Studying Abroad: My takeaways and final thoughts

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I have changed. And I don’t say that lightly.

Something is different about me, and even though I can’t quite put a finger on it, I will happily embrace it. I left Spain (almost two weeks ago, dang.) and I’m filled with this excitement and new goals I’m looking to achieve. Traveling abroad has given me a new perspective of how short life is, how it is perfectly fine to be selfish sometimes, and especially how important it is to pursue your dreams.

Although I will always remember this trip, the things I will treasure the most are the little things: movie night with my two roommates, taking a dance class with my classmates, searching with Sallie for over an hour for a bathroom in Toledo, Chauncy and Meghan’s mock-wedding on the Malaga beach, learning curse words from our amazing Spanish teacher, searching all of Barcelona with Maggie and Miguel (our Professor) to find the police station, and much much more.

Honestly, I believe the people I traveled with made the trip as fun as it was. I had so much anxiety in the weeks prior to the trip, scared I would have trouble finding friends within the group. But, in contrast, the people I traveled with were my favorite part of my experience. If you asked, I could tell you every single person’s name and my favorite memory with them. My experience would have been completely different if I had not traveled in a large group with my University.

 

My advice to those studying abroad:

  • Say yes to everything. You never know if or when you will return or if the opportunities presented will ever become available again. Take advantage of your time and push yourself to say yes.
  • Put yourself out there. Hang out with new people. Get to know them outside of class. Remember things they tell you. Pushing yourself to socialize will help you make 35 new best friends, like I did while on my trip.
  • Be smart, think things through. Don’t go out clubbing the night before a big exam and expect to do well. Have fun, but don’t neglect your studies.

 

I will be forever grateful to all those who made my study abroad experience possible: my university, Miguel (our lead professor), and of course my parents.

 

Thank you for letting me see the world.

 

The Civil War, and NO I’m not talking about American history

No folks, I’m not talking about the American Civil War, but the Spanish Civil War. 

While Barcelona is known by tourists as a bustling city, full of beautiful Art Deco… It’s important to know that there is much more to this city. That is, it was a direct area of fighting during the Spanish Civil War.

So, let me explain…

During the 19th Century, the mindset towards monarchy was rapidly changing. So much so, that in 1812 Spanish Liberals tried to form a new constitution which included universal male suffrage, national sovereignty, constitutional monarchy, freedom of press, and support for land reform and free enterprise. As it was one of the most liberal documents of its time, King Ferdinand VII quickly dissolved this document and any efforts to limit the Spanish monarchy.

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Republican Army carrying a captured flag in 1937.

Fast forward to 1936: the Spanish army in Morocco led by Francisco Ferdinand started a coup d’etat against the Republican government. The Left side consisted of the Spanish Republic Government, workers, trade unions, Socialists, Communists, and Anarchists. The Right side was supported by the rebelling factions of the army, landowners, the middle class, and the Catholic church. Between the two sides, the army was split almost evenly. Volunteers from outside of the country flooded in to fight in solidarity. Fun Fact: George Orwell was one of these Volunteers. He writes about his experience in Homage to Catalonia.

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Orwell describes his experience as a soldier first hand: one memory in particular taking place in “La Rambla,” a busy street in central Barcelona. Orwell was first ordered to defend Ramblas 128, a headquarter of sorts for Anarchists. Today this building is known as Hotel Rivoli Ramblas, which Orwell and his wife were coincidentally staying in. Next door, the Republicans took Cafe Moka, which is also still there today. Later, Orwell decides to move across the street of La Rambla to gain a better shooting position and goes into a building called, Poliorama, a cinema theater. If you were to visit today, you could still look up and see the observatory deck with twin domes that Orwell placed himself at.

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Teatro Poliorama, where Orwell placed himself to shoot at the Republican forces. 

However, Orwell was later shot in the throat on La Rambla while trying to return the Anarchist front. While recovering, his army organization, POSM, was condemned as illegal and he became a ‘fugitive’. Luckily, he and his wife were able to flee from Barcelona back to England, where he wrote A Homage to Catalonia.

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The Civil War history continues if you travel towards Montjüc. There, you will find one of the remaining air raid shelters open to the public. Side note: I took a tour of the 200 meter tunnels myself and was amazed. If you continue up the hill, you will find the Castell de Montjuïc, which was used as a prison and torture spot by both sides. It was also the spot where the President (or Generalitat) of Catalonia was shot by Franco’s men.

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If you want to visit Castell de Montjuïc, you can take a cable car up the mountain!

 

So, as you can see, there is so much history to the beautiful city of Barcelona. I invite you to research it yourself and check it out!

 

Father’s Day Abroad

Alright, I’ll finally say it.

I miss home.

I  love Barcelona. I love Spain in its entirety. I love being abroad. But I do miss home. Especially today, Father’s Day!

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So this post goes out to my dad, 4,596 miles away. Thank you for being the best dad in the entire world. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for believing in me.

 

More importantly, thank you for sending me abroad!!

 

I love you Dad, and can’t wait to see you in a few weeks!

Abby

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Cultural Differences, Language Barriers, and Other things

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A truthful post about my experience with cultural differences, language barriers (???), and other things during my time abroad.

So, here we go….

Note: This post isn’t meant as a criticism! Just a fun blog post that will hopefully make you chuckle 🙂

 

Language Barrier

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Most places have an English menu if you aren’t daring enough to order off the Spanish one. Tg.

So, here’s the sitch.

Yes. Somewhat of a language barrier exists. However, if you know a little bit of the Spanish language, you will be okay. There are two types of scenarios that I have experienced within the language barrier.

A. Trying to speak to locals in Spanish and they respond in English. Okay, once is fine, so I continue to speak Spanish… and they respond in English, again. Like dude, I’m trying to merge into the culture and become fluent, ya know? Roll with me here.

Or B. They don’t know any English and you know little Spanish, except for random words like gato (cat) or aguacate (avocadoso you end up using a mix of Spanglish and a bunch of hand gestures. Almost like you’re playing charades.

So, Pro Tip: Know some basic phrases before you travel anywhere. You will thank yourself later.

 

 

Hygiene 

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Speaking of hygiene, we were asked to wear these hair nets under our helmets during the Caminito Del Rey. Cute right?!?

Picture this.

You are walking around the city with your friends, doing touristy things. Suddenly, you realize you need to use the bathroom. Great! Simple! There are tons of those available. Just hand over a couple of euros and you’ll be on your way. Wait, you’re out of toilet paper? That’s too bad. I guess you’ll just have to go without it! At least you can wash your hands throughly! What’s that? There’s no soap? You’ll be okay, just wash your hands next time you go to the bathroom.

The scenario I have written above has unfortunately happened to me more than I would like to admit. Literally, restaurants, hotels, museums, bars, clubs, stores, EVERYWHERE. Not sure what it is about Europe, but they don’t seem to restock their toilet paper or soap as often as the States does.

Also, can we talk about how you have to pay to use the bathroom?? And if you’re sitting there thinking that you could just run into the nearest McDonald’s and sneak into the bathroom, YOU’RE WRONG. Here, you have to buy something from their menu, then enter a code for the bathroom given to you on your receipt. Crazy.

This only bothers me because I’m a SUPA SUPA germaphobe.

Pro Tip: Always carry some tissues and Purell around with you.

 

 

That H20 tho

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IceBarcelona had enough H20 to make a whole bar. But entry was 17 euros. Lol.

Thirsty? You’ll have to hand over a few Euros, every. single. time.

Honestly missing how the water in the States is 100% free :/

Pro Tip: Take a bottle of water out with you before you go anywhere.

Also, while we are on the topic of free…

 

Bread or Olives

 

Bread is never free. Olives are (usually) never free. If a waiter brings your bread or olives before your meal, and you aren’t willing to pay for it, DON’T ACCEPT IT.

 

 

Splitting Checks

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Thinking about going out to eat with your friends? Make sure to bring lots and lots and lots of change!

Splitting checks is not a thing here. This makes going out with your friends 10x more difficult, especially if you don’t have exact change.

According to locals, usually one person will pay the check. Or everyone will put in their share, with exact change.

This is something I have become extremely grateful for in the States!!!

 

Wifi

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RIP to Sallie’s phone. May its soul rest peacefully in the Alboran Sea.

Wifi. Easy to find, difficult to get it working.

You will either have to:

A. Allow the place of business to connect to your facebook. Some might even post a “check-in” saying that you are at their location.

B. At restaurants, pay for something on their menu then enter the code listed at the bottom of your receipt.

or C. Notifications will pop up on your home screen but your internet and other apps will continue to tell you “No Internet Connection”

Of course, if you have a data plan this problem isn’t relevant. However, if you only have access to texting like me, you understand my struggle.

 

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This one applies to everyone 18 years old and up.

First the most obvious: You can drink. You can buy alcohol. You can club. I don’t have much to say about that, other than be careful.

Secondly, you technically count as a “student” so you are eligible for a student discount. This’ll save you a couple of bucks on some things. Tg for this because unfortunately, I am not made of money.

 

So, Pro Tip: Bring your Student ID with you on your trip. It will save you lots of money on museums, art exhibits, etc. This one I failed to do and somehow have gotten by without or around not having my student ID.

 

Trains

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Trains are a blessing sent from above.

They are cheap, easily accessible, and most importantly they are hassle free.

I wish the States would use trains more often. We need to hop on that train. Haha. See what I did there?

 

Other random things:

  • Toilets have buttons. All of them.
  • Platform shoes are IN.
  • Spanish men are very touchy and enjoy weird American dancing. Stay away from them.
  • Chocolate means weed. Just say no if asked.

 

BUT don’t let these hindrances or differences scare you, adventure is out there! Embrace the differences. Learn more about the world and other cultures.

 

Enjoy yourselves. Love,

Abby

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P.S. Park Guell blog post coming soon!

Málaga: What to do, see, and my experience

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Let me introduce you to Málaga, one of the oldest cities in the world. I’ll warn you now, this post is going to be a looooong one.

Málaga has quite the historic background. Here’s a short summary: It was founded by the Phoenicians around 770 BC and is said to be named after the the Phoenician word for “salt” due to the fish salted near the harbor. Later, it became part of the Roman Empire and was transferred into a confederated city. However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was taken over by the Visigoths of the Byzantine Empire. The Visigoths ruled until the Umayyad Muslim conquest in 711. The Muslims continued their rule until 1487, when the city was taken over by Christian forces during the reconquista.

So, are you impressed with the city’s history yet?

Fun Fact: Pablo Picasso AND Antonio Banderas are from Málaga!

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The view from the Malaca Instituto, where I took a few classes!

A little side note: My group and I and took classes at the Malaca Instituto, a well known Spanish School that has been around for 45 years! We took about 2 weeks worth of Spanish classes here, and I absolutely loved it! My Spanish teacher, Maria Jose, was so passionate about helping us with the language and was so enjoyable to be around.

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(Borrowed this picture from the Institute’s website)

During our free time, we would go to the pool or the beach. I’ll be honest with you, being able to go straight from class to the pool was the life! I miss this place so much already! The institute offered us a cooking class and a dancing class, both of which were so much fun!

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Our cooking classroom!
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Ya girl made this dessert!!

Anyways, here are a few things I did during my time in Málaga and things I definitely recommend that you do:

  • Visit the Teatro Romano de Malaga AND Alcazaba de Málaga
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Peep Miguel giving us our History lecture during class. S/O to him for choosing to teach outside of the traditional classroom!

The Teatro Romano was built during the first century AD and is the oldest monument in the entire city. It used until the third century AD. After being abandoned for centuries, the Arabs used some of the rocks and materials from the theater to construct the fortress that stands above the theater. If you look closely, you can see some of the Roman columns throughout the fortress.

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The Roman Theater was buried under piles of rubble and dirt for almost five centuries, and was not rediscovered until 1951. Archeologists discovered some clues to the Roman theater during the building of Casa de Cultura, and construction was discontinued.

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More than half of the seating area has survived, as well as some of the marble slabs and the supports for the stage. It is so hard to imagine how old this theater is, and how it easily it could have continued to be ignored!

Just above the Teatro Romero is the Alcazaba de Málaga. Built in the early 11th century, it was used as a fortification which overlooks the port. Originally there were three inner walls inside of the Alcazaba, but today only two walls remain. It is the one of two Moorish fortresses in Spain, the other being the Castillo de Gibralfaro, which I’ll mention a little later in this post 🙂

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The Teatro Romero sits right below the Alcazaba de Málaga!

The first defense wall was designed to slow a potential attack. Inside, there are a number of gardens you can get yourself lost in. I would recommend setting aside an hour or two to roam around the gardens. It’s honestly a picture perfect area, AND you get a perfect view of the port of Málaga!

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The view from the first defense wall!
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One of the gardens inside the first wall.

The second wall contains more dwellings and patios. It served mostly as a defense from the Western side. Take your time through this area, enjoy the landscape and the architecture!IMG_7710.JPG

  • Castillo de Gibralfaro

Built in 929 AD by the Cordoban Calif, Abd ar-Rahman I, this castle was built on top of a former Phoenician lighthouse. It sits more than 430 feet above elevation and sits on the foothill of the Montes de Málaga.

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This castle is best known for King Fernando II and Isabel’s three month siege during the year of 1487. Long story short, after a failed surrender the Muslims of Málaga retreated to this castle. After months of battle and lack of food, the Muslims finally surrendered to Fernando. He then decided to condemn the group to either slavery or death, as punishment for prolonging the resistance.

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This was my favorite historic site I visited in Málaga. I loved walking around the walls, and more importantly the beautiful view of the city! I definitely recommend stopping by this castle.

  • Nightlife and Food- Clubs, Bars, and more!
    • Two of my favorite clubs:
      1. Sala Gold
      2. Bubbles
    • My favorite bar: Bourbon Street
    • My favorite restaurant in Málaga: No Piqui
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A Málaga basketball player we met while at Sala Gold. (lol)

Clubs are interesting in Spain. There is a dress code for most (not too restrictive but notably different from the States) and most don’t get busy till around 4 AM. I’ve never been clubbing until this trip, and I gotta say… it’s pretty damn fun.

Bourbon Street Bar was a two minute walk from the Institute, but was our go to place on the week nights and especially before we went clubbing. Shoutout to Hugo, the owner, for the free shot cards 🙂

No Piqui- another close walk from my institute but literally my favorite restaurant in the entire city. I think I ate here at least 20 times during my time in Málaga.

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No Piqui’s Quinoa salad… so yummy!!

Other things to do in Málaga:

  • The beach! (No brainer of course)
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One day I finally gathered up the motivation to take a run down the beach. I wish I would have done this more while I was in Málaga! There’s a ton of outdoor gyms here, which are pretty different to what we are used to in the States!
  • The Caminito Del Rey. See my post about it here!
  • Shopping through the city center
  • Walk through the Mercado Central de Atarazanas- A market with a bunch of tapas, drinks, fresh fruits and vegetables, and more!

 

Things I wasn’t able to visit during my time in Málaga but think are well worth a visit:

  • Museo Picasso Malaga- The Picasso Museum! Also, see the house where he grew up
  • The Cathedral of Málaga
  • Noria de Málaga- Málaga’s Ferris Wheel
  • Teatro Cervantes- A Philharmonic Orchestra Concert Hall

 

If you are still reading, YAY! Thanks so much for sticking around! I know this post was long, but I absolutely loved getting to know the city of Málaga and I had so much to say about it. I am so sad I had to leave so soon, but I know there is so much in store in Barcelona!

 

Have you been to Málaga before? Comment below! 🙂

 

A Day in Seville

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For our free weekend (back on the weekend of June 3rd, sorry for the delay!!), a few of my friends and I decided to go to Seville. After a short 2 hour train ride, we quickly headed into the city center and got our weekend started.

 

We decided to stay in an Airbnb and we ended up loving it. It was relatively close to the city center and held all 8 of us. You can check out the apartment we stayed at here! Look at how cute it is!

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Anyway, here is what we ended up doing in Seville and what I definitely recommend you do:

  • Plaza De España

The Plaza de España had to be my favorite site we visited in Seville. It was built in 1928 for the World’s Fair and was featured in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Here’s the scene that was in the movie. The architecture of Plaza de España mixes both art deco and Neo-Mudéjar style and expands over 494,410 square feet.

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Essentially, the building is a large half circle surrounded by a moat and is said to represent the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. Today, the building is used for government purposes. Isn’t is beauuuuutiful?

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I enjoyed just strolling around the plaza. There are tons of vendors, musicians, and even flamenco dancers who hang out here! You can also go for a little boat ride around the pond.

 

  • Alcázar of Seville

The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace originally made by the Moorish Muslim Kings. It is actually still used by the Royal family, making it the oldest palace in the world that is still in use.

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Also, for all my Game of Thrones friends out there… multiple episodes have been filmed here!! Check out one of the clips here!

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Used in Game of Thrones 🙂

The term Alcázar is a Hispano-Arabic word meaning “Royal House” or “Room of the Prince.” The Alcázar was built mostly during the 13th century, aka the “dark ages,” but the inside of the is fortress is anything but dark.

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After capturing the city of Seville in 1248, Fernando the III actually moved in for a few months. Throughout the eleven centuries of its existance, the Alcázar has been reconstructed numerous times. Fernando the III’s son, Alfonso X, decided to change some of the muslim architecture into Gothic style.

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This site takes a few hours, so I would suggest setting aside half of your day to do a thorough walk-through!

 

  • Catedral de Santa María de la Sede

The largest Gothic style cathedral and the third largest cathedral in the world.

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This Cathedral was basically built to show off the city’s wealth. In the years following the Reconquest, the city of Seville was a popular area for trading. Construction started in 1402 and was not completed until 1506. What’s interesting is that the clergy gave most of their stipends to pay for the artists, architects, stained glass, and other expenses.

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The Catedral de Santa María de la Sede has the longest nave of any cathedral in Spain which measures up to 138 feet tall! Fun fact about this Cathedral: the dome of this cathedral has collapsed twice! The first time was in 1511 right after it was completed, and again in 1888 after an earthquake.

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More notably, Christopher Columbus is buried in this cathedral! Columbus’ remains were actually moved multiple times over the centuries. Both Cuba and the Dominican Republic held control over his remains at one point.

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The Cathedral also takes a couple of hours to thoroughly walk through. But I loved this Cathedral, and it was one of my favorites from the entire trip!

 

Seville was one of my favorite cities I have been to so far. I definitely recommend you stop by and sightsee!

 

 

Have you been to Seville before? Comment below! 🙂

My Study Abroad Experience

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Well guys, I’m halfway finished with my study abroad program. To be honest, I’m so sad to think that this trip will be over soon. Before leaving the States, I was so anxious about leaving. I had overwhelmed myself with the usual thoughts: Would I like being abroad for an extended period of time? What kind of people would I encounter during my trip? What kind of memories will I be making?

After being abroad for three weeks, most of that anxiety has calmed down. And these past couple of days, I’ve started to reflect on my experience here and how much I am loving being abroad.

 

Here is one HUUUGE thing I have learned about myself:

1. I am more independent than I believed.

Two months ago, if you would have told me I would be able to navigate my way around using public transportation and minimal resources… I would not have believed you. However, because I’ve had to take the metro, public buses, taxis, trains, and flights by myself, I now feel confident that I am able to handle any situation without relying on someone else. This is the most liberating and encouraging feeling, and I am so happy I have been able to progress as a person because of this trip.

 

 

Here are two things I have learned in general:

1. School and Travel don’t mix well.

This one seems like a no brainer, but I actually came into this experience thinking balancing school and travel would be simple. In reality, it’s not and there have been numerous times I have chosen traveling and having fun over my schoolwork (sorry if you are reading this mom, dad, and professor 😥 ).

2. The world is my classroom.

They say experience is the best way to learn. I never really believed this until I was able to do this myself, but this is SO true. I have learned so much in my history class by being able to do direct site visits rather than just reading about it in a textbook. The same with my Spanish class- I had been taking Spanish for two semesters straight prior to studying abroad, and I actually learned more by going out into the city and speaking with the locals.

 

If you are on the fence about studying abroad, I would encourage you to do it!! You will learn so much by spending your time outside of the University “bubble” and you may end up loving it like I did 🙂

 

Also, I’ve made a few short videos of my time abroad. You can check them out here!

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The world is a big, beautiful, and diverse place and I’m so ecstatic I’m able to see it for myself!