it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Madrid

Usually in December,whether at New Paltz or at home, I am reminded that Christmas is suddenly approaching. Houses are lit up on every block,radio station’s are spreading holiday cheer, and every food store I walk into sells red and green m&m’s, panettone, and christmas cookies. This is what I think of christmas: bright and colorful decorations, endless array of christmas chocolates and cookies, and most importantly family and friends.
This year, however, it does not feel like Christmas. The other day on Facebook someone posted that they were sick and tired of all the holiday music. Already you are complaining? It is December 10th and I haven’t even heard a holiday song yet! I have to say though, as it gets closer to December 25, I am reminded more and more of Christmas here in Madrid.
First, Madrid is completely decked out for the holidays. All of the streets in Sol are lit up. Every block has bright snowflakes, ornaments, and more hanging above you as you walk up and down through Sol and Gran Via. All of the shops advertise their christmas deals. El Corte Ingles has snowflake lights on its building and every street’s trees and streetlights are lit.
Plaza Mayor has lights illuminating from above, just look at the picture.

Plaza Mayor December 2015

Plaza Mayor December 2015

There is a christmas market in the Plaza where you can shop for some gifts.

Puerta del Sol has a christmas tree right in the center of the Plaza:
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Photo creds to my friend Celeste

Photo creds to my friend Celeste

The department store, El Corte Ingles, has a really cute christmas commercial that they have been promoting this holiday season, here is the link: ¿Cómo empieza la Navidad? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vsr5QCaMGck
Below is a picture of how the store is decorates for the holidays: Madrid_ECI_Goya at Christmas

Getafe, the town that Universidad Carlos III is in, has decorated their main shopping strip Calle Madrid with a christmas market. 12322835_10207856749047853_543953596343240274_o

Lastly, since I live in the residence halls, it is apparently a huge tradition every year to have the Cena de Navidad (christmas dinner). It is a huge deal here. All of the residents dress up formally–girls wear dresses and higgles and then males dress in suits and ties. It is a formal sit-down dinner that is housed in the cafeteria. They hire caterers and waiters to tend to the event. It was a really great night. I got to spend it with all the international students that I met and we got to eat some good food too (much better than the regular food they serve everyday at the residence hall).

Erasmus 2015

Erasmus 2015

Christmas time is so magical and I am glad that I get to spend a little bit of my time in December during the holidays in Madrid.

Making the most of my time here (with the short time I have left)

I have no clue where the time has gone, my time abroad has flown by…I only have 3 weeks left until I return to the states. By this time I feel like I have adjusted. Tonight I ate dinner at 9:00pm and was completely okay with it. I did not find it unusual. I also am not anticipating the cold weather back in New York. The weather here is great. It is nearing the end of November and it is still on some days close to 60 degrees! Yesterday it was 56. I wore my winter coat outside unaware of the warm weather. I was sweating. I do find though that it gets cold in the morning and at night here. The weather is not always this warm, but the coldest seems to have only gotten down to about 46 degrees. I wondering when winter will start here and if I will get to see snow at all before I leave.

Academics:I am super stressed lately. I find the academics here very different. There are only 2 weeks left of class and I still have two midterms left to take in my classes. Since I am a non-european international exchange student, I am able to take my final exams before I leave. This is great because I can go home for the holidays and will not have to spend another expensive plane ticket to come back here in January for the final exams; however,this means that I have little free time within the next few weeks, and with what time I do have I need to fit in everything that I still have not seen in Madrid.
The grading here is quite different as well. For example, you get a grade from 1 to 10 on your exams. 5 is passing. The exams are also weighted a lot more here. Most of my finals are 60% of my class grade! I do not think that I have ever had a test weighted this much before. Carlos III also has this policy where if you fail your class you can sit for a retake during the month of June. I like the idea about a second chance, but I think this could be difficult for international exchange students, especially because flights to Spain during the summer can be very expensive. Flights to Europe are expensive in general.

Temple of Debod: I have already checked out a few places in my free time in-between my studies, including the Rastro and the Temple of Debod. I find it so interesting and unusual that Madrid has an Egyptian temple….Apparently it was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid. It is dedicated to the goddess Isis. I went here in the afternoon, but I suggest to visit the temple during the sunset. I have heard that this is a great time to go, and there is an awesome photo opt of the temple with the sunset in the background.

Temple of Debod

Temple of Debod

Unusual Thanksgiving:
It did not feel like Thanksgiving this year. Usually, I am so excited to return home for the weekend to see my family and friends and enjoy some good food. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. However, this year I was not home to celebrate. Instead I did something completely different. I just went about my usual day. My friend Mint and I went to Sol, shopped around and got some Churros con Chocolate. It wasn’t my usual Thanksgiving, but I was happy I got to spend it with a friend.
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Unexpected trip to Paris:
Sometimes you have to realize that somethings can come up and your trip won’t go as planned. This happened to me and my friend Jackie when we traveled to Paris two weekends ago. We were so excited. We had planned to visit the Eiffle Tower, the Louvre, all of the usual tourist spots in Paris. However, our trip got cut short when there was a terrorist attack. We did not get to see as much as the city as we would have liked to. In the end, I am just glad that me and my friend returned home safely. There will always be another time to travel to Paris. I cannot wait until I go again!

Recommendations:
-I highly recommend writing in a journal while studying abroad. I like the feeling of documenting my trip. I even save ticket stubs from museums and train tickets and put them in my journal. It is a great way to preserve your memories of your time abroad.
-If you ever need to see a doctor or a theorist in Madrid, or while anywhere abroad, do not hesitate to go. I was afraid about the language barrier, since I do not speak Spanish very well. What is good is that there are doctors who speak perfect English in Spain. This I was very happy about. However, in my friends case, she went to a health center in the town we live in, called Getafe. They do not have any English speaking doctors there. Even though they didn’t speak any English, she found a way to speak to them. She used google translate. Apparently, it worked because the doctor prescribed her medicine. In the end it will work out, so don’t suffer sick at home and refrain from seeing a doctor.

Madrid is getting ready for the holiday season!

Madrid is getting ready for the holiday season!

Hasta luego!

The Life of an Exchange Student: Balancing Work and Leisure plus Other Cool Things

What will I do today? What do I have to do today? Studying abroad is definitely exciting; however, at the same time you need to balance your time between school work, friends and travel. So far, it has been interesting. I have met a lot of exchange students from the states who are not as serious about their classes as I am. Perhaps it is because New Paltz has a letter grade policy. A lot of the students I have met have a Pass or Fail policy. Of course they should still try to get good marks, but it is not as stressful or important to them. Moral: Go to classes, visit office hours, and schedule time for studying. If you schedule your time to study, then you will have free time to explore and travel around. Also, if you do not leave everything to the last minute, you will be less stressed.
I have learned this the hard way. However, I do have seven weeks left, which still gives me enough time to change my habits.
Tip #2: Stay healthy! It is great to try all of the foods around you, but at the same time eat your vegetables. Healthy foods help beat stress and lessen your anxiety. What I do is try to eat as many vegetables and fruits as I can along with the rich Spanish food. Another thing to do is exercise. I will tell you this, walking throughout Madrid definitely tones your legs. The Universidad Carlos III de Madrid campus has a great gym. It has a swimming pool, volley ball and tennis court, a bunch of exercising classes, including Zumba, and a regular weight and cardio machine section. The down side is that it is not including in the tuition. The gym is extra 🙁 You do get to chose your package: 60 euros per semester for one exercise class, 85 euros for the gym, and if you want everything (including the spa!) it costs 120 euros. What I like about the gym is that they give you a “llavecita” or little key. Each time you go to the gym you are able to track your progress with this key. You stick it into all of the machines in the gym and it tallies up what you have done for that gym session, including the calories.
If you do not want to go to the gym, I suggest running through Retiro park.

Balancing your work and leisure is definitely possible on exchange. You just have to balance your time and plane your trips accordingly.

The other day I found this really interesting article on Buzz feed. It is 100% accurate!!!
41 Reasons Studying Abroad In Spain Ruins You For Life
Especially the following:
2. World-class wine is insanely affordable: Yes! You can find a good bottle of wine here for 3 to 5 euros. Be sure to look for Vino Blanco (white wine), Vino Tinto (Red wine), and others such as Sangria and Tinto de Verano. Which brings me to number 3-
3. And even grocery store sangria will do just the trick: Yup, you can buy grocery store sangria or tinto de verano for one euro, and it is pretty good.
33. …no matter how far you need to go.: This is definitely true. Renfe Cercanias and Renfe Ave are very affordable means of transportation throughout Madrid and Spain. With the Renfe Ave you can visit Barcelona or Alicante in 2.5 hours, versus a 5 hour bus ride.
What is great is that for the Madrid Public Metro Card, the Abono Card, for students, they just lowered the price this month from 40 euros to 20 euros, for all of the sections. This means that you can take any public transportation throughout all of the zones in Madrid for only 20 euros a month. It is definitely a steal.

In Getafe there is a little town area that has a few blocks filled with stores and food places to stop in. You just walk along Calle Madrid–here you will find a Burger King, Bershka, Springfield, and a 100 Montaditos (this chain bar and tapa place is all over Madrid, you can get Jarras very cheaply here, for about 1 to 1.50 euros). I also found a Tastes of America store. Here I found Jiffy peanut butter, Candy Corn, Coke Life, Root Beer, Captin Crunch and Fruit Loops. So expensive though! A box of Fruit Loops would have cost me 9.95 euros, about 11 USD.

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1 Euro Sangria or Tinto de Verano

1 Euro Sangria or Tinto de Verano

Talk to you soon…

Exploring Madrid

Sometimes I forget how beautiful my new home is. I always want to travel elsewhere, such as around Spain or throughout Europe. However, I want to go back and know that I explored my city as well. Madrid is the capital of Spain. Many tourist come here on vacation. There are so many shops and bars, foods to eat, places to see.I will suggest a few things to do:
Before I came to Spain, my mom bought me a Madrid travel guide. So far it has been very useful!
Madrid’s top tourist attractions include: Plaza Mayor, Parque del Retiro, Palacio Real, and many museums, such as Reina Sofía, the Museo del Prado and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional

Plaza Mayor: Much happened here in the past including bullfights and executions

Plaza Mayor: Much happened here in the past including bullfights and executions

Parque del Retiro: a beautiful park in Madrid which used to be the playground for the Royal Family

Parque del Retiro: a beautiful park in Madrid which used to be the playground for the Royal Family

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Flamenco Show: A must see!

Traditional Spanish Dancers

Traditional Spanish Dancers

Shops in Spain in Puerta del Sol
At the Puerta del Sol Metro you can find many shops, bars, and restaurants along the main streets.
El Corte Ingles- a huge department store that I have found all around Spain.
A few popular of the other popular clothing stores in Spain include Mango, Zara, Springfield and Primark- just last weekend a new and huge Primark opened up in Gran Via!

El Rastro

An open air flea market

An open air flea market

Open every Sunday located along Plaza de Cascorro and Ribera de Curtidores, between Calle Embajadores and the Ronda de Toledo.

Night Life
There is a huge nightlife in Madrid, whether it be to go out clubbing or simply just drinking and eating tapas with some friends. A few clubs to check out include Moondance, Joy and Kapital.
Kapital is a seven story dance club. Each floor plays a different style of music. It reminded me of Webster Hall in New York City, only a lot larger.
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Some typical Spanish tapas that I have tried:

This was a little different. Pork skewers with jelly, peanut butter and pine nuts.

This was a little different. Pork skewers with jelly, peanut butter and pine nuts.

Spanish Olives with Vino Blanco

Spanish Olives with Vino Blanco

Tortilla Española--similar to a fritatta

Tortilla Española–similar to a fritatta

Cinema
Would you like to see a movie in Madrid? Well, you have two options. You could see the original movie or the movie dubbed in Spanish.The other day I saw Regresión (Regression), with Emma Watson, dubbed in Spanish. It was really interesting to see an american movie dubbed in Spanish. Also it only cost 7 euros per ticket. What is cool is that it won’t be out in cinemas in America until February 2016.

There are still so many things I plan to do. I would really like to go to Las Bellas Artes, which is a rooftop bar where you can see a good view of the city and see the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium where Real Madrid plays. I would like to come back home to New York and feel like I really saw everything that Madrid has to offer.

Adíos 🙂

Time flies: it’s already been a month

Today marks one month since I have arrived in Spain. So many adjustments. I have finally adjusted my meal times and have semi-gotten used to the food here. Usually at home I eat breakfast early. The residence hall at my school offers breakfast from 7:30-10:30, pretty usual. For breakfast they serve, toast with jam and butter, cafe con leche, yogurt, fruit, pastries, juice, and cereals. Chocolate milk and hot chocolate also seem to be breakfast staples. Usually I do eat cereal and sometimes coffee, but I’m missing my morning omelette with bacon and sausage :/. Lunch is served from 1:15 to 4:00. And lunch here is the largest meal of the day. You have your first plate and then your second plate of food, served with bread, a salad, and 2 postres (desserts). And dinner is the biggest difference for me. You can eat dinner between 8:30 and 10:30. Again you are given two plates, with salad and two desserts, but the meals are typically smaller. So far I have had some familiar meals such as hamburgers, pasta with meat sauce, burritos,spring rolls, calamari and french fries. However, a lot of the food has been different as well. For lunch sometimes I will eat white rice with red tomato sauce and two fried eggs or croquetas. I really like the croquetas, a lot of tapas bars serve them as well. Croquetas are fried and can have cheese and ham inside.

Croquetas

Croquetas

Another unusual dish I have eaten has been fried eggplant stuffed with chopped meat and cheese.
Berenjenas rellenas de carne picada

Berenjenas rellenas de carne picada

The residence hall has been an adjustment as well. I love my dorm. It has a bathroom, a balcony, and a miniature kitchen. I share the spacious room with my “compañera” or roommate. Many international students live in the dorms and we were all placed on the same floor, which is great. A few of them are actually from CUNY Baruch! That’s so close to New Paltz. We always get together for lunch and dinner in the cafeteria. The Spanish students are friendly a well. I’m surprised how many of them know English. All of the foreign students I have met know English, and some even a third language. I’m so jealous.
My roommate and I have done our laundry twice here already. Both times we have lost money. The machines require coins and when they are broken there is no sign or alert. You find out after you put your money into the machine. It is a fifty-fifty chance–it either works or it doesn’t. I will get used to this, and one of my friends here told me that I can get my money back, which is good. It is definitely different to doing laundry at home and back at the dorms at New Paltz.
The one thing I have to work on now is finding the time to budget between traveling and schoolwork. I think this will be one of my biggest challenges.
Hasta Pronto!

Me and my new roommate

Me and my new roommate

One week in and loving it

So far I have been in Spain for one and a half weeks and all I can say is that I am so happy I chose this place as my study abroad destination. At first I was concerned about the language barrier; however, it hasn’t stopped me. I have been taking a 40 hour Spanish Intensive Class for the past week, and still have two weeks left. The class is very helpful and very different compared to how Spanish is taught at New Paltz. The whole class is taught in Spanish, no English is allowed. My Spanish classes in New Paltz were never like this. Thus, I am learning more 🙂 Classes technically do not start until September 7th, so the residence hall has been pretty empty. Only a few international students are here. This week more students should be arriving, especially for the welcome event for all of the international students this Wednesday.
So far the food has been quite different. Dinner is from 8:30 to 10:30 at night. Very, very, very different from back home. So far I have also noticed that everything– rent, food, drinks, clothes– are cheaper here. For example, shots and beer are only 1 euro each.
The past few days I have been adjusting to the environment around me. It is so hot! Around 90 or so degrees. However, I have noticed that it gets colder during the night until the early morning. So far I have navigated the train and the metro in Madrid. It takes 20 mins by train to reach the metro station Sol, in the center of Madrid from my dorm. It is super easy, and the train is very affordable around 3.70 euros roundtrip. I’ve been to Parque el Retiro. A beautiful and massive park. The picture above I took their the other day. So far it seems like Spain has a lot of parks, museums and plazas. People were rowboating in the pond, hopefully I will have a chance to do it. It was so hot that day I treated myself to a little ice cream. I had a Sandía, which is a flavored ice pop that is shaped like a slice of watermelon. It was tasty 🙂
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11920439_10205819180097784_638332257_n Parque Castilla La Mancha- Getafe. A park right near my residence.

Picture of a flower I took in El Retiro 11908115_10205839212718587_106192800_n

I am excited to start my second week in Madrid. I have a lot coming up, welcome days, class registration, and I need to catch up on some sleep.

Hasta luego!

Voy a Madrid

As I write this I am sitting in my room surrounded by clutter. My clothes are in piles on the floor and my suitcase is open and half filled with clothes. I leave for Spain in three days! The anticipation is killing me, but at the same time I am extremely nervous. I hate flying. I have never flown transatlantic before. My flight is approximately seven hours. I depart during the night and arrive in Madrid early the next morning. At least I can sleep on the plane. I still have to pack and go to the store to pick up a few more things that I will need for my trip.
This Sunday I will be flying into Madrid and will be arriving at my new home, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. I am super excited! I cannot wait to see the city, experience the culture, try some new food, and speak a little Spanish.
Most of the international students do not arrive until the second of September. However, I am going two weeks earlier to take a 40 hour Spanish Intensive Course. After that I will be taking business classes in English along with another Spanish language class. At this point, all I know is that I will be arriving in Spain Monday morning. From there on, it becomes an adventure. I still need to figure out a way to get from the airport to the school. Thankfully, earlier this summer I signed up for a “buddy” at the school. My buddy will be a student from the school who will be able to assist me with getting adjusted to the school and help me with any questions that I have. So far she has been really helpful with suggesting ways to get from the airport to my school. I cannot wait to meet her and practice speaking Spanish with her.
I have no clue what to expect in the upcoming weeks. It will all be new to me. I almost feel as if I am a college freshmen again–going to a new school for the very first time… The difference is that this time it will be in a different country with a different language. The language barrier is one thing that makes me nervous, but I am willing to try to learn the language.
I am excited, nervous, and eager to start my next semester abroad!

Home Away From Home: Spanish Style

Well, hello again!

Would you like the good news first or the bad news?

Oh, you can’t answer that so I’ll tell you the bad first so as to end on a good note (but nothing in Spain is actually ever really bad).

Well, I missed my initial flight at JFK from New York to Madrid. The traffic was terrible, even in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon in June. I went to the wrong airline (don’t ever book with student universe, it was a nightmare) and when I ran over to the correct airline, they said I could only board the plane if I left my bags behind. That was an insane thing to say but there were other Spaniards there who were in the same predicament. Needless to say, after trying as much as they could, I wasn’t able to board. The most they could offer was the next flight which was to be 24 hours from that time. I had to pay a hefty price to switch and they offered me a “distressed rate” for hotel accommodations. The distressed rate was super high still. I had no choice but to waste away quite a bit of money due to being a few minutes late. Please, learn from my mistake. I left at least 4 hours prior to my flight and still was not on time.

Next, I will tell you that I’m not usually a sick kind of girl but on my flight the next day, all the way to Madrid, I threw up the tasty chicken dinner the airline provided. The gentleman next to me, a kind and friendly Spanish man, offered me his vomit bag, and then a couple more were given to me by the flight attendant. I was unbelievably thrilled to get to Madrid.

The airport was a maze but I was amazed! I got my first passport stamp and bought some olive oil flavored chips they had in the airport (I would learn later that olive oil is a huge thing in Spain!). I was starting to feel better although the jet lag was no joke. This is the first place in which I observed the colorful style they have over herein Spain. Every metal beam in the airport has color and often times has a matching colored floor to go with it.

The airport was also strange to navigate. The flight # to Oviedo was clearly posted up on the screen but it referred to three different gates that it’d be leaving from. When I asked someone for help, I was told that I was too early and that the screen will tell me where to go when it gets closer to the time of departure. Fine. I had about 2 hours and 45 minutes until my flight would leave. After an hour: still there were 3 gates for my flight. 2 hours later: still no change. It wasn’t until a half hour before the flight that I finally knew where to go! How different was this culture already! In New York, I was at the airport an hour prior to my flight and I was too late. In Madrid I was there 45 minutes prior and I was too early! Everything seemed backwards but after all I had been through, I was simply thrilled to be speaking Spanish and to be learning about the country already.

In Oviedo my amazement only grew. Once I gathered my luggage and got onto the bus, honestly, I knocked out. When I opened my eyes, the streets of this lovely city were before me. It was so clean and beautiful I had to record it (see video of my first glance [got an error message, I’ll try to add it next time! Sorry!]).

My host Dad picked me up at the bus station with a huge grin. I told him about my flight and he told me not to worry because he lives right up the street and I will be able to rest in no time. No lie, the apartment really was right up the street but during that short walk he stopped me, pointed up into the sky and said, “Wait Tessa, look up! …..I want to introduce you to the Spanish sun!” As I strained my tired eyes and looked up, I felt the bright sun beaming on my face. What a strange thing to say right? The sun is the sun, how is it any different in Spain? Well I’ll tell you. In Spain, from about 6am to 10pm that sun is UP!!!! Whenever I skype my family at home, even though there is a 6 hour difference, it probably seems like it is always mid-day here because it’s always light outside my windows! But with siestas (naps around 2:30/3pm) each day and dinner between 9-10:30pm I am loving this Spanish sun!!!

Can I just say how much I love my host family!!!!? So this is more of the good news now. My host Dad is the best cook ever and super friendly (reminds me of dad back home). He has made me all kinds of fantastic dishes and always explains to me how he makes it and what ingredients are commonly used in Spain. I’ve had things like carrot soup (you eat it cold!), tortillas de papa (a thick potato and egg combination), paella (rice, chicken, vegetables, beans—picture below–they don’t give me seafood because I don’t like it), fabada asturiana (peppers, HUGE beans-fabas, onions, garlic, carrots, chicken, chorizos, + more), arroz ala cubano (Cuban rice, although not actually a Cuban thing—picture below—rice, fried egg, tomato sauce, salt and parsley) and so much more! They eat everything with a piece of French bread. When the bread is stale and hasn’t all been consumed they simply grind it up and use it for coating chicken or meats or for things like croquetas (flour, chicken, ham, milk, eggs, salt mixed together and then once coated, fried in olive oil). My host dad makes this amazing sauce with olive oil, parsley, salt and lemon and he puts it over many many dishes: salads, homemade thinly sliced chicken nuggets, tomato slices; it’s simply delightful! I could go on forever about the food that I am so privileged to have, but I suppose it’d bore you after a while (unless you’re a foodie).

My host mother is a gem! She shows me the shops and styles of Spain and explains the late night lifestyles (old and young people stay out till midnight) as well as the festivals all over the country. She takes care of me and makes sure I get everything done. When I wasn’t feeling well the other day she brought me lunch in bed. She gave me hot relaxation tea when I couldn’t sleep. She whips me into shape and doesn’t hold back when it’s time to tell me about myself. But it’s all about love. She always makes sure I am okay. The Spanish call the period of time during and after a meal—“sobremesa”. It is the time spent together to talk. It is customary to do this so that any problems that are in your life are solved. The Spanish do not waste time with anger or sadness, they want problems resolved quickly. Such is what we do every day together.

My host brother is a typical brother and always happy. He knows a bit of English so sometimes he is able to jump in and help me understand things. He is a college student too and I’ve learned through his late night partying that most youth in Spain stay out (on the weekends) till 8am and don’t sleep from Saturday night till Sunday night so that they can be ready for Monday (no use in wasting Sunday sleeping!). He gets loud, like my brothers at home, when we talk about politics but always helps me when I need a hand.

My two Spanish parents call me hija (daughter) and treat me like their own. They crack jokes all day, cheer me up when I’m down, tell me all about the culture here, and invite me to spend time with them always. I feel really lucky to be here with them.

Thus far, even though I miss my family at home ever so much, I am wishing this adventure in Oviedo never has to end!

By el jefe de cocina, my host Dad

By el jefe de cocina, my host Dad

By el jefe de cocina, my Host Dad

By el jefe de cocina, my Host Dad

Real Life Cheetah Girl

New Paltz takes on Barcelona

New Paltz takes on Barcelona!

Hola!  From one adventure to the next.  This past weekend I embarked on a journey to Barcelona with fellow New Paltz student, Kara.  The truth is we didn’t really have expectations for the trip, it was kind of spur of the moment planning.  I never really thought about visiting Spain before, I think mostly because I’ve always associated Spanish speaking countries with my older sister.  But I never thought about it for myself, till now that is.  I know someone living in Spain right now, although I wasn’t sure where.  I just assumed she lived in Barcelona, so without hesitating I texted Kara, and the rest was history.

The view from the plane

The view from the plane

This was my first study abroad, out of country trip which required an airplane.  I met Kara at the airport, and the truth is I was impressed that I made it there on time, in one piece.  The independence one obtains while studying abroad is simply mind-blowing.  Even growing up in New York City, everyday I still push my own boundaries of independence living abroad.  I am always proud of myself even if I just accomplish simple tasks.

I truly consider Kara and I to be blessed to have made it to Barcelona.  We waited in the airport, and every five minutes I would check the departure board for our gate.  However, every time I would check the board it would say, “check back in five minutes.”  This was very disheartening, Kara was pretty sure we were not going to be leaving Milan.  I really tried to stay positive, as hard as it may have been.  I figured it wasn’t over till the fat lady sang!  Eventually a man sitting next to us informed us that our flight had been delayed.  He showed us on our computer, something that had not even appeared on the departure board.  Kara and I knew about the ground crew going on strike that day, but I really didn’t know the extent to which it affected people.  The man told us that almost every flight from Malpensa airport was canceled.  So when Kara and I eventually boarded our flight, I was beyond grateful.  I felt so fortunate, and lucky to be Barcelona bound.

YUM!

YUM!

When Kara and I landed, we headed straight to our airbnb.  We weren’t going to let any time get wasted, so we met up with fellow New Paltz abroad student, Hannah.  Hannah is studying in London, and just happened to be Barcelona bound when we were as well.  New Paltz ate quite a delicious meal.  I was especially happy because I got guacamole, something I almost never can find in Milan.  Avocado is one of the number one foods I miss while abroad, my mom and I eat entire avocados as a snack.  So anytime I find anything avocado related, I pounce.  It is so funny how difficult I find it to eat dinner on Italian time, most places don’t open till 7:30ish.  But Spanish dinner begins at like 10.  We finished dinner our first night after midnight!  Man was it worth it for that delicious food!

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

Huevos Rancheros y cafe con leche

The next day we met up again with Hannah for some brunch.  I am a big brunch girl.  I miss Main Street Bistro pretty much everyday, whether I am in Italy, New York City, or anywhere else in between.  Milan isn’t really a popular brunch place.  The breakfast foods I am accustomed to aren’t big in Milan.  One thing I love to eat, and never eat in Milan is eggs.  It is so simple, but pretty much all the time I crave a bowl of scrambled eggs.  So I was definitely on board to get some brunch.  I had the hues rancheros, as well as the cafe con leche.  Milan has amazing coffee, but it is pretty much all espresso.  So I was also excited for some yummy Spanish coffee!  Again, another successful meal!

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

New Paltz Starbucks selfie

Kara and I were also beyond excited with all of the American places we stumbled upon in Barcelona.  Getting off the bus to see Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Subway excited us probably more then anything.  It’s the little things you know?  Don’t get me wrong, Milan has AMAZING food, but shockingly enough the only American establishments we have are McDonalds & Burger King, two fast food places I do not eat.  To see these familiar places really made Barcelona feel like home.

NPsocial:  Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

NPsocial: Hannah, Kara, and Tamara embracing Barcelona one peace sign at a time

Viva España!

Viva España!

After brunch Kara, Hannah, and I went on a free walking tour of Barcelona, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact comparatively, I liked it even more than the free walking tour I took in Rome.  We also lucked out with the weather!  Another Tamara travel tip is to ALWAYS pack an umbrella.  Weather is so unpredictable.  I so far have not had the best luck, experiencing rain in Milan, Rome, Lugano, and now Barcelona.  The rain hasn’t stopped me, but it is always an unavoidable inconvenience.  Of course, I did not bring an umbrella to Spain, because I looked at the weather before I left and thought I would be safe.  But alas I was not.  Our airbnb host was so incredibly welcoming, he told me to help himself to any of his umbrellas.  We did luck out though to not have rain during our walking tour, or for most of our time in Barcelona.

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

Traditional Catalan tomato bread tappa

After the walking tour, we were very hungry, so we took to the tapas bar near the airbnb Kara & I were staying at.  The tapas were unreal.  Out of all the incredible things I ate in Barcelona, I must say the tapas were probably my all time favorite.  Sure, they weren’t cheap.  But it was so worth.  It was the best way to sample everything.  We made sure to have the traditional Catalan tappa of tomato bread.  But all of the tappas I ordered were yummy in my tummy.

Horta Maze

Horta Maze

Staying the extra day really made the difference.  Our last day in Barcelona, Sunday, Kara and I made sure to not slow down, so we took to the metro and embarked on some parks.  I have a friend studying in Copenhagen who visited Barcelona recently, and she recommended a maze for me to check out.  Let me tell you, this place was aMAZEing (pun intended).  It was so beautiful, we made sure to take lots of pictures.

Started from the bottom, now we're here

Started from the bottom, now we’re here

After the maze, Kara wanted to find the balcony the Cheetah Girls 2 shot at.  I being down for anything, was up for the trip.  We walked more than I probably have walked in my life, my legs hurt to say the least.  But, the view overlooking Barcelona was breathtaking.  Plus we did eventually find the balcony, because we were determined beyond belief!

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Cheetah Girls 2 balcony; Park Güell

Seafood Paella

Seafood Paella

The rest of the day was spent buying some beautiful souvenirs for our loved ones, petting an adorable black cat, and sampling some more local cuisine.  We felt we couldn’t leave Spain without having Paella, and churros.  So we crossed both of those noms off our list later that evening.  Like I said, when Kara and I are determined, we do not take no for an answer.  Our minds were set on churros and paella and we would be damned if we hadn’t eaten our fill!

Churros & chocolate sauce

Churros & chocolate sauce

Las Ramblas

La Rambla after the soccer game

After our meal we walked down La Rambla for one last time, and found ourselves amidst a celebration for the soccer game from earlier that day.  Personally, this reasoning really was why las ramblas was one of my favorite places.  Las Ramblas may be very touristy, but it was also just so action packed, I looked forward to every trip we had to it.

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Barcelona truly took our breath away.  It is so incredibly alive, and the energy is so contagious.  For a place that neither of us were really dying to do, we probably would have killed to stay!  I am so, so glad we made it to Barcelona, despite everything.  There is no place like it, and no way to describe it.  But we both said this was the first place we could actually see ourselves moving.  I don’t know if it was the American establishments, the fact everyone spoke English, the AMAZING food, the accessibility of everything (we almost never took the metro), or just the friendly people we met, but Barcelona really did steal both of our hearts.  Don’t worry mom & dad I’m not planning on moving anytime soon, but it was truly one of the greatest trips of my life.  I love Milan so much, but I would have not minded if our flight had been delayed a few days 😉

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Spooning with a sculpture in Montbau

Kara and I slept two hours, since Barcelona never sleeps.  We returned to Milan, and went straight to our dramaturgy class.  Sure, we were exhausted, but nothing would ever seem more worth it.

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Till next time, thanks for reading! Adios <3

Tamara

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Throwback Thursday: Madrid Edition

I’m finally settled back in New Paltz and being that it’s “Throwback Thursday” , it seems like the perfect time to wrap up my blog with some reminiscing.

As I had correctly predicted, this homesickness I would feel in regards to Madrid wouldn’t kick in until now that I’m settled back in New Paltz. Allow me to vent a little bit:

I feel this emptiness within me. Almost everyone around me speaks solely in English, I have no choice but to get back into the routine of juggling work, the Oracle, clubs, and classes. I miss walking around Getafe, I miss my roommate and the friends I made, I miss  spontaneous traveling, I miss everything around me feeling so new and fresh, I miss the food, I miss my siestas!  I feel it every time I get asked, “How was studying abroad?” I feel it when I look at the photographs I took.  I feel it when I speak to friends on Facebook/Skype.

But it’s time to move forward. It’s been great running into familiar faces around campus, seeing their eyes light up, and hearing some variation of “You’re back!” As much as I miss UC3M and Madrid, I understand it’s time to get back into the swing of things here in my other home: New Paltz! I’ve already spent a couple late nights working on assignments at the library and the honor’s center ( last night I braved my first Oracle production night back on board!)

There’s no way to truly do justice in describing the magnitude of my semester abroad within the few minutes of chit chat in passing with people so I’m absolutely happy I got to blog about it all. Madrid–and Spain in its entirety–was so enchanting.

Hanging out in Alex's flat, enjoying the view of La Alhambra, walking around Parque  Güell, drinking tea in Granada and celebrating at an outdoor Mexican festival. I had a blast with my best Ausie friends!

Hanging out in Alex’s flat, enjoying the view of La Alhambra, walking around Parque Güell, drinking tea in Granada and celebrating at an outdoor Mexican festival. I had a blast with my best Aussie friends!

 

Flamenco shows, street bands, gardens, soccer stadiums, churches, tea houses; Some of the greatest moments of my trip :-)

Flamenco shows, street bands, gardens, soccer stadiums, churches, tea houses; Some of the greatest moments of my trip 🙂

A peak at the UC3M Fernando de los Rios residence hall, which quickly felt like home ♥

A peak at the UC3M Fernando de los Rios residence hall, which quickly felt like home ♥

A simple sample of the Getafe sights I could never get tired of.

A simple sample of the Getafe sights I could never get tired of.

 

There wasn't a single place that I went that was not touched by beautiful art , regardless of fame or style.

There wasn’t a single place that I went that was not touched by beautiful art , regardless of fame or style.

All I can say is that my time at UC3M and in Madrid was so remarkable that I plan to visit again within the next year or so. My collages are only a small portion of the many photos I took. It’s safe to say that I accomplished the goals I had initially hoped to work up toward: learning more about the Spanish culture and perfecting my fluency. I also learned so much about myself and other people, which is a whole other reward in itself. I can’t thank my family, my professors, advisors, and the Center for International Programs enough for supporting me and catapulting me into what is now this amazing story that I’ll be able to tell for years and years and years to come.