Jessica in Spain

Jessica is studying in Valladolid, Spain, in a language-intensive program and then will spend the fall in Madrid with SMU-in-Spain.

Summer of travels, and fall in Madrid

It’s been a while since my last update, and it is amazing to think about all that has happened between then and now, so get ready for a long update! Summer is officially over and for the first time I don’t mind because I am starting my program in Madrid!

After my weekend in Valencia I traveled to Salamanca. I studied there going into my freshman year and was overcome with happiness to return! Our program included the day trip, but because it is a city, with its main calling card being nightlife for students, a large group went a day early. I was impressed with myself because I remembered how to get to all my favorite places; the ice cream shop, restaurants, shops and discotecas!

Milan%201%5B1%5D.jpg The weekend after that I traveled with three other students to Milan, and it was everything and more than I thought it would be! To see the duomo, the Teatro alla Scala, outrageously expensive haute couture shops and everything else was definitely the highlight of my summer traveling. The four of us had to return to the duomo the next day because we had been dressed scandalously the day before: showing our shoulders and knees!

Milan%202%5B1%5D.jpg When we tried again to get in the following day we dressed accordingly and bundled ourselves up as conservatively as we could when we had packed for 90-degree weather. It was well worth the return trip! The duomo was under construction for over 600 years and everywhere you looked was an extravagant display of their power and wealth as a medieval city.

We climbed the stairs to the roof and had an impressive view of the city. This was my favorite part because we went on a Sunday and Mass was occurring at the same time. We could feel the vibrations of the organ all the way through the marble roof and hear it through some of the open windows. It was a truly special day!

The pizza, gelato and risotto alla Milanese were absolutely over-the-top good, and now I understand why Italy is considered a food capital of the world, not that I ever doubted why! I loved it so much that I cannot wait to go back. Besides, everything sounds better with an Italian accent!

Santander%201.jpg The next weekend I went to Santander and definitely had an experience. I am not an outdoorsy kind of girl, and I’ve never been camping or stayed in a communal style hostel. I was way out of my comfort zone!

Our hostel was for surfers and had a distinct odor to it. The five of us stayed in a 6-person room with only 5 beds. I shared a bed with another SMU student. After getting over the initial shock of it all, we went to the beach and just relaxed.

All in all, my summer in Valladolid was fulfilling. All my goals were accomplished: my level of Spanish is vastly higher than before, I was able to explore new parts of Spain and Europe, and I celebrated the Spanish victory in the World Cup. My host senora, Mama Carmen, is a saintly woman whom I love and am making plans to visit her again for the feria of Valladolid.

After I finished class, I met my family in Stockholm, Sweden, and began a cruise around the Baltic. It was such a wonderful experience because I could be reunited with my whole family, which doesn’t happen often when everyone lives in different states and has different schedules. We spent time in Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Copenhagen, Oslo and finished in Dover.

As wonderful as it was to see Viking ships and the Hermitage, we all agree that sometimes dinner was the most fun part. We were lucky to have two waiters who were the most delightful men. Marinko was from Croatia and Suresh was from India. Every night we would talk and laugh with them for hours. It made it a special experience, and since I am in Europe for the next four months, it is a possibility that I might see Marinko in Croatia sometime.

After we sadly parted ways, I spent a few days in London so I could get my hair done. I am a very blond girl, and I just didn’t trust the hairstylists in Spain to be able to highlight my hair how I like! I also toured the Royal Mews and Buckingham Palace. The real highlight for me was seeing the Grace Kelly exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I idolize her and am inspired by her fashion sense, so it was a dream come true to see in person the clothes that I look at in books.

Now I am in Madrid and all settled in. My host senora is also named Carmen and she is a sweet and classy woman. I live with two other girls from SMU and we are so lucky to each have our own room. I have two balconies in my room that I like to stand on at night and feel the fresh breeze. I am excited to start class and learn more about Spain and the language.

By some stroke of luck one of my roommates and I only have class on Tuesday and Thursday so we will be able to take longer excursions. So far, we have excursions figured out for one weekend in Lyon, France, and Thanksgiving break in Italy. We have six days and are going to be on a whirlwind tour of Rome, Pisa, Florence and Venice!

We also have trips planned through SMU to go to Segovia, Escorial, Andalucia and Pais Vasco. We want to extend the trips to the south to possibly go to Morocco or other cities in Spain. We’ve tentatively planned to extend Pais Vasco to go to the South of France and see Nice and Monaco (more Grace Kelly!). Anyway, that is about everything that has happened since my last post! Stay tuned for more!!

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Celebrating Spain

jValladolid%201.jpg It is hard to believe that I am about halfway through with my summer program! My senora, Carmen, is amazing! I was very worried about how this would all work out because I am a vegetarian and picky too! Luckily for me, Carmen has hosted several vegetarians before and is actually a chef. Needless to say, I eat amazingly well here!

Because I fail at waking up early, I grab a juice box, with fun flavors like peach, and these pastry things. I have absolutely no idea what they are but they are sort of spongy and cake-like with a little lemon flavor. Whatever they are, they are very tasty and I find it difficult to eat just one. I struggled at the beginning with so little to eat for breakfast but now my body is used to it. I tried eating a bigger breakfast one morning and my stomach rebelled!

I have class from 8:30 until 11:30 so I stop at a cafe on the way to school and order a “cafe con leche y azucar para llegar,” which, if you don’t speak Spanish is a coffee with milk and sugar to go. The first time I ordered one I was very surprised because the amount would fit in a sippy cup. It may be a small quantity, but it is mighty. I cannot imagine my life without it now!

Lunch is served at 2:30, and Carmen’s son, Juan, and sometimes his 1-year-old daughter, come over. Spanish cuisine is wonderful because their cooking philosophy is to let the food’s natural flavors come out. Rarely do they use seasoning other than salt and olive oil. There is at least one dish that has been fried, and it is a safe bet to say that potatoes, mayonnaise, hard-boiled eggs and/or tuna will appear on the table.

The first weekend my group tried to go to Santander, a beach town in the north, but everything was booked, and I mean EVERYTHING! We ended up staying in Valladolid and just relaxing.

jValencia%201.jpg Last weekend I made a spontaneous decision to go to Valencia with a group of students from Minnesota. I am now in LOVE with Valencia! The beaches had the finest grains of sand and the water was so warm. I loved the contrast of 19th-century architecture next to the stark, white modern architecture of the aquarium.

jdolphins%201.jpg We went to a dolphin show at the aquarium one day. My group insisted on waiting an hour in advance to get the best seats for the show and in the process I got very sunburned, which unfortunately is not all that unusual for me.

My plans to go to Rome fell through as well as my plans for Barcelona. Next weekend I am going to Milan!!! I cannot believe that I am going there! I am a slave to fashion and should probably have someone be on shopping patrol so that I don’t get out of control like I know I can. The thought of see all the beautiful things makes me downright giddy!

For my last weekend I am going to Santander. After our first failed attempt, we already have train tickets and a hostel booked! Nothing is stopping us this time!

jValladolid%202.jpg On a totally separate note, SPAIN WON THE WORLD CUP!!!!!!! I took far too many pictures and videos that night! When they win, everyone finds a fountain and jumps in it. The biggest one in Valladolid was drained in advance so we found a different one. I stupidly wore a dry-clean-only skirt and a white shirt … bad idea. I refrained from getting in the fountain and instead held everyone’s stuff and took pictures. We made our way to the plaza mayor where firemen were there with hoses to cool the crowd off.

Once Spain won, they turned the water on more and soaked the crowds. I gave into peer pressure after about 20 minutes and went to the front of the crowd where my friends got the attention of the firemen. All four of them turned their hoses on me! I looked like I had jumped in a pool! After that, I was shivering, cold, and a little too exposed for my comfort so we made our way home. I think it’s been two weeks but flags are still flying high! Spain is so amazing; if I could have my family, friends, pets and air conditioning, I would never leave this place!

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And I’m off!

After preparing for what feels like years, I am actually ready to begin my Iberian adventure! Armed with what I know – way more clothes, shoes and treasured stuff (some might call junk) than what I will need – I am on my way to Spain. My summer program is six weeks long and should be fun-filled and adventure-packed, and I will have more immersion into the Spanish language and culture than I can imagine…And I can’t wait!

I’ve been studying Spanish for many years and am hoping my time in Spain will allow me to become fluent. All I know is Spain has the warmest people, so conversing with strangers won’t be a problem. I went to Spain two summers ago and completely fell in love with it! I spent one month in the city of Salamanca. From what I can understand, Valladolid, my summer city, is pretty similar. It is a small city with a large university population, nice museums and a rich history.

The last time I was in Spain, it won the European championship. That was, without a doubt, the best night of my life. Madrid came to life like I’d never imagined, and everybody was celebrating. Strangers would meet in the middle of a street and hug each other, the roads all but closed down from the massive crowds dancing in the streets, and everywhere you looked, someone was crowd surfing! Needless to say, I am praying hard that Spain will win the World Cup because I’d like to experience all of that again.

I cannot contain my excitement and look forward to getting over there. I’m sure my friends and family are ready for me to stop talking about how excited I am because it seems to be all I talk about lately. I am taking two Spanish classes, which will move me right along with my minor. I plan to do quite a bit of traveling on weekends. I know I’m going to Barcelona one weekend and Rome another – at least that’s the plan. For everything else, I’ll just wait and see what will happen. After this summer, I’ll be meeting my family up north for a Baltic cruise and then return to Madrid for the fall semester. So like I said, I am beyond excited.

Hasta luego USA, see you in six months!!

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