Spain; Studying Hard, or Hardly Studying??

Hi there!! Me again! Still in Spain! 

This week’s blog is going to be a little bit of everything, once again. The past weekends have been full of activities, and, since we don’t have class on Fridays, we students try to make the most of it. Last time I wrote, I was headed to Barcelona. Let me tell you, that trip was incredible!! We definitely got our money’s worth out of the town. We were able to go to the beach, La Rambla (a well-known part of town with shops and plazas etc…), La Boqueria (Barcelona’s famous open air market), La Sagrada Familia (an incredible church that has yet to be finished… Gaudi’s last work that has become a Spanish monument), Park Guell (one of Gaudi’s other works… visited by the Cheetah girls), and an F.C. Barcelona game where Messi (arguably the best player in the world) scored three goals in under 40 minutes. Barcelona was nuts!! We took the train, shopped and walked through town, ate some food, and met a British guy who gave us the lowdown on the local scene (having lived there for a year). A local, friendly English speaker is such a blessing in a foreign country. Let me tell you!! Pro tip;when you travel, always ask locals where to go. In my opinion, you can get a lot online like good food and the big sites to see, but if you really want to indulge and participate in the richness of another country’s life, ask the people that live there what to do… I have found that often they know best.

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Barcelona was crazy cool and afterward I was crazy tired. But I made it to school that week just fine. The same week I was able to attend MaeWest, a local discoteca. This place is exactly what you think of when you hear the word disco… lots of people, loud music, and drinks. There are a lot of Spanish youth that go, so it was neat to see a new aspect of cultural entertainment. Additionally, many students in Erasmus (a European exchange program) attend too, so if you’re looking to meet interesting, different, new people, this could be your place… along with the intercambios the school sponsors. On a different note, later that week I went to a bar with my Spanish brother and we met his friends Italian girlfriend, and her two friends from Austria… 4 cultures and countries represented in one tiny cafe in Spain… this kind of thing never happens in America it seems!!! It was cool that we could all speak Spanish and English as well as share different parts of our culture… the coolest, oddest, funniest, best, and worst parts of our countries. We talked about sports, music, people, school and studies, culture and everything else.

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Also during this week I went to the Arabic baths. Historically it was a place used to socialize. There are 7 “pools” that have temperatures at varying degrees. You are supposed to move through them in a particular order, but we just spent all our time in the warm one!! We drank tea but they didn’t have any chess boards like the old days. Entering the weekend I was able to hang out with my brother and friends like I mentioned. I was able to go mountain biking again with some locals who offered me a bike. We also played soccer with them, and let me tell you… they are good. At first they didn’t really pass me the ball much, but I scored a goal later on… so I was feeling pretty good after we finished. On Sunday we were able to go up to the Sierra Nevada and see the mountains and the ski town. Additionally we toured the CAR, a training facility where my dad works as a chef.

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This week I am going to do a local food tasting with our directors after school one day. My family almost always has the TV on during the day; before, after, and during the meals. You all may have heard, but the Corona virus is taking the world by storm. Some of my friend’s universities have pulled them out of Spain and brought them back to the US. As a student I can assure you that everything is fine here. We are in a secure environment, and as a young person, it is no worse than a cold. I don’t mean to be controversial, I am just relaying what I have been told and how I see things on the ground. I don’t know what the American media has been saying, but everything is okay over here!!

Some of my friends are going to Morocco (Africa) this weekend, but I think I am going to stay local and go hiking instead. With the virus, I think it is better to stay put in the coming weeks. We are barred by our school and program from traveling to any level 3 countries, which is unfortunate because I was invited to go to Rome for Holy Week with my Spanish friends, so we’ll see if that happens or not. But it’s true what they say about traveling in Europe… it’s not “easy” in my experience, it isn’t as cheap as it sounds, and you still have to do travel, rooming, and activity details (which can be stressful), but the physical proximity is something that should be taken advantage of. I have friends that have gone to Portugal, England, Ireland, Israel, Morocco, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. I have sort of changed my philosophy on travel, that is, instead of attempting to soak up all of Europe in a semester by way of 3 day weekends, I decided I am going to try and embrace the Spanish culture. I am here to learn the language and experience this culture. Europe will be there when I am finished. For the coming weeks I am going to try and stay local, see what the city and region has to offer regarding churches, monuments, and activities. 

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On a similar note, I would highly recommend studying abroad. I will write another blog about this entirely, but for now, I will say that it is definitely worth it. Talking to my friends on the phone, I have realized that there is no substitute for actually being in another culture. You can watch videos, listen to things, read books, speak a language even, but it is a completely different story to actually live it. I have learned so much about myself, about other people, and about the world. If you have the chance, go abroad!! You won’t regret it. That’s all for now!!

I started writing a song on guitar and I think I’m going to enter it in a contest. I’ve been inspired by some of the music I have been listening to, the way I feel right now, missing my friends (wanting to share experiences with them), and the innumerable buskers and flamenco guitarists you find on the street. My friends are good, the sites are incredible, and God is good. The language is difficult to understand sometimes, and there are learning curves and trials here, but at the end of the day I am very grateful for the opportunity and ability to study abroad. I also have a new respect and gratitude for the blessing that it is to be American. For all the moms out there, especially mine, yes I am brushing my teeth, yes I am eating well (although I have lost weight due to healthy food and walking everywhere), yes my clothes still fit, no I don’t have Corona virus, yes I am doing my homework, yes I have soap and contact solution, and yes, I am still attending classes… Until next time!! “Ciao pescado!!”

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