From Paris (and Spain) with love
I hope everyone has been enjoying there first week of classes. If it makes anyone feel better, I’ve been in class for almost a month now and I’ve already had tests in several classes. As I have said before, I love Valladolid, and I’m loving it more and more everyday.
In case I haven’t mentioned before, I am in a part of the University of Valladolid that is only for foreign students. There are many students from the United States (including UW-Stevens Point and UW-Eau Claire) and students from different parts of the world such as Ireland, Taiwan and Korea. There are probably about 100 students in our part of the school and over this semester we will take five excursions (basically field trips) to different parts of Spain to supplement our culture, history, art and geography classes.
On Jan. 19, our class took a trip to the city of Segovia. We got there early in the morning and the first thing we saw when we stepped off the bus was the aqua duct of Segovia, it’s one of the most well known aqua ducts in the world. It was incredible; I couldn’t get over how big it was. It has been there since the Romans built it thousands of years ago and has been in use until the middle of this century. We were able to spend some time admiring, taking photos and listening to our professors lecture about the aqua duct. We then took a brief tour around the small city. We had several hours to then wander on our own, get food and shop. I love being able to go into shops and cafés and communicate with anyone I want in Spanish, it’s a very empowering feeling and makes me much more safe when traveling in a country where the primary language is Spanish. In the late afternoon we went ‘El Alcázar De Segovia,’ which is the castle of the Catholic kings and queens of Castilla. This was the castle and Ferdinand and Isabel lived in. It was amazing; I was able to see where two of the most famous political leaders of Spain lived. It was almost overwhelming, so much history in that building alone, not to mention the whole city. The castle has a tower and we were able to climb up something like 150 steps to get a view of the whole city. The trip was fantastic and it makes me excited for the next excursions with the school.
One thing I have noticed while studying abroad is that everyone looks at you and you stand out so much. When I am walking alone I don’t notice it has much, and I can blend in to the crowd more. However when I am with friends we definitely stand out and people notice us. It’s strange to be the ‘foreign kid’ for once. Not that it bothers me when there are foreign students on my campus back in Stevens Point, but it’s pretty easy to pick out who is from the Wisconsin area and who is not. Not that I like to judge people based on what they look like but there are other things that make you think that someone is not from the same area you are. It could be very obvious or very small, even just having a southern accent in Stevens Point would make people question were you are from. I am experiencing that firsthand on a regular basis. I’ve been on vacations before and been looked at funny but I always assume that it’s because I’m obviously a tourist. However here it’s different, I’m a student here and I live here. The funny thing is, I actually look like a Spaniard. I’m sure it’s just the way I talk in Spanish, or the fact that I speak English sometimes, or when I hang out with friends who look much more American. It’s defiantly giving me a different perspective on what it’s like to be study abroad student. Valladolid is a small city so there aren’t a lot of foreign people here and almost no one speaks English. It’s not a bad thing, sometimes the attention can be rather interesting, like when people are happy to talk to Americans it’s actually sort of fun.
During this trip I am planning several personal vacations with friends around different parts of Europe. On Jan. 26-28 my friend, Aly, and I went to Paris for the weekend. Jan. 27 was our main day to see all the sites and tour around the city. We woke up early and got to the Louvre Museum before it opened (I would recommend if anyone ever goes there to get there as early as possible because it fills up fast and lines are never fun). Just the outside of the Louvre is breathtaking, which has famous glass pyramids in the middle of this giant building. Once inside we walked as fast as possible to the Mona Lisa and when I saw it I literally gasped. I was looking at the single most famous painting in the entire world. The actual Mona Lisa was staring at me, not a picture or a copy of it, the actual Mona Lisa! I was happy to learn that we could take pictures of it and Aly and I spend at least a half an hour just admiring her. For the next three hours we walked around and saw the highlights of the museum including the statue of Aphrodite, sculptures by Michelangelo, and Napoleon’s Apartment, along with countless other amazing works of art. The museum is giant and we could have spent and entire day wondering around there alone. After the Museum we went to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, ‘love-lock’ bridge, Arc de triumph and the Eiffel Tower. Both were beautiful, and breathtaking. I couldn’t get over how big they were, and how real they were. Especially the Eiffel Tower, it looked so perfect, almost as if it was made of cardboard and if I touched it, it would fall over. But somehow it seemed so strong and stable, aligning all of Paris and holding everything together. The rest of day was spent shopping, site seeing, eating, and doing whatever we wanted. I ate French onion soup, crème brulee, and the best of all was a nutella-covered waffle from a stand under the Eiffel Tower. Luckily for us, just about everyone in Paris spoke English, but sadly almost no one spoke Spanish. It was nice to speak English with people, but I always love to practice my Spanish conversation skills. I could talk about Paris forever, but I don’t want to make everyone too jealous, haha. I was happy that I was able to fully plan and execute a trip by myself (and the help of one great friend). All in all it was a great trip and I hope I get the opportunity someday to return to Paris.
All in all, I have been having a great time with my study abroad experience. I love Spain and fortunately everything has been going well for me. This weekend we are going on an excursion to Ávila and Tordesillas. I’m very excited and of course looking forward to the future.
Alexia Szabo, a junior majoring in accounting, Spanish and international studies at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Spain.