It’s been almost a week since I got back to the U.S. and it has been a little weird, but the reverse culture shock has not been as shocking as I expected. It is strange that here in Minnesota there’s hardly anyone from a different nationality and almost no one speaks a lick of Spanish. During my layover in Iceland, I found myself trying to be mentally prepared to speak to the worker at an information desk in Spanish—in case they didn’t understand English—but then I realized that they wouldn’t speak Spanish either because they speak Icelandic in Iceland. It was weird. I am back to the food I am most accustomed to, and I know all the good restaurants and where to find them, but that gives me less motivation to try something new and find new restaurants and stores. It’s been good to see my family again too, I was getting pretty homesick.
Before I left Spain, I went to Seville for one last weekend trip. Seville is known most for its Plaza de España, which is where a few scenes were recorded for Naboo in Star Wars. It was super beautiful, and the city has a river running through the middle of it which I got to paddleboard along. The city is also famous for bullfights and flamenco dancing.
Anyway, my semester of study abroad in Alicante, Spain was a good one and I hope to one day return to visit Alicante again. I’m going to miss all the friends I made and the good times we had, but I have the memories, and I’ll keep those forever. Hasta la proxima vez, España.
Alright, I’ve only got a couple more weeks here in Alicante. About two weeks ago I visited the castle of Guadalest with my host family. This castle is on top of a mountain several miles inland, with the most beautiful view I’ve seen so far in Spain. The castle is also right next to a dam full of clear blue water. I was a little bit tired that day because the night before I was finishing my last-ever essay for undergrad and I decided to commemorate the experience by having an energy drink and pulling an all-nighter. So if I look a little tired in some pictures, that’s why. Afterward, we also went to go see some mountain caves with stalagmites and stalactites, which was pretty cool.
Last weekend and today I had to say goodbye to a couple of friends as their programs ended earlier than mine. Oddly enough, they are both from Texas, but they don’t know each other. Anyway, the first one was Josh; he was friends with all the people in my program because some of us had classes with him. We had celebrated his birthday in February at a nice Italian restaurant called Sale & Pepe which we then went to again for his last night here. I highly recommend their lasagna. Next, we have Anne, whom I met because of the international group I joined at a church here. We celebrated both her 21st birthday and her going away by going to a restaurant called Circo which had delicious burgers! We then went out dancing afterwards. I also want to mention that I’ve become good friends with some of the Spanish people in the international group and that not only has it been really fun hanging out with them, but my Spanish has also gotten a lot better because I talk with them a lot. So for anyone studying abroad in the future, I recommend making some friends at local groups/organizations, especially if they speak English and the language you are trying to learn!
I have two weeks left of my time here in Spain. Next weekend I will be taking one last trip to Seville. I’ll let you all know how that goes afterward, but as for now I am going to go to the beach and soak up as much sun as I can before I have to go back home and work for the summer. Talk to you again soon!
After traveling around during my spring break, I came back to Alicante and there was another holy week celebration going on called Santa Faz (Holy Face). The main highway from Alicante to the church of Santa Faz (in a nearby, smaller town) was closed down for the day so that people could make the 5-mile journey on foot (the Santa Faz pilgrimage). I went with my host family. There were thousands of people walking in the street and along the sides there were people playing music and selling palm branches. Once we got to the church, there was a long road behind it full of people who had set up stands to sell all kinds off things: Hard candy, caramel apples, freshly-roasted almonds, rugs, clothes, etc. We ate lunch there and afterwards there were buses available for us to take back in to Alicante so we didn’t have to walk back.
The next weekend, I visited Barcelona with a couple of friends. Barcelona is a city farther up the coast with a lot of really cool architecture by some famous architects/artists such as Antoni Gaudí. His most famous work is La Sagrada Familia, a giant Roman Catholic church that is still under construction today. I got to go inside, and it was the most beautiful building I have ever been in. There were giant stained-glass windows surrounding the whole inside which looked amazing with the sun coming in during that time of day. Everything was colored bright and vivid and the ceiling was hundreds of feet high. I really want to go back some day when it is finished!
There was also Park Güell, which is a huge park with buildings covered in beautiful painted tiles. Unfortunately, part of the park was under construction when we got there, and they were only letting so many people in at a time, so we weren’t able to visit the actual part with the beautiful buildings. But we were able to see the buildings from a little farther off and we were able to climb up some tall hills with a good view of the city and the ocean. It was also my 22nd birthday on the 20th while I was there. My friends and I celebrated by going to a bar where I ordered my favorite drink: pisco sour. Earlier that day we also happened to find a little shop that sold acai bowls which are one of my favorite things to eat. There was also a really cool fountain show at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc which was actually really impressive a fun to watch. A friend of my friend Nicole just happened to be visiting Barcelona at the same time as us, so that night we decided to meet up and do something. He had heard that there was some mountain nearby with a great night-view of Barcelona, so around 11pm we headed over to find it. After several hours of getting lost taking the wrong bus and the wrong metro, we finally got to the mountain and climbed to the top (around 3am), but the view was worth it. Overall, Barcelona is a really cool city to visit and a must for anyone visiting Spain.
I spent last weekend in Madrid. Disclaimer: Madrid is a huge city and if you decide to walk everywhere instead of taking public transportation your legs will hurt a lot. That’s right. Rather than spending a few euros every day to take the metro and figure out how that works, I decided to make the two-hour walk to the city center from my Airbnb each day that I was in Madrid. Granted, I wandered past some really cool buildings and neighborhoods that I would have missed if I would have taken the metro, but unless you are super fit and have lots of extra time, I would suggest taking public transport when visiting Madrid (or any foreign city for that matter). Like, I run 15 miles for fun and my legs were killing me halfway through the second day.
Anyway, in Madrid there are tons of huge, palace-like buildings everywhere and gorgeous fountains in their plazas every few blocks. There are also some pretty cool museums such as the Prado and Madrid has its very own Egyptian temple! During my time there I also took a day trip to Segovia, a nearby city with a giant roman aqueduct and a castle! The city of Segovia itself is very old-fashioned with tiled roofs and everything. It was a very cool sight and a must-see for anyone visiting Spain! I also had the opportunity to watch a bullfight while in Madrid. It was a really cool experience that I enjoyed watching, though it is not for the faint of heart—especially if you faint at the sight of blood. Anyway, Madrid was a great place to experience some real Spanish culture and practice my Spanish some more. I’ll be visiting Barcelona soon, so check back in a couple of weeks to read about that! ¡Hasta pronto!
Alright, on Monday this week we got to go to this really cool festival called Las Fallas (pronounced Fayas) in Valencia. Las Fallas lasts for the whole weekend and consists of giant fallas (papier-mache statues) made by artists for this festival. Many of the fallas have some sort of religious or political significance. Most of the streets in the city of Valencia were blocked off and the fallas were set up in the plazas and street-corners for everyone to look at. It is also a national holiday so there was no class and many people had the day off from work. There are several firework displays that go off during the day and they are extremely loud. There were also firecrackers being sold all over the place and kids were constantly setting them off in the streets. There were also food trucks all over the place selling fried foods, especially buñuelos which are a certain type of churro specifically made for the fallas festival. There were also street performers all over the place singing, making music, dancing, and posing for pictures. Starting at 10pm they lit the fallas on fire and we got to watch them all burn down! The last ones were finishing around 2am. We then got on our bus and went back to Alicante and had class bright and early the next morning!
These past couple weeks in Alicante, I’ve been pretty busy. A group with the university went to watch a professional basketball game right here in Alicante. The team we were rooting for used to be one of the best around but due to financial issues they were brought down to the lowest league. I got to see Black Panther and La Forma del Agua (The Shape of Water) at the movie theater; both movies were in Spanish. It’s still challenging to fully understand people speaking in rapid Spanish, but I feel like I am getting better at it little by little.
Last weekend I visited Granada with my program. Granada is the type of city you would imagine when you think of Spain; there are lots of old-fashioned buildings with tiled roofs and plazas with large beautiful fountains. We also got to watch some authentic flamenco dances. And we visited La Alhambra which is a palace/fortress built by Muslims hundreds of years ago and boasts some very beautiful architecture.
One last thing that happened this week was that on International Women’s day there were some huge protests all around Spain for women to get the same salaries as men. I saw huge crowds of thousands of people in the streets participating in the protests and I even got out of class that day because both of my professors wanted to go to participate in the protests.
That’s all for this update, but make sure to check out the “videos” I have posted on here to see more of the places I’ve visited!
P.S. Their post office drop-off boxes here are yellow and cylindrical. :-)
These past couple of weeks I have been exploring some of the natural beauty in the areas near Alicante. I’ve visited some parks and climbed some mountains. There was one farther inland from Alicante near a town called Alcoy which is very secluded and surrounded by forest. The other mountain was right next to the coastal city of Calpe. Spain has so much more natural beauty than I ever thought!
I also mentioned in my last post that I would be going to Carnaval, which consisted of a giant concert in the street and a whole bunch of food trucks sells all sorts of goodies like chocolate-dipped churros. Also, everyone was dressed up in costumes ranging from scary skeletons to silly fairies.
We visited “Refugios de la Guerra Civil” which are the bunkers that Spanish citizens would go to take cover when Alicante was being bombed during their civil war. I think they said that there were several hundred of these bunkers in Alicante and that it could hold up to 1400 people, although that would be extremely crowded. When the sirens went off the people would take shelter in the bunker for a few hours, but since they wouldn’t be sure when the sirens might go off again, people would often stay in the bunkers overnight.
This week I went with my friend Isaiah to play Pádel with a couple of Spanish friends he knew. Pádel is kind of like pickle ball and tennis combined, except that you have to play in a special court that has glass on half of the fence around the court and you can use the glass to bounce the ball off of during game-play. It was a lot of fun, and I made some new Spanish friends!
Next weekend my whole program is going to go to Granada together. There should be some really cool older buildings there full of history and plenty of sights to see.
¡Hasta la proxima vez!
The first month has ended and my classes have changed. I'm in the next grammar class up and I'm taking a culture class about Spain. A group of students and I visited a nearby city called Murcia a couple of weekends ago; the city was filled with beautiful cathedrals and quaint little shops. A couple of my friends tried some cooked octopus tentacle and I tried out their lattes - they did not disappoint. I've put a link in the videos section to my Murcia video on YouTube. We also watched Insidious: The Last Key at a cinema back in Alicante. The movie was all in Spanish with no subtitles, but it was very cheap - about five dollars per ticket and another five for their largest popcorn. We learned how to cook paella which is a pretty common dish here made out of rice, oil, an assortment of vegetables, and some type of meat like pork, chicken, or seafood.
Cultural differences time... If you didn't know, here in Spain they eat lunch at 2 pm and supper at 9 or 10 pm. They still eat breakfast around 7 or 8 in the morning. This took the most getting used to, but my body seems to finally have gotten used to being hungry later in the day. At sit-down restaurants there is no such thing as dividing up the bill so that each person only pays for what they got - you get one receipt and have to divide it up yourselves. You are also NOT supposed to leave a tip as the tip is already added into the price. One of the things I really love about shopping here is that all of their price tags already have taxes added into them so the price you see is the exact price that you will pay at the register! One other funny thing about Spain is that the people will park their cars everywhere! They park them on sidewalks and drive up on the side of the curb and when they do parallel park they're not afraid to bump the cars in front of and behind them to fit their car in the spot!
I started tutoring a couple weeks ago. I tutor two brothers, one is 12 (Sergi) the other is 5 (Marc). Sergi is in middle school; he has had some English classes in the past but this year all of his classes are in English because the school system here wants all their students to know Spanish and English. I mostly help him study for tests, especially in biology and English. Since Marc is still really young I mostly just play games with him and get him to practice numbers and colors. I have a picture of Marc and I below.
Side note: We eat bread with every meal here and it is delicious. We also ate at an Italian restaurant for a friend's birthday and their Italian food was much the same as it is at Italian restaurants in the U.S. I got lasagna of course. This Thursday we got to learn one of the traditional Spanish dances: Bachata. It was quite a bit of fun and it seemed pretty similar to swing-dancing.
That's all for now, but this weekend and throughout next week is Carnaval, which means there will be parties, concerts, and food all over the place. Think of Halloween and the carnival coming to town at the same time for a week along with concerts late at night and that's what Carnaval basically is. More fun and photos to follow... ¡Nos vemos!
I have been here for 2 weeks now, and I’m enjoying every minute of it! The other 20 students I’m with are a lot of fun and my host family is pretty cool. My host family consists of an older couple, Daniel and Isabel, with their daughter, Paula, and their son, Robert, lives on the floor below us in the same apartment building.
The campus of la Universidad de Alicante where I am studying is beautiful! It’s the middle of winter and there are palm trees and orange trees, water fountains, and it’s usually sunny and warm!
Last Saturday, we went with our program to the city of Valencia where they have some cool new architecture in their L’Hemisferic and their opera house—Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia—alongside some old, gothic architecture found in their museums and cathedrals.
On Sunday the craziest thing happened. I had met this guy, Joshua Platillero at college back at home last winter. I was hanging out with a couple of my friends in the business building and Josh was on the phone nearby. After finishing his phone call, Josh overheard our conversation and decided to join us. We talked for a couple of hours and followed each other on social media. I hadn’t seen him since then because he works in Washington D.C. and was just visiting the area for a couple of days. Fast forward a year to last Saturday when Josh randomly messages me, asking what I’m doing in Spain and that he himself was about to fly here. It turns out his parents are missionaries here and they live here with their family. Josh was coming to visit them for a few days and he invited me to come over and hang out for the day. Both of his brothers had soccer games that day, so I got to watch them play, I tried paella for the first time, and we played Settlers of Catan in Spanish! It was a fun time and I’m going back today for a church service that his parents do for their students.
This Saturday, some other students and I visited the town of Altea which is about two hours north of Alicante by Tram. It had some nice scenic beaches and the city was on a hill. We hiked up through the narrow, weaving streets to the top where there was a beautiful, old church. We got some gelato up there and then we returned to the bottom. We then went to a restaurant to eat tapas which are kind of like appetizers, but they usually eat a lot of them to make a whole meal.
This upcoming week I am going to start working as a tutor once a week on Monday for a couple of kids who live near me. My program sets this up so that we can help these kids learn some English and we can make a little money while we’re here. I’ll let you know how that goes later, but for now… ¡Hasta la vista!