Not sure what program is right for you? Click Here
CIEE

© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Gap Year Abroad

10 posts from April 2013

04/23/2013

La Despedida

After 8 months, 7 countries, and laughter and tears to last a lifetime, my gap year has ended. I couldn't have asked for a more friendly, amazing, nurturing group of people to experience it with, and I'm in debt to everyone who helped me chart my course throughout it all. I wouldn't have changed a thing about it, because throughout those months, I grew and matured and simply experienced more than I would've ever thought possible. The places we saw, the people we met, the situations we were in- all contributed a part to the inexplicable but amazing transformation that a gap year creates. To be honest, the person I was 9 months ago, I don't recognize. I am incredibly lucky and blessed to have lived and experienced what I did, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

You’ve felt it, haven’t you? Those feelings that seem to get so big in your chest, like something is so beautiful it aches?

Heather Anastasiu

DSC_0075

My last sunset in Sevilla- quite a beauty, ain't she?

 

DSC_0134

The entrance to Feria- shining as bright and true as ever. 


DSC_0107

The family that I laughed, cried, gossiped, danced, sang, traveled, and lived with. Thank you for everything. 

 

All the good times, all the bad times, and everytime between have led me to this point. 
I'm home.

04/17/2013

post-gap-year extravaganza

So now that my gap year is coming to a close what will I do next?

Well…I have some wonderful adventures planned before I need to catch my flight from Germany on June 13th.

My journey will begin in Africa with my grandmother. We will spend about ten days traveling around Morocco. I have wanted to go to Africa for so long and I’m so pumped to finally be able to go. What I’m most excited for is seeing the differences in Southern Spain and Morocco, since they are so close, yet worlds apart. And hopefully experiencing a bit of the Berber culture.

Next, I will say goodbye to Nannie as she heads home and I make my way to northern Spain to start El Camino de Santiago! This has been on my bucket list for a while and since I had a free month to travel, I decided I should walk it now because I might not have the time later. I’ll be doing the Camino Áragones and my starting point will be Jaca.

here is a map of all the different camino routes-see if you can spot which one I’ll be doing

General-cas

Once I reach Santiago I fly back to Sevilla to collect my suitcase and then I fly to Vienna to meet my Mom and Sophia. We will spend some time in Austria, and then meet Anna in Munich.

After my Mom and Sophia leave I will head to Germany with Anna and spend some time with her family. We may even be going to Paris for a few days!

After that my traveling will be over(at least for a little bit) but I know I’ll have more adventures this summer with my friends(starting with Color Me Rad-get excited Michelle and Caitlin) and when I head off to Michigan in August to start college.

I won’t be able to blog about these experiences since I will have limited internet access, but I would be more than happy to share about it when I see you.

take care!

04/16/2013

the experience of a lifetime

This year has been absolutely amazing. By the time I return home I will have traveled to more than twelve countries, seen one of the Seven Wonders of the World, lived in another country, met so many new and interesting people who touched by heart and whom I’ll never forget.

This last few weeks have been super fun, super busy, but also kind of tough.

Yesterday night was the last day for a few people so we all went to Fería together(Fería is a celebration in Sevilla, but I don’t have time to devote a whole blog to it-so just follow this link to learn morehttp://www.spain.info/en/vive/fiestas/sevilla/feria_de_abril.html).

We all had a good time, but lots of tear were shed and many hugs were given. It’s hard to imagine the possibility of never seeing some of these people again, after experiencing so much with them. Especially the people who I was in Chile with. I have been with them since August. We grew so much this past year and when we return home no one else will understand what we experienced.

Last week was the last week of school. It was sad saying goodbye to my teacher and my classmates, I felt like I was just started to learn things that really interested me.

These last few weeks have consisted me of running around trying to get everything in order before I leave. I have some post gap year plans- but I’m gonna devote a whole blog to explaining that.

It’s really hard to explain the significance of my gap year ending. It really is more significant than when I graduated high school. I’m so lucky and blessed to have had this experience and I just want to thank everyone who has supported me this year. Especially you mom and dad. I know you guys weren’t too keen on me taking a gap year, but you still supported me right from the beginning so thanks for that.

If you ever have the chance to travel- do it! Get out of your comfort zone and experience something new. It’ll be worth it.

I had my doubts about this year, but in the end I couldn’t be happier with my decision to take a gap year. And if I had to do it again, I might do it a bit differently, but I wouldn’t change this experience for anything.

I also just want to take the time to thank the Speedwell Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. Messner because without the scholarship I received I would not have been able to have this amazing experience. Here is a link to a bit of information about the organization and the amazing couple that started it. 

http://www.afsusa.org/donate/scholarship-giving/scholarship-profiles/speedwell-foundation/

I’ll be posting one more blog in the upcoming days about my post gap year adventures so keeep an eye out for that.

thanks for following along on this journey with me- I’ll see you all in a few months :)

04/11/2013

A Masterpiece in progress

On Tuesday morning we checked out of the hostel, got a delicious breakfast of bagels(my first bagel in three months!) and made our way to the Sagrada Familia.

As I mentioned before, I was in Barcelona when I was nine years old, so I have seen the Sagrada Familia before, although I barely remember it. A lot of work has also been done on it since then.

It truly is an amazing piece of architecture. Our tour guide yesterday had suggested we buy a ticket that includes the audio-guide, and I’m so glad we did.

Not only is the inside of this building stunning, but admiring it from the outside is just as amazing.

The cathedral has three facades. The Nativity facade to the East, the Passion facade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South (this one is still being completed). Each one is extremely different and tells its own story.

P1060189

Even before you enter the cathedral you notice the influence of nature in the design of the building. Gaudí was a very religious man and he believed God was found in nature. “The Great Book, always open and which we should make an effort to read, is that of Nature”.

The columns in the church are designed to look like trees. The light that enters was planned so perfectly. Gaudí believed too much light was bad, yet not enough light would make the church too somber. Although some things are unfinished inside the church, it truly is an amazing masterpiece. It is projected to be done anywhere from 2020-2040 so I’ll definitely have to go back and see it when it’s completed.

P1060169
Here are a few more facts about La Sagrada Familia

http://www.eyeonspain.com/spain-magazine/10-fact-sagrada-familia.aspx

After admiring the cathedral from the outside for a while we set off to find the Xampanyeria. We found it this time, although it took some time. But it was definetly worth it.

When we first arrived there were no seats, but we were content to stand at the bar. We ordered some tapas while we waited. Everything we ordered was absolutely amazing. When we finally did sit, we decided to continue to order tapas. We stayed for about two and a half hours. The atmosphere in that place was great, and we had some great discussions.

Since our gap year is coming to an end, we have all been thinking about what it will be like to go home. It’s definitely going to be strange. The end of my gap year is such a significant event in my life(way more significant that graduating High School) that I almost don’t know how to end it. Nor do I want to.

After lunch we went back to the hostel to get our luggage and then took the metro to the airport. It was a fun weekend, but it felt kind of strange. I’ve gotten so used to traveling around this year that it felt so normal to go from Sevilla to madrid and then Barcelona and then back to Sevilla. It’s also strange knowing this wonderful experience is soon coming to an end.

The City of Gaudí

After getting off the train we took the metro to our hostel. Unfortunately, we walked the wrong way after we got off the metro, but we eventually found it.

After we ate breakfast and showered we went on the free walking tour offered by our hostel. It was extremely informative. Our guide was awesome. He was born in Germany, but he is actually Swedish. He has lived in Spain for seven years. He studied engineering in school, but we always thought it was a bit boring. Since he has always loved history he decided to turn a hobby into his job and become a tour guide.

We walked down las Ramblas and drank from a special fountain. The reason this fountain is special is because if you drink from this fountain you will return to Barcelona. I actually had a bit of trouble with this since the spigot I tried to drink from wasn’t working. Luckily we passed by this fountain later…so I will most certainly be returning to Barcelona in the future. 

La-rambla-barcelona11-014
We were also shown the gothic quarter, the cathedral, and we even learned a few words in Catalán. We ended the tour at travelbar, which was funny since my brother had actually recommended that place to me.

After passing through El Boquerria, the famous market in Barcelona we got some lunch. Then it was back to the hostel to check in and take a quick nap.

We all felt a bit more refreshed after napping and so we made our way to Parque Guell. Although I’ve been here when I nine, I barely remembered it. It is extremely impressive. For those of you who don’t know, the park was designed by Antoni Gaudí.  It is one of the largest architectural works in southern Europe.It isalso part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site ”Works of Antoni Gaudí”.

P1060099

After admiring the beautiful work of Gaudí we attempted to find the metro. It took us a while but we eventually found it. We were planning on eating dinner at La Xampaneria, a place my brother had recommended, but we had trouble finding it so we decided to go for lunch the next day. We ended up stumbling upon an adorable little bar cafe with empanadas and delicious pizza.

After dinner everyone was ready to call it a night since we were all still a bit tired from traveling.

04/10/2013

Exploring the Capital

This past weekend I had my CIEE trip. Each semester CIEE takes us on a trip all together. In Chile we went to the Atacama Desert, and this past weekend we went to Madrid.

We took the AVE, which is the high-speed train in Spain. The first thing I noticed upon arriving is that Madrid is much much colder than Sevilla, which makes sense since it is in the mountains and farther north.

Although Madrid is the capital of Spain, I was unimpressed. The architecture in Sevilla is much more impressive and it is just honestly too big. There are so many people it can be hard to walk at times.

Friday evening after we had eaten lunch and done a bit of shopping, window shopping that is, since none of us have any money left, we saw the Lion King.

El Rey Leon came to Spain several years ago and is based off the musical from the states. It was really good, even though I couldn’t sing along to the songs since they were all in Spanish.

After that we had free time to explore the city. We ended up finding a great pizza places that sold slices for 2 euros.

On Saturday we had a walking tour. I’m still not really sure what we saw since our guide wasn’t very good at explaining things. The tour actually started out in English, but I asked the tour guide to switch to Spanish. She told me the directors wouldn’t let her. After we all explained to Cristina and Alejandra that we really all could understand Spanish, they allowed the guide to speak in Spanish.

P1060038

We walked around for about two and a half hours and passed a bunch of interesting looking places, but we never entered any buildings. I think CIEE definitely could have done a better job of planning this trip. We barely saw any of Madrid and we had so much free time, but it was usually for an hour or something so it was never enough time for us to go out and see things.

On Saturday afternoon we did go to El Prado for a few hours. The amount of artwork in that museum is overwhelming. I managed to see Las Meninas and Saturn Devouring his Son, but not much else. Although I did recognize many paintings from studying them in my Western Lit class. It was really cool to be able to look at a painting and understand the history behind it and the time period it came from.

We decided to eat dinner at the Mercado de San Miguel on Saturday. I think this was my favorite thing about Madrid. There were so many food stands, and it was all reasonably priced.

Sunday was a very relaxed day. We went to Retiro Park. There are actually several art museums in the park and there is also a small lake. We took rowboats out on the lake and rowed around for a bit. Well I actually didn’t end up doing any rowing, but that’s because my friend insisted that we was perfectly capable of doing it. So while the boys rowed, Haley and I serenaded them with rounds of row row row your boat.

P1060046

After the park we had lunch and then we went back to the hotel and almost everyone napped.

When it was time to go Emma K, Emma W, and Hannah and I stayed in the hotel for a bit since we were taking an overnight train to Madrid.

We ended up going to this cafe and enjoying some delicious chocolate cake and then sitting in a park for a while.

Our train left at 10:30 and we arrived in Barcelona at 7. It was a bit of a long ride, but I did manage to get some sleep. I was in a cabin with six other people and we all attempted to recline the seats, which didn’t really work. Nevertheless, I sleep for at least five hours. Hannah and Emma weren’t so lucky. For some reason the cart they were in never turned off its lights and there seats could barely recline. We were all pretty tired when we arrived in Barcelona on Monday morning.

A journey to the past

Andalusia is a great place to visit in Spain. There are so many different cities to see that are all relatively close to each other and they are all filled with a rich history.

This past Saturday, Emma, Haley and I took a train to Córdoba. It is a city that is much smaller than Sevilla, but still has many interesting things to see. In ancient times it was an Iberian and Roman city. It was also the capital of an Islamic caliphate in the Middle Ages.  

After we arrived we found our way downtown. On the way we found the old synagogue. It is actually the only synagogue in Andalusia, and one of only three in all of Spain. It is not in use today, but the contrast of the colors in the synagogue and the mezquita was amazing. The walls of the synagogue were still covered in letters, but there was no color. The mezquita was very different.

P1050902

After wandering for a bit we found the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. It was very similar to the Alcázar in Sevilla.

P1050910

After that we walked down to the bridge to see the river. The river that flows through Córdoba is still the Guadalquivir, which flows through Sevilla. Unfortunately, due to all of the rain we have been having recently the river was very dirty.

After the disappointing view of the river we went to tour the mezquita(mosque).

We waited in line to enter, until we realized you had to buy tickets first. Lucky for us both lines moved very fast, so we decided to sit in the sun and take a lunch break. We were actually very lucky cause it was such a sunny day. I swear it has rained more days than it’s been sunny since I’ve arrived in Spain.

P1050956

The mezquita was absolutely beautiful. We spent a good amount of time exploring it. It is currently used as catholic church and an altar has been constructed in the middle of the mosque. This has caused some conflict since many Muslims in Spain and other European countries want to be able to pray in the mosque. Spanish church authorities and the Vatican are opposed to this idea.

After seeing the mezquita we realized that we had basically seen most things in Córdoba(told you it was much smaller than Sevill). So we decided to wander.

We got some copas and tapas at a bar and continued walking. We passed by a wedding party and continued down many winding alleys.

After a while we realized we had absolutely no idea where we were so we figured it’d be a good idea to ask for directions.  The first person we asked was an elderly woman. When we told her we wanted to go in the direction of the train station she gave us a look and told us it was very far. We received the same reaction from the next two people we asked, although it actually wasn’t too far. I’m so used to walking everywhere now that something forty minutes away is fairly close.

Once we knew where we were we headed back to a bakery we had passed right when we arrived. It has smelled delicious so we couldn’t resist checking it out. I was overwhelmed by the amount of delicious desserts I saw. Naturally I couldn’t decide what to get, so I got ice-cream and cake. But don’t judge! It was a small piece of cake I promise. And I gave up sweets for lent so I was very excited to be able to enjoy my favorite food group once again.

After that we got back on the train and headed home.

I have a few more trips planned before I leave Spain so stay tuned for those.

hasta pronto

04/04/2013

Barcelona: A journey in Art, Churches, and Tapas

If you have the luck to recognize the following two photos, you've probably been to one of the most-visited, beautiful churches in Spain- la Sagrada Família. Built by Catalanian architect Antoni Gaudi and still in the process of being renovated/added on to today, it is a spectacular sight. 

 

His major inspiration was nature, and one of the most interesting things about Gaudi from my artistic perspective is that the stone sculptures or facades around the church change in architectural style according to how Gaudi interpreted the scenes. 

I'll be sure to post more about my amazing trip to Barcelona and the gothic quarter when I return from our CIEE trip to Madrid, but for now enjoy these photos! (Which don't do any justice to Gaudi's masterpiece but at the very least give you some idea of how beautiful it is) DSC_0578

The stained glass allows for the maximum possible entry of natural light.

DSC_0550

It's easy to see the influence of nature in the high-reaching columns that proceed into branches (all made from different kinds of stone depending on how much weight they have to support).

 


DSC_0579

Facade de la Natividad de Christo - With references to the three wise kings, the shepherds, etc.

04/02/2013

Semana Santa In Pictures

P1050714
P1050741
P1050835
P1050878
P1050894

La Madrugá

The night of Holy Thursday into the early morning of Good Friday are the most important days of Semana Santa in Sevilla, as well as Palm Sunday. I was surprised to find that Easter Sunday actually isn't that important. My host mom was explaining to me that the reason for that is because my Easter Sunday the pasos are finished. The last one(it's called The Resurrection) occurs at 4am on Easter Sunday. Semana Santa in Sevilla revolves around the pasos. Many people don't even know what Easter is really about, they simply like to watch the pasos. Nothing really special happened on Sunday. Except that it didn't rain for once. My favorite days of Semana Santa were definitely Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The reason they are the most important and most popular is because there are procession throughout the enitre night and they are the most beautiful and famous processions.

Earlier in the day I had gone to mass and I got to have my feet washed! It was a really neat experience. I had told my host mom I wanted to go to mass so she called her friend who goes to a church near our house and I went to met her. When I first entered I didn't see her, so I just sat down. But a few minutes later an elderly woman came up to me and asked me if I was the girl who was living with Estrella. After introducing ourselves she invited me to come sit with her. The priest asked for volunteers to come step forward to have their feet washed, and my mom's friend Asun asked me if I wanted to do it, so I said yes and went to sit upfront with the other volunteers. It was very different from any holy Thursday mass i have ever attended. We all sat facing the alter in a circle. The congregation I went to was a very close knit community. I had to enter through the side door since they want to keep the mass intimate and don't want too many people entering. There were only about 40 people there, and all of them knew each other. During the sign of the peace every single person in the church kissed each other on the cheek. It was a really nice gesture, except I had trouble keeping track of who I had already given the sign of the peace to! There was also a wonderful choir with guitars as well. There was even a procession after mass and adoration. After that everyone was invited to the priests house for some tapas y copas, unfortunately I had already made plans with some of my friends.

We met around 11:30 to begin our night. There were a lot of us and we didn't all end up sticking together, so it was basically Haley and me for most of the night. Her host mom had given her some good streets to watch the pasos from so we tried to follow that advice.

The number of people on the streets was amazing. Sevilla is usually pretty quiet at night, but on this particular night the streets were about three times as crowded as they are during the day. watching the pasos at night is much different than during the day. The atmosphere is just different. I preferred it much more at night, it's also much more beautiful since they light all of the candles on the pasos. We basically ran around for a good part of the night trying to maneuver our way through the city so see as many paso as possible. Around 3 we headed over to the Cathedral to see of the pasos pass by on a smaller street. That was really neat since the pasos was right in front of me. It was also amazing to see how it fit, because some of the streets in the Sevilla are extremely narrow. After that we took an ice-cream break and then we waited and waited and waited. We really wanted to see the Macarena because it is one of the most famous pasos, but we wanted a good seat. So we waited for three hours!

What happened was that it came late, and it took about an hour and a half to pass by since it had about 3 thousand nazarenos. Yes, you read that right. 3 thousand. But we were actually lucky to see it because soon after it passed by the street we were on it started raining so it took refuge in a nearby church.

Being in Sevilla during Semana Santa was a truly amazing experience. I'm so glad I got the opportunity to experience such an important week in Andalusian culture, it's something that won't easily be forgotten.

here is a video of the Macarena

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFemkRj65ic

I'll post some pictures when I have time. Right now I'm off to volunteering.

hasta luego

Gap Bloggers

  • Eva - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
  • Eamon - Gap Year Abroad in Spain
  • Sage - Gap Year Abroad in China
  • Kira - Gap Year Abroad in France
  • Smith - Gap Year Abroad in Chile
  • Maddy - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
  • Hannah - Gap Year Abroad in Italy
  • Chloe - Gap Year Abroad in Chile