In college, I participated in 4 different study abroad programs: a semester-long faculty-led program in Pontlevoy, France with multiple disciplines, a multi-country, faculty-led, multi-discipline summer program, a short-term, language intensive program in Paris, France, and a semester-long exchange program in Orléans, France. I basically majored in “study abroad.” Within mere days of being in France for the first time, I knew I wanted to a career in international education. So, I made sure I studied abroad as many times as possible in order to better understand it.
Well, a little over 3 years after that first moment of realization, I am now 10 months into a job in the field of international education. I graduated in August with a French degree and I immediately got a part-time temporary position in the study abroad office. As of the first of April, I am officially a full-time study abroad coordinator. That isn’t the best part though…I’m, also, leaving in 2 days for France–again, I know–to coordinate a 2.5 week-long study abroad program. We will be starting off in Strasbourg (with a day trip to Basel, Switzerland) and then we will end up in Paris. Basically, this is the dream job and situation.
There are many things that I’m excited about…being back in France, seeing my friends, hearing French as I walk down the street, and exploring parts of France that I have never seen. However, I am most excited about seeing the study abroad experience from a completely different view point. As a coordinator, I will get to see the faces of these students as they experience the eiffel tower for the first time, hear them try to order their coffee in broken French, and watch them grow. These things that have become so normal to me will be a new and fascinating world to them. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to work with study abroad programs and now, I’m going to get to see it first hand.
I wanted to go somewhere with a local charm and I definitely found it. This hidden gem 40 minutes from the coast of Naples is small and untouched by many tourists. NO ONE speaks hardly any English (or French to my dismay), but it is wonderful and beautiful.
After a tourist-filled few days in Florence, all I wanted was to get away from the crowds…especially after my vespa adventure through the tuscan hills. You would see people of course and yes, Tuscany is pretty touristic. However, it was really nice to be away from the crowds. I just wanted a change and I have definitely gotten it.
Tomorrow I have a rented vespa that I am taking off to explore the island and see the different beaches. Let’s hope I don’t get lost. If I haven’t been heard from by Friday, please start to worry a little bit.
In the future though, I have to come back with a bunch of friends for a week or so. Things aren’t expensive at all and it has an amazing feel to it. I can’t get over how much I love it.
For now, ciao!
My post about Granada is just now happening since my computer decided to freak out and update the software by itself when the wifi wasn’t great so it didn’t work until today.
My time in Granada mainly consisted of two things: a bullfight and Alhambra.
Before I arrived in Granada, the couchsurfer I was staying with asked me if I would like to go to a bullfight that night because there was going to be one in front of his apartment. Needless to say, I was confused by this until I arrived and saw that the Plaza de Toros was literally right in front of his apartment. I mean this was the view from his balcony:
So, that night, along with another girl he was hosting, we went to the three hour long bullfight. Now, I honestly didn’t realize how ignorant I was on the subject until the first fight started. For those of you as ignorant as I was here is how it goes:
There are 6 rounds of three different toreros (bullfighters–and there are different types). Their technique before they kill the bull is all different. Some use the normal cliché cape, there are some that have no cape and their goal is to stick these long sticks between the bull’s shoulders, and there was even a guy on a horse (this was the most impressing because the horse literally ran sideways from the bull). Basically, you need to see this to understand.
During the first round, I was literally in a state of panic and could not stop thinking, “Oh my gosh, I am about to see a man and a cute little horse DIE.” This is not the case though. You realize after the third round that running from a bull is not that hard (you don’t run straight, you turn into a circle because bulls can’t turn sharply) and that these guys are highly trained. Plus, I read about this later and the bulls used in a bullfight cannot have ever fought against a human before. This must be their first time so they don’t realize that the human is the real target. So when they are staring straight at a man with a cape, they are completely focused on the cape and don’t realize that the man is separate from that cape–which is quite annoying when you are rooting for the bull to kick the guy’s butt (keeping it PG13–and I’m an animal lover..what can I say #teamBULLforlife). So the basis is that they spend 30 minutes trying to stick the bull with small little sword/needle type things (where you can see the blood coming out–so don’t go to this if you are squeamish), then at the end of their time, they take a long sword and jab it right through the back of the bull to puncture the heart. Then they (pompously–there should be a lot of emphasis on this word) stand in front of the bull as it hopefully falls to it’s knees. Once it does die, the crowd waves white scarf-like things to show their support for the fighter and basically cast their vote to the president of the bullfight who decides how good the fighter did. The fighter can get 1, 2, or 3 white scarves from the president…the great part is what those 1-3 scarves mean. Please take a moment to guess what it is…I bet you can’t. That being because each scarf won equals a body part that the fighter receives to then THROW INTO THE CROWD as a part of his victory lap. Yes, you read that right. HE THROWS BODY PARTS INTO THE CROWD. Here are the body parts:
One scarf – one ear
Two scarves – two ears
…and the holy grail of scarves…three scarves – two ears AND the tail
Yes, the TAIL.
So, the first rounds, I didn’t realize what was happening because I was in the nosebleeds and didn’t realize what he was throwing. It wasn’t until the first man got the 3 scarves and they started cutting the bull’s tail off and then presented it to the fighter who then walked around the ring waving this long bull tail around as people through flowers at him–I felt like I had to be in a movie. This couldn’t be real life. At the end of his victory lap, he preceded to throw the tail into the lower level and as everyone fought to catch the tail, a little boy joyously caught the tail and held it up in the air just as if he had just caught the ball at a professional baseball game. In the end, it was an enlightening cultural experience and very interesting–plus, the looks of horror and shock on my face were entertaining the little spanish lady sitting in front of me almost more than the fight–but I think one time was good enough for me.
As for Alhambra, I am going to keep this post short and post my photos (well the ones I have…my camera battery died half way through) from Alhambra later.
As for right now, I’m in Barcelona and I didn’t realize how much it would live up to the hype, but it is a beautiful and amazing city and I didn’t allow myself enough time here as I’m leaving tomorrow for Italy. So I already know that Barcelona will be the first place I go when I’m back in Europe next time.
So, until Italy…ciao!
I feel like this is becoming a ritual. I get on the train to the next city, I set up my computer, and I begin to write my blog entry about that city.
Anyways, Sevilla, Spain was a beautiful city. It is full of small little roads with a spanish charm. It was extremely hot which reminded me almost too much of Mississippi, but at the same time it was nice to be warm for once.
The first night I stayed at a hostel called The Garden Backpacker. It was fine and normally, I think I would have loved it. I think the reasons I wasn’t completely sold was because I just stayed in Lisbon Home Hostel and that was an experience like no other. It’s rated #2 in the world and #1 in Europe for a reason. Another reason is because I have experienced couch surfing (Now, Penny–my aunt–I know you are probably reading this and about to freak out, but don’t). I stayed with a couch surfer the first part of Lisbon and when I was in Salamanca. Seriously, I would not have had as good of an experience if I had not done that. The people I met were amazing and now, hostels just aren’t the same. When you couch surf you are able to see the city through the eyes of a local. Plus, you are able to meet and connect with someone that you wouldn’t normally have the chance of meeting. When I was in Lisbon and I woke up in the night with a 103 degree fever, things would have been much worse if I hadn’t been staying with a couch surfer who went to the pharmacy to get me medicine and made me tea and food when I didn’t feel good. Additionally, in Salamanca, I had an amazing time with the girl that hosted me and her roommates. I was only there a night but I wouldn’t have had as good of a time without them. The random French play I spoke of in the last post, that was them.
Now back to Sevilla, I stayed in a hostel the first night and the people I met were okay, but they all had their own agendas–mostly of which including finding someone to hook up with or getting ridiculously drunk–things I was not interested in. Sometimes you get lucky and meet someone really awesome, but sometimes you don’t and I was not having any luck at that hostel. Then I found a host for the next two nights in Sevilla and he was awesome. We went out with a bunch of his friends and it was a really good time. Plus, I got to speak French some more with his friends which is always great. Then last night he showed me where a free flamenco show was. Basically, couch surfing is awesome. Yes, I know some of you might think it’s dangerous. However, you just have to look at the references of people. Don’t be stupid and stay with a random creepy seeming guy with no references. Stay with people that have many positive references from different travelers. It’s that simple. If you are scared of taking that big of step at first, just join the couch surfing site and start going to community events or meet with someone for coffee and show them your city! It’s a great way to meet new and interesting people and you won’t regret it.
P.S. In Sevilla, I had a couple dinners on this private terrace thanks to Couchsurfing.
Right now, I am on a train from Salamanca to Madrid where I will change over for a train to Sevilla. I was only in Salamanca for one night and even though it started out a little bumpy, I ended up having a great time and I’m really glad I decided to make a stop there.
Wondering what the bumpy part was?
I totally forgot that there is a time change between Portugal and Spain. Therefore, when I was supposed to be getting off the train at 5AM, I was still asleep thinking it was 4AM. I realized this an hour after my stop and ended up having to get off and find a train back to Salamanca. However, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be–it was still a rookie mistake though.
So, Salamanca was a random mixture of randomness but wonderful at the same time. I spent the day exploring and even took a nap on a bench across the river from the center of the city and it was a beautiful view and a much needed nap after the night I had had before. Later that afternoon I was walking around and I saw a girl that looked American–and if you have traveled any you know that you begin to develop this keen sense of who is from where. I didn’t say anything though and we ended up parting ways. I stopped and had a beer (considering that is the only thing I know how to say in Spanish) then I started walking towards the Plaza Mayor (this big open area that people hang out at) and I saw frozen yogurt–a sight foreign to these eyes that have been in France for 4 months. So of course, I had to have frozen yogurt. Well guess who else was craving some frozen yogurt? The other American. I took this as a sign that I had to ask where she was from…and I was right. So I spent an hour or two with her and her friend that are both studying in Salamanca for a semester. Then at 9PM I went to a French play (yes, French and yes, I am still in Spain) for a girl and her roommate that I was staying with. It was awesome and nice to see a play in a language I understand. Then after we went to dinner with all of the people in the play and ate amazing food and drank delicious sangria.
Basically, for a day in Salamanca, I did a lot and it was amazing. I even got to speak French for a while which was fun and good practice since I don’t get many chances while I’m traveling. I would love to go back though one day because it strangely reminded me of the Spanish version of Orléans where I study in France. It had the same student atmosphere and look to it. Therefore, if you ever go to Orléans, but want it to be more Spanish-y, head over to Salamanca.
I have been in Lisbon since Wednesday and I must say that I might be in love. This city is beautiful and amazing. The people are extremely friendly and I honestly don’t want to leave.
Also, a side note about my life: I’m no longer excited about traveling.
This sentence might sound a little crazy, but let me explain why.
As I was talking to a friend that I was hanging out with in Paris the day before I left for Portugal, I was like, “Oh, we leave tomorrow right? I need to figure out what time the bus is to go to Beauvais (airport).” I had literally forgotten for a while that I was going to Portugal the next day. It wasn’t a big deal to me. That is when I realized, traveling has become the norm for me. Two and a half years ago, I was literally having panic/excitement attacks every other day for a month before I left for my first study abroad program. I could not grasp the idea that I was leaving to go to France for 3 months (little did I know that it would turn into 6). Also, once I got there I spent so much time trying to grasp the fact that I was there–which makes it difficult, I think, to really get into everything. That was because it was this new exciting experience. Now, after many trips abroad and a lot of time spent traveling, I no longer have that overwhelming excitement and that feeling of disbelief that I am going somewhere amazing. This may seem sad, but it is completely the opposite. I have come to a point where traveling this much and having these great experiences has become my life. This fact gives me so much hope for the rest of my life: the things I want to accomplish, the places I want to see/experience, etc. I have so much ahead of me and so much to learn, but I know that I’m on the path to make it happen.
I am seriously the happiest I have been in a long time and even though I don’t get the rush of excitement before I go somewhere new, I am constantly enjoying life and living in the present–something I have been working on achieving for a while.