Saturday, March 18, 2017

Updates and Poetry

    Since my last blog post, I have travelled to Seville and Cordoba, Barcelona, and Morocco. I have had  a birthday, my midterms and fought a small cold. I have been homesick, enchanted and everything in between. And here we are in March, already halfway through my semester abroad!
    The truth is I have started and stopped this blog post many times since our group trip to Seville. Why I had such a massive writer's block escapes me, my topic of interest kept changing and even my poetry wasn't coming together. Now, I feel I've given myself more than enough time to get my thoughts out there for you all to read. This post will consist of my poetry and meanings of said poetry. [Disclaimer: I know my posts so far have come from a sociocultural perspective instead of a traveler's perspective. I'll be sure to include a post about AIFS and different dos and don'ts for those who are considering studying abroad in Granada come next week. Spoiler: would definitely recommend be continued ;)]

Now for those who decided to stick around, some poetry!

I see the food and flatware.
Ah, now I understand the why--
A country's culture framed;
off of the canvas
  see the pomegranate,
     bread and wine stains.
Still life,
  preserved to this day.

    This poem I wrote today, after my trip to the Granada Museum of Fine Arts. There is a fine collection of 16th century to 19th century art that depicts Granada's history and culture. I noticed a progression, seen throughout western art history in Europe. The Gothic and Medieval work included the depiction of Christianity through the lens of Catholicism. I first saw wood-work and paintings of Madonna and Child, Christ's crucifixion, narratives of the life of Christ on Earth.  
     Looking for the resurrection of Christ, I did not find it. Instead, the gallery led me to the beginnings of the recognition of Saints, which did not surprise me. Huge, wooden, polychrome statues of monks and saints; and paintings of their accomplishments. Leading me then to the 17th century works, away from the Bible, away from "piety," and to an exhibition of still-lifes.
     For so long, in my experience with art history, I never fully understood the point of still-life paintings until today. For some reason it clicked in my mind why paintings of food and silver dishes on a table played a role in western art outside of it being just "something to paint."
     What these seemingly mundane portraits of pomegranates and onions, "bread and wine stains," and meat hanging in butcher shops showed me, was a symbolic preservation of not only Spanish gastronomy, but what the people of this country continue to hold dear to. What was depicted in these still-lifes is still a facet of the Spanish lifestyle today. Selling silver was the trade of my Spanish mom, she cooks with most if not all the ingredients depicted in the paintings, and the pomegranate continues to be the symbol of Granada.
     What baffles me most, is how hundreds of years of influence from the Arabs, from the Romans, from the Greeks, and from the Phoenicians is so clearly seen today in Spain. I've yet to experience that in the United States and probably won't in the same way I have here in Spain.

    Just a quick side note, throughout my trips that I mentioned earlier, I have visited museums telling a similar story and have written corresponding poetry that I will feature in my Study Abroad promotion project.

    The following poem is an expression of my take on the Catholic influence in the art and history of Spain. It was clearly a vehicle for the expulsion of dissenting beliefs, the conquest of the Americas, and the rise of Spanish rule in the 15th and 16th centuries. Being a Protestant, I have felt inclined to comment on the representation of Jesus Christ in the art I viewed today.

From the Gothic roots
I saw a progression
  of the Christ-child,
beloved, in mother's embrace
to crucified,
to mini statue of crucifix 
  in the hands of an oversized saint.
What happened to the empty tomb?

Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts :)

"Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." John 6:27

Friday, March 10, 2017

Host Families!

Hey everyone!!! My name is Britney and I am studying abroad in Madrid, Spain. For my first blog post I wanted to talk about host families and home stays!

Before coming to Spain I was really clueless on where I wanted to live. The idea of living with a host family really sparked my interest, but I had heard from a couple people that they had had some weird experiences.

Regardless, I decided to choose the home-stay route to get the full Spanish experience!! I contacted my university in Madrid and asked them if they would help set me up with a family and they agreed. I filled out an application for what I was looking for in a family, sent it in, then waited........Weeks passed and I didn't hear back from the university. I sent out more emails and still received no response. After MONTHS I finally received an email telling me that my options were very limited and that I needed to pay a fee first before even being able to see those options. Well to that I said, NO THANK YOU, and took matters into my own hands. And I can honestly tell you I am so so so happy with my decision.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT saying this will happen to you or that this is something that occurs often. I just wanted to share my story and let people out there know that if your university is not helping you, it may be better to just figure out accommodation yourself.

I used and found that it was cheaper, easier to pay, and had a WIDE variety of options and families to choose from.

It was on this site that I found my amazing host family. Not only are they the sweetest people, but their house is clean, I live with other really cool exchange students, and their home is a 5 minute walk from the center of the city. You can't get any better than that am I right?! I am also paying a significantly less amount of money than I would if I went through the university! Bonus!

For anyone that is studying abroad and wondering where they should live, I would without a doubt recommend living with a host family...10/10. There are endless amounts of benefits that come with living with a local. You have advice about the city at your fingertips. You get to see what kind of food they make and even learn how to make it for yourself. You have the opportunity of learning another language if your chosen country does not speak English. You feel like you have a home, and so much more. The list goes on and on! I couldn't be more grateful for my host family and how they have helped me adjust to living in Spain. They really are my Spanish familia.

With that being said, I wanted to share some stories and memories that I've had with my Spanish dad while being here in Spain. I hope you'll take time to read it and it might convince you to live with a host family when you go abroad! Here it goes:

Every single night Michelle & I come home from school & prepare dinner with our host dad. We take about an hour to make a 3 course meal which includes dessert always (: the meals are always SUPER healthy, have absolutely no salt added, & the dessert is always some type of fruit (pears, bananas,apples) or occasionally honey & cheese. While eating dinner we are only allowed to talk in Spanish & we sit for about 3 hours having the funniest conversations about random things until it's about midnight. Most of the conversations include Michelle & Miguel making fun of my terrible Spanish (lol). The other day Miguel brought his friends over for dinner & one of them brought a bag of Lay's Salt & Vinegar chips. Michelle & I were so excited to eat some but when Miguel saw us eating them he was mortified. He took them away from us & said were not allowed to eat that crap in his house. Only HEALTHY & NATURAL food hahaha. He also makes his own soaps & face washes & teas from all natural ingredients & makes us try them.

Last night we made a dish that is famous in Spain called Tortilla de Patata, also known as the Spanish omelette. The dish is so simple and usually only consists of eggs, potatoes, and onions, but is SO GOOD. When I first tried this dish my first thought was "Oh my gosh this is amazing, and it doesn't contain cheese OR salt?!" Crazy right, us Americans are so used to those two ingredients on everything. We loved it so much that Miguel taught us how to make our own. He always says that you have to put time, love, and care into whatever you're making: It's an art, he says. We turned on some Enrique Iglesias music and danced our way through the kitchen putting all our care into this dish. Later to find out Miguel knows Enrique Iglesias and can get us his autograph (say whaaaat). This was the first dish Miguel let us make ourselves and after coaching us from behind, it turned out delicious. I can't wait to bring this recipe back to California and share it will all my friends and family!

All in all choosing to stay in a home stay was seriously one of the best decisions & I can't tell you how amazing it feels to have someone in Spain that I basically call my dad & to feel apart of a little family. Not to mention my Spanish is slowly (& I mean slowly) coming along ! (:

Friday, March 3, 2017

Top 75 Study Abroad Blogs

  This is awesome!

Feedspot has selected our Student's Abroad Blog as number 60 of the Top 75 Study Abroad Blogs on the Web!

We're so grateful to all of our students who are sharing their wonderful experiences abroad, this one is for you! Read more about it here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Visit Portugal on your way to or from Europe!

Hi Everyone,

I want to share a great deal you can get that allows you to visit an awesome country, plus get an awesome price on flights between Europe and the US!

Coming from Hawaii, most of you will be transiting through the US mainland if you are flying to Europe. The national airline of Portugal, called TAP Portugal, has a program that will get you almost anywhere in Europe for a great price- plus a short stay in Lisbon! They fly from Newark, JFK, and Boston (possibly more) to the capital city of Lisbon. Then, you can take a connecting flight to literally almost anywhere on the continent.

The best part is their new program which allows you to stay in Lisbon for up to 3 days at no extra charge. That means your connecting flight to your destination country can be up to 3 days after you land in Lisbon. And the best part is that this airline is usually one of the cheapest options anyway!

Here is a photo of the plane- we flew from Nice (France) to Lisbon, and then to JFK. TAP Portugal has free food, FREE MOVIES on your personal seat TV, and comfortable seating, all in Economy.

We only got to spend 24 hours in Portugal, because we wanted to make it back to America for Christmas. But it was easy to see Lisbon even in that time. They have a good public transportation system that is cheap and will take you everywhere, and the weather was beautiful even in December.

Two photos taken right there in the city near the airport.

Portugal has a ton of awesome restaurants, including larger-than-normal breakfast choices by European standards, so make sure you come hungry.

We saw the Praça do Comércio (main city square), Belém Tower (where Christopher Colombus set off), and much more. There's also a hilltop castle that is fun to visit, but make sure you get to the suburb of Belém to see most of the historic sites.

If you plan on just staying in Lisbon for your time there like we did, there is a hotel called the Radisson Blu Lisbon right there by the airport. They even have a free airport shuttle, are across the street from a metro stop, have a fantastic Portuguese restaurant, and clean comfy rooms.

If you are going to do this deal during the summer, then I definitely recommend planning a beach day. Portugal has some of the best beaches in Europe and again, some are right there near the city! For that I would recommend renting a car.

To book, just go to, and you can also see the deals they currently have to popular places like London, Paris, Rome, etc. from the US. You will also see their deal for up to 3 days in Portugal, do it on your way there or back and you will not be disappointed! I am definitely going to use this deal again next time.

Have fun,
Woodrow Matthews
France, Fall 2016

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Disfruta! or Enjoy!
     The culture of Spain, specifically in Granada, is not one too different from that of other Western countries. The people here work, sleep, eat, and play. Keeping that in mind, I see that the largest difference is that these facets of the society, unlike the United States, are done with a sense of balance.
     Coming from a culture of excess, it is only slightly refreshing to see certain aspects of this society elevated, while others are muted. For example, the food. Each meal I have eaten so far has consisted in excess of the "dreaded" carbohydrates and veggies with significantly less meat. While I prefer excess spice and heat in my food, here seasoning is used lightly.
     In US culture, it seems most people are surviving on some hours of sleep, since work is a high priority. In Granada, rest is crucial as is evident by the four-hour lunch break had by most each day.
Even in the night life, at midnight, I see people of all ages out on the streets eating dinner and going to tapas and bars; while in the US, kids better be in bed by 8:30pm. College students here can hold their liquor, while my American peers seek to indulge themselves most nights.
     Last night was telling at how stereotyped American students are in this part of Europe. For example, on Saturday night my roommate and I were resting, waiting on dinner which starts super late here (normal dinner time is around 9:30 pm). My Senora gets home around 9:15pm to start preparing dinner and asks us, "Chicas, are you going out tonight? You're young and beautiful, you should go out! See Spain!"
*Disclaimer: I am sedentary by default, introverted, and prefer to "see Spain" during lit hours with a few people. I'll maybe go out twice a month for a couple of hours. I do not go wild, and anyone who knows me well, knows this. 
In response to her, I explained my predisposition. Then, she told us about Americans who lived with her in the past, how they went out every weekend and took shots, etc. Of course, she assumes this of college students in general, but especially in that of American students. My roommate and I found it comical that this was the culture we stepped into, where your Spanish mom is telling you to go out and get a little reckless. After dinner that night, I complied to go to tapas with my roommate since we had been home most of the day. Our favorite place for tapas so far is this place called "La Bella y La Bestia." I'll say this, it was nice. We talked about ourselves and had good conversation. She opened up and so did I. We even had the same waiter who remembered us because I was "the-one-who-ordered-a-Coke-without-rum" and she was "the-one-who-got-the-wine-he-recommended".
     In my exploring Spain (during the day) I have met some peculiar people in shops and I have even attended a couple of churches, where I feel I have had the most success in meeting Spanish people (I will write a separate blog post about people who have stood out to me and why). In those simple conversations and positive experiences, I have come to appreciate this culture more.
     I enjoy the company, the moderation, and the slow-paced lifestyle. In those things, I have realized the things I do in excess that may need to change. For example, my desire to stay home all the time or eat a lot of spicy food or even wallowing; all are things that I see do not need to be my default. I can enjoy the things around me. In my personal devotional time with God, I have been reminded even more that all my joy and pleasure is in and from Him. All that is good, is from Him. So I take in the good that this experience has to offer, and I thank God for revealing aspects of His goodness in this precious little city.

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is [fullness] of joy; at your right hand are [pleasures] forevermore." Psalm 16:11

Fruta en todos lados

La Bella y La Bestia

My hood for the next few months

Getting Settled the German Way!

Getting Settled at the University of Mannheim

1. Housing

a. Housing at the University of Mannheim is filled EXTREMELY FAST so you must be actively looking for the email that opens up the opportunity to select where you stay. Within 4 hours of the housing window opening, all 6 student residences were full.

b. Upon arrival, there is a time schedule that delegates when you get the room keys from the hall manager. For example, if you arrive later than 2:30 in the afternoon you must pay 35 euros for a personal meeting.

c. Each room is provided with a modem to connect one device to the internet. This is rather frustrating since most people enjoy using wifi on their phones more commonly. I will have to go buy a router to get access to this.

2. Class Registration

a. Classes at UM are a bit of a gamble. About 2 months before the semester starts, you are sent a template to fill in with your primary course choices and secondary. It is not guaranteed you will get into any of the classes until confirmed one week before school starts. It is kind of unpredictable which makes it inconvenient to get classes approved for credit from HPU.

b. The language and culture classes fill up INCREDIBLY FAST. I signed on about 2 hours after the window opened and all classes were full and I was put on a waiting list. I was not made aware of how popular these were. I was advised to attend the first language course just in case someone who is enrolled does not show up.
c. Despite the issues I have with UM, the staff and international team seem to be very helpful. I have not enrolled yet, so I cannot elaborate on this till after next week.

3. Social Media

a. Getting access to the University’s Facebook pages seems really user friendly to meet new people. I do not really hang out with the house mates I live with as there is not much of a click. But using blogs like VISUM and Friends 2017, it was super easy to meet people and explore. For example, yesterday was my second day here and myself and 9 other exchange students met up and travelled to Heidelberg for the day. It was a lot of fun. But that is what study abroad is about right? Not so much the bureaucratic crap that you have to deal with from the University, but the experience and friends you make along the way.

4. Nifty Things I discovered

a. FOOD IS INCREDIBLY CHEAP. I bought a pack for water for 1 euro which I can recycle once empty for .25 cents a bottle. One-euro package of bacon, .98 cent bottle of wine.

b. Transportation is really effective, on time, easy to use once you figure where you are going.

c. The language barrier is essentially non-existent as most speak English, but it is always good to try and practice along your travels.                                            

Saturday, February 11, 2017

You WILL get there

You can only edit blog posts that were created in the Wix app.
You WILL get there.

Let me start off by telling you that I am reporting live from my bed, in my wonderful host family's home, in MADRID, ESPANA. 
Now, let me also tell you this. It. was. Hell. And. A. Half. to get here. 
My advice to you:

-Keep some sort of faith that all will work out...even when shit hits the fan. It's going to hit the fan...accept it now. 
-Keep in touch with your Study Abroad advisor. Because you will forget that thing that you weren't supposed to forget. 
-Make lists. Make so many to do lists. 
-One more time for the homies in the back, DO NOT GIVE UP. 
-Have a folder on your phone of the place you want to go, make it your back ground, give yourself a reminder of what you are working towards. 
There are going to be so many things go wrong. But it is going to be worth it I promise you. 

I don't even know how to open this can of worms. But here goes....
First, you pick a country, then you pick the school, fall in love with the school, fantasize about eating Crepes outside your first period classroom, hype your mom up about how perfect the school is, and then find out that not all 5/5 classes will work. Back to the drawing board. Rinse. Repeat. 
Don't worry. My drawing board went from Melbourne, Australia, to Ecuador, to Costa Rica, to Granada Spain, to Madrid Spain. 
If you are working at trying to fit this puzzle piece in where it just does not fit, its probably because that is not the right piece in the first place. Let me tell you, I tried for 6 months to get Deakin to work out for me, and you know what, it just was because that is not where I was supposed to go. And now here I am. In Europe for goodness sakes. Not that it was easy to get here, but it just wasn't a new struggle every day, ya know.  If it is not working out, and I mean REALLY NOT WORKING...then try something new, don't give up, but just try something new. 

Most recently, I, Michelle Anne Manganello, did not have a confirmed place to live until January 2nd. I left on the 4th. The company I was going through took their sweet time on the email game, let me tell you. IM TALKING ABOUT YOU ADRIAN. I had to wake up at 4 am to talk to this company to have a misely 5 minute Skype call that had NO useful information whatsoever. Everything that was covered in this Skype call at that ungodly hour, was the same bologna information that I knew way back in October (now being the beginning of January). I did not get any word from this company until January 2nd. TWO DAYS BEFORE I LEAVE. Do you understand the stress of having to answer all of your relatives' questions, NO AUNTIE I DO NOT KNOW WHERE IM LIVING YET, YEAH STILL DON'T HAVE MY VISA YET EITHER OKAY COOL EVERYTHING'S FINE EVERYTHING IS GOOD. Things were not good. Lol I digress. Thank the Lord...... my friend found a homestay that I could go in on with her. 

Back to the fun stress. 
There was this really fun point in time where the Consulate General of Los Angeles (I live on Oahu, and fun fact, the closest Spanish Consulate General is in Los Angles, California.) WELL. The CG of LA thought they could play a real fun joke on the poor study abroad kids. It goes like this: If you are a STUDENT of Hawaii, you need to report to the Hawaiian district of Consulates. ($800 trip to San Fransisco) BUT San Fransisco wants to play that "we don't have any appointments for two months, and it takes a month to process" game. 
Love it. 
I am from Connecticut, so even though I live in Hawaii, and should report to the SanFran Consulate, there was a CHANCE that I could just try the New York one. BUT these consulates need IN PERSON appointments. So if you are like me, and live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and cannot afford a $1,500 weekend trip to the Big Apple, then here we are, in THE BIGGEST PICKLE I'VE EVER BEEN IN *read in Brian Dobson's voice* {for those who lived under a rock in the 90's, Brian Dobson narrated The Sandlot.} ANYWHO 
So here is what you do. 
Here is the number of the New York Spanish Consulate. +1 212-355-4080 
You are going to need to call them about 77,646,309,326 times within these next few months. I would memorize it now, folks. 
You may need to whip up a few tears. I'm sure it won't be too hard because at this point it is probably mid term week and you have had it up to here with the issues that have come up in trying to get abroad. 
Now, just explain the situation. And BAM! They are cool with you sending all of the paper work to them via MAIL. AND if you send a prepaid self addressed envelope, then you can just have them mail it back to you. 
Can we just have a really quick round of applause for The Spanish Consulate General of New York (THE REAL MVPs LET ME TELL YOU). *

Your mom is going to worry. Or maybe your dad, who ever your primary designated worrier is. They will freak out. At least once. Mostly because until you are actually in the country of choice, calling them saying you arrived to a stable place to live, and the school part of Studying Abroad is all worked out......... until then basically something will be up in the air.
And you will want them to tell you that it's going to be fine, and they will. If not, find someone who will, hell, I will tell you that it will be fine. 
                                                        IT WILL BE FINE. 

*There is a really great anecdote about my trip to New York to get the Visa, but it is most definitely not anything I want to blog about. But if you would love to know, feel free to message me for the inside scoop.