Travel Tip Tuesday: Creating a Playlist of Your Trip

Studying abroad in Spain meant many long nights of dancing in clubs to Spanish music (and actually a lot of English music). After I left for home, I found myself really missing that scene, so I decided to make a nostalgia playlist. Now I have a fantastic list on my iPod that I can listen to anytime and reminisce about nights wandering around Santiago de Compostela’s bar scene. Read more

The night before and the day of my departure!

As excited as I am to get back home, it’s a little bittersweet to finally say goodbye to Spain. It’s been such a long journey that I’m not really sure what else I can say here except Thank You.

Going to miss my roomies!

Love these girls!

Amy’s sister was also leaving for Dublin on the same flight, so she and Jess came to see us off! Posing with the iconic Ryanair – basically defined our year!

Last few hours.

I’m sitting here in my empty bedroom in Santiago with my two suitcases staring at me in the face, waiting to leave for the airport. Today, the day I leave and the day that I have been counting down to for months, has finally arrived and I suddenly don’t want to go. My friends are going out tonight and my roommates will be here too and I suddenly want to stay a little longer to enjoy being with everyone. I made sure to say goodbye to as many people as I could, including my photocopy guy where I always get everything printed. And as much as I’ve missed Wisconsin this year, I know that next week I’ll be wondering why I’m not still in Santiago. The grass is always greener, I suppose.

To everyone who has been a part of my journey this year, in some way or another, I just want to give a heartfelt thanks and know that you all have a home with me in Wisconsin. I hope to see you all again, and even though we live an ocean apart, I know we’ll always have a bond and friends across the world. Thank you all for making this the best year of my life.
Muchas gracias a todos. Os querré para siempre, siempre estaráis en mi corazón <3
Ciao para ahora, Santiago.

Home cravings. Nearly there.

my family. my friends. my house. indian food. milk. Tucker. my bed. english. flavor. my stuff. summer. wisconsin. cheese. brats. noodles and company. chocolate chip pancakes. any kind of pancakes. waffles. hawaiian pizza. tofu. vegan food. non-vegan food. hugs. warmth. familiar faces. ben and jerry’s. butter chicken. naan. coconut water. long islands. cookies. cupcakes. shorts. sandals. beach. harry potter books. candles. giant world map. driving. shopping. dollars. movie theater. my tv shows. harry potter pc games. sims. my shower. jacuzzi tub. massages. bicycle. gym. brewer games. packers. bars. drinks. picnics. lemonade. mac and cheese. tanning. sleepovers. 

2.

Classes have finished for the second semester and all the students, locals and Erasmus alike, are in the midst of crazy exam-crunching time, trying to remember everything from the entire semester for one exam in each class. I myself have three more exams to go before a few days of relaxation (aka packing and doing last minute tasks and shopping like a maniac) before I jet off on May 30th.

That’s two weeks away.

In two weeks I will finally again be able to see my family and friends, play with my cat, have a decent-sized computer, sleep in my own bed, eat my mom’s cooking, go to all my favorite places, have a car, and enjoy life’s pleasures that I haven’t had here in Spain (dryers, vacuums, carpets, Magic Bullets…).

But, in two weeks, I will have to close this amazing, hard, wonderful, long, and quick chapter and begin my actual life. I won’t be able to see the faces of all the amazing people I’ve met here in Santiago or jump on a 2-hour plane ride to anywhere in Europe.

And although I’ve been homesick all year, complain a lot, and often have the desire to jump on the next plane heading back over the ocean… I think I’ll miss it all. I’ve traveled more in the past year than most people do in a lifetime. I’ve tested my limits and strengths. I’ve grown a lot this year, learning more about myself, Spanish, and different cultures in general.

I think one of the most important things I’ve learned this year is that the world really is just a small place. Although I admittedly went to mainly larger, touristic European cities, they all have one thing in common – plain old survival. This may seem obvious, but not until you see it in person do you realize that all around the world, people are just doing their own thing and making their own way, just like we do at home. Everyone is, at the core, just the same. Everyone just wants to make a living, keep their families happy and fed, and enjoy a little leisure. And this is what I saw in every city. From the street-entertainment in Rome to the bank tellers here in Santiago.

The second most important thing I learned this year was that I’m okay on my own. For example, I was wondering what it would be like to spend an entire week in Rome and Paris with nobody but myself and strangers in my hostels to chat with. You can imagine the horror on others’ faces when I told them that nobody would come with me. But who was I going to hang out with? Why would I go without company? Who would I talk to when eating at a restaurant? I was worried about all this for about a minute until I actually arrived in Rome, the #1 place I’ve always wanted to visit, and realized how much I love being on my own. Nobody to bother with, can do whatever I pleased, and especially eat whatever I wanted. As a classic introvert, a week alone exploring Rome and Paris was a true vacation. Sure, I chatted with the girls in my hostel room and enjoyed their company, but as soon as I walked back onto the street I was on my own and loving it.

Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t have enjoyed having someone with me, especially my family or boyfriend/close friends, but this first-in-a-lifetime experience of complete independence was amazing. So what if I wanted to spend only 10 minutes in Pisa? Or go to bed early every night? Or have Indian food instead of Italian one night? I could do whatever I wanted, and I did. One of the most fun parts of the trip was calling my family before going to sleep at night and telling them about my day’s adventure (aka letting them know I was still alive) and hearing all their jealous, awed reactions. Yeah, it is that cool 🙂

So, now that this year is nearly over and I need to think about collecting all my marbles before heading back home, I can look back on this as a positive experience that I’ll always treasure.

Sorry to end this post abruptly but I’m getting tired and have a lovely day of studying to look forward to tomorrow!

General update

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Well, I’m still here in Spain and am starting a new semester in the Philology faculty (the study of languages) instead of Psychology like last semester. It would be most impressive if all of my classes were in Spanish, but as I’m taking 4 classes this semester (and nothing seemed particularly interesting), 3 of my 4 classes are taught in English – whatever gets me a good grade, I guess. Not to worry as I only speak Spanish in my piso (apartment) so I’m definitely not losing out!

I’m taking classes on North American literature (yes, really), English literature (again, really), Spanish/English translation (aka Erasmus heaven), and a Cinema and Literature class. I don’t think I’ve ever actually taken any kind of literature since it was required in high school but I don’t completely hate it! Well, except my Cinema class in which the professor is old and grumpy and yells at us to stay in our correct discussion sections and talks at us without PowerPoint or ANYTHING visual during the entire class. This is the only non-English class I have and I have NO idea what’s going on there. 
The other thing that’s bittersweet about this semester is that it takes a solid half hour to walk to my faculty each day, which means a solid hour of walking four or five times a week. This is good because otherwise I wouldn’t bother even though I wasted 100 euros on a gym membership in September and never went (keep meaning to see if I can get some money back), but it’s also bad because I get to class sweating and smelling like I haven’t showered that morning (which is sometimes true).
I guess another thing that’s bittersweet is that Spain is full of super-crazy discounts at the moment. For example, I bought a pair of nice boots for only 20 euros and a pair of heels that I’ve wanted for forever for only 11 euros! There’s another pair I’ve seen lately but I need to pinch myself and remember that the 20 euros they costs equal a meal in Rome or even a night in a hostel and I can’t take too much back in my suitcase anyway. Waaah 🙁 I just want cute shoes 🙁

As homesick as I am, I have to say I’m loving it here lately. I definitely can’t wait to go home as it’s been 6 months since I left but I also can’t imagine boarding my Aer Lingus flight to go back home. I’m already thinking about how much I can pack into my suitcase and what I still need to buy to bring back home (liquor de café, tarta de Santiago, croquetas, etc.). I’m also planning my next trips this semester and will be out of town almost every weekend if it all goes right! Still need to make my way to Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona, Murcia, and back to Fene twice more. Oh and Dublin for the night on the way back home 🙂
I don’t have too much to update on in this post except that the weather hasn’t been so bad lately, meaning it only rained today out of the past few days! Now I might sound a little crazy here, but at times this week I’ve even gone outside without an umbrella! People here seem to carry around umbrellas all the time, just in case the dark overcast of Santiago pops up out of nowhere and you’re stuck inside the grocery store cursing the city and its slippery wet sidewalks of irony.
As I don’t have any real photos to share, please enjoy some of the lovely scenery around Santiago that I’ve captured with my new camera 🙂

At the City of Culture museum, with the giant wheel of books.

The view on my walk to class.

What’s UNDER the view on my walk to class.

The extremely weird geese in the pond on my campus. There are also swans!
Little stream that leads into the pond.
This isn’t my picture, but something I wanted to share: These are cars used for one of the driving schools in Santiago, called Mata. What’s funny is that in Spanish, “mata” means “kills”. I usually avoid the crosswalk when one of these is coming through.

Santiago wants to make sure everyone in the city practices safe sex. 
This is something I can’t quite wrap my head around – a narrow, one-way street at a non-crowded intersection that gives people almost 90 seconds to cross. Been wanting to snap this picture for a while! 
One of the candy stores on each block that sells all the same gummy candies: gummy fried eggs, clothespins, fruits, spiders, and even body parts! All strange, sugary-coated goodness.

Un fin de semana en Fene y Carnaval!

Fene, Galicia, Spain
Ferrol, Galicia, Spain

This past weekend I went to my roommate’s house to visit them and to go out for Carnaval, which is like a week of Halloween-related activities with costumes and partying, but minus the candy. My roommate lives in Barrallobre, a small section of Fene, but we went out in the nearby town of Pontedeume. We spent 4 nights there as our university was closed on Monday and Tuesday for the Carnaval festival and I didn’t have to work either! I had a wonderful weekend and can’t wait to visit them again in May. 🙂

Héber & I, freezing in the cold while waiting for Gabriela! 

Everyone dressed up in costumes!

Turned around and my worst nightmare came true…

… until we went to take a picture with them. The red-haired one followed me all over the place but I couldn’t look at it!

*rawr*

A witch, a Grease girl, and a princess 🙂
Having fun with funky glasses at Héber’s family lunch 🙂

Happy birthday to meee!

Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

I don’t know why, but 23 feels a lot older than 22 – especially since most people here are only 20 or 21! But celebrating my birthday in Santiago was so much fun regardless of my age, especially since I got to share the celebrations with my roommate, whose birthday is January 30th. Everything, from the flan cake that Gabriela and Jossua made for us the night before, receiving homemade bracelets and bookmarks from the kids to whom I teach English, getting flowers from my boyfriend, dinner with friends, going out at night, and finally reading all my notifications on Facebook made my 23rd birthday one I’ll never forget. Muchas gracias a todos!

Max’s parents ordered a box of Godiva chocolate straight from Belgium for me! Needless to say, they didn’t last very long!

The birthday kids!

Celebrating Héber’s and my birthdays!

Jossua!

Celebrating the right way 🙂

A card my little cousins made for me!

No matter where I am in the world, my amazing boyfriend never fails to send me flowers on my birthday 🙂

Two of my best erasmus friends were leaving for home the next day 🙁 I love and miss you girls!
The day before my birthday I decided to just go ahead and buy my return ticket home – May 30th! It’s earlier than I originally planned, but I will be done with my exams by then and most importantly be able to attend Natasha’s graduation on June 2nd. Now that it’s official I suddenly don’t want to leave. Seeing most of my friends leave to go home this week made me realize how much I want to be here, and I can’t imagine not living here four months from now. From now until I leave, I’m not going to complain about how much I want to go home but I will express my excitement for all the trips I have planned and have as much fun as possible. Although the homesickness is still very present, I know that once this is over I’ll want to do it all over again! 
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