Madrid y Barcelona

Yes, I am aware that it has been forever since my last post. But in my defense, I’ve been really busy traveling for the past two weekends. Isn’t it ironic that when I actually have interesting material to write about, I’m too busy to write about it? Anyway, in this post I am going to quickly fill you in on my recent travels to two awesome cities in Spain: Madrid and Barcelona.

The Madrid Trip

Ever since I randomly chose to do a speech about it for a speech class class year, Madrid has been on the top of my must-see list. I didn’t really know much about it before I went, except that it was Spain’s capital and there are three of the most famous museums there. So my list of things to do/see consisted of:

1) Museums

2) Anything and everything else

We took a train that left at 6:10 in the morning. Yep, you read that right. For any of you who know me well, you know that I am nowhere near being a morning person. As I was walking to meet my friends, I saw people walking home from going out the night before. That’s how early it was. On the upside, leaving early meant that we had the whole day to spend in the city on Friday.

Since the weather was nice and we knew it would rain Saturday, we decided to do all of the outdoor activities (aka the “anything and everything else” category), and save the museums for Saturday. We ended up doing our own little walking tour of the city. We walked through the huge park called El Parque Retiro. It has a beautiful river where lots of people were on boats, a bunch of gardens and fountains, and a building made completely of glass, called the Palacio de Cristal.

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El Parque Retiro
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El Palacio Cristal

Saturday it was raining and freezing, my favorite weather (*heavy sarcasm*). So like I said, we decided to do indoor activities. We first went to El Palacio Real, which is the royal palace where the king used to live. You get to walk through and look at all of the rooms, which are exquisite! Seriously so beautiful. Unfortunately they were very strict about no pictures inside the castle, so I was only able to take pictures of the outside, which sadly looks way less impressive in comparison (the gloomy weather certainly didn’t help).

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El Palacio Real
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Courtyard of El Palacio Real

Afterwards we went to El Museo Nacional del Prado, the museum I had been looking forward to. It holds works of art from all of the most famous Spanish painters. It was really interesting, but a little overwhelming. There were way too many different rooms and paintings to possibly see everything, but it was worth it to just see what I could.

On Sunday we just woke up and went to catch our train, which was at 9 AM. 9 seemed late compared to 6! Overall it was a great trip. Madrid is a much more crowded and bustling city than Seville, and I found I felt a lot more comfortable when I got back to Sevilla. I think Madrid can be compared to lots of big cities in the U.S.: they’re fun to visit, but not everybody would want to live there full-time. I definitely enjoyed visiting, and would go back again if I got the chance. But if I had to choose a city to live in, I would have to pick good ol’ Sevilla.

The Barcelona Trip

The weekend after Madrid, aka this past weekend, I headed to another city that had been on my top must-see cities in Spain: Barcelona! I had always heard that it was a really fun and exciting city, and also very beautiful. I was not disappointed.

Like Madrid, I was forced to wake up ridiculously early in order to catch the bus to the airport and make it to my 8:30 AM flight on time. This is apparently becoming a trend, because my flight to Venice this weekend (yep, finally time for ITALY) is at 8AM. But again, it is totally worth it. The flight to Barcelona was pretty short and painless (mostly because I slept the entire way there) and before I knew it I was in Barcelona! Luckily they have a bus that shuttles people to the city, and the bus stop happened to be only a few blocks away from my hostel, which was in a great location in the city center.

I decided to explore a bit before checking into my hostel. I walked down Las Ramblas, which is one of the main streets in the city for shopping and restaurants. There is also a market there called La Boqueria, which I walked through. It had all of the different types of food and drinks you could imagine. I tried a strawberry and coconut smoothie which was to die for.

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La Boqueria

Later that day I met up with Masha, who I know from high school, and her friend Kim. The three of us went to el Museo Picasso, which was really cool, and then just walked around the city for a while. They showed me Parc de la Ciutadella, and the beach which is beautiful. It made me a little jealous that Seville doesn’t have a beach to walk to!

On Saturday I had a jam-packed day of sight-seeing. I first went to La Sagrada Familia, a large Roman Catholic church designed by the architect Antoni Gaudí. It is still unfinished, though Gaudí has already passed away. I have to admit all of the construction on the outside took away from the beauty a bit, but it was still an amazing piece of architecture. And the inside was just as breathtaking, with extremely intricate ceilings and colorful stained glass windows.

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La Sagrada Familia
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Inside la Sagrada Familia

I wanted to get some pictures of me inside the church, and the woman that I asked turned out to have quite a creative streak, and decided to take one at an interesting angle. It was actually a good idea, because she was able to capture the beautiful ceilings. And the color of my sweater matched the stained glass, which was a nice added touch.

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Getting artsy in La Sagrada Familia

I then headed to the other place I was excited to see, Parque Güell, a huge garden complex which was also designed by Antoni Gaudí. One of the most famous parts is a large terrace overlooking a beautiful view of the Barcelona skyline, with a bunch of colorful mosaic benches. My sweater matched nicely with the tile there as well. My outfit choice was just on point that day! The park also includes Gaudí’s home which they have turned into a museum. It contains original works by Gaudí and several of his collaborators, and was declared a historical artistic monument of national interest in 1969.

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Mosaic Terrace at Parque Güell
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Gaudí House Museum

Overall it was another great weekend! Barcelona is definitely my second favorite city in Spain, after Sevilla. Not only does it have a really unique culture, but it has beautiful parks, museums, and a beach. I didn’t want to leave!

Saturday I will be leaving early in the morning (of course) to fly to Venice! One of my oldest friends, Rowan, and I will be spending a few days in Venice, then heading to Florence for a few days. It’s sure to be an extremely blog-worthy week, so stay tuned for my next post!

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Masha and I, throwing up our Westlake High School chaps sign!

La vida sin un iPhone

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For those of you who haven’t heard, I have now been iPhone-free for three weeks. And no, I am not “like totally dying” without it. But there are definitely things that I miss.

Things I miss:

1) Snapchat. Yes, I do realize how pathetic it is that this is #1. Don’t judge me.

2) Pretending to text in awkward situations. Flip phones just don’t have the same effect, somehow.

3) Viber. I miss texting and calling my friends and family. And I miss the funny stickers. Sorry Facebook messaging, but you just don’t compare.

4) Instagram. The ironic thing is that I barely ever even posted pictures to Instagram, but now that I can’t, I have a strong urge to capture every meal that I eat and every pretty sunset that I see.

5) Completely unrelated, but since this is a list of things I miss, I’m gonna go ahead and put it out there that I miss Mexican food like crazy. Spanish food is delicious, but I would give anything for some chips and queso right now.

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Taking photos would have knocked Snapchat out of first place if I hadn’t bought myself a camera today. I was really smart and didn’t bring an actual camera to Spain, thinking I would just use my iPhone. Flawless plan right? Well, as it turns out, getting my phone stolen threw a wrench into my whole not-having-a-camera plan. Luckily I haven’t taken any trips out of Seville in the last few weeks so I haven’t really needed to take pictures, but the next month and a half will be travel-filled so I definitely needed a camera.

So today I journeyed to my local Fnac (Spain’s version of Best Buy. Still not sure if it’s pronounced phonetically or F-N-A-C). The man who helped me was very nice and helpful, and answered all of my questions (which basically consisted of me asking which was the best camera for under 100 euros). He pointed out three that he thought were the best, and I settled on a purple Canon because A) Go frogs! and B) The price was usually a lot higher, and it includes WiFi so you can upload photos to your computer or phone (for those of you who still have a phone) when connected to WiFi.

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Tomorrow I am going on a day trip to Itálica, a little town about 20 minutes away from Seville, so I will get to test it out there. Wish me luck! I’m hoping I will be satisfied with the camera and can continue using it when I go home, even after I get a new phone.

Though losing my iPhone was obviously not an ideal situation, I always like to look on the bright side of situations in life. So here is a list of good things that have come from losing my phone:

1) Instead of looking like that dumb American who can’t take her eyes off of her phone, I just look like that dumb American

2) My people-watching has been on point. I wouldn’t get to see all of the adorable Spanish children, the hilarious street performers, or the couple awkwardly making out on the metro if my face was barried in my phone

3) When my alarm goes off to wake me up in the morning, I actually get out of bed and start my day instead of wasting 10 minutes laying there checking all of my social media sights

4) I am not constantly searching for a cafe with a WiFi zone so that I can see if I have any new Snapchats. I can go to that random cafe that I’ve always wanted to try without feeling like it’s a waste because they don’t have free WiFi

5) I have one last thing to worry about losing. I have enough trouble keeping track of my metro card, my wallet, the key to my apartment, and my oh-so-snazzy black flip phone without adding an expensive iPhone to the mix

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Anyway, for those of you who have also lost your phone or had it stolen, or for those of you who may be thinking about taking a break from your phone (if any of you exist) I am a success story to prove it can be done. I, Shelly Crossland, am living without an iPhone. And I’m doing just fine.

Well, I’m off to go eat a meal without taking a picture of it, wonder what funny faces I’m missing on Snapchat, and make cute Spanish families feel uncomfortable by staring a little too long.

Until next time,

-Phone-free Shelly

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Lost in Translation: One Week, Six Girls, Three Languages

“Are you hungry for dinner or did you already eat?”

“I ate a really late lunch, so I don’t need any dinner.”

“She says she ate a really….oh wait….dice que almorzó muy tarde, entonces no quiere cenar.”

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Since I left off last, my living situation has changed significantly. Kristina and I went from being the only students living in the apartment, to having four other roommates for the past week. Rachel left a less-than-desirable living situation and moved in with us, and will be here for the rest of the semester. Next, two high schoolers from Norway moved in for the week. And last (but not least), Carrie moved in with us and will be here for the rest of the semester as well. So basically there are four of us for the rest of the semester, and six for this week.

But like most things in life, there is a catch. The two girls from Norway obviously speak Norwegian, and their English is actually very good. Their Spanish is not as proficient, but it’s not bad. Even so, there have been a few instances this week when Puri (my host mom) said something to them in Spanish, they looked at her with blank stares, I translated it to English, and they talked to each other in Norwegian for a second before answering in broken Spanish. Does your head hurt yet?

To make things more confusing, Carrie is here in Spain to learn Spanish, and is a complete beginner. The quotes at the beginning of this post were from when Carrie first got here and Puri asked me to help translate. I quickly realized my brain has a hard time switching that quickly between Spanish and English, and I kept accidentally speaking to Puri in English or Carrie in Spanish. And the worst part was that my brain was so confused that it would take me way longer than necessary to realize I was speaking in the wrong language, and by the time I realized, my dignity was already long gone.

Basically, this week has been a huge mess of failed conversations and lots of hand gestures. Talk about language barriers. On the upside, I think this new situation will actually help improve my Spanish. Translating may be difficult, but it forces you to think about the languages and really focus on what you’re saying. I think having Carrie here will be nice, because it will give me a chance to help someone learn Spanish, which will in turn help improve my own Spanish.

And even though the Norwegian girls leave Friday, it has been nice having them here and learning a few Norwegian words (which I’m sure I will promptly forget). In accordance with the last high schoolers who stayed here (hint: British), I also took my chance to play cards with the girls. Apparently card games are still a thing among high schoolers. I was beginning to think they didn’t do anything besides play on their phones. (Wow, how old am I?)

Other than the new roomies I don’t have much to report, except my envy that everyone is on Spring Break right now while I’m in the middle of midterms. Although, I get the equivalent of two Spring Breaks later in the semester. And I live in Spain. So yeah never mind, I really have nothing to be envious of.

Your translator friend,

Tu amiga traductora,

Din overs venn,

Shelly

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Monkeys and Camels and Donkeys, Oh My!

Monkeys and Camels and Donkeys, Oh My!

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not posting last week. My goal was to post once a week, but last week I only had three days in between getting home from Morocco and leaving for Belgium, and I do in fact go to classes (I know, shocker), so I really didn’t have much time to write. So to make up for it, I will be posting TWICE this week! Yeah, try to contain your excitement. This post will be about my trip to Morocco, and the next post will be about my weekend in Belgium.

I have to admit, going to Morocco was never something that I thought I would do while studying abroad. Not that I didn’t want to, it just wasn’t the first location that popped into my head when I thought about the must-see places. But I sure am glad I decided to go! For those of you who are a little geographically challenged (guilty), Morocco is right below Spain, at the very top of Africa. Here is a map if you are still confused:

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We got on a bus Friday morning, and our first stop was Gibraltar, which you can see on the map at the very bottom of Spain. Gibraltar is a British territory, and walking around the town I definitely felt like I was in London (or how I imagine London is, since I have never been there). There were red phone booths and everything!

We only stayed for the afternoon, but it was a lot of fun! We walked through a cave, looked at the beautiful views, and most importantly, got to meet some monkeys! Monkeys just hang out on the side of the street there, and we were able to walk up to them, take pictures, and even touch them (though I opted out of that part).

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The beautiful view of Gibraltar
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Me with my new monkey friend

After Gibraltar we started our very long journey to Morocco, which consisted of long hours on a bus, an hour-long ferry ride, and the worst traffic I’ve ever seen at the border of Morocco. It was exhausting, but definitely worth it. When we arrived at our hotel, we basically just ate dinner and went straight to sleep.

In the morning we got back on the bus (oh joy) and headed to the town of Tangier where we got spend time by the ocean, and, drumroll please, RIDE CAMELS! The ride itself was very short, but just the experience of riding a camel on a beach in Africa is something I will never forget.

The guy who was in charge of the camel rides had obviously just learned a few key English phrases that he liked to repeat, so while we were riding he kept shouting “OH MY GOD!” over and over again, to try to get us pumped up. (The image below is me and my friends with our arms up, per his request, as he shouted his signature phrase).

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Enjoying the ride of a lifetime

Begrudgingly leaving the camels behind, we got back on the bus and headed to Chefchauen (known as the Blue City) where we ate lunch in a restaurant, followed by a tour of the city. I swear, I don’t know what it is about our study abroad program, but I have yet to experience a dull tour guide. Our guide through the city was this tiny old man who we quickly named “Moroccan Yoda” because of his unique voice and tiny stature. One of our guides for the trip told us that this man was very popular in the town, and we soon saw this to be true. Everywhere we went he seemed to see someone he knew. It was an entertaining tour to say the least, and the city itself was beautiful.

After our tour we were given free time to roam around and shop. The only thing I really wanted to buy in Morocco was a purse, so I decided to hold off until Sunday to buy it when we were in the leather market. So I just stuck with getting a henna tattoo, which has stayed pretty well and has been a good conversation starter.

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Me and my henna!

We then headed to Tetuan, checked into our hotel, and went to a restaurant for dinner and “entertainment.” Now, the way they described the entertainment to us, I have to admit, made me expect something very different from what we got. They mentioned there would be belly dancers, so I (and I’m sure all of the guys especially) expected a bunch of beautiful women dancing around. What we got was one middle aged woman showing a little too much skin, and dancing about as well as any of the rest of us could if we tried. In fact, two guys from my program got up and let her teach them a few moves, which was hilarious to say the least.

There was also supposed to be music and other forms of entertainment. This consisted of a group of about five men playing various instruments a little too loudly, and coming over to our table to play the instruments in our faces. It was….lovely? There was also a man who danced around with a tray of candles on his head, which was strange to say the least.

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Music to our ears
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The captivating entertainment

The next day we headed to our last stop of the trip, the town of Tetuan. We walked around the town a bit, seeing everything from donkeys to baby kittens to chickens. We then stopped in a Moroccan spice shop, where one of the men who worked there gave us an entire run-down of all of the different products we could buy, from moisturizers, Moroccan oils and lipstick to spices and teas. I bought a rose-scented moisturizer and called it quits, despite the enormous pressure to buy everything in sight.

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Donkeys in Tetuan
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Spices galore!

We then headed to the market area where most of the girls went wild looking at all of the different purses, wallets and jewelry. In all of the shops you are expected to bargain for the prices. My tactic was just to act really unsure and indecisive (which is extremely easy for me) and the man lowered the price to convince me to buy. The end result was a really nice leather purse for 15 euros. Not too shabby!

The trip home was uneventful, so I won’t bore you with the details. Overall it was an amazing experience! It was really nice being somewhere that is so culturally different from what I am used to in the U.S. and Spain. I learned a lot about the Moroccan culture, and witnessed first-hand what it is like to live in a 3rd world country. Here are a few of the facts and take-aways from my trip:

1) Children in Morocco are taught three languages in school: Arabic (their native language), English, and a third language of their choice (either Spanish or French)

2) Though the vast majority of people in Morocco practice Islam, there are Jews and Christians as well, and all three religions coexist in harmony together, with little religious conflict

3) Water is something that we absolutely take fore granted in America and most places in Europe. While in Morocco it was not safe for us to drink any tap water, so I was forced to buy bottled water everywhere I went. As a person that drinks a lot of water, this made me very grateful to live in a place where free, drinkable water is easy to come by.

Hope you enjoyed my post, and maybe even learned a little something about Morocco. Expect another post very soon!

Your favorite world traveler,

Shelly

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My Life in Sevilla

My Life in Sevilla

When I sat down to write this blog, my first thought was “oh no, what will I even write about? This week was so boring!” But then I thought about it and realized that this wasn’t really true. Sure, I didn’t travel to a different country or visit another city this week, but why should that make it any less exciting? I’m living in SPAIN for God’s sake, every week is more exciting than the average person’s dull week (no offense).

So if you are expecting to hear of adventures and new experiences in this post, you may be disappointed. But I spent this week in Sevilla, a beautiful city in Spain, so I should probably not be complaining.

This past week marked my first full week of classes at UPO (Universidad de Pablo Olavide). I haven’t written much about the university yet, so let me just give you a quick mental image:  the campus is bigger than I expected, but still pretty small compared to most universities in the U.S. There are no flower patches that change every week like at TCU, nor are there statues of the mascot (what even is the mascot here?) or fountains around the campus. It is basically just a grouping of buildings, that vaguely look like either a prison, insane asylum or rehab center (though at the orientation they tried very hard to convince us otherwise).

Basically, going to TCU for the past two and a half years has severely altered my perception of what a “normal” campus should look like. As it turns out, not all campuses around the world look like TCU’s. So those of you that are there right now, take a second to get out of bed/off the couch, close your computer, and go look out your window at the beautiful campus that we call home. We definitely take it for granted.

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UPO Campus
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TCU Campus

Now that you are back from admiring the 8th Wonder of the World that is our beautiful campus, I’ll continue. I signed up for 5 classes, but I ended up dropping one so that A) I wouldn’t be too overwhelmed since all of my classes are taught IN SPANISH and B) So that I will not have any classes on Thursdays, which makes traveling a lot more convenient.

My four classes are: Spanish Civilization and Culture, Intercultural Communication, Tapas, History of Spanish Cinema. So far, I like all of them a lot! My tapas class is literally a cooking class, where each week we learn to make a different tapa, and we get to eat everything we make! I’m just slightly excited for this class. And for those of you who don’t know what tapas are, it’s a traditional Spanish food, basically like an appetizer in the U.S. Spaniards go to a tapas bar to try different small plates of food, and to socialize with friends. I have already promised my friends at TCU I will cook tapas for them when I get back, so hopefully I’ll remember what I learn in this class!

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Tapas for days!

For about the last two weeks I’ve been sick, so this weekend I stayed in every night trying to get some rest. My host mom had two 15-year-old boys staying with her this week. They were from England and on a high school trip (wish I got to travel in high school!) Because they had a curfew and I didn’t feel up for going out, I spent Thursday AND Friday nights playing various card games with them. Yeah, be jealous of my oh-so-exciting life. They taught me British slang words like “safe” (apparently it means “cool”), and I taught them them how to say “y’all”. Basically it was a friendship made in Heaven.

Unfortunately, my new besties had to leave early Saturday morning. On the bright side, I am now feeling almost completely well again. Maybe card games cure colds? This weekend I will be going to Morocco! So excited! And as of yesterday, I am officially going to Belgium the weekend after! So expect more exciting blog posts in the future.

Your travel-happy friend,

Shelly

Spanish Girls Take Ireland

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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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