Madrid, Spain: The Beginning

Sitting at my desk with the most beautiful view, and thinking about how I can gather such a memorable time in words. First, I would like to begin my blog from the first city that I visited in Spain. I began my study abroad trip in a jaw-dropping city, Madrid, Spain. From the moment I stepped off the plane and into the terminals, I could already realize the amount of unfamiliarity I was viewing. As soon as I stepped into the terminal, I was welcomed by many Spanish workers blowing whistles and yelling Spanish phrases. I was quite surprised!

Madrid Aiport

From the airport, I grouped with a few fellow American ISA (my study abroad program) students and was off to the hotel. As we were driving through the city, I felt so much excitement realizing how incredibly lucky I was to have the chance to participate in such an unbelievable program. As I arrived to the hotel, I was greeted once again by more American ISA students. This moment felt amazing also because I knew these student were going to be future friends and peers that I would have the chance to laugh, celebrate, and enjoy my time with in the coming weeks. We all introduced ourselves, shared our revelations of the previous trip, and laughed hysterically at the realization that we were finally in Spain!

On the following morning, we all met in the lobby for a walking tour of the city of Madrid. We began the walking trip at the Plaza Mayor, an incredible square in the middle of Spain. The square is where many Spaniards walk and talk while reveling in the amazement of their city. This was an unbelievable place to listen about the history of Spain from our tour guide. From the plaza we kept walking (so much walking) around the city enjoying the spectacles around us. We walked around the city viewing some of the most beautiful attractions one could see in the world like the Museo del Prado, Royal Palace of Madrid (an enormous mansion for the King, owned by the people of Spain), and Puerta del Sol. This was by far one of the most amazing cities I have ever visited, until I viewed the city of Toledo. To be continued…

Museo del Prado

Appreciate the Little Things in Life

It’s been roughly 2 weeks since my last post, and I’ll start off by saying I made it safely back to the United States! I’ve been here for 3 days now and the jet lag is finally starting to wear off, but the first 2 days were rough because my body is still on Barcelona time so I’m going to bed and waking up so early. My study abroad experience was definitely one that I will NEVER forget because of the experiences I had, the things I learned, the people I met, and so much more. I’ll fill you in on everything that happened since my last post when I had returned from Rome and was preparing for my visit to Southern France, finals, and my departure for the United States!

After my trip to Rome I realized how nice the weather was in Barcelona because it was incredibly hot during my three day stay there, so I was very thankful to be back in a place where it wasn’t so humid and hot all the time. During the school week I was busy shopping for gifts for my family, going to the beach, and preparing for my final presentations and finals for my two classes (which went very well) and the upcoming weekend trip to Southern France.

On Friday we left very early and departed for Girona, Spain which is one of the many cities we stopped in until our final destination of Montpellier, France. In Girona we took a guided tour of the city and learned about its history along with many other things. After a quick lunch break, we departed for Montpellier which was really a cool trip because every Friday they have a wine tasting/food festival, which was 5 minutes from our hotel! That night we walked around the festival which was filled with a massive amount of people from all over the world trying different foods, tasting different wines, and they even had a free concert that was right next to the festival. The funny thing is, they only sang American songs so we could actually understand what they were saying, opposed to the vendors who spoke mainly French and very little English. On Saturday morning we took a bus to three more cities in France and got to learn more about their culture. That night we were back in Montpellier and got to watch the 3rd place World cup match between the Netherlands and Brazil, which was a great atmosphere because of the amount of people we were with who were cheering for both sides. On Sunday morning we departed back for Barcelona, and to say that the weekend was a success would be an understatement because of all the activities we participated in and the things we got to do while we were there.

The following week was sadly, my last week in Barcelona with all of the people I had met and all the friendships I had made. During the week I focused on finishing the summer semester strong and doing well on my finals, and eventually the day came where I had to say goodbye to everyone. I had grown very close with the other 11 people in the residencia with me, and it was crazy to think that just 6 weeks ago I didn’t know a single one of them. We had all grown so close, living with each other and being around each other every single day, and meeting them and bonding with them was one of the most important things that happened to me while in Spain, because I definitely developed a level of friendship with them that I will always have, and plan on visiting them at some point this year even though we all go to different universities across the country.

The flight from Barcelona back home took what seem liked forever, and it was an increibly long day because I woke up at 6:45 a.m. Barcelona time (12:45 a.m. east cast time) and finally went to bed at 9:45 p.m. east coast time, so being up for roughly 21 straight hours, I was exhausted. Other than the sleep problems, everything went smoothly on the flight back home. Reflecting on the entire 6 week period and the months and weeks leading up to my trip, I was nervous because I wasn’t fluent in Spanish and was scared I couldn’t communicate with anyone, but after this trip I realize that English is pretty much spoken everywhere and even if you’re somewhere where it isn’t spoke, you can find a way to communicate someway, somehow. This trip was definitely the most eye-opening experience of my life and I loved every second of it because I learned so much about myself and to appreciate everything little thing that you have. People in other parts of the world have it so much harder than people in the United States and we take so many things for granted. I’m glad UofL gave me the opportunity to travel and study abroad, because I have grown as a person immensely in so many ways. It looks like this will be my last post because I’m officially finished my with program, if anyone has any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me because I would LOVE to talk about my experiences with you!

Hasta la proxima,

Matt Schafer

Rome, Italy

I am currently taking a study break from my midterm tomorrow to write my first blog! It’s hard to believe I have already been here over two weeks. My time here in Rome has been exhilarating between touring the historic city and meeting new friends. I haven’t traveled outside of the city yet because there is so much to see and do here in Rome. I’d have to say my favorite building here in Rome is the Pantheon with the Altare della Patria (or the “Wedding Cake” as the Romans call it) being my second favorite. Walking around the city is never disappointing as there is amazing architecture everywhere you look. Don’t worry, I won’t be spending the entire trip in Rome and I will venture out at the end of the trip!

I am studying at the American University of Rome while taking courses titled Negotiating Globally and Sales Management. As a part of the Negotiating Globally class we attended a session of the Chamber of Deputies in the Italian Parliament and our class was recognized. Although every word was spoke in Italian, it was still cool to witness that environment and decision making process. Also, as a part of this class we will be attending the US Embassy to the UN Agencies in Rome where we will meet the Deputy Chief of Mission. I never thought I would attend an Italian Parliament session or be lectured by someone from the US Embassy in Rome.

So far I have enjoyed every minute I’ve been in Rome and am very glad that I decided to study abroad. Being in Europe and seeing the different culture is eye opening to say the least. I think I’ve adapted pretty well by now and am looking forward to the rest of my adventure!

Cody Hamm

Traveling from Prague

During the past 3 weeks I have done some traveling outside of Prague. It is very easy to find the cheapest ways to getting around. You have basically three options to look at and they are train,plane,or a bus. All are good options but depending where you are going one may be cheaper than the other. For example, we took a trip to Budapest and it was cheaper to take a train than a bus or plane so we did that option. We took the night train to Budapest so we were able to sleep through the 8 hour trip. This past weekend we went to England via airplane. We went traveled through two different airlines and two different airports. This method was the cheapest so I would suggest looking into more than one airport and plane companies before booking your flight. This up coming weekend we found the cheapest way to get to Munich would be via bus. Hope this helps anyone that is planning on a lot of travel!

Sevilla to Ibiza to Valencia

Hey everyone!

It’s been awhile since my last post so I wanted to take the time to update you all on what’s been going on in Spain. I finished my session in Sevilla about two weeks ago, leaving behind an amazing city! Even though the weather was extremely hot I do miss the city. Before I left Sevilla, my friend and I traveled to Ibiza, Spain to experience some of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Below is a picture of by far my favorite beach!

Ibiza, Spain

All in all Ibiza was definitely worth the trip! Its reputation is a party island but even if you’re not into the nightlife scene you have to go to at least experience the beaches, you won’t regret it!

Upon returning from Ibiza, I set out for Valencia where I am currently studying for one month as well. I haven’t seen much of the city yet but I can already tell it’s going to be an amazing place to explore. Last weekend ISA took us to a farm on the outside of town where we were able to pick fresh ingredients that were to be cooked into an authentic paella for us to eat. It was truly an amazing place and the experience of making paella with locals was indescribable!  Below is a look at us preparing the paella.

Paella Making!

This weekend we are going to Barcelona for an excursion and a group of us are heading to Pamplona for a day to experience the Running of the Bulls so wish us luck! That’s all for now! Hope everything is going well back in the states! Hasta Luego!

Experience of a Lifetime

Where do I even start! These past two weeks since the last time I blogged have been the most eye opening experiences of my life and something that I will always remember. Let me talk about what has happened since my last post, which seems like yesterday but was actually 2 weeks ago.

The festivities I talked about in my last post was called the Sant Joan Barcelona Festival and the best way for me to describe the area that I went to was just like the 4th of July back in the United States! The group I was with went to the beach and there were thousands of people gathering together to celebrate the Spanish midsummers eve, and there were fireworks EVERYWHERE. So many people with different fireworks from all age ranges, even children that were probably 6 years old were running around lighting fire crackers and have an absolute blast.

After that eventful night, I completed both of my midterms for my classes (which weren’t too difficult) and went on the most interesting, intriguing, culture shock of an experience I have ever seen in my life. A group of six of us flew to Marrakech, Morocco which is in Africa and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. The first night we got there at midnight and checked into our hostel and the following day we had a long journey south of Marrakech to the Sahara Desert to spend the night in the desert and ride camels! That was one of the coolest things I had done in a very long time, and don’t know if I’ll ever get the opportunity to do it again so I really appreciated it. After we spent the night in the Sahara, we took a bus back to Marrakech and went to the Berber Market in the evening and at night, and this place was one of the most interesting events I have ever seen. First, there are people everywhere and vendors trying to sell you anything you can imagine; food, clothing, purses, plates, earrings, shoes, watches, etc. The list can go on and on because of the mass amounts of vendors in the stalls across the entire market, I couldn’t even put a number on how many stalls there were because there were so many. There were also monkeys, iguanas, turtles, and the most “fascinating” of all was the king cobras that the snake charmers were interacting with. I never got to actually watch them do anything to the snakes because if you barely look at them they charge you for anything, even taking a picture so I didn’t get the chance to actually see the snake in action, but they were everywhere. The following day we took a trip to the Ouzoud Waterfalls, and they were beautiful. We also got to see monkeys up close because they came and stole our food after we were finished eating. After our trip to the waterfalls we made our way back to Marrakech, went to the Berber Market for a few hours and then hopped on a plane back to Barcelona. This trip to Africa might be the most eye-opening experience I will ever have, because it makes me realize how privileged so many people are in the United States without even knowing it. So many Americans complain about the smallest things such as no air constituting in their cars, when we should appreciate the fact that we have that car to get us from place to place. During our trip we learned that these people in Africa have to walk 6 kilometers (roughly 4 miles) a day just for fresh water and their houses are made out of dried mud with their air conditioning being holes in the wall for air to flow through. It was such a culture shock and made me appreciate the smallest things in the United States so much more that so many people take for granted.

The following weekend a group of four of us traveled to Rome, Italy which was nothing like Morocco. In fact, it was totally different because of all the rich history this city offers to everyone who visits. During my stay I visited the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Trajan Baths, the Trajan Column, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Altare della Patria, the Roman Forums, Palatine Hill, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peters Basilica, Vatican City and many other places. Rome was a great trip that I would recommend to everyone because of the amount of knowledge you can gain. I would definitely go back because I was there for three days and still feel like I could have seen more. If you go, be sure to give yourself enough time to see everything!

This upcoming weekend our group is visiting the South of France and then the next week we have finals and then I’m flying back to the United States. I’m shocked how fast these 5 weeks have gone because I have met so many amazing people and done so many amazing things, I’m sad it’s coming to an end. I would highly recommend that if given the opportunity, take advantage of studying abroad because you can learn so much about yourself, your culture, you meet so many people, and it’s fun! The next time I blog will probably be my last day in Europe or when I’m back in the United States!

Hasta luego,

Matt Schafer

Prague

I have been in Prague for 3 weeks now and I couldn’t love it any more. Prague is a very clean city with unbelievable sights. People here do no speak as much English as I was expecting so that has been hard to get used to. Younger people are usually pretty nice if you ask them for help translating something though. Getting around the city is very easy, it only took me about a couple of days to understand how the tram and metro worked. I would say the most important thing if coming to Prague would be to try and learn the public transportation as fast as possible, and always have a map on you the first week because thats the easiest way to learn the city. A important tip is to get the AAA taxi app for Prague, you press a button on the app and a taxi will show up in less than 5 minutes usually. Also if you use the app the transaction is registered with the store so the taxi driver has to charge the right price, and he can’t rip you off.

We have done something completely different every day and we still have so much to see! Some things we have done so far include a boat cruise down the river at night, going to beer tasting event at the Royal Gardens, and toured the castle.

I honestly believe Prague is the best place to study abroad because its a safe place to be with plenty to do. Also its right in the middle of Europe so traveling to other countries is very easy. If not studying in Prague, do yourself a favor and at least visit it!

 

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Sevilla, Spain…

1. Slow Walkers. If you are a fast-pace walker, you would go absolutely crazy walking behind these people. They love taking their time and enjoying the scenery that surrounds them. This is probably a good thing, to be honest.

2. Siestas (Naps) are a MUST here. They have the weirdest open hours for their restaurants and shops. They usually open at 8 or 9 AM. Close from 3-5 PM. Open back up from 5 to 11 PM. Everyday they take a 30 minute nap after lunch then head back to work. That is probably why you never see a cranky Spaniard.

3. Be Blunt. If you want something just say “I want…” (Quiero in Spanish). Don’t say “Can I have…” (Puedo tener). They will just look at you and not understand what you are trying to ask. Just get straight to the point.

4. Short and Sweet. When you are in a grocery line or buying something from a store, don’t ask how they are doing because they won’t answer. Just say “Hola”. I made the mistake of saying “Hola! Como estas?” and she looked at me like I was crazy.

5. Padded Shoes are a Necessity. This trip I made the mistake of not bringing comfy shoes. I found out the reason why these people that live here are so skinny even though they eat carbs constantly (bread for days) … they literally walk around 6 to 8 miles a day (no joke). I am pretty sure they have more ice cream shops than restaurants here, so if that explains all the walking they must do.

6. Minerals in Their Water. I am convinced that there is something in Spain’s water. Every single person I pass on my way to school (30 minutes by the way) is gorgeous! I don’t think I have ever seen so many pretty people in one place. Every guy looks like Mario Lopez, while the women look like Penelope Cruz.

7. Crowded Streets. Like I said earlier, they walk everywhere. The streets here are so confusing and driving a car would take you longer than walking because of all the cut off streets due to the trolley. They also have bike lanes that are bigger than the walking lanes.

8. What Street Signs? They don’t have any street signs here! There may be a sign on a building telling you the street you are on…if you are lucky.

9. Rules Schmulessss. I’ve noticed a great deal of rules/regulations being laid back here. I have only seen one police involved incident and that was because a man was selling knock-off purses on the side of the street.

10. Cooking is Life! The mothers here are very dedicated to their house and cooking. They start cooking lunch around 10 AM when it is served at 2 and dinner at 6 PM when it is served at 9:30. So you probably think it would be very nice to ask your mom if you could help with dinner. Here that screams, “Your cooking is disgusting!” They feel as if you are making a hidden comment that you are helping because their food isn’t good enough. So never ask to help with dinner whatever you do!

11. Expressing Yourself. Everyday I walk home from school around 8 PM and there are performers everywhere doing the flamenco dance, singing and playing guitar, and dressing in weird costumes. It is actually pretty exhilarating to figure out what I will see that night on the way home.

12. 5 Minute Showers. This is one thing I had to adjust to which was kind of a struggle. Since it never rains here, they have hardly any water meaning you can only have a warm shower for maybe 5 minutes then you turn into an ice cube.

13. “Great Job! You Got a 68%!”. Don’t expect to get higher than an 85% here unless your name is Albert Einstein. The teachers pretty much tell you straight up you will never get a 90%. This is another adjustment that has been taking a toll on me. To them, a 80% is like an A back in the States.

14. Jeans are The New Shorts. It is 100 degree weather here and I see 80% of people wearing jean pants! I am really confused about how they are not dying from a heat stroke. My teacher told me that apparently Levis cost 90 euros while in the US they cost maybe $60. I told him I would ship him a pair if he gives me an A… so we’ll see.

15. Taxes Spent Right. Before I tell you how much their income tax is, I want you to look at my photos of all the beautiful landscapes and buildings there are here. Okay…. so their income tax is 50%! Crazy I know! But here they don’t have insurance, instead their tax dollars pay for public healthcare and the parks/landscapes. Even though that sounds outrageous, my professor said that many of the people don’t mind it because they feel like they get so much back in return.

**This experience has taught me a lot… if you haven’t noticed. Even though it is a different culture, I still love every single aspect about this beautiful country! If you ever have the opportunity to study abroad, GO TO SEVILLA! This city is unbelievable!

“You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting! So get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss

Long time no post! I need to catch you all up on how amazing my experience has been so far! Let me start off by saying, out of all the places I have been to thus far, Sevilla is my favorite city. The city has so much to offer such as the architecture, landscapes, plazas, and people! I walk 30 minutes to class everyday, but it doesn’t feel like that long because of how beautiful my walk is. Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo, my school, has the best resources. The staff and utilities have made me feel so comfortable for being in a country that speaks Spanish with a little bit of English. Speaking of Spanish… my Spanish has become soooo much better from being here. If you are a Spanish major or minor, Sevilla is the place to go! They use the dialect that we learn back in the States, which is very helpful.

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But anyways, I bet you want to hear about my experiences so far. I have traveled to Madrid, Toledo, Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Jerez, Cadiz, Morocco, and Sevilla in only 4 weeks! ISA gives you all these opportunities to travel on excursions throughout the program. While being in Granada, we were able to see the biggest Mezquita (mosque) in the world! The mosque is beautiful! We learned that the Catholics took over the mosque and put a church right in the middle of the praying grounds. We headed to Granada right after. In Granada, we were able to see a Flamenco dance. The neat thing about Granada is you get free tapas (appetizers) when you order a drink. So in all reality, you don’t have to buy food if you don’t want to. We also were able to see a garden/fortress called La Alhambra. Beautiful scenery!

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One of the places I went with just a few friends was Málaga. I traveled with my new friends Monica, Jaffet, and Austin. We decided to adventurous and go to the beach and spend the night on the beach instead of getting a hostel. We actually could have done that if it didn’t downpour while we were there. It was still an experience I wouldn’t take back. The more, the merrier my mom always says.

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The next weekend, we traveled to Jerez and Cadiz. In Jerez, we went to a winery and learned how they barreled the wines and developed the rich taste. We also were given the opportunity to taste test 2 wines called Tío Pepe and Croft. They were both sweet wine wines (my favorite!). At Cadiz, we found a beach to relax at for 4 hours. The beach was extremely crowded because in Spain everybody travels to the beach in June, July, and August on the weekends.

This past weekend, I decided to travel to Morocco as a personal trip of mine. I went with Remy, Austin, Madison, and Thomas from my ISA group. We went through a program called We Love Sevilla. We paid $298 for a 3 day trip that included 2 hotel rooms, 6 meals, camelback rides, monkey interactions, cave viewing, 3 tours (bus, walking), travel there and back (bus, ferry), and a belly dancer show. It is crazy how cheap it was! They have an excursion that goes to Portugal that I am going to look into as well. But anyways, this was probably my favorite excursion so far because of all the things we got to experience. I don’t think I would ever go back to Morocco since it was pretty poverty-stricken, but it was still neat to engage myself in the culture and people. All of Northern Africa is Arabic, which I had no clue about. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I got there!

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This week is the last week of Session 1 of my study abroad. I still have one more session, but it is sad to see all my new friends leave. It will definitely be an adjustment, but I can’t wait to meet the new group coming! My time here is half way over and it amazes me how fast this amazing experience goes by. I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for the world! So lucky to be able to do this! I recommend anybody interested in studying abroad to start saving now because it is worth every penny!

 

Cecily Dupont

PS- I added a video link below. My friend, Austin, made this of our experiences we’ve had so far! Enjoy!

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