Sevilla, Sevilla, Sevilla

At this exact moment in time I am sitting in my cramped airplane seat flying over the Atlantic Ocean. My plane is at an altitude of 36,000 feet, we are going 507 mph, and we are approximately 2,203 miles from New York City. I cannot believe how fast the time has flown by. In fact, it almost feels like just yesterday that I was sitting on my plane to Madrid eating the same mediocre airplane food. How is it possible that three and a half months could go by in the blink of an eye?

Don’t get me wrong, I am so beyond excited and ready to be home in the States. I miss my parents, sister, and the rest of my crazy/ amazing family, my bed, dogs, friends, and some good old fashion American Food (whatever that means). But I also don’t quite think I realized what it would actually mean to be sitting on a plane leaving a place that I had begun to call home. In fact, sitting in that taxi simply felt as if I were on my way to the airport about take another weekend trip. Only this time instead of being accompanied by my overstuffed backback, my travel companion was my severely overweight suitcase. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I’ll start from the beginning. 

Yesterday at 7:30PM I finished my Spanish Civilizations final. It was the last final exam that I would have to take this semester. Meaning, when I turned that test into my professor I was officially a senior in college. Pretty terrifying. I then continued downstairs to a small gathering of our program. There were snacks, people were singing, and it just felt like any other ordinary day here in Sevilla.

Around 9:15PM Tori started to say her goodbyes to our new friends. I watched as she made the rounds, tears in her eyes as she gave her final hugs in the center. We walked the same way home that we always did; but this time took a quick pit stop on La Puente de Triana- our bridge- for a quick picture before dinner. It’s not that I wasn’t processing what was going on, but it took a little bit for all of it to sink in. 

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When we got home I walked into my room and was greeted by the glow of the yellow monster of a suitcase that still needed to be completed. I puttered around until dinner and then made my way out to my last meal with Tori and my absolutely amazing host mom. Per usual she laughed at me for being absolutely ridiculous, we talked about our flights home, and started to get misty eyed as we discussed the reality of leaving Sevilla and our trips coming to an end. Post-cena we had a little photoshoot with Señora because there was no way I could leave without a picture with that incredible human being.

I left to go out for the night and say goodbye to my friends. We met up at our favorite bar and started to reminisce about all of the memories that were created there. Nightlife in Sevilla (not Spain, SEVILLA) cannot be rivaled by any other place that i’ve traveled during these 3.5 months. As the hour grew later and the bar began to fill we made our way to a farewell party at a club about 15 minutes away from my house. We danced the night away to our favorite songs surrounded by the people that we had spent the entire semester getting to know.

Before I knew it, it was time to start the goodbyes. Suddenly, reality set in. As I hugged my new friends goodbye I started to realize that there was the chance that I would never see some of them again. In a few short months I became closer to these people than I ever could have imagined possible. We promised college visits and weekly FaceTime dates as we sniffled our goodbyes as the rain started to fall. 

I began my walk home to catch Tori before she left for the airport and few minutes later reached the bridge. My bridge. Only lit by street lamps and the refection of the moon in the river. I looked around at the city that became my home throughout the past semester. The tears began to sting my eyes as I realized that this was the last time that I would be standing on that bridge, looking at that river, in that beautiful city.

I do not even know how to begin the seemingly never-ending list of thank you’s that I have, but either way here is my best shot:

To my absolutely amazing host mom, Maria Josefa. Thank you so so much for not only letting me into your house but allowing me into your life. I can vividly remember arriving at your apartment on day one. I was terrified and could barely utter a Spanish sentence, let alone understand your thick Andalucian accent. Either way you smiled, gave me a hug, and told me that everything was going to be okay. Thank you for putting up with me for three and a half months and being totally okay with my goofy, quirky self at the dinner table. You never failed to put a smile on my face and make me laugh throughout the day. I honestly do not think I could have survived study abroad without you.

To my friends, my forever and always, familia de Sevilla. Thank you for sharing your friendship and memories with me for the past three and half months. I don’t necessarily know what I was expecting out of my friendships previous to my study abroad experience, but I know for a fact that I was not expecting all of you. Thank you for always singing along with me and embracing my constant need to randomly break out into dance. To my roommate, Tori. Thank you for being an amazing first friend and an incredible roommate. I will never forget our laughs (and sometimes slight terror) over what we could possibly be having for dinner and the super dumb but equally amazing shirts that resided next door at Lefties. To my wine and cheese girls (you know who you are) thank you for becoming like sisters to me during this trip. My weeks were incomplete when we didn’t have our heart to hearts. I don’t think I have ever become that close to anyone so fast and I cannot begin to thank you for being there during the hard times and best of times this semester.

To my dear Sevilla. Thank you for providing endless adventure and breath-taking beauty. One of my greatest fears before going abroad was not falling in love with the city that I chose to go to. Lucky for me, that was not the case. I will never not be in love with Las Setas even if I do think it looks more like a waffle as opposed to a mushroom. I will forever be captivated by the beauty that is the La Catedral and the stunning views from the top of La Giralda. Plaza de España, you will forever be the most amazing place I have ever seen in my entire life. Every time I visited I could not help but to think that I was on a movie set or living in some kind of dream.

A huge thank you to my family back home. Thank you for commenting on these silly blogs and for sending all of your love from across the Atlantic. I have missed all of you each and every day and I cannot wait to be home with all of you for a couple of months. Tons and tons of hugs and love to my sister, Holly. I know that me being gone for the past few months really has not been easy for you. Time zones are really hard sometimes. You have been amazing throughout this entire semester and I cannot wait to spend the summer with you!

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Finally, the biggest thank you to my biggest supporters and the people who pushed me to believe that doing something like this was even possible. Mom and Dad, words will NEVER be able to suffice for how much this experience has meant to me. Your support and unfaltering love is at times overwhelming and I just want you both to know that I am forever grateful that you allowed me to have this experience. I know that the two of you were possibly more nervous than I was when I left four short months ago. But you never let that stand in the way of telling me that I could succeed in this adventure and phase of my life. I cannot wait to see the 2 of you in t-minus 3 hours!!! Thank you for giving me the gift of seeing the world. 

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There are a million and two more thank you’s that I could write but I can feel myself welling up on this airplane and I don’t want the people around me to think that i’m too insane. So now I sit here about to bring my last abroad blog post to a close. When I first started this blog I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete it. It felt weird and unnatural to type these awkward and at times personal thoughts, send them off into the abyss, and wonder if anyone would ever read them. For those of you who have been with me every step of the way, I hope that you got some kind of enjoyment out of reading about what it is like to study abroad through my eyes. You put up with the quirky and embarrassing and more than likely the sentences that didn’t even make sense. If we are being honest, the fact that some of you made this far is more of an accomplishment on your part than it is on mine.

It’s kind of funny how stories have the ability to come full circle. When I sat on this flight on the 31st of January I was a mess of many different emotions. Now, here I am. Back on this flight again filled to the brim with mixes of feelings that I didn’t know I could feel at the same time. Saying goodbye to Sevilla was heart-wrenching but knowing that my family and friends are waiting for me on the other side of the Atlantic suddenly makes that goodbye okay. Going into this experience I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it. I questioned whether or not I was ready to conquer not just a new country but a new culture and language all by myself. Somehow I made it to the end, always with a smile on my face, and now ready to embrace more adventures that may come my way!

Sevilla, tiene mi corazon para siempre. 

NO8DO.

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“Never say goodbye. Because saying goodbye means going away. And going away means forgetting.” -Peter Pan

So in that case. This isn’t goodbye Sevilla. But rather, until we meet again!

Hasta luego por la ultima vez,

Emily

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A Week Filled with Emilys

Before we begin, I know EXACTLY what you’re thinking… The title of this post is potentially the most narcissistic thing that you’ve seen in a real long time. I promise you, it isn’t as bad as it seems!! Keep reading to find out why.

There are a few things that happen before you leave that aren’t going abroad. Typically when you pack up your things they are there, tears  in eyes, because it can be hard to imagine being in school without that particular person in your life every single day. Two, you have your friends who are abroad the opposite semester as you. These people are particularly special. The two of you are very aware that it may be well over a year until you see them again! While it is sad and hard to realize that you won’t be with them for that long of a period of time you know that you will have a mountain of adventure stories to share when you are finally back together. Third, you have the people (sometimes friends but not always) who are going abroad to the same country as you at the same time as you. In my case I had Gabi! And although I am sure that she will never see this I am so beyond happy that this kind of friend. (Literally look at this nugget, she’s literally so wonderful!)

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Finally, you have your last group of friends. The people who are going abroad the same semester as you but to a different country. These people fall within a very special category. More likely than not they will be in Europe with you; sometimes one country away or maybe on the other side of the continent! Either way it seems like a no-brainer to make tentative plans with your friends and country hop with one another. This weekend Italy the next Paris… It couldn’t get much easier than this! However, often times what you fail to think about is how difficult it can actually be to coordinate this trips and plans. Between everyone having a different schedule and the ever important factor of what is left in the bank account, suddenly your weekends in the Swiss Alps seem to fade away. 

However, don’t think that this post is going to be about how it is impossible to visit your friends abroad- you all should know by now that negative nancy just really isn’t my style! In fact, I was so so so so beyond lucky to have not just one but TWO of my best friends come and visit me here in Sevilla within the same week! And thus begins the stories of the Emilys in Sevilla

My first ever college friend Emily, and for the purposes of avoiding confusion I will call her by her nickname EmSak, came to visit Sevilla at the end of her program. She was abroad in the South of France and had done quite her fair share of traveling. This would be her first time in Spain and I could not be more excited! Also, just another little tidbit of information, EmSak and I don’t go to the same school anymore- she transferred at the end of our freshman year. Therefore, whenever I get the chance to see here I become irrationally excited!

Her visit was a little bit tricky because I was still in class, but being the crazy (slightly obsessive) organizer that I am, I managed to plan out their entire time in Sevilla. This itinerary was pretty legit, i’m not going to lie. I even had it worked out down to what meals I would be eating with them because apparently I am that insane. It was also a little easier since she was traveling with a friend of hers from back in the US. I had a list of things that they were allowed to do without me and then a list of things that they absolutely had to wait for me to see! (On that second list was Plaza de España and Las Setas… Obviously.) We had some slight weather issues but there was no stopping us! I dragged them around the city and fed them my favorite foods and gelato until they were about to burst. We took out a row boat in Plaza de España and played with giant bubbles. If this all sounds like a scene out of a movie, it basically was… Down to the Parisian (yes Parisian… No I don’t know why) music playing in the background.

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Saying goodbye to EmSak (and Leah) was not so fun. Their journey continued on to Portugal and then many countries within the United Kingdom. However, literally later on that day my other best friend was arriving. Maybe you’ve heard her name? Some people say it sounds very familiar but i’m not entirely sure why. Her name is Emily! (Catching on to the title of the post yet?) Previously mentioned in my blog posts as EmK. When I had visited Copenhagen exactly one month earlier we had planned for her to visit Sevilla but I wasn’t entirely sure if it would ever happen. To say the least, in order for someone to make their way from Copenhagen to the South of Spain it involves crossing the entire continent Europe; sometimes utilizing multiple forms of transportation in order to get from point A to point B. Basically, EmK traversed all of Europe just to see me for a weekend. If that doesn’t say friendship, I don’t know what does?

My adventures with EmK in Sevilla included all the usual stops. However, this time I didn’t have class so it was just the two of us getting ourselves into trouble in my favorite city. I saw her begin to fall in love with Sevilla just like I had and I could not feel more blessed to able to share this experience with my best friend. Earlier that week she had celebrated her 21st birthday, therefore we had to go out and celebrate ~Sevilla Style~ I threw her, my lovely non-Spanish speaking, best friend into the culture of Spain and showed her all the reasons why I love it so so so very much. 

Before I knew it our time was up and it was time for EmK to head back to Cope. This time we both knew that our goodbye meant that the next time we would see each other we would both be back on American ground. Kinda weird, right? 

Just like any other weekend, Monday rolled around a lot sooner than I wanted to. And before I knew it, it was time for me to become a real student. As the papers begin to pile up and the test dates grow closer and closer I could begin to feel my stress levels rising. Not to say that I was under the same amount of stress that I am normally under during finals week, but I certainly had enough to do to keep me busy! 

With that, I am off to write some papers and study for exams. And knowing me, probably take another quick little adventure to Plaza de España. 

“There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you, cause you got a friend in me.” -Toy Story

Hasta Luego!

Emily 

When the Fam Takes Spain- Feria Edition

I am a huge fan of countdown apps. I love the idea of counting down the days until something big or exciting happens. Now knowing this little fun fact about me it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say that the first thing I did when I found out the exact date that my family was coming here to Sevilla was put that date in my countdown app. It was not that I was terribly homesick and needed a constant reminder of their impending arrival, but more that I know some days (while abroad and in life) can be harder than others. And watching those months turn into days and hours can really help clear the skies on a cloudy day.

When the number of days on that app finally hit zero I was beyond overwhelmed. How could I possibly show my favorite people on this planet all of the amazing things that my new home has to offer ( and why I am obsessed with this place) in just a few short days. Not to mention they just happened to pick probably the most exciting week out of the year to visit me- during La Feria de Abril! Even studying here for a few months does not prepare you for the insanity that is La Feria. But i’m getting ahead of myself… So let’s start from the beginning.

The weather during my parent’s stay was predicted to be absolutely terrible. Which is ya know awesome because of course I wanted to show my family around Sevilla in the predicted pouring rain. But either way, I was bound and determined to show them the sights and make sure that they saw the entire city- rain or shine!

Our first stop was to get some food! Where else would I take them but the Mercado for some paella, croquetas, jamon, and more! After all, would they ever really understand the kind of the time I have been having here if I didn’t continuously feed them all of my favorite foods? Don’t worry… That includes as much gelato as humanly possible! Holly has taken it upon herself for her time here in Spain to consume gelato at least once everyday. Spoiler alert: She was successful in doing so. For the 4-5 days that they were here I stayed with them in their hotel making it a nice mini vacation for me as well. Our itinerary, despite the rain, included all of the most important parts of Sevilla! Plaza de España, Las Setas, Catedral, and more. We stopped in tiny shops, I showed them where I went to school, and the walk that i take to get there everyday. As time passed I could see that they were beginning to fall in love with the city as well! To be honest, it is pretty hard not to!

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Feria de Abril is a week long celebration that happens here in Sevilla, as well as a few other cities in Spain. However, the Seville feria is not only the oldest but also the biggest and most well known. It La Feria began as a fair where Sevillians would come together to buy and trade livestock. People would travel from near and far and meet in the same place in Sevilla every year. As time went on the fair extended to include fresh produce and maybe even some homemade products as well. And since we are in Spain, you better bet that as time went on, and people continuously reconvened with friends that they only see once a year, this fair became an all day affair- food and wine were obviously included. Soon the fair got too big and in all honesty it became more about the food and wine rather than the livestock. They then moved Feria to the other side of the river where it has it’s permanent home in Los Remedios, the barrio right next door to mine. Today, La Feria is a week long celebration! The front of Feria you are greeted by the Portada or gate. Every year it is constructed to represent something famous from somewhere else in the world. Apparently this year it was supposed to represent something from Argentina… But I could be wrong so don’t quote me on that one. Other than that the streets are lined with Casetas (intricately decorated tents that families, groups of friends, and families rent for years at a time and invite people to throughout the day), old fashioned horse and buggies, tons of lights, and a the far end there are amusement park rides! The men wear suits and hats and the women wear traditional dresses with flowers in their hair. Even I rented a dress to fit in with the rest of the Sevillanas!!  At night there is music and tons of dancing all lit but the warm amber glows of the street lights and casetas. Let me guess, you are thinking that it sounds a little bit like a fairytale? Well then you are 100% correct because it really and truly is. I walked around in a beautiful dress, with a huge flower in my hair, and danced the night away- literally I am pretty sure I was born for this event!

One afternoon, after a much needed siesta, I took my parents and Holly to Plaza de España, before heading off to Feria with some friends for the night. (Dad was not the biggest fan of Feria… Too many people and not enough space.) But they were blown away by what is Plaza de España. It is pretty much impossible to not stand there, mouth agape, when you see it for the first time. The next days that we had together were filled with tons and tons and tons of tapas, a night of Italian food, shopping, exploring, and a river cruise. We went to what is known to be the best flamenco in Sevilla and I did my best to make sure they had a truly Spanish experience, Sevilla style. They were amazing troopers as they walked who knows how many miles per day, trusted me when I promised them that we weren’t lost (except for maybe when we explored Barrio Santa Cruz… But shhhh don’t tell them!), and ate at the meal times that I deemed to be appropriate for Spain! In return for all of these things they were rewarded with tons of ice cream and jamón- so at the end of the day no one was really complaining.

Saying goodbye at the end of the 5 days that felt more like 24 hours was just how I expected it to be. Not really all that fun. I hopped into my cab as soon as I saw the tears welling up in my mom’s eyes hoping that she would remember that it would be no time until I was back home! But that still doesn’t take away from the fact that I really and truly would have done absolutely anything for them to stay here until it was finally my time to leave.

To be completely honest with you I feel so beyond luck and so beyond blessed to have been able to share this experience with my family. (Yes Nonni and Pop, you too.) I obviously did not forget about them but I had forgotten what it was like when all of us are together. I had missed my dad’s corny jokes, my mom’s embarrassing obsession with taking pictures of literally every single thing that we pass by, and my sister’s moments of breaking out into song and sometimes even dance if she’s really into it. They filled me in on family stories and hometown drama and I honestly could not help but to smile as I thought about the crazy world and life that I left and put on hold for a little while. After being here for so long you become very much so aware that the life that you are living is not at all reality. And sometimes it can be hard to see beyond the fairytale lens that has been placed in front of my place. Of course when I walk around everyday I think to myself that I never want to leave, but after seeing my family it was easy for me to remember that my life back home is nothing short of amazing as well.


As many of you know I am still working on catching up on posts! Slow and steady wins the race, right? But just for a quick little day check and I am posting this blog on April 8th aka Mother’s Day back home in the US. So I just want to take a quick little moment of your time to say Happy Mother’s Day to my absolutely beyond wonderful and amazing mom! You already know that I miss you like crazy and that I cannot wait to be home with you for the summer. I know that the past 3 and a half months with me being gone have not exactly been easy for you but you truly gave me the greatest gift in allowing me to take this trip- it is one that I never EVER thought that I would have received. You deserve the world and more and I absolutely cannot WAIT to see you on Thursday!

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“Well a mother, a real mother, is the most wonderful person in the world.” -Peter Pan

Hasta pronto!

Emily

 

When the Fam Takes Spain- Barcelona Edition

Back in the beginning of the semester my family decided that they were going to come and visit me here in Sevilla over my younger sister’s spring break. Coincidentally her week off fell during Feria where I conveniently had a few days off as well. They decided to do Barcelona for a few days and then they would come to Sevilla once my break officially began after my Tuesday classes. I am extremely close to my parents and especially close with my little sister so I have been counting down the days until their visit since practically day one.

A little over a month prior to their trip my friends and I were all hanging out in the center discussing places that we wanted to visit before the program ended. We started to talk about how much we wanted to go to Barcelona- because in all honesty we felt the need to live out our elementary/middle school dreams by visiting the city that Disney Channel’s Cheetah Girls visited during their second movie…Obviously. After tossing around dates and ideas we came to conclusion that there was only one weekend for the rest of the semester where all of us could squeeze in a weekend in Barce. Coincidentally, it was the weekend that my family would be arriving here in Spain. It literally could not be more perfect. If I were to travel anywhere that weekend I would have only wanted it to be somewhere where I got to see my family, all the stars seemed to align. Before I knew it I had round trip plane tickets and a hostel booked. Always ready for another adventure.

Since I am absolutely terrible at keeping secrets that I’m excited about, I almost immediately texted Holly (my sister) and asked her to get as many details about their Barcelona trip as feasibly possible. I think she had a mini heart attack when she found out that she would be seeing me a full 3 days earlier. Before I knew it I had told half of my family back home, including my grandparents when they were here, swearing them all to secrecy! Somehow my parents never found out. (How? Honestly, I will NEVER know!)

Since the days here seem to be flying by faster and faster, my trip to Barcelona appeared in the blink of an eye. Before I knew it my backpack was packed and I was on my way to the airport at 4:30 in the morning. Why 4:30AM you ask? Because as poor college students we take the cheapest flights we can find. So if that means that we get 3 hours of sleep the night before a trip, so be it!

Once in Barcelona I had a full day to explore with my friends, my family wouldn’t be there until the next morning. So, needless to say, I took advantage of the day considering I didn’t know what the next would bring. Our first stop of the day? Brunch and Cake. AKA my new favorite place on this planet. Okay… So maybe that is a little bit of an exaggeration considering the place with that title is a lovely little city called Sevilla .But still, it was INCREDIBLE. I had Nutella Banana French Toast. Need I say more? Either way, here is a picture of it to make you cry. (Sorry!)

Next, we walked to the Picasso Museum and bought tickets for later that day. We had a little over an hour to kill before our museum entrance time we walked around and stumbled across the Arc de Triomf and then the cutest cupcake/ cookie shop. By cute I also mean delicious as well as wildly profane!!! (?) I am sorry to report that the picture of the profane cookies will not be included in this blog post, due to any young members that may be in the audience. However, if you are really REALLY curious just know that they even had some 50 Shades of Grey themed treats. Meanwhile, please enjoy a picture of my delicious (and completely G rated) Red-Velvet cupcake.

After the Picasso Museum exhaustion was beginning to set it. But Gabi and I were bound and determined to see more of the city. After checking into our hostel the two of us set out to see as much as we possibly could before dinner. We made it down to the harbor, saw the statue of Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus), and looked through and outdoor antique fair. (And by antique I actually mean things that may or may not have been found at tag sales and/or stolen… There were passports of old Spanish soldiers. Are those even legal to sell?)

As an attempt to get back to our hostel we walked up Las Ramblas and somehow managed to stumble upon the Mercat. The Mercat is one of the oldest outdoor markets throughout all of Spain! It has everything from candy to crepes to raw fish and meat! Gabi and I enjoyed a crepe while it poured rain and then began our trek back to the hostel.

At the very last minute, before actually going home, the two of us stopped to do a tour at one of the houses designed by Gaudí. Much to our surprise when web walked in we were handed a smartphone and teal blue headphones that would act as our tour guide through the house. The smartphone would show images of what the house would have looked like years in the past, while also showing animations of the sea creatures that Gaudí’s architecture represents.

After eating a nice American meal of a hamburger and French fries we went out to see some of Barcelona’s nightlife! We took to the metro and headed downtown around 12am. Since the group of us are public transportation geniuses we made it onto the right train without a problem. Once on the metro, we encountered a problem that we had yet to face so far during our 3 months in Europe. Without thinking my friend Caroline (tiny, blonde hair, big blue eyes)slipped her iPhone into her back pocket and continued to talk to the group that surrounded her. Suddenly, her face turned white and she looked at me dead in the eyes and said, “My phone is gone. Someone took my phone.” She whipped around at a speed that would give someone whiplash and looks a middle aged Spanish man dead in the eyes and screams, “you took my phone! Give me my phone back RIGHT now!” With a look of pure terror upon his face the man threw her phone on the ground as the entire car is now staring at him. After a PAINFULLY silent 3 minutes on the metro, at the next stop he RAN off the train. It was easily one of the most impressive and terrifying moments during my time here in abroad.

Like any other night in Spain we got home far too late and I realized that if I went to sleep I would never wake up to surprise my family in the airport. Pulling an all-nighter was my only option. Around 6AM I walked to catch the train to the airport to find that I had literally just missed one by seconds. Even better, the next one wasn’t coming for another 30 minutes. I frantically checked the flight status and of course for the first time in Spain’s history the flight is not only running on time but it is actually EARLY. Now in a panic I message my sister that at all costs she can NOT leave the airport until I see them. Who knew if she would even get this message considering the unreliability of wifi in Spain. This would turn out to be the worst case of miscommunication that I have ever experienced with my darling sister.

Once on the train, I could barely concentrate on anything besides being completely nervous that I would miss them at the airport and then have gotten no sleep for absolutely nothing. Another 30 minutes later I arrived at the airport, terminal 2. But OF COURSE, I needed to be in terminal 1. No big deal right? I can just speed walk/ jog/ run/ sprint there, right? Funny that I would think something like that! Especially since it turned out that I needed to take a bus to get to terminal 1. And not just any bus- a TWENTY MINTUE bus. When the bus finally made it, after what felt like another 3 hours of travel, I ran off, practically knocked over three strollers and barreling through any suitcase that was in my path. I finally found and made it to arrivals with the family nowhere in sight. I frantically check my phone, no recent messages since the Barcelona airport wifi was not functional. (Surprising? Not entirely.) “Great. I missed them and they are probably on their way to their hotel.” (My immediate thoughts. Optimism was not my friend after a night of no sleep.) As I turned around defeated and unsure of what I should do, I see a man holding an iPad with my mom’s name. Somehow I hadn’t missed them!

After waiting anther 20 minutes or so, I see my large blue duffle bag through the opening sliding glass doors. There were already tears in their eyes as they started to walk towards me and I couldn’t help but to start to tear up as well. After we said our hellos and walked to the car I finally asked what took them so long to make it out of baggage claim. It felt like two full planes went through customs before the doors opened for them. To which I informed that when I told Holly that they couldn’t leave the airport she assumed that I meant baggage claim. So after refusing to leave the baggage claim area for honestly who knows how long she finally broke down (into tears knowing my sister) and told them why she was refusing to leave the area! Moral of the story- explain the concept of of customs to people when you tell them that they need to wait for you in an airport. Because apparently not everyone (cough, cough, Holly. I know you’re reading this right now) knows that in order to meet your loved ones you must leave baggage claim first. Trust me… Making sure they have this information will make your lives a lot easier.

I took my parents to get some breakfast (at Brunch and Cake of course) and then began to explore the city with them. We spent the first half of the day together before I had to leave and meet up with my friends to head to Park Güell. As a child who literally group up on and lived for Disney Channel Original Movies I was so beyond excited for this stop on my tour in Barcelona. Because let’s be honest, why wouldn’t I want to go to the park where The Cheetah Girls danced and sang their heart out?? Okay so I may not have had the entire park to myself like Raven Simone and Co. but that I did get some pretty amazing shots that made me feel like I could have been a Cheetah Girl too! If there is anything that I have learned from my time in Barcelona it is that I am in love with and obsessed with any and all things created and designed by Gaudí. I have never been so impressed (or in love) with architecture in my entire life!

After Park Güell we made our way to Sagrada Família! Yet another building in the city that was designed by Gaudí. And here is a fun fact for you all, they started to build the Sagrada Família in the year 1883 and has designs that are so beyond intricate that it is still not complete. Also, it was declared a minor basilica in 2010. They are currently expecting that the project will be officially complete in the year 2026… I guess I need to come back to Spain!! Unfortunately, as we arrived at the Sagrada Família the symptoms of sleep deprivation were beginning to hit super hard. Therefore, I did not make it inside the basilica. I am still very sad about it but I had a choice to either go inside and turn in to a complete monster or get a little shut eye before meeting mi familia (see what I did there? puns are so great) for a tapas tour!

Time for crazy story number 4,238. I know what you are thinking though. “Emily, you are on a tapas tour in Barcelona with your family. What could possibly go wrong?” Apparently, even with the circumstances practically perfect, chaos always manages to find me. (I think the universe just wants me to write a novel.) Anyways, so here I am on this tapas tour. We start off by walking to the market, we are learning a lot and havin’ some fun. We make our first stop at a restaurant, eat some delicious food, drink some amazing sangria, and continue along our merry way. We make it to a section of Barcelona that is similar to Sevilla, in that the streets are tiny and windy. Now. I am not saying that my family, as a group, looks like the worst of tourist targets. However by not looking culturally Spanish, carrying around a little black backpack (Dad….), and walking in a relatively large tour group speaking only English, certainly adds some fuel to the fire. As we take a quick stop to talk about some architectural history a young boy of about 14 years old approaches my dad and asks him for a cigarette. My dad, a non-smoker, looks at the boy, who really shouldn’t have any sort of interest in smoking anyways, apologizes, and says he doesn’t have one. Suddenly, the boy lunges for my dad both hitting and grabbing his neck, reaches for his front pockets, and when we finds out there is nothing there grabs my dads chain, that he wears around his neck, and pulls. My dad, being about 6’2”, yells and gently yet aggressively throws the punk off him. However, the twerp is so tiny that he practically flies half way down the alleyway. Our tapa tour guide FREAKS out, along with the rest of our tour. While I am standing there in complete and utter shock. Why on EARTH would this kid target my DAD, easily the tallest and most intimidating person in our group, and not me or my sister? According to our tapa tour guide he may have been, “high from sniffing too much glue.” A likely story.

The rest of our tapa tour was nothing short of amazing. We ate some more incredible food and laughed at our absolutely adorable guide. We met and talked with people from around the world and when it was over continued to explore Barcelona. As it got later my level of alertness (and sanity) began to quickly diminish. My early flight the next morning prompted me to turn in early as I needed to get back to Sevilla for my two days of classes pre-feria. However, saying goodbye in Barcelona was certainly a lot easier than it was back at the end of January. Because it isn’t that hard to wait 3 days to see someone after going a full 3 months.


Just so all of you know (if any of you actually exist?), I am about to enter pre-finals and then finals week here in Sevilla and while I am not under NEARLY the same amount of stress that I would normally be under during this time, I do have other things that I need to write. That being said, I admit that I am VERY behind in some blog posts but I will do my best to keep up with them and continue to be a real student at the same time-because I still am… Despite what some of you may think!

Next post is Fam Takes Spain edition dos! aka Fam take FERIA! Stay tuned for our adventures here in Sevilla.

“Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s memories.” -Aladdin

Hasta pronto!

Emily

Semana Santa Parte 3: Easter in Sevilla

*Disclaimer: This post is a continuation from the last 🙂 *

When I arrived in Malaga with Tori late in the afternoon on Wednesday I could not believe that I was already back in Spain. It had literally been one day less than one week since I had been in the exact same place. Spain’s sunshine and warmth was sort of like a big hug telling me that the chaos had finally ended. We called our host mom to make sure that she knew we were back in Spain and about to be on our way back home. She responded by telling us how worried she was about us, that she would be feeding us dinner that night, and then concluded the phone call by saying, “muchos besos!” Per usual, she is nothing short of a complete angel. The bus ride to Sevilla flew by and when I started to cross the bridge to my house, with San Jacinto filled with people and lined with orange trees I thought that I could cry. My head hitting the pillow that night is not something I can even remember and before I knew it almost 12 hours had passed and it was the next morning! Okay so maybe it was the afternoon, but who is really paying that much attention.
After finally deciding that it was time to start the day I was greeted by the warmest day that I have seen in Sevilla so far. The sun was out and shining bright and the city was busier than I have ever seen it before. Quick background for everyone! This week in Sevilla, Semana Santa, is the equivalent of Holy Week back home. And as you could probably imagine it is a HUGE deal. One thing that you may not have known is that Semana Santa in Sevilla is actually the largest and most well known Semana Santa throughout all of Spain! People travel from all over the world to watch Los Pasos (I will explain this later) and partake in the festivities. There are traditional foods, desserts, and even dresses for the affair. After very little deliberation I decided the best way to celebrate my first full day back in España was with croquetas and a trip to Plaza de España.

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Making a few stops along the way I was able to get an idea of the transformation that the city undergoes during Semana Santa. In main areas there are special chairs set up for people to watch Los Pasos and very few of the places close for siesta in order to draw in as many customers (and tourists) as possible. Some roads were blocked off and I found myself turning down streets I have never been down before in an attempt to avoid the huge crowds. In doing so I literally walked right into one of Los Pasos (pictured below).

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Now, I am sure you are wondering, “Emily… What exactly are Los Pasos? This is not making a lot of sense.” Well fear not! Because now I will explain what all of this means. Dating back hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years (thousands? Probably not…Honestly I don’t actually know) there were floats made to represent The Passion of the Lord according to Catholic traditions. Many of them differ in artistic style which is actually pretty cool for anyone with interest in art throughout Spanish history! It is super easy to look at these float- like things and see whether or not they were made with baroque influence, Renaissance influence, or maybe even aspects from the enlightenment. Starting in the morning, and continuing very late into the night every single day of Semana Santa, Los Pasos leave various churches at various times and are carried throughout almost the entire city! They are paraded by adults and children carrying crosses and candles and are escorted by bands playing music. Every “paso” has its own song that plays as it goes on its journey. It takes about 50 men to lift and carry one paso. They are one full metric tonne in weight. Now for all of you out there that don’t have a conception of what that means (I wouldn’t have known either, no te preocupes), that is just a little lighter in weight than my car. These people literally carry things that weigh as much as cars throughout the city!!! When you look at the pictures you may see some people surrounding Los Pasos that slightly resemble members of the KKK. I promise that is NOT what this is. As you could probably figure out on your own, the traditions of Semana Santa began way before the creation of the KKK. Therefore, these outfits and traditions have been passed down for literally hundreds of years! (Perhaps dating all the way back to the 1350s!)

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Throughout the four days that I was home in Sevilla for Semana Santa I went to a few of Los Pasos. Both by accident and on purpose! The streets are insanely crowded and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time you may be stuck there for more than an hour. I was on my way home one afternoon and ran into a procession at the bridge that I am supposed to take to get home. What should have been a 5 minute walk took almost 40! Triana (the neighborhood that I live in) can be busy during tapa time but Semana Santa gave Triana a whole new life! If you recall from my first post, the cover photo is of the exact same street that is pictured below!

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However, one of my favorite nights of Semana Santa was on Good Friday. My friend and I went to watch Los Pasos from my bridge and were mesmerized by how different they look during the night as opposed to the day. The candles are are all lit and there is a such a strong feeling of community between those who are there. You don’t have to be Catholic or even have a religious affiliation to feel some kind of connection and be at least partly moved by what goes on. There isn’t necessarily a silence during the processions but there is a respect for the history and tradition that this week holds here in Sevilla.


Easter was definitely the hardest day that I have had in Spain so far. After putting off literally every assignment until the last minute it was time to flash back to the reality that I had class in the morning. Not to mention in the back of my mind I had the overwhelming feeling that I was missing one of my favorite holidays to celebrate back home. In an attempt to avoid these feelings I went to mass with some friends at a chapel attached to the cathedral. While I thought that would help, it actually did the exact opposite. Mass was 30 minutes long, no flowers, no music, nothing more than a few prayers, communion, and walking out the door. I started my walk home stopping to get some gelato at my favorite gelato place and then paella from the market. Because, let’s be honest, when you are feeling sad there is nothing better than a backwards meal. I sat by the river and ate my food before walking home. Okay… so I guess my backwards meal didn’t actually fix my homesickness. It only made me SLIGHTLY less hungry. But before I knew it there was a smile across my face and tears in my eyes.

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For all of you back home reading this right now, there is a good chance that I saw your wonderful face on Easter! Thank you so much for putting up with my unreliable wifi and 100% making my day! Even though there were tears on my end I was so so so beyond happy to see all of you! I like to think that you ate extra food and laughed at the fact that we always have too much dessert just for me!
So here we are. At the end of Semana Santa part 3. Even though this week may not have been quite what I had imagined it to be, it was still an amazing week here in Spain. I remember when my plans first got screwed up I couldn’t help but to be frustrated and kind of upset. But after being back in Sevilla it was pretty hard to have those feelings anymore. I only get to live in this beautiful country an most importantly this spectacular city for a few more months! Everything happens and works out for one reason or another. Maybe all of my chaos happened so I could spend more time in this place that I am lucky enough to call home. Besides… Who needs the Eiffel Tower when I get to look at a view like this?

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Next post to include my day trips to Jerez and my actual weekend in Malaga!
“Happiness is a state of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things.” -Walt Disney

¡Hasta pronto!
Emily

Semana Santa Adventures Part 2: 48 hours of nothing but travel (and a little bit of chaos)

If you read my Semana Santa Adventures Part 1 (if you haven’t already, you should probably do that first) you would know that my last post was written on a bus that I mysteriously said was going “somewhere” and that it would arrive in that specific destination in a grand 22 hours. That mysterious destination just happened to be Paris, however here is a quick update as to what actually went on:
1. I am not currently in Paris nor did I ever get there.

2. I was not on that bus for 22 hours.

3. I am 100% safe and back in my Sevilla home as I write this post. So here is what ended up happening.

When I woke up early on Tuesday morning in Copenhagen, Tori and I got ourselves to the train station, bought a ton of 7/11 food (which is surprisingly AMAZING in Denmark), and then had the most difficult time finding our bus. We were blissfully unaware of what was going on in the world around us.

The original itinerary for our bus was to drive from Copenhagen to Paris, making stops in Hamburg, another town in Germany, and Cologne where we would then transfer to another bus. This second bus would take us all the way to Paris while traveling through the Netherlands as well as Belgium. Online it said that the bus would have wifi, snacks, among other cool little things for us to do for 22 hours. Lies. All lies.

Right as we pulled up to the literal end of Denmark (by end I mean within a football field or two from the Femer Baelt of the Baltic Sea) I was able to pick up wifi from another bus really quick to send my parents (and Em) a quick note to say we were safely on our bus en route a Paris. The wifi went out just as I pressed send and before I knew it our bus was being loaded onto a ferry. We were told to get off the bus and then get back on after our 45 minute ferry ride over to Germany. A little bit weird, considering we had no clue that a ferry ride was included on our itinerary. Either way, we got off the bus and onto the ferry for a quick 45 minute joy ride over to Germany.

Once back on the bus and off of the ferry the wifi suddenly kicked back on. And from that instant the next 48 hours of my life were not exactly what I had anticipated. In fact, the scent of French macarons and croissants quickly dissipated as I opened up a text from my mom.

During those 4 to 5 hours without wifi, I was completely unaware of everything that had gone on in Brussels as I was literally stepping onto my bus to France. Despite my own personal plants the first thing I could think about were all the people I knew with travel plans in Brussels. Were they still there? When did they leave? Were they okay? It was the same series of questions that rushed through my head during the attacks in Paris at the end of this past year. And as amazing as Paris would have been and as much as I wanted to stay on that bus and continue all the way through sometimes it is better to play it safe especially when you don’t always have access to communicating with people from home and those who can help.

Once in Hamburg, Tori and I got our suitcase and got off the bus. We had no travel plans, no place to stay, and no clue how long we would be in Germany. In fact, there were very limited things that I was sure of at that point in time. We caught a cab to the airport and went to the terminal with the most airlines that I recognized could get us to Spain. As you could probably imagine most flights that were going as far away from Brussels, Paris, and any other place potentially at risk, were completely booked. We hopped from counter to counter and used up every ounce of free wifi that the airport had to offer before realizing that there was no way we were getting back home that day. We would be lucky if we found flights for the next day as well.

We left the airport and walked down the street where we had passed by a few hotels. The first one we found had an available double room, a ten minute walk to the airport, and most importantly free wifi access. We checked in, went upstairs, and began our investigation on how we would get back to Sevilla. After tons and tons of searching we finally found a flight that would get us back into Spain by noon on Wednesday. There was a very dim light at the end of what would be a long, long, tunnel. We booked the flights, checked in, printed our boarding passes and then decided it was finally time to relax.

We took a quick trip to the hotel pool and sauna and enjoyed some snacks that we had up in the room before showering and looking for a place for dinner. Google maps came through for us once again and led us to a tiny pub just under a 7 minute walk from the hotel. We sat down at a table in the corner and this place emulated Germany. Everything was wooden, there was a beer menu that put US pubs to shame, and some German specialties that we were excited to try. We ordered some schnitzel, a western dinner skillet (I mean, why not?), and two cold beers (sorry Dad- a hot beer just did not sound appetizing at the time). The food was amazing and everything that I needed at that point in time. It was the comfort food that I had really needed after the chaos from the previous 6 or so hours.IMG_0354

To be completely honest the rest of our endeavor back to Sevilla was smooth sailing once we had everything figured out. We had a 7AM flight out of Hamburg to Zurich, Switzerland, an hour or so layover, and then a 9:40AM flight from Zurich to Malaga, Spain. Both flights gave us amazing food (a turkey sandwich from the first and a super yummy quiche from the second) and we claimed our suitcase in Malaga without a single problem around 12:30/1:00 PM. We then bought a bus ticket to Sevilla leaving at 3:00PM, grabbed a quick sandwich in the bus station (a bocadillo to celebrate our return to Espana, por supuesto), and we were back in Sevilla by 6:00PM.IMG_0361Semana Santa may not have worked out as nicely as I had originally planned, but when I stepped off that bus back into Sevilla my heart swelled and I was so beyond thrilled to be in a place that I get to call home for less than two months more. This past week marked the half-way point of my time here and I truly cannot believe how quickly time is beginning to pass. 

I am going to end my post here for now. I am so sorry for the lack of pictures, I was a little bit busy with my buses, ferries, trains, planes, and automobiles to be snapping some pics along the way.

Stay tuned for a potential Semana Santa parte tres! Knowing me there are more adventures on the way!

“Everyday is an adventure!” -Up

Adios

Emily

Semana Santa Adventures Part 1: Unable to Cope(enhagen) with Swe(den)et this has been

Hello friends, family, and whoever else may be reading this blog post! I realize that my first sentence is quite bold, as it assumes that people OTHER than my family members are reading this posts (highly unlikely); but a little positivity always goes a long way. And positivity is something that is absolutely necessary in this exact moment in time since I am currently sitting on a bus that I will not be leaving for the next 22 hours. Where is this mysterious, day long bus taking me? You’ll have to wait until my NEXT post to find out. (I’m pure evil. I know!) But don’t worry in the next few paragraphs (or pages, depending on how bored I get) you will find out where I have been and what exactly I have been up too during these past few days.

Just in case you couldn’t tell from my horrible pun of a title my past few days have been spent in Copenhagen, Denmark as well as a quick day trip to Malmö, Sweden. One thing that every study studying abroad in Europe looks forward to is travel time. While it is so exciting to live and be immersed into the cultures of our respective cities and countries, when else in our lives will we have the opportunity (and time) to travel throughout Europe for a few months? Most likely, never! However, each study abroad program is different in regards to how much travel time you actually get. Some students get weeks at a time. Others, not so much. The travel time for my study abroad program consists of a few extended long weekends (we never have Friday classes so technically every weekend is a long weekend), one full week off during Holy Week “Semana Santa,” as well as five days without classes during Feria in April. I know that sounds like a lot of free time, but trust me when I say every weekend fills up quick. Some long weekends are spent exploring Spain with our program and others I just want to spend in Sevilla since I am only here for so long. Feria is not something to miss in Sevilla, not to mention my family is visiting then- something I am already so beyond excited for. Therefore, Semana Santa was my golden opportunity to hit the ground running and see some new places.

After planning my trip not just once or twice, but more or less three times over I finally decided on a trip where I would be spending my first four days in Copenhagen, Denmark. Why Copenhagen? Well… I like to tell people that it’s because it is a beautiful city and Denmark just happens to currently be considered the happiest country in the world. But if you know anything about me you know that it was primarily so I could visit my best friend/ roommate from back in the US (she is studying there this semester).

Tori and I packed up our shared suitcase and backpacks very late Wednesday night and immediately after classes on Thursday we walked (half ran) to the bus station across the city. Our flight for Copenhagen was set to leave bright and early Friday morning from Malaga, Spain.

After eating one of our host mom’s delicious bocadillos we got on our bus and left about a minute earlier than scheduled. Now, I know that leaving a minute early doesn’t seem like the biggest of deals to everyone who is reading this from the US, but here in Spain we like to operate at least 15 minutes behind schedule. Therefore, this was in fact a VERY big deal. Our bus had free wifi which would have made the time fly by with the exception of one minor problem. The man sitting in front of Tori reclined his seat as far back as humanly possible. He then proceeded to go into the bathroom, conveniently located right next to my seat and smoke a cigarette on the bus. Needless to say, he is not among one of my favorite human beings.

When we arrived in Malaga we made our way to our Airbnb for the night. The woman renting us our room was beyond lovely and sweet and gave us directions to the center of town so that we could at least see the best parts of Malaga while we were there. Tori and I headed towards the beach and decided to eat at whichever place seemed to be best. Even with the water that looked freezing cold, being near the ocean in general made me feel like I was home. IMG_0126

We walked a little further down the beach and found the center of town with a ton of places to eat. Our plan of action for the rest of the night then ended up being: food, ice cream, and a little bit of sleep before our flight. We ended up at a cute little restaurant and ordered two tapas and a main dish for us to share. While the size of the main dish was normal and all of the food we ate was delicious, I have never seen a smaller tapa in my entire life. And I have seen my fair share of tapas in the past few months. Our gelato stop was a huge hit and ended up being the perfect way to end our night.

Morning came far too quickly but in all honesty I was so sleepy that I barely remember the flight. After claiming our bag in baggage claim I was greeted in the arrivals area by my friend Alex from school. It was so nice to see a familiar Muhlenberg face. He helped us get our transportation passes and taught us how to metro back to Em’s (my best friend) apartment. When she got home from classes it was QUITE the cheesy reunion.

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Look! It’s Em!!

Knowing that I would be craving breakfast food, Em took us to an adorable cafe near her school in the center of the city. I got delicious 100% homemade blueberry pancakes and a cup of coffee. I don’t remember the last time I have ever been that excited about food. (Just a quick warning. I experienced Copenhagen mostly through their food so you will be hearing a lot about what I ate.)

Em had some afternoon classes so Tori and I explored the areas surrounding her school. We had some generally vague directions to a few “must see” places and we decided to give them a try. After some uncertainty and a quick pit stop for some touristy pictures in front of what appeared to be a palace we found the Black Diamond, a beautiful modern library. Not your typical tourist destination but it was absolutely beautiful- and the first library that I have been inside in months.IMG_0159

After making a few unnecessary circles and passing the same plazas three of four times we finally found the spot where we were supposed to meet Em. We made our way back to her apartment and before we knew it, it was dinner time! The plan for dinner was to get burgers. Which I know sounds so beyond random for Copenhagen but after not having a burger since being in the United States, I was so excited! The night consisted of a huge Muhlenberg reunion (plus Tori) in Copenhagen. I got to see so many people from back home and experience where they have been living for the past 2 months!

Saturday and Sunday consisted of more sight seeing and of course food! Throughout Copenhagen we managed to do a canal tour on a boat, see the iconic fisherman-esque street with the colored houses, look around downtown, see a gorgeous church, climb up to an observatory to get a view of the city, and explore some causal palaces that just so happen to exist in Denmark. It was a little colder than I was used to (and by a little I actually mean a lot) but after a while I realized that it wouldn’t have been any warmer if I were back in the US. Copenhagen is a lot bigger than I had expected it to be, but I feel like we did get to see a good portion of the city! Everything looked so different compared to our lovely little Sevilla. The warm colored Mediterranean facades had been replaced by grayscale architecture that reminded me of a Russian fairytale.

Out of the all of the things that I expected out of my four days in Copenhagen fantastic food was not something that I had on the list. However, as I now sit here about to write about the food that I had, I would like formally apologize to Copenhagen’s food for not originally including it on my list. To make things easier I will organize this by day and who knows maybe even throw in a few pictures if we decide to get a little crazy!

Friday:

  • Homemade blueberry pancakes and coffee- Absolutely incredible to say the least
  • Street hot dog- Fun story behind this one! We did not anticipate getting a hot dog today but we got a little lost when exploring the city center on our own. So we stopped at a food cart and told the guy to make us whatever he thought we should have to commemorate our first day in Copenhagen. This was the result and now I can never eat a regular hot dog ever again. IMG_0185
  • Burgers!
  • Late, late, late night schwarma with the muhlenberg crew

Saturday:

  • Delicious oatmeal with fresh fruit and natural peanut butter from the Glass Market
  • A pulled duck sandwich from Paper Island- Paper Island is an old warehouse that is filled with high quality, ex-gourmet chef, food stands. The types of food range from Thai and Chinese, to barbecue, Italian, and tacos. As we were walking around we were demanded to try a food sample of this pulled duck and after tasting it I just had to get it.IMG_0226
  • Tiramisu from Paper Island- 100% homemade and 100% amazing

Sunday:

  • Brunch with books- All brunch places around the world should take notes from this amazing little cafe. I felt like I was a character in one of my favorite books as I sipped on my coffee and ate this delicious brunch while I sat in a room with walls made of book shelves. I have limited words to describe just how incredible this food was, so just take a look at this picture as it says more than just a thousand words.
  • Churros with white chocolate and Oreos- Very similar to the types of Churros that I am used to back home, as opposed to the ones that you can find in Spain. Not to mention that I plan on bringing the white chocolate and Oreo flavor combo back to the states in May!
  • Pizza- Probably “the worst” meal that I had while in Copenhagen and it was still amazing! Trying to save a few dollars never tasted so good.

Monday:

  • Cinnamon Bun- Nothing will ever compare to a cinnamon bun from Mallon’s in Ocean City, New Jersey but I can honestly say St. Peter’s in Copenhagen definitely takes second place!IMG_0255

The rest of Monday was actually not spent in Copenhagen, but rather in Malmö, Sweden! With our friends in class for the entire day Gabi, Tori, and I took the bus to the train station, a train to the airport, and then a train from the airport over to Sweden. We figured since we had the time and it was practically right next door we would stop over for a quick visit! I learned two very valuable lessons from this trip. One being that you don’t need a concrete plan, cell phone service, or wifi to get around an unfamiliar city and have an amazing day. And the second being that sometimes it is okay to double check the websites of things that you may want to do.

First, we made our way to a chocolate factory hoping to do a tour and chocolate tasting. AKA we had bold plans for the beginning of our day. Unfortunately there were no tours on Mondays, but it was alright because we could still buy some chocolate for the road. After some free samples we chose our chocolate and got ready to pay. Tori had some slight card trouble and instead of letting us walk away the woman in the chocolate factory let us all pick out HUGE bars of chocolate for free since we would never be back to Sweden.IMG_0265

Our adventures around Malmö continued as we walked down the streets and window shopped. We stumbled upon a castle (which looked more like a jail/middle school if you ask me), took pictures in front of a windmill, and walked by the coast. It was freezing cold and my lips have been chapped ever since, but it was still yet another beautiful day.

I spent my last night in Copenhagen with Em. The two of us got a hot dog together and walked around her city and new home before saying our goodbyes. For any of you out there reading this you know that the two of us are inseparable throughout the year, so this goodbye was definitely a tough one! The only thing that allowed me to keep it together was the fact that she will be in Sevilla in literally one month!

Part two of Semana Santa coming your way in just a little bit!

“To travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Anderson (Since I saw his apartment when I was in Copenhagen)

Hasta Luego,

Emily

Sometimes it’s fun to be a tourist!

Culture shock: “The feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.”

Nine times out of ten, if you are a student who is studying abroad, you have probably heard people talk about this concept once, twice, three times, or 4,000 times before. (Maybe more if you are from my school.) You probably went to seminars on it, read advice columns on how to combat it, and maybe even came up with a game plan on how to face it if it decided to come your way. To my surprise, culture shock wasn’t the type of thing that set in upon my immediate arrival here in Sevilla. In fact, it took a little bit of time before I realized that I was in fact going through it. Everything in the beginning happened all too fast and I was so focused on acclimating myself and finding my own daily routine that I never realized that it can be very hard to live in a different country. (Who would have thought!?) Nothing is more frustrating than attempting to practice my Spanish and having someone respond in English because they know that it will be easier, or trying to get used to how forward people can be here. Everything is all very different, at times a little overwhelming, and as time passes I found myself missing my family and friends back at school. Not to say that I wasn’t having a good time or enjoying myself and time here, because trust me- I am! It’s just that change is hard. And when you throw a ‘type A’ person like me into a completely new scenario they, meaning I, will most likely freak out.

However, combating culture shock is not impossible! In fact, recognizing that I had it was probably the best thing to happen to me. It forced me to put myself out there a little bit and not isolate myself from my new city, even if at that moment in time it’s what I wanted to do. And even better, as the temperature gets warmer and the sun gets a little brighter, exploring the city and doing my homework outside by the river has certainly helped to diminish this weird phase in my study abroad experience. But in all honesty, despite all the sunshine I was taking in, I still really started to miss my family (and friends- don’t worry) more than I thought I would.

Then, perfectly planned as if it were all part of some grand scheme, my grandparents showed up at Sevilla’s door (and by door I clearly mean train station). Seeing them made the rest of the clouds disappear and almost all of the homesickness vanish without a trace. And despite what they say, I was ABSOLUTELY at least 100 times more excited than they were to see me. (And they were pretty excited if you ask me- so just think about that for a second.) Before their arrival I had started to make a list of things I wanted to show them, places we could eat, and all gelato we would try (por supuesto). But along the way I forgot one very important thing. Just like any other normal human being who comes to Sevilla for a week, my grandparents were tourists here- meaning they wanted to do the normal touristy things that I hadn’t even thought to do! Living in a different city, let alone a different country, is completely different than taking a trip for a week or two. I had never thought to take a boat tour or go on a horse in buggy ride! In fact, I was so focused on making Sevilla feel like my second home that I hadn’t really given myself the chance to be that tourist that sometimes we all need to be.

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And let me just tell you, 5 days have never flown by so fast and I never imagined being able to get done half of the amount of things that we were able to accomplish in what was a far too short period of time. Therefore, while I have everyone’s attention I would just like to publicly apologize to my grandparents (because if I know the two of you like I know I do, you are absolutely reading this right now): I am so so so so very sorry for dragging you both around the city and back again, 4,000 times or more, over the course of those 5 days! It was pure insanity but I loved every second of showing my new world to the two of you! In case any of the rest of you were wondering, here is the list of things that we were able to accomplish in that short period of time (amongst some breaks and me working on a little bit of homework).

  • Tons and tons and tons of new restaurants
  • I repeat, tons and tons and tons of gelato (we could have had more- but I will let that one slide!)
  • A visit to Las Setas
  • A visit to La Catedral de Sevilla
  • A trip to Plaza de España
  • Shopping in Los Remedios
  • A boat tour
  • A horse and buggy ride
  • Exploration of Triana
  • An amazing flamenco show

 

There was no area of Sevilla untouched by our presence and no minute wasted, and by the end of a whirlwind weekend I think it is safe to say that we were all completely exhausted. The 5 days came to an end far too fast and I was not ready to start saying my goodbyes when Monday rolled around. However, as nice as it was to spend time with my grandparents I knew it was time to get back to my school work which I had been effectively avoiding.

If you think that my tourist escapades end here you are seriously mistaken. In fact, this was only the beginning!! This past weekend we took a trip with our program to Córdoba, Spain (not to be confused with Córdoba, Argentina). Just like any other program trip we loaded onto buses at 9:00 Saturday morning looking like the happiest human beings anyone has ever seen.

To my surprise, our time spent in Córdoba was far too short. It was simply a day trip but I would have loved for it to have been a full weekend. This extremely old time has some of the most incredible buildings and architecture that I have ever seen! Perhaps one of the most impressive things I have ever seen was the Mezquita or Mosque of Córdoba. As you can probably tell from the name this religious building has clear Islamic origins, both in its name and architectural design as well. However, as the Moors were driven at of Spain and Christianity and Catholicism took over a cathedral was built inside the mosque. That’s right. An actual CATHEDRAL is inside this mosque. If this concept of imperialism isn’t impressive to you, then maybe these picture will be!

After La Mezquita we went to yet another alcázar, this time of Los Reyes Católicos. Much different from the alcázar here in Sevilla but yet Córdoba did not disappoint. Walking around I could not help but to feel like royalty myself. The sun shown down across the ponds and fountains and I honestly think that if I was allowed I may have stayed there forever. Okay… So maybe not forever, but a truly significant period of time.

After the guided tours ended we had about 2 hours for free time and exploration. After walking around for a little bit, we finally settled down at a cafe right next to the bridge. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed every last minute in the warm March sunshine. All in all, a very successful trip!

After some complications on the bus ride home (if you wish to know more please contact me directly, i’ll leave it at that) we finally made it back to Sevilla. A crazy wonderful week into a beautiful weekend, what more could I ask for?

Next week is Semana Santa, otherwise known as my spring break and do I have have quite the adventures planned! I would give a sneak peak, but I think that maybe I should just let the suspense begin to settle in (muahaha)!

“To live would be an awfully big adventure.”- J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)

Hasta luego familia y amigos!

Emily

When it rains… it hails

Just to preface this post, I am currently sitting in my room back in Sevilla; it is 55 degrees F and sunny (with a high of around 66). Not at all an accurate representation of the weather that I experienced this weekend. Now… We can begin.

Ever since I planned my trip to Spain one thing that I would always talk about was traveling to Morocco. After the Paris attacks earlier this year it didn’t look like that dream was going to come true. But now, as I sit here today, I can say that I have in fact been to Morocco. (Mom and Dad- thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!) It was a trip that lasted 2 nights and 3 days with a surprise around every topsy turvy corner. Therefore, it seems only fitting that we start at the beginning of this rather insane story.

Day 1: Friday morning I woke up to one of Sevilla’s colder days. The sun wasn’t really shining and a jacket was absolutely necessary. Since I had packed the night before I thought it would only be best to double check  Morocco’s weather forecast for the weekend. Now, I know what you are all thinking. It’s Morocco Emily, you are going to Africa- it will be sunny and everything will be fine!! The weather mentioned rainy and temperatures a little chillier than I would have liked, so I figured my umbrella and some extra layers would do the trick. After an amazing lunch from our host mom (and yet another lecture regarding not drinking their water), Tori and I got our things together for our walk to the bus. We looked outside and the already grey day has turned into an absolute DOWNPOUR. Not a mist. Not a drizzle. A DOWNPOUR. We hail a taxi cab in between ducking underneath awnings and finally make it to the bus with soaking wet hair and soggy socks (this seemed to be the theme of the weekend).

Our initial travel plans included a 3 hour bus ride, a 30 minute ferry ride, and then another 1.5 hour bus ride to our hotel. Allowing us to leave Sevilla at around 4 and make it to the hotel before 11PM, just in time for a light dinner and a little bit of shut eye. If you ask me, not too bad! However, while on the bus we were informed by our guides that the original port we were leaving from was closed due to precarious weather circumstances. But fear not!! There was another port we could go to. This port meant that the ferry ride was a little bit longer in length. Not a problem because who doesn’t like a nice, relaxing, ferry ride across the Straight of Gibraltar!

After arriving at the port and sprinting inside, due to the never ending monsoon outside, we were all aware that we had about an hour wait until we could catch our ferry. Well, one hour turned into many hours and before we knew it the American study abroad students had completely taken over every inch of floor space. Around midnight we got onboard and waited a little bit more (time unknown- I was trying not to think about it at this point in time) and then finally set sail. The friends I was traveling with and I took over the upstairs. We played card games took naps and attempted to ignore the huge waves and strong winds that stood in our way of visiting a new continent.(Digression- At one point, near the end of the ferry ride, we hit a wave so strong that a chair flew into a chair that our friend was sitting in, snapped the leg, and he fell to the ground. Meanwhile, our friend Caroline’s suitcase soared across the ferry knocking over a few chairs in the process.) By the time we finally made it across to Africa, got on the bus, made sure we didn’t leave anyone behind, bussed to the hotel, and got checked in my head didn’t hit the pillow until 6:00 AM.

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Napping on the ferry

Day 2: My alarm woke me up from my 2 hour nap at 8:00 AM. However, despite my lack of sleep I was so beyond ready for the day. Our hotel was in Tetuan and our first day was to be spent in Chefchaouen! AKA the Blue City. AKA potentially one of the most, if not the most, beautiful places I have ever seen. (FUN FACT- It is said that everything was painting blue in order to keep away mosquitos!!)

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I swear I didn’t photoshop this picture to look more blue than it actually is!

Our day began with a walking tour around the city. It was cold, windy, and rainy but it didn’t matter one bit. The twists and turns of this beautiful city were just as I had dreamed they would be. Everything was painted a different shade of blue; and when you look up there is enormous mountain with the very top capped white with snow. We huddled for warmth and took some ridiculous tacky tourist pictures along the way. Our sea of umbrellas created a manmade canopy across the narrow Moroccan streets. Some of the people who lived there would make fun of us as we posed in blue alleyways. It’s kind of funny to think that something as simple as a completely blue staircase is so absolutely incredible for us, yet for them it is just another part of their everyday life.

After the tour we ate lunch in a restaurant called Aladdin. Naturally, I felt right at home. The decor made me feel like I was sitting in genie’s lamp. We sat on couches and were surrounded by deep purples and beautiful drapery. The food- in the words of my friend Colin, “damn delicious!.” Don’t ask me exactly what it was that we were eating but 10 out of 10 would recommend.

Then it was time for us to go off, explore on our own, and try our luck at bargaining with the many small shops surrounding the main square. As we headed outside we were greeted with yet more rain followed by an oh so wonderful hail storm. That’s right. You read that correctly. Hail. In Africa.

My first attempt at bargaining was for a beautiful, antiqued, ring. After going back and forth for a while I decided to really play hard to get and started to leave the store. The man I was speaking with looked devastated so I politely told him that I would come back in a little bit. About 30 minutes later we returned and would you believe the price went down almost a full 3 euro. (We did pay in Moroccan money, but me saying that amount would just be confusing for anyone reading this.) Not to mention when I did purchase the ring I got a free leather bracelet- I guess I am pretty good at this whole bargaining game.

We explored more of the blue alleyways, talked with shop owners, and ducked in rug stores in an attempt to find warmth. Every single second of those 4 hours of free time were filled with excitement and this overall feeling of being alive. Here I was, not only in yet another country but another continent speaking with people about their lives and cultures. Many of them know at least 4 different languages, with most knowing the upwards of 7 or 8. Being from America we like to think we are among some of the smartest people in the world. But is being able to derive a calculus equation, write a 25 page dissertation, or perform an organic chemistry experiment a truly accurate measurement of intelligence? I am struggling to learn a second language (and sometimes have slight issues with my primary one) while these people can effectively communicate with almost anyone who walk through their doors.

When it started to get a little bit too chilly, we sat down for some something warm to drink. Gabi and I both ordered Moroccan Tea. It was piping hot green tea that was super sweet, with a hint of mint- absolutely incredible. So incredible that I am now craving some as I sit here thinking and writing about it. At this point in the afternoon it was still raining and freezing cold, I had lost complete feeling in all of my toes, and there were still small chunks of hail buried in my my hair. But I really didn’t care. At that moment in time, there was nowhere else in the entire world where I would have wanted to be.

Day 3: Time really does fly by when you are having fun. After finally getting more than 2 hours of sleep (although still not a sufficient amount) we packed up our suitcases, checked out of the hotel, and made our way to a new city in Morocco. The weather forecast for today? A little bit warmer! And, drumroll please…. NO RAIN!

Asilah is a city that is much smaller in size in comparison to Chefchaouen. Although, even if it was smaller in size, it certain did not lack in beauty. The walls of this city included beautiful murals and pastel blues and greens. Not to mention is sits right on the coast of Africa and overlooks Altantic Ocean from the most northern part of the continent. The water closest to the sand was a spectacular Caribbean blue- fitting in perfectly with the color scheme of Morocco. When I closed my eyes and took a deep breath the salty air, and sounds of the waves crashing, made me feel like I was home.

More free time meant more time for shopping and bargaining. However, today I was a little bit off my deal hunting game. It may have been due to the lack of sleep, or the already super low prices, but I really did struggle and couldn’t haggle my way into better deals in this town. Despite the stubborn shop owners I managed to pick up a few things along the way that will allow me to truly remember the beauty of Morocco. Unfortunately, no spare time for another class of Moroccan Tea today. Not going to lie, I was pretty bummed that I hadn’t budgeted that into my time. I guess I really didn’t need that paining for 2 euro cheaper after all.

Our final stop before heading home was in Tangiers. Meaning it was time for the moment that I had been waiting for. Camel rides on the beach! I think that this experience doesn’t need a lengthy description. Look at the pictures below to see for yourself what that entailed.

It was a rough ferry ride back to Spain, with more choppy waves. But as the sun began to set over the African coastline I felt pure bliss! At one point, if I stood in the back of the ferry and turned my head one direction I could clearly see the coast of Africa and in the other direction was a perfect view of the coast of Spain. That is two continents in plain sight after one quick turn of the head. Pretty incredible if you ask me.

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It may not be a Norwalk, CT sunset but it does remind me a little bit of home 🙂

We made it back to Sevilla just in time to get to Cien Montaditos. Otherwise known as one of my new favorite places to eat in Sevilla. After a bite to eat and a quick walk home, my head hit the pillow so hard I don’t even remember falling asleep. Morocco was one incredible trip and an experience that I don’t think I will ever forget!

Next post will absolutely include more Sevilla adventures! Especially since my grandparents will be here next week (AHHHHHHHHHHH)!

“The wilderness isn’t quite what I expected…Its wild!” -Up

Hasta la próxima vez!

Emily

A new home away from home

Is it strange that after only 22 days I am already starting to consider Sevilla a home away from home? After a weekend filled with new experiences and adventures (both in Seville and not) I find my self becoming more comfortable in this new city. The streets that were once windy and confusing now exist in my head as one very strange labyrinth like map, that for some reason is starting to make sense! (Okay so it doesn’t COMPLETELY make sense. And Tori and I may have potentially gotten lost trying to find our friends Friday night…But after almost an hour we did find them! -Mom please stop worrying I swear i’m fine-)  Either way, despite some slight detours and with the culture shock wearing off, I can finally start to see how different life can be on the opposite side of the world. When I tell myself that it is going to be an early night, don’t count on me being in my bed any earlier than 2am and speaking Spanish is starting to become a little bit more second nature. In the beginning my words were shaky with limited sentence structure and an abundance of grammatical errors. However, now I find that i’m a little more confident speaking. It isn’t perfect and I still find myself super nervous with my facing becoming a little flushed- but it is definitely been an uphill climb since day 1! Well… Considering my host mom doesn’t look at me as if I have four heads every time I try to speak with her- I would say an improvement has been made! [Insert Spanish dancer emoji here.]

As I promised in my last post there were several things that I had planned and said I would write about! So, without further ado here they are!

There is nothing more Sevillano than some impromptu flamenco on a Tuesday night! So after finishing my homework (see school does happen here) we hit the streets and explored the Barrio de Santa Cruz for a tiny hole in the wall flamenco bar! La Carbonería was in the back ally ways of Sevilla, but was a place I cannot wait to go back to! The tables wobbled, the benches were uneven, and sort of hurt to sit on, but the atmosphere was authentic. And in all honesty, it felt amazing to be in a place surrounded by people who were not studying abroad. There was music and dancing both by true Flamenco dancers and those who just wanted to perform. And while it was definitely a style of music that I was not used to- the artistry and passion that the performers had made it beautiful to watch and listen to.

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Speaking of things that are true to the culture of Spain, could there be a better way to experience and celebrate the day before finals than going to un partido de fútbol!! With a class that ended at 6:15, a game that started at 7:00, and a bocadillo in hand we ran to the metro, squished in a car filled with other soccer-goers, and then sped to the stadium in a different part of the city. We got in right as the game started and somehow ended up in seats that were incredibly close to the field! (Maybe not the seats that we originally purchased- but hey, I wasn’t complaining.) There was chanting, singing, and Sevilla fans as far the eye could see! The score? Well Sevilla won 3-0, por supuesto. And even if my knowledge of fútbol is pretty slim, it doesn’t matter! Once you are there watching the game it feels like you have been a fan your whole life!

Saturday, bright and early, half of our study abroad program loaded onto buses for our trip to Granada. After a nice three hour nap on the bus we arrived at our hotel with a little bit of time leftover to explore. The landscape of Grandad is unlike anything that I have ever seen before. It is the sweetest town amidst the Sierra Nevada mountains. The plazas feature huge fountains and you get a free tapa whenever you buy a drink- how could anyone not love it there? As a group we toured La Capilla Real and the Catedral de Granada. Inside the chapel is a crypt that contains the coffins of King Fernando and Queen Isabel as well as their child. Not going to lie, it was a little bit creepy…creepy but cool nonetheless. Both the cathedral and chapel were beautiful in design. Every tiny piece was spectacularly ornate, to the point where no matter how many times you visit you could find something new every time. The cathedral in Granada was much different in style in comparison to the one in Sevilla. It had a more mediterranean vibe due to white walls and a hint of turquoise on the ceiling. (If i’m being completely honest- La Catedral in Sevilla is much more impressive- but I could be a little biased…)

After a few hours of touring had two hours of free time before dinner. A friend, who had visited before, recommended we walk up the backstreets of the mountain that Granada is located within to find the most beautiful view of La Alhambra (a place we were touring the next day). After some twists, turns, and cobblestone pathways that severely impacted my ability to stand the next day, we made it to the top. It surely did not disappoint! As the sun was setting in Granada I could swear I was apart of a post card that says, “wish you were here!”

The next morning came early and breakfast made me miss my home back in Sevilla. (Even though we only have two pieces of toast and coffee for breakfast every day. So yeah. The hotel food really wasn’t all that great… Once again, potentially a little biased!) But the rest of the day flew by as we had our final tour and stop in Granada- La Alhambra. This castle, fortress, monstrosity of a structure took us about two and a half hours to explore. The architecture was very similar to that of La Alcázar here in Sevilla- but on a much grander scale. It was one of the last places built for the Muslim emirs in all of Spain. Since most of Spain has a very obvious Catholic influence, it was incredible to take a glimpse into a different era of historic España.

We soaked in as much sunshine and warmth as we could walking through gardens, climbing towers, and taking in all that Alhambra had to offer before finally getting back on the bus and going home to Sevilla. As much as I love to travel and as beautiful as Granada is, I truly did miss Seville. When the bus pulled up to drop us off in the exact place that it had picked us up near La Plaza de España, and my friends and I walked back home, parting ways at our respective bridges, I could not have been happier to see el Rio Guadalquivir!

“There is great big hunk of the world down there with no fence around it.” – Lady and the Tramp

Adios amigos!

Emily