Marruecos (Morocco)

It was my first time in an Arabic country. IT WAS AWESOME! We traveled to Fes ( spelled with an ‘S’, the Fessi are very particular about that) and went to the Medina which is the largest market in the country. Then traveled through the country side – cedar forest, canyons, mountain, oasis and finally to the Sahara Desert. I spent two nights in the Sahara Desert sleeping in a tent and surrounded by the beautiful Berber people. If you have not heard of them before, I suggest you look them up. One of the oldest populations! Without UMBC and the Study Abroad Office, this would have not been possible! Enjoy some of my pictures.

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THE INTERNET

I have been unable to post recently because I have had extremely limited access to the internet. Last week, I went to Morocco, where I did not even have cell phone service, and when I did find wifi very few websites worked. TIP: I have found that Facebook almost always works everywhere. Upon my return to Spain, there was a storm which somehow made the internet in my apartment stop working as well. The internet in my apartment is not always reliable anyways, so this was not surprising. So, I have been going to the public library here to get wifi, but when there are many people at the library (which also happens often) the wifi doesn’t usually work. I think it has something to do with too many people using one source, or something like that. So, when that doesn’t work, like today, I go to a Cafe de Indias, which is similar to a Starbucks, buy a tea and am then allowed to use their wifi for 30 minutes.

The limited access is not usually a problem, because most of my classes do not rely on the internet – we use books – and I don’t have many other responsibilities tying me down to the internet. This is also how many Spaniards here live. I hardly ever see anyone on their phones or in the cafe on a computer. I’m probably an obvious ‘Giddi’ (slang term for foreigners that my friend told me is not negative) right now sitting in the cafe typing this blog. Now, I must make this blog short for I am running out of internet time and I still need to email my academic advisor at UMBC about registering for classes in the Spring! Hasta!

Sevillan Way of Life in a List

The Sevillan way of life might sound unreal, imaginative or crazy to those who have experienced nothing like it. It is a life full of enjoyment and no rules. For me, it has been a life that I have easily adapted to and perhaps too easily…

It is also difficult to explain this kind of life, but I will try with these 5 key traits.

1. Meals (except breakfast): The food here is amazing. EVERYTHING is made fresh. Literally, everything. Ever gone to a county fair and got that freeze-dried or super fried food? Here, at the fair there is fresh food made to enjoy. I ordered a pizza and they rolled out the dough, cut some tomatoes, onions, cheese and made the pizza minutes before it was eaten. In addition to amazing food, you must also enjoy conversation. The people here are very sociable, and it is very rare to ever see anyone eating alone. Many people go home from work in order to cook and eat lunch, rather than taking it and eating it just any ole place. After taking about an hour and a half to enjoy a meal, talk with the family about the weather, how crazy Barcelona is and how Sevilla FC is the best futbol team ever, it is time for a nap. After lunch, there is this amazing thing called SIESTA.

2. Siesta: This is pretty much the greatest thing anyone ever thought to make happen. After a great big delicious meal, which is known as lunch, it is time for a nap. Lunch in Sevilla is at about 2 or 3. So, almost all the shops and stores close from 2-5p or 3-6pm. The only things that do remain open are the very touristy, super expensive cafes and gift shops. Otherwise, everything is closed and everyone has gone home to eat a great big meal and take a nap afterwards. Fun Fact: The siesta started because it is absolutely too hot during that time of the day to go anywhere, or do anything but sleep. I think this is something Maryland should adopt, because it also gets very, very hot in Maryland. This is also something I have gotten very used to, and if I have to go a day without siesta (i.e. because i’m super busy), my whole life feels out of balance. It is literally a necessary 3 or 4 hours in the middle of the day with absolutely no work, definitely no school, no homework and simply enjoying time.

3. Besos: Ever heard of PDA (Public Display of affection)? So, I haven’t asked, but I feel certain they don’t have a word for that in Spanish because it is not something worth bringing attention to. Everyone just kisses, gives hugs and even makes out everywhere, because it is a part of the lifestyle here. It’s very common for friends to be sitting on each others laps, greeting everyone with a double kiss, and for couples to be making out in the street. When I told my host mother that the amount of kissing I have seen here in Sevilla and how it is nothing compared to home, she just explained to me that people are full of love here and it’s hard to keep it hidden. I definitely feel the love here. The people are just so nice, I don’t even mind the PDA. It’s not gross, it’s very obvious it is all an expression of enjoyment in being with another person.

4. Sevillanos: There is just something so nice about the people here, that goes beyond their public displays of affection. I was walking along the river the other day and a tourist boat passed by. It was playing the song ‘happy’ by Pharrell Williams (because American music is extremely popular here). I then passed an elderly man who was obviously going on his morning walk, and when I did,he threw up his arms, smiled, and yelled “Happy!” in a very adorable spanish accent. The people here are just so nice and welcoming. I have been able to meet many strangers and they have all welcomed me to Sevilla with open arms and a kiss, literally (remember what I said about public affection).

6. Work? What’s that?: The unemployment rate is extremely high in Spain. I think it’s actually worse than in the USA. The economy is, admittedly, not so great here either. But, people are happy. And – now get this – EVEN WHEN THEY WORK. So, I always pass by the security guards at the parking garages, or the security in an apartment complex and want to take a picture because if an employer in the US saw what I see, that employee would be fired. It’s very common to see the security reading a book or magazine, or talking with friends while working. Tonight, I even saw a parking garage security person who had moved a bed into the security cube so he could lay down and read while working. He wanted to be comfortable, I respect that.

7.Rules and Safety: There seem to be no rules. I have not seen anyone get arrested. I have never seen anyone get pulled over, or receive a ticket. Cars park wherever they want to – on the curb, in the grass, on a curve, in front of a fire hydrant – there aren’t really lined parking spots like we have in the USA. Yes, there are police officers, but they seem to be there more in case of an emergency. For example, I saw the police show up when there was a truck that got a flat tire. And although the security guards might be what some people could call ‘slacking’, I have never felt so safe in a city before. There is an honor code here which I have never experienced. It’s unwritten, because like I mentioned before, there really aren’t any rules, but it’s an unspoken ‘if you don’t steal my stuff, I won’t steal yours, let’s just enjoy life’ rule. AND IT WORKS.

Sevillans enjoy their food, enjoy their rest, enjoy the kisses, enjoy company, enjoy their time and enjoy life. These are just a few things I have experienced and enjoyed about the culture of Sevilla in my perspective.

Una Extranjera en Espana

A “foreigner” in Spain. This is a term very commonly used for people studying abroad in Spain, like me!

This is my first blog post from Spain! I am currently in Sevilla, Spain. I have been in Spain for a little over a week. Most of this first week, I traveled to two different cities. I first landed in Madrid and was there for about 2 days. Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a very busy and lively city. It is there I learned my first new spanish word – boda. I don’t know the actual translation for the word but I know One boda is one scoop of ice cream and two bodas is two scoops of ice cream at an ice cream shop. This is important terminology for living abroad in Spain and surely there will be more to come. Anyway, I did enjoy Madrid very much. It has a very beautiful city park with a rose garden that has all types of roses from around the world! It smelled amazing!

After experiencing the bustling city of Madrid, I went with my study abroad program to Toledo. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have every seen. It is absolutely adorable with it’s tiny and winding roads. It is a place where everyone will get lost, but it will be enjoyable. I experienced my first barbecue there, under the moon and stars, whilst listening to spanish poetry readings performed in the same plaza. Toledo is definitely a must-see in Spain. The city is older than the entire country that is the United States of America, and the antiquity of the place is plainly seen.

Finally, after living out of a suitcase and hotels for a few days I made it to my homestay in Sevilla! I will be living in Sevilla for four months with my homestay ‘mother’. She is a 40ish woman with wonderful cooking skills! Today she made me paella, and it was delicious! My new home is cozy and my new city is amazing! There is so much to do and explore. Look forward to some of my mistakes and adventures while I learn Spanish in Sevilla, Spain!

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If you have any questions about the study abroad process at UMBC, please feel free to ask:)

QUADMANIA FESTIVAL!!

Last weekend was such a big deal on campus. We had the Quadmania festival, which is a large festival held for the UMBC and surrounding community. There were carnival rides including bumper cars and the zipper. There were animals to pet and carnival games, with prizes to be won. My student organization hosted ‘Pie-your-friend’, where people were able to pie their friends in the face and then win a certain number of tickets depending on what number was written on the pie plate.

In the evening there were fireworks, and ‘A Great Big World’ performed. ‘Capital Cities’ performed on the next night in the RAC. Last year ‘Macklemore’ performed for the Quadmania festival. Last year I went to see ‘Macklemore’, unfortunately I was unable to go to see any performances this year, but I still had fun at the festival!

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UMBC Asia Night

Tonight, I went to UMBC’s Asia Night. It’s a cultural event contributed to by all the various Asian student organizations on campus. The student org I am a part of, HLSU, went as a group to support our friends performing. It was a lot of fun! The event sold out and unfortunately they had to turn away some students. These cultural events are always very popular on campus. There was lots of food and entertainment such as chines dragons, wushu, and a fashion show.

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Kit Kat Strawberry Milkshake

College is about new things. Today, I tried something new. I made a Strawberry Kit Kat milkshake. It was delicious.

I love milkshakes. I love Kit Kats. I love strawberries.

I thought, why not combine all of these things? So I did. Sometimes, you just need some ‘sweet’ comfort. Sometimes, a milkshake is just what you need to relax for the evening. Unfortunately the only place to get a milkshake on campus is the dining hall. Sometimes, I just want a milkshake, not a meal, so I have learned to satisfy that craving by making my own or getting a smoothie. There are many places to get smoothies on campus, my favorite being at the library cafe. At the cafe there they have a super variety of flavors including pomegranate. It’s nice there are so many options, then I get to choose my favorite. But, I digress. When I really want a milkshake, I make one myself……I have provided my all awesome recipe if you ever choose to make the Kit Kat Strawberry Milkshake.

Below you will see the photos of the milkshake process.

Steps to deliciousness:

  1. Put Strawberries in blender
  2. Put Kit Kats in blender
  3. Pour Chocolate Syrup in blender (optional: for weeks that are especially crazy. This week was pretty crazy for me)
  4. Pour milk in blender (I prefer Soy Milk)
  5. Blend
  6. Enjoy

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A Testament to the Amazing Community at UMBC

My professor shared a story with my class the other day that I would like to share with you.

It was about one of his graduate students. (Fun Fact: He is actually a graduate professor – my class is the only undergraduate class he is teaching) So, he has this student who was running late to an extremely important meeting. Because she was already running late, she did not want to spend any time looking for a parking spot. When she arrived to campus, she stopped her car along the sidewalk, got out, went to the first person she saw, handed them $20, gave them her keys and asked them to park her car then bring her keys to the Information Systems lobby. She ran to her meeting leaving her car with a complete stranger whose name she had forgotten to ask for in the manic of getting to her meeting.

My professor said that during their meeting, she was not at all comfortable and was extremely nervous. He asked her why she was so uneasy and so she told him of the crazy thing she had just done. She realized she may never see her car again. What had she done?

Do you think she ever saw that car again?

Well. She did. The person she had given the $20 dollars to had parked her car and then returned her keys to the Information Systems lobby where they were waiting for her after her important meeting.

Where does that happen? In many other places, on many other college campuses doing something as crazy would have ended with an extremely sad ending. I would probably not be writing about the story, but rather to make sure you are safe and not to trust anyone. I love UMBC because I can feel safe here. I know that, generally, on this campus people are truly kind and good hearted.

This is an extreme story, but I believe it is a good testament to the culture here at UMBC. Everyone holds the doors open for each other. People hold the elevator when they see someone else coming. In the library people leave all their belongings at tables when they go to the bathroom or get a snack because there is usually someone there making sure no one steals your stuff. I’ve had strangers share their umbrellas with me when it’s’ raining and I have never asked anyone for help and had the response be ‘no’.

People are nice at UMBC.

 

(Disclaimer: There will always be people who do steal your stuff and who might be rude, including here at UMBC. Please do not think that you will always be exempt from having your car stolen here or that you can do what that grad student did. However my writing pertains to the overall community at UMBC. )

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.

I don’t consider myself particularly “wicked”, unless it has the slang definition of suave, or cool. Then yes, I do consider myself extremely wicked/cool. However, this song has been stuck in my head for some time now, particularly this line, because really there “ain’t no rest for” me.

It’s good to have a balanced life, especially in college when so much is at stake, but it is definitely hard. I have to balance, ALL my homework, paperwork for going abroad, personal relationships, having a social life, work, having enough money, meeting with groups for our group projects, meetings with professors, meetings for my student organization, applications for Summer internships, interviews for Summer internships, eating and sleeping.

The truth is, there really is not enough time to allow me to give my 100% effort to each of these things, so I am having to prioritize what is really important and that is really difficult for me. I am so used to doing the absolute best at everything I commit to, but it seems that is just not possible at this point in my life. And, I have to accept that. The nice thing about going to college is that many other students are in the same kind of position. Many students have many responsibilities, are just trying to make it through a class and are still trying to find time to sleep! So, when it seems like too much, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

The other important thing to remember when it all seems like so much work, and all professor seem to plan due dates at the exact same time, is that going to a University is a great privilege and opportunity that not everyone is afforded. Going to a school with many international and 1st generation students helps to make this point a reminder quite often. Many people know how fortunate they are to be here and have this opportunity. I have the wonderful opportunity of working as hard as I can to be successful this semester and show the world what I can do.