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: