Euro-Trip

After returning from a 12 day, 4 country, road trip, I can say without a doubt that traveling around Europe is an incredible experience, but also an expensive one. It isn’t the flights or the hostels that run up the bill, but just simply the day-to-day expenses of trying to see as much as you can as a tourist in some of the most major cities in the entire world. The four stops I made on this trip were London, Paris, Dublin, and Berlin, with the latter two not being too bad (but not good either), and the first two making NYC seem like a cheap place. However, expenses aside, each city offered a completely different culture and atmosphere from the other and it was an experience I will never forget.

Dublin: My first stop had a little bit of a different feel from the other cities I visited, mainly because I stayed with a good friend of mine from UC3M at his parents house, rather than a youth hostel. Exploring a new city with someone born and raised in the area and who knows the culture well made me see the city more from a resident POV instead of a tourist, which I personally think is better. That being said it was still a lot of fun, the Irish are warm, welcoming, and love to have a good time… also the Guinness is amazing.

London: The second stop on my trip had a much more touristy vibe too it and it’s hard not to in a city as grand as this. The city is so big and there is so much to see, but at times it almost felt like everything was just one giant rip off. Dealing with the conversion rate of the pound while also dealing with the inflated prices is definitely a hard thing for a college student on a budget to handle. Other than the damage done to my wallet, London was definitely a city I enjoyed and know that I will return to before long (I also find the slang there to be quite comical).

Berlin: The third stop on my trip almost seemed like one very long and very dark history lesson. Man, does this city have a lot of baggage to it when it comes to recent history. From WWI/II to the Berlin Wall, it was quite interesting to see how all of these events are linked and how bad humanity can be when times are desperate. In addition to the history, the nightlife in Berlin is also second to none, I’ve never seen people party quite like the Germans do (even though it’s freezing there).

Paris: Similarly to Dublin, the final stop on my trip I stayed with a good friend of mine from New Paltz at his apartment… and similarly to London, this city didn’t treat my wallet too nicely either. I’d have to say that Paris was probably the most beautiful city I have been to thus far and it was the closest to Spain in that the majority of people didn’t speak English, whereas in the other cities I visited, everybody spoke it perfectly. Going to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were unforgettable experiences and this is definitely a city that I would love to come back to in the not so distant future.

Now I am finally back home in Madrid where I have a little over a week left to enjoy living in this amazing city before returning back to NYC!

I’m Back.

I’ve been back for 3 weeks and it was HARD to be back. Where do I even start? Change is weird but it’s good. Especially this kind of change. I gained new friends and a confidence that I cannot explain. I’m happy where I am in life and that’s what studying abroad did for me. Everyone who has a remote desire to study abroad should do it and this is my humble opinion. Do what you need to do, talk to your advisors, go out there because the world is waiting for you.

I will not be where I am if I did not go abroad, so if you crave to know the unknown, trust me you won’t regret it. This is why it took me a while to write the last post on this blog because I knew that writing this meant that I was done with my experience. But, that’s where I was wrong. My experience does not have to stop here, that was only a little taste and now I’m ready to conquer the world.

One of my biggest fears was returning back but I’m not scared anymore. I have such an amazing group of friends and family at home that made it easy for me to transition. Of course, I still think about Sevilla every day but we are human beings and we adapt quickly. Look at me? I’m back in New Paltz, ready to take on my last semester and finally graduate. I have new goals in life and I can’t wait to reach them all.

Thank You SUNY New Paltz.

Cheers to life and Cheers to making new experiences.

-Estefany Lopez

Goodbye Sevilla

Perfect people

Home sweet home and that means every night is taco night.

Reflective Perspective: Living After London

It’s amazing how much bigger the world feels after coming home.

One thing I noticed was that I didn’t forget how to drive, not did I forget the way to my favorite places. I walked around my home campus today, and knew all its secrets like old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. The new Wooster building that had been a process for most of my college career, which I will meet properly in a few weeks. The old round nook by the Student Union, where if you stand in the center you can hear your voice coming in from all sides. The wide canal of stones between Humanities and the Library. It was all there, much like I had left it, but it all felt just the slightest bit bigger.

I remembered all the codes for my favorite fruits and vegetables at the register at work. I remembered people who had left, and met people who had arrived. I remembered how the potato salad used to taste, and how it was just the slightest bit different now. I felt very at peace with the changes, and with the things that remained constant. Nothing overwhelmed me – I had perspective.

Perspective isn’t something you can take for granted – in fact, it comes from moments where you can’t take things for granted. I swam in different water for a while, and it gave me a renewed sense of moving through different spaces. I’ve developed an even deeper fondness for the space I know best.

Soon classes will begin again at SUNY New Paltz. I’ll find myself mentioning stories about England, either to peoples’ chagrin or delight. I’ll be grateful for the familiar class structure and the chance to work with old friends. And because I’ll be graduating, I will probably cry. A lot. Because I will be so happy and grateful, and so proud of myself.

Even so, I recognize, that even this year, which feels so thrilling and lucky and revolutionary, is probably not as big as the biggest things I will experience in my life. Reflecting on how much my mind has changed, and on how my vision of the world is even just this much different, gives me the perspective that the world I live in can be as big as I could possibly dream – and is potentially even bigger.

#NPSocial #NPAbroad

Reflecting on London

It doesn’t feel like it’s already been three months. While I was abroad, time seemed to fly because I always had something to do. Italy this weekend, Brighton the next, then maybe Sweden the week after that. The friends I made in other countries, who are outside of this study abroad program, are people who I still keep in touch with. I met so many people while travelling and staying in hostels, and I never believed I would be able to become that social. Study abroad has boosted my confidence in myself in a way that I never expected, but is an obvious welcome change. By the time I left London in December, in the city truly felt like home.

Coming Home

I’ve been home for about 3 weeks now. I started back up at my job, since London left me with a negative amount in my bank account. I have an apartment to move into soon once I go back to college. Life is moving on. I wish I was still in London, with the family I stayed with and with the friends I made there. Going from living in such a big city to a small town in Nowhere, New York is hard to adjust to. Camouflage print everything is considered to be the height of fashion here, yet I never saw it once in London, and I didn’t miss it. The quiet, small town life is leaving me restless. I miss being able to go into central and walk around for hours. I miss being able to casually go to another country for a weekend just because I felt like it. I can’t wait until I can go back to London, maybe more permanently.

Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo

Celebrating the holidays abroad has been an unforgettable experience and one in which I was able to see it from a different perspective. There were many similarities of course, but many differences that I believe were a combination of cultural differences as well as me just being accustomed to how I celebrate with my friends and family back in New York.

In Madrid, Christmas had a lot more emphasis on the religious aspect rather than just the commercial part. Spain of course is a majority catholic country, whereas in Brooklyn there is a much larger jewish community. I am not exaggerating when I say that there must have been a Nativity scene on every single block in my neighborhood in Madrid, all garnering crowds of people admiring them. I’m not quite sure about Manhattan, but I know I haven’t seen nearly as many Nativity scenes out in my neighborhood in Brooklyn.

However, while Christmas may have been a little different, New Year’s Eve couldn’t have been more similar. With Puerta del Sol serving the exact same purpose as Times Square does in NYC, thousands of people headed there to go see the countdown and fireworks at midnight to bring in the new year. Just like in NYC, it was almost impossible to move and there were police everywhere, but it was still a sight to behold.

There was one tradition on New Year’s Eve that I found quite interesting and decided to partake in and that was the Spanish tradition called the “Twelve Grapes.” Dating all the way back to 1909 and originating in Puerta del Sol, it consists of eating a grape for every time the bell strikes after the clock hits midnight. Doing this is supposed to lead to a year of prosperity and is now fabricated into the cultural tradition of Spain as well as other Latin and Hispanic communities. Being that this is the first year in which I participated in this tradition, I will be sure to give credit if it works (I am hoping it does).

 

 

Milanese Withdrawals

After being home for about a week, I realized how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad. Just as my advisor said before I embarked on this journey, every day was not perfect. I had my ups and downs and days of missing home a little more than usual, but overall I am extremely proud of myself for following one of my dreams of studying in Italy.

I can’t help but be extremely critical of any Italian food I eat here in the States. No plate of pasta will ever compare to the many (too many?) dishes of pasta I consumed in Italy. Put simply, I was spoiled. I had authentic Italian cuisine at my fingertips for three and a half months and, I can assure you I took advantage of it. Of course, I miss the people there as well. I was lucky enough to meet a great group of girls from Chicago, but some of my friends are not as easy to reach. I’ve already decided that I need to return to Europe within the next few years. The withdrawals have set in and I need my Italian fix!

As much as I miss Europe and its ridiculously cheap flights to surrounding countries, it feels great to be home. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw my family waiting with open arms for me at the airport. I couldn’t wait to share stories and pictures with them from my many adventures. It was refreshing to return to the States and catch up wirh loved ones, especially for Christmas. But Italy will always hold a place in my heart. This semester was one of my best ones yet and provided me with everlasting memories, friendships, and life lessons. It was not an easy trip to make, as I went on my own and was filled with fear and worry but it was absolutely worth it. I honestly don’t know why every student who is able to study abroad does not take advantage of this outstanding program. There is so much more to this world than we realize until we actually go out and explore. I saw so much but, at the same time I feel as though I haven’t seen nearly enough! Looks like I’ll be making a trip back to my beloved Europe very soon…

Thanks to anyone who followed me throughout this journey!

Un bacione xx

This is not a goodbye.

Seville became everything to me and this includes the people that I met. My personal thoughts and personal development happened here in 3 months. For a long time, I have been struggling with my self-discovery as a person but all of my problems disappeared here. Seville became my safe haven, I could love who I wanted, I could dress as I wanted and I could speak my mind as I wanted. How could I not fall in love with Seville, when this place lets me be who I am— It’s a free zone of judgments.

My experience here will always be unforgettable. The people I met here are by far one of the humblest and happiest people I have ever met. The Sevillanos know how to party, cook, celebrate and everything else that makes a perfect place. Now that this trip is almost over, I booked a few flights and I decided it was a perfect way to say goodbye to this experience. Last week, I went to Morocco, Gibraltar and Amsterdam. They were 3 crazy trips in a week and it was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

Sadly, I don’t want to face my farewell to Seville. How do you say goodbye to your favorite place? Is not easy. Everyone keeps telling me that I’m coming back and I know I will, but it’s going to be different. I’m going to be at a different stage in my life and I’m afraid it will not be the same. About 3 months ago I was given an unforgettable opportunity and now I have to return everything. It’s not fair. No one wants to give up a world they have created for themselves. I’m not good at goodbyes either. I do not want to say goodbye to my teachers, friends or the lady I see every day in the cafeteria. Why should I? —I created this world and I can not talk to anyone at home about this because no one will understand. So my experience here in Seville is a secret. Between Seville and me.

Thank you, Seville. I love you forever.

 

 

Freedom

After 4 final exams in the span of 72 hours, I have finally completed my studies here at UC3M. It was an exhausting week that included a lot of studying and very little sleeping, but I have just recently recovered and am ready to reflect on my classes here.

Education in Europe is much different from the United States in my experience, not necessarily good or bad, but just a different approach with a different emphasis on certain things. For instance, every final that I took this past week accounted for 50-60% of my grade and I felt the increase in pressure while studying and taking the exam. It almost made me feel as if the work I had put in the entire semester boiled down to this 2 hour exam and in my personal opinion students should not be put in that position.

However, in other instances I thought that the professors here in Spain afforded us a lot more leeway than professors in the U.S. would have. I am talking in terms of assignments, deadlines, circumstances outside of the classroom, etc. Many would argue that this approach would allow students to slack off, but I felt that I took away as much knowledge in these courses as I would back in New Paltz and isn’t that the point?

While my time at UC3M may be over, my time in this amazing city, country, and continent is far from over and now that I don’t have my classes to worry about, I am very excited for what comes next. I will be visiting a few other cities in Spain prior to the arrival of my family on Christmas and then in January I will begin my “Euro-Trip,” which includes stops in Dublin, London, Berlin, and Paris. This will all be uncharted territory for me that I have only been able to dream about and I am counting down the days!

 

Twenty Four Hours of Goodbye

I can hardly believe that in just over 24 hours, I will be back on a plane heading back home. After watching the unbelievable transformations and crazy happenings in my country from a distance, on the news, through my British and European friends, hearing about several feet of snow in my home state when it’s practically balmy here… Home almost sounds like a foreign country. It’ll be strange to hear snow crunching under my feet again.

It’ll be strange to come home and not see my dog bounding and singing at me, because she passed away just two weeks ago. That’s been hard… but I know she passed doing what she loved, and she’d want me to keep looking ahead. Little bugger.

It’ll be strange to be the me I’ve become, in the home I haven’t seen in so long.

Some things I’ll bring home with me:

Minimalism: I’ve been inspired during my time here to try to live with less. I’ve found that I can live happily without lots of the things I keep around at home – so one plan is to purge the house of unnecessary extra things, to make moving around easier. I want to travel again, and the less I have, the easier that will be.

Teacakes: I couldn’t bear to leave without stocking up on the beautiful teacakes that Lani showed me in Scotland! And they go perfectly with…

Sainsbury’s Fair Trade Black Teabags: These are brilliant. They are better than PG Tips or whatever else fancy, the extra pound cost does not make them taste better, don’t let anyone tell you different.

Citysurfing skills: I can now maneuver around a city I’m unfamiliar with, with minimal confusion and sometimes even beating the ETA on my phone.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: Yes, the original version of one of my favorite books of all time. With the original cover art (not quite a first edition, but for 2.50 pounds at a used Welsh bookstore, I am not complaining at all).

British slang: Bril. Bonkers. You Alright? Ta! Cheers (I guess I already had this one, but I’m still bringing it back). Mental. Quite. Every little helps. Calling cookies biscuits, chips crisps, and fries chips… I can see the confundery even now.

Memories: Of some of the best theatre I’ve ever seen, the sweetest people, and the most educational and inspiring adventures.

My landlords left me a note before their trip this weekend, thanking me for being such a great tenant – I was surprised and thrilled that I don’t suck at adulting, and that they liked me. I wished I had a chance to spend more time with them, I’ll never forget their scathing and hilarious comments while we watched The Great British Bakeoff. I also had my last rehearsal with the Kingstones A Capella group this Wednesday, and my last D&D Session on Sunday. My friends have all been inordinately sweet to me, and I’ll miss them so much. I have never liked goodbyes, but it seems like I have no choice but to get used to them, since I’ve absolutely fallen in love with traveling.

Maybe I should just not put so much weight on the goodbye part, because honestly, it’s the time I spent with them before goodbye thatI’ll love and remember the most. There’s facebook, and there’s time. Life is long, even if it’s short.

One thing I am relieved about, is to be done with finals – If I can give one really solid piece of advice to anyone studying abroad in the UK, it’s this – do not put off your finals to the last minute. Ask your classmates what is generally expected from an academic research paper well in advance (for instance, I learned by accident that it’s only acceptable to go 10% over the word limit, and that a proper academic paper has anywhere from 10 to 14 citations for 3,000 words – these were rules I did not follow for my first two essays). And make sure to do the work bit by bit, so you don’t find yourself pulling an all-nighter before a final during your last week abroad. Trust me, you’d much rather be walking around and saying goodbye to things than stressing about university.

Tomorrow I say goodbye to my home-away-from-home: I’ll visit the Christmas market in Surbiton, have lunch with some friends in Kingston, and then Dennis and I will have our last pints with fish and chips at the Albert, down the road from my house in Norbiton. And then that’s it – the next day, after a six hour plane ride, I’m back home…

Funny how home is so relative. How it changes over time. And how you can accumulate so many different ones, all of which speak to a different version of you. Eventually it’s like you learn to carry home with you wherever you go, and it adapts to the space you fill. Maybe that’s what growing up means.

I’ll miss this home and this time here in London… as my landlady Judy would say, it’s been absolutely “bril.” 🙂

#NPSocial #NPAbroad