Despedidas

Im sad to say my study abroad experience has come to and end. I am so thankful for this opportunity that I have had and will never forget all the amazing people, and places that I have encountered and things I have learned. I feel as though I have become more mature and independent, as well as gained a greater appreciation for cultures and just being able to slow down and appreciate life. The people I have met, places I have seen, and adventures I have been on have surpassed my expectations and I wouldn’t change my time here for the world. That being said, I am all packed and ready to go, ready to be reunited with my family and friends in the U.S. and ready to return to the peaceful low-key life that awaits me.

But before I go and say goodbye I have a few random tips and things that I have learned and want to share with those who may study abroad (especially in spain) in the future.

– Take pictures. Its definitely more about quality then quantity because your not gonna care about a blurry picture of a random cathedral door looking back

– Plan your last meals before you go properly. Stock up on breakfast food and really good salads, both of which no one seems to know how to do here.

– Be prepared to sleep just about anywhere. Airports, airplanes, buses, bus stations… Unfortunately with so much traveling and crazy layovers its inevitable. Metal benches will become your friends.

– Be adventurous when it comes to trying new local foods. Unless the food is morcilla, in which case you might want to know what it is before you think about eating it.

– Siesta

– Be careful when you say you eat fish. Eating fish here means you get the whole fish;  scales, bones, head, everything! Ive eaten enough fish bones this semester for a life time.

– Bread will become the bases of your diet.Tostada for breakfast, loaf of bread on the side for lunch, and too many bocadillos (sandwiches).

– Going out at 1 am is pretty normal, and thats early. Don’t expect to see any spaniards out and about until about 3 am.

– Get lost.

– regarding the previous make sure its day time and you have a phone, snacks, and some money with you. I don’t mean actually get lost but really explore and get to know your city, chances are you’ll walk to same two streets everyday and will never get a change to appreciate the whole city

– Siesta again and write it off as a cultural experience

All Im trying to say here is really take advantage of your study abroad experience, You don’t want to be left regretting not going out and doing more, or eating more, or shopping more! make the most of your time abroad!

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett

 

 

 

 

If you’re thinking wether or not to study abroad, go for it! You won’t regret it!

Madrid, Toledo, Segovia oh my!

I can’t believe its the final count down! This was our last group trip and we have just two weeks left, one week of classes and one week of finals. The feeling of going home is so bittersweet. I want to see my family and home more then anything but the thought of leaving Granada and my family here is really starting to make me sad.

Our last group trip was a very eclectic mix. From the biggest city in spain, Madrid, to a cute little town, Segovia, we really did end on a bang.

Madrid is the definition of a very large city. I had trouble walking in the streets with the amount of people that were there. It is such an incredible city though. The shopping, food, and museums are definitely some of the best. El Museo del Prado was a feast for the eyes, we had an hour group tour and were only able to cover Goya, el Greco, and Velazquez. It was really awesome to be able to see what we’ve been learning in class about Goya and a little about Velazquez up close and personal. My favorite part of Madrid was the Botanical Garden that we got to go to in our free time. I love flowers and I love being able to take close ups of flowers and this garden was amazing. I could have spent a whole day wandering the gardens, even with just under two hours in the gardens we barely made a dent. (I also took no pictures from my time in madrid with the exception of the Garden, yikes!)

 

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Segovia was such a precious little town. Im always confused why we decide to go to these little one horse towns but then we are there, I swear, every inch of Spain is some sort of adorable gem. The town has a large aqueduct and a few palaces that we saw, but the streets themselves are the cutest. Small little shops and bakeries fill the alley ways and the views, per usual, are impressive.

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The last town we went to on our journey was Toledo. There is definitely something haunted or creepy about this town and to be honest it was one of my least favorite cities we’ve been to this whole trip. It is absolutely beautiful, the streets and architecture are so old and filled with character. Toledo is know for its swords, knifes, and black and gold pottery and they definitely embrace it because those were just about the only stores the had. I mean if you are in the market for a new sword I would highly suggest you visit toledo, but if you want to buy anything else, chances are the don’t sell it.

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Finally, on our way back to Granada we made a pit stop at the windmills from Don Quijote and our teachers put on a hilarious rendition of a scene and we all just about died laughing.

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All three towns were so beautiful and different from one another, it was definitely a perfect trip to end with. (also if you haven’t noticed, I only seemed to have taken pictures of cats on this whole trip and have just about none with people).

Spring Break in Greece

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Spring Break in Greece pretty much sums it up. This was definitely a not so needed vacation from my not so very intense semester in spain. Me and three of my friends spent a week on the Beautiful Island of Crete in Old Chania, Venetian Harbor area. The views, towns and beaches were completely picturesque. We spent the majority of the week staying right at the port where we spent the majority of our time beach hoping, shopping and eating really good food. We spent a few days at some local beaches and took a short bus ride one day to another town with a beautiful beach Agia Marina where we laid out in the sun all day and came back a little less then lobster red. One day we went on a 2 hour glass bottom boat tour to two different island: one that is home to protected cretan goats and another small island that we had some time to snorkel around. Lets just say the water was far from warm and that besides a quick snorkel and one quick dip in the mediterranean I spent most of the week admiring the water from the comfort of the warm sand.

I enjoy a relaxing, chill vacation, rather then one that involves running around from place to place and this was definitely a relaxing one. I am happy to say a learned a few things from the Greeks, I learned a whole two words(impressive right?) in Greek: ‘yassas’ or hello, and ‘efcharisto’, thank you. I have also learned that if you go out to eat their is a good chance they might start you off with some ouzo, or black liquorice tasting drink, I think so the food tastes better in comparison, and of course end the meal with some of their own version of moonshine called ‘Raki’ (that is offered as a sample in just about every tourist shop you go into). 

Im really had an amazing spring break in Greece with some good friends. This was my first big trip that I had to do from start to finish all by myself and It just so happens I made some pretty great memories along the way. I am so thankful for this opportunity and have just under one month left till I return home, I don’t know if it can come soon enough. DSC_8482 DSC_8509 DSC_8534 DSC_8792 DSC_8501 DSC_8569 DSC_9066 DSC_9079 DSC_9051 DSC_9082 DSC_8819 DSC_8909 DSC_9010 DSC_8647

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Fresh Grilled Swordfish

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Fancy dinner out at the Venetian Port

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Chicken Gyro

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Random field of Poppies

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Greek Salad

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Baklava

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venetian port lighthouse

Barcelona.

Words honestly can’t describe how beautiful of a city Barcelona is. Barcelona is such an eclectic mix of: metropolitan streets, underground hipster cafes, gorgeous open markets, incredible museums and architecture all laying on the beautiful blue mediterranean coast. Most definitely my favorite city from the trip thus far, and right up there with one of my favorite cities I have ever been to. Im having a hard time putting on paper just how picturesque the city is.

With the group we went to a Salvador Dali museum, a small beach town, La Sagrada Familia, and one of Gaudi’s houses, Casa Batllo. I have also been a Dali fan, I did a project about him in high school and have always been fascinated in his art and life. His museum of course was very Dali, as expected, and I enjoyed being able to spend some time wandering through his different stages of art. The whole time I was thinking of what it would be like to live in Dali’s mind for just one day, and I honestly just couldn’t even image.

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La Sagrada Familia is the only temple (because technically its not a church) that I can say Ive been in and actually really enjoyed the architecture. I can definitely appreciate a lot of cathedrals and churches I have been in through my travels in Europe but this is the first one that I can step back and say I really think is beyond beautiful. It has such a clean, fresh and light feeling that is really uplifting. The room is filled with light from the stained glass windows that are truly something else.

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Casa Batllo was beautiful from the outside, but on the inside I was a little disappointed. From all the pictures Ive seen of Park Guell, my trip to La Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi’s other works I was definitely disappointed. Not to mention our art teacher told us to go into Gaudi’s other house, La Pedrera, and not this one because it is much more beautiful in the inside. It was definitely nice to see, but I know I would have preferred a group trip to Park Guell, or La Pedrera.

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My favorite parts of the whole trip had to be when we had free time, and thankfully a lot of it. One day I wandered with a few of my friends to a chocolate museum and found ourselves lost in tiny streets full of local artisan shops, jewelry markets, and organic vegan cafes. I thought I had died and went to heaven. We roamed the streets and enjoyed the incredible weather.

The next day I woke up early and decided to go for a run. I ran through the large streets and saw a 5k setting up and some market tents being popped up. I followed the road till I hit the beach and had the most beautiful run on the beach side and had to make a quick stop to collect some of the blue and green sea glass that was seriously everywhere! I ended up getting lost on my way back to the hotel but luckily found my way after I realized my nice run had turned into a very long run. Luckily I still made it back in time for the nice breakfast buffet. We had more free time to explore, a group went to try to get into Park Guell, which unfortunately did not happen for them, while me and two friends decided to explore some more and find some more outdoor markets as it was sunday and most of the real shops were closed. We had some luck with some outdoor jewelry markets and I bought a couple antique things I am really excited about!

The whole trip all I could think of is how much my mom and two sisters would absolutely love the city. With the adorable vegan cafes, vast beaches, shopping centers, and incredible outdoor markets. I know that when I come back to Europe I am most definitely making a long stop in Barcelona to really enjoy all the city has to offer.

That time we went to a circus…

I definitely live in the more outskirts part of Granada but honestly, I am happy I do. I get to do a lot of walking and exploring of the city that I probably wouldn’t do otherwise. For the people who came to the circus, and just about everyone else in our group, has never been over here and was very surprised to see what its all about. I mean we are more then two months in and they’ve stuck to the same two streets… I don’t understand, I know I would get bored. But anyways, when I was on one of my walks exploring the city I stumbled upon a a giant circus tent with the writing “Gran Circo Mundial” setting up. I was definitely intrigued and decided to search a little when I got back home. Obviously I found that there was a circus coming to town! I don’t know why I was so excited, Im not that much of a circus person, I don’t like clowns, and I hate watching animals forced to do tricks. Anyways, I decided to share the news with the group and decided we would make a day of it.

We left early to make the journey to a nice outdoor market that happens by my house every sunday. We spend some time browsing around and bought some snacks to enjoy during the show. The show was actually pretty entertaining. I definitely enjoyed the trapeze artists the most. They did some pretty intense flips and throwing people back and forth, I was quite impressed. The show also involved some elephants, clowns, dalmatians, juggling and much more. At the end I was very pleased with the whole circus, definitely had its ups and downs but all and all Im happy to say that I enjoyed a pretty cool circus in Spain… can’t say I understood all of the jokes but it was entertaining.

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Sevilla y Ronda

So our group program has a couple built in trips that are included in our program fees. This was our first group weekend trip and it was a pretty awesome one. We spent two nights in a hotel in Seville and left Seville on Sunday to go to Ronda before heading back home. Both places were absolutely incredible. Unlike our group day trips which involve spending little time exploring on our own, it was nice to have a few educational group things planned as well as a few good chances of free time to just explore the city.

In Seville we climbed to the top of both the Giralda y and this thing that represented a giant mushroom, the Metropol Parasol. Both had incredible views overlooking the city and I was absolutely blown away. We also went to the Cathedral, and my favorite, The Plaza de Espana. Seville reminds me of Granada a lot in that it had a lot of the same shops and busy touristy areas, but also different with its vast gardens and biker friendly roads. It was such a different feel whether you were in the shopping center, or 5 minutes away lost in an incredible garden in the middle of the city.

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On Sunday we left for Ronda. To be honest I have never heard of Ronda before and was slightly skeptical. I was definitely in for a surprise when we drove in on this small quaint town perched on the side of a cliff. The views were breathtaking.  One road you’re walking through restaurants and stores, the next road over you are hanging out of the side of a giant cliff overlooking farmland below. Ronda was so picturesque. At first it seemed to be this one street town with incredible views, but with every different street you turned down you would find more and more of a city district developing with shops and restaurants. We got a tour of the Plaza de Toros along with a had a nice long hour history lesson then had time for lunch and exploring!

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Mi Familia y La Alhambra

I was beyond excited when my mom and sister came to visit me last week over my sisters spring break! I got some much needed hugs and ate some really delicious food! They spent about a week here in Granada and then moved onto Madrid for a couple of days. It was so much fun and I was really glad I was able to show them around this beautiful city and help them with you know, the whole language thing… Anyways, we mostly chilled, shopped, ate, enjoyed the warm weather and shopped some more.

Although we didn’t really do a whole lot of the touristy things and no real day trips we knew that we had to see the Alhambra, because I guess it is a pretty big deal. I had yet to go before they came so I was pretty excited to see what all the fuse was about. Well Its pretty massive and has gorgeous views of the whole city. Not to mention the expansive gardens and amazing hand carved architecture. It was truly incredible. But honestly, just hanging out with my mom and sister was by far my favorite parts of the week. This semester is absolutely flying by!

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Weekend Trip to Morocco

This past weekend just about our whole school group (20 out of 21 of us) decided to go to Morocco for the weekend with a tour group called Discover Excursions. Before coming to Europe I didn’t have a lot of travel, or excursions planned but I did know one thing, if I could only do one trip I wanted to go to Morocco. I have always dreamed of shopping their open markets and taking pictures of local people. With Spain being just a short distance from Morocco via the Mediterranean, I was so excited to be able to cross Morocco off my bucket list.

The trip was really short with the majority of our time spent on a bus traveling from place to place. We departed from Granada at 3pm on friday, had a 3 hour bus ride to Seville, then a 3 hour bus ride to Tarifa, to an hour an a half boat ride to finally get to Morocco at around 10 pm.

The next morning we had a late start and set out for Chefchaouen or, the Blue City, know for its vast markets and of course houses painted in different shades of blue. The city was truly breathtaking with its gorgeous views, buildings and streets overflowing with tourists and locals. Unfortunately, with our late start that morning we had one hour of shopping time following lunch and a 2 hour tour that was near impossible to hear with about 50 people in our group. I managed to purchase a set of four moroccan tea glasses but was forced to rush around and missed out on a bunch of cool sights and bargains. We left  Chefchaouen and made the 2 and a half hour journey back to our hotel just for dinner and had some time to hang with friends.

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The following day we set off just about on time around 9 am to get to Asilah for a solid two hours of shopping and touring the streets. Asilah was much less touristy and busy but still beautiful and filled with intricate graffiti walls. With a little less then two hours to shop I managed to purchase a few more small goods such as some bracelets, a metal teapot to go with my tea glasses, and a henna tattoo that looks like sharpie. Unfortunately Asilah had much less shopping then I had hoped and counted on so our choices were pretty limited. 

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We left Asilah and had a delicious lunch of chicken kebabs and french fries and headed to the highlight of the trip, camel rides and Caves of Hercules. The cave was beautiful and the camel rides were short but entertaining, a perfect way to end the trip.

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In the end the trip was definitely worth it, I am however left unsatisfied and disappointed about a few expectations I had. Due to the rain the first day much of the outdoor market was not set up, and I was unable to take as much pictures I had wanted of the markets and local people: 1. because of the rain and fear that my camera would get wet, and 2. the fact that a few of the locals got angry when I pointed my camera at them or their stores. I also had hoped to get more shopping time but with delays and just too many people it just didn’t happen. Lastly, I was really excited for a real traditional Moroccan meal but were fed a lot of french fries, steamed vegetables, and chicken (which luckily had some good moroccan spices). After this trip I know that I definitely want to return to some different places in Morocco one day and spend more time eating local food and exploring the open markets in a smaller more manageable group.

Museo CajaGranada

As another one of our class trips we took a trip to the Museo CajaGranada en Granada to learn a little history, see some artifacts, and visit a temporary Picasso exhibit. Ive never been a huge fan of museum because I always seem to find myself wandering off and not having enough patience to read about and really appreciate the art. Although towards the end of our tour I was ready to dose off, the museum was very modern and interactive which was something new and interesting. I really enjoyed be able to learn the history of the Andalusia area and especially be able to feel and smell some of the crops and that grow in the area.

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More Cowbell

More Cowbell

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We ended our tour with a walk through of a temporary Picasso exhibit. Im not going to pretend I understand a lot of art because to be honest I don’t. I can appreciate some really incredible art just for its aesthetic value but thats about it. I have a hard time interpreting and taking a message away from many works of art, but I do appreciate a well done canvas, photo, piece, or what have you. That being said many of the Picasso’s looked as though they were sketches just ripped out of his sketch book with a jagged rip line and everything. Some were incredible and some made me wonder if they are hanging up because Picasso’s name is signed in the corner.

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one of my favorite

one of my favorite

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All in all the museum was definitely modern and different from a lot of other museums I’ve been too, plus its always nice to have a better idea about the history of an area and the people who inhabited it.

La Alpujarra

 

Yesterday was a perfectly relaxing yet exciting group trip to La Alpujarra Granadina.  We left Granada and set out for the little towns situated high up on the mountain side. The ride consisted of many windy turns and small roads but all in all it was definitely worth the trip. Our teacher explained how the little towns look very similar to that in which we will see in Morocco, with the pure white buildings and architecture. We had a relaxing day of walking around, eating, and shopping. Not a horrible way to spend such a beautiful sunny day.

In the first town we stopped at we of course walked around, got a little history lesson, and saw some amazing views including the Mediterranean Sea off into the distance. After some pictures and a short walk we found ourselves in a small local chocolate shop. And by small I mean really small. There was about 24 in our group alone and another busload of people pushing and fighting for samples. Luckily, when it comes to free samples and especially chocolate I am not shy and was not afraid to throw some elbows. That being said I ate about half a chocolate bar in delicious samples including my favorites of: dark chocolate sea-salt, raspberry, dark chocolate caramel, and chile. The chocolate seriously melted in your mouth and was the perfect pre-lunch pick-me-up.

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DSC_7138       After most of us had to be dragged away from the samples we hopped back on the bus and headed to another town ten minutes higher up on the mountain to enjoy some lunch! Again we had a little time to explore the city, shop, and take some pictures on the beautiful mountain side while our traditional Aplujarran lunch was being prepared. When we finally sat down in this cute family restaurant we were immediately given baskets and baskets of bread with olive oil, and red wine. Shortly after a cute little old lady comes out and starts ladling some soup made of ham and bread, beans and veggies for the vegetarian option. After we licked our plates clean we were served salad family style and a meal of patatas pobres, or fried potatoes and peppers, a fried egg, and chorizo and ham for the traditional plate, a cheese slices for the vegetarian plate. To finish the meal we were each given an almond meringue which was a little on the sweet side, even for me, but loaded with almonds.  The meal was very delicious but quite heavy and filling.

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As we headed back to granada we stopped one last time to try some fresh water filled with iron. I guess its super good for you, however it’s anything but delicious. It tasted like rusty carbonated water, but I’m glad I can say I tried it… I guess.

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Once we got back in Granada we decided as a group to trek up to the Alabicin and watch the sunset. It happened in a matter of seconds but lit up the whole sky in a beautiful orange and was a perfect way to end a perfect day with a great group of friends.

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