Posted by: morgangoesabroad | September 24, 2010

Planes, Trains, and Many, Many Automobiles.

Let me start this one by first saying that this past weekend was probably one of the coolest experiences of my life. I met up with two of my friends from the states in Munich, Germany for the opening weekend of Oktoberfest and we had so much fun. It was so cool getting to see and explore a culture that I have had ZERO previous experience with. The journey started at the main train station where we all met up Saturday among all the Germans already preparing for Oktoberfest. Yes, in case you were wondering, everyone DOES where those funny little outfits (which I now know are called lederhosen and dirndls) and yes, I felt super under dressed and American not wearing one. Although I did get a kick out of the fact that I waiting for my friends on a bench surrounded by four big burly men in flowery overalls and pink checkered shirts…

We were fortunate enough to actually know someone through family friends who lives in Munich and took us in for the weekend. That absolutely MADE our weekend, especially considering how hard and expensive it is to find a place to stay in Munich during Oktoberfest. Saturday night we just went and walked around “Thereseinwiese” (the field) as the locals call it just to get a handle on things and it was super overwhelming. For some reason I always pictured Okotberfest as being an elevated version of Busch Gardens…and I was a little off. It was more like prom meets county fair meets party of the century. The food was AMAZING and I think I ate about six “brezen” (pretzels as big as your head) in three days. In addition to all of the tents where food and drinks are served (which for the point of imagery are less like tents and more like temporary CASTLES) there is an entire amusement park’s worth of rides and carnival games. Some of the tents close at a capacity of 11,000…so you can imagine how many people were there based on the fact that we couldn’t get in anywhere Saturday night.

Sunday we woke up early to go see the Oktoberfest parade which was really cool. Every brewery and sporting club in Bavaria had decorated a carriage and horses and entourage of members. Since we had a German-American as our tour guide and hostess, we watched from a street that was basically empty and got to get up really close. After that we walked around all of the main touristy spots in Munich and climbed the steps of one of the sister towers that is Munich’s symbol to get an amazing view of the city. Then we of course joined in the festivities for the rest of the day and got to meet a lot of interesting people.

On Monday we followed a similar schedule and went exploring around a huge farmer’s market to buy some food to bring to a “Bier Garten”. I thought these were really funny because as opposed to restaurants in the U.S. that are ‘byob’, they were ‘byof’ and all you bought were drinks. The one we ended up going to was really pretty and sort of like a picnic. After that we spent the rest of the day running around down at Oktoberfest, finally having gotten a handle on how things really work. Small world story of the century: We randomly ran into a guy who also swims in the Centennial Conference and is good friends with a girl on my team.  HOW does that happen not only in a different country but in an area of that country with 50,000+ people?! Crazy.

On Tuesday morning we all had flights out pretty early annnnddd that is when the real fun began. Long story short: I missed my flight due to a mix up of bus schedules and a severely limited understanding of the German transportation system (and language!). Bright side: I got to go on a full train tour of the German countryside I wouldn’t have otherwise probably EVER seen, and now know the transportation system like the back of my hand (keep me in mind if you’re ever in Munich!). Basically, I spent from 5am Tuesday morning to 2pm Wednesday traveling by myself on a very convoluted journey back to Spain from Munich. If it wasn’t for the SUPER generous help of the woman we stayed with, I might still be wandering around begging train conductors to let me keep riding even though my ticket had long since expired. In the end though, everything was totally still worth it, and I would do it again in a heart beat. Not that I recommend traveling by yourself in a strange country that you only know three phrases of the language (thank you, I love you, and cheers…) but even three days later I already see it as a huge learning experience.

Also, after finally getting back, Spanish has NEVER sounded more like music to my ears…

Posted by: morgangoesabroad | September 13, 2010

“Field Trip”

This past weekend our group went on a “field trip” to the beaches of Almuñeca, Spain. Needless to say- best field trip I have ever been on.  I would have been fine just staying on the bus the entire weekend because the views were so incredible.  The pictures I took can’t even do these views justice, although I gave it my best attempt.  I hope the people who live here know how lucky they are to wake up to such beautiful scenery every morning!

We started the trip with a stop in Nerja, which is about an hour south of Granada, to see the caves there. Nerja is home to the largest stalactite column in the whole world, and although the caves in general weren’t really that impressive, this specific site was. After that we drove about another twenty minutes to Almuñeca where we stayed in a hotel RIGHT on the beach for the next two days. The water is so crystal clear and clean there it’s insane. I am not one to really stray too far from the shore at a beach out of fear of the jellies and other ocean critters, but the Mediterranean is a whole different ball game. The very first day a guy from our group and I swam out to a bouy about 100 yards or so off of the shore.  It was probably one of the coolest swimming experiences of my life. I have no idea how deep the water was, or what was swimming around us (and I really would like to keep it that way…) but we were out in the MIDDLE of the Mediterranean ocean. Once we got to the buoy we were so far out that we could see past all the hotels to see mountains on all three sides.

The next day a few of us from the group swam out to these huge rocks and went cliff jumping (Spain obviously could care less about lifeguards…). This was really cool too, except that it took place right after we went to an aquarium and learned about all the different types of sharks that live in the Mediterranean…sooo I swam a little faster back to shore than the day before. My one complaint is that the beaches in Almuñeca do not have sand. It’s all rocks that get mucho caliente and hurt to walk on. The flip side though is that a lot of them were old tiles or glass that had smoothed over from being tossed in the waves and were really pretty to pick out. I’m not the biggest fan of sand anyway!

That night we went to a local flamenco festival. It was different from a flamenco show that you can see in any bar in Spain because it was a recital of all different levels and styles. It was a family outing type of atmosphere and felt like a real cultural immersion type of experience. All in all, an incredible weekend.Coming “home” was actually really weird because it was like coming home from vacation and going ‘back to the daily grind’. Except – we’re still in SPAIN. Best post vacation depression I’ve ever had 🙂

Today was one of my Spanish brother’s 26 birthday and it was really interesting to be here for something like that and compare the cultures. Lunch is the big meal that families eat together in Spain and our Mom had made him his favorite dish. And then we sang ‘Cumpleaños Feliz’ and had cheesecake. His Mom even took a picture of him right as he blew out the candles just like we do in my family back home. I really love that I get to experience the family life of Spain as well as its gorgeous beaches. Living with a family here has made the transition that much easier!

Posted by: morgangoesabroad | September 6, 2010

Things I’ve learned so far:

Even though today was my first day of class, I’ve already learned a lot from being in Granada just 6 days. It’s really hard to even believe that I’ve already been here for 6 days…this semester is flying by already. So let me just recap what has happened already via a list of what I’ve learned:

  1. Always sleep on a red-eye flight, and always pretend to be a vegetarian. They get way better in flight meals.
  2. Never make eye contact with anyone carrying a huge bouquet of flowers.
  3. It’s a better idea to wait until you have known someone more than 12 hours before you inform them that your school celebrates a ‘naked day’. Even if those 12 hours have been spent crammed next to each other in coach.
  4. Taco in México does NOT mean taco in España…
  5. Asian tourists take the  best group pictures and are least likely to run off with your camera.
  6. There is a good way to get lost when exploring and a bad way…the difference is having money with you.
  7. However, the taxi drivers in Granada are very forgiving, and if you look pathetic and Americana enough, they will drive you home for free.
  8. Even though they are cute, Australian and understand English, maybe you should know them for more than five minutes before following them down into a ditch full of gypsies, climbing up into an aqueduct and forking over your camera…although this ended up working out for us.
  9. When programming a cell phone in a foreign country, don’t expect the person selling it to you to speak English, or be able to understand why you have no clue what your own phone number is.
  10. Silly Bandz are not an international trend…yet.

Can’t wait to see what I’ll learn from actual class.

Posted by: morgangoesabroad | September 3, 2010

Finally Here!

Granada is definitely my kind of town. I love it here already and its only been two days!..two veryyy long days.  I flew from Dulles to JFK, had a four hour layover, from JFK to Madrid-another four hour layover- and then Madrid to Granada. I left the house in Harrisburg at 8am eastern time on Tuesday and got to Granada around 9am eastern time on Wednesday. I slept maaaybe two hours total during all of that time. When we finally got here I wanted to be able to explore and see things right away, but all I could do was sleep. BUT the good news is that even though my suitcase definitely weighed about 55 pounds, I never paid one extra cent to fly it over here 🙂

The woman I am staying with is so awesome. She is divorced but has four children, one of whom still lives in our apartment along with another french exchange student named Emily. She does NOT however, speak a single word of english. I’m really glad though because I feel like I’ve learned a lot in only two days. Emily doesn’t speak much english either. I’m sharing a room with another UD student from our program but we have a lot of storage space and comfy beds so I don’t mind at all. Our flat is SO much nicer than I was expecting- we have wireless internet, a really nice bathroom and an AMAZING view of the mountains. The one thing we don’t have is air conditioning…which has been a little rough so far but the weather is gets really cool in the morning and night so it’s not so bad. The scenery here really can’t be explained…its sort of like a valley but these mountains are not ones that you can find anywhere in the U.S. Flying over them you could see all of the little olive tree farms- Granada is the number one producer of olives in the world!

I get three meals a day cooked by my madre and so far the food has been excellent. A lot of hard-boiled eggs and bread and chicken. The only thing I haven’t liked so far was this gazpacho soup that was tomato, olive oil and water with raw ham and hard-boiled egg…not so bueno. The Spanish eating schedule is really hard to get used to but I’m starting to get better. They eat a really small breakfast (in America its my favorite meal!) of only toast and juice or coffee, and then not again till lunch at 2:30. The first two days I was literally starving. Then lunch is a huge three course meal starting with a soup, then some sort of entrée and fruit for dessert. Dinner is at 8:30 and has been different every night. Last night we had cheeseburgers!

My school is beautiful and should hardly be considered a school. I’d go there to hang out even if we didn’t have to. It’s a big square building with an open atrium in the middle and they keep all of the windows and doors open to let in the breeze. Our classes are split into two terms, and I have two classes this term that meet from 10:30- 1:45 M-F. Next term I have three but no classes on friday! Our program director is a man named Jorge who is the cutest little old spanish man and very nice and welcoming. I’m really excited to start school and be able to meet other students besides the ones from UD that I have already met. So far everyone has been so friendly and we’ve all clicked together right away.

Te amo Granada!

Posted by: morgangoesabroad | August 11, 2010

Tickets, Trips and Travel Apps

By some miracle, my weekend started on Monday this week and I’ve had three days in a row off of work. You know what that means…shopping for my trip! Overall, I’ve been very frugal this summer in preparation for moving across the Atlantic…but how am I supposed to really get excited without new ‘Spain’ things?! This reasoning is how I’ve justified purchasing my ‘Spain’ boots, my ‘Spain’ bag, my ‘Spain’…haircut? Maybe that one was a bit of a stretch… Long story short, making the rule that I will not buy any clothes or accessories this summer that I will not be taking with me to Spain has only led to researching overweight baggage fees.

This week though with all of my free time I have made a few interesting discoveries that got me REALLY excited for leaving, and also were very economical. My two girlfriends who will also be studying abroad in Europe (one in England, one also in Spain, but Madrid) and I have been trying to work out a trip to Germany for Oktoberfest. From the beginning of our planning I have just accepted that this trip would be a once in a lifetime chance and worth whatever (most likely expensive!) cost. So imagine my surprise to find out that not only does my friend Emily have family friends who LIVE in Munich and have invited us to stay for a few days, but there is an airport only an hour outside of Granada that I can fly to and from Munich to for ONLY $75 (or 52 euros)! Needless to say, I now own a pair of these tickets and my first trip while abroad is officially planned for the end of September! (p.s. is THE cheapest way to get around Europe).

After that all fell in to place yesterday, I was looking on itunes for travel apps just for fun. I do not have an iphone, or any cellphone that will even work overseas in general, but I do have an itouch that I am planning on bringing so I figured, why not spice it up a little? I’m usually in awe of the internet but last night the apps I found were just too cool. First of all, all of the ones I downloaded were FREE except for one that was a dollar. The coolest one is a map of Granada that stays fully loaded on my ipod so I don’t even need internet access to see it. Maybe the average person wouldn’t get so excited about this, but it will be crucial for me because I happen to have an excellent talent for getting lost…I also downloaded an app for google earth (who doesn’t love google earth??)  one for finding cheap flights, one for finding food and attractions and lastly, an app to organize all of my travel itineraries. All I do is forward any confirmation emails to this address and all plans automatically get recorded and filed away on my ipod. Also a good app for me because in addition to getting myself lost, I also manage to lose pretty much anything else that is important too 🙂 Now I just have to make sure I don’t lose my ipod…

Posted by: morgangoesabroad | August 4, 2010

Last Month in the States

So I’m  new to the whole blogging thing and somewhat of a skeptic, but I thought it’d be the best way to keep in touch with family and friends while I am off having the time of my life in Europe this fall…sooo here it goes:

Today marks a MONTH until I leave for Spain. I’m sort of in denial about it.  This is something that I have been looking forward to ever since my sister studied abroad her junior year in college, and it’s just so surreal that its actually here. I am oddly most excited about the fact that my three closest friends from college will be studying abroad this semester also. We are all four going different places, which is even better. To me, this is a time to reinvent yourself and really explore new places and people and experiences- going into it with someone you already know really well would be an Achilles heel. On the flip side, having three people to compare experiences with and understand what you’re going through- priceless. I’m already thinking it will be hard to go back to school and normal life and I haven’t even left yet, but knowing I”ll have them makes me feel so much better!

This is also a weird time for me right now because my parents are in the process of moving from my hometown, Charlottesville, Va to Harrisburg Pa. They will be moving into the new house just two days before I leave the country, which is very exciting but nerve wracking to say the least. Especially considering I am not even living in Charlottesville this summer (or even Virginia!) but in Raleigh, NC with my two sisters. Add to that the fact that I go to school in Maryland, but am studying abroad with the University of Delaware, and I’ve officially got the entire mid-east coast covered. I definitely recommend staying organized to anyone interested in studying abroad, but in my case I’ve had to be extremely on top of it. My life in the ‘states’  is  all over the place this summer and there have been so many things to take care of.

That said, FINALLY I have gotten all of the nitty gritty things taken care of  like paperwork and visas and insurance and the only thing left to do is to start getting excited about leaving!! España aquí vengo!

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