I’ve taken Spanish for over 5 years.  I took it in middle school and did fine.  I took it in high school and did fine.  I took it when I lived in Spain and did fine.  But, for some reason, it’s still incredibly intimidating to me.  This was the case each and every family dinner while in Barcelona.  My host mother would talk in perfect Spanish to my roommate, who also spoke fluent Spanish, while I sat their dumbfounded looking at my plate.

Whenever my host mom tried to talk to me, I struggled to find the right words, even though I knew perfectly what to say.  At one point during the trip, I was a bit sick.  My host mom asked how I was doing, and I tried to explain that I was embarrassed but I accidentally said I was pregnant.  Apparently, “embarazada” means pregnant not embarrassed.  She quickly laughed, knowing I had misspoken.  She corrected me and said, “inferma”, at which point I realized my mistake and laughed in extreme discomfort.

After that humiliating conversation, I grew only more quiet- scared that at any moment I’d embarrass myself once again.  Regardless, I do think my Spanish has improved and I’ve enjoyed putting it to the test while abroad.  I’ve also learned some new words that are key to what I’m studying.  Some of my favorites include “periodismo”, which means journalist.  It’s not only a helpful word for my studies, but is actually a pretty word to say.  Similarly, I like the word “entrevista”, which means interview.

These two words have been crucial to my time here.  Every time I call someone, begging for an interview, I scramble together the same phrase, “Yo soy un estudiante de los Estados Unidos.  Estudiando periodismo.”  Basically, I am an American student, studying journalism.  Without my new favorite words, I’m not sure I would have gotten all the entrevistas I needed.

Field Trips, Museums and Landmarks

These past two weeks have been full of field trips and excursions.  We have toured the Gothic quarter, some of Gaudi’s most famous work, and ventured out to other cities such as Girona and Figueres.  Here in Barcelona, my favorite field trips have been to anything related to Gaudi.

Our first hint of Gaudi was on a walk around the Passieg de Gracia metro stop, where a few of Gaudi’s most famous buildings were.  Although we didn’t go inside any of the buildings, we were mesmerized just by the facades.  However, it wasn’t until we visited the Parque Guell where I finally understood Gaudi.  He turned a park into a wonderland, with huge castle like structures, all made of colorful mosaic tiles.


Similar to Gaudi, I have a new respect for the artist Dali.  On our trip to Figueres, we visited theDali museum.  He was so imaginative and brilliant, and that radiated throughout his museum. From a raining car (literally, a Cadillac was raining), to a huge instillation representing a beautiful women, Dali did it all.  His work was stimulating and enticing, and it was possibly one of the most impressive museums I have visited.IMG_0217

After visiting the Dali museum, we went to beautiful Girona.  Girona is a small town, a few hours outside of Barcelona.  The streets were small and windy, and the people we local and humble. The streets of Girona reminded me of a small Italian village; there was something really sweet and honest about Girona, that big cities like Barcelona don’t have.

However, Barcelona still has a lot to offer.  Whether it is the local beach of Barcelonata, or the high ceilings of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona is a beautiful and vibrant city.  The Arc de Triomf is also one of my favorite places here in Madrid.  It is located at the end of a beautiful street, perfectly framing the mountains behind it.

However, what I love most about Barcelona are the local landmarks.  The small benches, the tall lampposts, to me, all represent Barcelona.  The city itself has a lot to offer, but behind the chaotic streets, lie these extremely quiet streets, and to me, those symbolize Barcelona, and Spain in general.


Peru Week 2- Food

I feel like food is one of the best ways to understand and connect with a culture. And food here in Peru is central to their way of life. I have tried so many new and great things here, it is hard to sum up in just a few paragraphs.

I was actually a little surprised about the difference in food here from the US. I had assumed that every country besides the US has healthier food than us, but there is actually lots of fast food here, and the portions are enormous. My host family always gives me a ton of food, and it is delicious but I get so full! I have also noticed that they tend to eat dinner much later than I would at home. I usually eat dinner at 5:30 at home, and here we eat at 8 at the earliest.

I usually eat with my host family because the food is delicious and free. I noticed that either my host mom or the housekeeper will always completely set the table and put the food on nice plates, even when I’m just eating breakfast. I’m used to eating eggs straight out of the pan at home, so it is a definite change.

The fruit here is otherworldly. Every week at school, our conversation teacher will bring in a new fruit for us to try. I have never seen or heard of any of it before, and I love getting to try them all. Most of them are very odd and not necessarily something that I would try again, but there are also some delicious ones. He brought in one called a pacae for us to all try. It was a long green bean looking thing, and the white meat in the middle had such a strange texture because it was a little cotton-y, but also kind of juicy. It’s hard to explain, but it was pretty tasty,IMG_6071

The meat here is also very good. Almost every meal here includes some type of meat and rice, and I am still enjoying it so far. It is a bit harder for the vegetarians on the trip, but I am still enjoying it. I have also eaten my fair share of dulce de leche churros and empanadas, which is keeping me very happy.

Non Parlo Italiano

In the Italian language, the “ch” sound is the same as the “c” or “k” sound in English and the “c” sound is the same as the “ch” sound in English, so it can get pretty confusing. My class in particular has a difficult time with it, so much so that we often leave our professor pulling his hair in frustration. Each time one of us makes the mistake, the rest of us will laugh and then immediately make the same mistake ourselves. It’s really difficult to break old habits of how to spell certain sounds. We’ve even developed our own inside joke when this happens, “Chichirichi,” which is the Italian word for “rooster.” It’s definitely one of my favorite words I’ve learned here. But my favorite phrase to use in conversation is definitely, “Forse che si, forse che no.” It literally means “Maybe yes, maybe not” and is actually inscribed on some of the walls decorating some of the ancient buildings around here as the motto to one of the local ruling families. It’s so useful, and I always get a kick out of using it, not just because of the simplicity but because of the historical significance as well.

Wonders in Mantova

The Palazzo del Te, originally built as a villa for a local prince to spend time with his mistress in, now holds some of the most beautiful and historically significant paintings in Italy. It is also home to some galleries of local or foreign works of art, this month being Al WeiWei, a notorious and technically on-the-lamb, anti-regime artist from China. Within the  is a room known as the Room of Giants, whose four walls, ceiling, and floor serve as an enormous canvas for a work from Giulio Romano featuring a battle between the gods of Olympus and the Titans who sought to overthrow them. This is one of my favorite paintings I’ve seen since I got to Italy, as the colors and the story told by the painting as some of the most powerful in the world. There was even a time where a fire was lit in the room so the crackling wood would imitate the crackling of Zeus’ thunderbolts, leading to a truly immersive experience.


Other than within Mantova, the group here has taken several trips outside the city. We’ve gone to Brescia, Bologna, Lake Garda, Verona, some of us have gone to Milan, and we’re even going to Venice in a few days! Of the places we’ve been, Lake Garda and Verona have been my favorites by far. Brescia is a nice city, but it was kind of small and we didn’t get to see much of it. But we did see several beautiful museums and ruins of Ancient Roman architecture there. Bologna was also beautiful, but it was very noticeably a college town and at times felt more like Boston than Italy. Lake Garda is the largest lake in all of Italy, and the only one my professor let me swim in, so that alone made the trip worthwhile! It also housed the remains of an Ancient Roman bath, which was incredible to walk through and see the view from the top of the hill. Verona was by far the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen, and it had so many different sections! There was the modern shopping section where I spent all of my money, the main square where the Arena was, the opposite square with all the local markets, the old theater district, the “Romeo and Juliet” district, and then there an enormous castle overlooking the whole city that I got to climb, granting me one of the most breathtaking views of my life. I can’t wait for the trip to Venice this weekend, I’m sure that’ll also be something worth blogging about.IMG_1188


At first, my arrival in London was a pretty nerve-racking event. I was beginning a study abroad program where I did not know any of my fellow classmates, in an unfamiliar country, and in a very rigorous academic and internship program. However, as my first week in London comes to an end, I can say that confronting new places, people and things are a wonderful way to challenge yourself. For instance, my biggest adjustment thus far was dealing with the opposite direction of traffic in England. People drive on the left rather than right side of the road and, while it will take some getting used to, I have learned how to be much more aware of my surroundings. I always look both ways when crossing and triple check the roads before I leave the sidewalk. It is a much more important task than I had first thought before getting here. Another observation is how nice the British dress. I have noticed that I do not catch many people in tennis shoes or sweats at all; often, people dress very formal for events I would usually assume to be casual and this will also take some getting used to.

As for my academic orientation, I had a lot of questions answered and left the event with true understanding of my responsibilities while studying abroad. My program’s coordinator went over the various assignments we would complete as Hansard Scholars and our class schedules. One exciting part of my orientation was meeting my professor for the next coming weeks who will be lecturing on British public policy and the Houses of Parliament as a whole. Another segment that was interesting was a writing exercise we did during orientation to practice reflecting on our experiences so far this week. Finally, another portion of the orientation that stood out to me was the opportunity to meet our guest lecturer for the day Lord Norton who is an expert in the British Constitution and works for the House of Lords in Parliament.

In London, there were many new things I had the chance to experience during my first week. With my orientation and many tourist excursions out of the way, I am excited to see what else my study abroad will have in store.

Learning Italian the Hard Way

Being in a country where you don’t know the language has definitely been a challenge. Most people don’t know much English at all and communicating to even order food can be challenging.

My funniest stories with miscommunication were with ordering food. I ordered a pepperoni pizza and expected it to be as it is in the states. When it arrived it turned out to be pizza with grilled red peppers on top and that to get pepperoni as we know it is instead called “salame picante”. Another funny moment was when I ordered the buffalo burger, which had buffalo sauce with other vegetables in it, after being told by the waiter it is the most popular item. It turns out the burger was made of buffalo meat. Either way, it was delicious or one of the best burgers I have had!

My favorite phrase is “Prego.” I still to this day am a bit confused what it is exactly means but it is quick and easy to say. When I say thank you people say prego- when I am next in line to buy something the cashier says prego, and when I say excuse me, someone will reply prego. Maybe not the most exciting, but still fun to say!

Landmarks and Excursions : Verona and Sicily

My favorite place in Verona was Piazza Bra. We had a lecture on it by a professor of Verona who really made us understand its importance. He basically got across that in a center of the city where everyone is out and about and trying to get places, the piazza is a place to relax and enjoy the moment at hand, without worrying about anything else. The piazza is a square that is very peaceful and calming. The professor left us with the phrase, “a square is a square…is a square”, no matter where we go. A close second for my favorite place is Juliet’s House/ balcony. It is such a classic tale and having a picture on Juliet’s balcony was very exciting.

In Sicily, we had an excursion up Mount Etna, a live and active volcano. I really enjoyed this as this is one of Sicily’s greatest landmarks and everyone we spoke to expresses such love and praise for it. Also, hiking up it was definitely a challenge, but very, very fun if you are into the outdoors. Also, the view from Mount Etna is absolutely beautiful!

End of Week 2 London/Dublin 2015

Overall, the kinds of food here in Dublin are not extremely different from those in the United States. One prominent difference is the heavy use of mashed potatoes here in Ireland, or more commonly referred to as simply “mash”.  Overall portion sizes here tend to be smaller than that of dishes served in the United States. The fries, or chips as they’re called here, definitely taste less greasy. They also look more like deep fried wedges of potatoes, rather than a stick of who-knows-what. The food that we’re eating just seems to be of an overall higher quality. The main issue here is that there are not many greens or vegetables served in proportion to how many carbs are served to you. Also, when you go out to eat there is really no need for tipping. The waiters are being paid a wage suited for living and do not require or desire tips as much as the waiters in the U.S. do. Along this same line, items purchased in grocery stores already have the sales tax built in, and therefore anything you buy you are spending the face-value price on.

I eat most of my meals around Arcadia University’s classroom, which is the global studies university our program is working through. I also like to buy these delicious sandwiches here on UCD’s campus at a shop called Centra,which has a deli. The sandwiches range in price from 2 to 3.50 euro. It’s a steal I can’t pass up! I’ve also cooked a few meals for myself. I’ve gotten very good at cooking eggs and pasta in the past week.

The most interesting local food I’ve had so far was a vegan meal actually. Our group did a cooking class here with Cooks Academy, and learned how to make our very own vegan food. We cut and mixed and stirred our hearts out for the food, and it came out surprisingly well! We made a Brazilian nut roast over pureed roasted cauliflower, with plum sauce poured on top. Next to that we had a salad comprised of Swiss chard and other leafy greens. And for dessert we ate a chocolate mousse made with avocados and topped with nuts and raspberries. I have never had a meal quite like it. It was fairly good, but I am so used to eating like an omnivore that I started to crave a cheeseburger halfway through, and struggled a little to finish my meal. The dish was excellent, but the textures and flavors were all very new to me. The dessert, however, was amazing! The avocados were really put in to make the chocolate creamier. You couldn’t taste them at all! I was dying to get seconds of the dessert.

EAT-aly (Eating in Italy!)

Italy is known for its cuisine. I knew that I would be fortunate enough to have authentic Italian classics while on the dialogue, and I was very much looking forward to it. For Italians, eating is a socializing time as well. Meals are very leisurely and I have found take twice as long as meals in America. At restaurants, it is very casual. It is also expected you order drinks, appetizers, and your meal all at the same time. Many places are more accommodating to the American style of drinks/apps first, then placing a meal order. Food is always (at least in my experiences) prepared to order, so you can expect to be waiting a while- but again, this fits in with the leisurely meals that Italians eat. The portions are generally smaller than American meals, but it is never not enough food. It also isn’t customary to take leftovers home, but many places- particularly in more tourist-y areas- are more than willing to give you a box. Some pizza places charge for a box to take home! In Rome, I ate most of my meals in different areas of the city. I had a friend who studied abroad for a year in Rome who gave me several great recommendations of hidden gems, and of course I was able to stumble upon even more throughout my time there. Rome is known for the food more so than Venice, so I planned to be eating out more while living there and buying food at the grocery store once getting to Venice. We are fortunate that the Don is nearby a large grocery store, the Conad. Food at the Conad is pretty inexpensive, and most of us buy sandwich fixings, salad mixes, fruit, and other snacks there. A lot of times I will make a sandwich for lunch at home and then go out for dinner. The Don has croissants (called brioche in Italy), cereal, and other pastries for breakfast as well, so I haven’t had to buy anything for breakfast. The best part of being able to eat in Italy is the gelato. Right around the corner from the Don along the Zattere is the best known gelateria in Venice, Gelati Nico. It is really my favorite place for gelato in Venice. There are also many little bakeries throughout the island that all have really great treats as well. My favorite meals so far have been the same thing, once in Rome and once in Venice- veal in lemon sauce! I had never tried veal in the U.S., but I decided on a whim to try it in Rome and I loved it. I have to admit it was better in Rome than in Venice, but both were quite delicious! And my favorite dessert has to be tiramisu- if a restaurant has it advertised, I usually can’t resist. (Unless I have plans to get gelato after dinner!) Overall, the food has been my favorite aspect of the cultural experience while on dialogue in Italy.