The GoGlobal Blog

Month: March 2013

Taking on the World, one continent at a time.

Taking on the World, one continent at a time.

Well, it’s been about three weeks since my last blog, a good indicator that I am pretty busy traveling and enjoying my time here in Spain! After the Granada trip at the end of February, I have spent the last two weeks doing a lot of homework and studying (we just had our midterms) and planning for my Spring Break. I will be traveling for 18 solid days in April, hitting up four different countries- SO EXCITED!!! Flights and hostels were all pretty cheap, and I am excited to be crashing on some couches at the apartments of other friends who are studying abroad hahaha. I sense a long blog post after that chunk of traveling!

But any who, I have also been continuing my internship at the M.A.R.Q. museum, which has been really fun and interesting. I’m still learning a lot about the museum and possible career choices for someone like me with my majors and ambitions. I also picked up a second internship, where I am an English teacher’s assistant at a small school in Alicante. Every Friday, Luis (the director of the USAC Program) drives me to Aire Libre, the school I teach at, and I spend about 6 hours there assisting Maria, the English teacher, with teaching 3 classes of twenty kids English. It’s actually a lot of fun, and pretty hysterical too. I’m impressed at how good their English is for being only 10-13 years old. A lot of the boys ask me if I have a boyfriend and flirt with me (they are romantics even from a young age), and the girls are interested in knowing if I have horses and what America is like. They are all very smart and goofy, and I have never had more fun playing Simon Says with English commands than I have with them. I am usually not a big kid fan, but I really enjoy going to the school and working with them. It’s even starting to make me think if teaching Spanish in the states could be a possible career choice for me in the future….

Now as for my title, last weekend I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to… AFRICA. A bunch of USAC students and I got together at the beginning of the semester and we planned a trip to Morocco, Africa, through this travel agency that provides safe tours to students in Africa. We planned it all a while ago, and now finally it was here! I had always wanted to go to Africa, and now that dreams was actually going to be realized. We left at 3 am on Friday morning (pretty miserable, but it was the only time that there would be a bus going from Alicante to Malaga, the port city). We arrived around noon that day, met with our group organizer, and headed for the port. We had to take a ferry to Africa, which surprisingly only took about an hour. There were 16 of us USAC students total going to Africa, and we were all ecstatic. We arrived around 7 pm in Ceuta, a small Spanish city in Africa, and then took a bus to our hotel in a small city near Tangier, starting our African adventure.

Morocco was beautiful, but it was not at all what I thought it would be honestly. I admit, I thought it would look like the Saharan desert, or the plains of Africa with a lot of animals and small towns- I blame Hollywood for those ideas. Instead, northern Morocco was incredibly green and mountainous, humid and wet, and appeared more like Ireland than the Africa I had envisioned.聽 The cities were small, and all the buildings were white or blue (blue paint keeps mosquitoes away- check the pictures!). The people spoke Arabic, obviously, but also French and a little Spanish, and they were extremely modest in the appearances, with the women wearing the head scarves and men wearing full body robes. Us Americans really stuck out, and I had never felt more out of place and different in my whole life. Now this isn’t a bad thing- I liked feeling that intense culture shock. It was the first time I had ever been somewhere that was completely different in every aspect- how the people looked, their language, their mannerisms, their food, buildings, interactions, homes, etc. It was a completely different world, and it was exhilarating to see something so different from America and even Europe. I am not going to lie, there were some challenges to this though. My snow white complexion and red/light brown hair brought a lot of attention to me, since all the Moroccans have very dark hair and complexions. The locals stared at my friends and I, especially the blonde haired, blue-eyed girls. It was definitely uncomfortable sometimes, knowing that everyone knew I was not from Morocco, and having them treat me different, but I didn’t let it bother me.

During our trip, we visited three Moroccan cities; Chefchaueoun, Tetuan, and Tangier. They were all different and unique in their own way, but all equally interesting. We did a walking tour in each city, learning a little bit more about it’s history and culture. We learned quite a bit about Morocco’s history as a country as well, but I won’t go into detail here about all that information 馃檪 My friends and I did a lot of walking, shopping, eating, exploring, and learning everywhere we went. We learned that they paint the walls of the city blue to keep the bugs away, and that tapestries, rugs, Argon oil, and leather are very popular merchandise there. We learned about their religion, like how often they pray, where they do it, and their religious rituals. My friends and I learned how to bargain at the little shops and market places around the city, some of us scoring great deals on objects. I bought a beautiful blanket and some postcards, as well as a tea cup set and fridge magnet for my host family (my host mom loves collecting magnets from everywhere she goes, so I thought it was perfect…. she loved it a lot!) I took a ton of pictures, everything that was interesting and beautiful, and even learned some Arabic words and phrases along the way. I only really learned the basics, like Hello, how are you? in Arabic, but I made sure to say them as often as possible, trying to communicate with the locals.

We visited a couple cool spots during our transition from one city to the next, checking out the beach point where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet, as well as the famous cave of Africa. I think my favorite part though, however, was our camel ride. It was probably one of the funniest things I have ever done, and I loved it. The camel ride was included in our tour, and was one of the last things we did. We stopped at this one beach on our way to Tangier, and saw a bunch of camels and people riding them. Everyone was super giddy about it, and we were pushing each other around trying to get to the camels first. The ride itself was not long, maybe only ten minutes, but it was awesome. At first it was terrifying getting on the camel and having it stand up, and boy those things are a lot taller when standing, but it was really scary when we started to move and the camel trainers made the camels run. My friends and I were laughing our butts off because it was just so fun and we were all freaking out. We took tons of pictures and just had a blast. I love saying that I rode camels in Africa now- still feels unbelievable to me that we were able to do that. We left Africa Sunday night, after our visit to Tangier, exploring the city and watching a belly dance show at an incredible restaurant. It was sad leaving Africa, but I was ready to go back home to Spain.

We spent one day in Sevilla during our transition back to Alicante, and it was incredible! Sevilla is honestly what I pictured all of Spain to be like- old and majestic buildings, lots of bull fighters and flamenco dancers, and a rich historical setting. I learned a lot about Sevilla during our walking tour, such as the fact that Sevilla had the oldest tobacco factory, and that a couple of the beautiful buildings and plazas that were built for the World Fair during the 1900s were settings for certain movies, like Star Wars. It was a great time spending the day walking around and hanging out, and it was a nice close to a rather adventurous weekend. When I got back to Alicante, I spent the next couple of days resting and recuperating from that weekend, and getting all the rest of my stuff ready for Spring Break. I have also been spending a lot of time with my host family, because I missed them a lot over the weekend and I know I will miss them a ton over Spring Break. They told me how much they missed me as well, and even said they wouldn’t let me return to the states after the program because they love me too much. It was a joke of course, but it was so sweet knowing how much they like me.

Alright, I got to study for a big test tomorrow, because unfortunately school work does not stop while you’re abroad. Probably won’t be posting for a couple weeks until I am back from Spring Break, but I promise to come back with great stories and adventures!

Hasta luego,

Ryann

Ancient History

Ancient History

Take any Islamic Civilization or Islamic Art class and you will inevitably study Granada. Granada and C贸rdoba have some of the best conserved buildings from before the Catholic Kings took over Spain, the best examples of which are the Gran Mezquita de C贸rdoba (in C贸rdoba) and the Alhambra (in Granada). Walking through some of the neighborhoods here puts you in touch with buildings and streets older than the idea of exploring the Americas. In the U.S., if something’s really really old it might have been built in the 1800s. Here, that’s new and shiny.

Last week we took a trip to C贸rdoba for our Art and Architecture class so that we could see Madinat Al-Zahra, the city built exclusively for the Caliphate of C贸rdoba by Abd Al-Rahman III, and the Gran Mezquita de C贸rdoba.

In 929,聽 the emir Abd Al-Rahman III decided that since he was so rich, he didn’t have to be ruling a measly emirate, still linked to Damascus, so he declared himself the caliph and established the Caliphate of C贸rdoba. After doing this, he decided to build a city for himself. This city is Madinat Al-Zahra, outside of C贸rdoba. It was built with the finest materials and adorned with the finest decoration, because it was meant to be a city of brilliance, the symbol of the caliphate’s power. As time wore on and the caliphate was divided into the Taifas, then defeated by the Almor谩vides, and then the Almorhades, and then the Catholic Kings, Madinat Al-Zahra was abandoned and buried in the sands of time. Until some farmers outside of C贸rdoba happened upon some stones too perfectly arched to be natural, and caused an archeological uproar. The mythical city of Madinat Al-Zahra had been found. Now the city is a museum, and you can visit it and walk on the very floors that the former kings of Andaluc铆a laid. It’s unreal. I’ve never felt so much like I was in a history book. In my classes we study the Independent Emirate, the Caliphate, the Reigns of the Taifa and their art, but it is something very different to be able to stand there and run your fingers across the deeply carved capitals of the red marble columns.

Being in the mosque was another experience. I’ve seen iconic pictures of the forest of red-and-white striped arches printed on the glossy pages of books, and to stand looking up at them gave me chills. Not only is the mosque still largely intact from when it was finished during the Caliphate, but parts of the Christian church it was built on top of still exist as well. The grandeur and the detail are unlike anything else, but the part that really blew my mind was that it was still standing. Through the years of Andalusian turmoil, it is still standing, and around us swirled the whispers of the worshippers who had come through the ages, the whispers of the architects and kings who shaped Spanish history.

There is something magical about being one of millions to have laid your feet down in the same place, and to have stood in awe. There is something beautiful about stopping to gaze and reflect in a building that has held thousands of years of human beauty and suffering and discovery and questions.

 

Portico and arches at Madinat Al-Zahra outside of C贸rdoba, Spain

 

Fant谩stico Sur

Fant谩stico Sur

Time is flying by here in Chile! I realized I forgot to post to this blog earlier, so here is something I wrote on the 25th of February to my personal blog.

I apologize for not updating this blog in a while 鈥 it鈥檚 summer here in Santiago so everyone is on vacation, myself included. As my friends in the United States are currently facing their midterms, I confess that I haven鈥檛 even started the actual semester yet. With all of this extra time before classes start, I had the opportunity to do some traveling in the south of Chile.

I鈥檝e always dreamed of traveling as a backpacker and I finally got to do so! I took a backpacker bus tour called Pachamama (which means Mother Earth in Spanish) through the Lake District with some of my gringa friends. We left from Santiago and traveled to our first stop, an indigenous town called Pomaire, famous for their empanadas that weigh half a kilo (over one pound)! We also made stops at the Rapel Dam and Punta Lobos. We ended up staying in Pichilemu that night, a town known as the capital del surf. That being said, when staying in the capital del surf, one obviously must surf. So that鈥檚 exactly what I did 鈥 or at least attempted to do. I took surfing lessons and by the end of the session I had actually caught a couple of waves!

The next day we left Pichilemu.聽 Our first stop was Santa Cruz, where we visited Chile鈥檚 most famous museo.聽 After that, we saw Villarrica Lake and then headed towards our final stop for the day, a town called Puc贸n.聽 In this town, we got to go white water rafting.聽 It gave me such an adrenaline rush!聽 The rapids were crazy and at one point we even had the opportunity to cliff jump!

We also got to see Ojos del Caburgua Waterfalls and Lake and then聽 the Pozones Hot Springs while in Puc贸n.

We then left Valdivia and stopped in Puerto Montt, where we jumped off the bus because we wanted to visit Patagonia and Torres del Paine.聽 Patagonia is the Antarctic of Chile and Torres del Paine is a national park within Patagonia famous for hiking and trekking.聽 They are both so far south that we had to take a plane to get there.聽 It was cold but so worth it!聽 I got to see penguins, snow capped mountains, glaciers and a magnitude of other gorgeous sights!

After our adventure in the far south, we headed back to the Lake District to hop back on the Pachamama bus, where we continued the rest of the tour.聽 On the rest of the journey we ventured to places like Puerto Varas, Llanquihue Lake, Frutillar, and Salto el Laja Waterfall.

Other things we saw include San Javier, where we got to see a volcano, and Balduzzi Winery, where we got a tour of the winery and tasted many varieties of wine!聽 Then it was back to home sweet Santiago.

I wish I had more time to describe what a unique experience this was.聽 I believe backpacking and staying in hostels is one of the best ways to encounter a culture and meet new people, both locals and foreigners alike.

There was one instance in which it was raining cats and dogs and we were drenched to the bone.聽 We were desperate to get out of the rain and reach our destination.聽 A truck was driving past us so we decided to take a chance and see if we could catch a ride.聽 Sure enough, after we put our thumbs up the truck pulled over for us.聽 Inside was a nice Chilean man on his way to work.聽 He reminded me of my friend Ernesto back in the United States.聽 We had a wonderful conversation 鈥 it was nice to chat with a local.聽 When he dropped us off, he gave us apples.聽 It was such a kind gesture and it definitely put a smile on my face.

I met people from so many different countries during my trip that I鈥檝e lost track of where they all came from.聽 Many people I encountered were not only traveling through Chile but were also traveling the world!聽 Some of the most memorable people that I met was a couple from England.聽 They have been traveling the world for a year.聽 They even sold their house in order to do so!聽 They have inspired me to take risks and the road less traveled.

Now I have a week or so to explore Santiago until the semester starts. I am excited to have even more stories to share about my explorations in the city.聽 (Be on the lookout for a new blog post dedicated to Santiago!)

鈥淐onfieso que he vivido鈥 is a quote from Pablo Neruda (he is a famous literary icon from Chile, as mentioned in a previous blog post).聽 Translated into English, his quote means 鈥淚 confess that I have lived.鈥澛 I hope over time this becomes more relevant to my life.

Besitos.

Serving the Greater Good

Serving the Greater Good

Although the process towards getting our service learning projects started was a bit rough, when all was said and done, the experience has been far more rewarding and positive than I could have ever hoped. In the past week I have been able to tend to the children of Mai Tam as well as work alongside and empower peers at KOTO. Being able to give back and help better the nation of Vietnam was one of the biggest influencing factors on my decision to study here and it gladdens my heart to see actual differences being made.

Mai Tam is an orphanage that cares for up to 77 children from month-old to 17 who all share one common factor: they are HIV+ and parent-less. The organization shelters and educates the children because governmental and other social institutes in Vietnam will not. KOTO stands for ‘Know One Teach One,” and they strive to help the underprivileged youth of Vietnam by taking them from the streets, teaching them life skills, and training them in the hospitality industry. Currently KOTO facilitates training centers in Hanoi and HCMC, both of which also operate restaurants as a social enterprise entirely run by KOTO trainees.

From talking with Fr. Josef at Mai Tam, Anh Duc at Thao Dan, and my colleagues at KOTO, I have gained an even greater understanding of the plight of the underprivileged in Vietnamese society. It seems as if there are almost unwritten codes that discriminate and make it harder for such individuals to prosper. The fact that the government provide little if any aid towards the education of HIV positive children is especially depressing to hear. However, as all of the service projects sites demonstrate, there is a growing movement to change things for the better. I am especially proud that our university’s pillar of social justice encourages this mission as well.

On my first visit to Mai Tam, I did not really know what to expect. However, Conner said something to the extent of, 鈥淛ust hold the kids, it’s amazing that all they want is a little bit of affection and to be loved.鈥 A short taxi ride later, I found myself in the first level nursery room where I struggled to move as 4-5 children dangled from my limbs. The short time I spent with the children and facilitators at Mai Tam really brought into perspective just how fortunate my opportunities in life have been. I conversed with the mothers and other adults there and learned that what drove them to work in what society would call a ‘fruitless endeavor’ was because they had invested their hopes into these children. Even if they [the children] started life with a disadvantage, their innocence and sincerity to learn would carry them leaps and bounds ahead.

More recently, I have poured a large amount of my time into work at KOTO, which has nearly become a part-time job and another daily facet of my life in Vietnam. Being exposed firsthand to the power of social enterprises and life-changing endeavors such as that of Banteay Prieb in Cambodia bolstered my ambition to help foster such differences in the lives of others. While unfortunately, I am not able to directly help out in sharing life skills and mentoring at KOTO’s training center due to space restraints, I have more than found a niche for myself with the background staff of the KOTO organization. Working with the marketing, fund-raising, promotion, and design teams of the organization has revealed to me the intricate support structures that a social enterprise such as KOTO or Friends (in Cambodia) require in order to continue making a positive impact on the lives of others.

My adviser, or ‘boss’ at KOTO, Matin Tran, revealed to me that KOTO is in the midst of a re-branding and expansion. As evidenced by the successful event they held this Sunday, KOTO has already succeeded in establishing a presence in Vietnam. However, the organization hopes and earnestly believes in trying to change as many as lives as it can, that is why KOTO has begun launching other social enterprises such as cooking classes, catering, and a bakery. The goal is to increase the amount of trainees the organization can support and provide a wider set of hospitality training and industries that these individuals can learn and make their livelihoods from.

While I may not be directly helping my peers at KOTO, I still have the opportunity to interact with them everyday at the restaurant or during events such as the Happy Feet Slipper Race on Sunday. When working alongside other volunteers or trainees, I am privy to small moments where we connect. We laugh, smile, and share our dreams and aspirations. It is these little opportunities that have made me enjoy my work so much at KOTO, whether it be hands-on such as helping out with event planning or photography or as simple as scrambling to help assemble the new menus for guests arriving within the hour. Currently, I put in upwards of 10-15 hours a week at KOTO, but that does not include the time spent outside of the office doing other work such as researching event ideas and planning how to put those ideas into action. Working at KOTO has been phenomenal, and I only hope to continue doing my best.

Pictures to come!

Cambodia’s Ruins

Cambodia’s Ruins

It鈥檚 strange how you can drive for five hours and be in a completely different place. A little under a week ago, we trekked through Vietnam and into Cambodia on a chartered bus. Luckily, the program reserved two seats for each of us since we are generally larger than the Vietnamese. I found the bus to be comfortable, although sleeping was not an option (and really isn鈥檛 an option on any road trips in East Asia) because the roads are incredibly bumpy. Yahoo for developing country roads! When we got to Cambodia, we checked into the hotel and almost immediately went to our first historical site, a school-turned into a prison during the Khmer rouge rule. Cambodian people were聽tortured聽in order to get information of the whereabouts of their friends/relatives (simply for the sake of killing them, too). The Khmer rouge completely ruined the country, killing millions of people in order to create a 鈥榩erfect race.鈥 They also destroyed a lot of the聽infrastructure of the country. Anyone with education was killed, maybe they would kill you if they didn鈥檛 like how you looked that day. Education was a threat to the rouge, as you were thought to be more likely to attempt to try and stop the revolution. To say the least, it was terrible. There I was, in the midst of a country destroyed by genocide. In the 70鈥瞫 鈥 not that long ago .. 聽innocent cambodians were slaughtered in the room where I stood; you could still see the blood stains on the tile floors. Yet, no matter how long I looked at a picture of a now dead victim or the clothes they once wore, I could not comprehend the horror. 聽I couldn鈥檛 imagine the situation or hardly believe something like that had ever happened. 鈥 and is still happening now somewhere in the world. The most haunting part were all the pictures of the聽victims聽tortured in the prison. We didn鈥檛 know when these pictures were taken, 聽most likely as they entered the prison for the first time, or in the moments right before they were killed. Their eyes stared right into yours as you looked into their almost expressionless faces. Did they know they were about to die? Some of the faces were smiling .. some in a聽suppressed聽state of confusion or horror. Each was different.

Although a somber afternoon, it was thought provoking. The realization of what our role as a generation became incredibly聽obvious; that everything should be done in order to stop acts of genocide. I was so frustrated, wondering how we let this happen, how the U.S. was ignorant enough to not understand the situation and instead fund the Khmer rouge with weapons and money, too afraid of supporting the Communist government that was being overthrown by the rouge. America鈥檚 No1 enemy were the communists; it was all about image. The U.S. also had just lost the Vietnam/American war and, since the anti-war sentiment was so strong in the states, the U.S. government didn鈥檛 want to get involved in another conflict, let alone the neighbors of Vietnam.

In the morning, we traveled to 鈥楾he Killing Fields鈥 鈥 which is exactly what it sounds like. The area that was once an execution site for the Khmer rouge was turned into a memorial, luckily we had audio guides so were able to go through at our own pace. It was the most well done audio guide I鈥檇 ever listened to, so I think we all learned a lot. Of course it was upsetting, but compared to the day before, it seemed more like a time to be reverent and reflect on all we had seen and learned. Afterwards, we went to a delicious聽restaurant called 鈥淔riends.鈥 It鈥檚 an organization that helps poor, disadvantaged youth learn how to run a business, starting them at the restaurant. After seeing all the horror that had been inflicted on the Cambodian people, I was thrilled to see an organization that worked to better the future. My favorite part of the first two days was visiting 鈥楾he Center of the Dove.鈥 It was about a 45 minute ride outside of Phnom Penh 鈥 again over the bumpy roads 鈥 as we traveled to the center. I honestly had no idea what to expect on arrival, I only knew the center was a sort of special skills school for the physically disabled with a concentration on victims of land mines that are still being discovered all around Cambodia (due to the Khmer rouge). There is an absolutely awful sentiment placed on those with disabilities, as some religions believe the loss of a limb/having a physical disability means you were an awful person in a past life, thus life is very difficult for the disabled in both Vietnam and Cambodia. The Center of the Dove goes around the villages, encouraging those with disabilities to attend their program in order to learn a skill (carpentry, machinery, sewing, etc.) they can use in the real world; they don鈥檛 have to pay a thing! It was genuinely one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, and after the emotion of the two Khmer rouge sites, I was completely overcome by emotion while watching the students carve beautiful statues out of wood, designing and building their own specially designed (and cheap!) wheelchairs. Although we couldn鈥檛 speak to each other, we smiled at each other as a way to show a sort of mutual respect and understanding. After that experience, I realized how much I take advantage of things like my ability to walk onto a bus, take a walk, ride a bike 鈥

 

The next day we headed for Siam Riep, the part of the trip I was most anxious for. After a short evening of exploration and a quick swim in the pool (I will not divulge certain information concerning things purchased at the amazing night market 鈥), I was out. We didn鈥檛 do聽much that night because we planned to get up at 4AM to go watch the sunrise on Ankor Wat. Waking up was difficult but it was stunning (although we kinda got jipped on the quality of the sunrise). We were out all day seeing the different temples around Ankor and I don鈥檛 say this often, but I felt like I was in a movie. All the ruins seemed to be unnaturally beautiful鈥 it was hard to believe I was even there. 聽Until I started throwing up from dehydration, it was a wonderful day. I especially enjoyed seeing monkeys running around a small temple we saw .. Jungle book anyone?

 

Cambodians are incredibly nice people. They don鈥檛 try to rip you off like the Vietnamese do, they give you a good price and are willing to bargain. They, for the most part, don鈥檛 shove things in your face, although we had a bad experience at a road-side bathroom break (Note: people in the states, I hope you all appreciate toilet paper and hand soap) when聽we were haggled by a large mass of children trying to sell us fruit. I wish we were able to spend more time in Siam Riep, the trip was short and I could have stayed for another week. I definitely wanted to see more temples around Ankor park!
Cambodia has such a heartbreaking,聽beautiful story. A country ruined by genocide, it鈥檚 amazing how much those people smile. Our guide told us that people smile/generally seem happy because their lives are exponentially better than when they were under the Khmer rouge. They smile because they are literally are happy that they don鈥檛 have to fight for their life; they are thrilled to be alive every day. It鈥檚 such a neat experience to be around people who treat each day with reverence and happiness.

 

Crepes, Crepes, and more Crepes, please!

Crepes, Crepes, and more Crepes, please!

Sorry that is has been so long! February was a very busy month. SO MUCH TRAVELING!!

In the beginning of February I went to Paris!! It was an amazing trip because not only did I get to visit the City of Lights, but also I got to see my cousin and friend Mia. My cousin Bridget is studying in London for the semester and then Mia is in Paris. It was once in a lifetime experience to go and meet up with some of my best friends in such a beautiful city.

I arrived in Paris on Thursday night and stayed until Sunday morning. Bridget and I stayed together in the hostel because Mia is doing a home stay. On Thursday night we all met up to get dinner and catch up on our time abroad. We ended with our first night together by seeing the Eiffel Tower at night. It was the perfect way to end our first night together!

On Friday morning we got up early and walked around the city. Mia lives right near the Eiffel Tower so we walked from that area all the way to the Lourve. What was great about our trip was that Bridget and I had already been there when we were young with our grandparents, so we didn’t have to do any of the touristy stuff. We just roamed the streets of Paris, which was absolutely perfect. I had my first crepe and french macaroon there, AMAZING. I would go back solely to eat the macaroons.

We were tourists one day and went out to see the Palace of Versailles. I had never seen pictures of the Versailles, and I’m glad I didn’t; the pictures would not do it justice. It such a grand and beautiful place to go, and I would recommend anyone traveling to Paris to see it. The rooms were all extravagant and a bit ostentatious. My favorite (along with everyone else who goes to Versailles) was the Hall of Mirrors. I took a few mirror pictures, and I am not ashamed of it. After Versailles we went back to Paris, to again wander around Paris.

By far one of my favorite experiences I have had thus far in my time abroad. I still can’t believe that I got to see my closest friends in Paris! It was unreal to all be in Europe together and then being able to meet up.

Until next time….

Case

 

Midterm Report!

Midterm Report!

Hola Todos!!

I can not believe we are halfway through the semester!!! I have had a wonderful couple of weeks since my last blog. 聽Last week was Spring Break #1 of the 2 Spring Breaks we get and USAC took us to Cordoba, Granada, and Seville! 聽We saw the Mezquita in Cordoba, it was unbelievable, definitely one of my favorite buildings in the world! 聽The Mezquita is a mosque that was turned into a Catholic Christian Cathedral. 聽The architecture is out of this world. 聽I have a picture of it below. 聽In Granada we went to the Alhambra, it is a beautiful palace that has Jewish, Muslim and Christian architectural influences. 聽We got to spend 2 whole days in Seville. 聽The city is beyond beautiful, I would love to retire there. 聽All in all the trip was a success! 聽I bought souvenirs for my family and friends back home, and I was able to visit some beautiful buildings.

After the trip my friends and I decided to do some touristy things around Madrid. 聽Last Friday, we went to the Prado Museum, it is the big museum here in Madrid. 聽The museum is free to students all the time! 聽We took our time looking at the art because we won’t have to pay to go back!

This past week has been very hectic, the work load for my Spanish class is starting to pile up and we had a very difficult test yesterday. 聽Some of the people in the program do not get credit for the classes, others just get a pass/fail grade, and for Loyola students the class not only counts, but the score effects our GPA. 聽Motivation is key and the class just moves so fast sometimes, it is hard to focus, but I have been doing well so far! 聽Volunteering is going really really well, I look forward to spending time with the kids every Thursday. 聽The karate class has a tournament today, I was not able to ask where the competition is taking place but I hope to go to a competition in the future.

Last night, my intercambio Laura, she is an adult, invited me and my friend Bianca to dinner with her and her friends. 聽We got to practice our spanish! 聽We went to a 聽Peruvian restaurant and after we went out for drinks at a Cuban bar. 聽I am really glad that I have met some natives and have started hanging out with them, they really know how to have a good time. 聽Laura told Bianca and I where some good Latin clubs are, we are getting tired of Electric Music. 聽She told us about a club that gives salsa lessons before the club opens! 聽We are thinking about going next week!

Side Note: 聽I am going to ITALY in 2 weeks!!!!!!!

 

Alright for somethings that I have noticed:

Working is not a big deal. 聽In America it seems like our whole lives are centered around working, but here it is not the center of their lives. 聽I am not sure what their lives are centered around, maybe rest or relaxation. 聽I will ask around!

I have seen a TON of old women with bright red, pink, blue, or purple hair. 聽Some ladies dye their whole head and other ladies just have highlights.

We can not find some good ol’ Mexican food ANYWHERE! 聽They do not eat Refried beans, or yellow rice, or burritos. 聽They eat SO healthily. 聽Bianca and I went on a wild goose chase today looking for a Mexican store, but we never found one 馃檨

Groceries are relatively cheap! 聽Bread is sold in loaves everywhere and you can find it for 39 cents, milk is 70 cents, for a 36 pack of eggs it is almost 2 euro, if that. 聽If only we did not have to exchange our dollars into euros…

***The Dollar is getting better! It is now $1.30 for 1 Euro and when we got here it was almost $1.40***

Alright that is all I have for now! Stay Tuned! 馃檪

Hasta Luego!

Tyler Monroe

The Mezquita
The Beautiful Arches of the Mezquita
Seville
Plaza de Espana in Seville.

 

Berlin!

Berlin!

This past 鈥渨eekend鈥 (Wednesday to Saturday- oh Norway) three of my friends and I took a nice little trip down to Berlin because the flight was $60 round trip and hey, why not, right? We found a super great hostel right in the heart of Alexanderplatz, a relatively trendy and fun area. Bonus: 10鈧 a night for some super stellar accommodations. Yay college budget. In short, Berlin is awesome. I never honestly had the desire to go but am soooo happy I did. In my mind, Berlin has always been the seedy underbelly-ish of Germany, I do鈥檛 know why. I just always associate it with super sketch techno clubs and scariness:p

Happily, this is not the case. We explored Alexanderplatz a decent amount right off the bat, mainly because we couldn鈥檛 find our hostel, so we ended up just circling around for a bit :] We picked up a brochure at the airport for a tour of the Ritter Sport chocolate factory, and, since I鈥檓 quite a fan of chocolate factory tours, we decided we should probably go the second we arrived at our hostel. Lucky for us, Ritter Sport was 10 minutes away and the place was heaven. The walls were covered in rows of colorful chocolates of every flavor and filling; literally the most beautiful thing ever. Unfortunately, we didn鈥檛 get to tour the actual factory part (apparently we鈥檙e too old?) but the experience of the rest of Ritter Sport was still pretty neato.

Next day, we saw a bunch of stuff. Visited the KaDeWe, which has everything ever; went to the Olympic Stadium, saw the Brandenburg Gate, checkpoint Charlie, the DDR museum, Schloss Bellevue, etc etc.

Best thing? THE FOOD. D枚ner Kebab has been one of my favorite foods since living in Italy, and Berlin is basically D枚ner central. YUM. Turkish pizza is also pretty delicious, as were all of the tasty noodle boxes and various street food items I was constantly stuffing into my mouth (I don鈥檛 think I ever really stopped eating on this trip). Tied for best food was the putenschnitzel we ate at this super adorable restaurant on our first night. I don鈥檛 eat pork, so turkey schnitzel is my fave meat dish when it comes to Germany. And this place did it right: giant slab o鈥 turkey, pounded down and breaded, covered with tons of mushrooms. A cute little salad on the side convinced me that what I was eating was entirely healthy. Underneath this massive cutlet, a treasure trove of super yum fried, spicy, awesome potatoes were waiting for me. Seriously, there was a little pile next to it, but as I ate away it was like I was unwrapping turkey wrapping paper to find a giant gift of potatoes beneath. What a great surprise.

All in all, Berlin was super cool. the last day, my friends went on a tour, but I get a bit bored with tours, so I just got lost in the city. I pointed myself in a direction we hadn鈥檛 walked and started walking. Ended up finding some super neat shops, a really strange birthday card with a troll on it for my little brother, and 鈥渢he best kebab stand in Berlin鈥 (which, when my friends and I returned later in the day to try it, was in the middle of being demolished. No joke. Saddest moment of my life).

Oh yea and .65 pretzels. Thanks Berlin. You鈥檙e great.

image

 

Weekend in Granada

Weekend in Granada

Last weekend, the entire USAC group went to Granada for an excursion. We left 10 am Friday and arrived in Granada at 3 pm. We had barely enough to relax and check into our hotel rooms before we were herded out the door to do a tour around the old neighborhood of Granada. We walked along the center of the city, checking out the old buildings, streets, and shops. Granada reminded me a lot of Madrid, with its ld architecture, cool weather, and city feel.聽 The group wandered through the historic center of Granada, called el Albaicin, checking out El Mirador de San Nicolas, which was a breathtaking view over all of Granada, and then the Calles de las Teterias, which were the sides streets filled with Moroccan tea and gift shops. Granada has a lot of Arabic influence, especially in its food, art, and architecture. After some friends and I drank Moroccan tea, which was DELICIOUS, we decided to go back to the hotel to freshen up before we checked out the night life. We went out for dinner, which were mainly drinks and tapas, and enjoyed hours of good conversation and company. It was raining quite a bit during that evening, which cut our night life short, but with an 8 am tour of the Alhambra, it was probably for the best.

After a decent hotel breakfast, we left for the Alhambra at 8 am The Alhambra聽 is an incredible Muslim palace and fortress complex built in 889 A.D. by the Muslims that ruled Granada. It is one of the oldest and most incredible buildings I have ever encountered. I studied the el Alhmabra in several of my art history classes, and so to actually have been able to see it, touch it, and explore it was amazing. Our tour guide went into detail about the history of its construction, its significance, and the changes that have taken place over the past thousand years, and even showed us the exact spot where Christopher Columbus asked for permission and financial aid from Queen Isabel to sail to the New World in 1492. I couldn鈥檛 help but get chills when she showed us the room. We also checked out the Nasrid Palaces, Hall of Ambassadors, Palace of the Lions, Court of the Myrtles, Hall of the Mocarabes, and the Watch Tower, which overlooked all of Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The view was absolutely breath taking, even if it was still raining. Our tour of the Alhambra ended around noon, and we had the rest of the day to wander around the city. One of my friends from Loyola, Suzanna Hart (another blogger, check her out!) is studying abroad in Granada, and so we met up and she showed me her school and favorite cafes and hang out places in Granada. It was nice seeing her, and we planned to go out together that night.

After more tapas and drinks for dinner, my friends and I decided to see a Flamenco dancing show, which is extremely popular in Granada. We went to an underground bar called Liberia and saw an hour long show of flamenco dancing. It was such a fierce and beautiful dance, and the singer was mesmerizing. Totally different from anything I had ever experienced before. Later, we met up with my friend Suzanne and went to a club on the mountain side, facing the Alhambra. It was a blast to dance and experience the Granada night life. We returned home around 4 am, went to sleep, and set back off again for Alicante at 9 am the next day. It was definitely a great weekend in Granada, and I plan to return there one day!

This weekend definitely made me realize again how incredible and rewarding studying abroad is, especially for another semester. It truly is the most rewarding experience to travel the world and immerse yourself in different cultures. Some friends and I were talking about how happy we were to be doing this and having this adventure. We talked about trips and future plans, and we got onto the subject of money. I told them that I was able to do two semesters abroad because I worked my butt off the last three years to save up money, and also because I applied to every single scholarship I could find. To my surprise, I learned that a lot of the kids in my program did the same thing. They worked during college and won scholarships through their school and outside their universities as well. Everyone had their own story to tell about how they were able to afford this trip- Anna worked at Fannie May for two years saving money, and won a scholarship from her school. Spencer worked at his school library for a year, and Paula was a hostess at a restaurant, and they both also received financial help for the trip. I honestly thought a lot of kids were using their parents money to fund their trip, but instead came to find that they too had to find different means to study abroad, and they were successful at doing so. 聽I hope people learn, whether it鈥檚 through reading my blog, talking to me, or doing their own research, that studying abroad, even for just one semester, is possible. You don鈥檛 have to come from an affluent family or work as many years as I did to be able to afford going abroad. There is an abundance of scholarship programs and school funded financial aid awards to encourage people to study abroad. The Gilman scholarship program, for students with Pell grants, made it possible for me to study in Spain, as well as the USAC scholarship for Alicante. I really hope people don鈥檛 give up on going abroad because of the financial shadow that seems to be lurking above. With some proper research, applying, and strong desire, anyone can study abroad. There are endless opportunities available for students to encourage them to experience this amazing adventure.

Until next time, adios amigos!

Ryann