It has been a while since I've written a blog, however I can assure you it's for a good reason. Since my last blog post, I have visited 3 countries, traveled to 2 different cities in Spain, and completed a leg of the Camino de Santiago. In addition to traveling, I think that in these last 2 months, I have done the most "growing up" I could have possibly done while abroad. I have made mistakes and learned from them, I have seen things that many people could never see in their life, and I have put myself out there to experience things in a unique way. With about 2 weeks left here in Alicante, my heart is full. My heart is full of special friendship that can only be formed with people you meet while abroad, my heart is full of adventure, and my heart is still full of the taste of Italian pizza and pasta after eating it for a week straight during Spring Break. As I reflect on this experience, I can't help but think "Is there something I would have changed?" While I have a list of places I wish I went and things I wish I did, I look back on this experience as something that changed my life for the better. It has made me open my eyes and look at the people and places around me. So, is there something that I would have changed about my abroad experience? The simple answer is absolutely not. I had a meeting with my program director over the past week, and he asked me a question that really made me reflect on my experience here. His question was, "What will you bring back home with you? Not a physical thing, but a feeling or experience." It really is hard to pick just one thing. I didn't give him an answer because there are so many lessons I have learned from my friends, traveling, and experiencing different cultures. As this experience wraps up, I feel overwhelmed with joy knowing that I was lucky enough to have an experience like this. While I can't wait to come home and be with my family and friends for the summer and get back to the "normalcy" of life, I can honestly say I have never felt so bittersweet about leaving. While Alicante will always have a special place in my heart, I know that when I come back, it will not be the same. I won't be with the people I have been with for the past 4 months who contributed so largely to why I love Alicante. I won't be living in the same home stay with the same family who have been my home away from home. I won't be wandering around the streets of the city knowing I have work to do but saying in my head that it can wait until later. looking back; it really is the little things that made this experience everything and more that it has been.
As for the last 2 months, I have been traveling a lot, doing school work, and recovering from the Camino de Santiago. I took a bike tour around Berlin, watched a Flamenco show in Granada, ate enough pizza and pasta to last me a life time, swam in thermal baths, walked 113 Kilometers along the Camino de Santiago, and watched extravagant statues be set on fire and destroyed. I really can't put all of these experiences into one blog post, and I'm sure that nobody wants to read all about it. All that is important to know is that because of each experience and each trip, I have changed, for the better of course.
So, here's to the final run in Alicante. Alicante, you have been so good to me. Get out and explore!
Having a beer in Berlin during out bike tour
Las Fallas in Valencia, Spain.
The Alhambra- Granada, Spain
The Alhambra- Granada, Spain
Flamenco Show in Granada, Spain
Camino de Santiago- Galicia, Spain
Camino de Santiago- Galicia, Spain
Camino de Santiago- Santiago Compostella
Cinque Terre, Italy
Met up with a friend from High School in Florence
What a weekend this has been! Visiting my top place on my list was nothing short of excellent! While it was a little bittersweet leaving Alicante on one of the most beautiful and perfect beach days and heading to the snowy Swiss alps. It started on Thursday with our flight from Alicante to Geneva. This weekend, we went through Bus2Alps which I really recommend for this trip! I think it would have been much more of a hassle to do on our own! I was meeting my friends who were coming from Rome, but i traveled from Alicante with 2 girls from my program as well which made it much more fun! When we arrived to Geneva, we took a 2 hour bus ride to Interlaken. we didn't end up getting to the hostel until about 2:00 A.M. I was in the room with my friends from Rome so the first night I was in there by myself...they didn't get in until about 7:00.
On Friday, we had a day full of exploring and paragliding! Interlaken is surrounded by 2 lakes (hence the name inter-laken) so we went too me of the lakes the first day. The views were indescribable. it was incredible how everything just seemed to stop while we were sitting there. After that, we prepared to go paragliding. That was awesome...even though I had a little accident. When you paraglide, you basically are running off the side of a mountain. I got nervous and stopped running. Long story short my pilot and I did a few tumbles and he was most definitely not happy! I don't have my photos yet because I need my computer to upload them but I'll have them soon. To get up to the mountain we had to take a half hour drive to the top. In the town of Interlaken, there is no snow, but if you go up the mountain you will most definitely find snow! This was the first time I saw snow this winter, and I am not complaining! After paragliding, we chilled out a bit then went out on the town.
Saturday morning, we went snowshoeing! If anybody does this trip to Interlaken, I REALLY recommend this activity! It was worth every penny! It was a workout and a half but easily had the best views of the alps! That was an all day activity. Snowshoeing is basically just walking with big shoes. Getting up was the part you had to put effort into. Getting down was the tricky part. There is definitely a science behind it, but I could not figure it out so I just slid down the whole way...definitely the more fun way! After that, we were all so tired so we went to find a place to eat.
The town of Interlaken is actually very small, like a little village so there wasn't that much to do other than the snow activities. This was one the last big weekend of the season so there was a lot of people on this trip. People took buses from Prague, Rome, Florence, and some (like me) flew in from other places like London and Spain. This was such a great weekend and j would recommend it to anyone! I am not a skier so I did not do any skiing but that was a very popular option for people to do! They said it was really fun! Switzerland is definitely very expensive, but this was most people's "big trips" for their study abroad semester.
It was so bittersweet saying goodbye to my friends because this will be the last time I see them until April! But, until then we will all be doing our own trips and exploring, so I can't wait to hear all of their stories!
This past weekend, CIEE took us to Madrid! I didn't really know much about Madrid, other than the fact it is Spain's capital, before going there. The trip started on Thursday, classes were canceled, at 8:00 A.M. followed by a 6 hour bus ride. I was very happy I had my pillow and blanket! When we arrived in the city of Madrid, I felt like I was back home in the United States! It had all American stores, food places, and the overall feel was very NYC-like. Once we arrived to the hotel, which was actually very nice and right in the middle of the city, we headed out to Dunkin Donuts, THE ONLY THING I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR! I had a donut and an iced coffee. The Donut was the same, the iced coffee, not so much but it was still exactly what I needed. In spain, they don't understand the concept of making the espresso weaker or mixing it with milk or even water, but that is how we drink it in the U.S., it is not strange, just different! After our excursion, we went on a walking tour of the city and before we made our way back, we went to a chocolatería for some churros on chocolate. I personally am not the biggest fan of churros, solely for the fact that they chocolate is normally too rich/dark for me, I know call me crazy. After the tour, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the night out. A group of friends and myself went to get food and returned back to the hotel.
The night life in Madrid is definitely very comparable to NYC nightlife. There is a discoteca called Teatro Kapital which is 7 floors. I unfortunately could not get in because I did not have a hard copy of my drivers license or passport, only a photocopy of my passport.
Friday, we were able to have our choice of what to do for the day. We could have chosen a Bike tour of the city, the Reina Sofia, a tour of the congresso, or a tour of Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. I chose the stadium because that is where the Real Madrid futbol team plays! It was AMAZING! We were able to see the locker rooms, the bench on the side of the field, and all 10 European Cup trophies and the Fifa World Cup trophy, as well. I am not much of a soccer fan, but after taking the tour, you can understand why soccer is apart of the Spanish culture! After the stadium, we made our way back near the hotel and had lunch at a restaurant and then had free time. I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked to while we were there, but I got a lot of the Stadium.
On Saturday, we started back to Alicante, but we stopped at El Escorial, which is historically known as the residence for the King of Spain! It was so big and seemed as though we were trapped in time! It was very cool! We were not permitted to take photos in there, there was security every where making sure we did not take any!
I really liked Madrid a lot! It was almost comforting to feel as though we were back in the U.S! I am very happy I am in Alicante studying because if I was in a city like Madrid, I would not be able to focus at all! We were warned a lot about the pick pocketers in Madrid, luckily none of our belongings got stolen thankfully! This weekend, I will be heading to Interlaken, Switzerland! I am SO excited!
This past weekend, I spent the weekend in Rome with my best friend from Sacred Heart! It was awesome to reconnect and see some familiar faces, especially because there are quite a few SHU students studying in Rome at John Cabot! In high school, I took a trip to Italy and visited Rome, but this time was different, you have a different type of appreciation for the culture, the architecture, and the history when you are a bit older.
My journey started on Thursday when I made my way to the Alicante Airport. The Alicante Airport was SO easy and I got through security in about 5 minutes tops. So for my next trip I definitely won't have to arrive so much earlier! I left 75 degree weather and headed towards Rome where it was about 55 and rainy. It was actually refreshing to see rain, it doesn't rain at all in Alicante. When I got to Rome, i took a train to Trastevere where my hotel was. The train was easy to navigate! Once i arrived in Trastevere, I met up with Emily and we walked to my hotel and I got settled in and then we went to eat. it was an early night from there.
On Friday, we hit all the best spots in Rome. The iconic Colosseum, The Roman Forum, an of course we had to stop and get some gelato on the way. As I said, I have visited Rome before, but you definitely gain a greater appreciation for the rich history. In the Forum, it is like the entire city is trapped in time and has been that way forever. It is amazing to see all of the detailed architecture. Also while I was in the forum, I saw green grass for the first time in months *it's the little things*. After the Forum, we made our way over to the Colosseum. While walking through, we would listen to tours that were being given to learn some more information about the Colosseum (broke college students to the max). It was amazing just ROMEing around and seeing all the things many people only learn about by looking at pictures or reading books. After the long day, we made our way to Dar Poeta where I had the BEST PIZZA OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!!! A Pizza with Buffalo Mozzarella *heart eye emoji.*
Emily and me in the Roman Forum
Emily, Rachel, and me in the Coloseum
Eating THE BEST PIZZA OF MY LIFE AT DAR POETA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Throughout the weekend, I was pleasantly surprised that there were TONS of people speaking Spanish and I was able to practice, even while in a different country. When you hear people saying "claro" and "vale," you whip your head around and immediately ask where they are from. It was awesome to just talk to people. Not many people understand the concept of study abroad and traveling on the weekends, so that was tough to explain.
On Saturday, we had a day of shopping and some more sight seeing. We went to the Trevi Fountain and we also saw the Spanish Steps, which were under construction. Near the Spanish steps is where all of the name brand expensive stores are. It was nice window shopping! Stumbling upon the Spanish steps made me long for Alicante. it was like a little piece of Spain was right there with me in Rome! On Saturday, we also headed to Campo de' Fiori, that is the local market where there are vendors selling anything you can imagine, from clothes to food. There I bought a few souvenirs, bags of pasta, to bring back to my host family and my real family in the US.
The Spanish steps
We will see if this wish comes true ;)
While I loved traveling, catching up with my friends, and seeing so many beautiful sights along the way, there truly is no place like Spain. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I feel as though THIS is my home. I have gone from being super homesick, to traveling and being homesick of my new home, Alicante. There is something about this city, the language, my family, the culture that has effected me in such a way I could not even imagine. Everyday I find something new to love about this place. From a new gelato flavor (my current favorite is Kinder Bueno flavor) to walking around the rambla to find a new place to eat with my friends and ending up at kebap or taco bell, this place is my temporary home. My friends and I have already started talking about when we will be coming back to visit Alicante. Time is FLYING by. I can't even believe it is already mid February!
This coming weekend, I will be traveling to Madrid with CIEE! I am so excited to go! Many people I have talked to say that is their favorite place! Vamos a ver! While in Madrid, I will be visiting Santiago Bernabéu Stadium where the Real Madrid soccer team plays! I am not much of a soccer fan, but my host family loves Real Madrid, my sister says Cristiano Ronaldo es su novio.
This past weekend in Alicante, we celebrated Carnaval. Carnaval is celebrated the weekend before lent starts so everybody can "commit their sins" before a holy time. While many other countries have Carnaval, there is nothing quite like Alicante Carnaval! Carnaval is basically like Halloween in the US just 10 times more intense. The streets in La Rambla close and there are big stages set up for concerts and there are vendors all in the streets!
For us, the night started early, at 11. The majority of the people in my program went to the beach and hung out for a little while and then made our way to the barrio/Rambla (the 2 areas are right next to each other). There were people EVERYWHERE! Young, teens, old, you name it, they were in the streets in their disfrazes (costumes). If you are not dressed up, it is weird. Everybody dresses up and just roams the streets, I have never seen so many people ever and I have been in NYC on St. Patrick's Day! Moving about the barrio there were many different costumes, many people dressed as Minnie and Mickey Mouse, soccer players, referees, etc. I dressed as a Cowgirl. As the night progressed, we made our way to the streets of the Rambla where there was a huge concert (casually at 3:30 A.M.). The music was blasting, everyone was dancing and having a great time! So great of a time I didn't get home until about 5 A.M. and the party was still going on when I left! Carnaval was awesome!
This weekend, I head to beautiful Roma! I am so excited to reunite with my best friend from school who is studying at John Cabot University and explore a new city! Stay tuned!
Well, it has almost been a month in Alicante! I can't believe how fast time is flying! I have been doing so much around the Province of Alicante, taking an intensive language class at the CIEE study center, and learning the ins and outs of the city and culture. Also, I must add, I am skipping my siesta to write this.
Today, I started my normal classes. I am taking a Women's Literature class, a Spain Pop Culture class, a Film and Lit class, and a Latin American Lit class (SO MANY LIT CLASSES). So far, I like my teachers and the subjects will definitely be interesting. The CIEE Study center is really nice! It is very modern looking. The staff is super helpful and they always keep us informed with things going on in the city for the week. Additionally, they offer classes that we can take as well such as Salsa Dancing or cooking! I live in the city of Alicante, but the study center is about 20 minutes away in San Vicente. Everyday, I take the local tram system to and from class. It is really easy to use! The tram in the morning is usually PACKED because many students who study at the University of Alicante also use the tram system.
Around the Province of Alicante, I have visited Benidorm, Calpe, and Villajoyosa. Calpe (I wrote a blog about my visit) I hiked an awesome mountain and had incredible views. This past week, I went to both Villajoyosa and Benidorm. While in Villajoyosa, my friends and I (yes, I have friends) went to a local place on the beach to eat lunch and then made our way to the Valor Chocolate Factory. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the factory, but the photos wouldn't do any justice to the smell in the factory.The tour of the factory was free and after the tour, there was free chocolate to sample! Definately worth the visit. In Benidorm, my friends and I visited the Fonts de L'Algar Waterfalls. It was so peaceful walking through and seeing all the waterfalls.
Last Friday, CIEE took us to Guadalest, another town outside the City of Alicante, and also to see the Busot Cuevas del Canelobre. While in Guadalest, we saw La Casa Orduña. This is a typical home of a person of wealth. It was very old and was replicated to look how it was lived in during the 1600's. Along with La Casa Orduña, the views were absolutely breathtaking. After about an hour bus ride, we made it to the Busot Cuevas del Canelobre. This cave was formed many millions of years ago and is still in fact changing very rapidly by about 1 cm every 100 years (una broma, claro)!
The Busot Cuevas del Canelobre
The Busot Cuevas del Canelobre
As much as I am immersing myself in the culture, I am finding myself miss American things a little more everyday. The thing I miss the most, more than my dog or family, is my Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee. While they have coffee here, it is not the same at all. Apparently, there is a Dunkin in Madrid and we are going with CIEE in 3 weeks so I am counting down the days. Luckily, as a gift for my host family, I brought them peanut butter so I haven't been missing that as much as much as I thought I would.
I feel like I have almost "hit a wall" with the language. While I feel my Spanish has definitely improved and my fluidity is better, there are times when I do not want to speak or hear the language. Many people say that is normal, but I am pushing through it!
As for traveling outside of Alicante, I basically have all my weekends booked with travel. This weekend coming up is Carnival. It is a huge festival in Alicante where everyone dresses up and there is a huge fiesta in the streets.. it is basically like Halloween times 10. The following weekend, I will be in Rome visiting my best friend Emily Murphy, a SHUdent, who is studying at John Cabot University. The following weekend, CIEE is having a trip to Madrid for the weekend...HELLO DUNKIN!!!! The last weekend of February, I am going to my #1 place I had on my list, Interlaken, Switzerland! I am so excited! The first week in March I will be going to Berlin, the second weekend in March CIEE is taking us to Granada (I will bring something back for you Professora Munday), and the weekend after that will be spent in Valencia celebrating Las Fallas! After that, i have 2 1/2 weeks of Spring break (the longest of any CIEE program). the first week of Spring Break I will be participating in the Camino del Santiago, a 60 mile walk in the North of Spain, and after that, my friends and I will be visiting Florence and Budapest! After Spring break, i will make my way to Barcelona and after that, hopefully Sevilla. As of now I have the last week in April open and the first week in May here in Alicante. The 2 places I don't think I will make it to is London and Amsterdam, but that just gives me another reason to come back!
I am so excited to see what these next 3 months have in store! Hasta Luego!
P.S... Hola.org saved my life. Hello USA Netflix!!!
Yesterday, a few friends and I traveled to Calpe to hike the infamous rock. Calpe is within the province of Alicante, but about an hour or so tram ride from the city center. The day started EARLY at 8:00 when I missed the tram that all my friends were on. Luckily, there was another tram half an hour after. after an hour tram ride to Benidorm. When in Benidorm, we had to switch trains and go to Altea. Once in Altea, we had to take a bus to Calpe. FINALLY, once in Calpe, we had to walk about a mile to where the base of the rock was. The beach in Calpe was beautiful!! It made it even better being on the beach because at home in the states, the North East was being slammed by a snow storm. (my friend Zach and I, clearly excited to be on the beach!)
Once we finally got to the base of the rock after walking along the beach, with our bocadillos (sandwich) packed by our Madre's, we began the climb up. The climb up wasn't terrible, especially being in awe because of the views surrounding us, it was "vale la pena." Once we got up about half way, there was a fence signifying that our hike was complete... coming to Calpe, the majority of us wanted to go all the way to the top. So, a few of us hopped the fence and continued our hike up to the very top! The rest of the hike after that was pretty difficult! There was a trail that we could have taken, but we decided to do the more difficult route and basically scale the rocks and climb up to the top (Probably not covered under my iNext insurance, sorry Francesca). However, once we reached the top, the views were AMAZING!!!! My photos do not do any justice to how it really looked from the top. We were on top of the world! (view from about half way up)
Once we got to the bottom and reunited with the other half of the group that opted out of jumping the fence, we stopped and got food and then returned back to Alicante.
It was a LONG but AMAZING day. You don't realize how much is out there in the world until you see it. GO SEE IT ALL!
I hope everyone at SHU enjoyed their snow weekend. I'll be honest, I actually miss the snow and cold a little bit. But when I feel like I'm missing that, I just go to the beach. Hasta luego
As I am writing this, I sit in my new room. I hear the chatter of locals outside my window and the mopeds zoom past in the street. Here I am in the city of Alicante.
The hustle and bustle of making new friends and exploring a new city to call home, it something that is hard to describe in words. I have been dropped in a city that is rich in history and I am lucky to call this home.
Within my first week, I have began my intensive language class, moved in with a new family, hiked up El Castillo De Santa Barbara, began to discover the city, and walked over 100,000 steps! If anybody knows me, they know I am a total homebody. I talk to my mom on the phone everyday about 50 times a day and any chance I had in my busy schedule to go home, I took (even if it was just for dinner on a Tuesday night). This trip for me was a big step in taking the leap of faith and being extremely independent. While I am homesick, I am able to distract myself everyday by taking a new adventure. And FaceTime also helps!
Monday, I was picked up by my host family. That in itself was a huge shock for me. Adjusting to a new schedule with new people is difficult, however my host family has given me the support I need in order to succeed here! In my home, I have a sister, Gema, she is 17 years old. She helps me a lot with my Spanish. Since living in the home, I have seen my Spanish improve and I can't seem to shut off my "chip." In the home and in the CIEE study center, I primarily only speak Spanish, however when I am with my friends in the streets, we speak spanglish, every other word in English and Spanish.
Coming from New York to Spain is very different. Here, they like to take things "more eslow." Yes, eslow because in Spain, it is difficult or impossible to say the 's' sound at the beginning of the word on its own. Before I continue, I must add SIESTAS ARE A REAL THING!!!!!!!!!!!! The first thing we did when we arrived to the house was eat (my favorite part). The bread. The cheese. Everything is AMAZING! for lunch, around 2:00-3:00, we eat a large meal (dinner in the United States. After we eat, we rest. If you try and go out to the stores anytime between 1:00-4:00, you will find that everything is closed! Hence, the siesta is real! Around 5:00, the stores open up and you go back to work. around 10:00 is when dinner is (yes, 10:00 at night) and the meal is significantly smaller. For dinner, you may eat a bocadillo (sandwich) con jamon, queso aceite de oliva, tomate, y sal (my favorite) or un tortilla de patata (another favorite) but you can always count on fresh bread and cheese being a big part of the meal! I also had my first Paella this weekend!
Also during my first week, my classmates and I climbed the iconic Castillo de Santa Barbara. Dating back to the 9th century, it is one of the most famous landmarks in Alicante. It is one of the highest points in the city and has the best views. The climb up was difficult but the view was worth it. I hope to do this climb A LOT while I am here in Alicante.
I have more photos on my camera, I will upload those later.
Around every corner in Alicante, you come across something new. On our first day of class, we took a walking tour of the city. We were showed the "go-to" spots such as El Barrio (the neighborhood where all the bars are), El Corte Ingles (basically a Wal-Mart and Macys packed into one with "American things), and the beach.
The nightlife in Alicante is very different than in the U.S. For one, they don't leave their homes until midnight!!!! If any of you know me, I am a grandma and I am most likely in bed by then on a Friday/Saturday night. Because they don't go out until very late, they also get home very early the following morning (4 or 5 or even 6 in the morning). With my "grandmas-ish" ways, I came home at 3 and that was early!
Everyday, I become more and more accustomed to this city. While I am missing my family at home more than anything, I know this will be an experience of a lifetime. I am lucky enough to have this opportunity. I have began to plan some travel with my friends both here in Alicante in my program and my friends from SHU who are studying in various locations. I am so excited to see what this semester has in store for me! And P.S., the "study" part of study abroad is also real, I have my first mid term exam tomorrow for my intensive language class!
Today, I began the journey of a lifetime. Something I could have only dreamed about. A day I have planned for since i chose to become a Sacred Hear student. Today, I feel many things: happy, anxious, blessed, and overall dazed. With little to no sleep, I set out to JFK with my 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons in hand. Luckily, I a not attempting the biggest travel of my life alone, I have 2 other girls, Colleen and Amy, from Sacred Hart accompanying me. Saying my final goodbyes to my family, I felt as though I was simply out of tears. I set off with a hopeful heart and an open mind seeking adventure.
We flew Norwegian Air and we had a 3 hour layover in Oslo, Norway. The flight to Norway was 7 hours and once we got there, we were pleasantly surprised to have 8 degree temperatures with snow on the ground, probably the first and only time we will physically see snow this year. Getting off the plane and having our passports checked by immigration, we met Bella, a girl from the University of Cincinnati who is also studying in Alicante through a different program. She was taking the same flight into Alicante as we were, so we decided to all stick together. If anybody reading this knows, me they know I am a member of kappa Delta sorority at Sacred Heart. Come to find out, Bella was not only a new friend in Alicante to keep ties with, but she is also a member of Kappa Delta at the University of Cincinnati!
Boarding the flight from Norway to Alicante leaving the snow behind, I realized that I was surrounded by older people. Come to find out, Alicante is the "Florida of Europe." What we in the United States may call "snowbirds," or people who escape from the cold of the Northeast and flee to Florida for their warm weather fix, many people flee to Alicante for their warm weather fix!
When we arrived in Alicante, we arrive a day before orientation began. We made our way to the hotel and then found ourselves exploring the streets of San Vicente, a city within the providence of Alicante, also where both the CIEE study center and La Universidad de Alicante are. After traveling all day, we made our way to a tapas bar. We tried our first Sangria (life changing) and tapas. I think i could get used to this!
The travel in itself seemed more intimidating than it actually was... the hardest part was saying goodbye to my dog.