Sunday, September 16, 2012

Final Post

How have you changed as a person after studying abroad?

I think studying abroad has made me more confident and independent. I didn’t know anyone that was going to be in my program so, especially at first, I only had myself to rely on. I had to figure out how to navigate multiple airports and ask for help in Spanish, by myself. When I first arrived in Spain, I was so terrified to ask anybody anything because I thought I was going to make a fool of myself and that no one would understand me and vice versa. However, as I talked to more people, I became much more confident in my abilities and was quick to ask for help whenever I needed it. Even when I came home, I found myself being less timid and stubborn about asking for help and I’m more confident when meeting new people since everyone in Spain was a complete stranger to me. 

What self-discovery surprised you?

One thing that I learned about myself is that I’m almost always in a rush and sometimes I don’t know how to just relax. Honestly, I get anxiety sometimes when I have nothing to do because I’m too accustomed to constantly running around from task to task. Sometimes in Spain I would catch myself speed walking home from class for absolutely no reason. It was in a beautiful city with gorgeous weather, yet I was rushing to get back to my dorm to do absolutely nothing. Granted, I always knew that I was this way; however, I don’t think I realized how much I was missing by doing this. When I actually took my time and enjoyed the scenery, I noticed so many things that I never had before. I did the same thing when I came back to Oakland for the first time. People have even pointed out that I walk so much slower now that I’m more relaxed. 

If you took courses in your major; how has studying abroad impacted your understanding of your major?

I didn’t take any courses in my major, but I learned the importance of being aware and accepting of cultural differences. Being culturally competent is something constantly stressed in nursing and I think this experience gave me really great insight on that. 

Single greatest benefit of studying abroad?

I think the greatest benefit was learning about a different culture firsthand. My Cultures and Stereotypes class really opened my eyes to the differences between the US and Spain and why we do things certain ways. For example, the restaurant process in Spain was so confusing and almost irritating at first. Instead of being primarily paid in tips, waiters and waitresses get paid a higher salary. Therefore, they aren’t trying to rush people out so they can wait on more tables and make more money. It’s actually encouraged that people stay at restaurants after eating to socialize because building interpersonal relationships is very important. At first, I was so impatient with this because I was used to eating, instantly receiving the check, and leaving. Now that I understand the meaning behind it, it makes so much sense to me and I actually think our restaurant process is very backwards. 

How did your life goals change? 

I have decided that I would definitely like to travel more. I really enjoyed immersing myself in another culture so I would love to go back to Spain and travel to other countries like Italy, France, or Germany as well. 

What was my favorite experience?

My favorite experience was attending a preliminary EuroCup game when Spain played China. Since I play soccer, I was really excited to attend the game and was surprised when everyone in my program wanted to attend. The atmosphere was so exhilarating and you couldn’t help but have fun. After that, we watched all of the EuroCup games together and it brought us all closer which was really beneficial. 
I also really enjoyed the bike tour that we went on. I was really nervous going into because I never really learned how to ride a bike. However, everyone was really patient with me and now I can say that I learned how to ride a bike in Spain! Plus, the tour was amazing and we got to see most of the landmarks in Sevilla in a short period of time. 

Any advice for future participants? 

I would make sure you really research everything before traveling, whether it be about different programs or the country you’re traveling to. That way, you ensure you get exactly what you want out of your experience and you have an idea of what to expect. Also, it’s extremely important to go into the experience with an open mind. It will make it so much more enjoyable and you will learn more. Instead of thinking, “It’s weird that they do this” think, “they do this because of this.” 

Would you study abroad again? Why?

If I had the money, I would choose to study abroad again in a heartbeat. It was, by far, the most rewarding experience of my life. I learned a lot about myself and other cultures. It makes you think of the world in a different perspective. I am much more open-minded and laid back. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Since Thursday was another holiday and we didn't have school, we had a four day weekend. We decided to use our time wisely and go to Madrid. We left Wednesday night  and took a high speed train (even though it costed more) so it only took two and a half hours. Madrid reminds me of a European version of New York City. There are a lot of tourists, shopping, busy streets, and tall buildings. Don't get me wrong, I love New York City, but it's not what I think of when I picture Spain. I definitely liked it the least out of all the cities I have visited. I was starting to miss the quaint little walking community of Sevilla. Most of our trips are jam packed with activities so we are constantly running around and end up being exhausted at the end of the day so we decided to spread out our activities and try to relax. On Thursday we went to el Museo del Prado and it was really amazing. All of the paintings were so incredibly detailed I could barely wrap my head around how someone could do that without simply taking a picture. And some of the paintings were enormous! It must have taken forever. I officially have a newfound respect for anyone who paints. 

On Friday we went to the Royal Palace! I really, really wish I could have taken pictures inside because it was gorgeous. I seriously wanted to be a princess. There were chandeliers in every room and amazing artwork on the ceiling. There were moldings and sculptures everywhere and they walls were lined with perfectly designed patterns. I couldn't imagine actually living in a place where people tour through your house. Crazy! 

Overall it was a nice relaxing weekend and we got to do some shopping, explore the nightlife, and even get some McDonald's to remind us of home! 

Fun activities!

The following Monday we had a cooking class which was really cool! (Even though I hate cooking). It was great watching everybody else cook though! We made salmorejo which is a soup made with a lot of tomatoes, some peppers, oil, bread, and probably some other stuff. I hate vegetables so I wasn't exactly a fan of this dish. However, I LOVED the other one. We made Tortilla de España (Spanish omelet). I had never had one before, but it was absolutely delicious. It has potatoes and onions on the inside with egg covering the outside. Yuuummmm! I would absolutely mess up making this for myself so if anyone would like to make it for me **hint hint Mom or Urban** that would be wonderful.

The next day, I had to go to something called an "intercambio" for my stereotypes class. We essentially just talked about everyday things with people who were trying to learn English, which I loved because it was a break from struggling to speak Spanish. All of the participants were essentially fluent which was also helpful because we could basically talk about anything. I thought we were going to have to awkwardly ask questions because they wouldn't want to talk but they had so many questions for us! They wanted to know if we like Sevilla, where we had visited, what tapas we had tried, etc. and they told us a bunch of places for us to eat and important sites to visit. So we were both learning from each other and it was a really great experience!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Granada y Cordoba

Since I had to go to the Medieval festival, I couldn't leave for our next roadtrip to Granada and Cordoba with the three girls I was planning on staying with. Fortunately, a group of five other girls were going to Granada the next morning so I rode the bus with them and spent most of the day with them. I don't normally get the chance to see these girls because most of them aren't in either of my classes so it was nice to bond with some new people. When they checked into their hostal, the lady at the check-in desk told us about a bunch of great stuff to do and a restaurant to go to. A restaurant sounded wonderful so we could have a full meal rather than tapas. Speaking of tapas, I hate the entire restaurant process in Spain, but more on that later. 

We went to Restaurante Gallio which was an amazing, fantastic, wonderful, superb (more great adjectives) place. I figured Gallio was a pretty safe thing to order since it was the name of the restaurant. I was completely correct. It was spaghetti with tomato sauce, cream, and chicken which is pretty similar to what I constantly order from the delicious Carlow pasta bar except a million times better. Everyone loved their meals. I wish this place was in Sevilla or Pittsburgh so I could go all the time. Maybe I'll open one. 

We walked around the city for awhile to work off the calories from our meals. I thought Cadiz was amazing but Granada puts it to shame. It is so pretty and quaint and exactly what I picture Spain to look like. Later, I met up with the girls I was originally supposed to go with and we went La Alhambra and the gardens associated with it. It was AMAZING. Every room had the most intricate designs which were all different and lined the walls of the enormous palace. I can only imagine how long it took to do that. And I'm normally not a fan of gardens but it was by far the nicest, prettiest garden ever. We also went to a restaurant that had an absolutely incredible view of La Alhambra and the city. I could have sat there forever. So basically I loved Granada and if you ever get the chance, you should totally go there. 

I wasn't as big of a fan of Cordoba. The city was nice but Granada made it look like a dump. I did, however, love La Mezquita. It has the craziest cathedral in the center which made all of our jaws instantly drop to the floor. I remember saying "how can you take a picture of this?" because without seeing the entire thing, it doesn't look that fantastic. Pretty much all of the pictures from Granada and Cordoba don't do the cities any justice but I love them anyway. 

Let the craziness begin

Unfortunately, I haven't written anything for about a week and a half but I seriously have no time! Have of my time is filled with going to school and doing homework while the other half is doing a ton of fun stuff but sometimes it's nice to just sit around and do absolutely nothing. I'm going to try to split this up so this isn't like ten pages long. 

Five of us went to Cadiz on a day we had off from school. We went to the beach which was one of the nicest I have seen and the day was absolutely perfect! It was warm but not too hot and there was a slight breeze to keep us cool. The ocean was freezing but it actually felt really nice when we were burning up from the sun. We ate at a great restaurant by the beach and walked around the city a little. It was so pretty. I seriously wanted to live there. 

That night we went to a Flamenco show at Fundacion Tres Culturas which was really cool because the dances were in different styles representing the different cultures. You could see how each was different but there were a lot of similarities, showing how the cultures can unite together, ideas we talked about in my Stereotypes class. My class also had to attend a Medieval festival the next night which was strange but fun. I have never been to one in America so I can't really compare it but I pictured people sword fighting in Medieval garb. Basically Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That happened very briefly but it was very modernized which I found strange but I still had fun! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Oh yeah...I have to go to school.

On Sunday we went to Jerez for a wine tasting and Conil to go to the beach. Seeing the winery and how to make Tio Pepe's famous sherry was very fascinating and the entire place was beautiful. Too bad the wine was terrible. However, I'm really not a fan of any sort of wine so perhaps a person with a more distinguished palate would find it more appealing. Lo seinto, pero no me gusta. Something I am a fan of is the beach. The town of Conil was very picturesque, containing all white buildings. Unfortunately, it was incredibly windy that day so laying flat on the beach was almost unbearable. But we made the best of it and, overall, ended up having a great trip!

That's when reality sunk in. Until now, this had basically been a fun-filled vacation, but now we had to start school. I'm taking a Spanish class and a class based on cultures and stereotypes between Spain and the US. Let's start with the good. I love, love, love my stereotypes class. It is incredibly interesting so far, the teacher is super nice, and we do a lot of activities instead of just lectures which is beyond wonderful. My Spanish class...not so wonderful. Trust me, I'm glad I will be improving my Spanish and I am thoroughly convinced that this class will help me do so, but it is much more demanding than any of us anticipated. First of all, the class is entirely in Spanish which I'm not used to at all. Thanks, Norwin. I somehow can understand most of what the teacher is saying but sometimes I'm just completely clueless. We also have a ton of homework every night which is taking away from our time to simply enjoy being in Spain. However, it's not as if I'm new to doing a lot a work so I'll be able to handle it. 

On the bright side, tomorrow is Dia de San Fernando which is a holiday in Spain so we get the day off from class. A group of us are going to Cadiz for the day and then attending a flamenco show at night for our stereotypes class. Should be fun!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

We're going on a bike tour? Yikes.

Fun fact about me: I never learned how to ride a bike. Weird, I know. I tried to teach myself on vacation last year and I could go straight but any stopping, turning, or essentially anything requiring any effort at all was out of the question. So obviously when I heard we were going on a bike tour, I was absolutely terrified. And we're not talking like a half an hour or even an hour for the tour. It was going to be around two and a half hours. More great news. 
The people at the bike shop wanted to give me a bike with training wheels, an idea that I shot down immediately. I would rather fall every five seconds, get lost, and cry than use training wheels. Someone also suggested that they could pull me around in one of those bike trailers that typically accommodate small children. While comical, this also was not acceptable. 
After a shaky start, I ended up handling it pretty well. Everyone was very supportive and the tour guide was very patient with me since I was obviously slower than everyone else. I always managed to stay close to the group and I didn’t fall at all or I didn’t get hit by a car. Success! And now I can say I learned how to ride a bike in Spain!