TWO WEEKS!!!

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

TWO WEEKS PEOPLE!!! TWO WEEKS! I was taking a look, and with this entry included, I have now written 16 weeks’ worth of stuff! Obviously, that includes last week’s blitz of 5 blogs, due to my negligence (hehe), but it has been a blur, hasn’t it? I’ve always believed that one’s experience of the progression of times is always REALLY fast in the broad picture, but can be quite a bit slower in the small picture. Basically, if you think about your life, day-to-day or hour-by-hour, it can sometimes feel like a drag, but when you think about your life year-to-year or month-to-month, it feels almost like time is a blur, ya know? I don’t have any sort of science to back that up, but it makes sense in my head at least! 🙂

And with the last few weeks of being here in Sevilla, I’m falling prey to the natural urge to “make the most” of my time remaining. Though I have gotten to do a lot of really cool things while here, it is now dawning on me that there is still a LOT that I still haven’t done yet! For example, today (hopefully!) I am going to go visit the Fine Arts Museum that is in Sevilla! Apparently, it is supposed to be really neat. Also, right outside of Sevilla is the ancient Roman city of Italica! There is a huge aqueduct there with a theatre as well that was built back in the 1st century which I REALLY want to see. That is (hopefully) for tomorrow/Friday!

I also had a SUPER stupid moment too…way back in September, I told myself that I really wanted to see the Botanic Gardens that are in Sevilla.  Denver is home to arguably (and to be quite honest, truthfully) one of the best Botanic Gardens, so I really wanted to see what Sevilla had to offer too! However, as is always the case, life kind of got in the way, and it wasn’t until this last week when I thought about going again. So, I brought up the idea to one of my friends who, without being TOO much of a jerk about it, was kind enough to remind me that it is now the month of December? And if you didn’t already know…flowers and plants don’t typically do so well in December in the Northern Hemisphere…because it is Winter. Yeah, I got a lot of smarts, that’s for sure.

And to that point…I have been quite frankly SHOCKED by how frigid it has gotten in Sevilla. I think I mentioned it before, but the weather here went from REALLY hot to pretty darn cold…REAL quick. This last Monday was one of the coldest days in Sevilla I have ever experienced…in the morning the weather was hovering around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And maybe having 80-90 degree days in October has made me become a wuss to cold weather…but it was FREEZING, okay!?!!?

Now with weather being one such example, it is becoming more and more clear that Sevilla, and studying abroad in general, has left quite an impression on me and has allowed me to grow and change in a variety of ways. Last week, I got the chance to talk to my friend Jenny, who is wrapping up her study abroad semester in Bangkok, Thailand. She mentioned how while she feels like she hasn’t transformed into a brand-new person by any means, she has definitely grown and changed in some regards…and I definitely agree!

I think that for some people, studying abroad or living in another country for a long duration of time can prove to be VERY transformative…however, I think the two of us have seen our respective environments influence our behavior into forming some new habits that we will most likely take back home with us. I, for example, have lived most of my life never enjoying or finding an inclination to drink coffee. If anything, I would go to Starbucks and order a chocolatey Frappuccino with whipped cream, which frankly, doesn’t even qualify for coffee. However, Spain is home to some FABULOUS coffee, and I am finding myself more appreciative of having coffee, with milk, in the morning! That is to say, I am going to watch a lot of my money back in the United States go towards buying coffee now (for better or worse). 🙂

And for this week, I’ll conclude with one last idea. And this might be a general piece of advice to those who might want to study abroad in the future. I think that a lot of people take studying abroad as an opportunity to travel around to a million different places…and listen, I don’t blame them! I get it, I TOTALLY do. Most of us have never had such an ability to go outside of the country and have the accessibility of four months to go to so many different places! What I will say is that I would suggest to everyone who is wanting to study abroad…is to REALLY try to restrain themselves from this temptation.

I think if we are talking about the value of an experience, and more specifically the opportunity to have a certain experience, I think going somewhere different, each and every weekend is denying that opportunity for one’s self. Confused? Let’s break this down: I am of the mindset that if one has the aspiration and desire of doing the whole “European experience,” and going to a flurry of different places in Europe, they will make that happen for themselves at some point in their lifetime. That being said, utilizing the study abroad semester as the time to do the “European experience” inhibits one from actually enjoying studying abroad. Vale?

I am pretty sure I mentioned it in my first blog, but I don’t think I will ever have the opportunity to go somewhere outside of the United States… while still being a student. Now that might not sound super significant, but it is a different and novel experience…one that you can’t get by going somewhere new and different each and every weekend. Now THAT is something that is once-in-a-lifetime.

I feel like I have grown a lot as an individual by staying in Sevilla and being a student. No, I wasn’t always doing things or traveling…and yes, sometimes there were days where I LITERALLY did NOTHING. Remember how I mentioned that I take notes every day? On October 28th, I wrote “Is it weird that I don’t even remember anything from this day?” On October 29th, I wrote “DID A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING HAHA.”

Okay, so while I may not have grown or learned much THAT weekend…I feel like whenever I went traveling…I learned a lot about the place that I went to…but when I stayed in Sevilla, I learned a lot about ME. Ugh how cheesy is that? Ew… I need to learn to write without making myself throw up for once. HAHA

Well, I know I started and wrote this blog mainly for myself, but I can actually track and see that quite a few people actually read these things too! So much love and thanks to all of you who have stuck around and enjoyed reading what I have to write, even if I don’t always make the most amount of sense. I think that I am going to write at least three more times, and conclude with one last blog, one week after I leave Sevilla. That’s kind of poetic, isn’t it?

Until next week… STAY WARM!!!

Lisbon

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

And then we come to last weekend…to end a month of traveling. I started off the morning by almost missing the trip altogether. I thought that our program was leaving at 9…and it wasn’t until 7:30 when I was very casually brushing my teeth that I realized how wrong I was and that we were actually leaving at 8. Thankfully, I made it to our bus at 8:03 and was able to get on and go!

Now Lisbon? Lisbon is more like San Francisco…like very much like San Francisco. In addition to having narrow streets and hills like you would see in San Francisco…there even is a bridge (called the 25 de Abril Bridge) that even looks like the Golden Gate Bridge! It was kinda peculiar to be quite honest…though I adored Lisbon too. I know that I keep saying that I adore all of these places…but that is only because they are all amazing! I think it is hard to not find the subtle beauty of any new place you visit. Cheesy, I know.

Anyways, we got to walk around the city a bit and one of the first things that we did was go up the Santa Justa Elevator! It is an elevator that is, for whatever reason, in the middle of Lisbon and it takes you up to a platform where you can see all of Lisbon which was pretty neat. We also went to the São Jorge Castle, which is a castle that was built in the 2nd century and has seen a variety of different groups of people take control of it. It sits on top of a hill, and we got another very neat aerial view of Lisbon. We also got to see the sunset at the top of the castle, so we felt pretty cool to say the least.

ALSO…I was very surprised with how different Portuguese is from Spanish. To begin with, you actually do pronounce the “J’s” in Portuguese, so that already set me up for total failure when it came to trying to comprehend. It is pretty stupid in hindsight, but I think that I was bemused by how different a language could be, even if it native to a neighboring country. But by that logic, we would figure that Mexican Spanish would be pretty similar to American English so truly…we can just conclude that I am a total idiot.

We also visited the Jerónimos Monastery, because technically speaking you are legally bound to visit at least one Monastery, Cathedral or Basilica if you decide to travel somewhere in Europe. Plus, then you can get to tell everyone what the difference between them are! So yesterday, we talked about the significance of a Basilica…but do you know what makes a Monastery significant? Well…while most churches and Cathedrals are for public worship, Monasteries are private buildings occupied by people who are dedicated to their religious vows. See? The more ya know.

We also got to try Pastels de nata which are egg tart pastries native to Portugal and they are UNBELIEVABLE. The name is a bit of a misnomer, because “nata” typically means cream of some sort, but there isn’t any cream on the pastry…but whatever the case the pastries are crazy tasty. I have gotten to try a lot of baked goods and pastries while in Europe (probably too many for my own good) but that was by far one of the best ones I have EVER had. While I only got one for myself, I probably could have gotten 12 and called it lunch.

I almost forgot, I also got to go to a soccer game while I was in Lisbon too! I had taken a look a few days prior to leaving, but I noticed that one of the local teams, Benfica (which is the best soccer team in Portgual), was having a game! Not only that, the tickets were CRAZY cheap so I actually got to sit in the second row from the field! It was pretty awesome to get to sit so close and see the players faces and whatnot. I definitely have been (and will continue to) going to a Ton of soccer games…and they ain’t cheap…but when in Europe, I guess!

Overall, a very great trip to wrap up a crazy whirlwind of traveling. It was good to be back home this weekend, and while a lot of this weekend was spent doing a lot of nothing and sitting around (surprise, surprise) it was definitely well needed. My apologies for being a bad blogger again, but I will do my very best to try and keep on a regular weekly schedule moving forward! I mean, I only have four weeks left…and hey, if I can write 5 blogs in a weekend, it is surely possible that I can finish strong too!

Barcelona

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Oh buddy…Barcelona was COLD…well, compared to Sevilla at least. Actually, it has gotten quite a bit colder over the course of the last month in Spain and without any sort of warning…but it was especially cold in Barcelona. I headed to the Northeastern part of Spain with my friends Patty and Maya, whom I met here in Sevilla and that are also studying abroad!

The moment we got into the city, I felt kind of a Boston sort of feeling from Barcelona. The city is relatively big, and is on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea and has quite a few parks and open space for an urban area. Point being, I LOVED the city, a LOT.

Barcelona is particularly well known for being home to some of the most impressive architectural works of Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí was an architect who was born right outside of Barcelona in 1852…and Gaudí’s style of architecture is as eccentric as it is impressive. We went and visited Park Güell, which is just a park system (and apparently where they filmed some song for the Cheetah Girls? Sorry, I was more into High School Musical.) and the Sagrada Família, which is the main Basilica in Barcelona, both designed by Gaudí.

While the Park was absolutely impressive and VERY pretty, the Basilica was something else. Gaudí’s style is funny in the sense that while he is trying to convey messages of Christianity and stories of the Bible…he is very colorful (literally), and it makes a lot of his work appear like things you’d find in Candyland. Also, the last time I was in a Basilica (which was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart….my dad and I are Notre Dame fans) I was practically a child so I don’t remember it at ALL…plus it’s not like I had ever had a reason to be in one, ya know? I’ve kinda lived my whole life going to Mosques! Anyways, for those of you that don’t know, a Basilica is a place that has been consecrated by the Roman Catholic Pope. See? I teach a few things here and there too…and who would have thought you would be learning those things from a Muslim, huh? J

Let me just say, I don’t think I have ever witness a building with as impressive architecture as the Sagrada Família. Not only is it massive, there is so much intricate detail put into the interior and exterior of the building, and a surprising amount of color and light incorporated too! I think a lot of times, cathedrals and churches have a sort of dark and ominous look about them, but I think Gaudí was very set on making sure that his cathedral would be WAY different from all of the others…and he succeeded! At least with what he did. Technically, the Basilica isn’t finished and he died in 1926, with only about a quarter of the building actually completed.

So, the construction process first started in 1882 with Gaudí at the helm, and ever since, and even after his death, the building has technically always been under construction. Today, the funding for the completion of the Basilica only comes from ticket sales and donations, so you can imagine why it has taken so long for the building to be completed. They claim that the building will be completed by 2026, marking a hundred years since Gaudí’s death…so we will see if that actually happens. A lot of people are definitely skeptical to say the least.

Beyond those few things, we decided to stay in a hostel, which I actually really enjoyed! I had never considered or thought about staying in a hostel (especially coming from the United States where hostels aren’t really a thing), and overall, I was very impressed. Sure, technically speaking, you don’t get your own room or anything, but I thought that it was a really nice and cheap way to have a bed and have a place to relax and hang out too! In the hostel, we met Darcy and Justin, who are both from Brisbane, Australia and are currently traveling around Europe for the time being! I also got to meet a guy named Shea who is from Manchester, England. It was really neat to not only meet a few new people, but also get the opportunity to learn and understand more about people around the world. Who knew that it would take studying abroad in Sevilla and going on a trip to Barcelona to understand more about English and Australian culture?

Whatever the case, we had a really amazing and fun time in Barcelona. I even brought my laptop and tried to convince myself that I would take care of some of my homework…to no avail. Oh well…you only study abroad once…usually. Plus the “studying” part of study abroad is overrated anyways.

Morocco

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

            When we were given the opportunity to go to Morocco, I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew that it was going to be a 6-day trip, I was going to miss a day of school, it would be WAY different from Spain, and I would need to be careful to not drink water from the tap in order to avoid getting diarrhea. Oh, and we would be leaving at 4AM Halloween night. What could possibly go wrong?

It became clear that a big reason why the trip was 6 days had to do with how much traveling we would have to do…and how long it takes to ferry and take a bus all around a country. Not only were we traveling to a different country, but a different CONTINENT…and we weren’t just visiting big cities…but we were to camp for two nights in the middle of the desert. Whatever the case, we woke up obnoxiously early and headed for Morocco on the 1st of November.

Something that you may not necessarily know… even though Morocco is a developed nation, there is pretty significant segregation between Arabs and Berbers that live there. A lot of bigger cities are dominated by Arabs, who are the wealthier and more educated, while the Berbers (who have their own language) live in the less urban areas and are in a lot of ways inhibited from education as a whole. I’ll talk about this a little bit more later, but we first began our trip by visiting the Arabic city of Fez. Primarily, we visited the Medina of Fez, which is, in essence, a city market.

The city market is impressive to say the least. The streets are very windy and very narrow at times, with a plethora of stores and shops that are all beautiful and intricate in their own way. We got the change to go to a pharmacy, a rug store, a cloth store and a leather store as well and let me just say…some people in our group spent some RIDICULOUS money on some things! I don’t want to spend too much time on this (nor appear to ridicule or judge my peers), but it just made me realize that everyone’s situation, both financial and personal, is very different and that kind of dictates our spending habits too. A thing that one person may never even consider spending money on in a million years, another person may do so without a blink of an eye, and I think that that is pretty important to think about.

From Fez, we eventually headed to the small Berber city of Merzouga, a city that is 30 miles west of the Algerian border (to give you a sense of how far we had gone from Sevilla). Merzouga sits on top of an erg, which is a large sea of sand dunes formed by wind-blown sand. I feel like I am a man of superlatives but folks, let me tell you, the sand dunes were UNBELIEVABLE. Honestly. No other words are necessary.

That first night happened to be a full moon and the sky was clear…and you could see all of the stars in the sky. Being in the middle of nowhere kind of gifts you that. At 2 in the morning, I decided to go and walk by myself in the sand dunes (while staying close to our camp DON’T WORRY I’M NOT THAT DUMB), and I don’t think I have ever had a more cathartic moment in my life. I have never felt more at peace and in a position of such harmony: a truly special moment.

I said that I would go back and talk about it… but I had the pleasure of talking to quite a few of the Berbers, who live in Merzouga, while we were there. I think it would be easy to look at where they live and look at their lives and make an assumption, but a lot of them are actually well educated and have college degrees. The problem is…there isn’t much work to be found in Berber cities with a bachelor’s degree and those that are Berber and speak Berber are a lot of the times denied from more education in the larger Arabic cities. Thus, a lot of the people we met are prevented from leaving their Berber homes, reinforcing the segregation and leaving a lot of overqualified people with no work to do in cities like Merzouga. So, for a lot of these people, they know nothing outside a life in the desert…and as beautiful and amazing as it is (as a tourist), we got to get back on our buses and go home without a second thought. Just JJ thoughts.

Beyond those things, we got to try some INCREDIBLE food. A lot of really good meat and vegetables and fruit! I hadn’t realized it till I had gotten to Morocco that I hadn’t really been eating much good fruit and vegetables in Spain…oops. Plus, the sand of the Sahara is unlike any sort of sand you will find at any beach. Dessert sand is VERY fine, and doesn’t get stuck to you like beach sand does! I actually bought a small little container to bring some home with me too. 🙂

Morocco was definitely one of the most transformative and beautiful trips I have ever had the pleasure of going on. While it wasn’t always easy and sometimes the drives were a little too long (and I definitely did get sick when I got home, and no I am NOT going to talk about it), it was an incredible experience. I can’t even begin to say how fortunate and thankful I am to have been given such an amazing opportunity. Oh, and I got to ride an Arabic camel too! 🙂

Cordoba and Granada

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Who would have figured that I would go a WHOLE month without writing a blog…to write a series of five blogs, back to back to back to back to back?

So as you may or may not know, Sevilla is in the southwest of Spain in the autonomous community of Andalucía. An autonomous community is similar to how we view states in America. Cordoba and Granada are two cities that are just East of Sevilla, while also being in Andalucía. So, our program took us on a weekend trip there! Unfortunately, the following week was my week of midterms, so I had to bring homework along the way too. YAY. We started off by going to Cordoba first!

So, Cordoba is a smaller city, and very similar and reminiscent to how I would describe Toledo (which was the second city that I visited at the very beginning of studying abroad right after Madrid). It is known primarily for being a city that used to be under Caliphate, or Islamic, rule starting back in the 1st century. Cordoba is still home to what is the former Cordoba mosque: a VERY impressive building. It was turned into a Cathedral after the city of Cordoba was taken over by the Christians in the early 2nd century. For better or worse, it was really fascinating to see the inside of what was a mosque that transitioned into a church. Muslim architecture refrains from using faces and figures, and inside the building, you can see the original mosque columns…and built on top of them are now magnificent walls and canvases depicting the faces of angels and other Biblical figures.

That building is now fully under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cordoba. I decided to do a little exploring and came upon what is now the official Mosque of Cordoba. Unfortunately, the mosque is so small, that it only fits about 20 people total. I know that II like to exaggerate often, but this is one of those times where I wish I actually was…And I don’t mean to be controversial, but I will say that seeing the Muslim community of Cordoba transition (over the space of a few thousand years) from having the great Cordoba Mosque as a religious space to what is, in essence, a classroom, is pretty sad.

We didn’t spend more than a few hours in Cordoba before we drove off to Granada. Now, Granada is quite the city…and has truly been the only city to rival Sevilla (in my book) as a city that could truly feel like home for a study abroad student. In Granada, we got the chance to go to a Flamenco show which was SO FUN. Flamenco is a style of dance that is native to the South of Spain and is just a lot of fun to watch! I don’t really know how to describe it, but it is absolutely worth looking up.

I think the thing about Granada that makes it so amazing is that, similar to Sevilla, it is a smaller type of city that also truly feels quite homey. There is a lot to see and do, and it truly feels like a bigger city if you want it to be. I was able to buy some really amazing gifts and souvenirs in Granada, more so than anywhere else I have found to be the case. However, the one thing that makes Granada truly impressive is the Alhambra.

So, the Alhambra is a former Muslim fortress that is now situated in the city, purely for the pleasure of people to see and enjoy. Fortunately for us, our program covered the cost of the visit, but typically it costs about $50 to go inside the Alhambra… but honestly, it is SO worth it. Another one of those fruitless things to try and describe and explain… but there are just so many gardens and fountains in addition to the impressive architecture that makes it that much more impressive. Of course, I will include pictures, because duh. Pictures are better than words. Ya know… in hindsight, maybe I should have just posted all of my pictures instead of trying to explain all of the things that I did. Would have saved me a LOT of time. 😉

It was really refreshing and really nice to go and visit a few other cities in the south of Spain that, while having aspects similar to Sevilla, are very much their own and very unique. 🙂

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we head off to Morocco!

 

I know…

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

          It has been a month since I’ve written…so I get it, I’m the WORST. But for the record, I think I get a mulligan since I’ve been traveling somewhere different over the last four weeks and have ONLY had school and homework to worry about. SO… here is my proposition.

Thankfully, I have had a free-ish weekend. So with all of my free time, I have already written four additionally blogs, plus this blog. CRAZY, RIGHT? This blog is going to be about a general overview of the last month of my life in Sevilla…and the next four (which I will post over the next few days) will be about my last four weeks of travel! Tomorrow’s blog will be about Cordoba and Granada, Tuesday’s will be about Morocco, then Barcelona and followed by Lisbon. That seems reasonably fair, right?

I have realized that, surprise surprise, school is probably (very easily) the least best part of studying abroad. Part of it, for me at least, has to do with the fact that I do not feel connected to my school here. I am pretty sure I have mentioned it before, but first off, UPO is nowhere near as pretty or as “homey feeling” as DU, or I feel like most universities in the States. Part of that is by design…I mean people don’t live on campuses in Europe (typically) so it is more a matter of just having buildings for classes.

On the other hand, people don’t really have extracurriculars here. Most people in the US have clubs or jobs or things that they do on campus, and while those things make us STUPID busy…it makes us feel more connected to our campus and keep us on our toes. It has made me realize that going to UPO and going to school here in Sevilla is just about going to class. Kinda sad, but it is what it is!

For those of you all that haven’t been paying attention to what is happening to Catalonia, things are getting quite interesting! Basically, after the election in which the Catalonia people said that they wanted to be separate from Spain, the Spanish government nullified it, and kicked out the Catalonian government! They also have called for the arrests of the (former) Catalonian President and a few members of his cabinet too. SO… Carles Puigdemont (the former Catalonian President) fled to Brussels to try and seek exile. This would basically be if John Hickenlooper decided that he wanted Colorado to secede from the United States, and Donald Trump calling for his head, forcing Hickenlooper to flee to Canada. Man, wouldn’t that be something?

Anyways, I talk often with my host family about their viewpoints on what is going on, what they think of the European Union, Spain being a part of the European Union and Spain as a whole. Firstly, it should be known that so much of the Spanish economy is dependent on tourism and tourists…and thus on study abroad and study abroad students as well. For example, my host parents have been hosting kids for 14 years now. Just the other day, they showed me a picture of one of their first host kids, who is now married and has three kids! While all that is cool and all from an outsider looking in, for them, it isn’t really a matter of hosting kids out of pleasure…. but out of necessity. And it isn’t just them, but all of my other friends who are here studying abroad as well. Hosting students is often a big source of income for people living in Spain.

This has made me realize something quite significant. Especially compared to how Spanish people view Spain… I am REALLY proud to be an American. I know that that sounds pretty trivial, but it has been a big revelation for me. A lot of people in Spain, my host parents included, don’t really have any reason to feel Patriotic about Spain. However, I feel like the number of opportunities and privileges that we are fortunate enough to enjoy as Americans…not very many other people can say the same for. Sure, things are by no means perfect, and not everyone has the privilege to say and feel the way that I might or someone else might, and I recognize that. However, studying abroad has made me realize that more than any other place, more than any other country (more so than Spain too), the United States is truly my home. I know that it is easy at times to hate it and feel unappreciative of what we have as Americans, but MAN do we have it good.

So, as fun as studying abroad is, and as much as I love Sevilla, and as much as I know that it has my heart and as much as I am going to miss it… I definitely have a list of things and reasons that are making me excited to go back home. I also am SO appreciative of so many of the things that I do have… I can’t begin to say how much more I feel like I appreciate my family, my friends, my school…and yes even my country too.

Beyond those things, it has been a really good month full of learning and growing I truly do believe that studying abroad is one of the best things someone can do, if gifted with the opportunity. I have been so luck to explore such a cool place and meet some really fabulous people, while still being able to go to school. I mean, how neat is that!?!

Nevertheless, I am THRILLED for the month that is to come ahead…and to come home just the same. 🙂 Thank you for dealing with my month-long hiatus…and stay tuned for tomorrow’s Cordoba and Granada post! Toodles!

What Goes Around Comes Around?

Friday, October 19, 2017

Oh man was this a week. Do you ever have one of those moments with yourself…where you think you are the funniest person in the world and you are stuck between hysterics and tears…but you are in public? By yourself? More on that in a minute.

So school is now starting to really kick in. This last week, I had one midterm and one quiz and next week? I have three exams…and one presentation too. Fun stuff. 🙂

But I was able to catch up a bit with my dad and my friend Jack from back home and I was talking about “getting settled” here in Sevilla. Especially this last weekend, I was having that feeling. I sometimes think that people think that studying abroad, especially in Europe, is a new adventure and new experience every day. I think that gets coupled with how we (sometimes unintentionally) portray ourselves on social media. Especially on Snapchat, I have a tendency to post pretty pictures of food, snacks, desserts, and overall pretty stores and places that I have visited. While that all is absolutely true and real, I would argue that studying abroad isn’t necessarily an adventure all the time.

In fact, sometimes studying abroad is kinda hard…and not always super fun. I mean, studying for three exams isn’t very fun. Sometimes being alone with no one to talk to isn’t very fun. My friends and I have especially been missing a lot of food from home…and it is hard sometimes to not always have those things. That doesn’t mean that we feel ungrateful or want to leave…but it isn’t always “living the dream,” ya know? In fact, this last weekend, I stayed in the house both Saturday and Sunday…and didn’t leave. You know when you’re just having one of those lazy days…that turns into a lazy weekend? Welp.

I was definitely feeling a bit out of it. But thankfully for me, I get to play soccer on Mondays which always gives me a lot of energy for the week. And in fact, this last Monday, I played really well and had a really fun time! I brought my friend Hasan along with me too and I think he had a really great time as well! Overall, soccer Mondays are probably one of my favorite things to do. Plus, this last week I made a study abroad breakthrough!

Just thinking about this makes me realize how much of an idiot I was that I didn’t do this early…but I finally got a Sevici! So let me explain. Biking is kind of popular here in Sevilla, and Sevici is basically a ride share program! There are at least a hundred bike stations with multiple bikes around the city, and you buy a weekly or annual membership which gives you access to the bikes for a free 30-minute period. You go up to a station and request to take a bike, and you can go and drop it off anywhere else and pick up a new one! AND IT IS AMAZING. The only knock against the bikes is that the seats aren’t super comfortable? So straight up…I now have a callus on my butt. So that’s fun.

I realized that a big reason why I am so lazy sometimes is because I just feel so far away from the city and from things to do. Why go out when you can stay in, right? So, I figured that utilizing bikes would entice me to get up and go. And it has! Since Tuesday, I have used the bikes a ridiculous amount of times. The bikes are actually half decent (for bikes that are being used by the entire city of Sevilla) and really fun! There are bike lines all around and I have really enjoyed getting to and from places a LOT quicker. And it helped make last Wednesday one of the best day’s I have had while abroad.

So I eat dinner pretty late in my house (like around 10:30pm) and typically after I eat, I am feeling pretty lazy so I watch a little Netflix and go to bed. This last week though I told myself that I was going to go out and do SOMETHING. So, I left the house a little before midnight (yay!). And for a Wednesday night, while I didn’t really expect anything more, the city was pretty dead. I decided to go into the city center by myself and go peruse and that is where I felt IT.

Do you ever have one of those moments? It is hard to describe, but the closest I can get to it is being on top of the world. While I was riding around…I just realized how much I love Sevilla. I have been SO fortunate to have visited so many places and cities in my life, but I have never felt such a love for any other place like I do here. After having a weekend of feeling settled and normal and bleh…riding around on a bike in the middle of the night washed that all away. It was such a special and beautiful moment…and ya know? It made me realize that I don’t think I really want to leave quite yet!

So, after my corny and cheesy high of the night, I got into a strangely naïve and generous mood . My 30-minute time was running out and I found a station that unfortunately had no other bikes…so the likelihood of me dropping off the bike and coming back to find it still there was slim to none. So I initially decided that I would drop off the bike, and immediately check it out again. Once I dropped off the bike though, a man came up and asked me if he could use it…so I decided that I would be a good person and I let him. Not necessarily a Mother Theresa moment by any stretch, but it was the middle of the night and I was alone and I didn’t know where else I would find another bike…SO I WAS FEELING PROUD OF MYSELF!

I aimlessly walked around for a bit trying to look for a bike…and eventually it started raining! So that turned into a session of jumping in puddles, taking pictures and looking like a fool in the rain (that lasted for about an hour and a half). I was starting to get pretty wet…so I figured it was a good enough time to go home. I meandered a bit more and eventually found a bike station with a bike!

So as I was biking home, a man on the side of the road stopped me…and asked me if he could have a few Euros. I asked him why… and he said either one of two things (he said it in really jumbled Spanish, so I didn’t really understand him…how embarrassing) 1.) because he needed money for gas for his bike or 2.) because he needed to buy a bus ticket FOLKS. I. DIDN’T. EVEN. BLINK. And at 2:30 in the morning in the middle of a random street, I pulled out my wallet with ease…and I gave this guy a 5 euro bill. LIKE WHAT. So I biked the rest of the way home laughing at myself at how stupidly naïve and foolish I was to pull out my wallet in the middle of the night. Oh well. STILL…best night ever. J

And if it couldn’t get better…I got a job to be a tutor… and I started yesterday! Our University released a list of families in Sevilla that are looking for students to tutor their kids in English…so I reached out to a family and voila! The family is super nice and super sweet…and I sat down with their son for an hour and a half and helped him with his English homework. It was super fun and his mom gave me 15 euros for it too! I couldn’t help but laugh at how funny it was that the night before I gave away 5 Euros with ease…and saw 15 Euros with ease return to me.

Maybe it is just me, but I have always believed that when it comes to being a decent human and having a good heart, things like money, time, energy and love, all eventually come back to you if you are willing to part with it first. My parents have always told me that. The two of them always donate money, especially to needy parts of the world and our communities and to anyone in need…and it is always with the goodness of their heart and knowing that one way or another, that good gesture will comes back to them when they need it too (if they need it to ir if they want it to that is). While it isn’t necessarily the reason why one should donate or be a good person…it is kinda a cool thing. 🙂

It has been a great week indeed. I am currently on my way with my program to Cordoba and Granada for the weekend. While very exciting and thrilling…I unfortunately had to bring all of my homework and study materials. School doesn’t stop for travels!

Till next week!

Picking Your Nose is Sometimes Necessary

Friday, October 13, 2017 

Okay so let me be VERY clear. I love studying abroad… I love studying abroad a lot. Spain is great, the people here are great too! And I like going to school (for the most part). So I don’t really have too many complaints! BUT…The University of Denver is EASILY, the most beautiful campus on the planet. And the Universidad Pablo de Olavide is…well…it’s NOT the University of Denver. Thankfully, Plaza de Espana makes up for it…for the most part.

I have realized that to avoid truly becoming an old man and being tired all the time, I need to make sure that I get out of the house at least once a day. After last week’s blog, I went out to go and walk around the park right by my house and I was amazed by how much energy it gave me to just get up and go. Admittedly, it can be REALLY easy to get obnoxiously lazy and do nothing but pick your nose all day…but if you can make yourself get up and leave the house for even an hour, it really can do a lot for your body! And if you decide to get up and go for a run, then you should get a cookie too! J

For the entire month of October, Sevilla is having a Festival of Nations! They have basically set up a bunch of tents with each tent representing a different country or a different region! They have tents for both food and for clothing and little knick-knacks to buy…and they have a stage where they showcase different dancing from around the world too! I went with my friend Montana and we bought a crepe…and it was probably the best crepe I have ever had in my life. It’s funny that I went all the way to Spain to try a lot of French and Italian food. They even have an American tent where they sell ribs and burgers and French fries and a like which is pretty funny, if I do so say so.

Okay so maybe this is a bit weird to share…but I am going to share it anyways. And as a preface, all things seem a little bit weird when they don’t necessarily follow the typical script and narrative that we are inclined to expect, right? SO…my host parents every so often will bring friends and people over for meals, which is always really nice! So for one dinner, my host parents got super fancy! They brought out fancy wine, cheese and crackers, sliced chorizo, foie gras and the like. And we had three guests with us on this occasion: Dario (who is my host dad, Fernando’s, son) and another man and a woman that seemed like a couple. I should also mention that Fernando and Lola each have a son from separate marriages. Anyways, the next day I am told by my host mom that the woman…is Fernando’s former wife and mother of Dario…accompanied by her new husband. All odd things are only odd because they aren’t common, right?

Beyond the occasional guest coming to the house, I have had the opportunity to meet quite a few younger Spanish people too! Through my program and my school, I have gotten a chance to meet a few intercambios, or language exchange students! The idea being that I have been matched up with a friend who helps me with my Spanish and I help with their English! It has been really nice, and INCREDIBLY refreshing, to meet people my age. Plus, they all think that my Spanish isn’t half bad! I mean I’ve always known that I have been a big deal, so it is nice when other people think so too. 😉

I got to go to another soccer game! It was for Sevilla’s B Team, but it was actually quite a lot of fun! And I think what made it the most fun was the fact that the tickets were free! So…as I have mentioned earlier, my Sports Psychology professor is kinda a big deal…basically, he is THE sports psychologist of Spain. So much so to the point where every class, he mentions some new Olympian or world champion that he has worked with. I know I have mentioned it before, but he is going to London to work with Chelsea FC in November. But as such, he has quite a few connections! So, of course, he worked his magic and got 10 tickets for me and my friends! He’s also worked with Rafael Nadal…because of course he has.

To conclude this blog, I want to talk about something that is really important to consider when studying abroad. So, I have now come to realize that quite a few of my friends made the decision to come to Spain to study abroad for the primary reason of traveling around Europe. While this differs from my reasoning, I will say that I recognize the logic and see it as sound. However, what I will say is that I do often feel that there is an undeniable pressure that while one is studying abroad, they HAVE to be doing SOMETHING. Whether that be traveling somewhere, doing something significant or have something planned, there needs to be something going on.

So, my best friend Marie and I have a habit of Facetiming every week, more or less…and we were that very idea of the necessity of “doing” something. And one of the things that Marie has discovered while studying abroad, while in Sweden, is that a lot of studying abroad is also about just growing and learning in a different location.  And I can’t help but agree! I think sometimes we take for granted that sometimes we need to sit back and relax to allow ourselves to grow and learn how to be a functioning human of society…because we can’t just be aimless students abroad forever. (Though, let’s not kid ourselves, that would be AWESOME).

For example, one aspect of my growth that I have seen is learning how to commute. In order to get to my school, I have to take a metro outside of my house that takes about 25 minutes, followed by about a 15 minute walk to where I actually have class. While not ideal by any sense, especially considering the last two years of my school life where I just woke up and class was 5 minutes away, it is reality. In fact, when I get back to DU, I am most likely going to live at home and commute to school via driving (like a real person job HAHA). Thus, I am learning a real, practical skill and getting adjusted to what is the reality of the adult world: something I probably wouldn’t have learned travelling around Europe.

Now, that isn’t to say that hopping around Europe isn’t something that one should do or that there isn’t a great amount of learning to be done that way, but I think it is important to remember that just because you aren’t physically going anywhere, doesn’t mean you aren’t growing or moving and building yourself as a person. At the end of the day, sometimes the best growing can happen when you are just sitting around and picking your nose. And let’s not kid ourselves, we all do it, just accept it as fact.

Well, that’s enough grossness for one day. Did you know that I am now a month into being abroad? CRAZINESS. There’s a Ferris Bueller quote about this… “La vida pasa muy rapido….” something or another, I think.

Till next time!

I think I’m Turning Into an Old Man

Friday, October 6th, 2017

I think I can affirmatively say that. The past few weekends, I have been going to bed before my host parents, and neglecting going out with my friends for the simple reason being that I am too tired. I’m such a lame-o. HAHA

ANYWAYS, I went to Gibraltar last Friday which was SO fun! For those of you that do not know, Gibraltar is a British territory that is still part of the Iberian Peninsula, right off of Spain. It is a beautiful place with some really adorable monkeys! Well…most of them. One my my friends, Patty, brought her handbag with her that was holding her sandwich. Monkeys, apparently, have a very good sense of smell, and one of them reached into her bag to try and grab the sandwich and ripped her bag! Afterwards, we went and I probably did the most embarrassing, aggressive American thing in Europe so far: we went and ate at Pizza Hut. I have no excuses…but no regrets either.

This last weekend, Sevilla had a few festivals and fairs which were a lot of fun too! Instead of going out, I decided to explore some of them and try some good as well! Admittedly, I’ve realized that I have been having some American food cravings. And by American food, I mean food that is a bit fried, greasy and most likely bad for you. As such, I tried to find such foods. I was able to find a milkshake, some fries, and a taco (I just REALLY needed a taco too). I’m not going to lie, the milkshake and fries were a bit of a letdown…in the fact that they were not as satisfying than I was hoping for. I really need to just go to McDonald’s and get this over with.

This last weekend was also the referendum in Catalonia. Unsurprisingly (at least in my opinion), around 90% of voters voted for the independence of Catalonia. Unfortunately, the situation is quite a bit complicated. For one thing, technically speaking, even just taking part in the vote was deemed as illegal activity by the Spanish government, regardless of if you said yes or no to the independence. As such, the Spanish police department was sent in, and they not only disposed a lot of the votes, there are a lot of very freighting videos of police officers harassing and hurting Catalonia’s and impeding them from voting. In the end,., almost 900 people got injured and sent to the hospital. More so, FC Barcelona were scheduled for a game on that day, and due to a variety of circumstances, the game was played…but fans were not allowed into the stadium. Overall, it was a very freighting and confusing day in Catalonia, and Spain in general. And as of now, no one really knows what is going to happen from here. It’s not really a heartwarming moment, but I think it has been a good reminder that no government and political system is perfect. If anything, there will ALWAYS be people who are unsatisfied and unhappy and want something radical to change in order to satisfy their needs.

On a different note, I decided to go to the movie theater and watch a movie this week! After doing some research, I found that in addition to some movie theaters that show movies dubbed in Spanish, there are a few that show movies in their original version. I went and bought a ticket for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Firstly, much to my delight, the ticket I paid was less than $10, which I see as kind of a steal and reasonable justification to go and see another movie soon. Secondly, also much to my delight, while the film was in English, they actually had Spanish subtitles! I really appreciated this, because it was a cool way to still enjoy the movie, while also being able to read along in Spanish too.

I don’t really have much else to share this week! I just have realized that I am SUPER exhausted. I think part of it has to do with the fact that it is still extremely hot all the time, which I think just makes it hard to be active and be a real human being. In any case, life has been great, and not too much to complain about! I have written more post cards which has been fun and I hope to write a few more. Also, I am hoping to maybe plan a trip to go to the Canary Islands in the near future too! Stay tuned to hear if I finally get enough rest to function properly as a human again! In the meantime, I just finished the second season of Narcos and I have now decided to start watching Modern Family in Spanish (WHICH IS ON NETFLIX IN SPAIN HOW AMAZING). Toodles! 🙂

I REALLY like Gelato

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

This summer I was working three different jobs as a way of saving money to go abroad. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) a LOT of that money in Spain has gone to paying for gelato. WHICH ISN’T EVEN SPANISH GELATO IS ITALIAN. I’m not exactly sure why gelato is such a big thing in Sevilla, but I’m not going to complain about it. There’s this chain in Sevilla called Amorino, and they specialize in gelato, macaroons, and it is AMAZING. Also, if you want gelato in a cone, they shape it into a flower. Like Amorino, PLEASE take my money.

The Sevilla FC game was a LOT of fun. I’ll say it again, the environment of soccer games in Spain is just something else. I definitely do not have a favorite team because I like both teams A LOT. I think it is really awesome though that regardless of what team people support here, they really do support their team with all their heart. I’m sure you all have been paying attention to the now intriguing tension between the NFL and the White House nowadays…but I think there truly is something significant about sports as a social construct. Sure, I understand that the physical nature of sports may not be super attractive and appealing to everyone, but I think there is something to be said about how sports can be something that connects people from different worlds together. For the people of Spain, the love of fútbol is something that most people can resonate and connect with, regardless of political ideology and personal identities and differences. And for me? Sure, I may not speak Spanish supremely well, but it didn’t inhibit me from making friends with the guy sitting next to me who spoke no English at all. Because at the end of the day, the appreciation and beauty of soccer is universal and doesn’t have a language barrier. Food for thought.

Through our program, I have been able to do some really awesome things so far! We went and saw the Alcázar of Sevilla last week, I got the chance to FINALLY play soccer this week and we went kayaking in the Guadalquivir river too! First off, I am SO incredibly appreciative of having the support of my program directors for help and insight and for, of course, planning fun things for us to do.

Beyond that, I can’t say it enough, the Alcázar is just another RIDICULOUSLY beautiful part of Sevilla. It is a Royal Palace (that is actually still in use!) and has been a location for filming of Game of Thrones as well! I’ll post some pictures, but AGAIN…pictures really do not do it any justice. It is BEAUTIFUL.

I also got a chance to play soccer with some other people in our program on Monday! It was really nice and really refreshing to FINALLY get a chance to play. I think it has convinced me that I am going to sign up to and play soccer through my University as well. I’m still REALLY sore from Monday, so I’m going to need to whip myself back into shape in order to avoid looking like a fool in front of the Spanish kids at my school.

Finally, I got to kayak in the Sevilla river too! I had never done kayaking before, but I figured that it would be pretty laid back and calm…and was a much harder workout than I expected! You definitely need to use your entire upper body and arms in order to move in the river…otherwise, you’ll just move with the current. It was pretty exhausting…but I guess I don’t have to do arms for a little bit, right?

While I haven’t exactly made any Spanish friends yet, I have made a few German friends! Simon and Hasan are in a few of my classes and they are from Munich and Stuttgart respectively. While not exactly expected, it has been really cool to learn a little bit Germany too! DID YOU KNOW…that ALL Germans have the option to receive free health care? If you are a German citizen, you received a free health card, and if you are born in Germany, you get assigned one the day of your birth. Free health care is paid for by all citizens and is withdrawn automatically by the German government from your paycheck. Each citizen pays a different percentage based off of the overall size of their paycheck. This also covers health care for those that are homeless as well. And the free health care literally covers EVERYTHING…from cancer medication, to hospice care to even birth control! I asked Hasan if the upper-class in Germany are upset for having to pay more in order to cover the lower-class and homeless…to which he responded, “Why would they be upset? They want what is best for all Germans.” WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA. America, take some notes please.

My host family is still amazing. They are really sweet and pretty laid back! They like letting me have my space, while also talking to me and helping me mess up, but learn how to speak better Spanish! It’s been nice to learn quite a bit, and quite a few people have complemented me on my Spanish! Total aside, the button on my pants came off, and my host mom sewed it back on for me! 🙂 It’s the small things ya know?

So for this week, I want to talk about something kind of interesting that happened to me. First off, let me just recall about how throughout my first few weeks here in Spain, I have been doing pretty well regarding getting around in public situations. As mentioned, my Spanish is not too bad as it relates to needing to buy something and picking and choosing something off of a menu. That, coupled with my skin tone, has (I think) convinced a lot of people that I am Spanish as well! Which, I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing!

So before we started a game of soccer amongst us study abroad kids on Monday, we are introducing ourselves and saying hello and whatnot. I introduce myself to this guy and we are talking for a bit and all of a sudden he goes, “Wow! You speak English really well!”

Hmmm…how should I be feeling about this? OBVIOUSLY…this guy looked at me, and assumed that I was Spanish. At the same time, he very much insinuated that (most likely based on his experience with other Spanish people) he doesn’t seem to think that Spanish people speak English well.

I think it is fascinating that we do that to people. It’s not necessarily even a bad thing (and for the record, we ALL do this), but we, as people, typically assign a person some qualities based off of their physical characteristics without even hearing them speak a word. We also LOVE to clump people together, and assume that people are similar based off of their skin tone, and based off of their skin tone, we LOVE to umbrella (generalize) people based off of racial categories as well. Within the last two weeks, I have had three different people tell me that I remind them of Aziz Ansari, or that “that Indian guy from Parks and Rec.” (which has only happened to me a million times). One of those times was with a different guy that I was playing soccer with this last week. This is particularly interesting, because the only thing this guy knew about me was that I play soccer…and last I remember, Aziz Ansari is an actor/comedian who, in his show Parks and Rec, plays a guy that actually HATES playing sports and is aggressively not athletic at ALL. But no, I played soccer with you for an hour, and I remind you of a character in a television show that is a semi-funny, semi-annoying but also a sexist, raging narcissist. Makes sense.

I think the cheesy and easy thing here would be to say, “I wish we wouldn’t judge people or generalize people so early.” But not only is that overly stated, it also is just not going to not happen, right?     SO, the wise words that I will dispose on all of you today is that we need to remember to give people the chance and space to prove themselves as different, original and unique. On a selfish level, I would hope that people would look at me, and even if they assign me all the characteristics of Aziz Ansari, or some other Indian person they know, (for the record, I am Pakistani…NOT Indian), they would also allow me the space to show that I am WAY different than the stereotypes, and that all brownish people are NOT the same. On a less selfish note, I hope that we can also look at Spanish people, and let them prove themselves as more than our generalizations, and come to realize that some Spanish people actually can speak English REALLY well (kid you not, I have met some Spanish people, and Simon and Hasan too, that have a better English vocabulary than our current President. So, there’s that).

At the end of the day, people of our world are exceptionally beautiful, and amazing, and incredible, and SO unique. And especially as part of a minority group in America, I think that we sometimes like to think that we are always the victims of such generalizations…but again, let’s not kid ourselves here. Sometimes, we ABSOLUTELY are at fault for generalizing white people. And beyond just race, we LOVE to assume and generalize people who are involved in fraternities, sororities, sports, clubs, you name it. And listen, people join clubs and organizations and love to spend time with and be around others that are similar to them. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that that is the ONLY thing about them, right? In addition to being unique, everyone has multiple qualities and traits that make them who they are. And I think that that is pretty awesome. 🙂

On a lighter note, I am going to Gibraltar tomorrow with my program! While Gibraltar is apart of the Iberian Peninsula, it is technically a British territory which is kind of interesting. My host family has told me that apparently, there are HUGE monkeys that kind of just chill around Gibraltar. Stay tuned to see if I make friends with a Gibraltar money before I make a Spanish friend…it just might happen.