Tag Archives: Spain

(España) Review of Spain: The First two Weeks

25 Jun

By this point, I have been in Spain for almost two weeks!! I have had no time or desire to blog, but now..it’s time! I have already learned so much and met so many amazing people! This post–my first one from Spain–will be a summary of my time here so far! [Warning: this MAY be the longest blog post ever.]

The flight (el vuelo):

I was SO NERVOUS about flying to Spain! I hadn’t been on an airplane in about ten years! When I arrived at the airport in Chicago, I was very confused. What do I do first?!! Luckily, my boyfriend (Collin) was by my side. In addition, my friend Lena was there to help me along the way! Overall, the flight was fine! It was smooth and didn’t seem to last too long! The hardest part was sleeping! There is no way to be comfortable in those seats! I was also very homesick while flying. I had a lot on my mind, and at the time, I just wanted to be curled up in my bed! (P.S.- The food was bad.)

Madrid: The first day (Madrid: el primer día):

We spent the first day in Madrid! I was very excited for this! Once we arrived in the airport in Madrid, we went through customs and then retrieved our bags. We then took a cab to my friends house! Mar is a friend who attended my high school as a foreign exchange student from Spain! Once I found out that I was studying abroad in Spain, I contacted Mar, and she invited Lena and I to stay with her!

I couldn’t have asked for a better person to stay with in Madrid! We arrived at Mar’s house via cab, and her sister (Irene) told us to make ourselves at home. We were instantly in love with Madrid! The city is gorgeous and vibrant; tons of beautiful buildings everywhere! Mar’s apartment was the perfect location for exploring Madrid, because it is located in the city center. We went exploring with our cameras in hand. Once we realized that we were hungry, we decided to stop and find  a place to have something to eat. We found a bar a minutes from Mar’s place. We enjoyed Sangria (my first legal drink..the drinking age in Spain is 18), but we should’ve definitely ordered two glasses instead of a pitcher (or “jarrita”). I say this because, well, after a few glasses…I vomited. Anyway…

Once we got back to Mar’s place, we napped until Mar returned from final exams and etc. We met Mar’s friend, Carmen. The four of us then went to catch the metro in order to go to the University area of Madrid “La Universitaria” for a party.

Taking the metro was cool! This was my first time on anything like it. Once we got to La Universitaria, we were met by about one hundred students. Our day of arrival was the last day of finals for most Spanish students. This was a cause for partying. We hung out on the grass of La Universitaria and met tons of Spaniards. (Lena even convinced a few guys that Bryan Cranston (Walter White) from Breaking Bad is her uncle.)

We returned to Mar’s place later and went to be immediately.

That night, i was very homesick! I had never been away from my family or friends for that long. The time difference was strange, so I had barely talked to them at all. Yet, I convinced myself that it would get better with time!!!

Madrid: the second day (Madrid: el segundo día)

The second day, I woke up to lots of sun pouring into the windows of Mar’s home. We went exploring again! This time, Mar led us to various sights of Madrid. One of my favorite moments was on top of Madrid…on the roof of a building called El Museo de Bellas Artes! We paid three Euros and enjoyed beers on the roof, overlooking all of Madrid! later, we ventured to the El Sol area of Madrid. This area is very vibrant and popular!

I am extremely thankful to Mar for showing us around Madrid! Being with her was special because she allowed us to see Madrid, not through the eyes of tourists, but through the eyes of Spaniards. I love you, Mar!

Madrid: day three! (Madrid: el tercer día)

On the third day, we left Mar’s house very early, because she was going to the beach with friends! We then went to a cafe for breakfast. We enjoyed croissants and orange juice (zumo de naranja). The orange juice in Spain is PRIME!!!! It is usually freshly squeezed…OH SO YUMMY.

We then went to stay with Lena’s friend, Paloma for the night. Paloma and Lena linked up through a common friend. Lena is a member of a program called CSIV, which connects students of various nationalities. We dropped our things off at Paloma’s and decided to explore the city. We caught the Metro to a new side of town (I don’t remember the name). This area was light on tourists. We went to El Corte Inglés, a large department store in Madrid. The store is filled with lots ofd high end places (Gucci, Prada, and other things we can’t afford). Lena and I enjoyed checking out the prices and laughing. We checked out a few stores that weren’t ridiculously expensive though. (Sfera, for example!) I didn’t buy anything because I’m super cheap, but I enjoyed looking!

After the department store, we basically just found ways to pass time (example: sleeping in McDonald’s). Once it was time to return to Palomas, we had been out and about in Madrid for over 8 hours!
Paloma is a very sweet woman! We had dinner with her and her friends, Ana. They filled us in on Spanish history and other good things to know. For dinner, we ate bocadillos, which are sandwiches that are very popular in Spain. After dinner (and some Scandal on my part) we went to bed. The next day, our program in Toledo, Spain (about an hour away from Madrid) was going to officially start! I was excited to meet new people and explore Toledo!

View of the street from Mar's apartment. Madrid is a big city full of people and culture! Mar's house is the perfect location!

View of the street from Mar’s apartment. Madrid is a big city full of people and culture! Mar’s house is the perfect location!

Toledo, You are Gorgeous!: The first day! (Toledo, eres hermosa!: El primer día!)

We woke up and got ready to embark on our trip to Toledo (our home for the next six weeks)! We met up with other students from our program at the Plaza de Colon. We then got on a bus to head to Toledo! Once we arrived in Toledo, I was blown away. Madrid is gorgeous, but Toledo is a different kind of beautiful. The city sits up very high in a way that I have never seen!
We eventually arrived at the Fundación, which is the building where our classes take place. We chatted with other students. Everyone was excited (and jetlagged). I was overjoyed by how nice everyone was! I was already making friends and loving our program!
The staff of the Fundación ran us through a few informational things, and then it was time to meet our host families! Students in the program can choose to live at the Fundación or with a host family. I chose the host family, because I really want to improve my Spanish skills!

I met my host mom and was overjoyed! She was so pretty and so nice! She told me that my Spanish was great (a compliment that I always take with a smile), and introduced me to her close friend, Conchi. Conchi was the host mom of another girl in the program named Christiana. Christiana is a student at Ohio State. We found out that Christiana and I were going to be living RIGHT NEXT DOOR to one another. We took a cab to our neighborhood (or barrio) or Toledo. Like many other students, we were going to be living in Poligono, a neighborhood that is about 15 minutes outside of Toledo. Once we arrived, my host mom introduced me to her two sons, Ricardo and Borja. Ricardo is the youngest and Borja is the oldest. They were both very nice! Next, my host mom, Isabel, showed me my room. To my surprise, I have the whole top floor of the house to myself. I have a spacious bedroom, my own bathroom, and a balcony. I could get used to this. Isabel was so amazing nice! She told me that she would do my laundry for me, clean my bathroom, and changed the sheets and towels every week. I was immensely grateful to be place in such a great home in Toledo!

I unpacked for a bit, and then Conchi and Isabel took Christiana and I to learn about the bus! They took us to the bus and showed us how to get to Toledo and back. It seemed pretty easy.

Once we returned, it was FINALLY time to dinner! I was starving! In Spain, dinner is typically between 8-10pm. (Yeah, this took some adjusting.) Dinner was worth the wait. We had Spanish tortilla, which is similar to quiche. At dinner, I talked to my host family about simple things. This was when I met my host dad, José. He works a lot, but is very nice and super funny.

At night, I was exhausted. I took the time to finally talk to my boyfriend, my mother, and my grandmother! I had missed hearing their voices! I slept that night with a smile on my face as I reflected on what was to come during my trip.

A glimpse of my new room.

A glimpse of my new room.

 

The first day of classes (El primer día de las clases)

We were allowed to choose two classes. I chose to take a course about the influence of war on poetry, film, and other art. I also chose to take a course about art and architecture of Toledo. Unfortunately, the art of Toledo class was canceled. As a result, I chose to take a course titled “Master Painters of Spain.” That night, i went to bars with friends, which was an amazingly good time!

Guided tour of Toledo/ The Festival of Corpus Christi (Visita guiada de Toledo/ El festival de Corpus Christi)

Today, we had to be at the Fundación very early for a guided tour of Toledo. I enjoyed the tour, but I was SO TIRED (from bar hopping the night before). Toledo is absolutely beautiful, so it was great to hear more about the city’s history. This day was also the day of the festival of Corpus Christi, which celebrated the eucharist. This festival is very important to Toledo! It is one of the biggest festivals of Spain! The streets of Toledo were packed. I watched the precession and it was absolutely beautiful!

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Christiana and I at Obrien’s, an irish pub in Toledo.

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¡España!

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Enjoying a laugh in Toledo with Jasmine!

The Corpus Christi procession was beautiful!

The Corpus Christi procession was beautiful!

Another Weekend in Madrid! (Otro fin de semana en Madrid)

On Friday, the Fundación took us on a guided excursion to Madrid! We visited the Prado, the main art museum of Spain. The art was beautiful, but I wish we would’ve had more time to explore on our own!

After the excursion ended, we went to our hostel, where we would be staying for the weekend. We finally arrived at Cat’s Hostel. I was blown away! I had never stayed in a hostel (which is like a hotel, but super cheap…idk how else to explain it), but this was beautiful! The hostel was only about 20 dollars a night, but it included wifi, air conditioning, a bar, and a club.

Lena and I were staying in a twelve person hostel. When we arrived in our room, we were surprised to find out that basically all of our roommates were guys. One was a friend from Notre Dame, one was from Vanderbilt University, one was from Poland, and the rest were from Australia. All of the guys were super nice!

That night, we went to Kapital, a popular club in Madrid. The club has 7 floors high, with different music on every floor. Before going out, we pregamed in the hostel, which was a lot of fun. Kapital was GREAT! I have never been to anything like it. Around like 3am, I got tired and returned to the hostel.

The next day, Lena and I went to lunch with another friend from CSIV. This friend has been teaching English in Madrid for three years! We ate Indian food in the ethnic barrio (SO GOOD…LIKE…SO GOOD) and discussed education, the economic problems in Spain, and much more.

Later on, we went on a Pub Crawl. We paid 12 Euro to go to a few bars and a club. By the end of the night, we were EXHAUSTED! I have NO IDEA how Spaniards stay out until 6am! We grabbed McDonald’s and then returned to the hostel.

The next day, we went to the Museum of Reina Sofia, the Prado, and the monument of Atocha. At the end of the day, Lena and I returned to Toledo! I was exhausted!

This week has been good! I have been doing homework and planning for Barcelona this weekend! More posts coming soon!

Less than 2 weeks ’til Spain: Reasons to be freak out & be excited

31 May

“Without adventure civilization is in full decay. – Alfred North Whitehead”

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(all-that-is-interesting.com)

My trip to Spain is approaching! Of course, I am super excited. Each time someone asks me what I’m doing this summer, I start beaming. I’m so excited that yesterday, I bought a book about Spain (Madrid and Toledo, specifically), and I’m already almost finished with it.

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I’ve never left the country before, so I’m not sure what to expect. I’m looking forward to the experience, but of course, I’m NERVOUS!

Reasons to be Freak Out:

  • I haven’t started packing. I’m not sure whether that’s actually a reason to freak out or not. But, I’m kind of freaking out. I still haven’t sorted through any of my things (moved out of my dorm over a week ago) or done any laundry. So, I don’t know what’s what. I need to decide what to take and what to keep here. (As urgent as I’m making this seem, I am sitting here typing and watching Juice instead of doing it.)
  • The flight. I haven’t been on a plane since I was about 10 years old. So…it has been about ten years. I don’t really remember what it was like. All I know is that I’m nervous. Something about the entire thing freaks me out. Wish me luck…
  • Confusion. I have so many questions (I’ll post them in a later post)
  • Being away. I’ve never been so far away from my family and friends! Also, I’ve never gone SIX WEEKS without seeing them!

Reasons to be EXCITED:

  • As I already mentioned, I’ve never left the country. This is an opportunity to travel in a way that I never have before.
  • Practicing Spanish. I have always wanted to travel to a Spanish-speaking country. This trip will be an amazing experience in which I can practice Spanish through immersion. I will be taking two courses (War and Revolution in Spanish and Spanish-American Poetry, Painting and FilmChristian, Muslim, and Jewish Art) which will both be taught completely in Spanish.  I am slightly nervous about this, because the material has the potential to be complicated. In addition, I will be living with a host family. I love the Spanish language, so I am excited for this opportunity to practice while I enjoy Spain. I am not super nervous about speaking Spanish. Well, kind of. I don’t have much trouble understanding it, but Spanish accents….IDK. WE SHALL SEE! I am sure that it may be a bit overwhelming at first, but I know that I will get the hang of it!
  • Partying (a.k.a. drinking legally). Enough said.
  • Meeting new friends. I am excited to hang out with a new group of people! I am already friends with a number of students who are going, so I’m excited to build upon these friendships and create new ones.
  • SPAIN. I have always wanted to go to Spain! I have heard so many amazing things about the country!

Overall, I am looking forward to this experience! Actually, my excitement is close to becoming obsession. I’ve downloaded a number of Spain-related iPhone/ iPad apps. Also, once I received my host family information the other day, I Googled them (I’m a little nosy), and found the blog of a girl who had the same family…IN 2008! So I’ve been reading her posts for the past few days. To wrap this up, I am super pumped for SPAIN (maybe too pumped)!

XOXO.