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Gap Year Abroad

8 posts from December 2014


End of Semester Stuff

Can't believe it's the end of the first semester.. It's strange how it can feel like we've been here for so long, and yet the time has gone by SO fast.

Anyway. Last weekend (I might have already talked about this, can't remember), Eli and I went tapearing (Spanglish)(aka to get tapas) after going to a show at the theater her host mom works at, and at one of the bars we went to we met this guy who looks EXACTLY like Jimmy Fallon. Like I'm actually quite sure he's Jimmy Fallon's child with a Spanish woman. The camera on my iTouch sucks but just look at this guy.


You can't tell me he's not Jimmy Fallon with a Spanish twist.. He also thought we were German and tried multiple times to speak German to us. It didn't work out too well.

Went on yet another Xmas walk around the city and here are some pics for your trouble...


Purty treez.


Another pretty church.


With some cool things hanging from the ceiling.. Don't know what they are oops. (Lamps possibly?)


And strange passageways that Eli wants to explore.


Orange trees and Christmas lights for the win.




Holiday spirit in the air:))




Las Setas all dolled up for the holidays


Work it El


Accidentally released the shutter with a shutter speed of 15 seconds but it came out kind of cool so thought I'd share.


SLITHERY SNAKE in new outdoor store near Clic.. Wasn't expecting the snake in the mostly clothing store but ok.


More long shutter speeds = ghost people on the stairs


This is something called "mapping" that is really cool. It's basically a light show that they put up on the back of the town hall and there's little stories and cool stuff and then fire comes out of the building and WOW.

Went knitting again the other day..


And Mad gets to show off her new hat


Love this park


And this chica

Skip ahead to this weekend.. I went to Puerto de Santa María and Jeréz with Maddy on Sunday and we had so much fun. We originally went to see Zambomba, which is like a cool amped up version of flamenco (sort of) for Christmas, but turns out it was a private party (lol oops) so we headed out. But anyway, had an awesome time walking around and eating some good food and getting out of Sevilla for the day.


And started off the day with this adorable pup so that was perfection.


Maine.. is that you..


The smell of the ocean in December is strange but so ok with me.


Lovin' it.


We went to this monastery to check it out.. Closed. But still pretty.


Cool graffiti.. Find Maddy, bet you can't.


Sassy Mad


Artsy Mad (shout out to this girl for putting up with me constantly taking pics of her)


These oranges looked far more appetizing than those in Sevilla.






This was 5 seconds before younger sister snatched ponytail of older sister and dragged her halfway across the sidewalk.. Older sister took it surprisingly well.


But she's so cute am I right.. (Yes I am the creepiest for taking these pics I apologize)




PERFECT example of parents dressing their children as twins. Weird?? I think so. Kind of cute? I will concede yes, a little.


Pretty old boat  IMG_5228

Teaching Maddygirl to play Spit.. She wasn't loving it.

Happiest of happy holidays to everyone back home, and thank you ever so much to everyone I've met here for making this semester one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. Going to miss the semester kids and can't wait to reunite with year-longs in January.. Also yay for all the new people coming!! Hope all of you, new friends and old, have a fantastic break and holiday. Can't wait to see the homeland in a couple weeks :) XOXO See ya next year.

The First Semester

I can not believe that the the first part of my Spanish adventure has already passed! Time is really flying by. This past weekend, many of my American friends left to go back of the US. I´m slowly realizing that some of them will not be coming back for the second semester-they have other exciting plans/activities to discover. It´s weird seeing the friends that I´ve made here leave, but I guess that is life. I will make even more in the spring. :)

Addie, one of our hostesses in Morocco, Eli, and Myself
Anna, Lauren, Me, and Emily
The hiking trio

I´ve grown a lot in the past four months. Of course, I speak more Spanish, we´ll get that one out of the way, but I´ve also become a more independent person. I am now more accepting of other cultures from my experiences here in Spain and visiting Morocco, and have found it eye-opening to learn about different customs from my own. I´ve even got to share some of my own. For instance, this past week, I found some candy canes! I was so excited to share this popular American Christmas candy with my spanish friends. They thought that they were awesome! :) 

I´ve also made so many new friends from around the globe.  At CLIC, the school I attended, I met so many cool people, all wanting to learn Spanish, like me. In my class, three continents were represented (Asia, Europe, and North America), and by the end of the semester, I had classmates/friends from Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Japan, South Korea, and Ireland. These friendships I will never forget.

My classmates (from left to right): Ragnhild (Norway), Atsuco (Japan), Nina (Germany), Kana (Japan), Marlene (Germany), and my Spanish teacher, Mercedes

Also over the course of the semester, I´ve grown to love some places and things that are here in Sevilla:

- Triana Market : I just love the atmosphere, and all the fresh food available to everyone.


I like nature, so it´s a given that these parks would be on my list...

- Parque de Los Principes


- Parque de Maria Luisa

Plaza de America, one of the plazas in the park

- Parque Alamillo

The park is full of orange trees

- The Sevilla city bikes: Called Sevici, with these bikes it is so easy to get around town.

- Cafe de Mayo: Again, the atmosphere here is so relaxing

- The ice cream: I´d be crazy to leave this one out!


- The Triana Bridge: One of the most historic/beautiful bridges in Sevilla. 


- And last but not least, CLIC: the people are awesome and the cookies aren´t to shabby either :)



And because La Navidad in Sevilla is so interesting, here are some more pictures...

More mantecados
And other candies
And more Nativity Scenes
This one is totally made of chocolate


And flores de Navidad are all over


Feliz Navidad everyone!


December Happenings in Seville

La Navidad has arrived to Seville, Spain! Although the temperature is about 30-40 degrees warmer here than the usual temps I experience in December, the holiday spirit is in the air. The festivities around the city started on the weekend of the 6th-8th, when Spain celebrated two holidays, Día de la Constitución and Día de la Inmaculada. All the city Christmas lights were turned on, and temporary Christmas shops opened in plazas around town.  IMG_6926




Triana Christmas Lights


Also throughout the city are all different types of nativity scenes. In Spanish, they are called belénes, which actually means Bethlehem, the town where baby Jesus was born. Some of the belénes are built with tiny figures of the Christmas story, while others have huge figures, up to about 3 feet tall.

Catie, Emily, and Lauren checking out the tiny figures for the nativity scenes




And what´s the Christmas season without the holiday treats? :) There is no shortage of Christmas candies, cookies, and cakes here! Mantecados, turrónes, and polvorones are in the windows of every shop, just begging for you to eat them. :)

I got the chance to make some mantecados, which looks like a cookie, but the Spaniards say it is something totally different. :) These treats are easy to make, but have a lot of fat in them-so don´t eat too many! The traditional mantecado has almonds in it, but we also made lemon, cinnamon, and chocolate flavored ones as well. I´ll confirm for you, they all tasted great! :)


Mantecados, fresh out of the oven!
A Christmas presentation in one of the local store windows


Just some more Christmas photos, it´s hard to stop taking them!

Myself, Lauren, Catie, and Emily enjoying one of the many plazas with Christmas lights
These ones even put on a light show!


City Christmas Tree in Plaza Nueva



Xmas Mercadillo Walk

Just some pictures from walking around the "mercadillo" (market) at Las Setas..

IMG_4789Mantecados galore.IMG_4791

More towns made of chocolate:))


Not really beginning to look a lot like Christmas but that's ok because I love it anyway.


More Spanish xmas sweets.. Lots of turrón (like peanut brittle but with almonds and instead, and there are a million different kinds).


And more.


And more.. Oops.


Ok now moving on from food. Sunsets on the Triana bridge are always a good thing to come home to.


And the ugly tower looking pretty as ever. 


Hi Calle Betis.

That's pretty much it for pictures.. This weekend was a lot of fun though. Friday was Elvira's birthday and we went tapearing (do you like my Spanglish)(yes there is an actual verb for going to get tapas and it's tapear) and it was a lot of fun. After we went to look for a New Year's Eve dress for Lucía and I got a kick out of their reactions when I told them I'd never really gone to a real New Year's Eve party, and therefore had never bought a New Year's Eve dress. I then joined Lucía and her friends at our house for a friend's birthday dinner, and we had pizza and hung out and played Twister. It was also embarrassing because I suck at left and right in English, so in Spanish it was even worse, but I still won a couple times so ha. Then yesterday, Eli and I went to see a show at el Teatro Lope de Vega which was SO awesome. Her host mom works there so we get in free and get to take whatever seats are left over that are best. SO COOL. And the show was hilarious. And we understood it, which was also really exciting. After that we went tapearing (Spanglish again woo) and had a lot of fun going to little bars and dancing flamenco (or attempting at least) and eating tapas and all that jazz. 

Anyway, an awesome weekend. Just planning on hanging out today. I don't want to leave Sevilla, but I'm also looking forward to going home!! XO


Christmas etc!!


So first I'm just going to backtrack to Thansgiving and tell you about how we made these DELICIOUS Oreo/cream cheese ball things to feel less despressed about missing Thankgiving food at home..


So happy.

Ok onward. Going to tell some stories about class activities..

Last week, my class went to the kitchen and we got to make salmorejo and mojopicón, a "spicy" (for Spanish standards) sauce/dip that's typical in the Canary Islands. Our teacher is originally from the Canary Islands, so she knew how to make it and all and it was SO freaking delicious. You can eat it more as a sauce and put it on boiled potatoes, or mix it into cheese (same texture as cream cheese) and make a dip. The dip was my fave. So good. The salmorejo was also yum.




Irene (student teacher) with our hard work on display.

We also had a day about Christmas traditions last week and so (obviously) got to try the traditional foods. First I'll talk a little about the traditional days (although I don't remember all of it.. Spanish Christmas has a lot more official days of celebration than we do). So there's Christmas Eve, which is called Nochebuena, when families get together for big dinners and there's a special mass called "Misa del Gallo" which sounds pretty similar to the special church services I've heard of at home: lots of singing and candle holding and what not. So that's cool. And then there's Christmas day, which sounds like it kind of depends on the family. Some families eat the leftovers from the Nochebuena dinner, some have another big meal, some do a more westernized gift-giving and Santa Claus day. Then there's New Year's Eve, which is Nochevieja, which is normal day and then fiesta fiesta at night. Everyone gathers in plazas and there's a ball that drops (like in the US), except it drops before the clock strikes 12. It's like the signal that the clock is ABOUT to strike 12. So then at 12, at each chime of the bell, everyone eats a grape. This doesn't sound that hard but it's SO hard not to laugh while you're stuffing your face. We practiced this in class HA.


So the little baggies of grapes were what we practiced with (12 each!!). And then you drink the champagne after (specifically Freixenet). And then the other stuff in the picture is montecados, which are Spanish Christmas sweets, and on the right is anís, traditional Spanish Christmas liquor. Yay for school, am I right? And then the last day of Christmas celebrations is January 6, which I think I've talked about a little bit before. This is the traditional day of gift giving and is called el Día de los Reyes (King's Day, to celebrate the three kings that brought gifts to Jesus). However, because school vacations end on January 6th or very soon after, a lot of families have adopted the westernized version of gift-giving on the 25th so that kids get a chance to play with their new toys before school starts back up.

Also this week in school... (This was an atypically active week, I promise I'm not always having this much fun)(I sort of am though) We got to walk around the center and go see the Belenes, which are actually nativity scenes. Fun fact: Belén is the Spanish word for Bethlehem, so that's why it's called that. These nativity scenes are one of the big traditions in Spanish culture: There are multiple that are put up around the city (of which I have pictures), and it's also very typical for households to have their own nativity scenes, sometimes in place of a tree. The nativity scenes are different from the ones we have at home though. They're smaller but way more detailed, with various different scenes happening and what not.


The three kings headed toward the babe.


And the babe himself.

There was also this WONDERFUL town made entirely out of chocolate that was also featured at the same place at the Belén. Excitement.


Gives the phrase "dream home" a whole new meaning.


My kingdom awaits.

And here's the little Belén that's in our house. I think they can be a lot bigger but this is the simpler version I guess.


OK on to other topics.

They lit up the city on Thursday and it's SO beautiful. Like really, hats off to the people who decorated Sevilla because wow it's breathtaking. Still working on how to get good pictures of Christmas lights with my camera, but here's what I have for now.


Ok this wasn't taken with my camera but you can kind of see how many people were out that night.. It was crazy and a little claustrophobic but also cool.


Navidad is here.



Triana, you beautiful barrio.


Gettin' in the holiday spirit.

And then last night there was music coming from the street and Elvira was so puzzled because it was Semana Santa music and I ran outside and (srry quality is TERRIBLE.. Good old iTouch couldn't handle the pressure) found this.


The thing on the left is the float thing that they carry in the procession during Semana Santa, and then you can see everyone is all dressed up in suits in the band. Elvira said she thought it might be a training session, but that it was really strange that they would be training with the band and all because usually training is just for the guys underneath that carry the float.

Yesterday, we got in the Xmas spirit at home, too.



YAY for Christmas.

Other fun things this week: Kris came to visit soo yay. We went to Plaza de España (among other places) and had a really fun time. Always good to see faces from home.


Kris making friends with the most random people he could possibly find..??


Beautiful people


Beautiful place


So much love


Kewl silhouette pic

And today we went to the park and knitted, because what better things could be done on a beautifully chilly Monday afternoon.


Never been more proud of these newfound knitters.


And they are ever so proud as well.


Perfect day



Sunset on the walk home


And some snacks for our troubles


Kind of a lot of snacks actually


And it was really quite good

Now to add to the lists a little..

Things that are different:

- Consumer's unions: Do we have these and I'm just so oblivious? Elvira explained to me that if you buy something and you think you got ripped off or something, you can go to a consumer's union (which you have to be a member of) and file a complaint and they'll help you get your money back or whatever you're trying to get.

- There are separate channels for the main news channel: one in regular Spanish and one in sign language.

- Christmas food is a lot more storebought stuff: mantecados are storebought candies and pastries that are really delicious but unlike anything I've ever had in the States. There are specific things that are more often made at home, but everyone always gets these candies and eats them every day during the Christmas season.

- Spaniards get their turkey fix in at Christmas since they don't have Thanksgiving.

- Christmas meals: people plan dinners, or lunches, or meriendas (mid-afternoon snack) with their different groups of friends as a Christmas celebration. Seems like kind of a logistical nightmare; Lucía is planning about 10 different ones and it seems like it's a challenge to get everyone at the same place at the same time.

- I went to a Sevilla soccer game with Irene (my intercambio) on Wednesday, which first of all was SO COOL, and second of all was so different from sports games in the US in a lot of ways. For one, the national anthem is not played before sports games. Instead, they play the song of the team (which we don't even have in the States, as far as I know). Another thing that really caught my attentions was that people bring food and drinks into the game without a problem; no one checks bags or anything like that, so people just pull out their bocadillos (sandwiches) around dinnertime and have soccer game picnics.

- Names are pronounced differently in Spanish, which you don't really think about until you cannot, for the life of you, understand what someone is talking about when they tell you they like Mariah Carey. Mariah Carey? It's pronounced Mar-ee-ah Cah-ray (emphasis on the ray). And Harry Potter is also a tough one. This translates into every foreigner's life when they come here: I always introduce myself as "Elisa" (El-ee-sa), Emily becomes "Em-ee-lee", etc. There is even a girl in my class who is from Korea and has an "English" name-- Evelyn-- because her Korean name is too difficult for anyone to pronounce.

Things I miss:

- Skiing. CAN'T WAIT.

- The tree lighting in my hometown! The lighting of the decorations here is unofficial and not as ceremonious and celebretory as the lighting of the town Christmas tree at home.

Ok that pretty much wraps it up. Just going to close with a pic of what I think might be the funniest/best Christmas decoration ever.


So that's that. Happy Holidays everyone :))




Pueblos Tour with Elvira y Más

This weekend was full and so so fun.

Saturday, Elvira invited me to go on a tour of pueblos around Sevilla with her, and I didn't really understand the concept but I went with it 'cause why not. So we went. Elvira seemed kind of nervous about the whole thing because we were originally supposed to go with one of her friends, but her friend bailed at the last second so we were going alone and Elvira didn't know anyone. But we went. 

So let me just preface this by saying it was a tour for retired people. I didn't know that going in, but there it is. It was awesome. All these retired people were just having the greatest time, making friends and seeing the sites and just hanging out. I was so impressed. We took a bus to four different destinations: El Río de Huéznar, the origin of this river, to La Cartuja de Cazalla de la Sierra, then to the town of Cazalla for lunch. 






This first place we went to had some cool views of little water falls and a picnic/barbecue area. My guess is it's used for camping in the summer, but it was pretty dead on Saturdady.


Baby water fall


Elvira was on a hunt for mushrooms (setas), a hobby of hers. So here's one of them.





More setas.


My clique


More water falls



Random house that looked cool


Elvira teaching everyone about mushroom hunting



Dope kicks courtesty of Lucía



Fall in Sevilla (province) at end of November..?


On the hunt


Experimenting with my camera!!! This is the origin of the river.





Then we went to La Cartuja.. Pretty neat.


The whole crew. Me and 40 other compañeros.


The cupola.. It was in kind of rough shape, but they've been working on the entire Cartuja for a while and continue doing so.


This was a little set up where they acted out what the monks actually lived like in their prime.



Those clouds :))


These are some berries we ate that I completely forget the name of, of course.



After we left Cartuja, we headed to Cazalla to have lunch. This was the most fun I had all day because it was so cool to talk to all of the people. The guy sitting next to me, Miguel, was just full of stories about places to see around Sevilla, his experiences with the US, and more. Another guy was a retired doctor who had worked in New York for a while and was explaining to me, in RAPID FIRE Spanish, this technique of operating on hands that he had brought back to Spain. The fact that I understood that much is pretty much a miracle; the rest, who knows. 

After we had lunch we walked around the town a little and got to see a really old, typical Spanish house that was really beautiful-- a random guy that owned it invited us in to look around. Pretty cool.

On Sunday, I went hiking with CIEE and it was so, SO beautiful. It was supposed to rain, but instead the weather was completely perfect and the walk was amazing. A lot of fun and got to learn some new words and cool stuff about nature from our super knowledgable guide. I was really lazy and didn't take pictures so sorry about that, but you can just take my word that it was amazing :))

When I got home, I went to a dance club with Lucía and her boyfriend, and brought Maddy and Eli along for the ride. When I say dance club, it's not a discotecha (more like the clubs you would think of in the US). It was like REAL dance, salsa and bachata mostly, and people of all ages, skill levels, shapes, and sizes. It was the coolest thing ever. Now I really want to learn how to dance (actually dance) and I'm going to start taking classes! Woo hoo for Spain.

Alright that's all for now. Busy week ahead and definitely looking forward to it!! XO 

Black Friday and Sierra del Norte

What another quick weekend! Here in Sevilla the temperature was in the high 60´s. Nothing near to winter in Pennsylvania, yet still the city is starting to gear up for the holiday season. Next weekend will be the official start of the holiday season, when the city Christmas lights will be turned on all over town.

Last Friday as I´m sure many of you know, was Black Friday. Sevilla is just starting to embrace this American concept, so it was a much different experience here than at home. In the U.S., I usually don´t go shopping that much on Black Friday, simply because I don´t like the traffic, but I wanted to see the Spanish version, so I went. It was nothing like Black Friday in the U.S.! It was so much calmer!  Yes, there were a lot of long lines, but I was able to walk around and still have breathing space around me. :) I did not see many great deals either, but then the items were not that expensive anyway. 

The busy Triana Bridge.

Saturday was a pretty chill day. I went to a beautiful park, Parque Alamillo. It was such a peaceful area, full of various nature walks and orange trees.  Definitely a place that will be visited again.


On Sunday, some of the CIEE group and I went to the Sierra del Norte (about an hour away from Sevilla) to do some hiking. It turned out to be more of a nature walk, but it was still gorgeous.  We had a wonderful day to explore. I found it very relaxing, passing through farms and fields dotted with cows and small rock piles, and crossing over flowing streams.

Cows in the campo (Spanish for countryside)




Pretty eh?




Día de Acción de Gracias

Feliz día de acción de gracias! In other words, Happy Belated Thanksgiving! Celebrating Thanksgiving this year was of course a new experience for me, being in a different country that doesn't even celebrate the holiday. A different experience, but a good one all the same. Here are a few things that varied this year compared to previous Thanksgivings:

- First, I went to school. Normally, I would have up to a week off for the holiday. But today, I went to school. Honestly, it wasn't so bad.

- Not only did I go to school, but I also had a test. Crazy right?! It was to me too when I heard we would have a test on Thursday. But then I remembered that in Spain, it's just another November day. (Btw, the test went smoothly) :)

- To celebrate the holiday, we went to a bar that was serving "American Thanksgiving Dinner", actually it was lunch. A little different from eating at home with friends and family, yet I enjoyed spending time with my new Sevilla family. (I'll admit, I missed the jello that my family makes as part of our Thanksgiving meal)

Overall, this Thanksgiving was new, but still relaxing. I missed spending time with my family and family friends, but I'm thankful that I got to spend the holiday with good food and great people.
In honor of the holiday, I'd thought I'd list a few things that I am thankful for:

- My family and their support in everything I do. Also my host family for welcoming me into their home.
- Good health
- The opportunity to travel/study abroad with this program and discover a new culture
- My friends, both old and new, and especially all the friends I have made while living abroad, my CIEE buddies, spanish compañeros, and extranjero (spanish word for foreigner) friends from around the world.


Gap Bloggers

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