The friendships made during my study abroad experience were valuable and the things we all experienced together was a bond being built that nobody could ever break. So when April 26th, 2013 came along and we all were exchanging goodbyes, a part of me wondered if I would ever see some of these people again.
Through social media and text messages, I’ve been able to keep in touch with everybody. The connection that I’ve built with these people while I was in Spain still felt alive. “Post-abroad depression” and transitioning back to our home universities were some things that we were all experiencing together.
This past spring break I traveled to Southern California and Arizona State University where I was able to visit a bunch of study abroad friends. The great thing about visiting them was that I was able to see how their lives were back home and most importantly how their study abroad experience has effected them. It’s a wonderful thing to call up your friends no matter where they may be in the world and have a place to stay.
It’s amazing to think a year later, the bond that has been built is still as strong as ever. It’s even crazier to think that in just one semester in a different country, I can make friends of a lifetime.
Day 2 — We headed to North Seymour Island. We saw a bunch of endangered species such as blue footed boobies, frigate birds, a bunch of sea lions, iguanas, and more. The climate was hot and it was necessary to have water at all times to avoid being dehydrated. We then snorkeled through the coast of the island in which the waters were super rough. I was able to see a bunch of different species though.
After snorkeling, we headed out to the hotel for dinner. We then had a group night out at one of the local bars where we had some Pilsener, Ecuadorian beer, and enjoyed each others company.
Day 3 — This by far has been my favorite day! We started out at the boat at 7am and headed out to South Plaza Island. There we saw a whole lot of cacti and unusual rocks, along with some more sea lions and land iguanas. The view from the top of the island was spectacular. One side you have a serene view overlooking the calm waters and another island, and on the other side, we were on a high edge of a cliff overlooking rough waters.
We then headed off to snorkel about 45 minutes away. We saw some sharks but of course as soon as I saw one, I would swim in the complete opposite direction. After snorkeling, our tour guide had mentioned a place not too far called Las Grietas where locals go cliff diving. Upon returning to the hotel, a couple of us from our group decided to take a water taxi to the other side of the island and take a hike to Las Grietas. The hike was about twenty minutes long, which wasn’t what we were expecting, but it was well worth it when we came across a bunch of locals swimming in the grottos. A few of us jumped off, including myself. It was such a refreshing experience that gave me a big adrenaline rush.
Upon returning to the hotel, there seemed to be a political rally passing through the main street from our hotel. Natives were driving around in buses, motorcycles, pick-up trucks, waving flags and honking their horns while being escorted by police. They seemed just as thrilled to see a dozen of American students standing outside cheering for them as we were just as thrilled yet confused trying to take in what was exactly happening.
We then took a tram car ride throughout the city and found a local festival going on. Galapagos natives were dancing around and the crowd was expanding as the night went on. Towards the end of the festival, the whole crowd got out of their seats and began dancing through out the street. Footage of both the rally and festival can be seen on the video I posted a few posts down.
Day three was my favorite because I felt the most connected with the culture at the Galapagos. Instead of just hanging out at the hotel after the set excursions, I was able to wander off and meet locals. I befriended a nice old lady named Norma, who ran a corner store no too far from the docks and a couple of guys my age who worked all over the island.
During my time in the Galapagos Islands, I would jot down my experiences for the day in a journal every night. The next few posts will be some excerpts from my journal along with some pictures!
Day One — After a long day of traveling, delays and layovers, we finally made it to the Galapagos Islands! On the way from the airport, we stopped to see Los Gemelos, which are two twin craters on Santa Cruz Island.
Steve and I at Los Gemelos
We soon got to the hotel, settled down for a bit and had lunch. We then headed off to the Charles Darwin Research Center, which was walking distance from our hotel, and checked out some land iguanas and large tortoises.
Excerpt from journal — “In these past 24 hours, I’ve probably had about ~2 hours of sleep. Although now I’m exhausted, this whole day has been filled with such excitement. I’m getting to know all of my fellow classmates and I’ve been on such a high for the sole reason that it is my first time in South America. I’m extremely happy that I’m here and can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings!”
Exactly a year ago today, I was embarking on a journey of a lifetime. For those of you who have followed this blog since day one, you’ve all been able to experience this journey with me. Barcelona is a city I fell in love with. I fell in love with the culture, the food, the people, the football culture — everything. I’ve been able to meet some amazing people that come from all walks of life around the world. Spring 2013 will always be close to me.
This past fall semester was viewed as a “transitioning” semester. I was transitioning back from an amazing spring semester and fun-filled summer. It was also my hardest semester. I was taking 18 credits and had a handful of jobs/internships to juggle. Throughout all of this, my experiences from abroad always came to mind at least once a day.
From taking the metro everywhere, speaking Spanish everyday and traveling to different cities frequently with all of my new friends to returning home and being thrown with a bunch of responsibilities — let me tell you, reverse culture shock does exist. My internship in Communications with the study abroad office (Center for International Education) has exposed me to a plethora of international students and a bunch of students who have recently studied abroad whom I could connect with about our experiences living and studying in a different country.
Although my study abroad journey may be over, it’s not something that I just left behind at the airport. The experiences and lessons I’ve learned are things that will stay with me forever. All of this has shaped me into the person I am today and have influenced my future and have made more of an impact on my every day decisions than I probably realize.
Tomorrow, I continue my travels to the Galapagos Islands where I will be taking a course called “Documenting Cultures.”
“Realizing that you’re not really sure what “home” is anymore, because even though this is technically where you come from, you’re not sure you fit into the shape of the puzzle piece that you left behind. In a lot of ways, your time abroad felt much more like home, and maybe you won’t ever really feel settled until you can actually call it that — even if you’re all too familiar with how difficult immigration is. Being where you belong, maybe not today but someday, is something you’re willing to work for.”—
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you… Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”—Anthony Bourdain
In a few hours I’ll be on my way to the airport with 3 luggages en route to the United States. Four months ago, I was making the same exact trip to Newark airport not knowing what Barcelona would have in store for me. As soon as I arrived at my gate, I met a handful of students from my program that were about to embark on the same journey as I was. Fast forward to today, and those same kids have become some of my really good friends here in Barcelona.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing people from all over the world and hear the most interesting stories through my travels. The many things I have experienced abroad are priceless and will be with me forever.
Things to look forward to
Using my real phone number back home in the USA!
Reuniting with my friends and family
Month 4 video sometime this week!
Thank you all for coming along with me on this journey through this blog. I hope you all enjoyed what I’ve had to share! :) I’ll be keeping this blog for my future travels, whether it is domestic or international, so stay tuned!
Today is definitely a bittersweet day for me as the semester comes to an end. My final exams weren’t too bad. They consisted of a ten page paper, multiple presentations, and an open-ended test.
Although now I can celebrate by not having to worry about going back to a single classroom until September, a part of me is a bit sad. With the semester being over, it means that all of the new friends that I’ve made and bonded with in these past four months will split ways tomorrow. Whether they are returning back to the United States or home country, or traveling around Europe a bit more, tomorrow is going to be very bittersweet.
In these past months, I’ve met some amazing people and learned so much about myself and life in general. Being able to learn about the world first-hand and experience a total different culture is truly a blessing. The Catalan culture and way of life will forever be with me.
Although I’m a bit sad that most of my friends are returning home tomorrow, I’m ecstatic that my mom is on her way to visit me! We’ll be reunited tomorrow morning and will begin our journey visiting more cities in Spain. :)
Friends, I’ll be back home sooner than you think! Tonight I am getting together with all of my favorite people for one last time before we all depart. <3
What an amazing weekend in Lagos! A few of my close friends here booked this trip through Discover Excursions months in advance so we couldn’t wait for it to finally come! We flew into Sevilla where we met the directors from Discover and we took 2 coach buses to Lagos! The bus ride was so fun and the trip was filled with tons of fellow Americans abroad. In fact, I bumped into a fellow Rider student on the trip! What a small world!
After settling in our apartment styled hotel rooms, we all walked down to the beach, Praia Dona Ana, where we spent the afternoon soaking up the sun and playing football. I’ve never seen a beach like this before!
After that, we then had dinner at Nah Nah Bah, one of the top 50 best burger joints in the world!! I got the Toucan Burger and it was so good!
On Saturday, we went on a Sangria sailboat cruise and went on to an even smaller boat to sail through the grottos (as seen on my previous post), which are these amazing cliffs in the water. I felt like I’ve only seen things like this only on the internet! It was beautiful to see it with my own eyes!
We then went all the way to Cape St. Vincent to watch the “end of the world” sunset. It’s called that because it is the most southwestern part of Europe, where the Romans considered it a magical place where the sunset was much larger than anywhere else. They believed the sun sank here hissing into the ocean, marking the edge of their world.
Later on that night, my friends and I went out to eat with a few of the directors at a local Portuguese restaurant. I had “Asinha” steak which includes ham, mushroom sauce, and a fried egg over steak with a side of fries and rice. It was my absolute favorite!
After dinner, we all headed out to one of the bars where we met up with the rest of the people in the program. We were able to hang out at the beach and check out the city center all day long the next day before packing up and heading back to Sevilla.
This trip to Lagos has been my most favorite weekend trip all semester. I was with my closest friends, made some awesome new friends, ate good food and saw everything that the city has to offer. Lagos has exceeded my expectations and I really hope I can return in the future!!
Time is seriously flying by! It seems like it was just yesterday when I was about to embark on this journey. We are all realizing that time is running out and there are so many things that we want to accomplish before we head back out to the United States.
My housemate and I have made a “BCN Bucketlist” with a list of many things we have yet accomplished and want to achieve before time runs out, including trying out a bunch of food spots, renting out bikes for the day, watching the sunset at Parc Güell, and so much more. There is still so much to see in this beautiful city.I love everything about Barcelona and I’m glad I’ve gotten the opportunity to live in the best city in the world.
I’ve met the most amazing people and made some great friends here that I know will be my friends for life. We’re all experiencing the same things together - being in a different country, indulging in a new culture, and most importantly, having some sort of anxiety of returning back to the states. We all are trying our best not to count down the days until we fly home, yet at the same time we’re all excited to reunite with our loved ones.
With that being said, I’m going to try my best not to think about how the time is running out and instead take advantage of everything that Barcelona has to offer!!
Traveling to Morocco with my program this week was probably the highlight of my time abroad so far. Sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar and seeing the Rock of Gibraltar into Africa was a great way to start the trip. Although we spent hours at a time on the bus traveling to each destination, it was all worth it.
Our first city that we visited was Fez. We toured the city and even explored the medina, which was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We had to dress extremely conservative as we walked through the Medina. When the local men saw American girls, they would often start catcalling and offering themselves for marriage. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Overlooking the Medina in Fez
We also visited a carpet factory and had a show displaying many of the hand made carpets with complimentary tea, we visited a leather factory and after lunch we went to a ceramic school!
The leather factory smelled so bad that they gave us mint leaves to sniff!
After Fez, the next stop was to the Sahara Desert! That was easily my favorite part of the whole trip. We stayed in huge tents and it was literally like we stepped back in time for a bit! There were no phones needed, no wifi, or anything. I never knew what time it was at all during the two days I was there. We woke up at 5 in the morning to watch the sunrise and rode camels to the local village of Merzouga.
During our free time, we would just hang out in the dunes playing with the local Berber kids. With just the little that they had, they seemed to be the happiest with our company. Dinner consisted of couscous and a bunch of meat and vegetables every night, and after, there was always a big drum circle going on with a perfect atmosphere to stargaze with a full moon in sight.
After riding camels, with one of the locals
Just chillin by our camp, the kid decided to jump in the picture last minute lol!
After two fun days in the Sahara, we had a six hour bus ride to Meknes, where we had dinner and slept. The next day we said goodbye to Morocco as we made our way back to Sevilla, Spain.
I could have never imagined ever spending my Spring Break the way I did but I’m glad I did this. It was a blast meeting people from my program that were studying in different cities in Spain. Also, meeting the local Berber people and hearing their stories was awesome too. Thank you Morocco for showing me a good time!