Author Archives: Alysha Gonzales

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Week 15 – Farewell Barcelona

Well, the time to leave Barcelona has come and gone (Sorry about my last post being late, again). This week was really stressful and emotional for me. Bank account was going down, finals this week, and having to say good by to all my friends and leaving Barcelona. I didn’t get a chance to explore Barcelona much this week, I really had to focus on my studies to make sure I did well in all of my classes. I was surprised to find that my classes and finals were more intense here than at home (in my opinion at least).

After finals were finished we had a farewell dinner with our whole program and we all ate typical spanish food one last time and talked about our past semester here and how fast it went by. Our program director also made a video for us with all of our excursions and it made me realize how many amazing trips we all took together, and how close we’ve all gotten. Leaving this amazing group of people was one of the hardest and emotional things i’ve ever had to do. We became our own little family.

Another guy in the program actually made his on video of all of us from his point of view in Barcelona and I just wanted to watch it over and over again! I can’t believe its over. I am happy to be home, but I will always cherish my time in Barcelona and the amazing people I met during my time there. I didn’t realize how much my time here had changed me. It opened my eyes to other cultures, made me more patient, more open to taking risks, and asking for help. It’s helped shape me to be a better student, and a better person.

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Week 14 – Last full week in Barcelona

It’s hard to believe that my time here in Barcelona is coming to an end. I just have this week and then its finals week. I am almost wishing I would have decided to stay through one more weekend after finals to hangout with other people in my program. I have become to close to other students in my CISabroad program and BarcelonaSAE, It feels like i’ve know these people my whole life. Leaving them and not knowing when i’ll see them next will be one of the hardest things about leaving Barcelona.

Since I had so much homework this week I didn’t get a chance to explore Barcelona much this week, but I did find out about a local hangout and awesome view point called “Bunker del Carmel.” I had time between classes one day and decided to take the easy hike up there, and oh was it worth it. It’s the best view point i’ve seen since to date of Barcelona. It made the Sagrada Familia look small! I could see the whole entire city, and I could see all the different barrios (neighborhoods).

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I also treated myself to a “fish pedi” this week, which I think may be illegal in the US? Not quite sure, but it was one of the strangest things i’ve ever done! It felt so weird knowing fish were bitting off dead skin on my feet, It took me a minute or so to stop laughing. I also went to a local brunch restaurant called “Brunch and Cake” where they only serve bunch, and all day. It was one of the best meals i’ve had in Barcelona!

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Week 13 – Vienna, Prague, and Budapest (Last weekend of traveling!)

I finally got around to seeing Gaudi’s church or otherwise known as La Sagrada Familia, and it happens to be maybe a 10 minute walk from my apartment so I see it from the outside all the time. Seeing it from the inside was just crazy, Gaudi’s work is almost unreal. Everything is so detailed, unique, and properly placed. The stain glass windows on the inside illuminate shades of a rainbow through out the church, which just adds to its beauty. The work on the church began on 19 March 1882 from a project by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. At the end of 1883 Gaudí was commissioned to carry on the works, a task that he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia

It felt like I had just returned from Morocco when I had to turn around and repack for my next trip! Myself and two other girls in my program decided to do a “mini Eastern Europe” tour for our final weekend of traveling. We flew to Vienna from Barcelona and wow is it beautiful! Reminded me a lot of Paris, just smaller but equally as “posh.” We visited a few churches and a house that was known as the “tree house” and walked around the city. The next night we went to Prague and it was an interesting city, we walked up and thru the Prague castle, saw the John Lennon wall, and the  “old town” of the city, but didn’t get to see as much as we’d like since we only had one day.

Christmas Markets in Vienna

Christmas Markets in Vienna

St vitus cathedral in Prague

St vitus cathedral in Prague

Parliament in Budapest

Parliament in Budapest

The next two days were spent in Budapest, which was definitely my favorite of the three! Everyone we met was so nice and welcoming. The buildings/neighborhoods were beautiful, food was good, and there was a lot to do. We visited the parliament, a cave church, walked around town, and went to a bathhouse. A bathhouse can vary by definition, but the one we went to in Budapest was like a huge outdoor hot tub that people hang out in, but also a spa. We all got massages, it was so relaxing. The parliament was really fun to tour actually, we got the tour in spanish to challenge ourselves…it was still quite hard to understand. I originally didn’t plan on making this trip, mostly because I had no interest or any idea what there was to do or see in these countries/cities. I am so glad that I did go though, I saw some beautiful places and learned a lot about these countries. It also hit me that my time to leave is fast approaching, and I don’t want to leave! Three months have passed by way too fast.

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Week 12 – Morocco

This weekends trip was through a non-profit organization called Morocco Exchange, and their whole goal is to give you a real non-touristy experience; which I feel like I definitely got. We missed a day of class this week in order to do the program Nov 21-24th. We arrived in Tangier, Morocco about 230 pm that Thursday and thats where we met our program coordinator Kristen, I went with a bunch of people in my program since we were all encouraged to do this particular program ( a group of about 15 people).  I went into this very open minded because I honestly I had no idea what to expect, and after weeks of traveling around Europe i’ve learned that nothing is going to be like what I expect!

Roof top of the women's center- Tangier.

Roof top of the women’s center- Tangier.

We started our trip with a drive to the local women’s center in Tangier and got to learn about the program that they have there, which is for women to come in, pay a small fee, and they are taught a skill. The main skill that was taught was two different types of rug making (modern and traditional) so that they can make a living with this learned skill. We also got the opportunity to ask anything we’d like to the women who ran the women’s center while we were eating dinner, it was interesting to learn about what they think about the U.S and current issues around the world. They were all every educated and open to answering all of our questions and I really enjoyed the time I had there.

Our room at our home stay in Rabat

Our room at our home stay in Rabat

We left that evening and had about a 3 hour car ride to Rabat, which is the Capitol where we would meet our host families for the next two nights. The drive went by fast and myself and two other friends of mine in the program grouped together for the same host family. One of the girls in our home spoke english very well, but everyone else…not so much. The language barrier was a little strange at first, but after getting to know the family and eating dinner it didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. I don’t know how to explain it, but even without being able to communicate to our “host mom” we still all felt very welcomed. The food we ate was AMAZING, possibly the best meals i’ve eaten since I started school in Barcelona. We all at together out of a communal dish, very different, but I got used to it.

dinner at our home stay

The next day we got the opportunity to hang out with Moroccan college students in the area, and I went in thinking they might be a little more conservative than maybe other students in the U.S but oh was I mistaken. They we’re all so open with everything! We talked about everything from gay rights to our favorite musicians/actors; it was so much fun and an awesome learning experience. We hung out at the beach and conversed over some hot chocolate, it was a good day. This night was our last night with our host families and it was so sad leaving, they all made me feel so welcomed and told us we could come back and stay whenever we liked.

Houses in Chefchaouen

Houses in Chefchaouen

Our last full day was spent in Chefchaouen , which is a much smaller town than Rabat or Tangier, and almost all of the houses there are painted some shade of blue and its absolutely beautiful. We got to meet with a family in a small village for lunch, we had to hike through a bit of mud since it was rainy, but definitely worth it. We all cut up bread, fruits, vegetables, and meat and sat around a table cloth and ate together. We got to ask the family questions about their lives on the farm the dad owned, and basically how life is there for them. The next morning at about 6:45 am we all woke up and went on a small hike to the Rif Mountains to see a view of the whole village from a high point, and oh was it beautiful. The sun was rising over the mountains and you could see for miles and miles. Unfortunately, after this we had to head out to the airport and back to Barcelona for the rest of our Sunday.

Village view from the Rif Mountains in Chefchaouen.

Village view from the Rif Mountains in Chefchaouen.

This particular trip was very eye opening for me, I didn’t feel like a tourist in this country I got the opportunity to feel like apart of a family and see these cities from a locals point of view. Learning about a Islamic country was so intriguing and eye opening, and it has me more of an educated person and also made me appreciate the luxuries I have in Barcelona and at home. I will definitely go back someday! I loved every minute spent in Morocco.

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Week 11 Paris

So this week was pretty normal, homework, class, coffee, and caught up on a few of my favorite American shows. In my Urban approach to Spain and Europe class we went on a field visit to the Raval neighborhood in Barcelona. This particular area is focused on art, culture, and music. It’s an up and coming part of the city, it has an urban feel to it with a mixing of low/high income residents and housing. There are a bunch of cute “artsy” shops, vegan/vegetarian restaurants, vintage shops, and graffiti in every corner. It’s probably my favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. The city has made it a priority to rebuild and bring people to the neighborhood, and it’s actually the only neighborhood in Barcelona where the foreigners outweigh the born residents with 60% of the residents being immigrants. That was the highlight of my week, and then this weekend I went to Paris! It was a really short trip though, a Friday to Sunday. I saw the Eiffel tower (of course), Norte Dame, the “lock bridge”, Moulin Rouge,  walked around downtown Paris, and the Luxembourg Gardens. We didn’t get time to go to The Louve, but definitely doing that next time I go, because there will definitely be a next time!

La Raval field visit

La Raval field visit

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Norte Dame

Norte Dame

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

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Week 10 London

This week I made a spontaneous trip to London with one of my friends here! We literally decided to book tickets/hostel just two weeks before. London was probably one of my favorite trips. I got to see and take a ride on the London eye and see a view of all of London, it was incredible. I also took the “Queens walk” where you walk along the river and see all of the bridges, graffiti, and a lot of shops. I also went to Buckingham Palace, which was beautiful but I honestly thought it would be bigger! Its crazy to think that I was right outside the royal palace. It was really nice to be able to communicate easily with everyone because they all speak English! Don’t get me wrong I love Spain, but it was nice meeting locals and being able to keep conversations going. We didn’t get the chance to visit any museums but we did stumble into a modern art gallery along the Queens walk and got to appreciate some of the local artists work. I didn’t do much in Barcelona this week, it was one of the girl’s birthdays so we all went out to dinner, and I didn’t have much homework so you could say it was a good fun filled week.

View from the London Eye and Big Ben

View from the London Eye and Big Ben

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Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

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Week 9 Amsterdam

This week consisted of midterms, and many presentations. It was a stressful week! But I got through it and I think I did pretty well on everything. But this weekends trip was to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. IT WAS FREEZING! It was still so warm in Barcelona so it was a shock to have to wear layers of sweaters. The city was beautiful, definitely a metropolitan city. We walked around and went to a cheese museum, the Van Gogh museum, the Heineken experience, and of course the Anne Frank Huis. The Ann Frank Huis was probably my favorite and most enjoyable thing we did over the weekend. I had read the book in class many years ago, but to actually be in the same house where she and her family we’re hiding back going the Holocost was just incredible. I learned so much about her family and I never knew or maybe just didn’t remember, but she ultimately wanted her diary to get published, and even though she didn’t live to see it happen, her father did and her legacy will never be forgotten.
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Week 8 – Exploring Barcelona/Granada weekend trip

Flamenco Show

Flamenco Show

This week I went to Parque de la Ciudadela in Barcelona. It’s near the El Born district and was a lot of modern art and natural beauty. The main attraction has here is the zoo, but I didn’t want to pay to go in. Near the zoo’s entrance, the famous climbable gigantic stone mammoth is there, just as the metallic cat in another perimeter of the park. One of my roommates and I just randomly decided to come visit the park one day and I’m glad we did! Also, for a class we went to an up and coming technological neighborhood called Glories and saw the use of old buildings mixed in with the new. It was pretty interesting to see. Not much happened throughout the week, just normal classes and homework.

la alhambra de Granada

la alhambra de Granada

On Friday though we had a group trip to Granada which is in southern Spain. The first thing I noticed when we got to our hotel was that there was a huge arabic feel to the area; completely different then Barcelona. We took a hike up to an arab palace built in the 9th century and it was extremely detailed, it was incredible! I don’t know how people so long ago managed to make such precise details. The palace is called La Alahambra de Granada and it has become a huge attraction to the area, for obvious reasons. We also went to a Flamenco show, and Granada is actually where Flamenco was born. Flamenco is a dance with a lot of clapping, spinning, and stomping. It’s one of the most unique thing i’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Another thing that was cool was that at the bars as long as you order drinks, you get free tapas (food); Which is a definite plus. I have been trying to use spanish more when ordering food or asking for directions, but when the locals notice that my spanish isn’t that good, they tend to just start speaking to me in english and I start speaking it back! Kinda funny actually, but at least I try!

Cathedral De Granada

Cathedral De Granada

parc de ciutadella

parc de ciutadella

Torre Agbar

Torre Agbar

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Week 7 ITALY!

This week I explored Plaza Espanya and shopping inside a mall that used to be a bull flighting ring, since its been deemed illegal in Barcelona and other parts of Spain (for animal cruelty reasons) its amazing how they used something old to make something new.  I also went to Italy a Thursday-Sunday this week and it was everything i’d hoped it would be and more. I was in Venice just for a day but I rode in a gondola in the canals, ate amazing food, and toured the city center. The rest of my trip was spent in Rome. Rome is the opposite of Venice, much busier and more lively. I visited the colosseum, saw roman ruins, went to Vatican city and went inside the Sixtine chapel which was painted by Michael Angelo and was breath taking. My favorite part was probably seeing the Trevi fountain. It was beautiful and of course I made a wish.

Trevi Fountain in Rome

Trevi Fountain in Rome

Vatican City

Vatican City

Gondola ride in Venice

Gondola ride in Venice

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Week 6 in Barcelona

I did a lot this week around Barcelona and Spain. I went to Girona on Sunday, we took the train and it was about an 2 hour ride which wasn’t too bad. The only part that was hard was being in time to make the 830 am train! We visited a jewish museum which was pretty interesting, and ate at a catalan restaurant and fell in love with catalan crema! SO GOOD. This city had a lot of roman ruins, it had a huge roman wall that spanned for miles and miles and myself and the group I went with all climbed it and the views were incredible. Later in the week I visited Parc Guell for the second time, I love it there! Gaudi a famous artist in Barcelona and the park is filled with his work/architect. I also fell in love with a Mexican restaurant here in Barcelona, it’s called Rosa Negra and they have amazing authentic tasting Mexican food! It reminded me of home, and made me miss the food we have!

Catalan Crema

Catalan Crema

Girona, Spain

Girona, Spain

Park Guell/City view of Barcelona

Park Guell/City view of Barcelona

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