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Gap Year Abroad

11 posts from January 2013


Exploring an Ancient Arab World:Day 2

Sunday morning we headed to the Alhambra. The Alhambra was originally constructed as a fortress in 889, and was then converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada.

We started with a tour of the Generalife gardens, and then we visited the Generalife palace. The gardens and palace were used as a place to relax, since people couldn’t hop on a plane to take a vacation back then.

After that we toured the Alhambra. Although it was very intricate and colorful, I was expecting a bit more. I think this is because people kept telling me how amazing it was, so I had built up my expectations. And although it was really interesting, the tour lasted about four hours, and by the end we were all absolutely freezing, as well as hungry.

After the tour we had lunch and some free time to shop and then we headed home.  We didn’t end up arriving home until almost nine. By the time we eat dinner is was about 11, and then I watched a movie with my host sister. Although I was exhausted when I went to bed, it was a pretty great weekend.

For more info about the Generalife and the Alhambra check out this link


Exploring an Ancient Arab World:Day 1

This past weekend I traveled to Granada with Clic. It was about a three hour bus ride and we left on Saturday morning. A few of the other gap kids came as well, but I also meet a bunch of cool people from all over. I met a really nice girl named Isabel from the south of Germany. She probably lives very close to Anna because she lives about two hours from Frankfurt, but whenever I try to pronounce Anna’s home town, no one ever knows what I’m saying. I also met a girl from Brazil and a bunch of Australians. I talked to lots of interesting people who are all studying at Clic for different reasons. One of the professors even came along, he is Irish so it’s really interesting to hear him speak Spanish, since he does it with an Irish accent.

Everyone told us it was going to be much colder in Granada, since it’s next to the mountains, but when we arrived it was quite sunny. We has some free time to get lunch and then we had a little tour of the city. 

Granada was the last Arab city to be conquered and the Arab influence is very noticeable. There are many teterías, which are tea shops, as well as an Arab market. Walking down those streets I felt like I should be in Morocco, not in Spain.

After being shown some historical parts of the city we had a tour of La Capilla Real(the Royal Chapel) where King Fernando y Queen Isabel are buried.

After that we visited the oldest neighborhood in Granada, the Albayzín. We walked up some very narrow alleyways and some very large hills, but we reached the top just as the sun was setting and we had a great view of the Alhambra from across the valley. 



The best breakfast

On Friday morning I had the best breakfast ever. Churros y chocolate. It was the birthday of one of my classmates, so we had class for about an hour and then went to get some churros y chocolate. I had already had this once before, and it is absolutely amazing. Churros are basically funnel cake, except better, and they are shaped like giant french fries. The chocolate that is accompanied with churros is basically a melted chocolate bar, so pretty much right up my alley. And Spaniards eat this for breakfast! Of course it is something that is only eaten on special occasions, so I’m really looking forward to the next special occasion that comes along.


Taking the Long Way Home

 I have been very fortunate to be able to run in some really cool places this past year. Last semester I was able to run along the Pacific Ocean, and now I have the chance to run in Spain, and hopefully some other cool places in Europe as well. Yesterday I decided to try to run to Plaza España. The plaza is actually located in a park called María Luisa. My host mom drew me a map, however, that wasn’t really enough for me. It took me about a half hour to get there, when it should have taken me about seven minutes, but nevertheless I did eventually find it.


The park is filled with many beautiful structures and fountains. I kept stopping so I could get a good look at things. I talked to Nancy about running track, and she said she wasn’t sure about that, but that there is a group that meets in the park and goes on runs together so hopefully I can the information on that soon.

When I left the park, the real adventure began. I wasn’t sure exactly which way was home, since I had taken a roundabout way of getting there. But I started off in one direction, and then I thought it was wrong so I turned around and eventually I found myself in a neighborhood very very far from the city. I wound up next to a hospital and continued walking until I saw someone on a city bike(I’ll explain more about the bike system in another blog) and decided to follow him. He got me to the right place because I saw a sigh that pointed to center city. I kept looking around trying to see if there was something I could recognize, and finally I spotted one of the towers from La Plaza España. And right after that I spotted the Viapol Center sign, and I knew exactly how to get home from there. Although I hadn’t intended to go for a three hour run, I did get to see a lot of Sevilla. I actually went again today and this time I did not get lost, so I’m making progress. I hope to go for a run along the river sometime next week, once I know exactly where the river is.


European Churches

One of the things I remember about traveling to Europe when I was little, was the amount of churches we would visit. It seemed my mom thought it was necessary to see a church in every single place we visited. Although it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, I was always very impressed.

Today we had a tour of the cathedral in Sevilla. It was absolutely beautiful. It is the largest gothic cathedral, and the third largest church in the world. Construction on it began in 1401 and out guide told us it was never really finished since it is always being renovated. The main alter is currently being renovated. I was a little bummed we couldn’t see that.

Part of the cathedral actually used to be a mosque. If you look at the bell tower you can tell the bottom half was part of the mosque and that the top half was addeed later and has much more of a christian influence.

After the tour was over we climbed the Giralda (the bell tower), where we had an amazing view of the city. It reminded me of El Duomo,although there weren’t nearly as many stairs and the view wasn’t as spectacular, but it was still great.



Plaza de Espana

Pictures of lovely Plaza Espana in Sevilla.

Plaza de Espana

Pictures of lovely Plaza Espana in Sevilla.

Plaza de Espana

Pictures of lovely Plaza Espana in Sevilla.

European Alleyways

Yesterday afternoon Stephanie and I signed up to do a tour of Sevilla with Clic. We thought it would be a good way to get to know the city a little better. Unfortunately we must have walked too slow, because by the time we arrived, the tour had already left.

We sat in Plaza Nueva for a bit and people watched, and then Stephanie went home because she wasn’t feeling well, but I met up with Hannah and we decided to explore a bit.

We found the CIEE office and went on the roof to check out the view, it wasn’t amazing, but you could see parts of the Cathedral and the dozens of other churches that are located in the city center.

We then attempted to find the gym since I had been there earlier that day to check it out and it had a really great view from the roof. Unfortunately everywhere looked the same. As we were walking I was reminded of the time my family and I had gotten lost in Venice for about two hours. We were trying to find this restaurant that was supposed to be amazing. We even ran into an American couple that had visited Venice about ten times before, and they were lost as well. We eventually settled for some pizza. It’s a good thing Hannah and I weren’t trying to find a restaurant, cause then we would have been pretty hungry. As we were wandering around, attempting to find the gym, Hannah spotted a sign that said “dresses for 5 euros”. We obviously couldn’t miss that opportunity, so we each browsed through the store, and we each found a decent dress, at a very reasonable price.

There are so many great stores in Spain, and Europe that don’t even exist in America. Unfortunately many of them are expensive. But lucky for us, every store is having a sale right now until the end of February. Hopefully I will be able to find a few more items before the sale is over.


And the adventure begins again

After spending a wonderful month and a half back home it was time to back my bags again and head to Europe for five months. Although I wasn't nearly ready to leave home yet, once I arrived at the airport in Madrid all of my doubts instantly went away. I was in Spain!

I visited Spain once before and absolutely loved it, but this time I have the wonderful opportunity to actually live here.

After traveling for about twenty hours, I finally arrived in Sevilla. We went straight to a hotel where we began orientation. We had several meetings and several wonderful meals.


On Friday we went to Clic to take a placement exam. The school is absolutely beautiful. And the walk there was beautiful as well. I love all of the narrow alleyways and the architecture. I had forgotten how mazing Europe can be.

We were introduced to our host families later in the afternoon. I live with a mom named Maria and a twenty year old host sister, named Elena.

So far I have really enjoyed the food my host mom has cooked, and even though I have only been in Spain for two days, I know I am going to love it here.


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