WAIT, I JUST GOT HERE!

Woah. It’s May already? No way, just a couple days ago I was boarding my flight to Europe! That was 5 months ago? Stopppppp.

Thinking back to my first moments here, reflecting on the months in between and valuing the last week here, there is so much that has happened that has helped to shape me as a person and teach me some valuable lessons. Moreover, I’ve learned a ton about not only Spain, but about Europe and traveling in general. There is still so much I want to see, both in and out of Spain that I truly hope I can return someday!

I’m already planning the months and even the years ahead as I prepare myself for grad school in the fall and get ready to begin my summer job. Here’s the plan:

Since I love Geneseo so much, and I really didn’t have much of a senior year on campus (½ student teaching, the other half on another continent), I am returning again next fall, 2014. Geneseo offers a unique Master’s Program in Argentina—before I go on, let that sink in—Argentina! I’ve forged some valuable friendships at Geneseo and in London as well with some WONDERFUL Argentinians that I’ve been blessed to meet within my college years, and I will be able to see them again when I do this program.

Needless to say, there WILL be a new travel blog all about my adventures there!

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Back to the school I love for another semester! And the summer!

Anyway, this program will give me my Masters in Adolescent Education: Spanish through a 1½ year intensive program. The first semester will be on campus in the ‘Seo, as usual. I will then be escaping the polar vortex winters once again next spring, departing in February of 2015 toward Argentina and staying there for a grand total of 10 months! This will most definitely improve my fluency! When I come back, I take some exams and voila! I have my Masters before the year 2016. Then the scary stuff happens…I find a real, full-time job, begin paying back student loans, pay bills, be an adult………okay let’s change the topic.

I also chose this program because the cost was not bad at all (especially compared to my Eurotrip!), I don’t have to go to grad school while I am teaching, I’ll have time to save up, and it will give me the “other half” so to speak, of the Spanish experience. What do I mean by that? Well, Castilian Spanish (from Spain) and Latin American Spanish differ greatly—from the words to the culture and the accent. A couple years ago, I had already been looking into this Master’s program, so the choice was clear when I picked where I wanted to go during undergrad—Europe, that way I could get a wide variety of Hispanic cultures.

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit.

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Argentina’s flag…Where I am going next!!

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Going to the “deep south” of South America!

The icing on the cake is that my best friend, Jess will also be joining me on this journey!!

I am going to miss my family though, since I will just get back and then have to basically leave again but for even longer. It’s so tough having to pick between career/academics and family. I figure that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and will greatly expand my career options. Besides, I’m young and not tied down by marriage and/or kids so I need to take advantage of that freedom while I can while traveling!

Okay, so that’s what’s coming up in the months and years ahead.

During my last week in Spain, I kind of studied for finals—not as much as usual because I felt pretty confident in the material. That and a combination of some senioritis. Okay, so 90% senioritis.

It was a time for farewells. A time for immersing myself into every remaining minute, savoring each moment as if it were my last one there.

It begins with the University of Alcalá graduation ceremony on Thursday. After classes, everyone was together and we let the nostalgia sweep over us as we watched a montage of the semester in pictures. We received our certificates and took some photos together as well.

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My friend and I

 

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Me and the Spanish flag ❤

 

 

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My beloved travel group! 🙂

For a writing contest, I submitted a Spanish sonnet I wrote, that I had been carefully and wearyingly editing over the past week. My effort paid off, and it won first prize!! I won a mug (they must know how much I love coffee and tea!) and a zip-up Alcalá sweatshirt.

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On our last Friday, one friend and I finally went to the Palacio Real, the Royal Palace of Spain in Madrid. It was so cool seeing the throne room and its infinitively long dining table, each piece meticulously in place. They were pretty strict on photos in there, but here it is on the outside:

And the throne room:

I stood in the literal geographical center of Spain for the last time as well, in the Puerta del Sol!

Foto: Standing in the center of Spain one last time.

We even got some world-famous churros con chocolate at the San Ginés churrería!

On Saturday, I put my nose to the grindstone (I think that’s the expression) and studied, as well as played Tetris with my suitcase. Trying to fit every item specifically in my bag, decide what to leave behind and what to keep, and try not to go over the weight limit proved to be quite a challenge.

I met a friend at the Plaza Cervantes to study a bit as well, and another one of our friends was there too—we ended up walking around a bit and getting some much-deserved froyo!

Sunday was the day I ran the Rock and Roll Madrid 10K. Given that I hadn’t trained as much as I would have liked (travel isn’t very conducive to the strict training regimens I’m used to), I give myself props for how well I did! I went at a comfortably quick speed the entire time, never felt overly fatigued, and had more than enough energy to kick it at the end (my signature technique!). The weather was gorgeous, there were lots of other crazy runners like me, and it was a great way to end my time here.

Foto: Come on, you know I couldn't leave the country without running a race first!! :)

My life goal is to run some kind of race in each Spanish-speaking country of the world. Lofty? Maybe, but I have my whole life to do it! With that said, there’s one out of 21 down! Only 20 more to go!

I was so tired after my race that I ACTUALLY took a siesta that afternoon, which I never do. After my nap though, I decided to dar un paseo por Alcalá on this beautifully sunny day and take some pictures of the city.

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Calle Mayor

 

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Don Quijote, Sancho Panza and Cervantes

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Miguel Cervantes statue at the plaza

 

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Blooming flower at the gazebo

 

 

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I’ll even miss the storks!

 

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Mi universidad (*tear, sniffle*)

I’m going to miss it here!!

 

 

On Monday, I had three finals, all of which I conquered valiantly. Let’s be real here. That night, I went to my last spinning class too, which was a little bittersweet. Bitter because it was my last one and I would miss the class in general, and sweet because the guy who teaches it is guapísimo!

Tuesday: one more final…also totally dominated. Man, I wish I could transfer my grades over!

I finished packing all of my stuff into my carry-on and purse, having to part with my beloved gym shoes. Believe it or not, that was emotionally tolling! I’m still a little scarred. These were the shoes I ran my marathon, half-marathon, 10k, 5k, and many miles of training in. However, it was time. The stuffing was worn out, holes were beginning to form, and they caused huge blisters on my feet after my Madrid race.

R.I.P. shoes. (*Moment of silence and reverence*)

Tuesday night, my host mom made me my favorite food—lemon-pepper salmon with a side salad and some cooked potatoes. I could eat that for dinner every single day if I had to! I used this opportunity of all of us together to give them a parting gift and a handwritten note of thanks. My host mom read it aloud and my youngest host brother began to cry which caused me to cry too! So many feels!!

I then met up my friends for some tapas on our last night in Spain. We went to two places altogether and shared stories of our favorite moments during our entire abroad experience. I got huevos rotos con papas at one bar and my all-time favorite tapa, croquetas, at the next.

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Huevos rotos

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I absolutely LOVEEEE croquetas!!!

A couple of us weren’t going to see each other the next day, so this night would be the last time we’d see each other. We shared hugs, farewells, tears , best wishes, and ALL THE FEELS. I’m so glad we were all able to see each other in one place before we head our separate ways.

The next morning, I met another friend of mine for our last churros con chocolate indulgence in Spain. Man, Spain does churros RIGHT. I couldn’t finish them, so we put them in a to-go container and I gave them to another friend who most definitely loves them more than I do!

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My last round of churros!

 

At the airport, even more good-byes were exchanged as one-by-one, we split off to our respective flights and obligations. The last friend to spend time with, we fought tears as we hugged and reluctantly hugged goodbye after watching Thor 2 together.

And then there was one. All alone, I began my long journey back to the states, with a number of connecting flights, layovers, long bus rides, and hours of waiting! It was okay though because it gave me time to journal, reflect, go through pictures, write my blog, read, etc. If I have things to do, I don’t mind waiting.

 

Now without further or due, my 10 favorite moments abroad! (NO PARTICULAR ORDER!)

1. Making new friends in London

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2. Scaling Montserrat

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3. Picnic in Paris

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4. Seeing a Flamenco show in Granada

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5. Going to Seville/Cadiz

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6. Moments with my host family

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7. Our last night having dinner in Barcelona

8. Running my 10K (picture above!)

9. Going to El Prado and the Reina Sofia

10. The Alcázar in Seville

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There you have it! My top ten favorite experiences and my last week in Spain!

But wait, there’s more!!

What happens AFTER returning to the U.S?

REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK!

I’ll be telling you all about that next time! See you then! 🙂

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