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

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

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

I’ve been in Europe for three and a half weeks now. What? I can’t believe I’ve been over here for three weeks already, I remembered flying into the airport on the first day and not knowing anyone and a minimal amount of Spanish, but now I’ve met so many people and my Spanish is improving. It’s insane how fast time goes when you’re constantly busy exploring, touring different countries, meeting new people, and staying on top of school work. I’ll explain a little bit what has happened since the last time I blogged with was about 2 weeks ago, and let me tell you a lot has happened in such a small time span.

I left off with the fact that I was going to be travelling to Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium. Both of these places were awesome! We saw so many unique things in both cities, and one of the coolest experiences was the fact that when we were in the Netherlands, they were playing Spain in the World Cup and they beat them 5 – 1, so the city was going nuts to say the least. In the Netherlands I went on 2 different tours. On the first walking tour I learned so much about the city, including seeing the smallest house in the city which is 1.8 meters long and I saw the house that Anne Frank lived in during the war which was a surreal experience. The other tour was a canal tour in which we took a boat through the city and learned even more about the history of Amsterdam. After we spent 2 days in Amsterdam, our group traveled to Brussels in Belgium via bus and that trip was interesting because we didn’t really have a plan about what we wanted to do, but we had a great time exploring the Grand Place as well as watching two World Cup soccer games in which the atmosphere was awesome because there were so many people from different countries and nationalities in one place all watching the same thing.

The following day our group traveled back to Barcelona and got back into the normal routine with school and going to the beach and exploring more of the city. Last week a lot of students had midterms and this upcoming week I have both of my midterms in my two classes but it shouldn’t be too difficult because my professors do an excellent job of preparing their students for the material on the tests. Other than school, this past weekend we traveled to Costa Brava, Spain and got to experience sardines that are rated as the best sardines in the world according to different sources. We also got to travel via boat to another small city named Cadaques which is located on the coastline. This was really cool because we stopped in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and got to swim which was different because the water is so salty there that you can basically float without even trying.

Once we got finished with Costa Brava we came back to Barcelona and have been here for 2 days. The only downfall about this entire trip was last night when Portugal scored in the last 20 seconds of the World Cup to force a draw between them and the United States. We were at a place with so many people from the United States and Portugal watching the game so it was a unique experience watching the game with people from both countries cheering for opposite teams. Other than the U.S. draw, I have loved every second of this study abroad experience and I highly recommend that every student take the opportunity to study abroad in another country because you get the chance to meet so many different people and learn not only about other cultures but also your own. I have realized a lot about the United States just from being in Spain for 3 weeks and it has been an eye opening experience for me to say the least.

As I said earlier, I have two midterms this week so I need to start preparing for them so I do well in those classes. Just a quick update so you know what’s happening with me over here over the next few weeks. This upcoming weekend I am traveling to Morocco, Africa and then the following weekend on the 4th of July I’m planning a trip to hopefully Rome, Italy. Tonight and tomorrow is a holiday here in Barcelona where there are bands and concerts and different cultural experiences over the entire city so everyone here is going to see what this is all about tonight. Time for me to get off here because we’re about to go see more of the city!

Hasta luego,

Matt Schafer

Traveling through Europe

I have been studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain for 12 days and I am loving every single minute of it thus far! I’ve met some great people from other universities across the country and from across the world who are living with me in the same residencia. The first week we were all getting to know each other but a lot of them are in my classes and this past weekend we all traveled together and this upcoming weekend we’re travelling again, I’m so excited.

Starting from my last post A LOT has happened and I can’t believe it’s going by so fast already, it feels like I just got here and also feels like I’ve been here forever. This past weekend we traveled to both Sitges, Spain as well as Valencia, Spain. Both places were an absolute blast and I enjoyed touring the city as well as the beaches that were in both cities. Everyone was raving about the “paella” that is in Spain, which is basically a mix of rice, vegetables, and some type of meat or seafood, and the best dish I’ve had thus far has been from Sitges. If you have never tried paella, I would highly recommend it because it is absolutely wonderful. While in Sitges we also toured their cathedral as well as the beach, which was beautiful.

After the Sitges trip and in between my classes, which I really enjoy by the way, we had a your of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, and let me tell you this was one of if not the most impressive architectural designed buildings I have ever seen in my life. The detail that this church has everywhere you look is stunning. The master behind La Sagrada Familia’s fascinating work is Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. This Roman Catholic church has been in construction since 1880, which goes to show the amount of detail put into EVERY single area of the church. The projected completion date of the church is in 2026, which is the 100 year anniversary of Gaudí’s death. The church is 170 meters tall and can fit up to 14,000 people, which was what Gaudí was intending, but can only fit 6,000 comfortably. This architectural masterpiece is definitely an icon in Barcelona and a huge tourist area, and if you come to Barcelona at any point in your life, La Sagrada Familia is a must visit.

Later in the week our residencia visited the beach multiple time and also went to Las Ramblas, which is basically a giant shopping center for tourists, locals, and anyone else who wants to visit the area. Shops stretch for 3/4 mile and you can find so many different types of things be sold from gelato, FC Barcelona gear, restaurants, and shops of so many things. On the way there, we stopped past the Cathedral in Barcelona which is gorgeous as well. We didn’t get the opportunity to go inside because we wanted to be able to walk around Las Ramblas, but I plan on going back again and checking it out because it is fascinating and looks very interesting.

This past weekend a lot of the people from our residencia went to Valencia, Spain and got to tour the city. A lot of the buildings differed from Barcelona, they were a lot more modern which surprised me because Valencia is Spain’s 3rd largest city behind Madrid (the capital) and Barcelona. Another cool thing was the parks and gardens throughout the city which were beautiful, there was so much to do there that we couldn’t fit it all in during 1 and a half days. The one thing I wish I could have done was gone and see a bull-fighting ring live, and I really want to do that before I leave Spain this summer because I feel that would be such an awesome experience.

This upcoming weekend we are traveling to Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium. We’re still trying to figure out all the plans as to what we’re going to do but one of the people who lives with us has family in Amsterdam so I’m sure that they can give us some interesting places to visit and see, so I’m really excited for that this upcoming weekend. On that note, I have a presentation tomorrow and need to finish the rest of the project so I have to get off here. It’s crazy how fast time flies over here when you’re having fun, but I’ll be sure to post this time next week!

Hasta luego,

Matt Schafer

Barcelona, Spain


I arrived in Barcelona, Spain 3 days ago, and these past 72 hours have been an absolute incredible time filled with a variety of activities and events that have made this trip such a wonderful experience thus far! Everything about Barcelona has been fantastic ranging from the amazing Mediterranean food, the unique architecture of the city, the different things that are always happening, and of course the culture “shock” has taken some adjusting too but that’s what the whole study abroad experience is about, to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar place with different cultures than yourself and learn from them.

On my first day it was a little hectic because I was suffering from jet lag and had barely any sleep on the plane, and with the 6 hour time change from the eastern coast of the United States and Barcelona, I felt like I skipped a whole nights sleep and was expected to be ready for another day! It’s something I had never experienced before and definitely won’t forget, but the time spent doing different things on the first day really helped me overcome my sleepiness and immerse myself in the Spanish culture. We took a group excursion around the entire city via bus, which lasted roughly 2 hours but was really interesting because of the amount of information they gave us regarding the history of their sports (1992 Olympic games & FC Barcelona) as well as the artistic background (Antonio Gaudi & Pablo Picasso) that helped contribute to the city’s beautiful architecture.

On day number two we went on a tour of the Gothic Quarter which began in the Plaza del Angel which was cool because our guide explained to us about the architecture of the city, when things were built and for what purpose, which really shows the true age of Barcelona. After this we gathered as a group and got all of the information regarding the classes we were taking over the next month and a half. The rest of the day was spent at the beach and exploring the city even more including the Plaça de Catalunya and the Barcelona Cathedral.

Today was the first day of classes and I really think I’m going to enjoy both of the classes that I’m taking which are International Marketing Strategies and E-Commerce and Online Business. Both of my professors seem like they know what they’re talking about and are very happy to be teaching students from America about the ways in which the Spanish education system works as well as helping us learn and grow in their culture during our stay here.

This upcoming week we are going on a trip to Sitges, Spain and hopefully to a few more places within Spain or Portugal because we don’t have class on Monday so we plan on going somewhere during the long weekend. I’m absolutely loving every part about this study abroad experience so far and am extremely excited to see what these next six weeks have in store for me!

Hasta luego,

Matt Schafer