Study Abroad in
Ahora estamos en el final del programa. Sólo cuatro días quedan entre ahora y mi vuelo para volver a los Estados Unidos. Las maletas ya están casi hechas y sólo tengo unas horas entre ahora y el final. La idea de salir hace que piensa en cuál cosas voy a echar de menos de España. En primer lugar, la gente. algunas comidas como el arroz (no paella, sino arroz blanca), el pan, y la fruta, en particular las naranjas. Las naranjas de España son más grandes, más dulces, y las más jugosas del mundo. Además voy a echar de menos hablar español. Ahora estoy tan acostumbrada a hablar en español que a veces no me doy cuenta que estoy hablando en español en vez de en inglés.
Pensaba antes que sería más fácil salir por echar de menos cosas de allí pero ahora me doy cuenta de algún hecho: era más fácil para dejar cosas de los EEUU cuando vine a España porque sabía que volvería pronto. Sin embargo, con cosas de España es posible que nunca las tenga a ellos jamás y entonces no tengo ganas de salir.
No obstante, echo de menos un montón a mi novio, mi perra, y toda mi familia. También estoy animada para comer todas mis comidas preferidas, para ir a fiestas con mis amigas y mi familia y para contar a todos mi vida en España y cómo lo pasé.
It is hard to believe that it is already time for me to leave Alicante and Spain. It seems like just yesterday I stepped off the plane, hopped onto a train and made my way here to Alicante. Now, it is time to reverse the journey.
It is amazing to see how much progress everyone, including myself, has made. These past few weeks have been filled with projects and presentations and my classmates (and myself) who once were afraid to give even one word responses in class are now writing 6 or 7 page papers and giving full presentations in Spanish. Granted, we all still make mistakes, but we understand a lot and know how to get our point across.
Back in March when I wrote I thought then that I had come very far with my Spanish, but an incident occurred this week that really made me see how far I had come. Unfortunately, I lost my wallet on the bus this week with all of my ID cards, bus pass, and debit card inside. I didn't realize it until the next day as I went to take the bus and I had to explain to my madre why I had returned home and was frantically searching my room. We then called into CIEE to explain what happened and ask for advice. My madre handed me the phone to explain and the person on the other end of the line was speaking to me in Spanish. As I frantically tried to remember the word for "wallet," I tried to give up and asked to speak in English. But when Jennifer told me to just explain what happend, I found myself telling the entire story in Spanish anyway. Jennifer, in Spanish, then advised me to just come into CIEE and sort everything out there. As I hung up the phone I realized that as frustrated and freaked out as I was, I was still able to tell my story and understand everything. I know I could never have been able to do this at the beginning, or even a month and a half ago. So, even though I am out of a bus pass, debit card, and ID cards, my consolation prize is the confidence boost my Spanish received from the whole ordeal. This makes my upcoming Spanish exams seem not quite as scary as I originally thought.
I know I am going to be upset leaving Spain, way more upset than I ever was to leave the U.S. but I have had such a great experience, met so many great people, and seen some of the most amazing sights. I wish my time here could have been longer, but I know this is definitely a semester I will never forget!
Here are some of my favorite memories from the semester:
Seeing Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao (Unfortunately Barcelona won)
Before you being your time abroad you may already be thinking about how you want to spend your time over spring break. Though I'm not saying these thoughts are bad, I do want to say that you need to refrain from making any plans before you know the exact dates of your breaks and other activities that will be planned for you throught the semester. Once you find out these dates you can let the planning commence.
One will experience an overwhelming sense of joy when the realize the copious amount of possibilities for travel, but one may also feel that they can't fit in all of their choice destinations in such a short time. I regretfully have to say that both of these facts are a reality, but don't fright. All is well in wonderland. You will be able to go to most, if not all, of your destinations if weekends and money permit!
A personal recommendation would be to choose two or three places that you wante to spend more time in and use those as your spring break destinations. For me those places were Barcelona, Amsterdam and London. Once you have your destinations chosen you may being to ask around to other people in your program to see if anyone wishes to join you for part or all of your journey or to see if you want to join them in their's. Once you know where you want to go you need to book your plane tickets and hostels for the duration of your travels. One should do their best to book these no less than a month in advance to make sure that they get cheaper plane tickets and to ensure that one has a place to stay during their travels.
Now, to pack for ones travels one needs to be conscious of a few important things, the number of souviners one plans to purchase, weight and size constraints of the airlines and toiletries. It is very important that one only packs a sufficient amount of supplies to last for the trip so as to leave ample space available to be filled with souviners and things of the like. Also, don't pack a set of clothing for every day, its ok if you wear the same stuff a few times. I personally would reccomend readying the number of items that you think you need and cutting that number in half. Don't forget a pair of flipflops though, because its gauranteed that you won't want to shower barefoot in at least one of the places that you stay. Also, avoid using a suitcase if at all possible. Carrying a backpack makes traveling a lot easier, faster and quieter.
Now in terms of execution of a successful spring break one needs to make sure that they have all of their boarding passes and hostel reservations printed, possibly with doubles. One also needs to be as punctual as possible so as to make sure that they don't miss any flights or busses if you are traveling by that method. And last but not least, you need to have fun during your travels because who knows when your going to have the chance to do this again?!
"WHOAAAA! WE'RE HALFWAY THERE. WHOAAAA! LIVING ON A PRAYER!" Bon Jovi was definitely onto something with his song, but when it comes to Spain, I'm definitely not living on a prayer. I'm living the DREAM.
Instead of trying to pick one particular event to focus on, I've decided to make a list of my top 5 fool proof lessons for studying abroad.
5. Don't be afraid to take a risk. Granted, accepting the challenge of coming to another country is a risk in and of itself, but take another one. And another. Whether it's planning and taking a trip on your own, or even trying a new and unusual food- taking a risk is scary, but also so worth it.
4. Let your guard down and meet new people. Whether it's the people in the program, your host family or a new friend from a convenience store, meeting new people is part of the experience. And also, while it's fascinating to talk about beautiful architecture and history, people make better stories (and pictures!)
3. Take time to let it all soak in. It's a whirlwind and if you don't stop to appreciate it, it'll be gone before you know it. Even if you do take time to take it all in, it'll still fly by!
2. NO PASA NADA. Take a lesson out of the Spanish book and learn the phrase. You're a little late to dinner? No pasa nada. You miss the bus? No pasa nada. You trip on a daily basis and embarrass yourself? No pasa nada. This doesn't mean that life is a joke and to blow it all off, but simply that life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
1. Have fun! Studying Abroad is about new experiences, expanding horizons and growing up, but it's also a time to have fun. Go ahead, chase those pigeons, laugh at nothing, act like a kid again!
I can't even begin to accept the fact that we've passed the halfway mark and that our days in Spain are numbered. I knew that the time would fly by, but I never could have imagined that it would go this fast. Why can't my semesters at home pass this quickly!? Even still, more than 2 months later, I'm still finding it hard to believe that I'm here. Something that has always seemed like a distant future has become my reality. I'm in love with Spain and this is one dream I'm not ready to wake up from.
I have been living here in Alicante for almost two months now, and I am having a terrific time. One of the best parts of my experience is observing the small quirks of living in Spain in comparison to living in the US. They are neither good nor bad, nor without exception. I just find them interesting.
The orange trees on campus or in the city are for decoration and juices, not eating. The bread in Spain is amazing. Baseball caps are very American. It's strange to eat at 7:00 at night. Generally the paper in notebooks is graph paper, and it's size is larger than the paper in the US. oOoOooooooooOoOooo Barbara Streisand. Homestay parents of girls have no problem with them going out to the clubs until 8 in the morning, but they do have a problem with inviting a boy over for lunch. Water in Alicante is rather scarce. People really have to limit how long they shower. Toilets are only filled a little bit in order to save water. For a town that limits its water intake, there sure are a lot of fountains. You soon realize that some of the words you learned in Spanish class are from Latin America and aren’t commonly used in Spain. For instance computer is not computadora; it’s ordenador. Going back from the bars at 3am is going home early. A lot of people have dogs and dress them up. I have learned more about English grammar since I arrived than I learned in high school and college combined.
I've been in Spain now for about 10 weeks now and I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed. I have made so many new people and seen so many new and exciting places around Europe. Even so, I think that by far my favorite part of my experience so far has been when my family came to visit me here in Alicante. I didn't feel like a tourist, I felt like a tour guide! It felt great to show off the University, the city of Alicante and my improving Spanish. I could tell how impressed and proud my parents were by how well I was doing. It was clear to them that I was loving living in Alicante and making the most out of my time in Spain.
I know one of the reasons Alicante feels like home is because of my Spanish homestay family. I absolutely love my Madre Maria. She's made me feel just like her own daughter! When my parents and aunt and uncle visited she had them over for la comida and everyone had such a good time. None of my family members spoke any Spanish, so I spent several hours translating, but it was such a great experience for everyone involved. My family got to see where I was living and they were reassured that I was in good hands. Madre Maria loves talking and entertaining and I know she loved to meet my family and tell them about Alicante and Spain and me! For me, I was finally able to see the progress I had made in my Spanish. In the beginning, there was so much I could not understand or express. After translating for my family and my Madre Maria, I can see how much my comprehension and conversation skills have improved. I still have a long ways to go before I will ever be fluent, but I am very proud of how far I have come!
My parents and I on our weekend trip to Segovia, Spain.
I went to Ireland this past weekend which was an incredible experience. I flew into Dublin but ended up spending most of my time in Galway which is about a 2 hour train ride from Dublin. The great thing about studying abroad in Europe is that its really easy and cheap to travel to different countries. I got to spend a weekend exploring Ireland. The night life in Galways was great and during the day time I got to explore the cliffs which was beautiful. I was extremely worn out by the time I landed back in Alicante but I was relieved to be able to sleep in my own bed after being on a train and plane for a few hours and staying in hostiles. I had a great experience in Ireland for the perfect amount of time.
I absoutely love my host family. We have lunch and dinner togethere almost every day and my spanish has improved immensly. I live with a single mom and her and I are very close. We talk about everything which especially helps broaden my spanish vocabulary! My homestay experience has been incredible so far. The home cooked meals are phenomenal as well. My cousin came to visit me 2 weekends ago and she fell in love with Alicante. She currently lives in Munich, which is very cold, so coming to Alicante for the weekend was the best vaccacion shes had in years! She had heard very little of the city before coming and fell in love with it just like me when she got here! I went to the archeology museum, castillo, beach and different tapas while she was here! She got to experience a home cooked meal with mi madre here as well.
Alicante has been wonderful and can't wait to write more about it :)
The saying "time flies when you're having fun" has never been so real to me. The past month or so has gone by so quickly, I feel like I had just blogged yesterday! Living in Alicante has been unreal. The weather is just starting to get warm and I couldn't be any happier. This past weekend a few friends and I ventured off to Benidorm for a quick weekend getaway. None of us had any planned trips so spur of the moment, we figured we'd invest 5 euro and take a tram to see the beach that everone had been talking about. I'm here to verify how beautiful Benidorm is. I totally recommend anyone who has a free weekend or even for a day trip, to go check it out. Although it is a bit touristy, it's worth it. The sun, the stores, the view, the nightlife, not too mention how inexpensive it is, put Benidorm on the map. After going on a few wreckless excursions to Paris and Barcelona, it was so nice to not see my wallet empty after coming back to Alicante.
As I had said before, the time here is flying by so fast. It's making me realize that I'm not learning as much Spanish as I had hoped. Unfortunately, it's my own fault. I never realized how difficult it really is to speak Spanish with your fellow American friends when you're so used to speaking your native English. Thankfully, I'm realizing this now as opposed to in May when I'm back in the states and am only surrounded by English. I'm realizing that it's super important to take advantage of everything that's offered. The intercambios, the Spanish taught classes, Club COOLtural and even my peers are all so close that if I really want to speak better Spanish, it's time to get serious. As a matter of fact, I'm going to email my intercambio now and set up a meeting with him. ¡Hasta Luego!
Sara, Me, Emily, and Megan admiring the view at Parque Guell in Barcelona