I can’t believe that my program in Madrid is now more than halfway done. This is the longest I have ever been away from home. It’s certainly hard at times being away from my family and friends, and I’ve gone through the ups and downs of home sickness already more than once, but I’m trying to remind myself to take advantage of the limited time I have in Europe. I finally bought my plane ticket home (I wasn’t on the group flight), and will get to go back to London for a few days before returning to the states since my flight leaves from there. But before then, I’m traveling throughout Spain and Europe for five weekends in a row! We have a group excursion planned to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, and then I plan on doing a quick trip to Granada. But I’m even more excited to go to Marrakesh (Morocco will be my first time to Africa), Berlin, and Amsterdam (and I might try to squeeze in Paris without draining my bank account). After nearly five months abroad, though, I’ll certainly be ready to have a nice, long winter break at home in California. And then despite how cold the winter will be at Vassar, I look forward to seeing some familiar faces next semester.
Since my last blog post, I have changed my class schedule. I overcomplicated my life a bit by trying to take a psychology class at another university, and then ended up taking two classes at that campus so that now my life is split between two colleges. Unfortunately, I don’t really like the classes, but I’m at peace with my decision and am getting credit towards my Hispanic studies minor either way. I dropped my sociology course because I would rather take it at Vassar, and I’m NRO-ing my two half semester classes. This past week, when everybody at Vassar was on fall break, I had a final essay and exam for my first half semester class. Unfortunately, we don’t get a fall break here, but none of us have class on Fridays, so we get to travel during long weekends.
Barcelona has been one of my favorite places that I’ve visited so far. I was able to see lots of amazing works by Gaudí including La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and the outsides of Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. La Sagrada Familia is one of the most impressive churches I have ever seen with beautiful stained glass, and the rest of the places were all very whimsical and colorful. We also walked quite a few times down la rambla, a famous shopping street with an enormous food market, and also visited the gothic quarter. Another day we went to the beach and decided to do as the Europeans do and go topless ;). Some of us also went to the Picasso museum, and some went to a soccer game. I ended up meeting up with a couple of friends from high school I hadn’t seen in a while who are studying abroad in Barcelona who showed me around.
Sevilla (Seville) and Córdoba (Cordova) were also lovely, and it was nice to be reunited with everyone from the program again for a weekend. We took the high-speed train to Seville and visited the cathedral, the alcázar (an ancient fortress), and a fine arts museum. We also ate delicious catered lunches as a group and swam in the pool at our hotel. On the last day we went to Cordova and saw amazing mosque-cathedral, which is literally a mosque with a cathedral built several hundred years later in the center. It was an exhausting weekend full of tours, but lots of fun. On Friday some friends and I took a day trip to Toledo, a town about an hour away by bus from Madrid. We visited yet another cathedral as well as one of the only fully preserved synagogues in all of Spain. We also visited the museum of El Greco, a famous painter, and walked around for hours exploring on our own.
In Madrid, I recently got to visit the Royal Palace, where the royal family used to live. It’s one of the most extravagant homes I have ever seen, with decorations like no other. I also recently discovered a great neighborhood by me with excellent non-Spanish food. (Spanish food is great, but sometimes I need a little variety.) I finally got Indian food, Chinese food, Thai food, Mexican food, and lots of falafel. By school, we found a great little hole in the wall that sells sandwiches with every ingredient imaginable (the retreat pales in comparison). And of course I’ve treated myself many times to gelato or churros with chocolate (for dipping), a typical Spanish dessert/breakfast. Next weekend is several people’s birthdays and Halloween, and it will be my last weekend in Madrid for a while, so we plan on partying it up like true Madrileños.