Sunday, August 2, 2015

By God's grace, I am safe and healthy

My last two weekends in Spain flew by. After I returned from Madrid, I did my usual ice cream, beach, shop, and repeat routine. The last weekend I was in Spain, we traveled to Rome, Italy. All six of us had a blast. We didn’t have much time there but what we did have, we enjoyed.

If you hadn’t seen any of my posts about my infection here is the short story. I was battling what I thought was swollen lymph nodes but ended up being a seriously infected ingrown hair. It had grown to the size of a golf ball and started to bleed on the way back from Italy. I didn’t want to go to the hospital but the pharmacy insisted. After two hours at the doctor on that Sunday, I was on the road to recovery. I wouldn’t say it was the ideal last week of my trip. I was in pain, I had a huge bandage under my arm, and I was on three medications. I wasn’t too happy when they told me I had to come back every day either.

After spending my last week at the doctor and studying for finals, it was time to return home. Every moment spent in Alicante is a moment cherished. I loved it, and I am ready for my next trip. On the other hand, I couldn’t be more blessed to be home. I didn’t think I would make it. My flight early Saturday morning from Alicante to Barcelona was delayed about 30 minutes, and I only had a 2 hour layover in Barcelona. But since this wasn’t a legitimate connecting flight (I bought each flight separate), I was worried I wasn’t going to make it. I was going to have to grab my bags at baggage claim, head to check in again, go through security again, and search for my new gate in about 1.5 hours. I made it to Barcelona at 10:30, and they were boarding at 11:05. Ran to baggage claim and then ran to the delta desk; the lady informed me I missed my flight, and I needed to go to another desk. The lady at the desk said I might have to catch one tomorrow or the next day. I took what I consider the faith of a mustard seed, ran to security, wait in line to leave the E.U. and stamp my passport, and then pray 20 more times hoping I can make it to the gate before they closed the door. I got close to the gate and was stopped by transit to get everything sorted out since I was late. I was never happier that I caught that flight home.

Thank you everyone for your prayers! I am truly blessed. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Madrid for the weekend!

This past weekend, I left after class for Madrid. The first time ever taking blablacar. Never heard of it? Well simply put, it is carpooling. Those registered on the website can list the trips they are taking and if you need to go where they are headed, they will take you for a cheap price. Seriously, cheaper. The train roundtrip for Madrid was about 100 euros, versus paying 45 euro roundtrip blablacar. Yeah, it sounds a little sketchy but if you travel in a pair or group, it is definitely safer. The car ride to Madrid was about 4 hours; spending from Friday about 7 P.M. to Sunday 10 A.M.
Things experienced while in Madrid,
Churros and Chocolate
Plaza Mayor
Retiro Park (with the manmade lake & rowboats)
Kilometer “0” in Plaza del Sol
A protest about CocaCola

It was a really neat experience to have visited the heart of Spain! Up next… Rome, Italy (round 2)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

One week and three days completed

I believe I have some doubt from friends that I am actually studying (lol). That is potentially believable because I never post pictures inside the classroom. I do have three classes each day Monday through Friday, believe it or not. School and studying does take up a large part of my day but I do get to enjoy 60% of the day each day, typically. For those doubting, I have listed my day to day schedule,

Wake up- 6:45 A.M.
Catch the bus- 8 A.M.
Grammar class- 9 A.M.- 12:00 P.M.:
                We cover verb tenses, vocabulary, and also mix in games like “speed dating” conversation practice and “tres en raya” tic-tac- toe verb conjugation practice.
Conversation class- 12:00- 1:00 P.M.:
                We practice conversation by covering various topics like typical dishes of food from our home countries, important holidays in our countries, etc.
Cinema class- 1:00- 2:00 P.M.:
                We research different genres of movies and compare them across cultures (but mostly in comparison with American movies). We also watch Spanish movies from different genres.

After 2 P.M., I am free for the day. I typically choose between a siesta, the beach, ice cream, or shopping. I have completed one week and three days here. Since I haven’t been here long, I haven’t traveled much yet. This past weekend our group went to Guadalest on Saturday, a city just North of Alicante. On Sunday, Chad and I went to visit my intercambio from last year in his hometown, Elche, just slightly North West of Alicante.

Coming up soon, I am headed to Madrid this weekend. The following weekend a group of us are headed to Rome, Italy!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hola de España

                 I am starting to wake up from this dream that I am back in Alicante and beginning to create a daily routine. It is very similar to my last experience here but with different people and a different homestay. Although I am happy to be back, the beginning of the trip was slightly less than a dream.
                This year I flew into Barcelona instead of Alicante to cut costs and save money. I thought it was a smart move on my part since I consider myself to be frugal and since I paid for the flight with my savings account. Once the trip was about two thirds complete, I began to realize you pay for the convenience. The flight to Alicante would have been about 200 more dollars than flying to Barcelona and also tacking on a $100 fee that Shorter applies to be picked up from the airport (another convenience fee), so it really sounded great once I started doing the math.
                So then came the actual trip, the flight was perfect. By that I mean, as perfect as economy seats can be. I flew from Atlanta to JFK (~2.5 hrs) and then I flew from JFK to Barcelona overnight (~6.5 hrs). Once I arrived in Barcelona was when it all began to go downhill. Since I was needing to get to Alicante the fastest, most efficient way, I needed a train ticket to Alicante. There are only a few trains that leave from Barcelona to go to Alicante each day, so I was hoping to be able to catch the 12 o’clock train because the trip by train is 5.5 hours. Well I totally forgot that since it was an international flight, I would have to go through customs. I brushed it off, no problem but when I realized the line for the customs was slightly long and the airport only had six stations (three stations for international citizens and three stations for citizens of the E.U.) open for each person to go through the customs process, I began to notice how long it was actually taking. (Side note: I promised a few people I would let them know once I arrived in Barcelona, but the free wifi didn’t work- of course.)
                Finally made it through the line, brushed it off and said “okay, time to make up my lost time.” Found my luggage and moved on to locate the train station. Well, I stood in this line for just tourism to find out 10 minutes later it was not where I need to buy the train ticket. Next, I had to locate the area for the bus to the terminal for the train station. Not so easy locating the “free green bus for terminal 2.” I had to crack out my Spanish a little earlier than expected. After going to two busses that were not the free ones, I finally found the correct bus to terminal two. Well, big surprise, terminal two was about a 15 minute bus ride. So once I arrived at terminal two for the train station, come to find out I had to catch that train to catch the actual train that would take me to Alicante. At this point it was 11:30 A.M. There was no hope to catch the 12 o’clock train but I did finally locate the ticket office and was set for my trip at 3. I was dead. I had only had two hours of sleep, mas o menos. The 3 o’clock train was not ideal, but I finally made it to Alicante.
                Traveling is enjoyable but traveling can be difficult. I love it. I learn more about myself and I grow every time I leave my comfort zone.

Hasta luego,


Saturday, June 27, 2015

With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)

This time last year I was headed to Spain for the first time. I was anxious, excited, nervous, and elated, but mostly a big ball of nerves. I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was sad to leave my home, my family, and my comfort zone, but I was about to embark on a journey I had been dreaming of since I was a high school Spanish student. The true desire to study abroad arose from my favorite teacher, my Spanish teacher, Ms. Tyree. I have to give her some of the credit because I really am not sure I would have continued Spanish courses, declared a Spanish minor, or studied abroad. Like I have said numerous times, it was the greatest learning experience I have ever experienced in my lifetime. To be honest, it was hard. It was very hard to get comfortable living with strangers who soon became somewhat of a family (lol), walking unfamiliar streets, and being a student of a professor whose first language was Italian. I was stretched to my limits, sick of hearing Buenos Dias before I had my café con leche and exhausted from conjugating and translating all day long, yet I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Not only was it the greatest learning experience, it was the most rewarding experience and I cannot place a price tag on that.

In saying that, after a month of Spain ready to return to the states, I never thought I would have the opportunity to return. I left my heart in Alicante and I am so blessed to be returning in six days. As I look back on my previous July in Alicante, I try to think back to what I want to do differently this time or what am I looking forward to most.
What I want to do differently:
-Travel to more cities inside of Spain
                Last July I took small day trips to Guadalest and the island of Tabarca (places in Spain), and my big trip was to Rome, Italy. This July I really hope to visit Elche (where my intercambio Pedro is from) and Valencia inside of Spain. A trip outside of Spain is still in the works J.
What I am looking forward to most:
It is a three way tie between-
-Seeing my Intercambio Pedro
-Ice cream, of course
-Walking the streets again
                I was blessed to have had a great intercambio last July (my intercambio was my speaking partner, aka tutor.) We have stayed in contact, and he has helped me keep my Spanish up. He truly has been a big blessing. The ice cream was part of a daily routine. I absolutely loved spending hot afternoons after the beach or school with my friends at either Borgonesse or Antiu Xixona. Last but not least, I still believe I have every street I walked still engrained in my memory. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the city; it is almost like I never left.

After working three jobs in May and June to pay for this trip, I believe I am ready for this Month. España here I come, ready or not. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Find the joy in the journey" -Leaving Spain

I have officially completed my month of studying abroad in Alicante, Spain. I would sum it up as a success. It has been a big dream of mine for a long time, and I was so blessed to have had the opportunity. My whole purpose was to study Spanish, live the culture, and earn credits for my minor in Spanish.

I wanted to start off with some suggestions for my readers or just people interested in traveling/studying abroad:
-         -Bring a water bottle (It has helped me a lot! In Spain, water supply is few so a water bottle is a necessity.)
-         -Travel to other cities or countries if you can! My motto was “You can only fit so many souvenirs in your bag- so spend your money on travel & make memories.”
-         -Take more photos (the more the better, right?!)
-         -Write or blog your moments (I believe some day when the memories are growing faint, I can read my blog or my journal and be reminded of the awesome experience.) 
-         -Don’t take all the room in your suitcase for clothes (You will want to shop & bring back new clothes or other souvenirs.)
-         -Bring toiletries that you can throw away (again, you will want space traveling home.)
-         -Have a translator! Google translate, dictionary, etc. (I used it every day!)
-         -If in Spain, learn how to shower in eight minutes or less because the water supply is slim.
-         -Be prepared to walk everywhere!
-         -It is very hot- dress appropriately & extra deodorant.
-         -Ladies- I suggest a cross-body bag & a bigger shoulder bag for books and other things
-         -Eat lots of ice cream! It’s even better in Europe!
-         -If you’re ever in Alicante, you will not need any rain gear. It NEVER rains.
-         -Do not buy sunscreen in Spain- bring it with you (it is about 20 euros a bottle!!)
-         -The tram or metro is best (I never felt safe in a bus.)
-         -Make friends! The amount of diversity is amazing. (Personally, I think it is awesome to have other friends from countries all over the world!)
-         -You will be surprised at how many hand gestures, reactions, body language, and context will help you understand a foreign language.

      It was a bittersweet moment this morning when I boarded my first plane departing from Alicante. I thought about how the city had been my home for a month and how I really have gained so much from the whole experience. It was very hard to say goodbye to my friends last night. They are all from different parts of the states, so there is a very slim chance I will ever see them again. But I call them angels- from the Lord.
Finally, to sum up the trip:
-        -(He aprendido mucho) I have learned a lot! It was a struggle at the beginning with my classes being a little overwhelming. It took me a week or so to adjust to life in Spain.
-        -The life/culture is very different than the states, I would say that eating lunch at 3 P.M., dinner at 10 P.M. and night life until 2… very different than how I spend my days in the states.
-        -I never went hungry in Spain, but I sure did miss my sweet mother’s cooking.
-        -I really am so blessed to have met some of the most amazing students in our program. They were angels, and I don’t know if I would had made it without them.
-        -I came to Spain with good grammar and weak conversation, but I am leaving with better grammar, I can speak more comfortably, and my vocabulary has grown exponentially.
-        -The whole trip was an eye opener! If you have read my previous posts, I mentioned how Spain is NOTHING like Mexico or the Spanish culture we are exposed to in the states. Also, even with 7 years of Spanish in school it was a slap in the face to be thrown out into this foreign country & it’s like “now it’s time to really learn.”
-        -It was a challenge, but I am so thankful I was forced to learn and forced to appreciate another culture. It was 100% worth it! I learned so much, and now I appreciate my own culture & heritage even more.

Thankful for the land of the free and home of the brave.
I miss my wonderful country.
-Hasta Luego Spain!

& Hello USA!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Things I miss back home...

For those of you that didn’t hear about me going to the doctor here, I will inform you now!  I asked our program director to make me an appointment with the doctor because I believed that my staph infection resurfaced. I was quite nervous when she emailed me back saying he doesn’t speak English… But turns out I understood 95% of everything that was said that day in the clinic. (Another plus- I didn’t have to pay a penny! J) I waited about an hour to see the doctor, when he took me into the room and asked what the problem was. I described to him that I had a skin infection. He checked it out for about 5 minutes, asked me a few questions, and then diagnosed me with an allergic reaction. It was an experience I won’t forget, but I am glad it wasn’t a bad experience.
Saying that… I would have to say that the three hardest things that I have done while being here are:
·         -Presenting my paper for grammar class in only Spanish
·         -Ordering my plane tickets to Italy in only Spanish (very scary! I’ve never bought my own plane tickets until coming here, and it was all in Spanish!)
·        - Then, going to the non-English speaking clinic & doctor.

And the top few things that I miss most from back home:
·      -   Peanut butter & Jelly
·     -    A car to drive/ ride in
·    -     Dark chocolate
·    -    Limon in my water
·   -     Mexican food
·    -     A bigger coffee (it’s about the size of a shot here)
·    -     Being able to not wear shoes in my own house
·   -     Being hydrated (they don’t drink nearly as much water here, or even have as much water resource here because it never rains.)

Some other fun things that I have enjoyed since being here were Zumba (of course) and baking an apple pie (Julia, my host mom’s way.) Zumba was led by a dance studio and was arranged by my study abroad program. I really have loved this program mostly because of all of the opportunities for activities and fun. If you’re looking into studying Spanish abroad, consider Spanish Studies Abroad. We are never bored! We have about two to three activities a week, and Zumba was one of my favorites. Also, making a pie with Julia was awesome. I have the recipe now that I plan to use in the states but sorry, I am not sharing J

Abrazos & besos