Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Remembering My First Day

¡Hola! I hope all is well ^_^

Since I've returned home, my mind sometimes takes me back to my very first day in Spain. I remember getting to the airport back home and telling my mom to leave quickly so that I could put on a brave face for her and also so I wouldn't cry. It was a scary experience, especially since I had never really traveled such a far distance on my own. But I had signed myself up for it and there was no turning back! Once I arrived at the airport on Madrid, the fear of not locating my group in time began to freak me out, especially because I had to ask for directions in Spanish. I assume that they kept telling me to "go downstairs" but at that point my Spanish wasn't very strong and I was clueless as to where they were directing me. Luckily I eventually found where I was supposed to be (thank goodness!) 

Finally arriving in Salamanca (much later than expected because of flight delays of other students in my group) we saw a gathering of older ladies with perfectly coifed hair waiting to whisk us away to our new homes for the next few months. I signed up for a single room, not realizing that my host mother spoke not a word of English (or made it seem so). To say the least, getting into the car with her and someone who I believe she introduced as her brother was an experience that not only filled me with fear but also tested my bravery, I guess you could say.

Luckily I ended up with a host mom who was as sweet as can be and still lived up life by going out daily with her gal pals at the ripe age of 61-years-young (sometimes putting me to shame haha).

Anyhow, I don't remember much else from that day, except suffering from extreme jetlag, but it is a nice memory to relive every once in a while.

~Justine <3

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Some Good News!

About a week ago I received some very exciting news! I can't remember if I mentioned this in a previous post, but the semester that I spent in Salamanca was my final semester of college. I know that may seem weird or even backward because people usually study aboard during their sophomore or junior years, but I had to study abroad when I felt like I was ready (and also because I knew this was my final chance!) 

I only had to finish up a few more credits in the fall, so I thought what better way to do so than in another country? Some sacrifices had, however, had to be made, and one of them was not making it back in time for the fall graduation ceremony (because it took place one week before my return home). Nonetheless, I wasn't fazed because I figured I could graduate the following semester. So now I am home currently interning and eagerly awaiting this momentous occasion.

So to finally get to my good news, all of my credits from Spain have been input into the system and I am officially done with college! The next and final step is graduation, which I now get to participate in with my friends who were set to graduate a semester after me, and then I enter into the real world. It seems slightly daunting from this vantage point, but I think that I am ready to handle all that is thrown my way. Wish me luck!

~Justine <3

Thursday, February 2, 2012

¡Saludos de los Estados Unidos!

Hello all! Just wanted to give a little update on how my life is going now post-Salamanca. I will admit that at first adjusting back to life in the U.S. took a few days. Bigger breakfasts, everything in ENGLISH, different time zone, and an annoying younger brother of course. Despite all of these changes, however, I was glad to be back in my own territory. Being in a foreign land tests your strengths and your weaknesses for sure. Sometimes you have to be able to land quickly on your feet, but that all comes with time. 

Nevertheless, there are times when I am reminded of my adventures abroad and I wish to be walking amongst the cobblestoned streets of Spain once again. It definitely was an experience that has changed my life and has made me view the world in a completely new way. Cliché, I know, but 100% true! I still don't know if I have processed everything that I have done, but I know one day I will look back on it with an unmatched appreciation. Also, returning back home has allowed me to assess just how much Español I've really learned.

Anyhow, I must be saying good night as it is past my bedtime (haha), but I just wanted to say that one thing that I miss so much from Europe is this: 
Yes, I miss the culture, the language, the people, and so much more, but I definitely miss the Häagen Dazs Macadamia Nut Brittle flavor :( This was my absolute fav flavor in the U.S. until it was sadly discontinued. But then I found it once again in Spain. :sigh: If anyone in Spain is reading this, please mail me some asap lol. 

Buenas noches!!

~Justine <3

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Journey Ends

It seems as though I abruptly stopped posting, but this past week has truly been hectic! I finally have returned back to the United States, and even though I was sad to leave Salamanca, I was anxious to return back home as well. My flight was originally scheduled for 10:30am on December 18th, but due to some sort of pilot strike taking place in Spain (perfect timing, I know), I discovered that my flight time had been delayed for four hours! I was pretty bummed out, especially having just gone through a bag check-in fiasco because one of my suitcases was overweight, but I was just happy to still have had a flight back. 

As for my time in Salamanca, I wouldn't change much. I really did enjoy being able to be a part of another culture and immerse myself within another language. Also, traveling around Europe was such a learning experience. It is extremely multicultural and diverse, and being able to experience some of it firsthand is something I'll never forget. Of course there were times when I wished that my family were there to experience it with me (and drive me nuts), which sometimes resulted in going souvenir-crazy, (like when I was in Paris), but I know that there will be other times in the future when we will all be able to travel together. 

Volunteering at the elementary school was another facet of my trip that I really enjoyed. Seeing what schooling was like in another country was not only interesting, but fun at the same time. The students were always so enthusiastic and the teachers were so freaking nice. On my last day, they awarded me a volunteer certificate  as well as some cute parting gifts. I would tell anyone who is studying in another country to try something similar :) 

Before my arrival, the thought of studying in another country seemed so difficult. From the paperwork, to the cost, to living on my own in a country whose language I had not mastered, it just seemed extremely out of my reach. However, once I made it over those hurdles, I could only look forward to what was to come. I feel like one of the most important things to remember is to go in with an open mind, and in return new or foreign experiences will seem less weird and more interesting, I suppose.

Studying abroad is a life-altering thing and one that will hopefully bring anyone who does the same a sense of joy and fulfillment. I definitely look forward to seeing more of this huge world and maybe I'll even continue writing my blog. In the meantime, I just want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read what I have written, even if it was just a sentence, because I wrote with the hopes of aiding others on their own pursuits of studying abroad.

For anyone who has a question or would like to leave a comment about anything that I have included here, feel free to reach out to me. Thanks so much and I hope we'll meet again soon!

~Justine <3 


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Concierto de la Navidad ♫

So I just got back from a Christmas Concert held at the university here and it truly was such a fun experience. I didn't know what to expect, except that all the performances were student-acts put on by different international students. There was lots of variety, like songs by Adele and a nice rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." There were also student groups from Japan that sang some pretty cool songs. But the star of the show had to be a student a little different from the rest. I don't know her name, but I believe that she is from Japan, and she is a lot older than other students (at least 65!). She played the piano and sang about 5 to 6 songs in her high operatic voice and proved that she was no stranger to the stage. I am happy to have attended the show because it really was one of the first times that the entire international sector of the university came together as a whole. It seems as though most of the time the people who came as a group have stuck together, which sometimes made it difficult to meet other people. However, this show brought together many people in the name of not only Christmas, but also of uniting the students as a whole. I truly hope that they continue this tradition

~Justine <3

All Roads Lead to Rome! ✈

So I'm finally back to update about my time in Rome. Sorry about the delay, it's been kind of a hectic week. Anyhow! Where do I begin?? Rome is such a beautiful city! It's ancient, yet modern at the same time, and the sights are really breathtaking. This trip was the longest that I've made outside of Spain while in Europe, it was four days, and it was really nice to just be able to relax and see things at a leisurely pace instead of constantly running here and there. 

Tip #1: Since we were there for so many days, we opted to buy the Roma Pass, something I highly recommend (http://www.romapass.it/). It is valid for three days and you are able to get free access into two visited museums and/or archaeological sites of your choice, as well as unlimited access to the city's public transportation (all of the buses and trains), which really comes in handy, believe me :p The Colosseum, as well as Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum are included in this pass (all three are counted as one entrance, which cost about 15€), so after a while the pass pays for itself, and you get to jump the line! The Colosseum is amazing to view in person and reading the signs on the wall about its history just helped me to realize just how much history is within its walls. If you want, there are paid tours available.  

This time of the year is also extremely beautiful. Not only is the weather perfect (never more than 70° F) but there are loads of Christmas lights up and performances happening throughout the city. After making an attempt to go on the free walking tour, but getting the time wrong, we made our way to Trevi Fountain. Just another example of an architectural masterpiece. While there, don't forget to make a wish! Stand with your back towards the fountain and throw the coin over your left shoulder. I didn't know that when I made my wish, but I still hope it comes true nonetheless. According to the tour guide, about 600,000 euros are thrown into the fountain every year and is used to feed the homeless. I'm glad to know that I've at least helped to contribute to a good cause even if my wish is a bust :p

On our third day, we visited a part of Rome known as Trastevere (pronounced Tras-tay-veer-ray). It is really too cute for words and it might have been one of my favorite parts of town, also very different from the other more touristy areas. Little shops, delicious restaurants, and cobble-stoned streets could all be found here. 

Tip #2: The restaurants here are way cheaper than in most other parts in Rome. I ordered an entire pizza for just 3€! I think that if you have the time and desire to see a different side of this city, Trastevere is definitely worth the trip. A beautiful church named Basilica di Santa Maria is also located here. Amazing mosaics and statues adorn the walls and it's a nice alternative to the other more popular churches. I think sometimes great places are overlooked because people would rather visit the more well-known places (which is completely understandable) but sometimes going off the beaten track can lead to some amazing experiences. 

(Inside of Basilica di Santa Maria)

Oh yeah! And also try to make a visit to Janiculum Hill! Breathtaking views and awesome photos await :) 

Ok, so since I know that I've talked and talked a lot, I'll try to sum up the rest of the trip very quickly haha. Visits to Vatican City and the Pantheon were made. 

Tip #3: If you don't buy your tickets for the Vatican online ahead of time, make sure to show up super early! The line can get extremely long and the wait-time could be forever. We made it there fairly early, so we only had to wait about 20-25 minutes before entering. We also didn't get a chance to see the Pope, but it we did receive the opportunity to see amazing the architecture within the Vatican itself. We didn't make it to the Sistine Chapel, but I'm not too bummed out because I hope to make it back to Italy one day. The Pantheon is great as well and it's nice to have been able to seen such an well-known structure in person. 

                                    (The Vatican)                       (The Pantheon)

Overall, Rome is an amazing place to visit, and I truly do encourage every single person who has the desire to travel the world to make it happen. I definitely know that you will not regret a single moment!

~Justine <3 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rome, Italy


Rome, Italy: The beautiful and historical city that I spent this past week in! More details to come :D

~Justine <3