Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bienvenido a Madrid

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Like many abroad-ers, I’ve decided to start a blog to chronicle my many experiences here in Europe. Where do I start!? I moved to Madrid, Spain one month ago, and I have already seen the most breathtaking sights, eaten the most heavenly food, met the most incredibly kindhearted people, and made some of the most unforgettable memories of my life. Cliche, I know, but it’s true.
First things first: Spain is very different from the United States and Hawaii. Some differences I noticed right off the bat are: everybody smokes, cars are very small, dinner is eaten at 10pm, food is muy importante and treasured to them (for good reason), and their party lifestyle is on a whole different level. To my surprise, there are palm trees in freezing cold Spain, which made me super happy because I am missing my Hawaiian warmth! Also, English speakers are far and few between (understandably), which has been the cause of some funny obstacles for me as I improve my Spanish. My go to reaction in conversations: nod, smile, and say “mm-hmm.” I will learn, though, poquito a poquito.
I am lucky enough to have an amazing boyfriend who happens to be from Madrid and who has helped me, along with his extremely considerate family, with every trial and tribulation I have encountered. They set me up with a bank account, a Spanish phone number, helped me learn the metro system, pretty much guided me through the first few very confusing weeks that every student abroad can feel overwhelmed by. Javi and his family’s support has been invaluably helpful. If you’re reading this, muchísimas gracias!
After one month of living with Javi's family in Fuenlabrada (a suburb of Madrid), I have officially settled into my flat. I love the neighborhood and the flat itself is really cute, but it's super old. I have to turn on a gas tank and light a flame to get warm water for a shower! I love it nonetheless. 
While Javi was still here in Spain (he has since gone back to HPU), he, his family, and I traveled to Granada & Sevilla in southern Spain and Rome, Italy. We drove down to Granada and stayed in a historic, traditional Islamic-architecture-style bed and breakfast. Andalusia (the southern region of Spain) is highly influenced by Islamic culture because it was occupied by the Muslim empire from the 8th to the 15th century, which was so interesting for me to observe. In Granada, we walked around the beautiful streets, ate Paella, and (my fav part) visited La Alhambra. Below is a photo of the incredible detailed 13th-century architecture from the inside, and the view of the palace on the outside. Every single space inside of the massive palace was completely covered in detailed designs. The floor, ceiling, walls, columns, pools, gardens, EVERYTHING was so beautifully detailed, I was in awe for the whole visit.
After 3 wonderful days in Granada, we drove to our próxima parada, Sevilla. There we walked around the city, ate muchas tapas, visited La Giralda, the Sevilla cathedral, and La Plaza de España. I loved this city so much and wished I had more time to explore! We headed back to Madrid just in time to celebrate the Day of the 3 Kings with all of the family.
About a week and many cervezas y tapas later, me, Javi, his sister Azahara, and her boyfriend Pirri went to Rome!! We saw ALL the sights: the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, the Vatican w/ the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and countless old, beautiful churches. I think we walked about 14 miles per day, but we were able to see the entire city in just 3 days. Here are some photos of Rome’s historically mind-blowing beauty:
This weekend I am going to Barcelona, and the weekend after that I am going to Paris, both of which I am super stoked for! It is called studying abroad though, so I should probably mention that I’ve started classes at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas. I’m taking 4 super interesting courses: Africa in the 21st century, Current International Issues from a Spanish Perspective, Spanish, and Political System in Spain. They are taught in English with highly interesting professors and some cool classmates from all over the world! Luckily, I only have class on Tuesdays & Thursdays, which gives me more time to explore.
I am so thankful and excited for this opportunity that I have ahead of me to live and learn in a whole new culture!
xoxo, Allison


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