Not all who wander are lost.

IMG_3670[1].JPGToday I went for a walk in the city on a quest for new boots. It is about 4 o’clock now and as I have wandered through the city for about an hour now, I haven’t found new shoes worthy of my feet.

Which is a problem, because the ones I am currently wearing are breaking apart at the seams. The soles hanging on by a thread, begging me to let them fall off onto the streets where they have so happily tread.

While I have not found my boots, I have stumbled on something better, The Arc de Triumph!

This park, like its city is so alive! I am sitting on this bench while all around me the sounds and the sites of this city come alive.

Behind me stands an old government building with detailed carvings clearly from the gothic era. Passing in front of the building are the sounds of scooters and cars alike.

To my right I can see the Arc de Triumph and all its glory, as well as, beautiful palm trees standing tall into a clear blue sky. There is an Elvis impersonator singing Lonesome Cowboy and a man dressed as Michael Jackson, white glove and all, dancing as Bad blares from his personal stereo.

In front of me stands a bike lane where tourists and locals alike pass by from time to time.

Just beyond the bike lane is a man holding two large bubble wands, creating enchanting rainbow balloons that glitter in the light of the afternoon sky.

The enchantment only increases with the sound of two men humming and playing the saxophone in front of me.

A group of schoolchildren strolled by, giggling while passing through the bubbles.

The ancient light posts to my left add to the beauty of this park where young meets old and ancient cities come alive again.

Getting to know my neighborhood.

I’ve been neglecting to write the past week because I have been so busy. Since classes began I have a constant stream of homework.

The images above are from a recent homework assignment, in which I was instructed to take a walk through my barrio (neighborhood) and photograph the things I notice that someone from Barcelona might not notice anymore.

I noticed the unique grates covering all the windows (top left) the unofficial flag of  Catalonia (top right),

**side note this flag is flying everywhere! The only places repping a Spanish flag are government buildings. The political situation here is VERY interesting (you should definitely google it)!

Different graffiti, and the way the sun hits the pavement (bottom left).

I am loving living in Barcelona and look forward to getting more acquainted with the city and my neighborhood.

 

The Culture of IES.

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My roommate Jessica and I doing our homework on the second full day of classes.                          January 14, 2016

School started yesterday and I am excited for my classes. At least I was…

 

This semester I am completing my GER (General Education Requirements) so I enrolled in many interesting classes I would not be able to take at home.

On Monday/Wednesdays, I have four classes, Photography, Religion in Spain, Spanish and the Business of Sports in Europe. On Tuesday/Thursdays, I have two classes Travel Writing and Spanish.

So far I really like all my professors and I am passionate about the subjects of my classes (except Spanish but I am determined to improve!). However, I am not so sure I enjoying all the people in my classes.

A day in the life of a typical IES student….

9:00 am Class (Skip or come and sleep during)

10:30 am Class (Skip or sleep during)

12:00 Break (Still sleeping)

1:30 pm Class (Show up, complain about hangover and sickness)

3:00 pm Finished for the day

5:00 pm Drinks and Tapas

9:00 pm Dinner

12:00 am Go to Bar

2:00 am Go to Club

6:00 am Leave Club

9:00 am Go to class again

We are on our second full day of classes and our first week here and I am already so tired of hearing people complain about their hangover during class and which club they are hitting up tonight.  

There is so much more to life than partying and I am so frustrated hearing my classmates talk about their plans, because all I can think while they are talking is “you are wasting this opportunity”.

Study-abroad is all about immersion. Immersing yourself in the culture of a new place and that means becoming part of that culture while you are here. Not simply being here and doing the same things you have always done, but trying things you can only try here.

Volunteering in a school or a business, meeting locals and making lifelong friends, learning the language and interacting with the customs of the Catalonian/Spanish cultures are all part of experiencing this fantastic city.

I am not saying you cannot go out for a drink occasionally but I am saying that by going out to the tourist clubs on the beach one is missing the point. Moreover, by doing so one is not actually living in Barcelona, but visiting here. Soon to become a distant memory to Barcelona, a mere feather in the wind that passed through the city leaving only your money behind and gaining nothing from the experience.

**Not everyone does the above, my roommates and I certainly do not, and I have met many wonderful people who are utilizing their time here wisely, but there is definitely a majority of students creating a party culture in this program.

Day One.

 

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Sunset from the Balcony of our Homestay                                                                      January 8, 2016

Friday 1/8

Today was a slow start. We got up and enjoyed our first breakfast in Barcelona. Our house mom, Elisabet leaves a spread of food on the table for us in the mornings and it is chocolate everything; the cereal is chocolate, there is chocolate in the granola, and what every breakfast needs…cookies (with chocolate).

Jessica and Shannon love the chocolate cereal, I am just sticking to an orange, and some toast every morning….I am perfectly content. Although there is Nutella at the table, in case I want chocolate toast.

We left the house super early in an attempt to be on time for orientation…we wanted to start things off right.

Well, we took the right metro station but wandered in the wrong direction before getting to the cinema where orientation was. Which ended up being fine because everyone else was lost too.

Orientation sucked. Four-hundred students gathered in a movie theatre to listen to the police, the consular, and a professor give safety tips for the city and to burn daylight.

We sat in the theatre for an hour and fifteen minutes (orientation was 2 hours) before anyone even spoke to us and while they were speaking an incredulous number of students (mostly frat boys) continued to talk through the entire thing.

When we arrived in Barcelona the process was so smooth, I was shocked at how disorganized this “welcome orientation” was. IES did not even show us or give us advice on how to find the school, which oh by the way is difficult to find. There are no markings outside of the building labeling it as IES.

After wasting two hours of our first day in Barcelona, Shannon, Jessica and I decided to go find lunch in a nearby café. We went to a place called Mucci. Mucci is a café in the morning, a bakery, a pizza place at lunch, and a tapas bar at night.

We were hoping to find seating outside but naturally, there were no seats available. We found seating inside and the waiter told us to stay seated; he would come take our order.

About 15 minutes passed and the waiter (there was only one) had not come to take our order. Another 10 minutes pass and finally he comes to our table. Jessica tells him her order as Shannon and I wait patiently to tell him what we want to eat. After writing down Jessica’s order, he turns and walks away. Shannon and I are confused but think nothing of it.

Fifteen minutes pass before he returns to our table, this time with Jessica’s food. He turns and walks away again. Shannon and I wait another five minutes before turning and looking at each other in confusion and decide to flag him down to tell him our order.

We get up and tell him our orders in Spanish, he writes it down and then we return to our seats. Twenty minutes pass and he finally returns with my orange juice, coffee (no one ordered) and Shannon’s food. I am so confused but decide he must be coming back with my food.

Fifteen more minutes pass and now I am just pissed. What the hell. Orientation was a joke and now I have been waiting for my lunch for a good hour and a half while my roommates have already finished their food and if I do not get my food and eat it in the next twenty minutes I will be late to my Program Orientation.

Finally, Shannon flags the waiter down and asks where my food is. He says oh I forgot.

I am so annoyed I feel like there is a fly buzzing in my face and it just will not go away. First my wallet, then my suitcase (the zipper was broken upon arrival) then my thumb (I got my thumb stuck in the door OUCH!), and now this day?! UGH.

Five minutes later, I have my food and it is delicious but definitely not worth the frustration.

I decided to shake it off and we leave the restaurant to head to IES for our program orientation sessions.

Jessica and I were late to orientation, but fortunately did not miss anything. My orientation was only 30 minutes and the professor really just handed us our program guides and said good luck, have a nice day you are free to go.

Well we were not free to go….

There was another session for each group following the first session. My entire group had left except for two of us who were waiting for our roommates to finish their sessions.

The second professor walked into the hallway and promptly asked if we had been in the classroom earlier, I said yes and he asked what the professor told us, as he explained to me that no one was supposed to have left yet.

I sat through the second orientation with one other student and then met up with my roommates to explore the city.

The start to my first day may not have been great but on the bright side it was 70 degrees and sunny and I was able to explore the beach in what is sure to become one of my favorite cities.

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Barceloneta Beach and  W Hotel                                                                                         January 8, 2016

Rocky Start.

DSCN3839.JPGI woke up this morning tired and honestly maybe a little drunk after a long but fun night celebrating Taylor’s 21st birthday at the bars in Hermosa Beach. I showered, drank A LOT of water and finished packing my things.

By the time, I was packed and ready to begin the journey to the airport I was starving. It was 11:30 and I finally was not feeling tipsy anymore, but my stomach roared with the anger of Jafar after Aladdin stole the lamp back. So…Tay and I decided a bacon cheeseburger and some fries were necessary. I got out my wallet in anticipation to pay the drive-thru charge but got distracted and accidently let Taylor pay. I realized my visa card was still sitting on my lap and had the realization that she paid for the fries we were dipping in ranch. Ooops. I was annoyed at this but let it go while my mind raced through the checklist of things I needed to make sure I had/did before my departure.

When we finally got through the traffic to my terminal I jumped out of the car, gathered my belongings and went to check my baggage. I checked my bag and went to find a bench to wait for Shannon to arrive so we could go through security together. Shannon and I got through security and found seats to wait at our terminal. We were ready to board our flight for Spain, except that Shannon was hungry and we thought we might want to grab some extra food for the 11 hour flight we were about to embark on.

I did not really want to carry my stuff anymore so we decided we would go get food in shifts and Shannon would go first. In the meantime, I decided to call my parents.

I talked to my mom first. She asked, “Do you have everything you need, are you ready to go?” at which I rolled my eyes and said, “Yes mom.”

Then I got on the phone with my Dad, I figured Shannon would be back soon and decided to get my wallet out. I looked in purse first, no wallet. I took everything out just to make sure I was not being paranoid, but still no wallet. Then I started digging through my backpack….still no wallet. Now I have hung up with my dad, I am crying and frantically taking everything out of my bags praying that my wallet is just at the bottom of my backpack. It is not. I remember I had put it in my jacket pocket earlier in the day so I check there, still no wallet.

Okay now I can lose my cool, did I lose it, was it stolen, I should call Taylor and make sure I did not leave it at her apartment.

I get ahold of Taylor, no wallet. I say, “Can you double check” and sure enough, my wallet is sitting on the center console right where I left it. Needless to say…not the way you want to start your international trip.

Fortunately, for me, Taylor is going to mail my wallet to Spain, credit card and all and my Dad is going to pay for it. (Sorry Dad!) I am just so glad that I put my Euros in a separate wallet from my credit cards so I will not be without funds in Spain.

I will keep you all posted on the status of my wallet. In the mean time I have complementary wine and my all time favorite Disney movie, Aladdin.

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The Happiest Place on Earth.

 

 

DSCN3819.JPGThis past week was one filled with monumental changes for me. The New Year marked my 21st birthday and the first leg of my semester trip to Spain. And what better way to celebrate the next season of my life than to kick it off at Disneyland with two of my best friends?

With a little faith, luck and pixie dust, our day in Disneyland went off without a hitch. We went on nearly every ride, feasted on all the goodies Disney has to offer, and rang in the New Year with Mickey. How, you ask? We had five takeaways to help other mouse seekers.

  1. Go early, leave late

This applies year round, but especially on New Year’s Eve because the park opens at 8a.m. and closes at 2 a.m. We were able to get on our favorite rides multiple times because we beat the crowd and had no wait times first thing in the morning. On top of that, we stayed at the park until 2 a.m. and by then the park was empty and we happily had the privilege of being the first people to ride Star Tours in the New Year.

  1. Fastpass!

Fastpass is an absolute no brainer. All you do is take your admission ticket to a kiosk for the ride you want and scan it. The machine prints out a ticket with times to return to the attraction. While you wait to ride you get in line for other attractions with smaller wait times. Fastpass is the way to avoid burning three hours of your day standing in line for one attraction.

  1. Single Rider/ Rider Switch

Single Rider is awesome for adults or people with older kids. We went on Cars in California Adventure 4 times in 30 minutes because we just kept getting back in the single rider line. That ride had a two hour wait at the time! Then there is rider switch. Rider switch is great if you have kids because one person can wait in line and ride the ride and then they can get a rider switch pass so that the other parent/kids (up to three) can go through the Fastpass line. We lucked out and were given a rider switch for Indiana Jones because the ride broke down right at the end. (Meaning we were able to to ride it twice even though we completed the ride the first time).

  1. Dining Reservations

Meal reservations can be made within 60 days of a visit to the park and are completely worth planning. We ate a mouthwatering three-course dinner at River Belle Terrace on New Year’s Eve, it cost a little more but the service and the breather from the crowd was just the break we needed.

  1. Prioritize

When we got to the park, we grabbed a map and decided which attractions were priorities for us. That allowed us to get fastpasses for those rides right away and to utilize our time doing exactly what we wanted to do.