Spanish Girls Take Ireland

Dublin skyline
Dublin skyline

¡Hola amigos! Ever wondered what happens when four Spaniards go to Ireland for the weekend? Keep reading to find out!

In case you are confused as to why am I referring to myself as a Spaniard, let me explain. This weekend I traveled to Dublin with three of my friends who are studying abroad with me in Sevilla (Lauren, Kristina and Maggie). We arrived in Dublin around 8PM Thursday night, and checked into the hostel we were staying in. This was my first time staying in a hostel, and I have to say it wasn’t as bad as I expected! Besides the lack of towels, the mandatory bunk beds, and questionable robot wall paper, our room wasn’t much different from a small, cheap hotel room. And we had the room all to ourselves which was really nice. After settling in a bit we headed to a pub that had live music. Suddenly we heard one of the singers ask if anyone was from Spain, and the four of us started cheering like crazy. The singer didn’t seem to believe we were from Spain because we are all blonde (according to him). Despite his comments, we continued to say we were from Spain for most of the trip.

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The band that doubted our Spanish heritage

On Friday morning we headed to a free walking tour of Dublin, which was so much fun. The tour guide was probably the best tour guide I’ve ever had. He was fairly young and had graduated from Trinity College, so when we went to the campus he had a lot of funny personal experiences to share. Throughout the tour he added in hilarious comments and stories that made 3+ hours of walking much more enjoyable than they would have been with a bland tour guide. He showed us all of the main architecture and famous sights around Dublin, as well as some of the lesser-known sights such as the staircase that was used to film a scene in P.S. I Love You (us girls got way too excited about standing on those stairs).

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The staircase from P.S. I Love You

Our day didn’t end with the tour, however. After saying goodbye to the best tour guide ever we headed straight to the Guinness Storehouse and took a tour of the building. It was actually really interesting to see how they make Guinness and all of the steps that go into creating the drink. You could really tell how passionate all of the employees are and how well they are treated by the company which is nice to see. All of the employees were also very friendly, which seemed to be a trend everywhere we went in Dublin.

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The Guinness Storehouse

In comparison to Spain where employees are sometimes a bit rude to foreigners, everyone we met in Ireland was incredibly friendly and really wanted to know more about us and where we come from. As Americans, I think we are always curious about other cultures and we forget that people from other cultures are probably curious about America as well. It was fun telling people we met about our home and sharing different phrases and words that we say in America that are not used in other countries, and vice versa.

Saturday morning we woke up waaaay too early, but it was definitely worth it. We had to be at a bus at 6:30AM to go on a tour of parts of Ireland outside of Dublin, with the main event being the Cliffs of Moher. There was a fairly large group of people with us on the tour, and we met a few of them and spent the bus ride talking and making fun of our bus driver who we nicknamed Darth Vader because every time he spoke into the microphone he would breathe really heavily which made the whole bus crack up, though I don’t think he noticed at all.

The Cliffs of Moher was an experience I will never forget. Saturday happened to be a very cold, rainy and windy day, and after looking it up later we found out that the winds were probably blowing at almost 50 mph while we were there. Never in my life have I felt that strong of a wind pushing me, to the point of literally blowing me away a few times. The view was incredible, and luckily we were able to take pictures without our cameras blowing out of our hands. Unfortunately Lauren and I didn’t make it across to O’Brien’s Tower, which is the highest point at the cliffs. The wind was so strong that we physically couldn’t fight it, so I definitely want to go back sometime to go all the way across. Maybe I will have to bring a few big strong men with me to help me walk across without blowing away!

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The Cliffs of Moher
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O’Brien’s Tower from afar

Overall, the trip to Dublin was a huge success and we were all really sad to leave on Sunday. There is something contagious about the city. I don’t know if it’s the beautiful green grass, delicious food, friendly people or the live music everywhere. Whatever it is, Dublin is definitely a city I would recommend everyone visit at least once. I hope to return there soon!

Your favorite Spaniard,

-Shelly

Cordoba and Granada

Hola amigos! I can’t believe it’s only been a little over a week since I got to Spain, it feels like it’s been at least a month already!

Last week we took a Spanish class like I mentioned in my last blog. We were split into two groups, and the teacher for my group was a woman named Raquel. She was so nice and funny. On Wednesday she led a tour to “Las Setas.” It’s basically a huge structure that was built where you can climb to the top and see the most beautiful view of Sevilla. We went right before sun down, so the lighting made the view even more breathtaking. I am so lucky to be living in this city!

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We all ended up convincing Raquel to join us at a place called Ferretti at 6PM on Friday. Ferretti serves all kinds of desserts from crepes to gelato to milkshakes. I got a chocolate crepe and it was to die for!

The main event this week was our weekend trip to Cordoba and Granada. We left Saturday early in the morning, and got on a bus with a tour group that drove us to Cordoba to look at the cathedral there. Our main tour guide was a cute old man named Miguel, but because he wore a very Indiana Jones-ish hat, everyone took to calling him Indie and singing the theme song the entire trip. He didn’t seem to mind one bit. We thought we would be the only group on the trip, but it turns out another study abroad group was going with us. They were a small group, only nine people, with 5 from a university in LA and four from the University of Miami. Two of the girls I talked to from Miami were also ADPi’s, so it was cool getting to meet some sisters from a different school!
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Speaking of sisters, when we arrived in Granada after touring the cathedral in Cordoba, we were walking down the streets of Granada and I saw my friend Leah who I have known since elementary school! She’s also an ADPi at UT, and she’s studying abroad in Granada for the semester. I knew she was in the city, but randomly running into her was such a funny coincidence! We didn’t get to talk for long before I had to catch up to my group, but I’m sure we’ll be able to see each other over this semester while we’re both in Spain!

We stayed overnight in an extremely nice hotel in Granada, and in the morning we headed to La Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex, which was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by the Sultan of Granada. The view were amazing, and the details inside the palace were so beautiful. It’s crazy to think about how much time and dedication it must have taken to create everything!
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The last few days have been pretty busy with orientation at UPO (the university we are going to) and our first day of classes today! All of us TCU people ended up in a lot of the same classes, so it was nice going into class and seeing friends instead of strangers. All of the classes we take are specifically designed for study abroad students, and you have to get special permission to take classes with actual Spanish students at the university. All three of the classes I had today seem really interesting and not too difficult so hopefully they will continue to be that way!

Tomorrow early afternoon me and three other TCU girls are heading to Dublin for the weekend! I am so excited! Not so much excited about leaving the weather here in Spain, but I’m sure this is going to be another great weekend!

Hasta luego,

Shelly

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Los primeros días en España

¡Hola amigos! This is only my fourth day in Spain, but what with my busy schedule and the time difference, it feels like it’s been weeks. A lot has happened, so I will try not to make this too long.

To get to Spain I had to take three different flights: Austin to DFW, DFW to Madrid, and Madrid to Sevilla. The flight from DFW left at 6PM, but because Spain is 7 hours ahead, we landed in Madrid at around 10AM. I tried to sleep for most of the flight, but it was really hard to get comfortable and I kept waking up so I don’t think I actually got very many hours of sleep. There was a group of other TCU students on my last two flights, so it was nice to be able to meet some people and travel with them to Spain.

We landed in Madrid and the whole TCU group walked together to find our gate for the Sevilla flight. Thank God there were other people with me, because I definitely wouldn’t have been able to navigate the Madrid airport alone. We finally found our gate, and once we boarded it was only about an hour before we were finally in Sevilla! We all got cabs and rode to the Hotel Zenit, where we stayed for the next two nights. At this point it was finally starting to sink in that I was actually in Spain. Driving from the airport to the hotel I looked around at all of the signs in Spanish, and thought “wow, I’m really doing it! I’m living in another country for 5 months!”

The next few days were spent getting to know the city by walking around and trying different restaurants, and going to “orientation” where all 22 of us met with a professor from TCU and a woman named Mary Alice, who is our contact and “mentor” here in Spain. The orientations were meant to help us learn more about the Spanish culture and talk about any questions or concerns that we had. As I expected, there are a lot of cultural differences between the U.S. and Spain. Here are a few of the differences we learned about in the orientation, and some that I have noticed from my few days here so far:

  1. When you meet someone for the first time, you don’t shake their hand. Instead, you kiss both of their cheeks.
  2. Meal times are all very different from the U.S. Lunch isn’t served until about 2 or 3, and dinner is served around 9 or 10. Eating dinner at 6 or 7 is literally unheard of.
  3. Siestas are a real thing (and a beautiful thing as I have learned). Around 3:30 every day, most Spaniards will take a nap for a few hours. This is perfect because it is right after lunch and before dinner.
  4. There are bike lanes everywhere, but they are on the sidewalks instead of the road. This has been surpassingly difficult to get used to, and I have accidentally walked in the bike lanes a few times and gotten yelled at/almost run over.
  5. Taking food or drinks to-go is not done in Spain. They will think you are a bit strange if you ask to take your food home, and most restaurants don’t even have to-go containers.

On Sunday my roommate and I met our host family for the first time. Our host mom is named Purificacion, or Puri as everyone calls her. Puri lives in an apartment in an area called Los Remedios, which is a great location and within walking distance of many restaurants, bars and Sevilla landmarks. She has been extremely friendly and welcoming to us, and though it has been a hard transition trying to speak in all Spanish to her, she seems very understanding. She has a 22-year-old daughter who is also very nice, as well as two older children who we have not met yet. We did get the pleasure of meeting one of her 11-month-old grandchild today, who is just about the cutest baby I have ever laid eyes on. Puri and her daughter refer to her affectionately as “Gordita” because she is so chubby.

But possibly the best member of my host family is the dog, Dana. Never in my life have a met a more clingy dog. If you stop petting her she will push her nose into you, stand with her back to you and push her butt against you or lay on the ground on her back until you finally give in and pay attention to her. My roommate Kristina and I have spent a surprising amount of time talking to, petting and paying attention to Dana. She demands 24 hour attention.

This week we are taking a Spanish class to brush up on the language before we start our classes at the university next week, and this weekend we are taking  two-day trip to Granada and Cordoba. Overall I am loving my time here in Sevilla. The city is beautiful, the food is amazing, and I have been meeting a lot of new people from TCU.

¡Hasta luego!

–Shelly

P.S. Another fun fact: My name is causing a lot of confusion. Because h’s in Spanish are silent, words beginning in Sh are non-existant. Every time I introduce myself, this is what follows:

“Me llamo Shelly.”

“……Charlie?”

“No, SHELLY”

“Sally?”

“SHELLY! S-H-E-L-L-Y!”

“Selly?”

“……”

So yeah, shout out to my parents for giving me a non-Spanish friendly name. Maybe I should just change it to Charlie.

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Me and my roommate Kristina

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Dana being her silly, attention-seeking self

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The view from the balcony of my apartment

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Fear, taking risks and embarrassing stories

Welcome to my blog! For the next 5 months I will be studying abroad in Seville, Spain (or Sevilla as I will be referring to it in an effort to not come across as incredibly un-cultured). This blog is meant to be a way for me to share my experiences abroad with my friends, and possibly strangers if they care. If I feel particularly inspired, I may continue blogging after I return from Spain, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I leave for Spain in 9 days and I am feeling…a mixture of fear, nervousness, anxiety, stress and excitement. Yep, notice excitement is the only positive word in the mix. This is not because I don’t want to go, or because I don’t think I will have the time of my life studying abroad. It’s more because I have some very prominent personality traits that make it extremely difficult for me to take risks in life.

For those of you reading this who know me well, you know that I tend to have a hard time staying calm and often get worked up over little things. Adapting to change is not exactly my forte. If I had it my way, everything would stay the same always. Maybe not stay the same, but I would at least have powers like in That’s So Raven where I could see the future and prepare for my inevitable doom. That would be pretty sweet. But as I am just a normal girl, living a not-so-Raven life, I have to deal with changes like the rest of you. And I am not always very smooth when dealing with said changes.

To prove how un-smooth I am, and give you a glimpse into who I am, I will give an example of how much I suck at dealing with change. And what better way to accomplish this than by telling a story that will bring laughter to your life while simultaneously bringing embarrassment to mine? Let’s do this.

From first grade until eighth grade I went to a tiny private school that people either A) Have never heard of B) Have heard of but have entirely wrong ideas about i.e. thinking it is the real-life Hogwarts (I wish!) or C) Have heard of and actually know a lot about it. C is pretty much reserved for people who attend the school and close friends of people who attend the school.

Anyway, after a lot of discussions and school visits, my parents and I decided it would be best for me to attend high school at a “real school” instead of continuing at the unfortunately-not-Hogwarts private school. I was having a lot of mixed emotions about leaving a school where I knew everyone in my class and going to a school where it would be virtually impossible to know everyone in the class. Unless you are incredibly popular and just casually have 650 friends. If so, please teach me your ways.

So at the end of eighth grade I was still coming to terms with the fact that I would be leaving a class I had grown up with, and naturally, because I am Shelly, I was freaking out a little bit. We had an end-of-year dance as a class, kind of like a Homecoming dance at public schools except way more lame and way less people. Regardless of the obvious lameness of said dance, I was actually having a pretty fun time with my friends, dancing and goofing off.

However, at some point I guess it hit me that these fun times would eventually come to a close, and I would have to say goodbye to my friends. So I did what some people think girls do best: I started crying. Yep, I started crying in front of all of my childhood friends because I was so sad to be leaving them. Now, hopefully some people saw this as sweet and endearing, the fact that I loved them enough to cry. But I’m pretty sure most people saw it as crazy and mental breakdown-y and were probably thinking “wow how is she going to be able to navigate through four years at public school if she can’t even handle one eighth grade dance without falling apart?”

I ended up doing just fine at public school, and I am still close with my private school buddies to this day (hey guys, hope you got a good laugh from that walk down memory lane!) I don’t regret leaving the comfort of private school life to venture into the unknown world of “real high school” one bit. And I think that even though I was scared, I knew at that dance that taking the risk of going to a new school would eventually pay off. Fear is a very mysterious and often largely inhibiting emotion, and as with most emotions, we don’t have much control over it.

The idea of spending a semester abroad or starting a new school are not things that scare the average person because they think they are a bad idea or because they don’t think they will have fun, but rather they scare us because the outcome is unknown. Because none of us have Raven’s powers, we are held powerless over what the future will hold. And that is why the future is so scary.

I know that studying abroad in Spain will be one of the best decisions I make in college. I can see myself five months from now, gushing to my family and friends about how amazing my time there was and how glad I am that I went. Like transferring to a new school, I know that I will eventually look back and feel so glad that I made the decisions I made. But until the day comes when my now-future experiences in Spain become past experiences, I am forced to deal with the crippling fear of the unknown. On the upside, I haven’t cried in front of people about it….yet.

Hope you enjoyed my first blog post! I am going to try to post every week, so the next time you hear from me I will either be a few days away from Spain, or maybe even IN SPAIN!! How exciting! (And scary…) See ya then!

–Shelly

Me and my friends after the dance. If you look closely, I think you can see some tears in my eyes.
Me and my friends after the dance. If you look closely, I think you can see some tears in my eyes.

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