Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Classes at the CLM in Granada

This past month has gone by so quickly, mostly thanks to my classes... I can't believe October is nearly over already!

Here is my schedule...

8:30AM - 10:30AM - - Writing and Speaking Practice
4:00PM - 6:00PM - - Spanish Grammar

8:30AM - 10:30AM - - Spanish Literature (up to the 18th century)
10:30AM - 12:30PM - - History of Art in Spain
4:00PM - 6:00PM - - Spanish Civilization and Culture

(No class on Fridays!)

Overall my classes haven't been too bad. I really like my grammar class, but so far my favorite is the literature one. Unfortunately we're only reading excerpts of books and poems and such... I still have yet to read a book in Spanish!

I was super disappointed to find out that there are practically no international students at the school here. There might be some in the highest levels (I made it into upper advanced/level 6, out of 9)... but I'm not sure. Basically everyone is from the US though and there are tons of girls. In Aix and Málaga there were plenty of international students... I really miss that aspect of being in school in another country.

Everything's been pretty smooth though and I'm still learning a lot.
This Thursday my history of art class is even going on a trip to la Alhambra to check out its architecture!

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Upon our arrival to Granada, everyone was finally divided up to go and be with their host families.
This time studying abroad, however, I decided to live in a residencia, which has basically turned out to be somewhat of a return to dorm life.

Because there have been multiple groups of ISA kids who seem to never stop arriving here in Granada, I'm not sure how many of us are in the residence, but it seems like it's around 15-20. There are tons of Spanish students here, and it's hard to tell (because some people here speak Spanish really well) but the number of international students seems to be pretty small in comparison. (I'll post some pictures and such of the residencia later on.)

On our first night were taken out by the Spanish students who have already been living at the residencia. They told us to wear pajamas, and when we all met up they drew N's on our foreheads (N for novato, the equivalent of Loser, basically), and then marched us around town. We had to sing songs as we walked, and if we were caught not singing, they drew on our faces more. Some of the guys also sprayed wine on the new students and it was a little bit traumatizing, haha.

The picture here is us ISA students who decided to attend! Although the girl in the middle is actually a Spanish student and a new arrival too... she wasn't very happy about all that was happening to us. (Luckily we at least avoided getting soaked with wine.)

The Spanish students dragged us across town to a popular place where university students like to hang out and drink before heading out to bars and clubs. When they were done with us they left us there to find our way back to the residencia... and of course we got a bit lost. It was an experience to say the least! In a way, I think those Spanish students probably considered it to be more humiliating to us than we felt it was... it was more silly than anything. Apparently this is standard Spanish initiation that students go through when they begin university life though! And indeed there have been plenty more groups that I've seen around town since then doing the same thing.

Pre-Granada: Madrid & Toledo

My semester here in Granda is finally getting underway, but before I even got here with my new ISA group, we stopped in Madrid and Toledo together for a few days to go sight-seeing.

I'd like to say that my flights went smoothly, and for the most part they did, however when flying from New York to Madrid, our flight was delayed two hours because one of the plane's wings was missing a part. It wouldn't have been so bad if it was a simple delay, but they didn't tell us this until after we had already boarded the plane... so we were forced to sit there until someone went and bought the part, brought it back and installed it. Our time sitting on that plane went from seven hours to nine hours... talk about uncomfortable.

This made me a bit late getting to Madrid and meeting up with ISA, but eventually I made it and together we all went to our hotel.

Madrid itself was super cool and it was a little disappointing that we only got to spend two days there. It felt like there was so much to see and do, but not nearly enough time. We took a quick bus tour around the center of the city, and went to the Prado and Reina Sofía museums, which are pretty well known.

I got to know some of the girls in our program and we walked around the city a little bit, got drinks and tapas one night, got lost finding our way back to the hotel another night... it was somewhat overwhelming. Although I wanted to spend more time there, I'm also glad I didn't choose to study in Madrid, especially now that I've seen Granada.

After our stay in Madrid we hopped right over to Toledo, which is a super beautiful town that used to be the capital of Spain. (But again, total bummer that we weren't able to spend more time there or see more sights...)

We spent the day hiking through town together, visiting old churches and learning about King Fernando and Queen Isabel, and then were later turned loose to explore a bit on our own.

We spent the rest of the night at our hotel, and a small group of us went out to get dinner together. The hotels we stayed at were really nice, although it was difficult getting an Internet connection, or else I would have updated on all of this sooner. So much has been happening, and I don't want to get too behind in keeping up with my blog!

We only stayed the night in Toledo, and the following morning we finally set out for Granada.... by this time all of us were ready to see where we would be studying and living and unpack and get settled in at last...

There wasn't much in the way of scenery when we first set out on our bus trip from Toledo, but there were certainly endless rows of olive trees all over Spain... and as we got further south, there began to be a lot more mountains... it's not easy to describe just how lovely the south of Spain is.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Quick Stop in the US

I needed to go back to the US for a couple of weeks between my two study abroad programs in order to pick up my Spanish visa so that I could study in Granada during the fall.

Getting home was quite an ordeal - I left Málaga around 7:00PM on the last Friday in August and didn't return home until around noon the following Sunday, thanks to long layovers and delayed flights.

But, it was nice to be home! There are always things you miss when you're abroad... friends and family, certain foods, even the lifestyle.

So, Dad and I went up to New York City to pick up my visa, and I just wanted to share a few of the pictures from our time there. We ended up getting a parking ticket, although Dad just e-mailed me saying that he managed to appeal it - so everything went really well, honestly! We stayed the night at Aunt Joanne's house, made our way to the city, got my visa without any troubles, and even went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for a little bit.

Catching Up: Final Pictures and Thoughts

I was not ready to leave Málaga and I still miss it, my host family, my roommate and the friends I made, the food, the weather... everything went by so quickly but it was a great experience and it definitely prepared me for my following semester in Granada. I feel a bit guilty for being so slow to update this, so here are some final pictures from Málaga that I really wanted to share here.

The courtyard at school, just outside of the classroom where I had all of my classes.

My class, with our first grammar teacher. Julian, Sandro, Mary, myself and Ayako (and Dustin is missing, he took the picture because he didn't want to be in it).

Mary and me at the front of the UM building on the last day of class.

Gen, Mary, myself and Bridget - our last night in Málaga together.

I had a great view out my window and was always taking pictures of the sunrises and sunsets.

There were a few ways to get from our apartment into the main part of Málaga, and this was one of my favorite ways.

This guy spoke French fluently and I regret not trying to practice speaking more with him. My mind has been so set in Spanish, and it was hard to decide whether to practice both of them or try to focus only on Spanish.

Down at the port - this reminds me a lot of the pathway that they have in Nice.

Jasmine flowers. They smell so good - there are tons growing in the south of Spain and they're treasured in Málaga (there was even a man selling porcelain Jasmine jewelry down at the port).

Another view of the port, when we took a boat ride around the coast. Málaga was like a paradise! The port especially was really pretty, and apparently they only just recently fixed it up.

All in all Málaga was an incredible and unforgettable success. It was the most hectic mix between studying and having fun that I've ever experienced. And for as much as I saw and did, I'm especially glad at how much Spanish I learned... I honestly wish I could study a month abroad like this every summer!

Catching Up: Visiting Nerja

My roommate Mary and I took two separate trips to a town close by to Málaga called Nerja.

The first time we went, we went with a group of international students & Málaga locals through an intercambio program. We all went together to the Río Chillar, and hiked through it all day (about three hours each way). The trip totally demolished my shoes but these kinds of hiking trips are always such a cool time.

It was super pretty there - surrounded by mountains and full of trees, and the river got deeper and more difficult to manage the further we went.

Our ultimate destination was a waterfall and a pool to swim in - so worth the hike! It was so secluded and peaceful, but at the same time it was kind of incredible how many other people were there too.

A couple days later Mary and I went back to Nerja, this time to see the large cave that's there (Nerja seems to be really well known for its natural features, such as that cave, the river, and its beach). The cave was awesome and a lot bigger than we expected. There was a huge pillar in the center of the final room, which is supposedly the biggest known rock column formation in a cave in the world.

Catching Up: Feria de Málaga

Well my time in Málaga has come and gone but with how busy I've been and how shaky my access to Internet has been, I haven't had much time to sit down and blog about everything that's been happening.

Still, there are some things from Málaga that I didn't get the chance to talk about here, and I want to get a few posts down summarizing things before I continue on to my time in Granada.

Málaga's Feria happens once a year in August, so I was lucky enough to be there for it! It was a truly hectic time, and it lasted a full ten days. Everyone was always asking whether you preferred Feria by day or by night... and it was hard to decide, to be honest.

It began on a Saturday night in the middle of August (on the day of my host mom's birthday actually) with a bunch of fireworks down by the beach. The next morning there was a horse parade followed by the raising of the Spanish flag, and things got into full swing.

By day, the center of town was packed and absolutely crazy. So many women were dressed in such beautiful dresses:

It was quite difficult getting around the main streets in the center, and some of those streets were really large. There was just so many people, all out drinking and dancing and singing and shopping. It was actually pretty impressive how well the cleaning crews around Málaga kept everything clean. By day the streets were literally sticky with alcohol. They had a (very very sweet) white wine called Cartojal that they drank specifically during this time.

By night, most people took buses and taxis to go outside the city to a massive fairground. There were bars and clubs and restaurants everywhere, and to add to it there were roller coasters and all kinds of attractions. We went out there a few times and I think I preferred that. For as many people as there were, since the place was so huge it was a bit less crowded, and there was a lot more to do.

We even went on a huge ferris wheel - the view from at the top was so insane. It was hard to believe how big that area was!

It was a really fun time but it was also definitely exhausting. The Spanish drank so much and stayed up so late into the night, and it was tough to even try to keep up. There were plenty of people missing from classes throughout the week, especially the German kid in our class who couldn't seem to get enough of anything. But, I'm glad I was there for it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ten days left in Málaga!

As for another quick update - I'm not sure if I mentioned this already or not, but our host mother will be moving to Barcelona early in September (after Mary and I have finished our program in Málaga).

But, so yesterday they turned off the Internet at our apartment, since she'll be leaving there soon. Not that I've been doing the best job at keeping this blog updated, but things are going to get a bit slower as far as communicating and such goes. Luckily the ISA office here has wifi, and so do a lot of cafés, but otherwise I won't be spending as much time blogging or uploading pictures and things. Which is probably for the best - I feel like there's so much left to experience here in Málaga!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just a quick update-- one of the girls in our program had her purse stolen... which had the keys to her homestay, her wallet, cards, money etc., cell phone, camera... she and her friends fell asleep on the beach and by the time she woke up, it was gone.

It's really too bad for her, but it was a great wake-up call to the rest of us, that this can happen to anybody.

On the plus side, they decided not to make her pay for a new lock and sets of keys to her homestay... but losing all of that stuff is super unfortunate! Especially after only about two weeks abroad, for her first time. It's just a good thing that more of their stuff wasn't stolen as well.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Catching Up: Ruins & Bull Fights

A few days ago our ISA group took a trip to the ruins of a sort of fortress here in Málaga called the Alcazaba. It turned out to be a really neat mix of Muslim and Roman architecture, since it was inhabited by the Muslims and then later by the Romans, who adapted and added to it.

A model of the the way the city and the Alcazaba used to look - higher up on the hill/mountain is a castle.

Some views of Málaga from up in the Alcazaba.

The architecture and design of the place were all really cool. There are orange trees growing all throughout the place, which apparently is a Muslim tradition.

A keystone! : )

Most of the trees and other green stuff wouldn't have been growing there long ago... supposedly the place where the garden is is where the soldiers used to train. But it still looks really beautiful nonetheless.

There were lots of slots carved into the ground all over the place for water to flow through, and some of them even had water actually flowing through them.
Farther into the Alcazaba, we got to go into the palace where the Sultan would live during times of peace, and there were plenty of pools and fountains, since they considered water to be so valuable and important.

We only got to spend a couple of hours there which wasn't nearly enough time to explore everything and take pictures, but instead of staying longer, Mary and our friend Genesis decided to go to some bull fights instead.

There's a bullfighting ring less than five minutes from our apartment, and every year around the time of the Feria de Málaga, they host bull fights for a couple of weeks. Last week all of the bull fights were free since the matadors weren't professionals, and we decided to take advantage of that. (Some of the prices for the really good seats get close to nearly 200 Euros.)

The toreros were all decked out in some incredible outfits, and their sheets as you can see are bright pink. These guys would rile the bulls up before the matador came out a little bit later. The reason the fights are free was because the matadors that week were all students, and they turned out to be really young. Apparently to people like us who were just seeing a fight for the first time, it would be hard for us to really appreciate the differences between a professional and a student fighting a bull.


There was also a guy who would ride on a horse covered in armor, who would try to stab the bull somewhere near the back of the neck. The three of us stayed for two bull fights, and the first bull (the one that I have pictures of) actually knocked the horse over and pinned it against the fence surrounding the ring.

The matador! The way he held himself was really cool to watch.
After the toreros stick the bull with as many of those sticks as they can (they were barbed on the ends), this guy would come out and dance around with the bull they way they did earlier.

Apparently bulls are colorblind. The matador shakes the red sheet, which catches the bull's attention, and it charges.
Both of the matadors we saw got knocked over and beat around a bit by the bulls, but both of them just got right back up and within a couple of minutes were going right back at the bull again.
Once the matador was out, the toreros hung back most of the time and only came out to help if the bull got too out of control (like when he got knocked over).

Unlike the bull fight that I saw a couple of years ago in France, the bull fights here in Spain are like 100% more violent. Overall it was pretty difficult to watch, especially the first match, even knowing what to expect. We were sitting next to a Spanish family who seemed to think it was really hilarious at how upset we were at how the toreros treated the bulls.

Unfortunately the student matadors weren't able to kill the bulls very quickly. Both of them needed to stab the bulls at least twice with their swords, and even then it took a while for the bulls to die. They more or less had to wait for the first bull to bleed to death, and the second bull had to put up with being stabbed five times in the back of the neck before the matador hit the right spot to kill it instantly.

It was a unique experience but I'm glad that we went. The "dancing" between the toreros and the bulls could be really interesting to watch, but once they began to prepare to kill the bull it was just heartbreaking, even if they were trying to do things with grace. These fights are becoming more controversial and have been banned in a city in Spain (I forget which one though), so it seems that it's a pretty current and heated topic for the Spanish.