Sunday, May 25, 2014

First Week Survivors

¡Feliz domingo!

Cheers to surviving our first week at the internship! It's been such a long, but rewarding week! Since we arrived on Monday, we were thrown into the chaos at work. I've worked a lot with course registration, course evaluations and creating the folders given to interns and students. Although it can be stressful, I love my internship, mostly because I love the people I work with. Everyone is so wonderful and friendly. Everyone has put their heart and soul into this company and you can tell.

My morning commute isn't too shabby either:
We had a little celebration with everyone on Friday after work on the roof terrace of a local hotel. It was so nice! The director and one of the other coordinators had their kids with them. Needless to say, they were the entertainment of the happy hour. As a thank you, Rich (our director), gave each of us interns 3 free coffee vouchers at the café we always go to, and a voucher for a free meal at a local restaurant.
Cava celebrations
The view from the terrace
They're only about 2 months a part!
Wednesday night my roommates and I grabbed a beer with Monica, our co-worker and new local friend. We talked about Spanish and English idioms which was so cool. We taught her the "she sells seashells down by the seashore" and she could not do it. She taught us "Tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal en tres tristes trastos" which was equally just as difficult for us! Afterwards we went to the movies to see The Grand Budapest Hotel because it was only 4 on Wednesdays. The movie was in English with Spanish subtitles. It was really good!
I really love all of the graffiti here

On Thursday, I assisted with one of the many upcoming airport pick-ups. It's so interesting to see the other side of my study abroad program. Everything seemed to work seamlessly for us students because of all the hard work that happens behind the scenes. I accompanied 3 enthusiastic interns from Texas to their apartments and then showed my last group their apartment (which is nicer than mine). I also showed them around their neighborhood a bit and showed them how to work the metro system. It was awesome to get out of the office and make an impact on the beginning of their time in Barcelona.

On Friday we held orientations for two large groups and then set up a paella lunch for them down by the beach. I got my first taste of how it will be as a teacher taking my little students on field trips. It was so stressful getting there. We had a group of about 60 or 70 students all taking the metro (and switching lines) all together. Luckily we made it! The lunch was wonderful, but most of it was seafood which unfortunately is not for me. I ate what I could and when the paella was delivered I did extensive surgery on mine to remove all of the teeny-tiny shells, shrimp and other crustaceans. Once I'd finally removed all of the seafood, the waiter came over and brought me a vegetarian paella.


Afterwards, I walked the entire pier along the beach. My body forgot how much walking I do here so I started to develop shin splints. I like to keep track of how far I walk each day and I'm always amazed! Since I walk so much, I decided that I would look for a second-hand bike. I've wanted a bike for so long, even in the states. I finally found one off of a website similar to Craig's List. I brought my ex-marine roommate with me as my security guard when we went to pick up the bike. It all worked out great! I rode to the bike to the bike shop and bought a seat cushion, a basket and a lock. It was without a doubt the best purchase I've made here! Now, instead of buying a €100 metro pass, I bought a €40 bike! I rode it all around yesterday taking pictures and enjoying the city; it's definitely my new favorite past time. Some pics from my first bike ride:

so this is a bank...
Representing SCSU!

The average workday I walk (or ride) about 5 or 6 miles. On the weekends, its much much more.
No gym membership necessary!
On Friday night we went to Plaça del Rei to watch traditional Catalan dance. It was amazing! There was a huge band and a children's choir. People gather in that beautiful plaza every Friday to dance and have a good time. It was so much fun and so fascinating. Afterwards we went to a bar with one of our co-workers Monica, a local, and her 2 roommates. We had so much fun talking about American culture vs. Spanish/ Catalan culture. We taught each other funny sayings, curse words and much more. We were very amused by how much they struggle to pronounce the words "beach" and "bitch" ; they pronounce them both as "beach" and can't hear the difference.

On Saturday night I was thrilled to meet-up with my roommate from home, Brie! It worked out that we were in Barcelona at the same time. She was here for 5 days and then headed off with some friends to Italy for a week. We went down to "the American clubs" on the beach. We never really go down there much anymore since they're way more American than Spanish and they're filled with tourists (and pick-pockets). We had a great time and I even saw Aashi -a club promoter who became friends with us last time we were here.

Here's some pics of my apartment. We have 3 single bedrooms and one double bedroom. The boys were kind enough to let me have my own room. We live 5 minutes from La Sagrada Familia
My bedroom 
1 of the 2 bathrooms. please tell me how I'm supposed to shave my legs in that shoebox of a shower.
No that is not a dishwasher, its the clothes dryer.... 
View from the balcony 
Living room 
The dog across the way is the closest thing I have to a pet here.
I've named him Oscar.

I'm having such a great time here, I can't believe I'm back!

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Guide to Barcelona for First-Timers

Sights to See (listed in order of importance):
1.Plaça Catalunya & Las Ramblas (The city center) –Also check out La Boqueria on Las Ramblas –a typical market unlike anything you’ve probably seen before. Sample a fresh fruit juice.
2. The Gothic Quarter & The Gothic Cathedral (don’t need to go inside)
3. La Sagrada Familia
4.Las Arenas (Bull fighting is now banned in Barcelona. This old bullfighting ring is now a gigantic shopping mall). Head to the top for a 360° view of Barcelona.
5. Parc Güell
6. The beach –metro stop Barceloneta or Villa Olímpica
7. Parc de la Ciutadella (if you have time, theres a great zoo here)
8. Montjüic –Beautiful mountain in Plaça d’Espanya filled with beautiful gardens and fountains. At the top is the 1992 Olympic stadium
9. The two best Guadí houses are Casa Batlló and La Pedrera (aka Casa Milà). You can admire them from the outside since they are expensive. If you would like to go inside, go inside La Pedrera.

Things to eat:
·      Tapas –small appetizer-like portions.
o   Typical Tapas:
§  Croquettas (stuffed with cheese, ham, potato or fish), tortilla patata, pan con tomate, patatas bravas
·      Pinchos or pintxos –are individual items held together with a toothpick. You pay by the number of toothpicks you have at the end.
·      If you like ham, Barcelona is the place for you. Check out jamón ibérico and ham flavored potato chips
·      El Principe are packaged cookies that are surprisingly delicious. You can find them in any food shop.
·      Beer –Mortiz and Estrella Damm are local beers with major breweries in Barcelona.

        Places to eat:
·      El Mussol – Typical Catalan food, more for a sit-down dinner. Try the calçots.
·      Bo d’ Be –Amazing sandwiches. Very popular so the line is usually 45 minutes long but the wait is definitely worth it.
·      Els 4 Gats –Frequented by Picasso, Guadí and other famous artists, writers and architects in the early 20th century. It has a vibrant history and is worth having a coffee or some tapas at.
· Qu Qu -Typical tapas bar
·      We Pudding –Café modeled after Alice in Wonderland
·      Cervecería 100 Montaditos –Cheap bocadillo (sandwich) restaurant. On Wednesdays and Sundays everything is €1!
·      Rosa Negra – Delicious Mexican food  
·      Betty Ford’s –Delicious American-style burgers

Bars & Clubs:
·      Chupitos –Extremely fun shot-bar with 1000’s of different types of shots.
·      L’ovela Negra -2 locations (recommend the one off of Las Ramblas before a night out) (recommend Poble Nou location for Barcelona Futból games)
·      Sugarbar –My personal favorite little hole-in-the-wall bar. Amazing mojitos
·      Bar Marsella –Absinth Bar, known as the oldest bar in Barcelona. Frequented by several famous people and known to be Hemmingway’s favorite spot.
·      Ryan’s Irish Pub –Many tourists from all over Europe come here. Fun atmosphere & good prices.
·      Opium, Catwalk and Shoko –On the beach, known as the “American clubs” or tourist clubs –check their Facebook pages for reduced covers (no sneakers, must look very nice)
·      Razzmatazz –A major club with 5 gigantic rooms, with various styles of music

The Metro:
·      You will most likely want to purchase a T-10 metro ticket which lasts for 10 rides and can be shared, it is approximately €11. A single-ride trip is a rip-off as it is about €2

General Tips:
·      Watch out for pick-pockets!! I cannot stress this enough, Barcelona is one has some of the worst pick-pocketing in the world. Zip and button all purses, jackets etc. Men, put your wallet in your front pocket. Pick-pockets are generally located at major tourist attractions such as Plaça Catalunya, Las Ramblas, La Sagrada Familia and on the metro.
·      The airport: To save money, when exiting the airport, get on the Aerobus. It is €5,90 per person. It stops/picks up at Plaça Catalunya and Plaça d’Espanya. You can walk from there to your hotel/hostel from there or take a taxi. When going back to the airport, get on at either of the two stops and know which terminal you’re flying out of.
·      I recommend you rent bicycles one day –they’re a cheap and easy way to get around the city, which you will find to be relatively small.
·      There is a cable-car that takes you to the top of Montjüic
·      There are buses that take you to the top of Montjüic and Montserrat (the other major mountain)

Things to know:
·      Barcelona is located in a region called Catalunya. Catalunya existed long before Barcelona. Catalonians are very proud of their culture. They have their own language (Catalan), food, holidays, traditions and flag. There is a major push for Catalonia to become an independent country from Spain right now.
·      Bullfighting is banned in Barcelona for political reasons.
·      The rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid is almost entirely political
·      Catalans speak both Spanish & Catalan
·      Siestas are more typical of Southern Spain. Their purpose was because it would be so hot around lunchtime that many shops would close in the afternoon for lunch.

· Women should not travel alone at night

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

She's baaaack

!Hola chicos!

That's right ladies and gentlemen, I am back in Barcelona!! In November I received an e-mail from my study abroad program asking alumni to consider applying for their "Best of the Best" internship opportunity. I jumped at the opportunity and submitted my video application within that week! I anxiously waited until January to hear that I was selected along with 4 other candidates to return to Barcelona as a "Best of the Best" (they like to call us the bob's). I'll be here for the majority of the summer working at BIC, where I originally studied abroad.

Apparently I'm featured in the SAE catalogue... 
In short, the internship entails a lot. Summer is our busiest time of year for study abroad and internships. The Bob's work for SAE while the other interns go through SAE to find outside internships. There will be about 200 students all coming through our programs at some point this summer. That being said, our job as interns is to help make the process less hectic. We each got assigned a coordinator -mine is obviously the academic coordinator since my major is education. From there, our coordinators assign us various jobs and projects that pertain to our areas of expertise. We often times help picking up the new students/ interns at the airport, showing them around the city and sitting in on their cultural excursions.

I arrived on Monday morning after a long day of travel. It took me 7 out of the 8 hours on the plane to find the headphone jack in my seat, therefore I tried to sleep most of the way. One of the other interns was actually sitting right in front of me on the plane! Before arriving here, I already knew 2 out of the 4 other interns because we studied abroad together. Once we arrived, we headed to our apartment. This time, I'll be sharing an apartment with the 4 other BOB's. I wish I was staying with Olga again; I miss her cooking.

 As a result, I went grocery shopping for the first time here -so difficult. It took us twice as long and since we shop like Americans there was no way we could carry it all on the metro, so we took a taxi home. We had to translate everything in the store, and I'm not sure if I bought dish soap or floor cleaner! But our apartment is beautiful and is perfect for our little group. It is weird living with boys though... cooties ;)

Roommate cheers with our beloved crappy beer
We've been so busy all week at work that we haven't had much time to ourselves. We generally work 8 hour days, but sometimes our schedules change due to student activities.

I haven't fully expressed how elated I am to be back in the city I love most. Although it will never be the same experience I had last time, I'm excited for a new adventure. I wish that my beautiful friends were all here with me though. I feel like I belong here, and it feels like I never left. It's sort of like coming home!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Aruba: One Happy Island

They say to go some place you've never been before once a year, so thats just what I'll do.

We saw the coast of Venezuela at one point!
This year? The beautiful island of Aruba! SCSU offers an annual trip to the senior class for a reduced price. It was awesome because there were about 50 SCSU students that attended, so we made tons of friends and got to travel with people we otherwise would have never had the opportunity to get to know.
Our group of friends -most of us met there even though we all go to Southern!
Aruba was beautiful. I've never been anywhere tropical before, so I was thrilled to escape the melodramatic weather of Connecticut. Since it was technically our summer already, we decided that if Summer wouldn't come to us, we'd go to it. It was 80 + degrees every day with a cooling ocean breeze. We stayed at the Marriot Renaissance Ocean Suites right on the water. The Marriot had their own little private island for their guests to enjoy. They had water taxis every 15 minutes that took us over to the island free of cost!
On our way to the private island

The water was crystal clear!
One of my favorite parts was all of the animals 

Highlights of the trip included snorkeling over a sunken ship. The snorkeling excursion was a half-day booze cruise on a pirate ship! The crew was hysterical. I had to stay in the shade with the old people most of the time because I was getting very sunburnt. While snorkeling I dove down and picked up a starfish! The ship also had a rope swing where we all swung out into the ocean. It was so much fun! Later that night everyone went out the Kukoo Kanuku bus, but I had to stay back in the hotel because I literally had sun poisoning -go figure. 

See, I'm already pretty burnt, and had to wear a towel around my shoulders
I also really loved Señor Frogs, a local hotspot for the young people in Aruba. It was a lot of fun, especially since we had such a large group of people.

There were iguanas everywhere. I thought they were SO cool but I was the only one who seemed to think so.

Overall, Aruba was beautiful and I'm so grateful for the opportunity! Another pin to add to the map :)