Archives for posts with tag: study abroad

With only final exams between me and a flight back to the U.S., this whirlwind of a semester is finally coming to a close. My return to America is definitely bittersweet… maybe a little more bitter than sweet. I can’t even put into words how much the people I’ve met, places I’ve been and things I’ve seen have impacted me. So instead of writing a sappy paragraph or two about how much I love this place, I’m just going to post some of my favorite pictures from the entire semester.

I’ll be seeing you, Barcelona. Thanks for an amazing four months.

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The past four months have been a break from real life. Sure, I still have papers to write and tests to take, but there’s nothing normal about weekend trips to other countries, casually passing the Sagrada Familia on a daily basis, or even going to the beach between classes. This semester has been more like a vacation than anything else. But still, spring break merits another vacation, so Brittany, Grace, Alexa and I went to Málaga, Spain in La Costa Del Sol for a week.

Unfortunately La Costa Del Sol was lacking in the “Sol” department, so it wasn’t the relaxing beach vacation that we planned. But it was still a great time. Our hotel was in Torremolinos, a resort town about 15 minutes outside of Málaga. We went to a lot of hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants and met a ton of people from the UK, Ireland and all over Spain. We also went to the city one night to meet up with friends from school and saw some of the traditional Semana Santa celebrations. It was nice to get away for awhile, but I’m happy to be spending my last full week back in Barcelona.

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I think I got more sleep this weekend than I have since I got to Barcelona. But it wasn’t because I didn’t have anything to do – it was because Munich wore me out.

We arrived in Munich around 3 p.m. on Friday and immediately met up with our friends who are studying abroad in  Italy – Eric, who is in Rome, and Caroline, Tori, Kelsey, Kate and Olivia from Florence. Our first stop, naturally, was a beer garden. We all ordered beers bigger than our heads and spent a good hour or so catching up. When it got dark we moved indoors and made a stop at the world famous Hofbrauhaus for dinner and more beer. (Beer is actually considered a food in Germany!) Since I have the taste buds of a 5-year-old, I stuck to pretzels while everyone else tried brats and weinerschneitzels. At both the beer garden and the beer hall, I was amazed by all of the people wearing lederhosen and beer girl outfits. Apparently those aren’t only in the movies. We were all cashed by 10 p.m. and in bed by 11 – the earliest night I’ve had in the last four months.

Saturday morning we woke up early to meet up with the girls before our bike tour. We climbed to the top of the St. Peter’s bell tower for an amazing view of the city and watched the Glockenspiel go off at noon. Then we split so we could go on Lenny’s bike tour around the city. I got the sparkly blue and pink bike because it was the only one where I could touch the ground. We biked around for three hours, stopping at the Marienplatz, Munich Residenz, English Gardens and Chinese Tower, among other places.

We met back up with our friends Saturday night for the Starkbierfest at Löwenbräukeller. It was an experience to say the least. We got to the beer hall around 7, and everything was pretty tame. Most people were eating dinner, dressed in lederhosen. But by 9:30 the Germans were dancing on tables, so we followed suit. We met a ton of great people and even got to dance on stage with the band. Munich is definitely another underrated city that greatly exceeded my expectations.

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Now that the semester is almost over, I’m finally getting the hang of posting regularly. In the beginning, I thought a lot about what I was going to say and what I was going to talk about. Now I just write. After all, isn’t that what blogs are for?

In the first week of my Journalism 2.0 class, we learned that blogs are personal websites that provide updated headlines and news articles of other sites that are of interest to the user, and that may also include journal entries, commentaries and recommendations compiled by the user. I think I’ve managed to do that. I’ve written some posts about new media tools, mainly for the class portion of this blog, and I’ve also written a ton of journal entries about my experience overseas. Maybe my headline/news article posts could be a little better, but hey, I’m not trying to be an established blogger in the political world. I’m writing this for my friends and family back home. They want me to know what I’m doing with my life 5000 miles away from home, and that’s what I’m trying to get across.

I do, though, have to hand it to the guys who have really made it in the blogosphere. This is way harder than you’d think! I’ve somehow managed to get almost 500 views, plus a few subscribers and comments along the way, and I call that success. But there are blogs out there whose writing attracts thousands of readers, each and every day.

Are you blogging? If not, I encourage you to give it a shot. Sign up now at wordpress.com.

I came to Spain because I wanted to be fluent in Spanish. I’ve taken Spanish classes since I was 13 and was nowhere close to speaking fluently, so obviously Spanish classes in the States weren’t cutting it. So I looked into a couple cities – Barcelona, Madrid, and Sevilla – and settled on Barcelona. I can’t really even explain why I chose Barcelona. Spanish isn’t even the first language here, Catalan is. But everyone I talked to who went abroad in the past said Barca was their favorite city they visited, plus I knew a ton of IU kids that were planning on coming, so I figured why not.

I remember the very first day I was walking around with Brittany and we stopped in at Zara. When we arrived in January it was their huge after-holiday sale season, so of course it was jam-packed. We kept bumping into people, and “Oops, sorry!”or “Excuse me” immediately came out of our mouths. Then we got awkward because we didn’t know if we should be speaking in Spanish or not. After, we met up with some other girls from school for lunch. Ordering was a nightmare, not only because we were so jetlagged, but also because our brains couldn’t process what we wanted to say. It came out something like, “I want las patatas bravas con una Coca-Cola por favor. Thanks!” Umm, what? Talk about spanglish. And that’s how it went for the first couple weeks. I would try to speak Spanish, but quickly resorted to English when someone didn’t understand or I got frustrated. The only time I ever spoke confidently was with my taxi drivers at 4 a.m., for obvious reasons.

Making friends with Spaniards at Espit Taberna.

Three months later, things have changed. While I’m still guilty of speaking English almost all day, every day, I don’t freeze up when I go to the grocery store and the cashier asks me a question. I’ve had casual conversations on the metro, and I’ve had hour-long conversations in Spanish at the bars. I wouldn’t say I’m fluent by any means, but in a better place than I was when I got here. And I guess that’s all I can really ask for.

My teacher, Pipo Serrano, works for Catalunya Radio, and he took our class to visit the station last week. I imagined it to be a lot like NPR, but I was wrong. It kind of reminds me of the BBC, which doesn’t really have an American radio equivalent.

Catalunya Radio consists of four distinct stations: Catalunya Radio, Catalunya Música, Catalunya Informació and iCat fm. Música is obviously a music station, which concentrates on classical and contemporary music. Informació is Spain’s first all-news radio station, and iCat is a multimedia station promoting both traditional and contemporary culture.

Here’s a clip from Pipo’s show – Tot és molt confús. Sorry, it’s in catalan!

That phrase got waaay overused this weekend. Many euros and many calories later, I’m back in Barcelona after spending three days in Roma.

The city itself is incredible. I’ve been studying Roman culture in school since I was 7, and it was crazy to finally see all the monuments I’ve read about in books. We kind of screwed up because we went to the Vatican on its birthday, so the museum and Sistine Chapel were closed, and we didn’t make it to the Coliseum until around 4 p.m., right when it closed. But we still saw Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica, sat on the Spanish Steps, made a wish at Trevi Fountain, went inside the Pantheon and walked around the Coliseum.

But, my favorite part of Rome was the food, by far. I’m such a picky eater, so having it be socially acceptable to eat pasta at every meal was heaven. In two days, I ate lasagna, gnocchi, pizza (margherita AND four cheese), tortellini and spaghetti al pomodoro. Plus gelato on three separate occasions.

A weekend in Rome was fun, but it made me so thankful that Barcelona is home.

Seville, Spain is one of the most amazing places on earth. I left Barcelona on Friday morning with no expectations, but it’s been almost 12 hours since I got back in Barca and I still can’t stop talking about the weekend.

When we first arrived, we ate lunch at Robles Laredo in Plaza de San Francisco. While we were eating, my friend James who is studying in Sevilla randomly bumped into us. A little later, four more of our friends from Barca stumbled upon the place. Within an hour there were 15 of us, and our lunch turned into a three hour long event.

After, our friends were amazing hosts and showed us around the city. There isn’t a lot of “sight-seeing” in Sevilla, but the city itself is unreal. We wandered around the streets for awhile, ending at Plaza de Espana. Plaza de Espana is one of the coolest places I have ever been. The walls of the Plaza consist of beautiful tiled alcoves that represent each province in Spain. We all posted up in one of the alcoves and passed out for awhile – we’re probably sleeping in the background of a lot of tourists’ photos.

Friday night we went out for tapas. The six of us decided to each get two tapas to share. We ended up with 12 different tapas, including stuffed peppers, squid, eggplant cake and a potato omelette. I am the pickiest eater in the entire world, but I tried to make a point to try all of them. Except the squid – definitely would not be able to stomach that one. They were all so, so good, and it ended up being insanely cheap.

Saturday was another beautiful day. We started the day at Starbucks, a great cultural experience. With a little caffeine in our system, we went to Cien Montaditos for lunch. They NEED to bring this idea to the States. Basically, they have 100 different mini sandwiches for only 1 euro, and all the one’s we tried were amazing. Plus, you get una cerveza for only a euro when you get a sandwich. Best concept ever. Then we toured the Catedral de Sevilla, where Christopher Columbus’s remains are supposedly kept. We climbed to the top of the tower to get a beautiful view of the entire city.

That night, IU took over one of the local bars. It basically turned into Sevilla’s version of Kilroy’s On Kirkwood. A short two hours later, we were supposed to be headed back to the airport. But after our 5 a.m. return to the hostel, we slept through not one, but two alarms, and missed both the 6:15 and 7:15 buses to the airport. Frantic, we sprinted out of the hostel and piled into the first taxi we could find. We made it to the airport with plenty of time, but I guarantee I left something behind after that 5-minute pack job.

Sevilla was a great start to the weeks of traveling ahead of me. And if I can find a weekend in my incredibly hectic schedule, I would love to go back for round two.

Placa CatalunyaThese last two weeks have been a blur. I boarded the plane in Newark almost three weeks ago, and have since been going non-stop trying to adjust to life in Spain. I’ve gotten way too little sleep and spent way too much money along the way, but it’s been quite the experience.

I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a hard time with culture shock or homesickness, but the language barrier has proven harder to deal with than I expected. I’ve taken Spanish classes for eight years, but it obviously wasn’t enough to be able to speak conversationally with native speakers. This proved especially true the first weekend we were in our apartment.

Let me preface this story by saying we live in a really, really nice part of Barcelona. Our apartment is literally 3 minutes away from the Sagrada Familia, which might be the most well-known landmark in the city. Everyone says it’s a good, safe area to be in. But the first Friday we were here, we had an “incident.”

Around 10 p.m. someone buzzed up to our apartment from outside. My roommate Alexa looked down from the balcony to see who it was, and it was a man that none of us had ever seen before. Long story short, he buzzed up for a good 30 minutes. After he made eye contact with one of us who was out on the balcony, he held the buzzer for more than five minutes straight. At this point we started to freak out a little bit. My roommate Brittany went to the phone to try and talk to him but instead accidentally let him in the building.

When he started banging on our door, we started to panic. When he shut off our electricity, we started crying hysterically. I’m not sure why we didn’t just try to talk to him, but that didn’t seem like an option at the time. Instead, we all huddled together in Grace’s room, crying and holding kitchen knives. Smart.

We ended up calling CEA, who called the police. But dealing with the police was an absolute nightmare because they didn’t speak a word of English, and we were all too frazzled to speak coherent Spanish. Basically all we could get out was that “Hay un hombre que…” and then proceed to use hand motions. A man showed up who spoke both English and Spanish, and he explained to us that apparently the guy was an old tenant who was looking for an ex-girlfriend or something. Regardless, the whole experience proved that if there ever is an actual emergency we’re, well, screwed. Definitely time to brush up on my Spanish and learn some phrases that may actually be useful, not the random vocabulary we are taught in high school Spanish class.

Aside from this minor run-in with the police, I have been able to take in a lot of Barcelona and have loved every minute of it. I’ve seen the Sagrada Familia, visited Gaudi’s beautiful Parc Guell, shopped on Passeig de Gracia, walked down La Rambla, cheered on FC Barcelona at Camp Nou, and spent many nights out until sunrise. I can’t even express how lucky I am to be able to do everything I’m doing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better start to an amazing four months (except for maybe the whole police thing).

I will be updating this blog a few times a week for one of my classes at CEA – Journalism 2.0. So keep checking back as I continue my adventures throughout Europe and learn more about the new journalism that is Journalism 2.0.