Bienvenidos

April 26, 2017..

Well this is it,

In less than three weeks time, I will set off on a huge adventure and be studying abroad in Barcelona Spain for the whole summer. The more I say it out loud, the crazier it sounds and the more anxious and excited I get to be there. I have decided to start this blog as a way to document my adventures or "treks" in Europe while also keeping all my friends and family back home informed of how things are going in España. I'd like to think of it as if I'm writing a book (a good one, hopefully) and you all are getting to read it, with each chapter having stories of amazing things, crazy things, and most likely a few embarrassing stories featuring yours truly.

Stay tuned friends,

This adventure will be one for the books

-Taylor 

 

 

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Life After the Great Adventure 

I chose to write this instead of pay attention in class; I know you all are so proud. I can practically feel it through the screen. 

Actually what matters about me being in class is at this moment, I am in a class with other past study abroad students; it is a seminar for post-abroad experience students and here I am sitting with these people who share the same or similar experience as I did. I wonder if they ask the same question I do: 

Now what? 

I find myself wondering quite a bit these days what I will do with the abroad experience I have gained. Did it actually open any doors for me? What am I going to do now? 

So many of the students in my major that I talk to seem to have it all figured out; “I’m going to D.C. to work in a federal agency or government position”, “I’m joining the peace corps”, “I’m doing something super important with my international studies degree that you aren’t.”… 

I’ve searched, researched, and tested the possibility of these jobs in my head but all of them seem to fall flat when I think about my life in ten or so years and if they will be something I’ll enjoy. I feel the pressure though; exiting college and becoming successful in a job specific for me sits over my head like that piano in the cartoons hanging on a flimsy rope, waiting to fall on that unsuspecting, goofy cartoon character. But I am not one to settle. I have spent far too much of my precious time already trying to fit myself in a box not made for me. 

I’d love to think fate will point me in the right direction eventually. But back to being abroad;

Here’s what studying abroad did do for me: 

  • Created a more confident person: I was thrown into a foreign place with a foreign language and did just fine. That’s a task not everyone can say they’ve done. Meeting and connecting with people is easier now and I’m not quite as shy as I used to be. 
  • Gave myself a feeling of value: not that I never had any before, but I transformed abroad, saw amazing things, made amazing adventures. They are now a part of me. 
  • Learned the world is attainable: if you don’t quite get what I mean, look at the fact that I, a college student with no experience of living abroad or really living far from home, managed this whole journey nearly all on my own. 
  • Yo puedo hablar español. Con mis amigos que hablan español o sobre mis amigos. If you can’t understand that, well I might have been talking about you. Kidding…

There’s more of course, but these are the ones off the top of my head. 

Today in particular, I am quite sad I am not abroad anymore. I have pictures of my favorite memories abroad hanging on the wall in my office. Life was so full of adventure then, there were so many places to go, they were so easy to attain. It was what I always wanted and more. 

However life would have no real meaning if things lasted forever. 

You wouldn’t value it as much.  

And I must move on and figure out the next adventure. 

Remember that time I was supposed to write a blog post about my trip to Rome say 4, 5 weeks ago? Yeah, me neither. 

Next post. Maybe

-T 

Barcelona, T’estimo

Before I talk about my final trip to Rome, I must address my feelings toward the recent terrorist events in Barcelona; I thought about posting a review of Rome and then write an individual blog after but it feels wrong to "ignore" my feelings toward the matter. I cannot express the sadness and shock I felt yesterday scrolling threw social media, turning on the news, listening to the radio, seeing the carnage and pain in a city I called home this summer. I only spent a short time there but never did I consider the city to be a "vacation spot"; it was where I lived out my days, went to school, spent days with friends, it was a home to me. It is hard, at least for me, to empathize with a place after horrible events occur; I say this because there have been a few horrible things in our own country lately and while they make me angry, saddened, and create a desire in me to work towards change, it is those feelings and more seeing a place you know attacked. I walked down Las Ramblas too many times to count, spent days there not even three weeks ago; to think I narrowly dodged it, I feel blessed. At the same time though I feel a deep pit in my stomach when I think how close these acts of hate can be. They can happen to anyone, they affected people I know and love, they could've happened to me. It hits close to home. I feel so much relief that nobody I know in Spain has been hurt, but I also send my prayers to those who were affected and whose families and friends are hurting through all of this. I send my love to you, Barcelona. Stay strong.

T'estimo.

T

My One Day in Switzerland

To say I have been behind on my writing is an understatement. I am officially home now and am dealing with nostalgia of Europe and intense jet lag.

But let's talk about my trip to Switzerland; it was fast and furious and filled with some of my favorite memories so far.

After eating our hearts out in crepes in Paris, we left the next morning on a train to Nyon, Switzerland. I just have to say that I LOVE trains. America needs to get with the times and get some trains; no flight procedures, no sitting in your seat the whole time, there's a food cabin, no flight anxiety, and the views are so much better. At one point I looked out the window when we were right outside of Switzerland and saw one of the most beautiful lakes, flanked by mountains. It looked something like this.

Switzerland never let up on the beauty either; since Nyon was only 20 minutes away from Geneva, we were on Lake Geneva and in one of the quietest, quaintest towns I have ever seen.

It was truly beautiful, but expensive; my friend and I were at one point kicked out of a restaurant after we wanted to split a 38 euro meal. Mind you 38 euros was one of the cheapest places we found. Other than McDonald's. Which is where we ended up eating.

Later that night I got to meet a famous singer-performer friend of mine, Michaël Gregorio, whom I got a chance to see in concert a few years ago when I went to Paris. It was an incredible day. While I would love to spill the details of that adventure and our history on this blog, you'll have to ask me about it in person…

I know, such mystery.

But here's a picture of us to hold you all over. *sigh* if I could re-live that day..

The next morning we were off to Rome. The sole day in Switzerland was amazing and one I'll never forget.

I promise I'll keep up with the writing. Tomorrow I'll fill you in on Rome and our adventures there.

Stay tuned and stay patient,

T

Back to the City of Lights and an Unlucky Pickpocketer 

After my friend and I tore up Barcelona we made it to our first stop, Paris. Already since we got here two days ago we've seen Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame, some great food, and my first experience with a pickpocketer.. 

I will say that my experience with him was somewhat successful though; we were walking to the Louvre to meet with our guide and we passed maybe ten or so people trying to get tourists to "sign" petitions they had. We actually were in a hurry and that's what I told everyone we passed. We got to the crosswalk to the street we needed to go to and a man walked up to me and asked to sign his petition, I didn't even make eye contact with him and told him we were in a hurry. Unfortunately we had a red walk sign though so we had to wait with him. He walked in front of me, faced me, and pushed his petition to my chest and started repeating something, obnoxiously. In the exact moment that he pushed his petition to my chest I was extremely uncomfortable because he was really close to me. I took a full step back and looked down to see his hand all the way down my bag. I grabbed it and ripped it away from him, whacked him in the arm with a paper voucher I had in my hand, and he threw two empty hands in the air, and slyly said, "thank you very much, madame." 

What scared me more than anything was that he walked back to a huge group of people, meaning if I had made a scene they would've probably mugged us. He thankfully didn't grab a thing, but I felt strange all day. It was such a creepy situation.

BUT Paris otherwise is always my favorite place in the world and still incredibly beautiful. We saw the Eiffel Tower sparkle on the Seine that night and I forgot all about my unfortunate meet-and-greet that morning. Today we'll see Montmartre, Sacré Cœur, and take a tour up into the Eiffel Tower. 

So many great things to see this week, 

while keeping a mindful eye on the bags. 

T

Goodbye, my dear Barcelona 

All good things eventually come to an end and the sorrow I feel now is because of the amazing experience I had here.  

But that’s the point of life, taking risks and experiencing all that life has to offer; looking behind closed doors, walking down unexplored paths, leaping without hesitating, finding out that you were capable of so much more than you ever though you were. 

Barcelona was my dream; a few years ago I was trying to find my way and I prayed that I would find my next purpose. In my mind there was a whisper, 

just go

And so I went. Without having a single idea of what I was getting myself into, I went. Looking back at the end of this adventure, I thank God everyday that I listened to that whisper and took the greatest chance of my life. I leaped on my own without hesitating for the first time. 

I met some of the greatest people I ever will in my life, friends I made a million beautiful memories with, attempted to better my horrible Spanish, saw some of the most amazing places in the world, and learned what it means to be human in a world with so many different kinds of people and cultures. 

I feel as though I was in the middle of a beautiful dream, time passed casually without having a care in the world; suddenly I heard an alarm in the distance and I am ripped away from it. I woke up and wished I could go back to where I left off, go back to the beginning. 

Tomorrow is my last full day here, and then my friend from school and I will leave to go to other places around Europe. I can’t explain what it feels like to say goodbye to everything, to pull up the roots I made here, to say goodbye to all my amazing friends, and to not know when I will return to my second home. 

But what a blessing to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard. 

I will always remember this as the experience that helped me grow as a person, the time I stepped out of my comfort zone, the greatest adventure of my life. 

Thank you, Barcelona. 

For everything. 

T

If you Like Eating Gelato and Getting Caught in Venice in the Rain 

Well this was my last weekend trip on my summer adventures (but not my last adventure, of course – there’s still many to go). We went to Venice, Italy: another place I get to check off my bucket list. 


We had a big group for this trip: a small group of friends arrived two days before, my friend and I arrived mid afternoon Friday, and I arrived “hangry“. After our flight we had to take an hour long bus ride to the island during which I slept and recovered my energy and good attitude. When we arrived we had a bit of confusion about where we would meet and grab keys for the apartment: the group who had been there for two days wanted to catch a train and go to a beach but we had just arrived and wanted to drop our bags off. Missed phone calls, lost cellular connection, and the Italian heat caused us to miss the group and the keys. In result, my friend and I sat ourselves on the bank of the canal and had some gelato. We weren’t too disappointed about it, to be honest. We could carry our bags around and meet up with the group later. 

A discovery we made watching the boats go by: that’s how you get around – boats. No cars, nothing. They have taxis but they were boats as well. This was very interesting for us. 

We eventually made it back to the group and made it to the apartment around dinner time. We ate at a little local restaurant with some of the best pasta I’ve ever eaten.

  To be honest, pizza and pasta were the only things I ate all weekend

The next day the group divided and we had different plans: my friends and I had a hop on hop off tour of all the most popular areas on Venice. We took the boat to see the Piazza San Marco and Doge’s Palace,

Then to a small island called Lido where we took a trip to the beach. 

We made it back to the apartment because we had a kayak tour of the city that night. While we were sitting around waiting to go, we suddenly realized we had to be there in 20 minutes. When we stepped out of the apartment 10 minutes later, our GPS showed it would take us 15 minutes to get there. We immediately took off and ran through the streets of Venice, determined to not miss our tour. Luckily we were the only ones on the tour so the guides waited for us and all was well. This tour ended up being the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a trip 

We winded our way through tiny canals all over the city and made our way across the grand canal as well. I’ll always remember how everyone would have to yell “OYYYYYEEE” going around a corner so the other boats knew we were there. Our guides were super cool too (and also handsome, which was great) and we ended up hanging out with them after our tour: it was a little after 9pm when we finished our tour and they offered to give us a ride back to our apartment in their boat. It was the most surreal thing, riding around the city at night on a locals boat. The full moon out and a clear, beautiful night – or so it would seem. 

Later after dinner, we decided to go walk to a cafe and grab a drink. We stayed for maybe 30 minutes and when we walked out it started to drizzle. We thought we’d hustle and get out of it or maybe it would pass.. 

At that moment the sky opened up and poured down rain. We had no idea which way to get back to the apartment so we started running every which direction, screaming, asking frantically where to go, trying to get the phones to work to get us back, all while getting soaked. At one point while we were running, I couldn’t help myself – I started to laugh. I laughed so hard I was almost doubled over while running. I thought how hysterical the situation was, how incredibly silly it was that we looked like drowned rats running through the city, and how amazing it was to see the city completely empty, lights flashing in the sky from the thunder, and just laugh at how life can work sometimes. It was a day I’ll never forget. I’ll smile every time I think about that time I kayaked through Venice, took a moonlit boat ride home on a Italians boat, and got caught in the rain coming home. 

Today during the afternoon we made it back to Barcelona after we spent the morning in Venice eating breakfast and reminiscing on the weekend in Italy. 

What an amazing place. What a trip. What a story. 

T

Weekend in Spain 

Believe it or not, I actually spent this last weekend in Spain. I travelled with CIEE to a couple places in Southern Catalonia and am always blown away by how beautiful Spain is.

We first went to Codorniu vineyards to taste test cava, which is specific to Spain and is somewhat like champagne. We ended up going underground on our tour and took a train through 17 miles of cellars. That’s a lot of cava. But it was so beautiful there and actually CHILLY. I wore my sweater all day.

Just showing my appreciation for cava

¡Salud!

Cellars built back around the 1920’s. You’re looking at just a small portion of the 17 miles of cellars underground!


Next we left for Monserrat. Sounds familiar, right? I went there during my first week here in Spain. It all felt really familiar and not much had really changed; it was still insanely beautiful. After a couple hours in Monserrat, we left for Tarragona.

Just a little history of Tarragona; when the Roman Empire first made its way into Spain, its first “capital” and settlement was in Tarragona. Here’s a layout of the city during the Roman Empire


The first day in Tarragona we got in around the afternoon and that evening saw a firework show on the beach. It was pretty cool but around the end of the show one of the palm trees caught fire and that really was the highlight of the show.

And here’s the video of the poor palm tree


The next day we took a tour of the Roman city of Tarragona and got to see all of the ruins. In case you didn’t know, Tarragona has some of the most well preserved Roman ruins in all of Europe. Some are even considered to be more well preserved than Rome. I wish we had more time here because it seemed like an amazing city and it really wasn’t a super crowded or touristy place.

The view of the ocean here was pretty neat too



Next we left Tarragona to go back to one of my favorite places in Spain, Sitges.

We didn’t have a lot of time there but for lunch we did eat at Big Al’s American Grille. I know, super authentic. You have to know that at this point in my study abroad journey, I´m getting a bit homesick. The American food was actually really good and made me feel a lot closer to home.

It´s crazy to think that in almost three weeks I´ll be coming back home. My friend from Texas A&M will be here the 18th of July and we take on Europe in a backpacking adventure and then I´ll be back in the States before I know it. I have mixed feelings about it; I´m very ready to be home but I also feel sad that I won´t be on this amazing adventure anymore.

But enough sad soppiness, after I returned from my weekend adventures on Saturday, me and my host mom spent Sunday tearing up the city of Barcelona; we ate lunch at her daughter´s restaurant and had the best food I´ve had in Barcelona so far, went to the Port, went shopping in the mall there, walked up Las Ramblas, and then went back home after a long day. I tracked my mileage and we walked almost 30,000 steps that day. Although the weekend felt more quiet than what I´ve been used to, it was still filled with a lot of activity. During the week me and my classmates for “Catalonia and Spain Through the Arts” go to various places around Barcelona on field trips and so I feel like I´m always on the move. This weekend will be my last weekend trip ever for study abroad. I won´t spend too much time talking about it because it makes me sad. That sad story is for another post.

I can´t wait for this weekend; like all the trips I´ve had so far, it will be one to remember forever. See you then!

T