London

Just touched down in Londontown

For starters, I want to extend a huge thank you to our friends for being the greatest hosts in London this past weekend. From the hearty, delicious meals that Judy whipped up for us to the beautiful bike tour that Henry took us on, I am feeling very blessed to have had the chance to spend a few days in their cozy home. We took the metro or “tube” to their home early Thursday morning which was very easy to get around because we were able to ask for directions in English, gotta love that. I don’t know if I’ll come out of this whole journey knowing much Spanish seeing as I am out of Madrid almost every weekend, but boy was it nice to talk way too fast in English again. Our first night we went to a quaint, busily decorated pub called Churchhill Arms and later to Dirty Bones which was an underground restaurant and bar with live music.

I always knew that certain countries drove on the left side of the road but I had never actually seen it before. The next day when we rented bikes and road around town, it was so very different than anything I’d ever seen before. I found myself nervous to cross the street even when I had the right of way because I had no idea which direction the cars were going to come from. When we hopped into an Uber I was thrown off time and time again at the steering wheel being placed on the right-hand side. I am not a very good driver to begin with so I cannot even imagine having to learn a completely different direction of driving, no thank you.

I like how common biking is around London, there are little stations to rent bikes around every corner and it’s only 2 pounds for up to 24-hours. We started our trek at Hyde Park, one of the many beautiful parks around town with far too many pigeons, I almost ran over a couple of them. We saw Buckingham Palace where the Royal Standard flag was flying which indicates that the Queen is currently in the building. A newly married couple was taking wedding pictures in front of the gates along with tourists galore. Next, we strolled up to Big Ben for an up-close view and then onto Westminster  Bridge for a full view of it as well as the London Eye. It was the perfect day for a bike ride despite the brief drizzle of rain, we picked a good day to spend outdoors. I prefer the weather in London over Madrid right now, which somehow seems to get hotter everyday. Really starting to regret packing all those sweaters and long sleeves. Might just have to trade in my whole wardrobe for a new one, that shopping process has definitely already begun. We ended the bike ride through Chinatown and weaved around crowds of people until we made it to a bike station right by their house. Bike tour around London, 1o/10 highly recommend to a friend, could not have picked a more perfect way to go sight-seeing.

Traveling has become second nature to me at this point and I think it’s safe to say I’m addicted to it. Today we booked two more trips and I honestly just wish the whole “classes” thing didn’t stand in the way. With that being said, we will miss all of next week of school to go to Morocco. The teachers understand that we are learning far more outside of the classroom than in it and it is a once in a lifetime experience! We just booked Barcelona for Halloween weekend  although the holiday isn’t nearly as big of a deal in Europe as it is in the U.S. Barca has some exciting events going on and a big group of us is staying in a crazy cool Airbnb for four nights since we have the following Monday and Tuesday off of school. On the subject of school, I love my International Management professor because he is from America but has lived in Spain for the past 40 years, so he is very relatable and has the greatest stories to tell. Just wanted to throw that in there for proof to my family that I do in fact go to class here too. Lovely hearing from my parents via FaceTime yesterday, they had it all set up on the iPad. I couldn’t help but get a little homesick after talking to them and I really really miss my dad’s cooking. I am thrilled that we get back in time for Christmas at home, I’m a little salty about missing my big family Thanksgiving celebration but I look forward to seeing you all in December!

14470668_1238204429563991_4996232955439093752_n

Hyde Park

14581363_1238204619563972_2914748796327465806_n

Chinatown

14495503_1238204749563959_46958000616735341_n

Big Ben & The London Eye

14568157_1238205019563932_5578539526132527785_n

Buckingham Palace

Standard
Portugal

All I wanna do is live in ectasy

Last Friday around 4 a.m. a group of eight of us woke up in Lisboa, Portugal after an eight hour bus ride from Madrid. After searching for a place that was open other than a nightclub, we found a coffee shop that stays open 24-hours a day. Madison, Audrey, Matt and I spent about 6 hours there sipping on espressos and waiting until our check-in time at our Airbnb which wasn’t until 10 a.m. To kill time, we walked there from the coffee shop which took a solid hour with our hefty backpacks and sore bodies. Beautiful walk through the city though, not gonna lie.

We spent the day at the beautiful Cascais beach and ate some of the best clams I’ve ever had at a restaurant nearby called Aroma, before soaking up the sun all day. We climbed up and around the cliffs and dove into the way too cold water. That night we ate at a burger joint where I enjoyed my first burger in over 3 weeks…it was delightful. The next day we ventured to another beach called Coasta de Caparica which had over 17 bars up and down the coast. There was a group of friends and family playing futbol right in front of us in the sand and I eventually worked up the courage to ask the little boy if I could play with him. He didn’t understand me until I motioned for the ball and we began passing back and forth. He was probably around eight-years-old and his Batman baseball cap kept falling over his eyes but he was determined to keep it on. For the most part though, many more people spoke English in Lisbon than in Madrid which was a nice change of pace.

The following day, since our bus didn’t leave until later that evening, we had the chance to stop by the XL Factory flea market. The jewelry, clothes and knick knacks were one of a kind and we spent hours looking through all of the tables. We stopped at a bar before leaving and the layout was extremely interesting. One room, which was definitely more for the night scene, had paintings of music artists that have passed away such as Amy Winehouse, 2Pac and Bob Marley. The bartender was covered in all kinds of tattoos and piercings and he was delightful.

We arrived back in Madrid around 6:30 a.m. Monday morning which was a bit of a struggle. Tomorrow, Madison and I leave for London where we are staying with some friends from home. I am very much looking forward to this trip and all the one’s to come!! Missing all the homies at Arkansas (sorry bout the loss in Dallas) and missing my parents as well who have yet to facetime me 🙂 probably because they can’t figure out how it works. Thanks for the letter mom and for always including Fatty, our cat, in the signature. Much love

 

 

Standard
Segovia, Spain

Culture Shock

This is the first time I have ever truly experienced culture shock and as scary as it can be at first, everyday things get a little bit easier. The little things such as walking everywhere or using the metro have become second nature to me. It has only been one week but I feel as if I’ve been here a month. Taking siestas most afternoons makes me sometimes feel as if I am waking up to an entirely new day. Not going out until past midnight and staying out until after 5 or 6 a.m. is so different to me because places back home close before I even leave to meet up with people. Getting around can be difficult and I have walked in circles numerous times just to end up somewhere that was down the street from where I started from. Ordering food from a menu can go very wrong very quickly and I am so thankful to be living in a homestay where my host mom, Cata, prepares three meals a day for us. I recently changed my phone and computer times to 24-hour clocks because that is what everyone uses here. When I first received my class schedule I wasn’t sure what time anything was at because 13:10 and 18:00 o’clock were unknown to me. But I learn something new every single day whether it’s a few new terms in Spanish or finding out that you don’t tip at restaurants here. As good as the no tipping thing sounds… do not, I repeat DO NOT ask the waiter to split your check. Madison and I made the mistake of doing that at a restaurant down the street from our homestay and you would’ve thought we murdered the waiter’s family he was so appalled at us.

I started school yesterday, September 19, which is almost a month later than everyone back at Arkansas began classes. While my friends at home are distraught over their first exams coming up, I am still recovering from jetlag and coping with eating dinner at 10 o’clock (22:00) at night. I have two classes Monday and Wednesday that don’t start until 4 in the afternoon and another two on Tuesday and Thursday that start at 1. It is safe to say that I have no complaints about my schedule! My school, Nebrija, is split up into two buildings, one with English classes and one with Spanish. Therefore I will be in the English building for three of my classes and in the Spanish for one. I had my first Spanish class today and it consisted of me and two other students. My other classes range from 14-28 people so it is very hands-on. The professors all seem very intelligent and understanding. Nobody has classes on Fridays in order to travel so that is yet another perk of studying abroad.

Madison and I have begun planning out a few trips coming up including Lisbon, Portugal this weekend. There is a group of eight of us taking an 8 hour bus this Thursday night and we will arrive around 4 in the morning. The cheap cost of the bus compared to a shorter travel time by flight was well-worth it and we figured this way we could at least attempt to sleep through most of the travel time. The weather is looking to be in the 80’s all weekend and we are getting a hostel right by a beach. In two weeks we travel with some kids from our program to Morocco where we will ride camels and sleep in tents under the stars in the Sahara desert. This past Saturday we went to Segovia, Spain, where we toured the city, castles and gardens. We will go to Salamanca in a few weeks for another day trip with our program along with Granada for a weekend. In November, Madison and I booked flights to Paris as well as Amsterdam, both around 100 euros roundtrip. The quicker we plan trips, the cheaper the cost so my calendar is filling up rather quickly!

Standard
Madrid, Spain

La Capital de España

An early morning, two hour flight to Charlotte, NC, six and a half hour layover and an eight hour flight later, we have made it to Madrid, Spain! We were shocked to see 50 Cent directly behind us going through security at the KCI airport. That was pretty cool and made the early morning flight well-worth it. I am so thankful to have my best friend, Madison Ropp, embarking on this journey with me. I don’t think I would’ve ever made it this far without her. Coming all the way from Kansas City, Kansas, this is the first time I have ever been outside of the United States. So why not leave for three and a half months?! I will greatly miss this semester at the University of Arkansas where I’ve attended school for the past three years, but I look forward to returning in the Spring and graduating next May.

I will be attending school at Universidad Antonio de Nebrija where I will continue my Business degree as well as take a Spanish course. I am majoring in Marketing with a minor in Management so my classes will be International Business, International Marketing and International Management which will all count towards my degree. As of now, my Spanish is at a beginner level and I am quickly realizing just how little I know when it comes to actually holding a conversation. I am hoping that in addition to my Spanish course, living in a homestay will help me to become fully immersed into the language and learn as much as I can living here this semester. My homestay family consists of my host mom, Catalina, and her 12-year-old son, Mateo. It quickly became clear that there is be a bit of a language barrier when I called Catalina from the Madrid airport to ask for directions to their home. Mateo fortunately speaks pretty good English because he attends a bilingual school, so he was able to explain how to get to their apartment using the metro. Coming off of the plane was stressful and exhausting, but after getting our hands on a map and getting a few general directions we were able to make it to the apartment with little to no problem.

Catalina greeted us on the first floor and helped us walk our 50 pound bags up the five flights because there is no elevator here. But the view from our balcony is beyond worth being on the top floor. One thing I noticed right away is that their street signs are found on the sides of buildings made up of intricate paintings with the names written in fancy calligraphy which can be tough to read from a distance. The area around us is booming with people out and about at all times and the beautiful old buildings are filled with plants sprouting out of every balcony.

After a much-needed 12 hours of sleep, today Catalina is going to show us around the neighborhood before dropping us off at school for the start of orientation. I am looking forward to meeting the other students in our program, there are 43 of us total. I also can’t wait to figure out a phone plan here that won’t cost my parents a bunch of International fees. You’re welcome, Dad! Sending much love to friends and family, thank you for all of the love and support back home. More pictures and posts to come!

img_4336

View from our bedroom balcony 😀

Standard