Month: November 2013

Here’s to New Adventures

As I enter my final month in Spain (on another note, what happened to the other three months?), I find myself reflecting on the study abroad experience. I take away this: utilize every opportunity. At first I attributed my exciting chances, be it a trip to Paris or Morocco, a Real Madrid game, a hike in the mountains or a performance of El Rey Leon, to being in a new place, but I recently conceded that a change in attitude was the defining factor.

Choosing to study abroad might be the most exciting and the scariest thing I, as a student, have thus far decided to do. After almost three months, I might add also one of the best things. I go to a private Christian college in the Illinois suburbs with 2400 undergraduate students. I chose a study abroad program in Madrid city center, attending classes at a public university because I sought a change, and as cliché as it sounds, I knew I would learn more about the world and about myself. Trite as it is, I was exactly correct.

First opportunity accepted: study in Madrid. Of course, in a new city, other CIEE students and I wished to explore. The first couple weeks, I used silly excuses such as “I’m tired” or “I should wait to see this.” Before long, I resolved to be more active in Madrid, and since then, options appear everywhere. I may never again live in Madrid, so I have to make this semester worthwhile. Writing this post having just returned from Brussels, I succeeded.

The question remains: What happens when I return to school? The truth is I’m not sure. However, I do know I will go back with a renewed sense of flexibility, adventure and global awareness. I won’t get ahead of myself; that’s still a month away. For now, I still look forward to a visit from my family, Paris again, London, Valencia, more time with my host family and more time to work on Spanish.

Chocolate demonstration in Brussels

Chocolate demonstration in Brussels

Grand Place in Brussels, right where we stayed

Grand Place in Brussels, right where we stayed

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A Trip to Africa

Seeing as geography was never my greatest strength, it took me a while to realize Morocco is just 31 kilometers south of Spain. An hour long ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar, and you’re there. As soon as I knew Africa was so close, I had to go!

I went with a group because I did not feel confident to navigate a new continent alone. Our guides wore traditional dress (yes, robes like you are imagining), but said they really only wear those for us. We stayed on the beach, so I saw the tourist part of Tangier, but I also had the opportunity to visit small neighborhoods.

The hotel view was okay, I guess.

The hotel view was okay, I guess.

Some highlights of the trip: Moroccan food, rugs and camels. Everyone said I would get sick from the food, but after three days home, I’m healthy! I ate delicious couscous, tagene and crepes. Also, I drank traditional tea with every meal. They drink green tea with mint. It tastes like a mojito without alcohol, so it’s really not a  problem to eat it with every meal.

I also bought a Moroccan rug, which seemed like a great idea at the time. Looking back, I probably could have spent that 35 euros on something I needed more, but after negotiating the price down, I couldn’t not buy it! Then, I rode a camel on the beach while the sun was setting. It was as incredible as it sounds.

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A snake show on the street

A snake show on the street

Only a few restaurants in Morocco serve alcohol, but they all serve Coca-Cola in Arabic. Of course we found wine at the hotel bar, but my friends and I were more interested in the popcorn they served with the wine. The bartender loved us the first night and came out with double popcorn the second night!

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The girls enjoying the sun.

The girls enjoying the sun.