Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Until Next Time...

And so it is with great sadness that I announce that my adventures throughout Europe have come to an end for now. I'm writing this last post in the comfort of my own room, in my own bed, with a nice homemade cup of tea.

It's so strange being home, it's already been just over a week and I've found I'm still adjusting. It feels like I created a whole new life abroad and then I just up and left it. I do get sad sometimes and find myself wishing I was still there. But coming home wasn't all bad. I got to see my family and friends whom I've missed immensely. It's hard to be thousands of miles away, watching life continue on without you sometimes. I was reunited with my puppies and other critter friends, which if you'd met me while abroad, you can attest to how much I missed them. I even resorted to going to the supermarket to pet the dogs waiting for the owners outside. It's also nice to be home because I can work again. I'd worked my butt off to save all that money to spend abroad, and it broke my heart to watch it slowly all fade away. It was so worth it though I should add. It's nice to finally be back in action at work and watching my bank account rise instead of just fall.

Being at home, I have to laugh when I get asked "So, how was it?". I laugh because for one, this is the standard question that we were even prepared to hear upon return in our re-entry workshop. I also laugh because how am I supposed to answer a question like that? Oh, you know, it was good...

In all honesty though, studying abroad in Barcelona was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don't have a single regret, and if I could, I'd do it all over again. Anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad, please do. It's so cliché but one of my favorite things about this time in my life was the fact that I've never felt so alive before. I felt invincible, I could do anything, I could go anywhere. And I did. I went abroad knowing that the thing I wanted most was to travel while I had the chance. I traveled to nine different countries and visited twenty one cities. I got to do things I'd never even dreamed of like ride a camel on the beach in Morocco, AFRICA. I got to see for myself why Germany has the best beer in the World, I got to fulfill my childhood dream of seeing The Eiffel Tower not to mention I ate my body weight in pizza and pasta in Italy.

But the traveling wasn't even the best part of my experience. I'd say the people that I met throughout my journey are what made it so special. I'm so fortunate to have met the people I met. When you're away from your friends and family, you tend to construct yourself a little make-shift family for comfort. We certainly formed our own little family, and I'm so lucky to have gotten so close to these people. I'm also fortunate enough to have walked away with a friendship with my intercambio partner Raquel. She was such a great partner and friend to have, I'm so fortunate to have had her as a mentor.  My host mom Olga, is such an inspiration to me. I hope to someday visit as many places that she's been; she's accomplished so much for herself. Originally I was living in a dorm by myself, but I thank God that I was able to switch into Olga's home because she was the one who truly made my experience special.

And can't forget to mention this goon 

I've also gotten a lot while being home "What was your favorite place?" In all honesty, Barcelona. I swear to you, Barcelona is the best city I have ever been to. I've fallen completely, head-over-heels for this place. Even random people I've shared brief conversations with all agree that Barcelona is an incredible city, theres just some kind of energy there. It's got everything from the mountains to the beaches. The culture is so fascinating especially The Catalan culture. It was so cool to be living in Barcelona while history was being made with The Cataluña movement.

But if you'd asked me that excluding Barcelona? I'd tell you that thats a difficult question because my time in Morocco was such a different experience. It was more than just any other trip. I also really loved Munich. I love how open Germany is about their past, and I loved learning about all of their history and their beer was the best beer I've ever had in the history of ever! I also really loved Dublin, heck I had to have loved it or I wouldn't have visited there twice! Venice is also at the top of my list, it was so romantic and adorable. A lot of people say they don't like Venice but I can't understand why, I loved it. Finally, I really enjoyed Chefchaouen, the city of blue in Morocco. It was unlike any place I've ever visited and definitely made the top three of most beautiful place I've ever been to.

I tried to come up with ways to thank my parents for giving me such an incredible experience. I'll never find the proper words to thank them, because those words simply do not exist. I am so grateful and thankful to my very core. It was the best gift I have and will ever receive. I'll spend the rest of my life trying to find the words that express my level of gratitude. Thank you Mom, Dad, Darci and Uncle Larry.

Until my next adventure, ¡Adiós mis amigos!

21 Things I Will Miss About Barcelona

A list of 21 things I will especially miss about Barcelona. Why 21? Because 21 is my favorite number, and if I didn't have a cut-off, the list would go on forever.

1. My spit-fire Spanish mom, Olga and her amazing cooking.

2. The family I formed with the wonderful people I met in my program.

3. Pan con tomate with every meal.

4. Not having to question if everyone is a Barça fan while watching the game.

5. The boxer who sits at the store window next to school.

6. Herminio, my favorite café owner who helped me with my Spanish.

7. The walk back to my house.

8. Belly dancing with Olga.

9. The beach.

10. The baby sleeping bags.

11. The culture.

12. The view from Las Búnquers.

13. Getting lost on Montjuïc.

14. This strange tease "Dunkin' Coffee" that doesn't taste like Dunkin'.

15. My favorite doughnut at Dunkin' Coffee -yes, Dunkin' Coffee has doughnuts...

16. Walking down Las Ramblas.

17. Barrio Born and Parc Ciutadella.

18. Meeting for coffee with Raquel.

19. Finding beauty in every corner of the city.

20. The incredible night life.

21. Experiencing strange things on the metro.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dublin' my time in Ireland

Hi everybody!

It's about that time to post about my last endeavor. Where to? Back up to Dublin. Why Dublin again? To visit Gary, someone I'd met during my first visit and hit it off with.

So after Taylor and I had an adventure throughout Northern Italy, we took the train back up to Milan where we said goodbye and I caught a flight out to Dublin. The Ryan Air flight crew could not have peeved me anymore than they did that day. I had already been running around all day taking various forms of transportation (ending total: 4 buses, 1 train and 1 plane). I had previously paid to check a 15 kg bag but I knew that with my Italy purchases it may have exceeded 15kg. So like any normal airline, I tried to go back online and pay for the 20 kg. But of course Ryan Air decided they can profit from this too, and tried to charge me 100 extra Euro to check my now 20 kilo bag (20 euro PER kilo). Instead, I decided to throw out 5 kilos worth of stuff to make it work.

When I got to Dublin I was happy to see Gary again! That night we headed out to Porter House which is the pub where we actually met. We got dinner and drinks and just enjoyed each other's company. The next day we took a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison built in 1796. We tried to go there on our first trip but there were too many people signed up for the last tour of the day. It has a very rich, yet dark history. It once held the former Irish Revolutionaries seeking Independence from Britain, some were eventually executed. It was such an interesting tour. Gary had never toured the jail so he too was very impressed.

Just hangin' in jail
On Wednesday we headed to the busstation where we took a bus tour from Dublin to Galway. I was adamant about seeing The Cliffs of Moher because I didn't get to see them last time we were there and decided that I will see them next time I'm in Ireland.

The tour was an all day tour and was really interesting! We got to see the country side filled with acres of green fields and sheep of course. It was beautiful! It still threw me off that they drive on the other side of the road though.

Those stone walls were everywhere. The stones had to be removed from the fields so that farmers could farm, they used them to build walls.

These have been found throughout Ireland that serve as grave markers for up to 15 people.

Look how rocky the ground was! 
Typical Ireland sheep
High crosses

When we got to the Cliffs I couldn't believe how windy it was! When everyone talks about The Cliffs of Moher, no one tells you how insane the wind is! At times you could literally lean back and the wind would support you. My hair was all kinds of crazy. The wind was so nuts that it was raining upwards, up the cliffs! It was difficult to go from the sometimes 90 degree weather in Italy to the sometimes 50 degree weather in Ireland! Even though I felt like I was in a hurricane, they were beautiful. So worth it!!
They were MASSIVE!

It was a bit windy!

After our time in Galway we headed back to Dublin. We went to this beautiful park full of flowers and had a gorgeous pond with swans in it!

I had such a great time in Dublin. It's such a great city and I'm so fortunate to have visited it twice. And from Dublin, it was back to the good 'ol US of A. Stay tuned for my last post(s).