I absolutely love this expression. It is used frequently in Galícia, and when translated from Gallego to Castellano, it means: “Nunca llovió que no escampara.” In English: “Never has it rained without the weather clearing afterward.” Beyond the literal meaning, this adage also has a figurative meaning. While we may face stormy days in our lives, the sun always comes out. I love it! It’s such a hopeful and beautiful sentiment. Although the weather hasn’t completely cleared here in Santiago, it’s definitely getting better. The 7-day forecast on my computer is calling for rain on Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday is supposed to be sunny! YAY!!!!!!! I will definitely be spending as many afternoons as possible outside.
Last night I went to a phenomenal concert. I had the honor of listening to/watching Ryuichi Sakamoto, a famous Japanese pianist. It was a much more tranquil concert than I anticipated. Not that I expected to rock out to Classical music, I just expected a little more loudness. Does that make sense? Anyway, Sakamoto was absolutely incredible – I was completely blown away by his brilliance. All of his songs are, as I said, fairly mellow.At first, I felt a little uncomfortable sitting in almost complete silence while surrounded by 500+ other people, but after allowing myself to relax, I found myself in a tranquil oasis of peace. There really is no other way to describe it. Although Sakamoto never spoke once (I’m thinking he probably doesn’t speak Spanish), he honestly did not need to. The music said it all. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from living in a foreign country is that there are certain universal languages that we can all speak, sometimes without even having to utter a single word. Music is one of those languages; it speaks to the heart, conveying messages that words alone cannot.
Throughout the performance, I found myself taking advantage of the tranquil ambient by praying and spending time reflecting on a few of my favorite memories. The first that came to my mind was, of course, the many years I took piano lessons. I pictured my piano teacher, Mrs. Mahoney, sitting next to me on the piano bench, counting aloud, “One and two and three and four, and one and two and three and four…” I remembered the Halloween recitals she held at her house, which always included brownies and cookies and sprite with marshmellows. I recalled my pre-recital nerves, my pre-competition nausea, and the sheer bliss of performing flawlessly. I couldn’t help but cry at the thought of such sweet memories.
All that to say, I’m treasuring this last month in Spain. I’m trying to not just taste the moments, but to savour them. I’m also counting down and really looking forward to the day I can run through the airport, drop my bags, and throw my arms around the ones I love the most. 36 days as of today.
Time flies so fast. As I plan my schedule for next semester and think about purchasing “souvenirs” for family and friends, it’s hard to believe that my time here in Spain is coming to a close. In just 40 days I will be boarding a plane to return to the United States… what a bittersweet thought that is! As anxious as I am to be reunited with my family and friends, I don’t want to wish these final weeks away.
I was fortunate enough to experience a very mild autumn here in Santiago de Compostela. There were several sunny, 70º days – which is pretty awesome for September/October! This week, however, the weather changed drastically.
Rain, rain, and more rain! The temperature has dropped to 50º (which might not sound that cold, but when you combine it with wind and rain, it becomes penetratingly cold). As much as the rain makes me want to stay inside all day, curled up on the couch reading a book, the people of Santiago don’t let it stop them from venturing out and participating in their daily activities…so neither do I!
I am really looking forward to spending a few rainy days at the theatre, watching some of the movies that are featured in Cineuropa, Santiago de Compostela’s international film festival. Every day from now until December 2nd, six different movies will be projected. Most of the showings begin at 8 pm and continue until 12 am. The best part is that each ticket only costs three Euros! I’m excited to see movies from Germany, Japan, China, France, Spain, and (of course) the US!!! Although it’s technically Cine (movie) de Europa (of Europe), there are still several American films in the program. I certainly don’t mind though; sometimes it’s nice to have a break from Spanish.
The last two weeks have been somewhat of a blur for me. I’ve been running on minimal sleep at maximum speed, but loving every minute of it. I met my mom, my aunt and my uncle in Madrid two weeks ago, and we traveled to Sevilla together to spend the weekend there. It was wonderful but – to be completely honest – I have decided that I don’t particularly care for the south of Spain as much as I adore the north.
From what I have experienced, the people are more hospitable, the food is better (especially the bread!), and the landscape is much more beautiful in Galícia. But that’s just my humble opinion.
After spending the weekend drinking sangria, watching a traditional Flamenco dance, shopping, and riding around on those oh-so-wonderful tour buses, we returned to my home sweet home: Santiago de Compostela.
I had a great time being “tour guide” for the week! I took my family to all of my favorite restaurants, bakeries, and (of course) I introduced them to chocolate con churros. I loved being able to teach them about this incredible city and to show them what my everyday routine is.
We spent our last weekend together in Madrid. The highlights of our time there included visiting El Museo del Prado, Reina Sofia (I saw Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” in-person!), El Palacio Real, and…eating THE BEST pastries I have ever had in my life. There is this amazing pastelería, Mallorquina, that makes incredible napolitanas de chocolate (chocolate-filled croissants).
They were so good that we had one for breakfast, and then decided to have another for dinner. There’s nothing like being on vacation.
I was sad to say goodbye to my mom, but I know that I will see her soon. She asked me if I wished I could go back home with her, but I honestly don’t. While I am anxious to be reunited with my family and friends in the U.S., I am very content here and not quite ready to leave. Give me two more months and I know I will be ready to come home and spend Christmastime with my family. Although there are many wonderful places in the world, there really is no place like home.
There are some lessons that simply cannot be learned in the classroom. There are certain things in life that we must experience – people we must meet, places we must travel, things we must try – in order to better understand, well, life. I know that sounds like such a simple statement, but it’s so very true! I think about what I’ve learned from my experiences in Spain (thus far), and almost all of those lessons have been learned outside of the classroom…
1.) Getting to know people from other countries has taught me that love is a universal language, and that a genuine smile goes a long way. This week two of my friends, Olga and Carina, left to return to Germany. I don’t think I processed the fact that they were leaving until it was time to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes! (Especially when you aren’t sure if you will ever see the other person again in your life!) Before she left, Olga said something that really left an impression on me. She looked me in the eyes and said, “Alex, I just think that you will always be happy. You will be happy for the rest of your life. You’re so sweet and kind and easy to get along with… I know you are going to find someone who you really love and who loves you back.” It was one of the most heartwarming and most sincere blessings that I have ever received!
2.) You have to break free from the shackles of fear in order to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. When did I do this? On Monday night, when I decided to try octopus. Yes, you read that correctly…OCTOPUS!!! I sometimes worry about trying new foods because I would hate to have an allergic reaction (especially in a foreign country), but life really is too short to let petty fears like that one get in the way of priceless experiences. Octopus actually has a great flavor! If you can get past the texture, it’s quite delicious!! I would definitely eat it again.
3.) Mastering a foreign language requires you to be confident AND to be okay with making mistakes. It’s all part of the learning process. While I don’t always perfectly roll my “rr’s” or correctly pronounce the letter “c” (it’s more of a “th” sound in Spanish), I know that I am improving every day – getting closer and closer to becoming fluent.
Well, it’s almost midnight here…so I’m off to bed! This weekend my friends and I are going to A Coruña (approximately 70 km from Santiago de Compostela) to shop. I can’t wait Next weekend I’m going to meet up with my mom, my aunt, and my uncle and the four of us are going to Sevilla!! I really can’t wait for that!!!
It’s hard to believe that I’ve officially been here, in Spain, for the last TWO WEEKS! Somedays it feels like I’ve been here much longer than that, and other days it feels like I just arrived. My Spanish has already improved immensely; I can’t even imagine what it will be like after spending 90 more days here!
A typical day in España involves…
8 am ~ Wake up, get ready for school, eat breakfast with my host family.
9:15 am ~ Leave for school (it’s a 10ish minute walk – perfect!)
9:30 am – 12 pm ~ School! Usually involves a combination of lessons in grammar, vocabulary, history, and literature. There are six other international students in my class: 2 are from Japan, 2 are from Germany, 1 is from Lithuania, and 2 of us are from the United States.
12 – 12:30 pm ~ Coffee break.
12:30 – 2 pm ~ More school. This time we focus more on practicing our speaking skills. Sometimes we have debates, sometimes we play games. My favorite game that we’ve played so far is “Simón dice” (Simon says). Who would have thought that such a simple game would be an awesome way to practice “vosotros” commands??
2:30 pm (sometimes a little later) ~ Lunch. Always the biggest meal of the day (and my favorite!).
3 pm – 7 pm ~ Hanging out with friends / walking around the city / shopping / eating churros … etc. Enjoying the beautiful weather!
7 pm ~ Homework…yes, it exists in study abroad programs too! Luckily, it hasn’t been too terribly difficult yet. When my host mom’s son, Nicolás, has English homework, I always enjoy helping him with it!
9 pm ~ Dinnertime. This has been one of the hardest things for me to get used to. I always eat around (sometimes even before) 6 pm, so waiting until 9 pm is somewhat difficult! However, as long as I have a few snacks during the day, I can usually curve my appetite.
9 pm – 11 pm ~ Watch TV, finish up any remaining homework, and read for a little while before heading off to bed! On the weekends, this is the prime time to go out for tapas.
Tonight, I went out for chocolate con churros with Cam and Ateia (the other two Belmont students who are here with me), and two girls from Japan.
We had such a great time!! Churros are, essentially, sticks of fried dough that are rolled in sugar immediately after frying. They are served with a delicious, sinful cup of hot chocolate. BUT this is not your typical cup of hot chocolate…it is infinitely richer. Almost like pure melted chocolate! It is absolutely divine. I could eat chocolate con churros every day, but I’m going to try to limit myself to once every few weeks. Or maybe once a week.
1) La Universidad de Santiago de Compostela!
2) Chocolate con Churros.
Greetings from Spain!!! I have dreamt about being in this country for years…it’s hard to believe that I will actually be LIVING here for the next four months of my life. I am LOVING everything about it so far! I arrived last Sunday, so I’ve been here for almost one full week now.
My host family is wonderful. I live with a Spanish professor, Antonieta, and her 10-year-old son, Nicolás, in a quaint apartment on Rúa do Vilar (a street that runs through the heart of the city). When I arrived in Santiago de Compostela, I was met by one of the professors at the university, Pacho, who drove my friend Ateia and me to our homes. After about 15 minutes in the car (which was actually a van…and thank goodness because I wayyy over-packed!), we turned onto a very heavily populated cobblestone road, which didn’t appear to be a road at all! It is known as la Praza de Toural – appropriately named for its popularity with tourists – and it is basically the heart of the older part of Santiago. While “older” might not sound like a good thing, it’s actually quite fantastic because I am surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful architecture. Antonieta is incredibly sweet and always wants to feed me as much as I can possibly eat. So far she’s made empanadas, tortilla española (like an omelet with potatoes and onions), homemade vegetable soup (delicious!), and chorizo and cheese grilled sandwiches (did you know that chorizo comes in deli slices, like turkey or ham? I didn’t!). I am still adjusting to the mealtimes…for breakfast we have café con leche (yes, that’s typically all), around 11:30 am we have a small meal (usually a “bocadillo,” a small sandwich) or more café con leche, around 2:30 pm we have lunch (which is the largest meal of the day ~ yesterday I ate at a restaurant and had fresh salmon, potatoes, a small salad, and gelato), another snack during the siesta (anywhere from 4 pm – 6 pm), and dinner is usually served at 9 pm. The Spaniards actually consider 9 pm to be the afternoon! Nighttime isn’t until 10 pm!! From what I can tell, the streets are fairly quiet until 10 pm, but after that…it’s crazy! There is lots of music, dancing, eating, drinking, etc. etc. etc.
Although I miss my family and friends dearly, I am really having an extraordinary time. I can already see HUGE improvements in my Spanish speaking abilities and I’ve only been here for a little over 24 hours!
In my opinion, studying abroad is the only way to completely master a foreign language. When I wake up, I speak Spanish…when I go to school, I speak Spanish (for the most part)…when I go out to eat, I speak Spanish…when I shop, I speak Spanish…when I need help, I speak Spanish…every interaction forces me to confidently step out of my comfort zone and trust myself. I also have to remind myself that I don’t have to be perfect; it’s okay if I forget a word or incorrectly conjugate a verb. Life goes on! And usually, people can figure out what you meant to say. Since she’s a Spanish professor, I asked my host mom to please correct me if I say anything incorrectly. That should be a tremendous help!
All is well in España, and hopefully it is in the United States too. Adios!
#1: The view from my window!
#2: Rúa do Vilar
#3: The famous cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
One week from right now, I will be making one of my lifelong dreams come true: I will be studying abroad in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Long before I decided which college I wanted to attend (and trust me, there were several in the running), I knew that I wanted to spend a semester studying abroad in Spain. Now that I am one week away from leaving, there is no way I could possibly put into words how ecstatic I am about the journey that awaits me.
Santiago de Compostela is located on the coast of northwestern Spain, directly above Portugal. It is known for “El Camino de Santiago,” a pilgrimage with several routes that span across Europe and all feed into one central path that begins in Paris and ends at the Cathedral of Saint James. Located in the heart of Santiago de Compostela, it is believed that this cathedral holds the remains of Saint James.
For this reason, the pilgrimage has great religious significance—especially in Catholicism. I remember the very first time I heard about El Camino…I was fifteen years old and sitting in Señora Martens’ Spanish 2.5 class. I have been enthralled by it ever since, eagerly awaiting the day that I will have the opportunity to walk a portion of the pilgrimage myself.
While I am in Spain, from September 6th until December 19th, I will be living with a host family. As if just being in the country itself wouldn’t help me drastically improve my ability to speak Spanish fluently, living with a family certainly will! I cannot wait to meet my family and to learn as much as possible from them.
I feel so very fortunate to have the opportunity to study abroad. Of course, I already miss not being at Belmont and my dear friends there, but they are all very supportive of this journey and understand how much it means to me. One of my friends, Ateia, is actually going to be studying abroad in Spain with me! I’m so happy it worked out for both of us to go during the same semester.
Well, I better go get some packing done. Stay tuned for more updates (and photos!) from Spain ~ Adios for now!
If you haven’t heard the song “Better Together” by Jack Johnson, then you should definitely check it out. It’s one of those songs that you could very easily listen to over and over again and never get tired of hearing. For me, it’s the perfect song to listen to on a warm, summer day…driving with the windows rolled down and the music turned up…without a care in the world. Of course, we are quickly nearing the end of the semester, so I still have a few “cares in the world”. Quite a few, actually. Amid the chaos and stress, I am managing to find (and treasure) peaceful moments to spend with my boyfriend and with my friends. I know that those moments will be the ones that I remember most from my college years.
Over the past two weeks, several exciting things have happened…
1.) I was inducted into the Spanish Honor Society, Phi Sigma Iota! I was so honored to be selected for induction and look forward to serving as an officer during my senior year (unfortunately, I can’t do that this upcoming year because I will be in Spain).
2.) I celebrated 6 months with Dan! Hard to believe it’s been that long already…but it has! We watched one of my favorite movies, “Chocolat,” and enjoyed chocolate fondue in honor of the occasion. It was a lovely evening.
3.) Several of my friends received an academic award! My roommate (and dear friend), Ateia, received the Larry M. Hall Underclassman Award for excellence in Political Science (yay Ateia!!); Hope received the Marietta Cook “Most Promising Freshman” Award from the Communications department (yay Hope!!); and…drum-roll please…Sarah received the “Second Year Student of the Year” Award!!! YAYYY Sarah!!! I was so proud of all of them and enjoyed going to the awards ceremonies.
4.) On Saturday, I had the opportunity to help out with the virtual tour project that Belmont’s Admissions department has been working on! Eventually, you will be able to tour Belmont by simply navigating to our homepage. It’s going to be awesome! I’m excited about being able to feel like I’m still at home, even when I’m 4,000 miles away in Spain next year!! Keep checking the website…the virtual tour should be available sometime this summer.
5.) I made a wonderful new friend! I know that this might not seem like a big deal…but I’m still very excited about it because we have so much in common!! She is also Pre-Occupational therapy, a sophomore, she loves going for walks (just like I do), and her grandparents happen to live less than 5 miles from my house in Kansas City. It’s crazy! Just when I thought that this year could not get any better…God blessed me by bringing yet another extraordinary person into my life. I’m so thankful.
While I’m excited about going home for the summer, I can’t help but dread the day that I have to say goodbye to everyone here at Belmont. I can’t even THINK about not seeing them for a year… luckily, most of my friends are already price-checking flights to Spain, and looking into possible weeks to come visit me! I’m so glad that they’re planning ahead because, after all, it’s always better when we’re together.
After counting down for nearly 100 days, the day finally came: I went to see
Wicked in Birmingham with Dan and his parents! The performance was absolutely incredible.
It was everything that I had hoped it would be…and more. None of us had ever seen the musical before, so we were all very, VERY excited to see it! We were speechless for most of the ride back – just reeling from the phenomenal performance. I can’t wait for Wicked to come to Nashville this fall so that my best friend, Raychel, can see it! If I wasn’t going to be in Spain next fall…then I would most definitely go again.
In addition to seeing Wicked, we also did a lot of shopping while in Birmingham and…I attended my first Passover Seder! Dan’s church, Green Valley Baptist, had a special service on Thursday night, during which we followed a Messianic Passover Haggadah (the religious text that sets the order of the Seder).
It was so interesting to learn more about the history behind the traditions of the ceremony – I can’t believe that I waited until I was 19 (almost 20) years old to attend a Seder! It was the first time that Green Valley had celebrated a Passover Seder, AND…as it turns out…it was also the first time in history that a president celebrated a Seder in the White House!
This week was a little rough (getting back in the routine of going to classes and working after having a break is never easy), but the end of the semester is near! I just have to finish strong and then I will be off to South Africa…and then to Spain in the fall!!!
One of the on-campus organizations that I’m involved in is Bruin Recruiters. We work with Belmont’s admissions department to help recruit prospective students and to answer any questions that they might have. It is one of the most rewarding organizations to be a part of, and I have formed so many great friendships with both the people in Bruin Recruiters, as well as the prospective students that I have met.
In addition to being tour guides and working at the Admissions Welcome Desk, Bruin Recruiters also have the opportunity to help at Belmont’s Preview Days. During a Preview Day, high school students who are interested in learning more about Belmont are invited to come for a day of touring the campus, talking with current students (the Bruin Recruiters), meeting with faculty from their academic area of interest, and checking out some of the co-curricular activities that they can be involved in.
Last Saturday, March 28th, we hosted our spring Preview Day and had an awesome turnout – over 370 prospective students came!
The main reason that I am so passionate about Bruin Recruiters is because I remember exactly how stressful the college decision-making process can be. I applied to twelve (yes, TWELVE) colleges, and ended up having a particularly difficult time choosing between my top two choices. When people ask what made me choose Belmont over the other colleges that I applied to, the first thing that comes to mind is the size. I wanted to be somewhere that was small enough to where, when I walked across campus, I could always see familiar faces while, at the same time, still seeing new faces as well. I wanted to be somewhere that I would fit in, yet still have the opportunity to stand out.
Belmont has been the perfect fit for me. I cannot even describe how overwhelmingly comforting it is to feel connected here. Not only to Belmont, but also to Nashville. I could give you endless reasons why I chose Belmont, but the best way for you to understand my love for this place is to visit and to experience it for yourself.
1) Prospective students and their families gather in the Curb Event Center for the Welcome Session during Preview Day.
2) One of my fellow Bruin Recruiters offers insight into student life during the student life panel.
3) Bruin Recruiters (pictured in red t-shirts) greet prospective students and spend some time getting to know them (this is, hands-down, our favorite part of the day).
4) The current president of Belmont, Dr. Fisher, speaks at the Welcome Session during Preview Day.
**All photos taken by Lougan Bishop (thank you, Lougan!).