bus tickets to visit Lisbon over the weekend. We didn't have class on Friday, so we took a bus at 2:30 in the morning (ugggghhhhh) and arrived in Lisbon around 6:30 in the morning. We were exhausted, but not too exhausted to walk around the city for about 9 hours.
Lisbon is breathtaking and charming and such a good time!!!! Mostly everyone speaks Portuguese (duh), but there are some people that speak Spanish or English. There are a lot of sardines (real and fake) everywhere and a lot of things made out of cork. We visited the São Jorge Castle and the view was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. We visited the Santo Amaro beach and the Belém Tower in Belém, and it was windy and a little chilly, but soooo worth it. On our final day in Portugal, we took a day trip to Sintra, which is honestly the most picturesque place I have ever seen in my life. We visited the Pena Palace and spent some time exploring the city. On Sunday night, we bussed back to Cáceres and got home around 3:30 in the morning. Class was a little rough on Monday morning, but I am so thankful that I decided to visit Portugal. I would definitely go back.
In two weeks, we have a class trip to Mérida, and we have class this coming Friday, so we plan to stay in Cáceres this weekend to rest and explore the city and spend time with our host families.
I am bad at endings so... catch you all in a week!!!! Thanks for reading (or for at least looking at the pictures???) :p
I want to start by saying that Weebly is a little weird and I haven't figured out how to add photos within the text, so I will add all photos at the bottom of each post until I find out how to do it differently. :)
I have officially been in Spain for 4 days which is absolutely crazy to me. I arrived on September 7th around 8:30 in the morning, after a long 7.5 hour flight from Chicago to Madrid. I'm going to be honest: the flight was not horrible. I am personally not a huge fan of long distance traveling (even though I love to travel), but the flight was definitely doable. Another girl in my study abroad program, Grace, booked the same flight as me, and I was able to switch seats with another passenger on the plane so Grace and I could sit by each other!! It made the trip a lot easier and definitely helped us get to know each other better. It was my first time flying alone, and I am a worrier. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. We were served two meals on the flight: dinner and breakfast. For dinner, we had two entrée options: chicken and vegetables or pasta. I opted for the pasta, and was surprised (once again) that the food was pretty darn decent!
For some reason, I had this idea that the Madrid airport would be insanely hectic and stressful, and I am not sure if we just got lucky, but it was actually easy to maneuver and it did not take much time at all. We took a bus from our airport to a metro station, and took the metro to our hostel. Our friend Emily, who is actually my roommate here in Cáceres, met us at our hostel and we all stayed in the same room. Initially, I was skeptical about staying in a hostel--I'd heard many interesting stories about them--but I thought it was a very cool experience! We met many different people from all over the world and made a few friends along the way. I can understand the hesitation of staying in a hostel, but now that I've actually done it, I feel completely comfortable and will stay in them as I travel during my study abroad program, and any time I travel abroad afterwards.
For our 3 full days in Madrid, we ate A LOT of food and did A LOT of sightseeing. We didn't exactly make a schedule or any set plans, so we just went where the day took us and went where we wanted to go. We visited El Palacio de Cristal, El Parque del Buen Retiro, La Puerta del Sol, La Plaza Mayor, El Palacio Real, Los Jardines de Sabatini, and some shops, restaurants, and a club!! If you ever find yourself in Madrid, there are many beautiful, fascinating (and free) places you can visit! El Parque del Buen Retiro is a must-see--the flowers are so stunning. One big thing I've learned so far is that it is nearly impossible to have a bad view in Spain, which obviously makes it an amazing place to take photos.
Onto probably the most important part of this post: the FOOD!! Ugh. Our hostel in Madrid had free breakfast which usually consisted of toast, baguettes, different fruits, cereals, and coffee. For lunch and dinner, we tried out different restaurants, and one night, we cooked for ourselves at the hostel. In Spain, they eat a lot of tapas, which I would say are like appetizers in the States. Many of them are bocadillas (small sandwiches) with different toppings, but tapas can vary from chorizo to mussels to tortilla española (basically an egg and potato omelette) to calamari. They are typically served with drinks and can serve as a nice little snack or a full meal. So, since I love bread, I ate A LOT of bocadillas. Don't get me wrong, I love sandwiches. But WOW. For sweets, which I feel like I didn't have enough of, we tried some gelato from a little shop in La Puerta del Sol and went to a renowned churro place called San Ginés.
Today, September 11th, we met the rest of our study abroad group at the airport and took a 4 hour bus ride to Cáceres. Once we arrived, our host families were waiting for us at our meeting point and Emily and I went home with our mom for the next three months. We spent a long time visiting, and then we took some personal time to get settled into our rooms and call our families and friends to let them know that we had arrived and were safe. After getting settled in, our host mom took me and Emily on a long walk throughout our city. Cáceres is a small, picturesque city. I can turn in any direction and be amazed at the scenery. After our walk, we stopped for some cervezas and tapas, and then headed back to our apartment. Our mom cooked us dinner--which we ate at 10 P.M.!!!!!--and we spent about 1.5 hours chatting some more. While it was sometimes difficult to get my point across in Spanish during our conversations, speaking Spanish with our mom was not bad at all. Locals are very patient and helpful, and I can already feel myself getting better with my speaking.
It's almost 2 a.m. here, so I am definitely going to hit the hay, but tomorrow, the group meets and we are shown around our city, and on Tuesday, classes start. This will definitely be a crazy week, but I am so excited and so thrilled to be here. I have had an amazing time so far and I cannot wait for the next 3 months!!!!!!
I took my first Spanish class in 7th grade and instantly loved the language. Sure, at 12 years old I was only learning the simplest words and phrases possible, and we spent most of our class time singing the songs of the alphabet, months of the year, and the seasons, but I looked forward to it every single day. In 8th grade, I decided to take Spanish again, and I believe this is when my passion began to truly develop and grow. So, here I am, 13 years old, knowing a handful of basic Spanish vocabulary words (like desk, cat, and apple) and asking my teacher "puedo ir al baño?" --thinking I was mastering the language when probably the most complicated thing I knew was how to tell the time. Nevertheless, I persisted!!! I continued studying Spanish throughout high school, and although the content became more difficult, I still loved it and realized it was something I was meant to do.
My sophomore year of high school, I was lucky enough to travel to Mexico with my mom, and I had an incredible time. I was finally able to utilize my skills and practice everything I had learned. I was shocked by how well I could converse with other people. It was such a gratifying experience. Everything I worked for and studied was actually paying off. It is a feeling unlike any other to know that your hard work and passion is actually taking you somewhere and benefitting your life. When we left, I immediately wanted to go back... not just because of the beautiful beach and amazing food, but
because I had the best time communicating with native speakers in their native language.
Learning another language is so fascinating and rewarding and I've enjoyed every moment of it. Aside from studying a language that I absolutely love, I'm pursuing a degree in something that will open so many doors for me. The use of the Spanish language is growing at an astonishing rate in the United States. Fluency in a foreign language (obviously not just Spanish) requires a skill set that is impressive and important to many employers. I would go as far to say that learning a second (or third, or fourth) language is imperative to our lives. Am I a little biased because of my complete adoration of the Spanish language? Maybe... but that doesn't make it untrue!
I decided to study abroad because a) this may be my only opportunity to travel to my dream destinations for a long time--there is no better time than right now, b) I will finally be able to immerse myself in the culture of a country that I have learned so much about during my 7-ish years studying the Spanish language, c) I struggle the most when actually speaking the language, and my confidence and comfortability will grow immensely during a semester completely immersed in the language and culture, d) I love adventures and exploring and learning and meeting new people. This is an experience unlike any other, and I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to live out my dreams this early in my life!
A social media intern position with Iowa State's Study Abroad Center would be a great fit for me. I love to write and take pictures (and post tons of photos on Facebook and Instagram) and share my experiences and thoughts with other people. I see this as a fantastic opportunity to not only help myself, but to help others too. Social media is an extremely powerful and useful tool, and if I can use it to help someone else realize their passion, realize they want to study abroad, teach them something about a foreign country, or even spark their interest in something that they had never thought about before, then I am fulfilling my purpose. I believe that every college student should have the opportunity to study abroad and I know that many are nervous or fearful, and I want to show them how exciting and life-changing it really is.
I still have a month and a half until I leave the country for three months, but I already know that this will be the greatest experience of my life. I am so happy that I have the opportunity to not only document my experiences for myself, but to share them with my friends, family, and other Iowa State students. Iowa State has made this whole process extremely easy and exciting and I can't wait to represent my awesome school while studying in Spain!!