Finals Week!

I cannot believe that this is already the last week of class!

I was talking to my host mom the other day about how nervous and terrified I was when I first arrived to her home. She was laughing at me about how scared I was and then saying 'Now you understand everything I say and you just talk talk talk!!' :) It's funny how quickly you can adapt to a place when you're in survival mode. It seems so weird to have ever been scared of my host mom or nervous about my Spanish. I know 6 weeks isn't very long, but it's been long enough for me to feel like I have yet another home.

Another thing that is strange is to have made friends from all over the world. At Eastern there are people from other states (like myself), but the majority are from Illinois. At the University of Salamanca, there are students from all over the world studying Spanish. This trip has allowed me to experience not only just Spanish culture, but culture from all over the world. It's exciting!

An important thing I learned yesterday (through my roommie Ruth's experience): In Spain when you say 'noon' it does not mean 12pm; it means 2pm!

It's weird how I still can't believe that I'm in Spain. Rachel said it perfectly, and this happens to me every time I go on vacation: the entire time you're there it's unbelievable but as soon as you leave it hits you where you just were. I'm glad that I've been writing on this blog, writing in my journal, and taking pictures because I want to remember every detail of this trip as much as possible.

For whatever reason, the university has locked us out of the wifi a week early. For the next 2 days I'll have to use wifi at McDonald's! I'll take what I can get, I guess. :)

Time to leave for lunch!! Hopefully my new roommate from Japan is on time today...he missed it yesterday! (I love my roommates...this has been strange, too, because I've been here for 6 weeks and roommates keep leaving and coming. We have fun, though!)

Hasta mañana!



~ Last week, Rachel and I experienced eating our first empanada! It had bacon and cheese in it and it was definitely one of the most delicious foods ever.
 ~ This same day, in the Plaza Mayor, we were able to watch some people go up to the top of the Plaza and hang the Spanish flag in honor of the upcoming Olympics. There was a band playing and everything! 
~ It's funny to watch the Olympics with my host family. The other day we were watching swimming, and since I used to swim, I know the most about this sport and the people competing. Fé didn't know anyone except for Michael Phelps and she was so excited to watch him swim...almost more excited than watching a Spaniard swim! It's just so funny how even across the pond, Michael Phelps is so famous and loved. 
~ I cannot believe we only have one week until finals! Where has this time gone??
~ I am starting to be able to tell that everyone is stressing about going home. We're excited to go home, we're not excited to go home, we have no money left, we have stuff to do before school starts a week after we get back to the states....blah blah blah I want to forget all this stuff and enjoy my last week here :)) 


Les Belges Soni Les Meilleurs

Hola, Francía!

Friday, July 27th:

     We left for the bus station in Salamanca around 8:15 am. Our bus left at 9 and we made it just in time! (This is good because I've had a bad reputation with buses on this trip). We made it to the airport a little before noon, and our flight didn't leave until 3:20. At first we thought we were going to be so bored in the airport, but it ended up being perfect timing. We flew a very small airline, Ryanair, and we were required to stand in an hour long line to check in. There was a debacle then because one our of friends didn't have her boarding pass printed, so we waiting about 30 minutes for that to be settled. Once through security, we hung around the airport and made sure we got in line towards the beginning to board the plane. Ryanair doesn't assign people seats, so we wanted to make sure we got to sit together. After a 2 hour flight, we made it to the Paris-Beauvais Airport and had to take another hour bus ride to the city of Paris. Luckily, one of the girls who was traveling with us was meeting her aunt and her friend who lives in France. They showed us how to get to the metro. We took the metro to our suspected stop (it ended up being the wrong one), and walked for a long time before finally making it to our hostel right when it started raining. :)

Our crew: Lauren, Lily, Jessica, Meagan, & Rachel (and obviously me)

We ran into another debacle when we tried to check into our hostel, though. The internet review said that the owners we super nice and helpful and spoke English. None of this was true. They didn't speak a word of English and they just seemed annoyed that we were there. Luckily, Lily spoke a little French and we were able to communicate enough to get what we needed. The hostel seemed a little sketchy at first because it was run-down and old, but it turned out to be very nice. The rooms were small but the beds were comfy and there were personal bathrooms and hot water. It was also very close to the metro, which was helpful. 

After finally getting settled into our hostel (we had 2 rooms of 3), it was time to eat! We went to a small cafe and ate. I ordered a croque madame (because Rick Steves said to). When our food came, though, Rachel couldn't remember what she ordered and I had no idea what to expect so she started eating my food! We figured it out, though, and we each had half of each others' meals. :) After dinner we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower. It was so pretty at night and this sight made the entire day of traveling worth it. A little after we took pictures, the Eiffel Tower started sparkling! It did this for about 10 minutes before shutting off for the night. Seeing the Eiffel Tower was such an unreal experience. I have never really had the extreme urge to want to see the Eiffel Tower, or even go to Paris, but actually being there was an amazing experience. I was able to sit right in front of a building so majestic that I had only seen in pictures before. After sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower for a bit, we started heading home because it was raining (again). We tried to catch the metro but the line was closed (even though it was only 1:40 and they close at 2:15). We were forced to take a cab but thankfully it didn't cost much.

Saturday, July 28th:

     Saturday was one of the busiest but most successful days of my life so far:
-wake up at 8:10am
-meet at 9am for McDonald's breakfast (the only thing that was cheap and open! I had crepes and fruit)
-metro to the Lourve

I love art!
-after the Lourve (where we saw some great art, including the Mona Lisa), we walked the Tuilieries garden 
-ate ice cream in the gardens that was made to look like flowers right before our eyes!

Flower ice cream!
-saw the Rosetta Stone and an awesome fountain
-walked along the Ave. des Champs Elysees (this ended up taking over an hour, which was unexpected)
-ate macaroons at a famous pastry shop (I had pistachio yum)

-Finally made it to the Arc de Triumph!
-took the metro to the Moulin Rouge (on the way here, Rachel and I get stuck in the metro doors and Rachel gets separated)
-took the metro to the Notre Dame, saw the outside and the underground crypt
-ate lunch behind the Notre Dame at a delicious cafe. We ate croque madames, french fries, and escargot (surprisingly delicious). Our waiter was extremely nice and funny and gave us big square tables instead of small circle ones because they were 'American size'. He taught us how to eat the snails. We also met 2 other Americans who were here for the Olympics; they're chiropractors and get to work with the athletes. Also: a croque madame is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with the cheese on the outside and a fried egg on top
-metro to the Statue of Liberty (!) so small!!!
-hung out near the canal
Rachel, Lauren, and I in front of the mini Statue of Liberty :)
-walked to the Eiffel Tower again during the day. 
-metro back to the Tuilieries to ride the Ferris Wheel at night...this gave us about the same view we would have had if we had went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. It was beautiful and exciting. We were told by many people that going to the top of the Eiffel Tower was a tourist trap; I'm glad we skipped it. We ate Nutella crepes here :)))
-made it home by midnight! 
Sunday, July 29th:

      Our sightseeing on Sunday was my favorite of the entire weekend. We woke up super early and took the metro to the Catacombs. Everyone was telling us to not see the Catacombs if we only had a weekend because waiting in line for this can take up to 4 hours, easy. We really wanted to see it, though, so we got there at 8:30 am when it didn't even open until 10! We were literally the first people in line. There was a man behind us who was from Canada and knew a ton about French history, and he was telling us all about the Catacombs while we waited (and ate our breakfast in line):
      The Catacombs are old underground quarries that have fallen in. During the plague in France in the late 1700s, there were so many people that died and so many people ridden with disease that they burned them by the hundreds. The leftover bones were taken into the quarries and stacked because there was no room for them in the cemeteries. Around the same time, the cemeteries were under fire because the bodies buried there were starting to smell. These bodies were also dug up, burned, and stacked underground. This plague was what triggered the French revolution. The people were mad that so many people were dying and that the royalty was doing nothing about it. We were able to go down underground into these quarries to see the stacked bodies. The history behind this area was so eerie to me; it was my favorite part. The whole idea of this concept just seems so unreal and it was awesome to experience it. 
The rest of the day we ate lunch and caught our flight home without a hitch. :)


A Home Away From Home

Some exciting things have been happening around these parts lately!

1. I can definitely tell that I'm learning a lot about myself while I'm here. Being in Spain and especially having came and traveled alone is allowing me to be more independent. :) I feel like I'm growing as a person (aww precious)

2. I have no idea if my Spanish is getting any better. I'm having trouble remembering what it was like before I came here and the only thing I really have to compare it to is native speakers...and I am terrible compared to them. So I guess I'll just have to wait and find out! Regardless, I feel like I'm learning and retaining more than I ever did while taking classes in the states.

3. The meals here are outrageous in the sense that THEY'RE ALL CARBS! Carbscarbscarbs for every meal. I'm not saying I dislike it, but I think of people going to no-carb diets in the United States and am wondering how everyone here remains so thin while eating carbs all the time. Maybe it's all the walking?

4. There are certain things here that are obviously more valued while in the United States we take advantage of. For example: the two big ones are power and water. Water is expensive but we use it all the time in the States. Here there are hardly any water fountains and showers are limited. Also, power is also sacred. Of course, in the States we turn of lights when we leave a room, etc, but here (especially my host mom) is very determined to unplug the microwave when it's not being used and to keep all lights off if there is sun or if the room is not being used. I should try and take these practices back to the States with me.

5. I don't know if it's just what city I'm in, but there seems to be more PDA here. Yesterday we saw a couple kissing and walking at the same time. It was definitely impressive.

6. Gay marriage has been legal here since 2005. 2005!!! In the United States this is JUST NOW becoming a possibility...I think it makes the US look bad because everyone here is so happy (regardless of the spectacular bank issue) and gay marriage isn't even talked about. It is a norm, and it has been for years. Why is the US so far behind? Why is this still so controversial?

7. I have yet to see an electric fan. There is no air conditioning, yet everyone just uses hand fans. This is fine since it doesn't get too humid...it's just strange to see! Also, my host mom was telling me that Salamanca lies smack in the middle of the Southern warm air and the Northern cold air. In July and August the weather is really hot but it's COLD by September.

8. Salamanca is becoming my new home. Sometimes Rachel and I will be walking back from class like normal and then stop ourselves to remind us: HEY we're not in Indiana. We're in Spain!

9. Rachel and I, the past couple of days, have been studying for exams on campus at night. We've learned that it's here where a lot of locals go to hang out! There always seem to be people singing Flamenco music, talking, laying in the grass. It's a super pretty location and I'm glad we have a little nook :)

10.  I am obsessed with a meal whose name is a mystery. It's Spanish rice with meat and a fried egg on top. Also, in the States, I need to learn how to make croquetas! Spanish cooking lessons for all!

Happy Wednesday :) P.S. 2 DAYS UNTIL PARIS!


And the saga continues...

I am not good at naming my entries!

Pauline and I with our host mom!

This weekend was very eventful, I shall break it down:

On Thursday I finally caved and did my laundry. I brought all I had to a laundromat down my street (Rachel and Pauline came with me because the place looked a little sketchy). I put my laundry in the washer and the man told me to come back in 2 hours. When I did, my laundry was dried and folded neatly in a bag. I was so impressed that all of this was done for me and I (only) paid 7euros! Later that night, a bunch of us girls went to see another Spanish movie. Last time we went to a Spanish movie, we saw Ice Age 4. This was easy to watch because it was a movie for kids and we could easily catch what was being said. The movie we saw this time, though, was called Te Ganas De Ti. Apparently this movie is a sequel to another movie, but we didn't know that when we saw it. It was really difficult to understand but we all were able to absorb the plot and twists. All in all, the movie was random and depressing...regardless of this, though, I still want to watch the original. Hmm... After the movie, we tried to get pizza but it ended up being really expensive and there was a cockroach in the bathroom so we bailed. Instead we settled for McDonald's or Burger King...dinner of champions. At Burger King my friend Jessica and I got hats (!) and learned that beer is sold there!! Afterwards we went out to celebrate Pauline's last night :( It was bittersweet but very fun!
HATS with my friend Jessica

The rest of the weekend was very fun but relaxing. On Friday, a lot of people from the IU group went to Barcelona for the weekend. Rachel, our friend Samantha, her roomie Victoria, and I ended up having a very chill weekend and it was just what I needed. At night we hung out in a park and then got delicious burgers and fries at a hole in the wall diner. The next morning Pauline left at around 7am :( I tried to sleep in but it didn't really work and I was just sad most of the day about Pauline not being around. That night, though, Rachel, Samantha, Victoria and I went out again! This time we met up with grad students that Samantha was friends with. We went to a small hole in the wall bar and spoke Spanish the entire night :) There was also live music and it was very soothing. This was my kind of night; very chill, calm. I loved speaking Spanish the entire time and meeting new people. On Sunday the four of us met up again around noon to get churros con chocolate. This is a meal that needs to be brought back to the United States. Rachel and I studied together after lunch for our tests this week. The rest of the day was relatively calm.

 CHURROS! [Victoria, Samantha, & Rachel]

On Monday, Rachel and I studied all day for a test that we had today. It was fun to study in a relaxed way and I'm pretty sure the test was fine :)


Estudia estudia!

I can't believe it's already Thursday!

I haven't had much to say in the past few days because I've been doing a lot of studying. I wanted to make sure I did well on my exam today!! (And I did, so don't worry) :)

Some random things that have been going on and that I have been noticing lately:

~ The amount of adorable small dogs is entirely overwhelming and awesome

~ My classes are very fun and informative. I feel like I am learning a lot, making new friends, and experiencing school in Spain

~ Paella is delicious. The other day we had it with crab meat.

~ Not having WiFi at my house is a blessing. If we had WiFi then I wouldn't have had as much time or motivation to really get to know my other roommates. Pauline and I decided we like it this way.

~ Spain is making me want to have a shopping problem. Everyone here is so fashionable. I cannot have this problem for 2 reasons: I am not made of money and I have no room in my suitcase!

~ The streets and sidewalks are always clean; there are men who drive silly machines to do this during the night. It is a great idea and a great feeling to walk down the streets in the heart of a city and know that they're clean.

~ Regardless of the above fact about clean streets, somehow our feet always end up extremely dirty. It's a mystery.

~ Upon first arriving here, it seemed as if EVERYTHING and EVERYONE here was so different from us. Now, though, it's obvious that the only major difference between the people who live here and the visitors is the language. Our interests and such seem to be similar. Obviously there are some culture differences, but in generally, we're all just coexisting people.

~ Pauline leaves for home on Saturday. I'm really sad about it because we've grown to be close and these 3 weeks have flown by. Tonight we may go to another movie in Spanish :)

~ I'm excited because this weekend everyone from the IU group (who Rachel came with) is either going to Andalucía or Barcelona. We're not, and we're excited to have a weekend where we just get to hang out, go souvenir shopping, and order telepizza!

~ Next weekend we are going to Paris! We'll be there from July 27 - July 29 and I'm trying to research neat things to do in a small amount of time on a small budget. Definitely on my list is the Eiffel Tower and Moulin Rouge. I researched how much a show/dinner would be at the Moulin Rouge and it's almost 150euros...crazy!

~ The buildings here are really pretty and the pace is very laid back and relaxed. I can see how it would be easy to live here.

~ Pauline and I have a new roommate from Paris and she is only 15!

~ Our señora has 2 birds. They live in a cage next to the dinner table and they are usually cute but occasionally they just make so much noise! Our other roommate Nikki, who just left last weekend, got the birds a going away present: bird seed on a stick. All week the birds have been terrified of it and would sit on the other side of the cage all puffed up. Finally, yesterday, they ate it! Silly birds.

Hopefully I will have more quality information to write after this weekend. :)

Look at this cat! GATITO :)


Our weekend with Rick Steves

This past weekend I was able to visit Toledo and Segovia!

On Saturday, our small group of 8 went on an excursion to Toledo. It is located south of Salamanca and was very HOT. The town is smaller than Salamanca and known for it's beautiful cathedrals. We entered the city by walking over a giant bridge. We then went to a pretty cathedral and then a GORGEOUS cathedral. It was the size of 4 cathedrals and so extremely pretty. The detail is just incredible and we always find ourselves wondering how long it must have taken to do that and why things aren't that detailed anymore. Toledo is also known for having delicious mazapan, so of course we had to try it! It was definitely scrumptious :)

 Beautiful organ in the cathedral

Our group on the bridge

The next day, my 3 friends and I planned our own day trip to Segovia (south of Salamanca but north of Madrid). In Segovia there is an enormous castle which we were able to see, but the town is known for the presence of the Roman Aqueducts. The aqueducts are so grand in size that it is the focal part of the town. There is so much rich history here but the town is so simple and quiet. It ended up being a very nice day with perfect weather. We also ate mazapan cake because it is famous here. :)

 Pauline & I near the aqueduct
 Roman aqueduct
 Pauline & I in front of the castle
 Casually dancing with some armor
 Our group on the tower of the castle
Mazapan cake!