Month: May 2014

How lucky I am…

It’s pretty hard to believe that today is my last day in this beautiful city. I’ve made some amazing memories and even better friends this semester and it’s genuinely painful to think about leaving. Last night a group of us got together for our last evening of tapas and drinks. It was so difficult to squeeze out an “hasta pronto” when we all knew full and well that it won’t be as soon as we would like.

It’s difficult to come to terms with, really. I almost didn’t say goodbye to one of my closest friends because I forgot that this would be the last time I saw her for awhile. I said “See ya later” like I do every day and we both turned to walk away and then stopped at the same time, turned around, and jumped into each other’s arms in a goodbye hug. I keep forgetting that there is no “later” here anymore. I won’t be able to put things off until the next day (like the Spaniards always do) and that any goodbyes or last minute tasks must be completed today.

I did a lot of growing this semester. I learned a lot more about the Spanish culture, improved my language skills, learned adaptability, and centered on my creativity more than critical thinking skills. But most importantly, I learned how to be confident in myself. I learned that it’s okay to do things wrong,, and to simply accept the fact that I’m going to make a lot of mistakes. I learned how to be on my own and how to ask for help (in another language, mind you). This semester has taught me a lot about myself and about the human spirit.

A huge thank you to all three of my parents for making this journey possible for me. I really couldn’t have done it without you.

Well, folks. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be on American soil! 🙂

Un abrazo fuerte :-*

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Cádiz

Last weekend I took my final excursion with API (my study abroad program).
Cádiz is located on the south western coast of Spain. That said, it takes about 4 hours to get there from Granada. Because of that, we made a pit stop at “El Torcal” in Antequera, Málaga. This place reminded me a lot of the Flintstones. We went for an hour long hike- just enough to get off the bus and move around for a bit. It was really a beautiful place and I wish we could have hiked the trail a second and third time. I also would have loved to climb the rocks, but we were given specific instructions: “No queremos ver ni una cabra hoy, chicos”. Our program coordinators did not want us being “goats” up in the rocks, climbing and jumping. This was tempting because..well..just LOOK at this place.

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A bit later, we finally arrived to our location. Cádiz is known for its beautiful beaches and rich history in trading goods before the discovery of America. We were able to stay in a beautiful hotel that was RIGHT on the water. Like the shore line was a 45 second walk from the doors. It was so beautiful, I wish we could have spent just one more day in the beautiful city.

We spent a ton of time at this beach, but we also did some sight seeing and touring. One of my favorite things that we did was go to the Torre Tavira (The Tavira Tower). It is one of 130 towers in Cádiz. There are so many because they used these towers to look out over the water to see if ships were coming to the shore. From the top of the tower, I could see so much. I know I am going to miss seeing spectacular views every single place I go. I hope to be able to find beautiful views like this one at home.

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The weather was perfect! It was super hot and the beach sand was soft and white. The water was cool, but refreshing and comfortable enough to swim. We spent the majority of one of our days jumping in the waves because they were huge! It reminded me of my childhood when my dad took my sister and I to Cape Cod. We would ride the waves toward shore on our bellies! The majority of API students were doing this exact thing all day–only we’re all in our twenties.

It was a beautiful weekend, a perfect way to relax right before finals begin.

Día de la Cruz

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This is a photo of my roommate, Emily, and I at the Mirador de San Nicolás in the Albayzín (a neighborhood in Granada). It was taken on The Day of the Cross (click this link for more info: http://www.pbase.com/dav4184/day_of_the_cross). Behind us is the Alhambra- the Moorish palace that I have written about many times in my blog. This day was 80ºF, the coolest day of the week, so naturally the climb up to the mirador was quite warm. However, it´s always worth the view!

¨Do You Ever Go To Class?¨

Recently, I´ve been posting more pictures on social media platforms so that my friends and family can see what I´m up to. Since I get texts and emails daily asking ¨what are you doing?¨or ¨how is Spain?¨, I figured I was doing the right thing by allowing them to actually see pictures with brief details about how it is and what I´m doing. Well, the responses are mixed, but the general consensus is ¨Do you ever go to class?¨. I was so confused when I started getting this question as a response to my photos. Of course I go to class…I´m STUDYING abroad. But then I gave it some more thought. Do I? I have 5 classes I attend four days a week and I do get homework and projects and and papers and have to study just like any other semester. Granted, it is a lot less stressful than American university. But perhaps that is because the professors at the Centro de Lenguas Modernas – UGR know that sometimes learning isn´t always about sitting in a classroom pouring over a text book and scribbling down notes. Sometimes it´s about being present, talking with natives, exploring new cities, trying new food, cooking, making friends with Spaniards, evesdropping on natural conversations on the street. They realize that the classroom is only part of our learning experience, while other fascets, like our host homes and the street (where life really is lived in Spain) are just as important. So the answer to your question, folks, is yes. I do go to class. But I have been blessed with the unique opportunity to constantly be in class, to constantly view each moment of my day as a learning experience. 

 

Albufeira and Lagos, Portugal

That said, I spent one of the last weekends in April in Albufeira and Lagos, Portugal. Now, although my Spanish did not improve there, I was able to draw connections between their language, and mine (still learning, take that).  This weekend was extrordinarily fun and relaxing for me. We were able to spend time on the beach, met new people, and spend prescious time with eachother. A group of 7 of us from API (my program for studying abroad) decided to go together. On our first night in Albufeira, we enjoyed the last few hours of sun on the beach and watched the sunset. When we returned to the hotel where we were staying, we all cooked a dinner in the kitchenette. We made pasta, mixed veggies, and pesto and had olives and cheese and crackers as aps. I think it turned out pretty delicious.

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The following day, we went to Lagos, one of the most touristy parts of Portugal..but also one of the most beautiful. We first made a stop at the ¨end of the world¨. At Europe´s most western point, we stopped to feel what it was like to be at the end of the world. Before the age of discovery, Europeans believed there was nothing beyond the point below (behind me in the photo). It was kind of weird to think about being there for many reasons. How many people had stood in that spot years ago, contemplating what lay ahead of them in the roaring ocean? And also, that that was the closest I had been to home since January, and was the closest I will be until May 24 when I depart from Madrid to begin my journey back to America. I yelled ¨I miss you¨ nice and loudly to my mom and dad and Jay. They didn´t answer. You all have some explaining to do, ignoring your daughter like that ;). 

 

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Later that day we spent time at the beach enjoying relaxing, reading, and chatting. It was a beautiful beach with places to explore. Although some people think that maybe I don´t go to class as often as one would think while studying, I really enjoyed a weekend deticated to really relaxing. It was a nice change of pace from the usual running around, sight seeing that I have been doing on weekends away. I didn´t have to worry about bus times, museum opening hours, how long it would take to walk somewhere..I just enjoyed the beautiful beaches of Portugal. The sand was soft and orange, while the water was crystal clear and blue-green. How is it possible that the Atlantic Ocean looks this stunning here, but at home it looks like dirt?

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I really enjoyed time in this new country and I would definitely return one day!
I hope that everyone reading has the opportunity to explore and relax at a beautiful place this week, whether it be the sunny beaches of Lagos or your armchair with a good book. Remember to take some time to reset and unwind!