January 30

I took full advantage of being able to sleep in. I slept until about 1:15 and woke up feeling very refreshed. I was sore from working out the night before but some people had a P90x DVD and they asked if I wanted to go work out on the roof. Despite being sore, I gave in. This was the first time I had seen these videos before and found them to be impossible. I was so sore but the lunges and jumps about killed me.

I hobbled down the stairs and went to lunch. We had some lamb with French fries. I had an orange soda and feel in love. The orange soda here is so much better than back in the U.S. After lunch, we all hung out before we went to the Falles museum at 4:30. The weather was great, the sun was out and the sky was so blue.

The museum was really far away. We took a long walk through El Rio but the day was so nice, everyone really enjoyed it. We stopped at a playground in a part of El Rio called. Guliver. He is a famous man from Spain and they have a huge monument to him made of slides. We finally made it to the Falles museum about an hour after leaving.

We were led into a rrom and watched a video about the Falles Festival. It is an ancient festival in Valencia that takes place in mid-March every year. People spend all year making floats that they eventually burn at the end of the week. It is a weeklong 24 hour party. Complete with fireworks, dancing and debauchery. Each year since around the start of the 20th centur, the museum has collected pieces of floats from the yearly festival.

The had an exhibit set up arranged by decades. I didn’t like it at all. All of the characters were very scary looking and were pretty crude. The one thing I liked was I saw a couple Disney characters representing in the museum. I really liked the posters that accompanied the float; they had amazing artwork. A few of us had seen enough and decided to take a taxi to the store. Our taxi driver was Algerian, which was definitely experience. We picked up some wine, a baguette, some cheese and headed back to the dorm.

We did our usual nightly routine and went to O’haras. I brought out my cultural scavenger hunt and got a lot answered. I had a lot of fun. After, a bunch of us went to Radio City, and a discothèque called Music Box. A bunch of us stayed and danced into the wee hours of the morning. Before we went to bed, we made a pact to wake up at 12:30 and go to the beach. My bed felt so good.

january 29

Sleeping in was awesome. I was woken up to everyone coming back from school. I rolled out of bed and met everyone for lunch. I have loved having fries at every meal. The coke is small and I wish I had ice here but I have been getting used to it.

A few of us discovered our dorm has a huge patio on the roof and we brought a blanket up there and hung out for a few hours. The weather was perfect. It was about 65 degrees and sunny. The view from the roof was really cool because the only buildings taller than our dorm are the church steeples. After a while I could feel my skin starting to burn so I headed down and skyped Laura. I have loved having skype and being able to see her everyday. It definitely is a lot better than talking on the phone.

Joe and I decided to work out before dinner. The work out room is about 100 feet from our room so it is really convenient. I am so out of shape but it was good to exercise. I was exhausted afterward so I took a quick power nap and woke up ready to take on the night.

Dinner was really good, like always. We all got ready and hung out in each other’s rooms. We started at the usual O’Haras; it’s always fun. I was talking to some Spanish students and didn’t realize that everyone had left me. Luckily I had an address to the karaoke bar that some people were going to. I found Diego and we decided to have some Doner Kebab and take a taxi to meet up with them.

It was so fun. There was a stage and a huge dance floor. I didn’t sing much, just danced. All of the Spanish people there were staring at us but we didn’t care. After dancing there for a few hours we decided to walk back. We started a “Who’s that coming down the track” chant that was really fun and loud.

Diego and I played Pro Evolution Soccer on Xbox, which was very different because the controls are different than Fifa, which I’m most used to. We have no idea where the night went but went to bed pretty late.

January 28

I did my usual routine before class: wake up at 8:00, take a shower, grab some quick breakfast and start our walk. It’s been cool because while I am still very new to the city, I am still getting better at navigating the roads here. Its hard though because every time you ask directions here, people don’t know street names so the only tell you basic directions like cross two streets and turn left.

Literature class was pretty fun. We talked about the different types of poetry and how to count syllables in Spanish poetry, which was very informative. She let us out a little early so we had forty-five minutes to kill before Spanish Culture started so Lauren, Brittany, Scott, Mary Claire and I decided to go grab a quick cup of café con leche. It was delicious and reenergizing.

Culture class was very informative too. Maria (probably my favorite teacher out of all my classes) gave us a geography lesson of the different provinces of Spain. Then she would play 30 second clips of music from all over the world and we had to guess where they were from. I thought that Spain was only known for flamenco music but actually they only have flamenco in the southern part. In reality all corners of Spain have different traditional music, most surprising to me was hearing the bagpipes in a traditional song from Northern Spain.

The walk back was awesome. The sun was out and shining bright. Mary Claire and I remarked out much more detailed all the buildings looked with the sunlight on them. I stopped with Nikki to get a chocolate and banana crepes at a walk up stand which was absolutely delicious. I came back to the dorm ate lunch (it was spaghetti carbonara and I cut up some ham and put it top which reminded me of home cooking) and wrote my blog before I went with Dave, Taylor, Kristen, Mary Claire, Liza to try and do some laundry.

They have machines here but the problem is they are constantly running because there is only two that work. We had heard of a Laundromat close by. Dave scoped it out a few hours before and the sign said it would be open at four. We walked over there with our respective duffel bags full of dirty clothes only to find that it was closed. I guess its typical European life though. We walked around for a while to kill time because we had a feeling it would open at some point.

We returned at 5:30 only to have the guy tell us that we needed to drop it off and come back in two hours. He was also charging ten euros, which was pretty ridiculous especially because the sign said it cost 8 euros. We walked back pretty frustrated. It wasn’t going to ruin our night though.

I took a shower and a few of us hung out in Stockton and Laura’s room before we went out. We went to O’Haras again which was so much fun. There were a lot of Spanish students there and I really had some good conversations. I talked with two guys that were both studying to get their masters in Economics. It was funny to compare the similarities in our class requirements and things of that nature. After O’Haras was closing at around 1:30, we went to a discothèque called Bolseria and danced for a while.

I turned in not too long after that, but was really happy with the opportunity to sleep in the next morning.

January 27

I have been waking up in the best mood lately. Each day offers infinite possibilities. Since we didn’t have our first class on Monday, I was excited to meet my Business Spanish teacher because I feel like this class will help me the most with my future plans in business. I showered and got dressed pretty quick so I had time before we needed to leave to grab a cup of coffee con leche. It’s a shot of espresso with warm milk. It is a perfect kick start to the day.

I walked to class with an added hop in my step. One thing that I have found that is very different from walking around in the U.S. is cross walks are absolutely crazy. The cross walk light turns green when you can walk but when the stop light is turning, it gives two quick flashes and turns to red. Cars won’t wait for you to finish getting through the intersection so as soon as you see the light turning, you need to run as fast as you can. I luckily didn’t get clipped by any crazy motorists and made it on time to class.

Business Spanish is going to be really interesting. We went over the syllabus; it looks like a lot of vocabulary but all of it will come in handy when doing business overseas. We did our usual introductions, and got to leave a few minutes early. Our conversation class was cancelled because she had a department meeting so I finished class early and had a lot of time to hang out.

I took my first nap of the trip, which was awesome. I woke up in time for lunch and luckily people were waking up around the same time I was so I had some people to sit with. After lunch, I went with Caroline to get a phone with her before our tour of some of the old buildings in Valencia. I am trying to make it as long as I can before I get a go phone here. Its been pretty liberating not having one. I’m not constantly worrying about texting or calling people here; if I see them, I see them and if not it’s not the end of the world.

The tour was incredible. I haven’t had the ability to go inside any of the historic buildings so I really enjoyed it. We started off at the old commercial center. Valencia used to be huge for trade because it is on the Mediterranean and merchants from Africa, Europe and Asia would all come to Valencia. After a guided tour that was really interesting, we headed off to big towers on the riverbed called Los Torres. We got to climb the steps to the top and the view was incredible. The sun was just setting and we could easily see the entire city. We all snapped a bunch of pictures and made our way back to the dorm.

Dave and Mary Claire called an informal meeting to talk about possible solutions that we can propose to switch the Friday schedule that they have. I thought it was going to be pure pandemonium but it was actually really organized. Everyone took their turn talking and we brainstormed some really cool ideas. Dave, Molly and Hope are all meeting with Dr. Baker soon to discuss options. We finished the meeting just in time to scarf down dinner and continue our night activities. I was still feeling a little tired from my lack of sleep lately so I decided to stay in. I hung out in Laura’s room with about eight other people and turned in early for the night. My bed felt so good.

My pictures are from el centro commercial. Also, I have a function on my camera that allows me to take panoramas. The panorama is from The Towers we visited last.

January 26

I woke up reenergized and ready to start day two of classes. After all, I got more sleep than any other night so far. Diego, Joe and I decided to walk to class and left in plenty of time to get there. Traffic was normal as usual and the sky was overcast. It was noticeably cold, and I zipped my jacket all the way up as we crossed over el Rio. Because all three of us weren’t completely familiar with the most direct route, we ended up showing up a little late.

By the time we got there we were still missing five people. Our teacher Celia (because professors prefer us use their first names here) said not to worry she just wanted to make sure that no one was lost. After about ten minutes the five that were missing arrived in one piece, but not after being lost for an hour. The class seems like it will be really challenging but still very informative. We are required to read all different types of literature and analyze it. We went through introductions like we had in our class the day before and ran through our syllabus. She released us about forty minutes early.

I didn’t get a chance to get any breakfast and we had some time to kill before our culture class started. Mary Claire and I found a little coffee shop and had a cup of coffee. We walked back to our building and had about five minutes before our next class started.

Our next class looked so interesting; it’s a culture class that covers just about everything. For example today we talked about differences between common practices in the U.S. and Spain. Only a few that I can remember that we listed are in Spain you don’t leave a tip, its not considered impolite to not hold the door for a woman, and you don’t need to say thank you for simple things like passing the salt. I can’t wait to keep taking this class because I feel like it will be a “manners class” for lack of a better term with some other helpful information tossed in the mix too. We have been assigned a three person assignment that has different things we need to find out by asking other Spanish people such as like 5 things that Spanish people think will bring you bad luck and plenty of others. Our group figured we would just bring it out with us on the weekend and give us a way to start conversation with some of the students here.

On our way back from class a few of us stopped in to a small little store that sold school supplies and I picked up some notebooks and an agenda. When we got back, we went straight to lunch because all of us were starving. It reminded me of home, penne pasta with marinara sauce and loaded with Parmesan cheese. It’s exactly what I needed. Sean, Joe and I left more than satisfied. I came back, got on the computer and called Laura.

After I talked to the lady friend, I updated the blog and then headed down to the lobby at 5:00 to head to the Joaquin Sorrolla exhibit. Sorrolla was a famous painter that did most of his work in the late nineteenth century, early twentieth century. Bancaja, a pretty big bank chain here, hosted the Sorrolla’s exhibit, which came all the way from the Hispanic Society of America in New York. For this society he was asked to paint huge wall sized pictures of different cities all around Spain to be placed in the museum. Words or pictures can’t justify how awesome it was (plus we couldn’t take photography). I have never really appreciated art like I did when I visited this exhibit. My favorite painting he did was either la pesca del atun (Tuna Fishing) or Los Bolos.

I left feeling pretty worldly and good about myself. We went back to the dorm, had dinner and hung out in our room for a while before we went to O’haras. This small owner operated bar about two doors down from our dorm. About twenty of us went which was so much fun. I like going out because after a few beers everyone tries a lot harder to only speak in Spanish. We have all been having a great time.

January 25

I woke up to Joe telling me that I had fifteen minutes to be in the lobby before we left for class. I quickly showered, got dressed, and rushed down to the lobby to meet everyone else. Luckily, I didn’t miss anything and we left about two minutes after I got there. Aitor (I just recently found out that it is spelled with an A in front) started leading us through the historic district toward el Rio. It was spitting rain here and there but we didn’t care because we were so excited for our first day of classes.

The walk is a good twenty five to thirty minutes away from the dorm but Aitor didn’t really know where we were going because he has been the director for the Seville program in years past. It took a lot longer than it should have. The campus is in a more modern looking part of the city. While it is really cool, I’m so glad that we are actually living in the historic district!

When we got to the building, we waited in the lobby for about twenty minutes I think because the faculty was running a little behind. When most had assembled we were led to a room where each teacher stood up and gave an overview of the concepts and requirements for the course. All of our teachers our University of Valencia faculty and barely speak any English so we are required to speak only Spanish.

The weirdest part is that I understood what they were saying. None of them speak too fast and they pronounce everything very clearly for us to better understand. We got our schedules at about 10:30 and were told if we had class still that day we need to go. We were all pretty disappointed to see that all but two of us had class on Friday, preventing us from a three day weekend of traveling but nonetheless most people were excited to start learning. However I am one of the lucky two that has a three-day weekend. My schedule is as follows:

Monday and Wednesday: SPAN 4150 (Business Spainsh) 9-10:30

SPAN 4010 (Linguistics/Composition) 12:30-2:00

Tuesday and Thursday: SPAN 3030 (Intro to Literature) 9-10:30

SPAN 4120 (Spainsh Culture) 10:45- 12:15

Since I didn’t have class until 12:30 along with about six of us, we decided to walk back and kill some time at el Rio. We made the ten-minute trek and started exploring. It was so cool. There were rows of fountains everywhere lined with Valencian orange trees. We continued along and came across a huge rope jungle gym. Some people climbed but I just stayed on a park bench and watched, I was feeling pretty tired and only felt like sitting on one of the benches that lined the edges of the playground. After exploring for about forty-five minutes we started heading back to our building.

Maria Estellas is our teacher for our Composition class. It was hilarious because she is an older woman but still very good looking so all the guys fought for seats in the front of class and were mesmerized when she started teaching. I think she likes Diego. Our first class was awesome; she was so easy to understand and really captured everyone in the room. We just reviewed some basic differences between Spanish in Spain and Latin American Spanish, went around and introduced everyone, and got to leave.

We all left so excited about how cool our class/teacher was. We found our way back and went straight to lunch (my stomach had been making noises all class which was pretty embarrassing). I devoured lunch then came back to the room and hung out for a while in my room before our optional planned activity for the evening: a scavenger hunt.

Even though it was rainy and cold out, I decided to bite the bullet and go on the scavenger hunt anyway. There were about twenty of us in the lobby so Aitor split us up into groups of four to five people and gave us a sheet with a bunch of objectives on it. Of course the objectives were in complete Spanish and consisted of taking pictures at different random landmarks all over the city. We also had some tasks that included asking Spanish people what certain words meant and things a long those lines.

Our group (Me, Ashley, Caroline, Dave and David) started off pretty fast paced and finished the first objectives pretty quickly. Then it got colder and the rain picked up a little more. We continued on but definitely at a snails pace. After finishing all the objectives we headed back only to find that someone had beat us. While I wanted to win, I was glad that I got to experience the city more by walking around.

We got back at seven and almost immediately had a meeting where we discussed the rest of the optional activities for the week. They seem really cool. They include trips to museums, pick-up soccer games, etc. After the meeting dismissed we went to eat all together. We were all so starving and barely said a word but inhaled everything. I had a hamburger with French fries and a Spanish take on pizza bread that had bacon on it and was delicious.

Once we were finished with dinner a few of us hung out in our room for a while. We played some pool downstairs. It was so good to just have a low key night. A few of us went to a bar and just had a beer and talked about how crazy this whole experience had been and how much we had changed (I think for the better) in just 6 days of being away from home. I practiced my Spanish with a few people in the bar which is always a challenge but so fun. Some of the people with us got pretty hungry and we decided to check out all of the local’s favorite fast food restaurant Doner Kebab. They served two things that are out of this world: a Spanish meat lover’s pizza and a meat wrap with veggies and sauces on it. I went for the pizza since I had already had a bite of someone’s wrap. I don’t have a favorite between the two but I wish they would open one in the U.S.

After we chowed down, we walked all two hundred yards back to our dorm and headed to bed. My bed felt so good and had no trouble falling asleep.

January 24

I woke up around lunchtime feeling energized and ready to spend my first full day in Valencia. I wasn’t too hungry but decided to eat so I could hold myself off until our late dinner at 8:30. I’m not sure what the name of the food was that I had but it was basically a Spanish version of a salsbury steak. I sat with a bunch of people but mainly talked to Dr. Baker about slang Spanish and popular expressions to use here as opposed to else where.

Next, a group of like six of us decided to take the afternoon to go explore the city for ourselves. The historic district that we are staying in is incredible, there are so many ancient buildings (churches, museums, etc.) surrounding our dorm. We started to wander and any cool building that we saw we would head toward it. We came across la Plaza de la Reina (where our bus dropped us off when we first arrived). It was such a beautiful day outside that we decided to sit outside in the plaza and have a coffee.

We ended up having the funniest conversation about our favorite Disney movies and just enjoyed the day. Everyone is kind of in the same boat in that we all are so excited to be here. Even though I haven’t known many of them for too long, I still feel like I have a close relationship with everyone on the trip. We felt some raindrops so we decided to get even and keep moving on. At another end of the Plaza is the San Miguel Basilica so we decided to head that way and check it out.

Being a Sunday I thought we would be able to go inside and check it out if there were no services in session. When we got there we were surprised to see that it was closed. I asked a lady in a small shop right next to the Church if it was possible to go in and she said that they are going to open at five. We had forty five minutes until it opened so we explored a little more of the streets.

We definitely looked like dumb American tourists with all of our cameras in our hands, but it was so worth it. So many of my pictures turned out really cool. When it was five, we headed back toward the Basilica but once again were surprised when it hadn’t been opened yet. The Valencia soccer game was on TV though and some people wanted to watch it, not to mention the sky was getting a little darker and rain was close. We decided to come back when it was more convenient.

When I got back to the dorm I got a chance to Skype the family back home. It was really good to see everyone. Without all of the technology these days, I would feel really homesick. I filled them in on all of my happenings for about thirty minutes. I didn’t have much time before dinner so I rushed to write my blog but it took forever because I kept getting sidetracked.

For dinner I had a really good soup with noodles and vegetables (go figure I eat veggies over here). I felt reenergized after dinner and wanted to hang out with everyone. A large group of us headed to an Irish bar called Finnegans to watch the Colts game. Molly is from Indianapoils and is a die hard fan so I decided to pull for the Colts. Even in Valencia of all places I saw an obnoxious Jets fan. He was a loud obnoxious Italian looking guy. Every time the Jets did even the slightest thing good, you would hear him screaming and clapping with excitement. By the end of the game his happiness had faded and I was relieved the Colts won.

Caroline had prearranged meeting at Max Max with some of the American students that live here that we met in Madrid to watch the Colts game. Caroline, Ashley, Diego and I decided we would try and find it, not knowing how far it was. Caroline did some research while we were still at Finnegans and got an address from a bar tender and set off on our way.

It was raining but only a drizzle so it felt kind of good to walk through it. By this time it was 12:30 and the city was absolutely dead. Literally the four of us were the only ones on the street minus a random car driving by. We crossed over an area in the middle of the city called el Rio that is a dried out river bed that they turned into a park. It was dark and pretty unlit at night so we decided to stay on the safe side and check it out the next day.

As we were walking we came to la Mestalla, the Valencia Club soccer team. While it only holds 55,000 people, it was huge. We are all going to a game February 4th and I can’t wait! After looking for about thirty minutes we finally found the bar and sure enough the only people in the bar were the Americans that we had been scheduled to meet.

We watched most of the game and had a few beers but left in the fourth quarter because it was so late and our first day of class was is in the morning. I got home, and went to bed. I was anxious to experience my first day of class and couldn’t wait for the morning.

January 23

Every day I wake up I experience the weirdest feeling. I open my eyes thinking I’ll see my bedroom in Athens and wake up from this dream of a trip. Didn’t happen today. Luckily I still have three months left.

I woke up to Joe telling me we had thirty minutes until checkout. Luckily Ryan had the foresight to suggest we pack the night before so all I needed to do was take a quick shower and lug my bags down the three flights of stairs to the lobby. I got on the bus eagerly, excited about the prospect of going to another city.

I took a window seat next to a really cool girl named Caroline from Charleston. I have really enjoyed taking every opportunity that presents itself to try and meet someone new. While I have only known some people for four days, I have developed some really good relationships. We all got situated and at last we were headed to Valencia! As we started our trek out of Madrid I noticed there are no suburbs (which I think is a pretty common theme for all of Spain). Once you leave the actual city, there is an area of low income, high-rise apartments and after that, there is nothing but highway until the next city. I can’t get over how beautiful everything is. Simple little things like a grassy pasture or a small farm storage barn look plain to anyone that has grown up here but to a foreigner they are so scenic.

I was pretty exhausted from the night before so I had little trouble passing out. About an hour and a half later I woke up to the bus getting off the exit toward a rest stop called Area 175. Everyone that was hungry grabbed some food or drink and we hung out there for about thirty minutes. The french fries were delicious. After we had finished, we all loaded back on the bus. For the last two hours of the ride we all talked together and joked about just about everything. Liza, a phi mu from Columbus, started a game of “would you rather.” The funniest situation that Liza said was, “Would you rather burp rainbows or fart confetti?” I think I’d choose the confetti. The comic relief made the trip go pretty quick.

At last we had reached Valencia! Our bus got as close as it could to our dorm as we could. We unloaded at a roundabout in la Plaza de la Reina about a half mile down a small street from our dorm. It was definitely a LONG half-mile; my arms felt like Jello after carrying everything that far. We all packed in the lobby of the dorm, el Rector Peset and anxiously waited to get our room keys. This dorm puts every UGA dorm to shame. The dorm is two buildings connected by an outdoor courtyard. As we received our keys we were funneled one by one out to the courtyard where about twenty-five students showered us with a round of applause. We had to scream our names to them and they all applauded.

It was so cool. It kind of broke the uneasiness about being here and allowed us to meet some really nice people too. A lady showed us to our room. Most of the guys have a first floor room; we have an entire wing of the dorm just for us. Our rooms are humongous and each one has a bathroom too. Everyone was so excited to get such a cool setup with our rooms that I kind of felt like a kid in a candy shop. Everyone that came into our room said we had one of the biggest which was pretty good.

After about twenty minutes we all met in the lobby and got a grand tour. There is a whole floor of study lounges, a gym (on our floor), two living rooms and a cafeteria. The rest of the night we had nothing scheduled to do. A few of us decided we would explore a little and look for a Corte Ingles to buy some simple necessities for the room like shampoo.

When we left, the sun had just gone down and the city had come alive. It is beautiful. Our dorm is situated right in the heart of the city. Valencia has a very similar style of architecture but since it is a coastal town there are huge, well lit palm trees that line the streets. It sounds cheesy but it really is breathtaking. Corte Ingles had a very similar layout as the one we went to in Madrid. We went to the basement to the supermarket, bought our supplies and headed back toward the dorm to grab some dinner. After I got back, I set up my Internet connection on my computer and got to call everyone. Laura and I got the chance to Skype and actually talk to each other for the first time since I had left.

I was nervous about the food. People that had gone on the same trip last spring said that the food was pretty awful. In the cafeteria there is a counter where two ladies stand and serve food. Every meal has two options for the main course so it was pretty easy to find something that I could eat. Much to my surprise the food was awesome. I had some really good vegetable soup and with bread.

I headed back up to the room and got ready to go out. A few people came to my room and we hung out for a while before some of the Spanish students invited us to a bar close to our dorm. The bar was extremely small but had the best prices on beer that I have seen so far. It was only two euros for a pint of Amstel or Guiness. The Spanish students have exams going on right now but there were still a good bit of people that took a break from studying and came to meet us. I really enjoy talking to the students because it’s a good way to learn the popular slang expressions. We all hung out there for about two hours; as some of the Spaniards started to leave, we all decided we wanted to find a Discotheque. We went to a huge bar that I didn’t catch the name of but it was absolutely packed. The dance floor was huge and we all migrated that way.

The rest of the night out was a blur, we danced and met so many people including some Americans from just outside Indianapolis. We all headed back to the dorm around four. Some of the Spanish students were playing xbox in one of the living rooms. They didn’t play FIFA, they played another soccer game that was very similar but had different game controls. The night was awesome. All of my thoughts about Valencia were way surpassed. I can’t wait until I know my way around!

January 22

After breakfast, Taylor and Mary Claire (both from Highland Park High School in Dallas) and I decided to go find a cup of coffee and explore the city. After walking for about a mile or so, we stopped at a coffee shop named Café Cotidano and had a cup. We decided after about fifteen minutes later to leave and keep walking around. Since none of the three of us had slept, Mary Claire decided she wanted to go back to the Tryp Gran Via. After we walked her back Taylor and I walked for a while and came across an entire district that is undergoing a major renovation. There was a side street that we decided to head down and actually came across an Art School. Some students were standing outside and we started to talk to them and ask where they are from.

Most people I have come across I think get pretty frustrated with my Spanish. If they speak English they quickly inform me that they speak English. It kind of stinks having to explain to them that I need to practice my Spanish. I met a student from North Carolina but had grown up in Madrid. After talking to them for about thirty minutes, we set off back to the Hotel. It was a really cool experience. I feel like my Spanish has gained leaps and bounds in only the three days that I have been here. Once we walked what felt like three miles we got back to the Hotel and took a much-needed nap.

I woke up a few hours later and we were all pretty hungry. We had heard about a great sandwich called el Museo del Jamon (the Ham Musuem). The group of us that decided to go was Joe, Ryan, Kristen (she went to South Forsyth High School and lives about a mile and half away from me) and Sean (a really cool, quiet kid that is so nice). It was about a five-minute walk through la Plaza del Sol.

I felt really unwelcome the entire time I was there. The restaurant was three stories tall. In the basement there was a quick serve bar that you could walk up to and order. The guy working there told us that we needed to go upstairs to get the food. We were unsure why but listened to him and went up a flight of stairs. At the second floor we stood in line for about five minutes before we had a woman come up to us and said that we needed to go up one more story to get our food. We went up again. I felt like they didn’t want to deal with us so they just kept passing us off to the next person because we were American. At the top of the stairs there was another line. We were second in line, but trying to scope out how long it looked like the wait would be, I went took a few steps forward and leaned to see around the corner into the main room. The group in front of us had a grumpy old man with a cane it. He started yelling at me saying he was first in line. I told him I understood and was just looking at how long the line was. The man kept making comments about stupid Americans. I told him that I loved his country. He sarcastically replied, “I love America!”

I’m not to sure what warranted his hatred toward us but I tried to shake it off. After getting a seat, it took about another ten minutes to see a server. I ordered two bocadillos (it basically means a sandwich on a hoagie roll), I got one that was chorizo (a spicy sausage) and the other was ham. While I was disappointed it didn’t come with cheese, it was delicious.

After we left, we went back to the hotel and I decided to update the blog. Joe, Ryan, Kristen and I all hung out in our room. I have had some of the coolest conversations with some people on the trip. Even just in three days I have made so many great friends. I took a shower and got ready for dinner. The quality of dinner that has been served at the Hotel has gotten progressively worse each night. Luckily I was still full from lunch so I barely ate anything. After dinner, Itor explained to us our Itinerary for tomorrow which included the bus ride to Valencia! I have loved being in Madrid but can’t wait to get settled in to Valencia.

Some more people came and to hang out in our room until it was a good time to go out. The locals don’t even think about going out to the bars and discotheques until around 12:30. A group of about twenty people from our trip met in the lobby at 12:30 to head on out. The best strategy to pay the least amount of money is to walk as a big group and wait for the different club promoters standing on every street come and negotiate free entry and drinks. We went to an Irish bar that we had been to the night before as a whole group and hung out there for a while. Some people left in groups sporadically to continue on their way to a different bar but I stayed back with Laura, Caroline and Ashley. They are so much fun. After getting one more free drink at the Irish bar, we took off in search of the next deal.

We ran into about six others that we started our night with and went into a dark bar that was blaring American music. We got our standard promised free drink and headed to the dance floor. There were some people from California there and we dominated the dance floor. Laura tore it up with some sick dance moves. It was so hot though and the four of us decided to keep moving to another bar. We came to a bar that I had been to the night before and sized it up. We saw some Americans standing outside and asked them where they were headed. We all ended up going in. There were two guys that I met from the University of Iowa that we staying in Valencia for the semester too but we in Madrid for the weekend.

We ended up going to the basement of the bar and sitting with them and talked. By chance there were two students from Mexico that were studying in Spain for the semester too and we talked to them for a while about differences in expressions between Latin America and Spain. I thought it was so cool that we had the opportunity to do that. We ended up staying at the bar for a while. We ventured upstairs to the dance floor and I met three middle-aged men that were all from Madrid. I mainly talked to one of the guys named Oscar, he seemed most patient with my Spanish. The night finished out well, Madrid was incredible but it only scratched the surface of what is to come in these next three months.

January 21

Today I definitely did not start at my best. I woke up feeling really sick. Ryan, Joe and I decided to sleep off our jet lag. My headache from the night before definitely didn’t help my cause. At about two o’clock we all finally got up and each showered. Ryan and Joe went to a local restaurant called the Zahara Café but I decided to stay back and update the blog.

Ryan brought back Madrid’s version of the club sandwich. It was delicious. I had my first European coke (the taste wasn’t actually half bad but I compare it to a half way decent coke zero). Just an indication of how different society treats alcohol: the vending machines sell beer. We all decided we wanted to see the city and set off into downtown Madrid. Ryan ended up stopping in a store across the street name Telefonica to buy a pre-paid cell, which was an experience. The store was completely white with transparent glass floors. Its probably best described as an upscale Best Buy. We went to the associate counter at the back of the store to get his new phone situated.

I decided I was going to wait to get to Valencia to buy one. After we got his phone all loaded we stopped in a McDonalds because Joe was thirsty. Once again, this was a crazy experience. First off the only common menu item McDonald’s have between Europe and the U.S. is the McPollo. I was a little outraged that there was no dollar menu. After we left we went to the same department store/supermarket called Corte Ingles. We decided to follow in similar footsteps of the night before and get some more wine.

We walked back to the Tryp Gran Via and quickly dropped off all of our stuff before we went out exploring. We went down some side streets and came across the Plaza Mayor. It was a huge courtyard with hundreds of people passing through on their way to different shops and restaurants. There are entertainers that dress up as pretty funny American movie characters like Mickey Mouse and I even saw a midget Chewbacca. We kept going and found another side courtyard that had a Red Bull rally in it. We were late and missed the show but it was still cool seeing such a huge spectacle in such a small, beautiful courtyard.

As we retraced our steps we saw a Mariachi band playing under the Carlos III statue. They were really good. After taking a few more pictures we headed back to the hotel to be in time for dinner at 8:00. Dinner was not the best, the chicken was dry, the tilapia was cold but the chicken nuggets were great. I’ve enjoyed dinnertime though because that is like the time that everyone meets together and swaps stories with each other. One of the things I have really enjoyed is tables have four to six place settings are set up in such a way that we get to really sit with new people every night. I love talking to people about their major/minor because while we all mostly have completely different disciplines, yet we all have Spanish in common.

Itor stood up and reminded us that we had a scheduled bus tour of the city. I was really excited to see more than the two blocks around us. We got on the bus right after dinner and headed on our way. I sat next to really nice girl named Grace that went to Pius. Itor spoke on the microphone in the bus for the tour but was almost impossible to understand because he was too spoke way too fast and talked into the microphone like a snow cone. I ended up kind of tuning out the confusing Spanish and instead talked to the people sitting around me.

We stopped at Real Madrid’s Stadium, El Estadio del Santiago Bernabeu. It was huge. Ryan informed me that the reason why Real Madrid had such a good soccer team because the King had part ownership of the club and they had basically an unlimited budget to sign who they want. We only had five minutes to snap pictures before filing back on the bus toward our next destination. The streets are designed so different but welcomed. For example the stoplights don’t hang over the intersection like in Georgia, instead they are at the corners of every intersection. Another thing I like about the design of the streets is the cross walks aren’t at intersections, but rather in the middle of the block. They are huge and perfect to move the bustling crowds of Madrid quickly from side to side.

We kept driving for about five minutes and came on the King’s Palace. It was a gigantic and put the White House to shame. I found out that the King doesn’t actually live in the Palace but actually he lives north of city. After seeing a few more sites from the window of the bus, we stopped back at the Hotel and got our night started. We had about twelve people in our room this time, which was a lot of fun. I got to know a lot of people really well, for example reacquainted with a girl that went to South name Leah that worked at Kroger with me. It was really cool to talk to everyone. At 12:30 we went down to the lobby of the hotel as arranged a few hours before to meet up with the group.

After a lot of waiting I went out and met up with George from Georgia again. He told us about a bar that would give free cover charges and free drinks for large groups. About twenty of us headed that way. The sign said it was an Irish pub but it was far from it, the dead give away was the giant disco ball in the middle of the room. We hung out there for a while then headed on to the next bar. A different promoter promised us the same deal as the first and we obliged, especially because its nickname is Bourbon. It reminded me of Athens. The bouncers were mean and carded us all; I thought it was hilarious because Grace didn’t bring her ID so we had to pass back (just like Athens Bourbon Street).

After hanging out there we headed back in the general direction of the hotel; we met up with half of the group randomly down a side alley near our hotel and we all ended up having a late LATE night in our room. We were all rocking out to Lil Wayne and Diego impressed us all with some sick free styling. At eight in the morning those of us that were still awake made our way down to the lobby for breakfast. I’ll finish the rest of my eventful day with tomorrow’s post. I am having an absolute blast.

January 20

My arrival in Europe was marked by nothing but confusion. After landing on a remote runway we were shuttled on a bus (which happened to be a Mercedes, go figure) to our terminal. After the group had met up we made our way to a long security line. After a few minutes Dr. Baker realized we needed to go through a passport check two stories above where we were standing. We made our way through the line and through another security checkpoint with little delay. A group of seven of us got separated from the rest of the group but we didn’t worry because we already had our boarding pass. After we went through a maze of stairs and walkways we arrived at our gate A11. After looking around, we realized A11 wasn’t our departure gate anymore and actually we needed to go to a completely different concourse to catch our connection to Madrid. After retracing our steps for a few minutes we found our gate with an hour to spare. While it was somewhat stressful, I enjoyed being lost because it gave our group something to joke about as we frantically searched for the rest of the group.

Some of us were ready to kick off the festivities and we looked for the closest place to get a beer. Not too far from the loading gate was a small bar where about seven of us had a beer and we talked about where we had traveled before and where we wanted to visit and our expectations for the semester. I had a bartender snap a picture to remember my first beer in Germany. Everyone on the trip has been so nice. I feel like we all find comfort in knowing that everyone is going through a similar situation in leaving their comfort zone and I feel like we kind of understand each other more so than we would if we had met in Athens.

Our flight to Madrid left about twenty minutes after it was scheduled. Besides that, I have been so impressed with Lufthansa. Their service is spectacular and way out performs U.S. based airlines. For example, a flight attendant accidentally spilled a drink on a passenger. She quickly and frantically worked to alleviate the problem then promptly gave the passenger a ticket voucher for a flight on Lufthansa. While I’m not sure of the procedures for a spill on a U.S. owned airline, Lufthansa definitely has a passenger first mentality that eases everyone’s attitude on the flight. We were served Goulash for lunch; it hit the spot. On my flight I sat next to a nice middle-aged man from Milwaukee who is flying to Madrid for a week and half to work on a project with his company. He slept almost the whole time and that is about all I could get out of him. I decided the next language I am going to learn after Spanish is German. One of the flight attendants asked me what I wanted to German and I wanted nothing more than to reply to her. Being in Frankfurt and around the language made me really interested in it.

I slept for a little bit of the flight, and woke up just in time to see the beautiful snow covered mountains that line the city. After landing we went to baggage claim and everyone luckily got all of their baggage in one piece. After that we headed to what I thought was customs but actually it was the exit out. We were all pretty surprised that we didn’t even have our passport checked. We waited about thirty minutes for a charter bus that we took to the Hotel Tryp Gran Via. It took us about twenty minutes to get there. I was amazed at how well the driver could maneuver the bus in such a crowded city as Madrid.

After we checked in, Joe (my roommate for the semester) and Ryan decided instead of waiting for the old, out-dated elevator that only held two people, we would take the stairs to the third floor. Bad idea; forty three pounds never felt so heavy climbing up the stairs to room 317. We opened the room and it was a good-sized room with three twin beds. On the walls is a movie poster for Alvin and the Chipmunks 2. Our bathroom also has chipmunks painted on the walls which we all found pretty funny.

After getting all of our stuff situated, the three of us took to the streets to find a local ATM. I felt almost like I was in a movie. The sidewalks were packed and Spanish conversation could be heard everywhere. It was a very cool experience. After I went to the ATM we made our way back to the hotel, I showered and hung out until dinner at 8:00.

We met at the hotel lobby for dinner; it was good. It was buffet style with a lot of different options. I had some very good Tilapia and a spicy spaghetti mix that was also delicious. After dinner, Itor, our residential advisor, gave a quick speech on our itinerary for the next day. After that we all met and kind of talked about what we wanted to do for the rest of the night. Kristen, Taylor, Joe, Ryan and I all decided we wanted to drink a little in the room before we headed out just to avoid paying too much for drinks while we were at the bars.

We heard about a store called Corte Ingles that sold alcohol and was close so we walked over. The store was huge. It was a department store with about five stories of merchandise complete with a supermarket in the basement. Since we had no mini-fridge, we settled on some red wine. The best part of the trip to Corte Ingles was all of us using our Spanish to find a wine opener. An employee sent us up to the fourth floor and after a little looking we were successful.

We all went back to our room and we talked about just about everything. We discussed music (which I have resolved to listen to more of), books (which I have resolved to read more of), even spray on tans (which I haven’t resolved to get more of). At about 12:30 we decided to go try and meet up with other UGA people but ended up wandering around the streets looking for where they were. After about 15 minutes of searching, we gave up and decided we would find a different bar to go to. I love Madrid because not only is it beautiful during the day but at night it takes on a completely different appearance. Businesses have tons of neon signs that light up the white buildings. The side alleys are all paved in stone, which is really cool too. It is absolutely awesome.

I don’t know the name of the bar we went to because all it had was a light up Amstel Cerveza sign out front. After scoping it out we decided we would wander in. Once we got in we ordered some beer from the bar and went upstairs to a table where we continued talking. After a couple more drinks, we settled our tab and headed back toward the hotel. Taylor, Ryan and Kristen headed up to bed but Joe and I stayed outside talking to a club promoter from Georgia, the country. At this point I had the confidence to talk in complete Spanish and really enjoyed it. We met Diego, Ashley, and Caroline at the entrance of the Hotel by pure chance. They were headed to bed but we all decided to stay out for a little while longer.

Diego is the man when it comes to his Spanish speaking abilities. Both of his parents are Dominican so he is already very proficient. Club promoters kept coming up to Diego and us trying to get us to come in to their bar. Diego would always negotiate our terms for us going to their club. He would say that we were Americans and had tons of money but we wanted the girls to drink for free and us to pay no cover. It worked with two people. We didn’t pay a cent for a cover charge or for drinks the rest of the night. It was funny though because most of the music they played is popular rap in the United States. We all got especially excited when they played the Black Eyed Peas “I Got a Feeling.” At about 4:00 we started back to the hotel and I called it a night. I hope that this is only a preview of how awesome these three months are going to be. What a day and night.

Side note: I have tons of pictures that I want to post but can’t because I have a weak Internet connection from a store across the street that provides free wireless. They will be up as soon as I get to Valencia though.

January 19

I definitely experienced a lot of emotions in the days leading up to my departure for Spain. To be honest, I mostly had feelings of stress. I know that plenty of students have been in similar situations as I found myself, but I couldn’t really help but worry that I would be some crazy exception that couldn’t survive outside of the States. I was also stressed because I am very happy with how everything is going right now in the U.S. in all aspects of my life (namely my family, Laura, work, school) and I couldn’t help but worry that things may change while I’m gone.

As my Mom got home late afternoon and I loaded my 43 lb. bag, filled to the brim with my belongings for the next three months, in the Suburban and couldn’t help but feel anxious about what was in store for me this spring semester. On the way through downtown Atlanta to the airport we made a quick little detour to pick up my Dad so both my parents could send me off. While having flown countless times before, I definitely felt like a new kindergartener off to his first day of school. I was so thankful to have them both there.

My mom and I checked in with Lufthansa. While at the ticket counter, an employee gave me my first test in my Spanish proficiency. He asked if I knew the most famous church in all of Spain. I regrettably answered, “No se.” He told me he was going to quiz me when I returned and expected me to know it. I replied that I would have plenty of pictures for him. After I checked my bag, I went out curbside and said my final goodbyes to my parents. I’m so grateful to them for giving me this opportunity to experience the world like this.

After my final hugs and kisses, I took a deep breath and started toward my gate. Security was a breeze. I walked right up, emptied the contents of my pocket and pulled my laptop from my book bag for it to be checked. Smooth sailing. The one thing I can’t stand is the rushed feeling everyone has to gather all of their belongings as the stream of other passenger’s bags follow endlessly behind you. Nothing seemed to fit like it had the night before when I packed. As I frantically tried to piece together my belongings, the zipper on my book bag broke. Great. Was this going to be a theme for the trip? I called my parents as I headed toward my gate and they suggested I just go ahead and buy a new one before I got on the flight. Luckily with some fidgeting on the train to my concourse, I was able to get the zipper fully functional again.

When I got to the gate, everyone on my trip had kind of already congregated in seats close to each other. I guess we all just looked for other nervous looking students when we arrived at our gate. Everyone was so nice. I enjoyed having a couple hours before the flight to kind of size up everyone. I didn’t have a set seat in the waiting area, partly because Dr. Baker (the head of the trip) put his three carry-on bags where I had been sitting, which luckily gave me the opportunity to meet most everyone. I was reassured by plenty that I wasn’t the only one that wasn’t on their “A game” in Spanish proficiency.

6:00 p.m. rolled around and we started boarding. It was a crazy feeling walking down the on-ramp toward the entrance of the plane, I remember thinking how crazy it was going to be to not live in the United States for these next three months. The airplane was very nice. It was completely new and decked out with personal touch screen televisions in the headrest in front of us. After finding my aisle seat, I sat down and anxiously anticipated who was going to be sitting next to me. I couldn’t help but say a little prayer that the person next to me wasn’t an older man that was slightly overweight with a snoring problem.

Then Bill came to my seat. As he jammed his carry on in the stowing area above, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. My prayers had been answered: an older man that was slightly overweight with a mustache (snoring problems). In all fairness, he was a very nice man. I found out that he works for the U.S. Justice Department and is on his way back to Bosnia, where he has been working for three years. As the plane boarded and started its departure, I noticed the plane was only about half full. As soon as the fasten seat belt sign came off I quickly told him I was going to find a seat where I could lay out. I could tell he thought that was a good idea. I moved to the middle row and sat an empty seat over from a kid from Florida named Ryan who is on the Valencia trip with me.

We had a long but good conversation about our families, sports we played in high school, places we wanted to see while we were in Europe, etc. We both laughed to each other as we heard Bill’s first series of snoring. Dinner was very good. I decided to go with the pasta option, which turned out to be baked ziti. After dinner I plugged in my airline issued headphones and searched for a station that could help put me to sleep. I landed on a station with a hypnotic sounding male voice describing a relaxing journey through a small town in the alps country side. It was kind of crazy but actually very relaxing. I didn’t have much trouble falling asleep.

I was woken up every forty-five minutes or so by a crying baby in the back section of the plane which was pretty annoying. After four hours of off and on sleep I decided to open my computer and start my first entry for my blog. Right now we are about an hour and a half away from Frankfurt and are just passing over the British Isles. Its 7:08 a.m. in Frankfurt right now. I cannot wait to get to Madrid and to start this incredible experience.