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Gap Year Abroad

14 posts categorized "Madeleine Meredith"


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


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



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


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.


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.


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).



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


Cooking with Cheer

Cocinado con Pedro
Ingredients required:
-A knowledgable Spanish chef
-A cozy apartment
-A tiny kitchen
-Lots of laughter
-A sense of humor 


    Hello everyone! I figured I'd take a break from my usual trip to the gym to bring you this belated blog post.  Back to the kitchen we go- last week, me and 8 other gap girls signed up for a free Spanish cooking class.

    Let me just repeat that- Free. Cooking. Class. There was no way I wasn't going.. luckily, Pedro, our instructor, was nice enough to make enough food for a village (although 9 hungry teenage girls can do work, there was definitely leftovers!) 
We made Salmorejo, a typical Andalucían cold soup similar to Gazpacho, and Arroz Campanero, similar to Paella but much simpler- perfect for anyone interested in dabbling in Spanish cooking without slaving the kitchen for hours. Of course, we took an even lazier route and helped Pedro here and there, but for the most part, we watched his amazing knife skills and let him do most of heavy stuff. Hint: Click on the words to get recipes that I've found on google for you if you want to try the recipes for yourself.
The class was a blast, and something I would definitely do again. Although I'm dying to learn how to make Paella, the process is intense and Arroz Campanero is just as delicious and much faster. I personally would omit the oyster mushrooms but to each his own! 
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I will be in Morocco, so expect some exotic blog posts this weekend. 



Hayley and Emma getting down to business! 


Our post-cooking feast- ahem, dinner.

Steph and Salmorejo vs. Hannah's shielding hands!



Me gustas tu - music

Hello, everyone. Although I haven't made an official blog post in quite awhile, I figured I'd take the time to talk about an important subject for us- school.

Ain't nobody fresher than my Clic.. (sorry I had to)

The other gap students and I all go to school at CLIC. It's a language school specifically, and they have many different levels of classes and activities to do to help you with your spanish. For example, you can do an intercambio, or meet with a native sevillano, and talk to them in english for an hour and then Spanish. I did this two days ago, and had a blast with my intercambio. His name is Javier and his first question for me was - "how do you use "dude" in a sentence?!" Intercambios are great for meeting native speakers and bettering your Spanish, so luckily for us, Clic does a terrific job of arranging the intercambios.

    Additionally, there are what my professor refers to as "speed-dates," basically just weekly meetings with a jumble of nationalities, German, English, American, Japanese, Korean, Australian, etc. where everyone tries to meet as many people as they can.. I haven't been yet but they sound awesome. Speaking of greatness, I've been really impressed by our classes at Clic.
We start class at 9:15, have just enough time during break to run and grab sandwiches from Sur, and then second class starts at 12 and we get out at 1, so not too bad if you ask me! Although my classes in Chile were interesting and challenging in terms of my vocab and general understanding of literature, my classes here are definitely better for improving my grammar and the technicalities of Spanish. My teacher, Adrian, is an extremely patient teacher, and I love it when we break from grammar to study songs. He's the only teacher I've ever had who's called me by my full name, however, but perhaps it's better because many people here call me Mary on accident instead of Maddy- so I'm okay using Madeleine for class! He's a salsa dancer, and always puts on the best background music when we're working in class, but I especially like it when we learn from songs- everything from Shakira to Manu Chao to Silvio Rodriguez. I've put the link up above from an 8 tracks mix you guys mightlike... many of which we've listened to in class. 



Maya and I during a class fieldtrip





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.


Sevilla- Begin Again

Hello again, everyone!


After a very relaxing (albeit boring) month at home, it's great to finally be in Sevilla. Especially after surviving my three flights- a nine hour one to London, then five hours to Madrid, then after seven extremely long and painful pleasemaketheplanecomealready hours, I arrived in Sevilla around nine-thirty. It was amazing to see all my friends again, and I had a great time at dinner.

That first night for tapas, we had:

  • french fries covered in a garlic aioli 
  • pork in a whiskey-reduction sauce with french fries
  • fried hot dogs
  • ...and more french fries

The food here is absolutely delicious in comparison with the Chilean food. My host family took me out for lunch and I couldn't stop raving about the food... 

I met them for the first time today an hour late after a slight mix-up.. somehow the program coordinator confused Mel and I (like that's never happened before...) and I ended up having to wait at the hotel until the whole situation was resolved, but luckily my host family was very gracious about everything! I'm living with a younger couple and their 3 year old son and 1 year old daughter, and having a blast. Sevilla is absolutely beautiful, and I'm really looking forward to our tour tomorrow.







Hike//Bike - Peru Style

Recently, 5 friends and I (all from the CIEE Chile/Spain gap group to be specific) headed to Peru for an 8 day trip. The trip included a 4 day, 3 night Inca trail expedition in the heart of Cusco, Peru. This blog entry details our first two days on the trip.




On Saturday, we scrambled out of bed at 6 and left our hostel to go to Lorenzo’s house (the event coordinator) for breakfast. I hogged the peanut butter, and we all enjoyed traditional Peruvian bread (which is a kind of softer, thinner, round bread than the typical Chilean “pan batido”) with eggs, bananas and jam. Then, we all gathered around to hear some of the plans for later, and piled in the car with 15 new friends to start the bike tour. At the top of the Mountain, El Nevado Verónica, also known as Wakaywillque, we geared up for an intense, drenching rain descending 36 mile ride to the bottom for lunch. The road we rode on was extremely safe, except for some terrifying tour busses that would swerve by and leave a cloud of gas that left you gasping for air minutes after they passed, and the occasional puddle and construction hazards that left my shoes/clothes absolutely saturated with mud and water. When I finally got to our meeting spot for lunch, I noticed everyone wringing out their shoes and walking around barefoot, the after effects of what felt like our own Hurricane Sandy. After an amazing lunch of fried broccoli, soup, and beef and rice, we headed to the hostel. We had a lazy night ahead of us, and went to bed full, and had a relaxing and restful sleep. We woke up to screams the next morning, however, when Michelle discovered that a cockroach had fallen on her head at around 5:30 in the morning. Later, the british boys Tom and Alex in our group joked that she had been a great alarm clock for the whole hostel. The day continued with a….





If a 12 hour, ascending in elevation, 80 percent humidity, 90 degree weather, mosquito infested hike sounds like fun to you, you might be a gap student.

But the hike was definitely the most rigorous I have ever done, mainly because of the extra 25 pounds due to us carrying all of our stuff with us (and I was stupid enough to pack not only my DSLR but my Canon camera as well, along with various beauty products as well.. never again). Michelle and I took the hardest parts slowly, talking and laughing about our struggles in Spanish with our Peruvian guide Steven the whole time, and at one point he took both our bags (without asking) and sprinted up the steepest, rockiest part without a word, leaving us gasping in disbelief about how out of shape we must be. The trek took us through canyons, beautiful views of the jungle interior, dry river beds, swimming holes, and up ancient Inca trails. However, I started feeling exhausted on the way to lunch. When we finally arrived at the small village where we were going to eat, my friend Clay shot me a serious look and said, “Wilbur just told me we’re skipping lunch.” My face fell, and two of my other friends started cracking up at my expression and Clay’s very unfunny joke… however, lunch revived all our spirits and we continued the hike without a problem. About ¾ of the way through the hike, we crossed a river using a very old pulley/ cable car system. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time, as we were 50 feet up from the churning rapids, a buzzing hornet’s nest, and a group of Peruvian men attempting to cut a stuck log with a chain saw… definitely an unforgettable experience. The happiest moment of the hike was climbing down the hill to the hot springs at Santa Maria- Michelle and I hiked our bags farther up our shoulders and ran down it in happiness, whooping and hollering the whole time. After a great swim in the natural hot springs, I caved in and bought a Coke and Reese’s (I know, how American of me..) and nearly cried from how good it tasted after all our trekking that day. We had another early night to bed in the hostel, and drifted off to sleep stuffed and content.





Open air market trip



After local produce was brought up in conversation last night, my host parents graciously invited me today to the local farmer’s market. At first glance, it seems like a bunch of haply strewn tents in a random field, but it turns out it’s actually a bustling hive of energy. There are vendors yelling out prices, kids running up and down the aisles, and people comparing prices and inspecting the crop everywhere. Although there are many fruit kiosks and shops in Chile, and it is sold in every supermarket, the open air market is nearly 1/3 of the price of the fruit sold elsewhere. And the market is only open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, so naturally it’s crammed full of chilenos getting food for the week. Alongside the fruits and vegetables, there's a large variety of seafood as well. It was a great experience for me, and my host mom bought a mango for me as we were walking out. We had it with chirimoya as soon as we got back, and I loved the unique cultural experience overall. I already told my host mom I'd be accompanying her next week as well!


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