The GoGlobal Blog

Author: Alaina Dulecki

Hello! My name is Alaina and I am a senior at Loyola, studying Spanish and International Studies with a minor in Urban Studies. I am passionate about community organizing, and hope to work with immigration after graduation. I have been studying Spanish for about eight years, and I am very excited to immerse myself in Spanish culture and improve my language skills. I can't wait to see what this semester will bring, and share it with you!
Buen Camino

Buen Camino

During Semana Santa (which was essentially my Spring Break) I walked 165 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage ending at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. I walked for 8 days, with my only goal being to each day get closer to Santiago. There are many different routes, but I walked along the French Way, which is the oldest route and one of the most common for pilgrims nowadays to take. I began my camino in O Cebreiro, which is the first pueblo on the French way in Galicia, a northern region of Spain. Walking the camino has been a dream of mine since I began to learn Spanish, and I know that I couldn’t spend a semester in Spain and not do this.

My program ends May 18th but I don’t fly back to Chicago until June 1st, so my original plan was to walk the camino in my final week of being in Spain. A few weeks before Semana Santa I realized that if I were to swap trips around and do my camino then, I would have 10 days to walk rather than 5, so that is what I did. What that meant though, is that I had to prepare for this 165 km (approx. 100 miles) journey in just a few weeks. I have always loved the outdoors but I had never gone on a hiking excursion like this before, meaning that I had no idea what in the world I was getting myself into. I began to do what I do best– aggressively research and make so many lists to feel somewhat in control of this situation in which I couldn’t even fathom what to expect.

I am a planner. I plan down to the detail because planning,  for me, takes away the a bit of the anxiety about the unknown. I made an excel document detailing which place I would end up in that night, and which albergue would be the “best” to sleep in, but after day one, I ended up disregarding my carefully detailed work. Regardless of how much I wanted to plan, this was a time where I needed to give up control and just exist. Now, that sounds like a lovely thought, and now it is, but I figured this out because the first day I was on the top of a mountain in a middle of a snowstorm. I arrived in O Cebreiro the night before to find a pueblo covered in snow (it felt like a whole different world than Salamanca, which, that same day, was 60 and sunny). I was told by the woman working at the albergue that the following day we would be unable to walk on the pilgrimage trail, but rather we would have to follow the highway until a pueblo named Triacastela. I immediately asked myself what I had gotten myself into, and in that moment I felt entirely underprepared. I hadn’t planned on arriving in Triacastela until my second night, but that first day I hiked there along the highway and through a snowstorm.I arrived to the public albergue freezing cold and soaked to the bone, but I had arrived. Despite the wretched weather, you are always greeted by other peregrin@s with the greeting buen camino. All along the camino you hear this being spoken between pilgrims, as words of encouragement, solidarity, and community.


That first day, I began to develop my camino routine. Each night (minus the ones in Santiago) I stayed at the public albergue in the pueblo. The region Galicia has a network of public albergues solely for peregrin@s, meaning that you needed the pilgrim’s credential in order to stay there. Each morning we had to be out of the albergue at 8 am, which meanta 7:30 alarm so I could throw on clothes, brush my teeth, and pack up my bag. Most mornings I got breakfast in whichever pueblo I slept in, and then I walked until I reached the next place I would be sleeping, arriving anywhere between 1 and 5 pm.

Most of the time, I had no idea where I was. Along the camino there are yellow arrows marking the way, so you never had to think too hard about where you were going. A man I walked with for part of a day said to me, “out here, there are only two names for towns: the next and the last.”When you’re walking, pueblos come and go as you walk through, and time doesn’t really seem to exist because your day consists of walking and sleeping. This disconnect from reality brought me a lot of peace– I didn’t have to think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other until I reached the next town.


I walked the camino sola, by myself. Before leaving, both my real parents and host parents were worried about me going out into the mountains by myself for ten days, but doing so allowed for me to have one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I began my camino with the intention of using it as a time of reflection and to spend time being connected to God through prayer and nature. I left everything happening in my life back in O Cebreiro, so I was able to focus my energy on being with God. The first day of walking I listened to the playlist I had created beforehand, but the more I walked in silence the more comfortable the silence became and the more out of place the music felt. There were times when I walked with others, but most of my time was spent by myself, in silence, surrounded by incredible beauty. When I did run into other peregrin@s, though, I was welcomed with open arms– there is a wonderful community of support between peregrin@s along the camino.

After about a week of walking, I arrived in Santiago de Compostela. My last day was about a 20 km walk, and it poured the entire way. I arrived at the cathedral the same way I arrived to my albergue the first day: soaked to the bone and freezing cold. But this time, it was the end of a journey rather than the beginning. The cathedral was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I returned to the cathedral more than once so that I could really take in everything. After my first visit, I went to the oficina de peregrinación, so that I could “officially” complete my camino by receiving the Compostela stamp in my credential passport. The reality that I had arrived didn’t start to set in until the next morning, when I didn’t have to wake up at 7 to walk more. I spent the next day and a half exploring Santiago, visiting the Cathedral, and reflecting on the experience I had just had.


After that week, I felt closer to God than I had thus far while living in Spain. I had intended to use my camino to be in conversation with God and to strengthen my relationship with Her. I was on a Jesus high, and as always, I didn’t want that feeling to leave. Going back to Salamanca, I felt at peace. My entire body hurt, but my soul was calm. I was utterly exhausted, but recharged at the same time. There were points on my camino where I felt a jealous of my friends who were spending the week traveling to places like Amsterdam, Berlin, and Budapest, whereas I was in the mountains, walking until my body couldn’t take anymore. Ultimately though, I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Since coming home from Santiago, I have begun to notice the indicators for the camino wherever I go, and each time I see one I feel at peace again.

Seen in Cádiz, Salamanca, and Brussels!

Halfway done??? What???

Halfway done??? What???

This weekend I took my first solo trip. I spent the weekend in a hostel in Granada where I explored the city and built relationships with the others in my hostel. As I wrote this, I was on the bus home from Granada; I went first to Madrid and then I had a shorter ride back to Salamanca. I am exhausted from this weekend, but it was so wonderful and will absolutely be a trip I remember for a long time.

I began traveling at about 8:30 on Thursday evening, and I arrived in Granada at 6:30 AM on Friday. Overnight but travel wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable way to do this weekend, but I was able to spend the full day on Friday exploring Granada because of it. My hostel was about a 35 minute walk away from the bus station, so after a cup of cafe con leche I hauled myself and my backpack towards my home for the weekend. Throughout the semester I have been collecting photos of graffiti that has caught my eye, and the graffiti in Granada did not disappoint.

It was pretty early and I technically wasn’t supposed to check in to my hostel yet, so on my way I just wandered, took my time, and took in the sights of the city. I lived in the neighborhood Albaicín, which is located above the city center which means that it has some of the most amazing views you can find in Granada. I stumbled upon a beautiful view on the way to my hostel and decided to sit and journal for a little bit. I wanted to spend a weekend by myself in part because I wanted to relax and recharge, but also to reflect on the semester as it has gone thus far.

In the past few years I have realized how introverted I am, so even though I am very social and love spending time around others, it drains me of energy. I anticipated a weekend where I didn’t really talk to other people and would just be spending time with myself, but what I did not anticipate was how wonderful my hostel would be. I spent the weekend in Makuto’s backpackers hostel, which is unlike any other hostel I have stayed in. Immediately upon arrival, I felt like I was being welcomed into a home. It still wasn’t technically time to check in, but one of the employees got me set up with a shower and breakfast. In all other hostels I have stayed in the people living there keep to themselves, but at Makuto there were multiple rooms designed just for people to hang out and be in community with one another.

After I got showered and changed, I went back out into the city to explore. I walked around the city center, ate some lunch, stumbled upon a beautiful garden, and wandered. The beautiful thing about traveling alone is that I was able to wander without a destination without having to be mindful of what others are wanting to do. I just walked without any intentions, and experienced the sights of the city. After checking in later, I took a siesta (because I am now adjusting to the relaxed Spanish lifestyle and get a little cranky if I don’t get my daily nap oops), and began to talk to some of the people in my hostel. I ended up going for tapas with a group of 5 people– it felt like a group of friends though, rather than people I had just met. We went to a few different tapas bars, and spent the night enjoying each others company.

The next day, rather than going out by myself, I went on a journey to the Alhambra with a few new friends from the hostel. We didn’t have tickets, but there are a lot of places you can visit for free! We spent a few hours there, but we could have spent the entire day because it is so huge. Afterwords, we got chocolate con churros and pizza for lunch which was exactliy what I needed at that moment. We then relaxed at the hostel for a bit, before it was time for the guided walking tour!! Every night at about 6, the hostel provides a free walking tour of the neighborhood, which takes you to all the beautiful viewpoints. The last viewpoint was on a MOUNTAIN!! We climed a mountain for one of the most beautiful views I have ever experienced. We came home, and it was time for dinner. The hostel has a family dinner every night, and last night we had paella. We didn’t do much for the rest of the night, besides spend time with each other, and it was so wonderful.

I miss my mom. A lot. I miss my friends and family, I miss Chicago, I miss the kids I work with, I miss my apartment, I miss my dog– I miss home. A few days ago, I talked to my mom over facetime and I told her how much I missed her and how hard it is to be thousands of miles away from her. She asked me, “do you regret going to Spain?” because she said it worries her, how much I miss home. I was actually talking about this with a friend a few days before my mom and I talked, but I didn’t come to Spain to have an easy time, I came here to learn and grow. I’m not in Spain to feel comfortable, because if everything were comfortable I wouldn’t be growing. I have been in Spain for two months now, and these months have been incredible but they have also been so difficult. Despite the hardships, though, I have grown so much in both my Spanish but also as a person. I just spent the weekend in Granada by myself without having second thoughts. Two months ago, I would not have been able to just up and go to a city I didn’t know for the weekend without another person, but here I am.

This upcoming week marks the beginning of Semana Santa, Holy Week, but it also marks the beginning of me walking the Camino de Santiago. For about ten days I will be walking a section of the ancient pilgrimage trail by myself. I won’t be fully alone because there are going to be many other pilgrims walking the trail, especially since it will be semana santa. I have gotten all my gear, bus tickets, know where I will be sleeping each night, and now it just needs to be time. This is something that I never would have been able to do prior to being here.

I may miss my family endlessly, and I may want nothing more than to be in my apartment surrounded by my best friends, but if I were to have spent this semester in Chicago I would have had a regular semester and wouldn’t have gone so far out of my comfort zone and wouldn’t have grown as much as I have. I miss the comfort of my life in Chicago, I miss the monotony of every day life: walking to class, taking the train to work, being at the IC all night; however, I am so thankful for the experiences I have had, because without them I would be stagnant rather than growing. 

The Time of my Life ™

The Time of my Life ™

I have now been living in Salamanca for a little bit over a month– things have been incredibly difficult, but at the same time I am having a wonderful time. I’ve been having an internal struggle because studying abroad is made out to be the ~best time of your life~ and while I do love Spain, my life is far from perfect here.

As you know, the first weekend I was pickpocketed and was without a phone or access to money for two weeks. For those two weeks, I stayed in Salamanca, explored the city, but didn’t have the means to do much else. I spent a lot of time by myself (which is something I am very thankful for, because I am very introverted), but at points I felt very isolated because I was only able to communicate with my family and friends when I was on my computer. Since I had to be on my computer to communicate, I spent my time either at home or at school, the two places I had wifi. This meant though, that I spent a lot of time with my host family. My family consists of me, my host mom Gloria, my host dad Jonas, and whatever group of students we have that week. Gloria and Jonas are a young couple, which has allowed for us to connect on a familial level, but also on a level of friendship. Gloria cares for me as if I were her own child, and for that I am so grateful. I miss my family and friends so much, but I now have my family here.

The first month was honestly pretty lonely. I have generally been very good at making friends, but for whatever reason, I still don’t feel as though I have settled into a solid group. I have definitely made a bunch of surface level friendships with people I see in class and enjoy talking to, but there are only a few people who I have cultivated a deeper friendship with. I realized this last week, and I have since been making an effort to grow the friendships I do have. Reaching out to others has always given me anxiety, and it still does, but I am trying really hard to do so. Since, I have been spending more time with Alyssa, who is my closest friend here. We only met about a month ago, but she is a person that feels like home and has a comforting presence– she is a person that I love being around. I also have been spending time with Colvin, who is the one other person from Loyola that is studying in Salamanca. We are in completely different programs, so we do not have any classes together or any mutual friends, but it has been so nice having a familiar face around.

I have also found myself feeling a disconnect between myself and faith here. Right before leaving, I was feeling very solid in my faith: I was working with the after school program at my church meaning that I was there 6 days a week, and I just became an official member which was so so exciting. I came to Salamanca and found a church, but I am oftentimes not in the city on Sunday mornings due to traveling. I have recently started going to church programs throughout the week with another friend of mine, Rick. It was very hard coming to this place where I do not have a solid faith community, but I am excited to begin building this new faith community.

While things have been very hard, I have also had some wonderful experiences. Last weekend I traveled to Prague and visited Mickey, a close friend from Loyola who is studying there for the semester. We spent time cooking together, exploring the city (on public transit!!! Heck yeah!! Their transit system there is super neat), and just enjoying each other’s company. Prague was absolutely gorgeous– we saw the Lennon wall which is a space of peace and graffitti started by students after the fall of communism, which was without a doubt my favorite sight. Leaving Prague was one of the saddest moments of my time abroad, because it was so lovely to be around one of my best friends again, but we will be seeing each other in Madrid next weekend, so more adventures to come!


This past weekend I traveled to Lisboa with my program. The weather was not superb (it was pouring about half of the time), but the city was stunning. Pictures we took could never do it justice. Lisboa is well known for their ceramic tiles which are all over the outsides of buildings and are absolutely stunning. The first night, API treated us to a wonderful dinner where I had some amazing fish and mashed potatoes (I had no idea how much I missed mashed potatoes, wow). I spent time with the people around me, and it was very wonderful. I felt like I really got to know a lot more people on this trip, and I really made an effort to cultivate friendships. My friendships with Alyssa, Kim, and Liam (along with those of a lot of the girls in my program), grew a lot this weekend, and for that I am very thankful, even if the weather wasn’t the best.


All in all, things have been a complete rollercoaster, but for that I am grateful. I may not be having the picturesque time of my life that study abroad is often depicted as, but I have learned and grown so much, even in the past month. My host family doesn’t speak English and all of my classes are in Spanish, so the only time I speak English is when I am with others from the United States. Ultimately, I am here to immerse myself, and I am doing just that. The Universidad de Salamanca is an incredible school and I love my classes (especially Las mujeres en la historia de españa) along with my professors. Considering how much has happened, the fact that it has only been a month baffles me. Regardless of how hard this first month has been, I am very thankful to be here learning, exploring, and growing despite the trials that come my way. 

A Series of (Un)fortunate Events

A Series of (Un)fortunate Events

Spain has been home for almost two weeks, and in this past week I have been hit with more bad luck than I imagined would happen in the whole semester. I like to consider myself a generally prepared and organized person, but despite all of my preparation for the semester, everything seemed to go wrong this past week.

I thought it was bad getting sick in Chicago while my mom was 3.5 hours away in Michigan, but that was nothing compared to getting sick in Spain, with my family being over 4,000 miles away. We arrived in Salamanca on Sunday evening, and Monday was spent taking our placement exams and exploring the city. Salamanca is beautiful, especially the Plaza Mayor at night. My classes started at noon on Tuesday, and I decided I was going to wake up early so that I could eat breakfast and relax a little bit before going to class. When I woke up though, I felt as though I had been run over by a train. My muscles ached, my throat was aggressively sore, and I had a splitting headache. I popped a few dayquil, had some tea with breakfast, and assumed that this was just my body being upset with me for being out a little late the night before. Being in class was miserable– I could barely keep my eyes open and my body hurt so badly that I wasn’t able to focus at all.

I am living with a host family this semester: my parent’s names are Gloria and Jonas, and it is the three of us living together in an apartment. Neither of them speak English, which has been so amazing for my Spanish skills, but was difficult when I was sick. In introductory Spanish classes they teach you basic vocabulary for many topics (I remember having a unit on doctors and sickness in Spanish four), but I didn’t have the vocab to say more than simple things like me duele la garganta, la cabeza, y los músculos. I knew I should go to the farmacia, where Spaniards go to get medicine before they go to a doctor (you’re able to get more than just over the counter medicine here, it’s a lot different than in the US), but I was dreading it because of my lack of Spanish medical knowledge. Luckily, I never had to go because Gloria gave me some medicine that made me feel better within hours. I spent most of the week in bed, though, because my body was absolutely exhausted. I talked to a lot of friends who had been abroad, and apparently it’s super common to get sick in your first few weeks because traveling takes a huge toll on your body.

By Thursday I was feeling a lot better, which I was very thankful for since API had a planned excursion to visit Sevilla this past weekend! Things were looking up– I felt better, and I was about to go explore a beautiful city with some friends. The city was stunning. My friends and I spent the first evening exploring, ate some delicious gelato, and went out on the town for a little bit. The next day we saw the Real Alcázar, the Cathedral, and then had more free time! My friends Harrison, Nicolas, and I spent our siesta time on the roof of our hotel, which had a patio overlooking the city, and then Alyssa and I went out exploring again until it was time for dinner! Everything was so wonderful, and I was loving the city.

 Here are me and my friends Cady, Sofia, Kim, and Alyssa at the Real Alcázar!

That night, we went out again, and at about 3 am (nightlife starts late in Spain, I’m usually a grandma who goes to bed at 11 pm, what has this country done to me??), I realized that my purse had been unzipped, and that my phone and wallet were no longer in it. I froze, and felt my heart drop. This was my nightmare. I was in a foreign country with no phone and no money. I always tried to make sure I was paying attention to my purse and thought I did a good job but like my dad said, people who pickpocket for a living are far better at stealing than you are at protecting. I called my dad in a panic from a friend’s phone, and we cancelled my credit card and put my phone on lockdown mode. In that moment, as I was crying on the side of a road in Sevilla, I felt utterly defeated and as though nothing could go my way. But, God has a way of creeping in and reminding me that She’s going to take care of me. I lost my ID, but the week before I left I renewed my license because it was due to expire in April when I turn 21, so a new on is on its way to me soon. My dad also realized that even though he never insures our phones, my phone happened to still have insurance. That means that a replacement phone is getting to my dad tomorrow, and will then be sent to me! Most importantly, my passport was in my hotel room, and I only lost the 20€ that was in my wallet.

Sunday we packed up the bus and headed back to Salamanca. We left at 2 PM, and were supposed to arrive in Salamanca around 9. But, of course, when we were a little less than halfway into the trip, our bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. We were about 1 km away from a little town called Torremejía, where we set up camp for a few hours. We had no idea how long fixing the bus would take, so we explored the village. As we were walking around, off in the distance we heard music and saw a group of people in the streets. We decided to go see what was going on and to our surprise, it was a group of maybe 50 dancers and 20 people on a giant percussion contraption parading around the streets. A girl from Torremejía came up to us and asked why we were there– it was a town of about 2,300 people, so our group stuck out like a sore thumb. She told us that this was a group called Comparsa Las Monjas, and that they were practicing for a parade they were going to be in next week. Although our bus had broken down in the middle of nowhere, seeing them practice was without a doubt the highlight of my time in Spain so far. I highly suggest checking them out on Facebook, they are such a cool group!! We didn’t end up getting back to Salamanca until about 1:30 AM, but that didn’t even bother me because of the amazing experience we had had in Torremejía.

As this week (and especially this weekend) happened, I had moments where I felt utterly defeated, but I also had amazing moments that I am so thankful for. Everything seemed to go wrong, but like my dad also said, bad experiences make for great stories down the road. Yes, I am annoyed that I have 11€ in cash and that I have to use my computer in order to communicate, but I am safe and surrounded by loving and supportive friends and family, both in Salamanca and back home. Before I left, a close family friend sent me a card filled with love and wishes that I would have many experiences that would bring me closer to God as I traveled. Although this week felt like a disaster, I can’t help but reflect on how thankful I am for my dad, who helps me stay calm as I feel like my life is falling apart. For my friends, who sit with me on the side of the road in a city we don’t know, and who give me hope and encouragement as I feel like my life is falling apart. For this experience, the good, the bad, and everything in between. And for God, who reminds me that even though things go wrong, She is always looking out for me. 

Is this real?

Is this real?

Studying abroad in Spain has been a dream of mine since I began studying Spanish and it is nearly impossible to wrap my mind around the fact that I am here, and that this is really happening.

‘The week leading up to my flight, I was incredibly nervous. I began to do what I do best: make lists. I made multiple comprehensive packing lists, detailing what I would be bringing and how it would be packed. The night before my flight, I sat in my roommate’s bed and cried, feeling overwhelmed and underprepared for this journey in front of me. Even in the moment I said goodbye to my dad in the airport, Spain was still just an idea rather than reality. I have been dreaming of this semester for so long, and it is finally happening, but it still doesn’t feel real.

I have been in Madrid for three days now, and it feels like a dream. The first day I was here, I spent the morning and early afternoon aimlessly exploring the city with a new friend, Emma, simply taking in the sights of the city. We ended this excursion with a pitcher of sangria and a large plate of paella, a delicious Spanish rice dish (we learned from our director later that night that only the Americans order sangria, oops!).

     Here we are, as we explore the city!

Visiting el museo del Prado was an incredible experience. I have been passionate about Spanish art since studying it in high school, and today I was able to see the obras maestras of Velázquez and Francisco de Goya– something I had been dreaming of. Las meninas by Velázquez literally took my breath away when I saw it. I was in awe– the painting was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. The same thing happened when I saw el tres de mayo by Goya, pictures of the painting will never do it justice.

For lunch yesterday, I had the best tacos of my life. I know that tacos are definitely not Spanish food, but a friend told me that I needed to eat at Takos al Pastor, so Alyssa (another new friend!) and I went after the trip to the Prado. Those tacos honestly ruined all other tacos for me and I’m not even mad about it. For dessert, Alyssa and I went to a cute pastelería and got sweets: mine was called a pepito de crema!


Today brought about new adventures: an excursion to Toledo (a city south of Madrid in the region Castilla la Mancha), lunch at the local market, and a visit to the Reina Sofía which is home to my favorite painting. Toledo was stunning– we were taught about the history of the city, while exploring the cathedrals, synagogues, and the streets. During our free time, Alyssa and I stumbled upon gorgeous views overlooking the countryside. When we got back to the hotel we went to the market near the Plaza Mayor for lunch! We both had paella and I got a tapa with mozzarella cheese, jamón serrano, and jam on bread (can you tell that I am loving the food here?).


Visiting the Reina Sofía museum has been the highlight of my time in Spain so far. As I said earlier, I love Spanish art, and the Reina Sofía holds many paintings of Picasso, Dalí, and Miró. For years, I have been looking forward to seeing Guernica, Pablo Picasso’s obra maestra. This is one of my favorite paintings, and I don’t even have words to describe how it felt to finally see it in person. No picture can truly capture how large the painting is– I stood in front of it for 20 minutes just taking it all in.

It’s only been two days, and I don’t think the culture shock has hit me yet, but I also don’t know what to expect that to feel like! Tomorrow we will be going to Salamanca which will be my home until June, and I am very ready to be settled in. My nervousness from a few days ago has melted away, and I have a renewed excitement for the rest of this semester.