10 reasons why studying abroad in Barcelona was completely worthwhile

So at this point I’m sure it’s determined I’m a wordy person. So I figured I would let a list do the talking for me (thanks for the inspiration countless BuzzFeed articles I read).

Here are some of the reasons why I inevitably fell in love with Barcelona, my home for exactly four months.

10. The tapas

Some of the amazing tapas I had while in Sevilla this past October.

Some of the amazing tapas I had while in Sevilla this past October.

So I’m putting tapas at number 10 because really I have a love-hate relationship with them. As a girl with a mighty fast metabolism and a hearty appetite I can’t really consider tapas anything more than a snack. But I’m not going to lie, I’m going to end up missing those patatas bravas, calamares a la plancha, jamon and the Catalan messiah of all bread: pan amb tomaquet.

9. The beach bum life

The beach I visited on a bi-weekly basis for over two months.

The beach I visited on a bi-weekly basis for over two months.

For all my lovely friends who were in Evanston this fall quarter let this sink in; I was at the beach tanning on October 30. Yes you read that correctly, that was not even two full months ago. I can truly say that I was a lucky girl because there aren’t too many fall study abroad locations that have beautiful beaches lining an entire side of the city.

8. Catalan culture

People celebrating at one of the independence demonstrations I saw while in Barcelona.

People celebrating at one of the independence demonstrations I saw while in Barcelona.

As much as I found the Catalan culture and language somewhat different from what I expected, it was quite an experience to be in a region of the world so different from anything else I will probably ever encounter. If I ever thought American patriotism was strong I was only proved wrong by seeing how Catalan pride isn’t something you just take on every Independence Day. Having pride in Catalunya, its language and its culture is a way of life for the Catalans.

7. The classes

So I don’t have a picture for this one because well who really takes pictures of themselves in class? But as much as I complained about the lack of structure in some of my courses it was a nice change of pace to be in classes that didn’t give you midterms every two weeks. One of the perks of being directly enrolled in university courses is that professors acknowledge the difficulty you might be having as an American student and they in turn become very flexible with their expectations and assignments.

6. Gaudí

The forest-like interior of the Sagrada Familia that blew me away at first sight.

The forest-like interior of the Sagrada Familia that blew me away at first sight.

Before coming to Barcelona I didn’t have much interest in architecture. That’s until I saw what Antoni Gaudí managed to do in one city. His buildings and parks are truly places that continue to mesmerize me. To be honest, it will be quite odd not to look out my dorm’s kitchen and see the meticulous nativity façade of the Sagrada Familia as I cook my mediocre food.

5. The nightlife

Gina and I at Razzmatazz for the last time for their "Fake New Year's Eve" party.

Gina and I at Razzmatazz for the last time for their “Fake New Year’s Eve” party.

As a 20-year-old college student I couldn’t talk about my experience in Barcelona without mentioning the nightlife, of which is amazing. Although it may come off as me claiming I was a clubbing extraordinaire, it really was the quite the opposite. I would only go out an average of maybe once of twice every two weeks at the most. But when I did go out, the nights never failed me. Of all places I’ll be missing my beloved Razzmatazz the most, the grungy club a block away from my dorm that gave me some of the most fun but hardly remembered times.

4. Traveling

That one time I was throwing up the West Side sign while in Paris. Once a thug always a thug.

That one time I was throwing up the West Side sign while in Paris.

To say I am a well traveled person would probably be a little much, but in the matter of four months I did manage to fly to five different European cities and in all explored a total of 10 different cities. Although I went through a big chunk of my savings (I paid for every single trip with my own money because it’s not like my parents have money to blow), it was completely worth all the expenses I made. It was truly amazing to do it all on my own or with the companionship of friends and see what traveling on a budget can get you.

3. Making Catalan friends

Hanging out with one of my new Catalan friends, Yerko on of my last days in Barcelona.

Hanging out Yerko, one of my new Catalan friends, on one of my last days in Barcelona.

Part of the reason I was able to appreciate Catalan culture was because I was lucky enough to create friendships with local students. They were relationships consumed by constant questioning as I asked them questions about Catalan and Spanish culture and they asked me questions about American culture. But beyond that, they were people who made me feel comfortable in a place that took me a long time to get acclimated to.

2. Volunteering as an English tutor

The sad attempt at taking a picture with the kids I tutored.

The sad attempt at taking a picture with the kids I tutored.

One of the experiences I will forever remain thankful for was the opportunity to volunteer as an English tutor at a Barcelona elementary school. I got to work alongside 7-year-olds with rather hostile attitudes towards practicing their English and with that became somewhat emotionally attached to a group of kids who never failed on asking me if I was Chinese.

1. Being able to capture it all

Photo courtesy of the amazing Maria D'Amico

Photo courtesy of the amazing Maria D’Amico

One of the most important things I set out on doing when I realized I was going to be in Barcelona was to become the embodiment of my grandfather’s nickname “El Turista.” I wanted to capture every single one of my adventures either via pictures or this blog. But more importantly I wanted to visit all the places I knew my abuelito would visit had he had the opportunity. Overall, I think I may have made him proud.

The last adéu to classes in Barcelona

With today being my last official day of classes abroad I thought right now would be a good time to reflect on why I chose to come to Barcelona and why I chose my program. I figured there was no better way to do this than through the essay I wrote for my study abroad application nearly a year ago.

Here is a copy of the essay:

Growing up there was one rule that always seemed the hardest to follow and coincidentally the most harshly enforced by my parents. That rule being that no language other than Spanish could be spoken in our home.

As a 7-year-old, this rule was torture as I struggled to remember the most basic of words. As a 19-year-old, I can now see why my parents enforced such a rule and how it has come to benefit me in countless ways.

However, up to this point, this rule has only helped me when it comes to holding a conversation with my Spanish-speaking grandparents or bypassing language requirements in college. That is why I have decided to take this rule that has raised me to the next level and test my Spanish at the Consortium for Advanced Studies study abroad program in Barcelona.

Studying abroad in college hasn’t always been an experience I wanted to pursue. It seemed like it was something too far out of my reach as a low-income first-generation college student. It wasn’t until I started to take Spanish literature courses that I realized studying abroad, specifically in a Spanish-speaking country, would have to be an experience I should pursue.

While I do seek the classic study abroad experience of immersing myself in the Spanish culture, of eating their delicacies and admiring their art I am also looking for the experience that will allow me to see what daily life is like for the average Catalan college student. This is one of the major reasons why I have chosen the Consortium for Advanced Studies in Barcelona as my first choice program as I feel it will fully allow me to experience the daily Spanish lifestyle as I will only be allowed to take courses at regional universities, all in Spanish.

The program that I have chosen as my second choice, the Junior Year in Spain program that takes in place in Seville, resonates with me because of its home-stay requirement. I feel that a home-stay will allow me to see a part of Spanish life that is much more personal and family-orientated than any other program.

One other facet of Spanish life that I yearn to learn about are the social structures of the country and how people interact with another, specifically how immigrants from around the world fit into the Spanish dynamic.

As a first-generation Mexican-American young woman my life has always been shaped by the American immigrant experience. While I did not take that treacherous trip from one country to another that both my parents took at a young age, my hyphenated status has allowed me to live with a combination of cultures that I used to think was unique to this country. To my surprise, I have come to learn that the immigrant experience is just prominent if not more important in Spain, especially in Barcelona.

In the last couple of years, some politicians and Spanish citizens alike have argued that immigrants are “trouble-makers” to both the economic and cultural standing of Spain. Oftentimes, immigrants in Spain are the first to be attacked by policies trying to reverse the damage of the European financial crisis. An example speaking of such injustices comes from an August 2012 Guardian article claiming that nearly 150,000 immigrants in Spain would lose their right to public health services in an attempt to save Spain some money.

Another instance when the Spanish government has tried to find loopholes to discriminate against immigrants comes from another Guardian article from November 2012 reporting that town councils from smaller cities around Barcelona had voted to not allow illegal immigrants to register as residents. This decision would in turn mean that illegal immigrants in the Catalonia area could not receive any health or public services. The decision was overruled by the Catalan government, but it still serves as a clear example of the extremes that some city governments are willing to push to keep immigrants from integrating into the Spanish culture.

As a journalism student who looks forward to building a career out of specialty reporting on immigrant and minority issues, being able to see firsthand what immigrant relations are really like in Barcelona would allow me to expand my knowledge about the immigrant experience around the world.

By this point, studying abroad isn’t just something that I think will complete my college experience. Studying abroad will be an experience in itself that will allow me to expand my appreciation of my culture’s language and immigrant experience.

….

It’s kind of odd to look back at this and see how my experience has or hasn’t fallen into the expectations I had of this city.

For example, I’m glad that I did end up having the opportunity to directly enroll in local university classes versus taking classes tailored only for American students. While these classes may have been a pain about 70 percent of the time because of lack of structure in some instances, it was quite an experience to be the only exchange student in half of those classes.

I may not have directly seen how immigrant relations function in this city, but I will have to admit that in many instances I myself felt like an immigrant. And this was of course a first for me.

As long as I didn’t open my mouth and started talking, people would assume I was a local and start speaking to me in Catalan. Once they realized I didn’t understand the language and saw I had a somewhat unique Spanish accent (I don’t exactly sound Mexican or Latin-American) the questions would begin to roll in. What was I? Where was I from? Why was I here?

It was somewhat of a bittersweet moment when it came to saying goodbye (or adéu) to my group of Catalan friends in my last class today but I am beyond happy to know I made friends in a foreign university system I could have never seen myself being a part of. Even if they constantly asked me odd questions about American culture.

Amsterdam: No puff no pass for me

To set things straight from the start I have to say that I don’t do, have never done and don’t ever plan on trying any type of drug. That includes marijuana. So when one of my friends from my study abroad program brought up the idea of going to Amsterdam I have to admit I was pretty hesitant. To my surprise my weekend trip to Amsterdam ended up being my favorite place to visit.

The funny thing though is that the trip almost didn’t happen.

Come Thursday night at 9 p.m. we found out that the flight most of my friends would be on had been canceled due to hurricane-like weather that was hitting the Netherland coast pretty harshly.

For a pretty good while I thought this had to be a sign. I thought somewhere the gods of study abroad were probably telling me it was best I stay home and study for my Politica Europea final on Tuesday. But for some reason, while all my friends were harassing KLM airlines via phone calls and Facebook for over three hours, my flight remained on time, so really I had no choice but to go.

So I hesitantly packed the entirety of my winter wardrobe (it isn’t much thanks to Barcelona’s gorgeous weather) and went to bed somewhat hoping my flight would be canceled and I would get to stay home and get my life back on track for finals coming up.

I woke up Friday morning only to find out that my flight had indeed been canceled but I had been changed to a late flight with the rest of my friends. At that moment I realized I had to go into this trip as optimistic as possible just because somehow it had decided to work out for me and when one thing goes wrong for me usually there’s no way of fixing it, so in this case it was meant for me to go.

Thank you heavenly study abroad gods for making it work because I can truly say Amsterdam was amazing and thanks to this experience I can now share some insight into some of the my favorite moments.

KFC and the winter market side by side.

KFC and the winter market side by side.

We didn’t land in Amsterdam until after 10 p.m. Friday night so after taking a super fancy train into the city center from the airport we ended up having to walk through a cute winter market to get to our hostel.

It was interesting to see all the traditional food of the Christmas season on display in small wooden stands on one side only to look to the other side and see multiple Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s fast food restaurants lining the street.

As an initial impression, this walk to our hostel helped me see very quickly how much of a unique city Amsterdam really is. There is a constant interaction between old and new, traditional and progressive and it’s especially evident as you walk through some of the cities most historic neighborhoods surrounded by the incomparable smell of weed.

My one day rental bike that got me around the city.

My one day rental bike that got me around the city.

One of the things that helped me appreciate the city a little more was taking a three-hour walking tour that one of my friends suggested we go on. It was a pretty interesting way to learn about the city and see things I wouldn’t have thought to look at anyways.

But I have to admit as a girl who used to bike to school for fun and with a dad who loves to bike for hours on end on some of Northern California’s most scenic roads, getting to know Amsterdam on bike was absolutely amazing and worth the 12 euros I paid.

With Amsterdam being such a small city with narrow roads and bridges it made sense to Gina and I that we take one day to rent bikes and get everywhere we wanted to visit via the bikes. We got from one side of the city to the other under twenty minutes and somehow felt a little bit more legit as we cruised down those bike lanes alongside the locals.

The flea market consisted  of two full side by side warehouses.

The flea market consisted of two full side by side warehouses.

Growing up one of my favorite things to do was to go to the flea markets with my parents on weekend mornings. There was nothing that made me happier than extreme bargaining and warm churros all in the same place.

So when Gina and I heard that Amsterdam had one of the biggest flea markets in Europe we decided that visiting said flea market was a must.

In order to get to the flea market we had to bike to the city center, park our bikes in a giant bike parking lot, and take a free ferry to the North Amsterdam. It was quite a process that was worth every moment. I even purchased a legitimate oversized German Army button down for 9 euros; a piece I know I would most likely pay over $40 for in a store like Urban Outfitters.

IMG_1556

Beyond the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, the Pancake Bakery and the infamous Red Light District I really would have to say that I’m thankful I ended up in Amsterdam. It was everything I didn’t expect and so much more, it was truly “a place beyond belief.”

Finals, underwhelming Paris, and Tony

At Park Güell with Tony.

At Park Güell with Tony.

I’ve entered the last two-three weeks of finals. Here’s the thing, everybody hates finals, I hate finals. However, I had convinced myself that if classes weren’t too difficult over the semester then finals here couldn’t be all that bad.

I was wrong. Finals suck everywhere. And sometimes even more so while abroad, especially when you’re directly enrolled in university classes.

Part of the reason why I’m not too fond of the exam system in Barcelona universities is because schools that run on the semester system don’t have local students take their finals until January once they’ve had a couple weeks to learn and study everything they had to learn over the semester.

As an abroad student I have to take all my exams before I head back to the states Dec. 24 so I definitely don’t have as much time to learn and memorize everything I should’ve taken on throughout the quarter. It doesn’t help that half my classes are in Catalan so I also have to go back and translate everything to a language I understand.

But not all is misery in Barcelona. I actually have been able to experience two very exciting things that I could have never seen myself saying I did. I finally visited Paris three weeks ago and I was a lucky enough girl to have my boyfriend visit me this past week.

While I really liked Paris, I honestly can’t say I loved it and here’s why:

Expensive macaroons in Paris.

Expensive macaroons in Paris.

I can see why people say Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And I’m sure it is, but I’m also positive that it is one of the most expensive cities to travel through.

As a traveler/student on an extremely tight budget it was somewhat difficult to get by on 200 euros over 4 days, which is still a lot of money when taken into consideration that I have spent less than that on every other trip I’ve been on. So for a majority of the trip, while the group I was traveling with was set on taking advantage of being in one the biggest fashion capitals in the world, I was set on being the perfect window shopper since I couldn’t do much else with my limited budget.

Mona Lisa and her smize.

Mona Lisa and her smize.

Speaking about being on a budget, we were able to figure out that the Louvre lets in people under 25 for free on Friday nights, so that was a good way to experience one of the most famous museums in the world. I only know its famous because its featured in the blockbuster film “The Da Vinci Code.” LOLZ

While I do realize that Paris and the Louvre are well known for their world famous art collections and stunning architecture I didn’t leave feeling all that impressed. I’m also not really cultured when it comes to art so that can be part of the reason why I couldn’t really appreciate being in the presence of a actually really small Mona Lisa.

Ate some crepes right outside of Notre Dame.

Ate some crepes right outside of Notre Dame.

The last reason why I didn’t completely enjoy Paris was because I realized the Parisians don’t really eat. As a girl with a fast metabolism who likes hearty meals at least two-three times a day this was a serious problem. I mean there were tons of restaurants that served good food, but there was no way I could sit at one of these restaurants without blowing half my budget in just one meal.

So instead of going for the fancy French cuisine I had to settle with snacking on granola bars, banquettes, crepes and splurged twice on somewhat cheap meals at McDonalds and a Vietnamese restaurant.

Bringing Sofi to Paris somehow.

Bringing Sofi to Paris somehow.

However, I can’t say that everything about Paris was terrible or at least not enjoyable. I would definitely have to say that the most memorable thing I did was actually attach a lock onto the Love Lock Bridge with my little sister’s and my own name Sharpied onto it. It was quite emotional to send her a picture and show her how much our sisterly relationship means to me.

Beyond that, I think that part of going to Paris is merely being able to say you went and I can see why that’s the case as people literally stop at the Eiffel tower for over an hour in an attempt to get every picture they can get in every possible angle. I’m happy I went, but I definitely don’t think I will be planning to go back until I’m a boogey middle-aged woman with money to blow.

But the highlight of the last couple weeks, and really my entire abroad experience, was being able to see my boyfriend for a couple days this last weekend.

When I first started considering the idea of studying abroad about a year ago the first person I thought about was my boyfriend Tony. By this point, more than being my significant other he is also my best friend and the thought of being apart from him for both the summer and fall quarter was kind of hard to fathom. Luckily, he saw how excited I got about the idea of studying in Spain and he continued to encourage me to apply.

So literally two weeks before I left for Paris he asked me what I was doing over Thanksgiving weekend and told me not to make any plans because he was going to book tickets to come see me.

Having him come all the way from Chicago to Barcelona was one of the best ways I could have spent this Thanksgiving, especially in a place that I can only somewhat call home.

The other nice thing that came out of his visit was that we were able to explore Barcelona together. Surprisingly, there were still a lot of places and things I had left to see of the city so it was nice to discover some of these places together.

Forest-like interior at the Sagrada Familia.

Forest-like interior at the Sagrada Familia.

One of the first places we both experienced for the first time together was the Sagrada Familia. Although I only live blocks away from the world famous basilica, I decided that visiting would best be with him since going to church is a weekly activity we like to do back on Northwestern’s campus.

The Sagrada was beautiful of course and it was interesting to see how Gaudi wanted the interior of the basilica to resemble a forest, which evidently after years and years of construction was accomplished somehow.

The closest I will ever come to athletic glory.

The closest I will ever come to athletic glory.

Since Tony is in fact a boy, one that really enjoys every sport at that, I decided that it would be fitting for us to tour FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium. I thought it was going to be something only he would really enjoy but it actually turned out to be something I enjoyed as well.

While FC Barcelona is a well known athletic powerhouse, it was also pretty interesting to see how historically important the team has been in football and Barcelona history.

How we managed to take these pictures at Razzmatazz is highly questionable.

How we managed to take these pictures at Razzmatazz is highly questionable.

Apart from also visiting other touristy sights in Barcelona, like the Picasso Museum, La Pedrera, el Barrio Gótico, Park Güell and Las Ramblas, my favorite part of having Tony here was actually being able to do couple-like things.

I loved that we were able to go out to dinner in neighborhoods like Grácia or even cook dinner together because we wanted to save money. I loved that we were able to watch movies in bed after a long nap or spend a night wasted in Razzmatazz. But really I just loved that I was able to see somebody that means so much to me in a place that has slowly but surely grown on me. I loved that I could very briefly share this city with him and see how amazed he was by it as well.

The Island Life: Tenerife

Black Sand Beaches

I came to a beautiful realization this past weekend; that I was meant to be an island girl. Or at least own a vacation home on a tropical island when I make mad money in a couple years (jokes that will never happen with my bright but bleak future as a journalist #Medillprobz).

How did I come to that realization you might ask? Because I visited Tenerife and saw how simple and relaxed island life could be and instantly fell in love with that lifestyle.

My trip to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands off the central coast of Africa, was organized by CASB, my study abroad program. This meant that our program flew us out there, had us stay in a four-star hotel and fed us insurmountable quantities of food. And it also meant we had activities throughout the stay that connected to the theme of all our organized trips, learning about the unique ecological systems in Spain. Tenerife was by far my favorite Spanish ecological system.

Tenerife is truly a distinct ecological system, mostly because just going from one place to another on the island can offer you a completely different environment and experience. In some places there are gorgeous black sand beaches and one-hour drive up the mountains later you’re in a dry Mars-like terrain. With that in mind, I decided I would let the pictures I took tell you the story of my trip. I left the pictures unedited so all of the contrasting colors could give an accurate portrayal of the unique environment and culture Tenerife exposed me to.

The environment

Just like Cali

As we were going up the mountains to see the Teide Volcano, I couldn’t but think that the ecological systems reminded me a lot of the northern California region. My homesickness had never been more intense than in that moment.

Traditional dress

Once we started to drive down the mountains back to our beachside hotel, we stopped by a small town to learn about the typical architecture of the island. I very creepily decided to follow a young women dressed in a traditional dress and caught this moment of her under a luscious archway. Keep in mind this town was only a 45-minute to an hour away from the dry environment around the volcano.

Colorful homes

Although Tenerife does have a truly beautiful natural environment, one of the really interesting things about is that it is also a highly developed and wealthy island. It makes sense considering that the islands make most of its money out of tourism and all of its Spanish honeymooners.

The culture

Sexual Figurines

While the Canary Islands are technically one of the Spanish provinces, they’re basically like the Hawaii of Spain. No need to depress you with in the history of the Spanish conquest of these islands, but these islands does have its very own culture. Part of it can be seen in the traditional figurines pictured above which are very different from the typical Spanish-European art forms.

Mugs

Another place where you can see a difference in cultures is in the traditional pottery of the islands, which have very strong indigenous roots. Part of this distinction can also go back to the islands history with large numbers of Caribbean (mostly Cuban) immigrants over its development. So it was no surprise to see that the native people from Tenerife didn’t have a Spanish accent, but instead sounded much more like they were from the Caribbean or South America.

Local banana

One of the most important things about the Tenerife culture doesn’t have to do with its art but instead involves its agriculture, with the banana being one its biggest crops. Their production of the banana isn’t as highly grossing as one would think, but the European Union subsidizes the Canary Island banana so much that its impossible to eat a meal in Tenerife without being offered a banana at some point.

Feeling like a Kardashian

Fish eating me

Being a Kardashian fan is no guilty pleasure of mine, so as soon as I knew I was going to beach town I wasted no time I making sure I found a fish spa, just like the infamous sisters did on their E! show, Keeping up with the Kardashians. So I found a fish spa that allowed small fish to eat the dead skin off my feet for 20 minutes at only 10 euros. It was somewhat of a rip-off now that I think about it since I was basically paying to feed those Turkish fish, but I’m all for weird experiences, and hey Kimmy K did it.

London: Food and friends at its best

I will admit that I was that person who stayed up all night to watch the royal wedding a couple years ago. And I will also admit that I was that person that got really excited when the royal baby was born. Maybe a little too excited.

So when Gina and I spontaneously decided to buy round-trip tickets to London my inner and somewhat obvious royal family fanatic got extremely excited.

We somehow managed to spend a lot of time in what seems to be the land of no sunshine. We left Thursday morning and didn’t get back until Sunday night, so we spent more than half of last week outside of our temporary home of Barcelona. And while the Pound is the worst thing to have ever come into an Americans life (exchange rate: £1 = $1.60) I can honestly say that visiting London has been one of my best weekend experiences while abroad.

So here are just some highlights of this four-day weekend’s adventure in Queen Elizabeth’s main stomping ground.

Just one of the cute curbside flower stores we found.

Just one of the cute curbside flower stores we found.

One of the first things I noticed as we walked out of the London Gatwick airport was the cold. It was a cold that I would’ve been used to had we been in Evanston over these last two months, but after spending so much time in Mediterranean paradise getting to London and its dark and dreary weather was a harsh slap in the face.

However, the optimist in me took on this cold weather situation and decided to don the entirety of the winter clothes I brought with me to Barcelona.

I was sure I was going to look cute. I knew this would be my opportunity to work (more like WERQQQQQQ) that beanie I knew I would never be able to wear in Barcelona without sweating away all the fat that is non-existent on my head.

I was wrong.

The whole rain thing was cute at first (note picture above), until the rain and wind joined forces and broke my €3 umbrella within two hours of sight seeing and I had to buy a really flattering (note picture below) clear plastic poncho to insure I didn’t get soaked and risked dying of pneumonia.

When sightseeing actually became a pain in London.

When sightseeing actually became a pain in London.

Just one of the places in Borough Market selling Indian food.

Just one of the places in Borough Market selling Indian food.

One of the things that surprised me the most about London was to see how much of an international city it is. You couldn’t go anywhere without being reminded that London’s culture really is a mix of other country’s cultures. Naturally I took notice of all of this with food.

I saw examples of this first hand when four of my sorority sisters (θ THETAAAAAA ❤ θ) took me to various places that among them are some iconic London tourist attractions.

The first place I saw this mixture of cultures was at the grocery store.

Jackie and I have an almost identical mind-set when it comes to spending money, the idea being that we don’t spend it. So instead of going out to dinner we decided to buy food at the grocery store and use her dorm’s kitchen to cook together.

While I’ve had trouble finding basic Mexican food products in Barcelona, finding some ingredients with a little bit of spice was no issue in London. So naturally my first meal in England was Mexican food. Thank you globalization.

The second place I experienced this melting pot of cultures was at the Borough Market (note picture above) where I met up with Wendy and Kelly and saw it really just is the norm to buy some traditional English tea while tasting some Indian curry or Spanish paella. And this is all happening a short walk from Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

And the last place where I saw the most dramatic example of cultures colliding was when I walked through Brick Lane with Saron (my roommate and forever cuddle buddy from last year).

We decided to meet at one of the tube stops 45-minutes away from my Hyde Park hostel and with just that tube ride I was able to get to the most authentic Indian neighborhood and food I will probably ever have.

Instead of looking up a place to eat at we literally had to just walk down Brick Lane and wait for some type of restaurant promoter to approach us from restaurant to restaurant with their best deal for the night. We were able to bargain the price down on our meal at one particular place and got not only an appetizer, an entrée and bread/rice dish but we also got an entire bottle of wine for ourselves. So for just £10 I was able to not only have a full Indian meal but also got pretty darn tipsy (thanks to my low-tolerance).

Somehow we got to Buckingham Palace right as the changing of the guards was about to start.

Somehow we got to Buckingham Palace right as the changing of the guards was about to start.

While I did really grow to appreciate the international culture in London I wouldn’t be a true tourist without saying that I loved seeing things like Buckingham Palace and drinking probably unhealthy amounts of tea.

There is a beauty behind London that isn’t necessarily in its architecture but more-so acknowledging the history and place that this grand city has in the world.

So thank you London for the amazing weekend, we will meet again because honestly I didn’t actually see any royal yet.

Sevilla and some ‘Cats

There are those who say a picture is worth 1000 words. So these next four pictures require me to write a 4000 word blog post…jk I would never do that to you all!

Anyways, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Sevilla this past weekend with my study abroad program. After all the stress of trying to figure out trips myself it was nice to just show up at the airport, ride a plane for an hour and already have a nice hotel waiting for me at our destination.

However, in true Lissette fashion it wouldn’t be a weekend trip without my health faltering. So my entire trip consisted of sightseeing, cold medicine that really wasn’t cold medicine because the Spanish don’t believe in real cold medicine and mosquito/spider bites and rashes that make me want to be the next patient on TLC’s “Mystery Diagnosis” when I nearly reach my deathbed.

So here are some Instagram pictures and photographs I took on my IPhone and Canon that highlight some of my favorite experiences while in this beautiful city!

Tapas

One of the first things I asked our program directors while walking to our hotel was if tapas where also a thing in Sevilla. They laughed at my question and said that Sevilla was actually the place where tapas come from and that I would never find better tapas after experiencing them in Sevilla.

And of course they were right.

For our first meal we were somewhat overwhelmed by all the tapas options to choose from but decided on a restaurant based on its outdoor décor. It was a perfect decision because somehow I managed to buy three different delicious tapas dishes all for around nine euros. I was mind blown to the say the least and would literally go back to Sevilla just to have some cheap amazing tapas all over again.

Unicorn Tiles

It wouldn’t have been a trip to Sevilla without a visit to the Alcázar de Sevilla, so of course it was the first place we were scheduled to visit.

While it’s a absolutely beautiful and ostentatious palace with tons of rooms and gardens my favorite thing to look at were actually all the tiles that adorned nearly every inch of the palace inside and out.

My favorite mosaic was actually somewhat falling apart but it was interesting to see how they had incorporated mythical creatures into this garden’s décor. In some way these intricately painted unicorns and centaurs provide an interesting perspective into an era where myths were just as real as history.

Thetas in Sevilla

While I have made some really close friends while in Barcelona (my now Spanish lover Gina), it was nice to visit Sevilla and actually see some fellow Northwestern friends and acquaintances. I was most excited to see Catherine, one of my closest friends in my sorority’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta.

She’s studying abroad in Sevilla so it was nice to catch up with her and also have her show me around the city without me feeling like I would end up perpetually lost. She also was sweet enough at some point in the weekend to cuddle with me while I napped after taking my pseudo-cold medicine.

So in true tourist fashion we visited the Plaza de España (one of the locations where a Star Wars scene was once filmed apparently) and rode small rowboats around the manmade river. And in true sorority girl fashion we kited it up all over that historical landmark. Θ Thetaaaaaa Θ

Fitz in Sevilla

Last but not least, my favorite part of this past weekend wasn’t actually seeing the Muslim influences in all the architecture. My favorite experience this weekend was actually being able to watch the Northwestern homecoming game against Ohio State, which just so happened to be the college Gameday feature of the week.

It took true dedication to watch this game. The game technically didn’t start until 2 a.m. in Sevilla so while everybody was getting wasted in Evanston, Catherine and I spent part of our afternoon calling bars to see if they would play the game.

We luckily found an Irish Pub that had ESPN and would play the game for a group of rowdy Northwestern girls (Catherine, Emily, Aileen, Sam, Natalie, Cynthia and I). The only downfall to it was that the bar had to close at 3 a.m. due to its license. So at exactly 3 a.m. we all ran from bar to bar trying to find a place that wasn’t closing and had ESPN.

The search failed so we ended up actually watching the game at Natalie’s home stay apartment while her host family was gone for the weekend. It also happened to be my first time in a Spanish home so it was interesting to see the home décor (i.e. the taxidermy squirrel).

Our stream of the game was slow, fuzzy and would freeze every couple minutes but it was great to be able to watch our much beloved ‘Cats. We were on the edge of our seats all the way until nearly 6:30 a.m. when the Northwestern win came out of reach. But honestly I would do anything to go back to that moment and feel like a real Wildcat all over again.

So thank you Sevilla for a great weekend. But it’s now time to get ready for another weekend trip. London, you better be ready!