Monday, December 16, 2013

That's All Folks...

Well, I'm sad to say that my study abroad journey has come to an end. So much has happened in these past few months-- it's unbelievable.

Back in the US of A, Philadelphia to be exact--
from left to right, grandma, me, sister Stephanie, and grandma #2
As sad as it was to leave Europe, my host family, the wonderful friends I've made, and my job and classes, I am so happy to be back in my country with my family and friends. I've missed America so much!

What have I learned through this experience? Well, just to list a few...

1. To speak Spanish. That was the whole point of the trip, and it was well-carried out by my program. I would highly recommend CCCS to anyone thinking of studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. They think of all the small things-- from affordable cell phone plans, to Thanksgiving celebrations, to setting up tutoring for spending money while abroad. I don't think any other program could compare (but of course I'm biased).

2. To travel alone/ navigate more independently. I never would have thought that I could get myself to and from European countries, let alone home from Seville to New York, before this trip.

3. To love a culture other than my own. While everyone thinks her own country is the best, each has something to offer.

4. To appreciate history more. And that Europe has so much more to offer than the US in that realm. What is to be said for a country, a culture, and even buildings that have been standing longer than the US has existed...

5. To ask questions and to speak my voice. It's something I really had a problem with before, but after some roommate struggles, I learned the importance of creating my own happiness-- and that nobody knows if something is bothering you unless you say so.

6. To try new foods. Scary, but worth it.

7. To take my drinks stronger-- both coffee and liquor.

8. To let loose a little, and not focus on the time. Take a trip to Paris and splurge a little on macaroons. Or go to a discoteca until 4 AM with the rest of the American bunch. And for once, not to worry about being late. I learned a whole new perspective of time while in Andalucia-- someone asked me the first day I was there, "Why are Americans always asking the time-- always in a rush?" Life, I've learned, sometimes should just be appreciated for what it is, and not counted down constantly. Time really isn't always that important.

9. To be a little more dependent on friends for small favors. Having a solid group of friends to share experiences and feelings (and shampoo/ a shirt once in a while) is so important when traveling with one small backpack-- coordinate and share!!

10. Confidence and self-empowerment. I was so scared to take this leap, but it has been so self-empowering for me. I feel like if I can do what I just did, I can do anything I set my mind to.

That's all folks! Feel free to email me at with any comments or questions. And one last song before we wrap it up...

Defying Gravity, Wicked

Ok, I lie. I have to end with what I started with, right?
Livin' la vida loca, Ricky Martin...

Well, this is me, livin la vida loca. Til next time, Sevilla...

"No me ha dejado" 
Sevilla has not abandoned me.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock-- Readjusting to life in the USA

I am starting to feel really sad about my time here in Sevilla ending, and stressed about this coming semester. I can't wait to see my family-- I have missed them so so much!-- but I can't help but worry about a few things...

1. My classes next semester-- welp, back to reality, folks. These past three months, it was like my classes were a break from my trips, not the other way around. Not to mention that I had little to no homework, one less class than normal because of my internship, and no science classes and/or labs. I think it's safe to say this wasn't my hardest semester yet...Plus, next semester is when all my pre-med stuff starts (applying to schools, taking the MCAT, etc...). Scary.

2. I'll be lonely-- so many of my friends, and my best friend, are studying abroad next semester. What ever will I do?! Make new friends of course, but I'll still miss them tons.

3. The weather-- while there are still highs of 70 over here in Sevilla, my sister had a snow day today... talk about a climate change. 

4. No more siestas-- pretty self-explanatory. And the schedule change in general. 

5. Forgetting what I learned-- I spent so much time this semester practicing and improving my Spanish, and it worked! This program has worked wonders for me in terms of Spanish skills. However, when I am not forced to use the language 24/7 next semester, won't I forget a lot? You know what they say, use it or lose it. I'm gonna try to talk a lot with my lovely Venezuelan roommate, Michelle!

6. Losing touch with all of the great people I've met here. 

7. People not understanding my experience-- I know as soon as I get back, people will ask me all about my trip. I am already frustrated because I know that I will have no idea how to explain it. How do you explain a different culture and three months worth of adventures? Some things you really do need to see to understand. ERGH! Haha. 

I can't wait to see my family, but it's such a roller coaster of emotions over here on Calle Doctor Gabriel Sanchez de la Cuesta. It's always sad to say goodbye. I guess that's why we have to say "see you later" instead...

Monday, December 9, 2013

Paris, France-- "the Capital of Europe"

We (debatably) saved the best trip for last-- Paris, France! The only thing I would have done differently was give myself more time there. Such a  modern and unique city.

The first thing that everyone told me when I said that I was going to Paris was that it is freezing there. So me and a few friends went to a secondhand store called "Humana" to buy actual winter coats before the trip, since we all were under the impression that it doesn't ever get cold in Sevilla when we packed. Just so you know, yes, it does in fact get cold here in Sevilla...

We left Friday morning for the airport, not too early. Luckily, my friend was nice enough to lend me a duffel bag so I didn't have to pay a fine again for my carry on. I slept on the flight. Then, we had to take a pretty long bus ride to the actual city. We didn't really get to Paris until late afternoon-- 4:00 pm on Friday, so if I could redo it, I would plan an earlier flight or one to the closer airport.

Paris was a kind of gray city-- cold and dark, but nonetheless breathtaking. And it was cold , like everyone said it would be. We explored that first night, saw the Sacred Heart Basilica, some cute candy markets, and of course, the Eiffel Tower.

Sacred Heart, or Sacre-coeur, in Montmartre, the same neighborhood as our hostel (which I loved!).
 We saw a lot of cats. This was one in a convenience store...

In one convenience store, when we checked out, the cashier flipped a switch and a discoball turned on. So neat! I was hysterical.
A carousel I saw the first night, wandering.
I also loved the stores in Paris-- wish I had more room in my suitcase to bring home some of that world-class clothing!

Love locks <3
The Eiffel Tower was one of the coolest things I've ever seen. It's massive and very pleasing to the eye. At night, it sparkles every hour, on the hour, for 10 minutes. We spent most of our nights there and taking pictures with every kind of pose imaginable.

The next day we did some more exploring. Some of my favorite sights:

The Wall of Love, which has "I love you" written in several languages (understatement).

The metro: I love public transportation. I have learned in my time in Europe to take advantage of it! We bought 10 trip passes in both Barcelona and Paris and it made the trip much easier and time-efficient.
Me-- loving life, waiting for the Parisian metro
 Some little plazas...

 And of course, the Notre Dame Cathedral. What an amazing work of art and architecture. It amazes me to see such an old building still standing in perfect condition. Nuns were singing inside, and the line to get in moved really quickly. I was impressed by the whole experience of the Notre Dame.

Stained glass window, possibly the oldest / largest I have ever seen.

The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore and cafe: just kind of passed by, but still cool. Apparently it's really famous (?).

THE LOUVRE ahh. I never thought I would see the Monna Lisa in person. Much smaller than I thought, but almost surreal to think I was a few feet away from one of the most famous paintings in history, created by one of the world's most talented men ever.

We decided also to try macaroons. Mine was "rose", which didn't really give me a good idea of the flavor ahead of time. Still unsure about it-- I think it was raspberry or some other kind of red fruit. Delicious, despite my not knowing the real flavor. The world will never know.

Saturday we went out and went to the Eiffel Tower afterwards, to watch it light up again. We had a great group of girls and shared lots of laughs. Unfortunately, we couldn't do any more sightseeing on Sunday because we had to leave early to catch our bus and then our flight. I am glad I am finished on RyanAir, because I don't think I will ever have a scarier landing again in my life. We literally bounced off the runway and were tilting heavily side to side. People were screaming in fear. Would you believe they still had the nerve to play their "Congratulations! This has been another on-time flight by RYANAIR!!" jingle? People. Ha!

I can't wait to go back one day, because I know there is still so much more to see!

Sunday, December 8, 2013


Better late than never, right? I finally have a chance to blog about my fantastic weekend trip to Barcelona...

Barcelona has one of the best soccer teams in the world-- some of my friends bought jerseys!
Where to begin?? I'll start by sharing what I learned about Barcelona.

Barcelona is part of the autonomous community of Spain called Catalunya.
To the right, light yellow. (Sevilla is in Andalucia, which I don't think I have mentioned before... oops.)
Catalunya basically wants to become its own country. They speak Catalan rather than Spanish. It is similar, but considered a completely separate language (although several people speak Spanish and even English still, since it is such a tourist-attracting city). To me, it seems like a mixture of Spanish and French, which makes sense since it borders France. You'll see more Catalunyan flags than Spanish ones. It's really interesting. There have been protests while I have been here, and we've discussed the possibility of Catalunyan independence in my culture class. Many seem to agree that it would be to Catalunya's benefit to stay part of Spain, considering they would struggle financially and lose all relations with the rest of Europe should they break free. I guess we'll see what happens...

Gaudi was a famous architect who designed many buildings in Barcelona, all very modern and once largely misunderstood. Then again, aren't most ground-breaking artists misunderstood at first? Here's one of his works, right near our hostel...

We flew to Barcelona on Friday morning, very early. I ended up being charged 66 euros for my bag being the wrong shape, not even overweight, and I was so upset. It may have ruined my trip, but after we landed, I went to the bathroom and a random stranger gave 40 euros to my friends to help me pay for it. I don't think a stranger has ever done something so nice for me. I don't think anything could have made me angry or upset for the rest of the trip, because I was so thrilled with my new found faith in humanity.

Lesson: take advantage of RyanAir when you're studying abroad, because the tickets are really inexpensive. But make sure you know what you're doing. Even trying to buy tickets online, they try to automatically add all kinds of car rentals and insurance to rack up the price. Also, their suitcase rules are really sketchy, so pack as lightly as possible and don't bring ANYTHING expensive or sentimentally valuable in any way. I've had something taken I think each time I've been in the airport, and I still don't understand why, since they were all small things.

We got to Barcelona on Friday, and took a stroll around. The first thing we did after getting a quick cafe was visit the Sagrada Familia. I think it's my favorite of all the cathedrals and basilicas I've seen so far. It's very modern, very colorful, very intricate, and still a work in progress. While Gaudi passed away before he could finish it, they are continuing the construction. It is expected to take a few more decades. You can see a difference in the two parts that are done now-- since Gaudi's blueprints were lost, another architect worked on creating a similar finish to the masterpiece.

The inside is supposed to be a forest. The columns are all designed to look like trees. The stained glass was so vibrant, I wish a picture could do it justice...

Later, we walked around some parks and side streets. We got a pretty good view of the city.

Friday night, we were all pretty tired. We went out to eat and to a bar for a little bit/ a discoteca, but didn't last too long before heading back to the hostel for a good night's sleep.

The next day, we went on a walking tour, which I was doubtful about, but later really happy I did. Our tour guide was awesome. Funny and really smart. I learned a lot about the history of Barcelona. I am not a history fan, so there is something to be said for the fact that our guide made it interesting enough that I actually enjoyed and even retained what I learned in those few hours.

We went all around the city, seeing all the buildings, new and old. Lots of churches. We also learned about the Jewish community, which really interested me. There is one synagogue, tiny and hidden. The Jews were persecuted time and time again throughout history. A seemingly never-ending tragedy.

We found this beautiful fountain afterwards, and met a girl from Holland. It's always so much fun to meet people who are in similar situations as me. She told us about her motivational speaking company, and her already-published book that she is in the process of translating into (if I remember correctly) English. What a gal! Oh, the people you meet in traveling...

Of course we made a beach stop, despite the cold weather. So beautiful! I wasn't as brave as my friends who put their feet in the water. 

I'm always happy at the beach.
 After the beach, we watch the Barcelona soccer game in a little bar, and ate some tapas. Barcelona won, of course. Not a very interesting game though, since they crushed the other team. We went to Las Ramblas, a street full of vendors, and the famous market "Boqueria," which we snacked our way through and called dinner. Pretty good, if I say so myself!

At night we went to the Magic Fountain, which was one of my favorite parts of the trip. The fountain was complete with music and lights that changed colors-- we spent a good amount of time watching it and enjoying sitting after walking all day.

That night, we went out to a huge discoteca called Razzmatazz. It was so much fun!! There were a ton of floors and lots of different music playing. I was a little scared though, since not only was my friend Corey pick-pocketed earlier that day, but a stranger pulled me by the hair and demanded I buy her a drink, because I had allegedly spilled her's. Not true, and I escaped without harm of course, but this night on the town was not as low-key as a night out in Sevilla. We had to be on our guard.

Sunday, we went to the Olympic Stadium. Considering all that Barcelona had been through, it's amazing that economically they could support the Olympic Games.

After a little more walking, visiting the Ports, and a really good sandwich for lunch, we had to head home to Sevilla.

Isn't it weird that Sevilla feels homey now? It's amazing how quickly you can adapt to something so foreign, and even grow to love it.

Barcelona was great, and a fun trip because it was so much more modern and different than every other city I've visited so far. It reminded me a little bit of the Big Apple-- the most similar to an American city I've seen since being here in Europe.

Can't believe how the time is winding down...

It's Christmastime in the city...

I have this really weird feeling right now. While the city is lighting up for the holiday season, the warm temperature and me being in Spain is throwing me off-- I can't seem to find myself in the holiday mindset. Rather, it just doesn't feel like Christmas to me yet.

Regardless, the city is absolutely beautiful. The streets in the center of Sevilla are completely lit up. I love the purple... I didn't understand the color choice at first, but then I remembered that purple is the color of advent. It amazes me that the Catholic religion still has such an impact on daily life here. Catholicism, although many are not anymore devoutly practicing, is something that, from my perspective, is heavily ingrained in the Spanish culture.

This is the Plaza Nueva... all lit up! Isn't it beautiful?

Instead of my sugary cookie and mint smells that go along with my idea of Christmas, these orange trees are bringing a lovely new scent to the city this Christmas season.
 One of the main roads, Avenida de la Constitucion. The prurple lights go all the way down. So impressive!

There is a light show type of thing at one of the nearby smaller plazas, with all kinds of color and effect changes...

Even our school is in the holiday spirit! The Centro Norteamericano:

The representations of "Belen," or Bethlehem and the nativity, are very popular here in Sevilla. Here is the one in the school...

The hospital where I intern, el Hospital de la Caridad, has a beautiful Belen that people pay to see every year. It is really intricate and truly beautiful.

The three kings, the Magi, in the Belen of the hospital. I've learned that while Santa is becoming more popular in Spain with each generation, the Spanish gift tradition is that of the "Reyes Magos"-- the three kings. Children leave their shoes out the night of January 5th, and the kings leave gifts for the good girls and boys. January 6th is a Catholic holiday-- one of the feasts, I believe. 

I love all the decorations-- they make me smile every time I pass by. They don't make me feel like Christmas, though. It's a weird feeling-- I guess it's just not what I'm used to for the holidays. The weather definitely has something to do with it-- it's always cold and often snowy for Christmas where I live. It also made me realize that the traditions I have with my family and being with the people I love are what make my holiday season what it is. As much as I will miss Sevilla, I am so glad to know that I am going home to all of my favorite and cherished traditions!

The Christmas tree in Hotel Alfonso XIII
It really is the most wonderful time of the year. 

¡Feliz Navidad a todos!

Friday, December 6, 2013

El Hospital de la Caridad-- a little photo album.

Here are some photos of the hospital where I've been interning this semester in Sevilla. The building is massive-- this is just a small glimpse of all of the beautiful details! Enjoy.

The nurse's office
One of many patios...

The dining room

Difficult to see, but one of many stained glass windows.

A portrait of Miguel Manara-- the founder of the hospital.

Azulejos-- the blue tiles that are in almost every room of the Caridad.

The main hallway.
The view from the roof!
One of several hidden staircases...
Botica-- an old word for pharmacy. 

Beautiful flowers :)

Entrance to the church.

Where Miguel Manara is buried.

Stained glass in the church.

The church of the Caridad. Amazingly beautiful and detailed.