Bye Melbourne, for now.

I can’t grasp that I am actually leaving in the morning.. I’ve spent a countless amount of time packing and worrying about all of the things that could go wrong on the way home – and it still hasn’t clicked. I spent my final day here checking out the Melbourne Aquarium, it was pretty cool – a nice relaxing way to close out my abroad experience. Now as I lay here in this bed for the last time, with empty walls around me, I know how hard it will be to leave here in the morning. I find comfort in knowing it’s only bye for now, and that there are so many adventures to come in the future because of this experience.

Thank you Australia.

 

Second excursion

So this weekend we went on our second excursion of the program which was a trip to Astorga and Leon. These are two towns that are about two hours from Oviedo. On Friday night we all ended up going out and drinking a lot of Sidra which is just so good. Everyone went home relatively early so that we could wake up the next morning.

The bus left at 9:30 and we started our two hour bus ride to Astorga. This was a small little town that was filled with a lot of history. Of course there was a huge cathedral that we all had to check out along with a museum inside the cathedral. You can really see all the history in this building and it is truly amazing. Afterword we went to a palace that Gaudi designed. He was a famous Spanish architect with a very unique style. This palace looked like it was from a movie and I feel like I couldn’t even capture it’s beauty in a picture.

The last place on our list was the Museo de Chocolate. This was a museum dedicated to the foundations of chocolate. Probably my favorite part was the sampling that you got to do at the end. The chocolate tasted so natural and unlike anything else.

After getting back on the bus to go to Leon, the ride when really quick. Luckily, everything that we were going to see in Leon was pretty close, so we didn’t have to do as much walking. On this particular weekend there was a market going on with many little tents. They were selling everything from food, to clothes, to jewelry. It was so fun to go around and see all these things that were mostly hand crafted. We even got to try some of a big dish of paella that they were making and it was DELICIOUS! We got to see another one of Gaudi’s buildings and another cathedral as well. This cathedral was famous for its stained glass that was throughout the structure. Everything had so much detail, it was crazy to think about all the work that went into these buildings.

Later that night we decided to go out even though we were all very tired from the excursion. I thought I knew the bus system by now, but apparently not. Needless to say, It took me two hours to get where I was going. I suppose it was a good learning experience because I did eventually find my way around. We ended up at Copas Rotas again and even got Kabobs which were the best tasting food in the world!

I can’t believe how fast the time is going!

 

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La segunda fin de semana

So it is already my second weekend here which is just crazy. Time is already flying by! My first full week of class was okay. I actually enjoy the classes and they aren’t too bad. It is a fun way to learn Spanish. Last night (Friday) was the soccer game between the US and the Netherlands. It was a pretty interesting game. My plan was to go to the Ovida which is the residential building that a lot of my friends live in, to watch the game.

I know that they usually take a bus, so I thought how hard could it be? Hard. As I am not used to taking public transportation, I am forced to learn it here. I went to one of the bus stops that is close to my apartment and started to wait for the bus. Not too soon after my host mom came over to make sure it was the right bus and talked to  man who was convinently waiting at the station also. After much debate, they agreed that this bus would take me where I was trying to go. Unfortunately, what I didn’t know was that after a certain time in the afternoon, the buses come every 30 minutes instead of every 10.

After getting on the bus, the man who was also waiting at the bus stop made conversation with me and even showed me where I needed to get off. He also told the bus driver to make sure that I get off at my stop which was very nice. It seems that everyone that I have met thus far in Oviedo is very nice and very willing to help out. Once I finally made it to my bus stop, my friend was waiting there for me. Although it did take me about an hour in total to travel, I’m so happy I actually made it.

We met up with two other girls that I am friends with and decided to watch the game, as many of the bars didn’t show the US soccer games. Surprisingly, the US actually beat the Netherlands! Afterward, we hung out for a bit and then decided to start heading to the bars.

One thing that is majorly different about Spain is that when it rains instead of having worms, they have snails. Apparently you can hear crunches when you walk in the rain because of all the snails. These really grossed me out and I was EXTRA careful not to step on any.

Even though it was raining, there were so many people out. It seems that there is never a slow night here. We decided to go to a bar called Diario Roma which was right in El Centro. The bartenders are very friendly and greeted us with a kiss on both cheeks (which I am still getting used to). After staying out for a few hours we decided to head back. I took my first taxi here and it was so much faster than walking, which I was grateful for.

 

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Soccer in Spain

It has been a few days since I have written, but the good thing is that I am just finishing my first full weeks of classes! This week has gone by so fast and it feels like I have been in Spain for months. It is a bit of a struggle to wake up earl and go to class everyday, but it isn’t so bad. My classes are pretty easy and at times are actually enjoyable. I have met so many different people in these classes from many different parts of the world.

After class on Tuesday, I decided to go to the park to tan because I am very pale and it was great weather outside. It was not too hot, but warm enough to tan. As I walked up to the park, there were so many people who had the same idea. Everyone was in bathing suits laying in the park. It was a good chance for me to just relax and catch up on some overdue reading. Hopefully I got some color although it might not have done anything.

The next day, on Wednesday, some of the other students from America told us they wanted to play soccer that afternoon and that they knew of a field we could go to. Our classes ended at 2:00 so we agreed to meet at the school at 4:00. When we eventually did all meet up, we started walking toward the field. It was a bit nerve wracking because I am not good at soccer and everyone else was very aggressive and plays soccer often. I made friends with a girl who was there that didn’t play also which was good so I didn’t feel as alone.

The field was made a turf and was actually pretty big. We picked teams and began playing. Although some people were super into the game, it was actually very fun and I didn’t mind that I wasn’t the best soccer player ever. About an hour in, another team came to use the field which meant we had to leave. We actually ended up having to pay to use the field which was a bit expensive, but because we had so many people it was pretty cheap individually. I’m so happy that I actually got to play soccer in Spain! Even though I am very sore and I have blisters on my feet, it was so worth it.

 

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Real Oviedo

On Sunday, there was a soccer game between Real Oviedo and Cadiz. Apparently it was the last game and whoever won it, won the entire competition. I didn’t know that there was a game until my host mom told me and my friends invited me to come.

It was weird to me that it was on a Sunday afternoon, but apparently it was normal for the people in Oviedo. We went to La Calle Rosal which is the street that they were playing the game. There was a huge screen outside and an enormous crowd of people standing around to watch the game. Everyone was very enthusiastic which was crazy to see, because it almost never happens in America. Everyone was dressed in blue and they were all singing songs of Oviedo.

The first goal was crazy! As soon as they scored everyone threw their cups of beer in the air and screamed. Someone next to me even started a fire and set off fireworks. Because Oviedo was the only one to score, they eventually won when time ran out. When this happened everyone was super happy! They were screaming and hugging everyone who was there, whether they knew them or not.

When we were walking away from the street, all the cars everywhere were beeping constantly and waving all of their soccer paraphernalia outside their cars. Some people were standing up through the sun roof and screaming as they past. It seemed like the whole town had this energetic feeling about having won this particular soccer game. People were swimming in the fountains in the middle of town and it was a great feeling to be in Oviedo when they won their game.

 

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La Espicha and the excursion

On Friday night we all went to “La Espicha” which is basically a big party with the purpose of socializing. I became friends with 4 boys in my class who are from the states and 3 other girls from the states who were in a different class. It seems that when I’m here, finding people who speak English is very rare. This part of Spain doesn’t have many English speakers, so we were all sticking together.

La Espicha was in a huge restaurant called “Tierra Astur” There were many long tables filled with different kinds of cheeses, meats, and of course lots of bread! These were “tapas” which are big plates of food for everyone to share. Throughout the restaurant they had barrels full of La Sidra, which is the cider. When I wanted to get some, I had to give the man my glass. He turned the handle on the cider and it shoots out of the barrel. La Sidra is caught in the cup and you have to chug it before it settles. When it settles the taste changes because it is not activated anymore.

It seemed that many of the people were from the US and almost everyone was speaking English. I met so many people that night who were all really excited to hangout and see the world. It was refreshing to see so many people with motivation and real goals for their lives. Living in Spain for the summer is really seizing the moment and I’m so happy that I am taking advantage of the time I have and doing something truly amazing.

After La Espicha, we all got o the buses to take us back to Oviedo.

Because I had to wake up early the next day to go on the excursion, I decided to go back around midnight. I decided to walk home because I didn’t think it would be that long of a walk and it is all downhill. Surprisingly, I felt pretty safe walking alone even though that would never be the case in the States.

The next morning I forced myself to wake up at 8:00 so that I could make it to the excursion. I went to the campus and the bus picked us all up at 9:30. Surprisingly, the guy from the night before who I hadn’t heard from since he walked off was there along with the girls from Missouri that I was slowly getting closer to.

Our first stop was to Cangas de Onís which is a small town with a lot of history. The bridge there is the most famous and made completely of cobblestone. The view was even better from the bridge at the town below. After we got back on the bus and headed to Los Lagos.

It was about a 45 minute bus ride up the mountain which is the highest I have ever been. The views were insane going up the mountain. It really seemed like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie which was just unreal. The roads hugged the mountains and were very narrow. It was crazy to me how two cars could fit into this little road.

Finally when we reached the top, we started out hike. We decided to take the scenic route which actually happened to be a lot longer and steeper, but still worth it. From the tops of the mountains all you can hear is bells that are around the cows necks. There were so many cows every and with all their bells, it sounded like a constant wind chime which definitely went along with the atmosphere and beauty of the mountain.

When we finally made it to the second lake, the view was unreal. In the background there were snow covered mountains, which the lake sat in the valley in between huge mountains. We had coffee at a small restaurant in the mountains and continued our hike.

We got back on the bus again and this time headed for Covadonga. This was another town which was fairly close to us. Here there was a church which was n the side of a mountain. It was supposed to be a very sacred place and for this reason, we couldn’t talk while inside the church. It was very beautiful and historic which you don’t see very much of in the US.

Unfortunately, on the way down from the mountain, our bus side swiped another car. We did have to wait for a few minutes on the bus and when we got to the bottom, the policia arrived. It didn’t take much time, and after a few minutes we were on our way back to Oviedo.

 

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First day of class

Today was the first day of classes and I didn’t know what to expect at first. I went to the room a little before 9:30 and there was only one other girl there. We waited and waited and about 5-10 minutes later, the professor and the other students came. I guess it isn’t that important to be on time in Spain. My classes are from 9:30-11:30 and then 12:00-2:00. Although it seems like it would be a long time it went very quick. The class is also pretty easy. To me, it seems like beginner spanish instead of intermediate spanish. We simply went over vocabulary and played games like one truth and a lie. During our break I went to the cafeteria with the girls from my class and got something to eat. At many places here they have naranja natural which is natural orange juice. They squeeze it right there and it is the best tasting orange juice I have ever had.

Tomorrow is La Espicha which is a party for all the university students. The region of Asturias is very famous for La Sidra which is apple cider, but fermented. La Espicha is a party near barrels of cider and they also will have tapas which is food for everyone to share. I am excited to find out what tomorrow will be like.

As the days go on…

I have now been here for three days, but it feels like a lot longer. I have packed so many things into my days it feels like I’m always on the move. Yesterday was the orientation for my classes where I met two other american girls which I was pretty happy about. FINALLY someone who speaks English! Because the advanced class was canceled due to lack of students, I was placed in the intermediate class. It really surprised me how few students there are in the program. There are only two students in the beginner class and six in the intermediate class. Also after the orientation, two of the professors took me and three of the other american girls on a tour of the city. It was very nice of them to do and also really cool because they explained the history of all the sites to us. One of the professors told me to meet a group of the students at La Plaza de la Constitucion at five. I wasn’t quite sure where that was, but I had a map so I thought it would be relatively easy: I was wrong.

I left the apartment at about 4:30 to give myself half and hour to find the place we were meeting. From all parts of town the Cathedral is very easy to see. I tried to use it as a reference, but it was a bit hard when all the buildings were blocking my view.  I couldn’t use the data on my phone, so I had to rely on the old fashioned way: asking people. Every person that I asked knew where it was and how to get there, but their directions were confusing to me. Finally, with a little bit of luck, I made it. I found my professor and three of the girls from Japan that were in my class.

We were supposed to be waiting for more students, but they never showed. Instead of going inside the political building to learn about the politics and the elections, we went to a nearby restaurant. We sat and talked for about two hours and then we all parted ways. I went with the girls that were with us, and we pasted by El Museo de Bellas Artes. This is a museum of famous paintings. Surprisingly, it was free, and they even had paintings from Dali and Picasso! After the girls and I went to our separate homes, it was very difficult for me to get back. I tried to go straight from the cathedral because I knew it where straight down, but the streets in Spain are not like a grid as in New York. They go in all different directions so it is very difficult to go straight.

To make matters worse, the street signs did not exist. They were not on the corners like they are in America. Finally I figured out that they were actually on the sides of the buildings, but it was still hard to follow. Finally I made it home. What I like about Oviedo is that it is a very safe and clean city. There haven’t been any men looking at me or saying things to me while I walk down the street which is very different than I am used to. Overall it is pretty good so far, but my feet hurt from walking!

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I made it!

So today is the 26th of May and I made it to Spain. It was bit scary at first trying to find all my flights and buses. As soon as I left my family in the airport in New York, I instantly felt different. I was at the gate waiting for my flight to Madrid and everyone was speaking Spanish around me. Even the woman on the loud speaker was only speaking Spanish and I was wondering what I got myself into. As I finally boarded my flight and sat next to a man that I didn’t know, I felt relief: I made it on the plane and was on my way. The flight lasted about seven and a half hours which was the longest flight that I had ever been on. I decided to pick a flight that flew through the night and arrived in the morning: probably not the greatest idea.

I tried to sleep, but it was very difficult as the seats are not the most comfortable in the world. Finally when we did land, I was getting all of my bags ready to get off the plane and I overheard a girl speaking English about how it was her first time in Europe. She looked about my age so I made it a point to go and get to know her. We hit it off right away and we actually helped each other find our gates. She was from Buffalo, NY and was also staying in Spain for the summer. We exchanged numbers and parted ways. From there the trip was relatively easy. I got on to the plane to Asturias, Spain and tried to sleep some more. This was not possible because we were only in the air for about 30 minutes before we began to land. Once we landed I found my baggage and found the bus to Oviedo.

When I reached the bus station, I got off the bus and a woman came up to me and asked me if I was someone, but I couldn’t make out the name she said. I said no, but then she returned and asked my name. I told her and the problem was that she just couldn’t pronounce Ashley! Which is pretty crazy for me to think about. We got into her car and started talking. It was a bit difficult for me to communicate myself because of the fact that she didn’t speak any English. When I didn’t know the word or what to say, I had to find another way to say it.

I did get to finally sleep when I got to the apartment for four hours. The apartment is very nice. I have my own room which is pretty big with a big closet. Also I have my own bathroom with a shower and luckily she already supplied me with all the towels that I could need. After taking a nap and putting all my clothes away, I went downstairs and there was food already made for me. Overall, the first day is turning out quite well.

South Island

During the second half of my break I traveled through the South Island to see its beautiful scenery. After being in the North Island the week before I was excited to see what was offered in the South Island. My travel consisted of many long bus rides, and I got to meet many tourists who never been to New Zealand before. I was very fortunate to be staying on this beautiful country for four months after hearing tourists saying that they are only here for two weeks wishing they could be here longer.

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My travel to the South Island started with taking the ferry down. On my ride I went through the Bay of Sounds, which was beautiful and it gave me more a taste of the beautiful scenery offered in New Zealand. This was first ferry ride, so it was a great experience for me. After my ferry I took the bus down to Christchurch, and on my ride I saw more beautiful scenery. When I arrived in Christchurch, it was sad to see how a natural disaster can greatly affect a vibrant city. The city was still recovering from an earthquake in 2011, which destroyed many buildings including a Cathedral, so there was not much offered here in the city. Despite not being much offered, I was still able to see how people tried to keep the city vibrant despite the disaster.

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The next place I went to was Queenstown, which was the most beautiful place that I have ever seen. This was a popular tourist place so it was called a tourist trap by many people with how there is so much to offer for tourists. Here I got to meet some of my family. They took me out to Glenorchy where they filmed part of Lord of the Rings. I got to imagine some scenes from the movie being filmed here, which was really cool for me. There was beautiful scenery, and I learned how the town developed from a big glacier melting. It was interesting to learn about glaciers and how the whole island formed from the melting of a glacier.

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The next place I went to Franz Josef where the glacier was the main attraction with many other walks to do. My first day here I did a walk through an old tunnel. I walked through really cold water but it was cool walking through the dark. I got to learn about how people used to operate with structures like these before technology developed. I also got to see the tropical forests of New Zealand even though it did not seem like tropical weather to me, but it was still neat. The next day I walked to the glacier and I got to see a glacier for the first time in my life. I did not know that the air would be so cold with the glacier, which I had to learn the hard way. I was wearing shorts and a light jacket without a hat or gloves. After walking I could not move my fingers, so I was unable to untie my shoes and unplug the charger from my phone.