Study abroad

Your plan isn’t going to work – Stay calm (19/100)

Sometimes you screw up, don’t leave enough time to get a long-term visa, sign up as the last person on the last day for a short program, and end up meeting some of the best people.Segovia, Spain
I was devastated when I botched my plans to take time off University and spend 9 months living in Barcelona, but now I can’t imagine it any other way.

Spending just the summer in Spain allowed me to do less school and more travel, graduate college a semester early and end up with a killer job. Not to mention meet a few of my favorite people.

Don’t be discouraged if your original travel plans end up nothing like your actual experience. If you have a good attitude and stay flexible, you’re sure to have a good time.

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Lizzie! What are you doing in Spain? (3/100)

Lizzie McGuire in EuropeDuring my first week of school in Madrid, I climbed the stairs of  Universidad Antonio de Nebrija -so many stairs and floors and so few maps – to sign up for excursions.

There I was surprised to find Lizzie McGuire pinned to the board telling me I couldn’t bring my backpack to the art museum.

Fair enough.

How to get robbed in Spain: Part 1

Don’t zip your bag. You know, don’t even watch it. Just leave it willy-nilly all over the place because no one ever wants easy money. If you can’t tell this is sarcasm, please reevaluate your travel plans.

Traveling Ash’s Tip: Be very strategic with the purse you bring and the way you carry it.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • A crossover is your best bet so no one can easily rip it off your shoulder.
  • Keep you bag slightly in front of you opposed to hanging loosely near your side or back.
  • Be conscientious of where your zippers are and how they can be accessed. You want to have the zipper pulley thingy (anyone know the real name?) towards you when it’s zipped closed. This way, assuming you’re holding your bag like I told you to) someone could only unzip it if his or her hand is in front of you.
  • If there are any zipper-pockets on the front of your bag, wear it so that side is up against your body to make it more difficult to access.
  • Never put anything of importance in a pocket that only clasps closed or doesn’t have any kind of covering. I don’t care if you want to have your phone/GPS/iPod/camera/passport handy for constant use. Don’t do it. It’s going to be taken.
  • Even when you are sitting (at the metro, at a restaurant, etc.), keep your bag on like you would wear it when you are walking and set it on your lap. Not on the ground. Never on the back of your chair.
  • Don’t keep your keys in the same place as the address of where you’re staying. This is especially important if you’re living with a family. If you haven’t memorized where you live yet, keep the address in your jeans pocket/backpack/etc. and your keys in your purse. If your bag does get stolen, you don’t want the thieves to be able to loot the rest of your belonging at your place while you’re out.
  • If you have to go the backpack route, be extra conscientious without looking like a nervous wreck. Hold it in front of you while in crowds and on public transportation. If you have it on your back, take a quick, discrete peek while walking past reflective surfaces to make sure it’s still zipped up.

Spain travel recap

A collection of the highlights reel that’s my odd life

I can’t decide if I attract the bizarre or if I just notice it more than others. So far, I have had some strange/hilarious/questionable things happen to me in Spain. I wish I could’ve told each story in detail, but living life is just so time consuming.

Instead, I’m going to give a list of the weird happenings to give you all a taste of my experience here.

1. No random Spanish man in your 30s… you may not keep me as a souvenir

On my first night out in Madrid, I was leaving the infamous club Kapital when a Spanish man that apparently wanted to take me home physically picked me up and threw me over his shoulder.  He also recited the entire storyline of The Princess Bride and adapted it to make me the “Blue-Eyed American Princess.” …I’m not even kidding. (Don’t worry Mom: I told him he was the quintessential Spaniard that mother’s warn their children about before sending them abroad.)

2. Do I look like a fire hydrant?

I was lying in a park and I started to hear running water. I looked up and saw a dog peeing on me… A dog peed on me…I have been peed on by a Spanish dog… Is this some kind of initiation process?

3. When that super chill guy gets real awkward

I was playing wing woman for my friend so she could hang out with her soon to be Spanish boyfriend. We were at what he described as “the poshest club in Madrid” with one of his other guy friends and a couple. One would assume that when there are three guys and three girls going to a club (and there are two couples in the group) the single guy and the single girl would hang out for social acceptability purposes. Nope. This guy (who had been totally cool before we were in a dancing situation) became a tangled assortment of limbs vaguely but fervently bobbing to the music while he avoided me like the plague. So there I was, in the “poshest club in Madrid,” dancing alone. #Fail #WingWomanOfTheYear #ShutUpIKnowHashtagsDontWorkThisWay

4. Oh language barrier. Stop trying to make me look like an idiot in front of my host mom

I was talking to my host mom (who is an elderly woman who can’t hear well) and I mistranslated what she said. I thought she told me there was going to be tornados and assumed she was talking about the ones in Oklahoma. I mean, of course the weather in Oklahoma is international news. So I asked her if she was talking about the United States. Nope. Turns out she was just trying to tell me that it was going to rain this weekend in Madrid.

Then there was this other time when I was trying to ask her where my laundry was but mixed up my prepositions. I accidentally asked, “Do you know where your clothes are?” Awkward.

5. Playing chicken with a bus

My normally lovely, wonderful, fantastic, stupendous, above-par roommate made us late to a Saturday morning school excursion that we had paid 45 for. This resulted in me running down the street…straight at a moving bus…to avoid getting left behind. Anyone who has seen me run knows that this about 97X funnier than if it was anyone else running.

This isn’t even all of the hilarity that has come my way in the last month, but it gives a pretty decent glimpse in on my adventure.

I hope all of you back home are making your own adventures. I expect many coffee/story dates when I return so I can hear all about them.

Passing through the dark

Study abroad and travel fears

I was terrified of everything as a child. Jumping from the monkey bars would surely end in broken bones; the McDonald’s play gym was most definitely going to collapse while I anxiously scampered through its tunnels; and the boogie man, big bad wolf and several poltergeists all lived in my closet.

Don't look under the Bed

Photo attributed to Hannah

I like to think my fears have become more rational as an adult, but now that I’m throwing myself into a completely foreign environment, I’ve been trying to sort out which concerns are legitimate and which are akin to the monsters in my childhood closet.

Here are the five fears that are currently on my mind. (more…)