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Gap Year Abroad

6 posts from January 2015



I don't really have anything all that interesting to talk about but I'm having a lazy Sunday so I thought I'd share the pictures I took this week.

IMG_5915Vistas from Triana Bridge onto the river


Going wild with the shutter speed settings...


But kinda cool, right? Like the sky is crying starts or something. Or everyone on the ground has light sabers.


This is just cool. It's like La Giralda (the tower on the right side of the picture) is leading a charge of burning torches.. Maybe my imagination takes these pictures too far but I love it.


SUCH a beautiful day today.. So sunny, no clouds, and like 60 degrees (in the sun).


Patches chillin' in the crib.


Took a walk in the park and read some and took some pics..


Sporting some fresh nails courtesy of Eli's 12 year old host sister, Eva.

Ok, yeah, that's all I got. Xo hasta luego..




Hey all,

It's been a busy week, starting class again, meeting new people, and trying different activities.  I've gotten to show some of my new friends my favorite places around Sevilla - gelato shops, parks, stores, cool streets, and good churro stops. :)

Bonding over churros. Photo credits to new friend Emma :)

Plus we visited the Plaza de España and enjoyed learning a little bit about its history from Angel, our guide. One of the fun facts he told us was that the Plaza de España was made for a world fair held in Sevilla in 1929. Within the plaza and building there is so much Spanish history. For example, there are benches along the side of the building, each representing an important city in Spain. The plaza is also  a popular filming spot for movies like the Game of Thrones and Star Wars.


The city shown here is Córdoba. Each city represented has a picture of its history on the bench.



Ángel, our awesome guide


I got to try something new this week as well -  flamenco!! Myself and the other members of CIEE went to a flamenco class to learn the basics of this unique dance. We learned a "simple" dance, which for me turned out to be a little difficult, but I had a great time.



Flamenco is a type of Spanish dance/music that is very popular in the southern Andalusian region of Spain. It is a mix of Spanish and Romani music and dance styles. There are three parts that form this  dance: the dance, the song, and the music.

Typically flamenco dance involves many and various hand movements, with slightly bent arms, and a ton of footwork. The person dancing combines all three of these aspects into a fast-paced spectacle. The singer and guitarist are very talented too. They have to watch the dancer and make sure that they are on-beat with him/her. Yes, the dancer leads, not the other way around. The guitarist also does a lot less strumming and more plucking of the strings.

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 8.25.03 PM

In the upcoming months, I will definitely experience more flamenco - as spring arrives and more holidays come. :) I can't wait to tell you more about it!




ALSO quick post.. I made this video for this semester. Enjoy:)



I think leaving home the second time was harder than the first, maybe because I already know what's here and it's not a totally new adventure, but getting into Spain felt so, soo good. Anyway, I'll do a quick recap of this vacation.

So my family came to visit the first 10 or so days of my break and I got to play tour guide around Sevilla, then be equally as confused and touristy as them in Barcelona.IMG_5251

View from our apartment.



So this is the Catalan independence flag. These were hanging EVERYWHERE in Barcelona. The normal flag doesn't have the blue triangle and star; I think someone told us that part is adapted from the Cuban flag. But anyway, most of you probably know that Catalonia wants independence from Spain. If you don't know that, maybe you've been living under a rock for a very long time, but I forgive you. This is a dispute that goes back many, many years and is based mostly on the fact that Catalonia has a culture that is unique and very separate from that of Spain (they even have their own language-- it is NOT a dialect of Spanish) and they contribute a very large part of money to the government that is not proportional to the amount that is then distributed back to them. Catalonia has probably the strongest economy in Spain. There's been a lot of talk about this in the past year and there was even a referendum in November about it. However, the referendum was completely unofficial because the idea of Catalonia seceding from Spain is actually totally illegal and against the Constitution. Because of that, not everyone went out to vote, and because of THAT (along with the fact that, inherently, an unofficial election is sort of unreliable) the national government discredited the results, which came out as something like over 80% in favor of secession. But at the end of the day, Catalonia is still part of Spain. Who knows what will happen next, but they definitely haven't given up the fight even if nothing has really happened since then.


La Catedral de Barcelona


Bustlin' streets of Barca.


"Iconic" Barcelona taxis


Gaudí's amazingness ft. Random guy with a great looking nose


More from Gaudí


Not really sure what this building is but I like the picture.


Sangría with the fam.


Las Ramblas, the main street in Barcelona. SO MANY PEOPLE.


Barca metro


Street vendors getting creative with the displays.


This is in Park Güell, a park that was owned by a guy with the last name Güell (creative, I know). This guy commissioned Gaudí to design the park, and this patio thing is one of them. So cool.


So we also went into La Sagrada Familia later in the trip and it was SO amazing. This is an example of the stained windows that were all around the cathedral. I think what really stood out to me the most about the place was the colors and lighting. I've seen my fair share of cathedrals during my stay here and they're all very beautiful, but a lot of times the lighting is kind of dim and mysterious and churchy and what not, which was not at all what this one was like. La Sagrada Familia was brightly lit through many, many windows and some lights inside, too, and because so many of the windows were stained class, it was also incredibly colorful. Apparently Gaudí was really obsessed with getting the lighting right in the cathedral and I personally think he killed it.


We love/hate audiotours. And look like losers. 


Look at that organ all colorful and nice.


Gaudí got a lot of his inspiration from nature and La Sagrada Familia is a good example of this. I don't really know (kind of doubt) if this was his intention, but the outside (of which there are pictures earlier) looks SO MUCH like a mud drip castle to me. Like the ones we used to make at the beach?? Those. Exact replica, I swear. But anyway, the inside is also a reflection of nature. The columns are like tree trunks (notice the knot things), and then the ceiling kind of looks like a forest canopy. Pretty neat.


We got to go up into the towers in the cathedral (see pic again) and there were some pretty incredible views of the city. So, quick bombardment of Barcelona vistas.


Another one.


Last one.


Sagrada Familia graffiti


 Fam fam fam


Mom wasn't feeling this staircase.


This is La Boquería, the big market on Las Ramblas.


You've already read my blogs about this before probably, but these are little champagne glasses with 12 grapes in each ready for New Year's Eve. WOO.


Sorry this is gross and I'm sorry but I had to.


Dad's artisan coffee


Arc de Triomf, Barcelona style.


This is, obviously, after getting home. Maura and Gab came to visit Sugarloaf. SOO cold up there but we muscled in some runs and hung out in the warmth of the condo. It was so good to ski again!!

Ok, I'm doing something for the New Year this year. I'm not really into New Year's resolutions (I've actually never even made one I don't think, unless you count maybe kindergarten when you all draw pictures and write yours in a little bubble and post them on the cork board and what not) just because I don't think I have that kind of long-term patience to complete one. HOWEVER, this is a year (school year?) of new things and new adventures and things, and thus, 2015 will be a year of new goals as well. Here is my list of 15 things to do in 2015, and I will do my very best to stick with them. Results to follow in 2016.

1. Take a photography class.

2. Hike Mt. Katahdin.

3. Travel alone in Europe. (Kind of already did this but maybe again?)

4. Learn how to play guitar. 

5. Run a 10k or at least two 5ks.

6. Volunteer at least 35 hours.

7. Visit 3 new places (in the US).

8. Film/edit a video.

9. Write down three things I'm grateful for every week.

10. Send a postcard every week. Or a letter.

11. Knit something more than a scarf or hat.

12. Learn how to cook three new things.

13. Get up on one ski while water skiing. (Ugh)

14. Read The Shining.

15. Maintain a blog. (woohoo)

I'll admit I've been slacking on the weekly ones, but the new year starts now and I just finished my first letter. Who will be the lucky one to receive said letter? Only time will tell. XOXO Letter Girl.

Being home was definitely weird. This is how most initial conversations went with people when I got home:

Person: Oh my god, how was Spain?!!?

Me: It's so incredible. I love it so much!

Person: Is it good to be home though?

Me: Yeah, it's good. It's weird, but it's good!! (Really strong, overly aggressive smiling and head nodding)

Pretty much word for word.

But anyway, it was tough at times (definitely some reverse culture shock) but I loved being able to catch up with my friends and family and see faces that I was used to seeing daily that I hadn't seen for over four months. I think the hardest part about being home was a kind of feeling of other-ness. (This is much less dramatic than it sounds, but it's the best way I can describe it.) I loved hearing about all of my friends adventures, and sharing mine too, but I couldn't help but feeling like they had faced similar challenges with one another and had maybe grown closer because of it. It was also a little bit tough to see people with whom I hadn't spoken in months and reconnect when maybe there wasn't as much of a connection as there used to be. All in all, the toughest part was the fact that I felt a little weird about talking about the deeper parts of my experience (what I've learned about myself, etc.) because I didn't want to come off as aloof-- think "Oh, I'm so worldly now!!!" (I'm not, don't worry). I was able to do that with some people, but it wasn't like I was going to go into that when someone asked me, "How was Spain?" I think I kind of reconciled with myself by the end of the trip, though, and realized that people change and there's nothing wrong with that-- in fact, it's a good thing. Change is good. It's healthy. The only reason I think it was a bit hard for me was because it came as a shock; I had always thought that this year would change the way I think about things in some ways, but I never really considered how it might affect the rest of the people and relationships in my life. Ok, but wow, I feel like I'm sounding negative but in reality, I had an awesome time at home and was really glad I got to catch up with everyone and everything. Just my thoughts on the whole thing. Cheers to perspective, right? 

Anyway. Onward. So excited for this semester and all that is to come. Time to make new friends with the new semester kids (so scary-- there are so many of them). Best wishes for the second semester to everyone back home!! 


Brown Cheese, Mozart, and Castles

Hello All!

I hope all of your winter vacations have been fantastic! Mine has been great. After the holidays, I chose to do a bit of traveling before my classes started up again. I decided to visit Norway and Austria.

I know what you're thinking, yes it was cold in both places, but I was really glad I experienced a different side to these countries...what most other travelers might not get the chance to see. Plus, I loved both countries, and now I have a reason to go visit again in the summer months :).

The first plane I hopped on was to Norway, the land of salmon, fjords, and so much more! My friend, Ragnhild, lives there, so I payed here a visit. She lives in a small town near Bergen, on the western side of the country. The area where she lives is made up of a bunch of fjords and islands - a very pretty destination. Many small towns were situated right on the waterfront or in between jagged rocks. In the distance, you could see snow-capped mountains. 



Ragnhild showed me a lot of neat things, plus introduced me to this awesome food: brown cheese. Sorry, I don't have a picture of it, but I will to my best to describe it for you. The name gives away its color, brown, and it has a medium texture...not too soft, to too hard. The best way to eat it is on a slice of bread with black currant jam. This combination is awesome!! Hopefully, when I get back to the States I will be able to re-create this combination. :)  I also got to help out with making a typical Norwegian meal. I was in charge of making this tasty sweet roll, with ingredients of butter, sugar, and cinnamon, wrapped in a tortilla. Yum!!



I also got to meet Ragnhild's friend, Linda. The three of us went exploring in the back-country of Norway, and visited Linda's cottage.  The back-country in Norway is pretty rugged. With uneven rocks, clear water, and steep cliffs, you could tell that most of it was still wild, but had a special beauty.




Ragnhild showed me around Bergen too, the city closest to her. The city has a really nice charm to it. Houses and shops surrounded the countryside and climbed up the hills. I especially like the old town of Bergen, with it's close, wooden buildings and colorful paint.

The old part of town in Bergen




Birds-eye view of the city
The city at night


My next stop was Vienna, Austria. The baroque architecture was in full force here, from the Hapsburg's Palaces (they were the Austrian royal family), to the everyday business buildings in the city. I got to learn a lot about the history of this city on the tour that I participated in.

Schönbrunn Palace: summer residence of the Hapsburg monarchs
Belvedere Palace


Maria Theresa, the only female ruler of the Hapsburg domination
Hofburg Palace: main residence of the Hapsburg monarchs

After Vienna, I traveled traveled to Salzburg, Austria, a city right on the edge of the Alps. I think it's fair to say that this city has deep musical roots, considering it was great composer Mozart's birthplace and residence, birthplace of Joseph Mohr, who wrote the famous Christmas carol "Silent Night", and the filming spot of a movie you might know, The Sound of Music. To top it off, the city is surrounded by the towering Alps on one side, and rolling hills on the other.

There was even a "Sound of Music" cow
The Sound of Music - Pavillon: "You are sixteen, going on seventeen...."
The Sound of Music - Mirabell Gardens: Where Maria and the children sang "Do-Re-Mi"
Leopoldskron Palace: This was the set representing the von Trapp house
Nonnberg Abbey: The convent Maria attended in the movie
Mozart's birthplace
Festung Hohensalzburg Fortress towers over Salzburg




"The hills are alive, with the sound of music..."

Heading back to Sevilla was an adventure in itself. Europe has one of, if not the best, rail system in the world. You can travel within 3 countries in one day if you wanted, and no one would blink an eye. I decided to take this method of transportation back to Sevilla, over several days. The first trip was from Salzburg, Austria to Geneva, Switzerland. This train ride was gorgeous - right in the middle of the snow-covered Alps. In between the sky-scraping mountains were little towns dusted lightly with snow. Each town had its own church or castle, which was the highest building in the town.




Even though I spent less than 24 hours in Geneva, I managed to see some cool things. One spot was the United Nations building.  Hundreds of countries were represented there, with their flag blowing in the wind.


My second train was from Geneva to Barcelona, passing through France. The french countryside was full of small towns and large vineyards. I'm sure it is beautiful during the spring and summer. The last train was from Barcelona to Sevilla. I didn't know how much I missed the Spanish countryside until I was looking out at it from the train. The rough landscape and farmland is like no other.

After a whirlwind 10 days criss-crossing all over Europe, I am happy to be back in Sevilla, starting a new, exciting semester.






Feliz Año Nuevo!!

Happy New Year everyone!! I am halfway through my study abroad adventure in Spain. The last four months have flown by and it is crazy to think that I have only four months left. Life is speeding by.

Speaking of things passing quickly, the holidays came and went in the blink of an eye. This year I spent Christmas in Spain with my host family. I found that some of the Spanish traditions are similar to the American ones, for instance my host family and I got together with relatives for dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Time was spent talking, singing Spanish Christmas carols, and enjoying the atmosphere. However, there are also a number of traditions that are different.

First off, the holidays kicked off on the 22nd of December with the Spanish Christmas Lottery. It is popular to buy a lottery ticket (maybe even two or three) for you, or as a gift to someone else. On the 22nd, the Lottery is filmed on national television, and little children sing/chant the numbers out to the anxiously waiting crowd. It’s different to see that the lottery is such an important event here. Schools even close so that everyone can watch the event at home.

Secondly, Christmas Day was a bit different than what I’m used to. Here in Spain, Christmas Day is not when families usually open gifts, contrary to the American tradition. Santa Claus is not as popular here either. Thus, the 25th of December is more of a religious date. Families and children give/receive gifts on the 6th of January, known as Three Kings Day. Called the ‘Día de los Reyes Magos’, towns around the country have parades on the 5th of January to welcome the 3 Kings into their town. This resembles when the 3 Kings arrived in Bethlehem to meet baby Jesus. Then on the 6th, children open their gifts from the Kings. Unfortunately though, the kids can’t play with their new toys for too long, because the 7th of January is the start of school again.

Overall, I enjoyed sitting back and being a spectator over the holiday. I got to see a different culture celebrate a holiday that is recognized all over the world. Unfortunately, I was not in Sevilla during the Día de Los Reyes Magos, but I was in Málaga, and got the chance to watch their parade.

The first King arrives


The second King arrives
My personal favorite was the elephant
Last but not least, the third King

Of course New Year’s is in between Christmas and the Día de Los Reyes, and Spaniards have their traditions for this holiday as well. On New Year’s Eve, when the clock strikes 12, everyone eats 12 grapes (one grape for each chime of the bell). After about the fourth or fifth grape, everyone looks like a chipmunk. ☺ But ‘no pasa nada’, right? A nice glass of champagne to wash down the grapes does just the trick. ☺ I spent the New Year’s celebration with my real family, who came over to visit me over the holidays. It was great to end one year with them and start the next. Welcome 2015!!!!



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