The GoGlobal Blog

Tag: Spain




I’m so excited to tell you all about my latest trip to Barcelona, Spain! This particular adventure has been my favorite trip to date in Europe, despite the many roadblocks faced along the way.

In Barcelona I got to use all the Spanish I know!! So basically, none. But by the end I was using ‘hola’, ‘gracias’, and ‘amigas’ like a champ! We had to mime our way through not one but two meals, but it was pretty satisfying to be able to communicate without English for once.

I also learned the words for ‘lost’, as I got my phone and wallet stolen on the first night. I think I took about 5 years off my parents lives (again) as I called them at 4am and asked them to cancel all my credit cards…

My friends and I decided to blame the incident on the fact that I was blonde-prejudiced while in Spain, since my blonde hair and Casper white skin don’t exactly blend. Speaking of white skin, throughout the entire city of Barcelona I could not for the life of me buy sunscreen. Everyone is apparently too dark and therefore above sun poisoning (I am not). I spent a good three days being absolutely lobster red, which didn’t help my standing out problem. However, that burn has quickly faded into a golden bronze so I can’t complain too much.

In Barcelona, we saw everything (probably) via a million different kinds of transportation. We saw the city from above in a cable car, which was very helpful to getting us oriented. We rented bikes one day and saw La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi architecture (many times from the McDonalds across the street- it had macaroons?!), the windy alleys of the Gothic Quarter, and, of course, the beach. This was so much fun and I want to do this everywhere I go from now on! We went on a bar crawl, after picking up a few more Loyola Ramblers, and saw the inside of one of the most famous bars in Barcelona- Espit Chupitos. This place sells only shots and has over 200 to chose from! Most of them were on fire, involved whip cream, or had elaborate science experiement build-ups. We also cabbed all over the city in order to make the most of our time- our hostel was located in the city center, so the beach was just out of reach by foot. Overwhelmingly though, we just walked. I think we went up and down the main strip, called La Rambla, 800 times.

Finally- food. My favorite part of any trip. I found a new obsession- paella. My friend Madison and I had paella every meal for two days upon our arrival. It’s the perfect combo of a light rice dish with the freshest seafood all topped off with a lemon. We couldn’t get enough. We also were on a sangria kick throughout the trip, because when in Spain! There is also an amazing market on La Rambla called  Mercado de La Boqueria with so much fresh food and fruit. We came out with four savory pastries and a huge pile of guacamole. I left Spain very well fed!

I’m just going to let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Barcelona, I miss you already!

IMG_5505 IMG_5524 IMG_5528 IMG_5529 IMG_5530 IMG_5533 IMG_5541 IMG_5549 IMG_5554 IMG_5556 IMG_5550 bar crawl group


Next week, my family is coming to town so get ready for a whole bunch of London!!


Bienvenidos a Madrid

Bienvenidos a Madrid

¡Hola! ¿Qué tal? Greetings from Madrid–Spain’s capital city and the heart and soul of its vibrant culture. My first 10 days here have been filled with incredible sightseeing, countless new encounters and unforgettable experiences, and some less glamorous communication fails as I continue to learn about and adjust to the Madrileña way of life.

My first discovery was that Madrid is truly a city that never sleeps–a lesson made particularly difficult to cope with due to the jet-lag I was battling the first week of my travels.  From the shops and flea markets in the morning to the tapas and discotecas that continue all through the night, the city is literally teeming with life at every hour of the day.  Out of self-preservation, I have learned to fully embrace the traditional Spanish “siesta,” aka taking a much needed afternoon nap!

I’ve also slowly been learning to fit in with the Spanish norms of behavior and experienced my first bit of success just this morning when I was mistaken for a local (I proceeded to give the poor woman false directions in broken and heavily accented Spanish). However, my first few days were full of confusion and social blunders as I might as well have broadcasted to all of Madrid that I was an American tourist.  Here in Spain, blatantly staring at strangers is seen as perfectly acceptable, yet offering them a friendly smile is considered too forward. Needless to say, this took some getting used to, as I spent my first few days awkwardly smiling at everyone who looked my way on the Metro!

Along with making these discoveries, I have been busy familiarizing myself with the city through visiting many of the famous parks, monuments, and museums such as Retiro Park, the Palacio Real, Catedral de la Almudena, museo del Prado, and Reina Sofía in addition to starting classes at La Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, moving in with my host family, and taking daily excursions to various surrounding areas.  This past Saturday, USAC took a day-trip to Toledo, the historic capital city of Spain.  Only an hour away from Madrid by autobús, this trip offered a great opportunity to learn about the rich history of Spain and its mix of religious cultures as well as to take stunning pictures of the ancient city!

With events such as the much anticipated World Cup starting on Thursday as well as the recent abdication of the Spanish King Juan Carlos, I couldn’t have asked for a better time to reside in the hub of Spanish culture. I’m excited for my weeks here to come and can already tell that it will be muy difícil to leave at the end of the month!

Until next time, ¡adiós!

The beautiful city of Toledo!
The beautiful city of Toledo!


A Few Study Abroad Questions

A Few Study Abroad Questions

The realization that my time in Madrid ends in three weeks almost brings me to tears. I have learned so much about myself in this city and I have met many amazing people. It will be so difficult to leave! I have been receiving a lot of questions lately from students who are considering studying abroad. I decided to put together some of their questions. You can find the questions/responses below.

Do you interact with the students in your program?

  • Yes! They have become my family. All of my classes are with USAC students.

How many Spanish classes are you taking?

  • I am in Track III and taking two elective courses. The History of Spain through Cinema class is in Spanish and the History of Flamenco class is in English. This schedule has worked out well for me.

Have you seen improvements in your Spanish?

  • I do not speak as much Spanish as I would like. There are some days where I realize that I have not had a conversation in Spanish outside of school. USAC offers suggestions for getting more involved in the Spanish culture. Many students, including myself, have English tutoring positions. This has been a great way for me to build a relationship with a family in Spain and earn a little extra spending money. There are also volunteer opportunities and internships.

Is it easy to understand the Spanish spoken in Madrid?

  • I still struggling understanding the Madrileños. They speak extremely fast and do not enunciate their words. I have an easier time understanding people from South and Central America.

Are you living in an apartment or homestay?

  • I am living in an apartment with one roommate. Originally, I had two roommates, but things did not work out with one of the girls.

Are you happy living in an apartment or do you wish you had chosen a homestay?

  • I have been very happy with my living situation (ever since the crazy roommate left). There are days I wish I had chosen a homestay, so I could build a relationship with a family in Spain and practice my Spanish more. With that said, there are some people in my program who are not happy in there homestay. So, I don’t know! I think it depends on who your roommates are or what type of family you are placed with.

What are your thoughts on Madrid as a Study Abroad city?

  • Madrid has been the perfect place for my study abroad experience. There is so much to do in Madrid. There are great museums, parks, restaurants and nightlife. I have also felt very safe in Madrid.


Traveling within Spain

Traveling within Spain

Madrid has been an absolute dream, but it has been nice to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. I have been lucky to have the opportunity to sneak away a few times since arriving in January. There are a lot of greats cities within an hour plane ride of Madrid.

My first excursion out of Madrid was a day trip to Toledo, Spain that was organized by USAC. I was excited to find out that the day-trip was included in the cost of the program. We started out the trip with a panoramic tour of Toledo. A tour guide then led us through the town. I really enjoyed learning the history of what I was seeing. There is an immense amount of history in Toledo.


A few friends and I planned our own day trip to Segovia, Spain. I would definitely recommend visiting if in Madrid. Segovia is a 30 minute train ride from Madrid- perfect for a day trip. It only took us about five hours to check out all the sites. Segovia is known for its Roman aqueduct, Cathedral (last Gothic-style cathedral built in Spain) and the Alcazar.


My favorite trip outside of Madrid was to Valencia, Spain. I absolutely fell in love with the charming city. Valencia is on the Mediterranean Sea and only an hour plan ride from Madrid. My friends and I enjoyed exploring the market, snapping pictures of all the orange trees, and trying the local paella.


Ancient History

Ancient History

Take any Islamic Civilization or Islamic Art class and you will inevitably study Granada. Granada and Córdoba 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 Córdoba (in Córdoba) 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 Córdoba for our Art and Architecture class so that we could see Madinat Al-Zahra, the city built exclusively for the Caliphate of Córdoba by Abd Al-Rahman III, and the Gran Mezquita de Córdoba.

In 929,  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 Córdoba. After doing this, he decided to build a city for himself. This city is Madinat Al-Zahra, outside of Córdoba. 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 Almorávides, 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 Córdoba 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 Andalucía 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 Córdoba, Spain


8 + 8 + 8

8 + 8 + 8

There are 24 hours in a day. Those 24 hours can be divided into three sets of eight hours. The Spanish day essentially follows the structure of 8 + 8 + 8. Eight hours of rest, eight hours of work, and eight hours of free time.

We’re thinking that we are not going to possibly have enough time to get all our schoolwork done and explore the city and absorb the culture and travel, but eight hours a day for free time is a lot. And that’s just the five-day work week.
It’s interesting that Spaniards think of the day this way, with free time and time to enjoy oneself built into the routine. In the U.S. it seems like we know that we need to be at work or school for eight hours a day, but then we have to come home and do more work and more things and if we don’t totally get eight hours of sleep then that’s the way it goes. We enjoy life so much less than we should.

Here, things are more relaxed. Whenever we leave to go on a walk or to go out for food, our host señora says “se disfrute mucho”, which means “enjoy yourself to a great extent”. Here, the meals are slower. They are meant to be cooked with love and shared with friends over good conversation. Life is lived in the street so that it can be shared, so that experiences can be had and friendships can be made. Life here is about enjoyment and living in the moment.

If nothing else, this is what I want to bring home with me. To remember to let myself enjoy life, and to remember to divide my time so that I can equally feed my body and my soul, as well as my obligations to society.

First Impressions

First Impressions

¡Hola! Finalmente estoy en Granada.

First of all, Spain is beautiful. When we first landed in Madrid, we got to see this beautiful sunrise made up of layers of orange and gold and yellow with the silhouettes of the mountains in front of it. From Madrid we went to Málaga, which is a coastal town with a lot of palm trees. We didn’t see a whole lot of it because we were all basically vegetables from jet lag and travel, but we did get to go to el centro and see a really beautiful cathedral and a building from when Málaga was a port for this region.

From Málaga we drove to Granada. It’s probably one of the only hour and a half road trips in the world where you see a beach at the beginning and snow-capped mountains at the end. Granada. Is. Beautiful. It’s in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and almost every home and building has views of the mountains and the Alhambra. Granada is a medieval city, so many of the buildings are extremely old, and much of the city retains a lot of its history from when it was home to los arabes, los judios, y los católicos. A lot of the buildings are white with red tile roofs, and it actually looks like paradise. Much of the city was constructed before cars, so the streets are very narrow and change direction a lot. The streets also don’t have prominent signs, and nothing’s on a grid, so it’s somewhat difficult to navigate. I do not envy the drivers around here at all.

There are a few things I’ve noticed so far. Spaniards are all about second breakfast: you eat a small breakfast, then halfway through the morning everyone has another cup of coffee and a snack. Siesta is also serious business. Everything shuts down and everyone goes home to eat lunch and take a rest. Right now it’s siesta time, and it’s practically silent outside. Lunch is the biggest meal here, and it’s very important that everyone gets to eat with their families (not unlike dinner in the States). Dinner is a lot more casual, and people often go out for drinks and tapas for the evening meal. Vegetarians are uncommon here, and if you say that you want something vegetarian, it usually ends up including ham. However, my host mom is an excellent vegetarian cook, which works out well because my roommate and I are both vegetarians.

Spaniards have a very odd relationship with their floor. You can’t put things like bags on the floor because it’s bad luck, and you can’t put clothes on the floor because the floor is considered to be dirty. No one goes barefoot in the house for the same reason, but people clean their floors all the time. It’s very rude if you walk around without slippers or shoes on in the house, but my roommate and I keep forgetting that. Whoops.

Let’s hope I remember to wear my slippers and be very clear about not wanting ham on anything I eat. ¡Hasta luego!

Counting Down

Counting Down

The rest of Loyola is back on their grind, and I’m at home in the frozen Midwest for the next two weeks until I can finally land in sunny Spain. Thank goodness for Netflix.

Somewhere in that period of time I should probably find a suitcase and maybe pack and brush up on my Spanish and find a gift for my host mom. Also, Netflix.

I’ve been planning on going to Spain since before I even got to college, and I’ve been stalking Granada on Wikipedia, lonely planet, Google Maps, architecture websites, etc… I’ve been excited about going before I even applied. But now that I have all this free time to think, I’m starting to get a little nervous. Will the moon look the same from across the Atlantic? Will my Spanish be good enough? Will my host mom and I get along? Will I miss my cat too much?

I expressed these feelings to one of my friends who studied abroad last semester and he told me that yeah, I’m going to be nervous because I’m about to go live in a country that I’ve never been to for an extended period of time. But he also said that I absolutely need to do it and I’m going to have the experience of a lifetime. I don’t think that we can grow as people unless we do things that make us nervous and uncomfortable, and I know that right now it’s time for me to grow some. I believe Eve Ensler when she says that we should take trains (in this case, planes) by ourselves to places we have never been, and I believe Shiloh when they say that if I have a heart, I have a home.

Despite the fact that I’m freaking out a little (a lot), I’m reminding myself that I’m going to be in the same city as my favorite building, I’m going to be speaking a language that I love, and I’m going to be surrounded by so much beauty and knowledge I don’t know how I’ll handle it. It’s also warm there (score!). The fact that I feel nervous never ends up eclipsing the fact that I feel so lucky.