Sunny Days in Barcelona

¡Hola! The summer is really flying by now. I’m writing at the end of week four but it feels like I’ve been here my whole life. I have definitely gotten over any initial culture shocks that I felt when I first got here. My sleep schedule and eating schedule, the two things I struggled with most, are now completely adapted to Spanish life. This makes all the other cultural aspects easier to handle because it’s much more fun to try and speak another language when you’re not falling asleep in the middle of the day.


One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about the Spanish language is how to apply synonyms to different situations. For example, the words “rincón” and “esquina” both mean corner. However, “rincón” refers more to a nook while “esquina” usually refers to street corners. There are many examples of Spanish words literally translating to the same thing in English but are actually used in different ways. This is what I find so valuable about studying abroad. Learning these sorts of differences is very hard from a dictionary or textbook. Immersing myself in the language allows me to pick up the differences every day. In the example I gave above, I figured out the distinction between the two words when I heard my mama use “rincón” a few times around the house. These interactions are vital to truly learning a language.

Alec and I at IceBarcelona

In my travel plans, I spent the last weekend in the amazing city of Barcelona. I took a flight over on Thursday afternoon and met my friend from high school for a great weekend. Friday was absolutely packed with activities as we had to hit every major landmark in a day and a half. On Friday, we started in the aquarium which boasts an 80-meter tunnel you can walk through with fish swimming all around you. After that, we had lunch in a 250-year-old restaurant and finished up the afternoon by spending a few hours relaxing on the beach. Later, we had dinner in an old bullring and watched the show at the Magic Fountain, an incredible water display in front of the National Art Museum. Finally, we ended our night by going to a bar on the beach that was made completely of ice! Talk about a cool experience.

La Sagrada Familia

On Saturday, we got up early to make our way over to Parque Guell, a park with glorious views of the city and the Mediterranean. It also houses an architecture park constructed by Gaudí himself. After that, we meandered to the Sagrada Familia, which has to be the most unique church I have ever seen. There are literally bowls of fruit on top of its spires. Why? I have no idea but it looks amazing. It was then finally time to go home. It was an absolute whirlwind of a weekend but definitely worth it. I’d go back for a whole week if I could. Now, it’s time to get ready for my last two weeks. Until next time, ¡Hasta luego!

Las Fiestas de San Fermín

¡Hola, buenas! I’m checking in after week three in Toledo and I feel completely at home. I don’t think I can truly explain how comfortable I feel with my host parents. Aside from the occasional (okay, more than occasional) communication difficulties, it is as easy as living at home. Pilar and Salvador have been such accommodating parents that I actually feel bad about leaving to hang out with my friends because I enjoy being at home so much. Pilar is a wonderful mother and would move heaven and earth to make me happy while Salvador is such a jovial joker that he never fails to liven up a conversation. Pilar has even begun to call me “niño” or “hijo”, which essentially means “my son”. I feel like I am truly part of a Spanish family.


In other exciting Spanish news, I spent my Tuesday seeing the Queen of Spanish music live in concert in Madrid. Yes, I saw Shakira with my own two eyes. Five of my friends and I somehow managed to obtain floor tickets for the concert and immediately jumped on a train to Madrid. Shakira has always been one of my favorite artists and she did not disappoint. That show was two and a half hours of pure joy to watch. She always seemed like she was loving every moment of playing for the crowd. For me, it was even more special to see Shakira in a Spanish speaking country. I feel like I got the full Shakira experience because she sang most of her songs with the original Spanish lyrics. I can honestly say it was probably the best Tuesday night decision I’ve made in my life.


This weekend was an eventful one for me. On Friday, my classmates and I all took a trip to Segovia, an old Spanish city about 45 minutes from Madrid. We first went to the castillo on the edge of the city. The view from the top of the Castillo is amazing because it is essentially situated on a cliff. From one side you can see the valley beyond the city, from the other you get a great vista of the whole city. After that, we proceeded to the Aqueducts. These are the only remaining Roman aqueducts in the world and measure almost 95 feet tall at one point. It is truly a unique marvel of human architecture that I had the privilege of seeing.

The ancient Roman aqueducts of Segovia


The day after Segovia was one of the craziest days of my life. It started with a trip to the Prado with my art class. That building is absolutely priceless. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of works they have by masters such as Goya, Velázquez, and many more. After that, I met my friend from high school and jumped on a four-hour train to Pamplona. That train carried me to the Fiestas de San Fermín, better known as the Running of the Bulls. What I found there was by far the craziest, most fun fiesta in the world. The streets were jam-packed with thousands of people for the entire night. Neither I nor my friend slept so that we could secure a good spot to watch the running in the morning. When those bulls finally came thundering past, it was a sight to behold. Getting to participate in a true Spanish fiesta was certainly a unique experience I will never forget. Until next time ¡Hasta luego!


The insane streets of Pamplona


No Pasa Nada

¡Buenos días de Toledo! I’ve just finished my second week here in Toledo, and despite what my title literally translates to, I haven’t been at a loss for things to do. Rather, I’ve taken this phrase and what it means in Spain as my motto for this trip. “No pasa nada” is a common saying that essentially means “Don’t worry about it”. As I‘ve gotten more comfortable in Toledo, this is the approach I’ve tried to take in my daily life. Did I just mangle a conjugation of a verb? Sí. Did I answer “yes” to a question that wasn’t a yes or no? Of course. Did I accidentally ask my host mom’s daughter if she likes mojitos? Absolutely. Does any of it matter? Of course not. No pasa nada. I have realized that I’m going to make mistakes speaking Spanish because I’m still learning. The only way I’m going to improve is to allow myself to fail, learn from it, and move on with the conversation.


In the city itself, my classes have really kicked into gear and I’m having a blast. One class is about the five greatest Spanish painters: El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Picasso, and Dalí. As someone who loves art but has never taken an art class, it is really opening up a whole new subject matter for me to explore. I also feel as though I’m absorbing much more about Spanish culture just by learning about its artistic heritage. My second class, Art and Architecture in Toledo, explores different historical buildings from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures that are still prevalent in Toledo. This class is particularly interesting and has immersed me much deeper into Toledo’s history than I ever would have been without it. I even find myself noticing the same styles and themes we talk about in class as I walk down the street.


Without a doubt, my best experiences have been building relationships with Spanish citizens. At this point, I’ve met most of my host parents’ family, including their three sons, a daughter, and two granddaughters. I find the differences between them in terms of age, interest, and way of speaking to be fascinating. It has certainly helped me become a better speaker. I had to speak with their grandkids, ages 7 and 10, for 2 hours! I’ve never felt dumber around kids before, but it forced me to speak and speak well or I was going to get made fun of! Even around Toledo, I’ve managed to make friends with the local population. These are people like Emilio, the bartender at the bar we go to, or Rosa, a worker at one of our favorite stores. Each person and their stories adds a little more depth to my Toledo experience.

A forest of arches in the Mezquita-catedral de Córdoba

As far as travel goes, my whole school took a trip down to Andalucía over the weekend. What a magnificent trip that was. We saw the Mezquita-catedral de Córdoba, a stunning cathedral that is inside what was formerly the most important mosque in Spain. After that, we worked our way down to Granada.     T

Two dancers engaging in a flamenco duet

hat was one of my favorite cities I’ve ever been to. Two events stand out. One was a flamenco show in a gypsy cave. To me, this was a true cultural experience, watching the flamenco being performed as it has been for generations. The next day, we toured La Alhambra. This was one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen. The art and architecture are simply breathtaking. I truly don’t think I can do it justice with words.


The stunning Plaza de Leones in La Alhambra

That’s a wrap on week two. I’ll be back soon. ¡Hasta luego!

Buenas de Toledo

¡Hola! I’ve been in Toledo for just over a week, but it feels like I’ve been here a lifetime. I have trouble even thinking about what to write in this blog since there’s so much to include. To start, let me share how I was thrown directly into Spanish culture. After arriving in Toledo, I was handed to my host family and sent home with them. After arriving home, we immediately sat down for dinner in front of Spain’s first game at the World Cup. My “padres”, Pilar and Salvador, are 73 and 75 years old but cheered like they were 25. This was a great introduction for me because I love “fútbol” and had a topic to discuss with my new parents. At first, I was terrified to talk to my padres and only responded in short, nervous answers. I quickly realized that this was ridiculous because my padres were willing to listen to me struggle and clarify things I didn’t understand. This helped me to trust myself to speak Spanish.

Over this week, the biggest improvement I’ve made in my speaking abilities is simply having the confidence to speak. I’ve learned that I’m going to make mistakes; I’m going to forget words, conjugate verbs wrong, and generally sound like an idiot on occasion. However, I know that this is the only way I am ever going to improve. I only speak Spanish when I go to stores and have found that most of the natives can understand me just fine. Even when they speak English to me because they can tell I’m American, I try to respond in Spanish anyway. My comprehension has also gotten much better. Even if I still have trouble speaking, I have almost no issue understanding people anymore. This is a product of being around Spanish all day. My friends, teachers, and padres are forcing me to assimilate. Finally, I’ve really enjoyed learning all the quirks of the Spanish tongue. In just a week, I’ve learned the regional words for “bathroom” and “team” while learning to add a lisp when I pronounce “c’s” and “z’s”.

The Cathedral rising above a Toledo street

During my first week, I’ve used my class breaks to explore Toledo with my friends. It truly is an amazing city. The streets and buildings have essentially not changed for over 400 years. As a history major, I feel like I’m in paradise. In one week I’ve been in a thousand-year-old mosque, seen world-class paintings, and gotten to know this incredible city. The food is delicious and the sangria isn’t too bad either.

This past weekend, my friends and I traveled to Madrid to see La Ciudad Real. This was a completely different experience from Toledo. Toledo is like living in a history museum. Madrid is more like living in New York. Still, it was a great experience to travel to a big Spanish city and get a taste of the more hectic urban life. We split up our time, going to historic sites like the Prado and El Palacio Real on some days and then heading to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu another.

Real Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu

I can’t wait to keep learning, living, and falling in love with this country. ¡Hasta luego!