I have realized from my two abroad experiences that leaving your comfort zone for an extended period of time is really the only way to understand what you have there. I have thought this for some time in regards to family, friends and home but my Comparative Politics professor said in class the other day that the only way to understand our own government is to get out and go see a different one for a while. I could not agree more. While I was in Spain for 8 months out of the last 12, I realized that while I was learning about their political system, I was also understanding more about my own. My teacher also added in a little something about how every student should study abroad to get out of our bubble and learn something about the world. I was practically on the edge of my seat during this because I loved it so much and I hope all of the younger kids in the class took it to heart. Luckily for me, this year I will be helping in the Off-Campus study office if students have any questions about going abroad so they can ask a student who has done it. I really hope I can help some people decide to do what I did.
After an experience like I had in Barcelona, it’s obviously a big adjustment to come home. One of my good friends I met this summer texted me a couple days after we got home saying that it was hard to be around people from home because they don’t understand the things we did. I totally understand what he means because when I got home I wanted to tell my family and friends as fast as I could everything I did, every detail about every second, but that is impossible. The reality is that nobody from home will ever fully know or understand some of the amazing things I did this summer. There are just so many emotions attached to an experience like this that unless you were there, it is indescribable. I’ve also found that now, about 3 weeks after we left, as I reflect on the summer and let everything sink in, it’s even harder to try to talk about the summer because everyone else is starting to forget about the summer and definitely don’t want to hear about how mine was most likely more amazing than theirs, to be honest. The funny thing is, a lot of my friends and acquaintances have come up to me and said that they stalked my pictures all summer and that it looked unreal. It’s been a little creepy how many people have said that, but it’s true!
When this summer was about to start, I had so many uncertainties running through my head about what these two months were going to be like. I didn’t let it worry me too much because I knew I would figure it out soon enough, but I didn’t know anybody that I would be living with or anybody in the program at all and I didn’t really know what I would be doing for my internship. Looking back now, I’m glad I didn’t stress too much about the questions because everything worked out better than I would have ever expected. I have developed so many different kinds of relationships in my life. The first being my childhood friends which I have known the longest and took the longest to know who were my true friends. My friends from college became my friends within a matter of 3 months and I know will be my best friends throughout my life. This summer was even faster, and for that, more incredible how many great friends I made. The second we got there, the 2 months started ticking down. We got very lucky because we all got a long with each other right from the start and after just a couple weeks we were best friends. I truly never believed I would find such great, and life-long friends this summer but I am grateful that it was so effortlessly fun with everyone. I can now say I became best friends with people in a matter of 2 months and will stay in touch with them forever.
My father has given me many great traits and taught me countless lessons from his own life experiences. After 21 years of life though, I think one of the greatest things he has taught me is punctuality. I don’t just mean the type of punctuality when meeting someone or going somewhere, but also, when turning in assignments, paying bills, etc. I think this is a great quality to have in a person because it translates into being reliable, in all facets of life. Now, that being said, this quality sometimes does not mesh well with the very laid back views on punctuality in Spain. At times, it is frustrating when you are on time and missed the memo that it is accepted to be late to things. It’s not everybody, but it is a widely accepted lifestyle over there. Although I have no problem with being laid back, with my promptness, living in Spain has taught me to just kind of, live. The ‘whatever happens, happen’ mentality is a very liberating way to think and live and I love it. I think there’s a little bit of a correlation between this and living in a city, or country, or continent, where public transportation is so much more widely used. There are things that you can’t control in this world sometimes and this has been a great lesson for me to add in conjunction with many others from this summer.
“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education, in the elder, a part of experience” Francis Bacon
This week has been crazy since it’s our last week here so this post will not sufficiently cover my amazing trip to Amsterdam this past weekend, but the pictures can help to fill it in.
Anyways, the trip to Amsterdam was incredible, and I’m so happy I went. My strategies of picking out the hostel and other pre-travel ideas proved, once again, very helpful. Our hostel was pretty nice and in a fabulous location. We walked basically everywhere the whole time. Both days, we mostly just walked around and enjoyed the charming architecture of the city with the canals. We also enjoyed many cheese shops with free samples, maybe a little too much. Not so fun, was nearly escaping death by a bike every 2 minutes for forgetting that the bike lane and sidewalk are not the same thing there. I will not describe the perfectly legal things we did there, but I will say, we took advantage of many places to eat, in a very short time. The best being what we think was a famous pastry shop, seemingly because of the line, with tons of different kinds of incredible desserts. I had an apple pastry topped with almonds and powdered sugar. YUM. Other than roaming around, we went to the Heineken Experience, which was very cool to see, and the beer tastes infinitely better there. We also went to the Van Gogh Museum and the museum that holds many works from Rembrandt, called the Rijksmuseum. All around, it was an amazing weekend in an amazing city and such a great way to begin the last week of the summer.
I should really try finding a job where I get paid for this. Until then though, I’ll let you all in on a few of my tips for a successful weekend trip. I am going to Amsterdam tomorrow, which is really my only big trip for the summer. I learned a lot from traveling all over when I was in Europe last fall and thankfully, I now have a lot of knowledge of what to do and what not to do when traveling around Europe. Obviously every city is different when you get there, so there is always a little trial and error, but what is arguably more important is how you prepare for a trip beforehand. Although I love to be spontaneous just as much as the next person, planning ahead when traveling is so important in saving time and, of course, money. I started planning this trip the second I started looking for flights. You have to give enough time in advance to look at all the flights and times and also not wait too long where the prices go up. Next is the hostel. This also takes a lot of research time, looking at prices, reviews of quality, and most importantly in my book: location. For a weekend trip like this, I was willing to sacrifice a little quality for a prime location. I’m not planning on sleeping very much so I didn’t want to waste that little bit of shut-eye with walking a long way to the hostel. Next is just getting as much info about the city in general. Covering all the bases with transportation, sights, food, drinks, shopping, prices events, etc. I normally would do this part for weeks beforehand but this time around; today was the only day I could do it. Thankfully, I didn’t have a lot to do at work today so I made our weekend plans my work for the day. Along with countless suggestions of sights and restaurants and such, a great thing I learned about Amsterdam is that the Gay Pride starts while we’re there on Saturday! After just a couple hours reading travel websites, I have a gigantic list of things to do, places to go, eat and drink. The reason I do all this work before is because I hate going somewhere and being naïve to its basic characteristics, I love holding the map and figuring out how to get around somewhere so that, when I go back one day, I know my way around. But, here’s the most important to me: even though I have a whole plan for us, the best part about traveling is letting yourself get lost. Since I have an incredible sense of direction this is sometimes hard for me, but once you do it, the feeling of having no plans or directions is so refreshing. There is a very delicate balance of preparation and spontaneity. Both are required for an amazing trip. Just from what I’ve read and heard, I can already tell that I will absolutely love Amsterdam. We’ll have to find out which places on my list actually make it into our reality. Either way, I’m so excited for whatever this weekend brings!
I can’t think of a better time to reflect on last weekend then when this one is just starting, so here goes! Last weekend, in fact last week in general, was definitely one for the books. Like I said, that “oh s**t” moment is definitely upon me so I went out pretty much from Tuesday through Saturday. On Wednesday we went to the movie night on Montjuic to enjoy a picnic, live music and The Kings Speech. It was a great time and the movie was great, even the second time. Friday night was pretty regular, actually but still so much fun. We just went out to what are becoming our normal spots and enjoyed the company, and the drinks, of course. I guess we took it a little easy because Saturday morning was our much excursion to the wine country of Catalonia. Our wake up call was 8 am so we could get on the train and out to the country. Our wine connoisseur’s name was Sylvia and she showed us first, some of the fields where the grapes are grown, then the gigantic room full of barrels of wine, then the basement cellar where the Cava (basically Spanish champagne) is kept. After the tour came the best part, tasting. We started with a little game of just smelling 12 different little bottles and guessing what that liquid was made of, or supposed to smell like. Getting these basic parts is important to see how complex some of the wines get with many of these flavors mixed together. It became a fairly competitive game with the group, which I unfortunately did not win with a score of four out of twelve, but I definitely didn’t do the worst. Then came the real tasting. We had three different whites first, then three different reds. Sylvia was very laid back so when the bottle wasn’t totally gone, she let us get a little refill. I think it must’ve been the light breakfast because some of us got pretty drunk. Although I really was interested in the different tastes and complexities of the wines, the day drinking became more fun than the wine tasting. After the wine was all gone and we were pretty rowdy, we got a much needed and large lunch. The meal was of course accompanied by wine so it didn’t get any less loud or rowdy in the restaurant. With full bellies and still cloudy heads, we hopped on the train back to the city and I took a necessary nap on the ride. When we got back, I thought I would continue my nap but right when my head hit the pillow I received a text from my brother asking if I wanted to come with him and Cristina to a beer festival in Poble Nou. Although I was exhausted and getting a hangover from the day, I really wanted to hang out with them so I trekked down there to meet them. It turned out to be a great decision! The festival was on this one street with a live band playing at one end. You had to buy a little cup for the beer then you had to pay a little for each beer but we had a blast and the good, strong beers made the hangover subside a little. Like I said, an epic weekend. My weekend has officially begun because…next stop, Amsterdam! I cannot wait to explore another city that I have wanted to go to forever and have a blast with three friends.