Monday, July 7, 2014

Study Abroad Spain - Falling Back in Love

Having taken Spanish as a language off and on throughout my grade school years and then choosing it as one of my majors in college I’ve come a crossed a variety of teachers from many backgrounds and countries of origin. Each of these instructors gave me a new perspective and angle into learning Spanish and understating the culture of the many countries. But the crowning experience so far in my journey towards graduation has been the summer study abroad opportunity in Spain. This has been a completely immersive program with every intention of improving a student’s Spanish no matter the level. On this trip I’ve been lucky enough to hear the roar of the crowd in the Plaza del Toros in Seville as the matador gracefully dances around the 2,700 lbs bull. I’ve walked the ancient halls of Alhambra where sultans and Spanish kings alike fought for control of this ancient and beautiful country. The ancient halls of La Mesquita in the ancient city of Cordoba left me speechless at the lengths man was willing to go in the pursuit of beauty. But the best experience by far of the whole program was the opportunity to meet all new people; to share their stories and come together as one. People from all walks of life willing to share their life story with you all in an attempt to help you truly understand them and their culture and their ancestors’ stories. This program has strengthen all resolve I have when classes become difficult and helped me to fall back in love with the language. 
- Nicholas McKenna, Junior, Modern Language major, Palmetto Battery Company 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Study Abroad Spain - Seville & Valencia

I studied abroad in the cities of Seville and Valencia in Spain. Each city was very beautiful and had its own unique characteristics. Seville was an older city and had many massive beautiful cathedrals. It had a river running right through the middle of it and at night you could sit on the bridge and look down the river and see the lights of the tall building reflecting off the water. It was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. During the day you could kayak down the river or if you are brave enough you could try jumping in like we did. Most of the streets are coble stone which is really cool to walk down and fun to watch bicycles struggle to ride down.  Valencia was a more modern city. The buildings were much bigger and the city it self was much bigger. The downtown are was older and had some beautiful architecture. If you love to exercise then Valencia is the place to go. Running through the middle of the city is a park that has bike paths, walking paths, and exercise equipment. It’s the perfect place to get a run in. And then probably the best part about Valencia is the beach. The sand is almost pure white and the view is amazing. You look down one side and you see massive sky scrapers and then the other way you will see a huge port with towers and cranes, a sight to see. The food in both cities is amazing. It can be alittle pricy at times but as you learn the city you will find the best places for the best amount of money. We found a little sandwich shop with sandwiches ranging from one euro to about three. Pretty good deal, but on Wednesdays and Sundays the entire menu was one euro…so I bet you can guess where we were on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Spain is defiantly a beautiful place that is like no other and I promise you that you will enjoy the trip and be amazed by what you see.
- James Blocker, Sophomore, Business major, Romeo Company
Group of cadets in Plaza de Espana
Cadet Blocker

Cadet Brunson

Cadet Blocker

Monday, June 30, 2014

Study Abroad Spain - El Oceanogràfico

Valencia is an absolutely beautiful city. It is very different from Seville. I would say Valencia is a more modern city because Seville had more historical sights whereas Valencia seems more like a tourist attraction. This week in Valencia I took a tour of the city like we did in Seville and learned a little history about it. 

I also went to El Oceanogràfico (Aquarium) and El Museo de las Ciencias (Museum of Science). I live right near both of these attractions so I pass them every day on the way to school and the view from the bridge is amazing. I went to the museum on Thursday. It was so much fun interacting with the science experiments. I felt like a kid again! It was four floors of non-stop fun and experimenting. The aquarium on Saturday was even more fun because it is one of the largest in the world. It is all outdoors except for some exhibits which is an interesting touch. We even got to see a dolphin show! 

So far, it has been a fun-packed trip. I could write forever about how much I love Spain. I kind of don’t want to go back home but I guess I have to. I am definitely going to see all that I can see during this last week in Valencia.

- Joshua Dvorak, Sophomore, Computer Science major, Band Company

Friday, June 27, 2014

Jacob in Ecuador - Week 4

Last Weekend our group went to Quilotoa, Ecuador. Quilotoa is known for its lake which happens to be located inside of an inactive volcano. From the small town of Quilotoa, you actually have to walk down into the volcano to reach the lake. It was a treacherous hike, and Andres and I rented horses to ride back up. Walking down to the lake took about thirty minutes, and the altitude made the air paper thin. However, the views were incredible and I will never forget being inside a volcano! When we reached the bottom, we were able to kayak in the pond for about an hour. The lake is very large, and there is no life in it due to the sulfur levels from the volcano. It was very peculiar kayaking inside of a volcano, and not many people can say that they have done it!

On our way back from Quilotoa, we stopped in a small village to witness the festivities of Corpus Christi. It was wild to say the least! The citizens danced in the streets to a live band and consumed a surprising amount of alcohol. It was amusing to observe the party, and after a while they paraded into the bull fighting arena and teased the bulls while they were in their pen. I’ve never seen so many drunken cowboys, and I was a little scared for the stumbling bullfighters. When they finally let the bulls out, only one guy got gored in the leg so I guess it was a successful bull fight. It was a unique experience, and it opened my eyes to the exciting world of bull fighting!

After the fiesta, our group stopped at a shopping mall to watch the USA vs. Portugal match. Every shopping mall that I have been to so far screens every world cup game on a giant screen in the food court. The game was a true nail biter, and I thought we had the game won until Portugal scored in the last few minutes and tied it up. I hate to say it, but it almost seems like everyone cheers against the United States here. In any case, a tie is better than a loss and we returned to Quito late that night.

On Tuesday our group went to the Equator museum and we visited some Incan ruins along the way! Visiting the Equator has always been something that I wanted to do, and it feels great to cross it off the bucket list! I learned a lot about the different hemispheres and the Earth’s magnetic forces. While standing on the Equator you lose a pound of weight, and you can feel the magnetic forces on your body. Our tour guide also demonstrated how water spins in opposite directions when let out of a drain in each hemisphere. We were able to balance an egg on a nail due to the unique gravitational pull of the Equator, and I was also able to observe a real shrunken head that was 160 years old.

On Thursday, the US played Germany at 11:00, so our group was dismissed from class early and we went to a sushi restaurant downtown to watch the game. The sushi was just as good as back home, and the game was an exciting one. We ended up losing 1-0, but we will still advance into the next round of the cup. Somewhere throughout the day I lost my cell phone, and I believe I was pick pocketed by a talented thief. I strongly recommend carrying your valuables in your front pockets if you plan on travelling here, as I have not been the first one in our group to get burglarized.  I was pretty upset for a while, but my day got better when I was randomly asked to be in a Coca Cola commercial by two models in the street!

I am excited to leave on Sunday, but I know that I will miss Quito very much. This whole trip almost seems like a dream, and it has been everything I could’ve imagined from a study abroad experience. Saturday is a free day, and Andres and I plan on hiking to the top of the Pichincha volcano early in the morning. We do not plan on going to sleep on Saturday night since our bus to the airport leaves at 4:00am. Hopefully my next entry will be written inside the United States!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Study Abroad Spain - Valencia

After spending 2 weeks in Seville, the group traveled by train to Valencia. Upon arriving Sunday night, we met our families. My roommate Vinnie and I were assigned to an elderly woman named Maria Angeles and her 18 year old son, Fernando. We soon found out Fernando is not as we had anticipated. Fernando stands at approximately 6’5 inches, thus plays competitive basketball. Vinnie and myself befriended Fernando and even went out with Fernando and his friends Thursday night. His friends speak very little English, but were excited to have us tag along. As a result, I was forced to speak Spanish the whole night, though Spaniards were very willing to slow down and work out our linguistic differences in order to communicate.

Yesterday I did some exploring on my own andtook both a train and a bus in order to get to the “new-age Bioparc.” The Bioparc is a zoo that aims to allow animals to live in large habitats together, allowing the animals to feel more comfortable in captivity. 
Afterwards, I went to the Science Museum where I played with many exhibits intended for ages 14-16, though they proved to be very informative. Ending my week, I went to the festival of “Corpus Christi” where I managed to stand in the very front row to watch the procession go by. Different groups of all ages passed by, occasionally stopping to perform a quick dance routine. To end the day, I enjoyed my first taste of paella on the trip, ending a very cultural and exciting week in Valencia.
- John David Raad, Junior, Pre Business Administration major, Charlie Company

My latest adventure here in Spain was attending the Festival for Corpus Christi in Valencia, Spain! The feast of Corpus Christi is a Catholic Feast day that is about the Body of Christ and it's presence in the Eucharist, wine and bread during mass. This Feast is publicly celebrated in many countries around the world. Spain is one of the unique countries that celebrate this feast day publicly due to its history. Spain has a long history that has strong Roman Catholic roots. This is why there are many old churches, chapels, and cathedrals throughout the country!

The festival in Valencia takes place in front of the Cathedral in the old part of town and in the surrounding area. I walked from where I lived to the cathedral around 3:45 PM. Not long after I showed up, I saw a procession of horse drawn carriages with various statues of religious figures and ornaments mounted on them. People were beginning to take their place along the route that the procession follows around that time. Just before the procession began, there was a performance in front of the cathedral. Shortly after, the performers lead the procession of people in various costumes through that part of the city. I saw people who represented Romans, priests, and other significant people in Spain and Catholic history. Among the procession was the flag of Valencia being carried by a large group of participants. 

While all this was happening people lined the streets and the balconies of houses to watch. Needless to say, I had to get a quick education on the alleys/small streets in an effort to get to the front of the crowd to get a good view!

Many shops set tables out so that people could order food while watching the parade.(By this point I was walking for about 5 hours so I had to take advantage of the that!) 

This is one of the many experience that I have had the opportunity to enjoy while here in Spain. Since day one if the this trip I have been eager every day to do something new or just experience life here!

-Rod Lucas, Junior, Political Science major, Romeo Company

Friday, June 20, 2014

Jacob in Ecuador - Week 3

Looking back on this week, it has by far been the best one since I arrived here in Quito! On Monday, the majority of our group met at a small restaurant to watch the USA vs. Ghana world cup game. We drew a lot of attention as we were all dressed in our American flag garb, and it was awesome to watch the USA win.  Nobody believed that the USA would win, which made the victory so much sweeter!

On Tuesday, we went to Quito’s cultural museum after class. To my disappointment, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the museum. I thoroughly enjoyed our tour, and I especially enjoyed learning about the Aztec history here in Ecuador. There were many precious historic sculptures made of gold and silver inside the museum along with countless religious paintings and statues. It is very evident that the citizens of Ecuador take pride in their history and culture, and I was impressed with how nice and modern the museum was.

After the museum, I was able to do something I’ve always wanted to do; go to a McDonalds in a foreign country! It was surprisingly expensive, and in my opinion it was nowhere near as good as back home.  It made me crave some good ole’ American fast food even more, and I plan on spoiling myself when I get back!

On Wednesday morning, I had a random burst of motivation to go on an early morning run before class. I ran in the beautiful parque de Carolina and I was blessed with the opportunity to watch the sun rise over the Andes mountains.  I am constantly being re-amazed by the beauty of the land here, and I will miss watching the sun set over the mountains every night.

Thursday was a free day after class, so Andres and I decided to ride the teleférico up the Pichincha Volcano to soak in some beautiful views and ride horses on the mountains. The teleférico is one of the highest gondola lifts in the world, and it took us to an elevation of 12,943 ft! The view of Quito was simply unbelievable, and it made me realize how massive the city really is. We also got an amazing view of the snow covered Cotopaxi volcano, which is the second highest summit in Ecuador. After taking an excess of pictures, we went on a horse ride through the mountains and the base of the volcano. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I hope I can come back and do it again someday!

Today, Ecuador is playing their second game of the world cup against Honduras. The city will literally shut down for the game, and there will probably be a riot or two if they win. I am jealous of the passion that they have for the sport, and I hope that someday the USA can have the same attitude! This weekend we are going on an excursion to Guagua and Pichincha, and I have heard that we will be hiking and kayaking. I am excited for the trip, but it will be bittersweet because it will be my last weekend in Ecuador!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Study Abroad Spain - Plaza de Espana

This week my classmate and I were exploring Sevilla and noticed two high towers. We thought this must be a church but instead stumbled upon Plaza de Espana. This is an extremely tall, large and grand building. It has tower large towers on either end of a grand square. The building itself curves around a pond. To get to the building you have to cross over one of the bridges that are well painted with whites and blues. In the center of the plaza there is a large fountain that has many unique designs carved into it. There are two floors to the building both with very high and decorated ceilings. The plaza was made showing the different provinces of Spain with a map of the region and a painting of something famous that has happened in their history. This is along the right wing of the Plaza. It was constructed in the 20s and I’m not sure if it has any practical purpose or if this grand palace was constructed to show of the pride in each of Spain’s provinces. The plaza has been used for two movie sets that I know of these are the dictator and Star Wars. They make the plaza appear like it has a lot more Arabic influence then it truly does in the dictator adding large domes and adding people with Waydian flags. 

Jonathan Eveler, Junior, Criminal Justice major, Palmetto Battery Company

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ryan in Spain - Plaza de España & Maria Luisa Park

Ryan and his family ventured out to Plaza de España and Maria Luisa Park and here is about their day from Ryan. 
Feeding the ducks.

The Park and Plaza are in the southern part of the city, which was redeveloped in the early 20th century to house the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. Essentially it is a patchwork of gardens, parks, and grand boulevards--what better place to spend an afternoon of play? We knew there would be lots of playgrounds and fun things to do, but we had no idea how great it would be. The plaza itself houses several government offices and is a giant monument to the various provinces of Spain. It is seriously one of the most beautiful buildings I've seen.

Maria Louisa Park was way bigger than I thought it was. There were long promenades with vendors and snacks, and little quiet playgrounds and gardens spotted everywhere. We really tried to enjoy the opportunity to be tourists while we were here. Right off the bat we rented a boat to row around the Plaza's moat. I must clarify, WE rented a boat so that I could row us around the moat. According to the owner of the boats, there was no other options--this is a sexist country. Seriously, though it was a lot of fun.

Next, Miko wanted to see the Island of Ducks, so we took a stroll through the park to find it. Almost immediately we were distracted by these giant 4 wheel bike/cars. Very intriguing and only 10 euros for a half hour. Now THIS was possibly the most fun I've ever had in my life, once Rachel stopped screaming profanities at me concerning my driving skills. We spent half an hour tearing through the park and the plaza terrorizing innocent tourists. I was at the wheel, Miko was on bell ringing duty (also yelling "KOO-DATO!" at pedestrians as we whizzed past), and Rachel was helping pedal and making sure no one fell off. This is something the pictures will not do justice to, but it was absolutely the best way to see the grounds.

After our time was up, we found the Island of Ducks and let Miko do her duck thing for a while. This was also her first interaction with swans, which we had to warn her are MUCH meaner than they look. Once we felt like the birds were adequately terrorized, we strolled back through the park and plaza on our way out. After all this fun it was time to catch the train and find a bite to eat on the way home. Dinner ended up being from a small fried fish place not far from our house where they pretty much specialize in selling cones of fried fish by the kilo, chips, and drinks. Simple, effective, and delicious. When we got there it was unbelievably loud and crowded which made ordering an adventure, but it was also one of the most pleasurable eating experiences I've had since I've been here. It was a lovely end to the night.
Plaza de España.
Rowing the boat.
Our transportation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jacob in Ecuador - Otavalo

Today we went on an excursion to Otavalo, which is the location of one of the biggest markets in South America.  Otavalo is about 3 hours north of Quito, and we arrived there around noon. First we visited the animal market where the local farmers trade and sell animals. It was very interesting to see how differently livestock is treated here, and I would hate to see how a PETA representative would have reacted. I was tempted to buy an alpaca, and one member of our group bought a bunny for only $4. Afterwards we moved on to the plaza de los ponchos, which was a maze of vendors selling handmade crafts. There was some amazing handmade artwork, and you couldn't even dream of the low prices they were selling for in the US. I had a lot of fun bargaining with the vendors and I left with gifts for everyone back home. One of my favorite gifts is a hand-knitted llama sweater made from alpaca fur, and I was able to bargain the original price in half!

After we were all done shopping we ate lunch at a restaurant in the plaza and then made our way to the nearby waterfall. Even though it was the fifth waterfall we've seen in two weeks, it was still an amazing sight and we climbed so close to it that the mist coming off the rocks soaked us. Afterwards we drove to a lake which was close by to go on a boat ride. The lake happened to be at the foot of a volcano, and the view on the lake looked like one from a Lord of the Rings movie.  By the time we got back on the bus, we were all exhausted and slept all the way home. It was an awesome excursion, and I will never forget Otavalo!

I have two weeks left in Quito, and I am going to make the most out of it as humanly possible! I have dramatically improved my Spanish speaking skills, and I am even starting to dream in Spanish.  I plan on making every second I have left count so that I can benefit as much as possible from this trip. Tomorrow Ecuador plays its first game in the World Cup, and this city is going to go completely nuts. Andres and I plan on going to the mall to watch the game on a giant screen so that we can witness the insanity of world cup soccer in South America. Many deserters in our group are pulling for other teams such as the Netherlands and Germany, but I’m staying loyal to lady liberty and I’m choosing to go down with the ship. Go USA!!!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Study Abroad Spain - Snails

During our time in Spain my roommate and I have been fortunate enough to be placed with a host family that was generous enough to show us how true Spaniards eat. While in Sevilla, our host mom not only took us out to traditional Spanish restaurants, but she also cooked us very traditional Spanish meals. For example, during our last week in Sevilla we went to a restaurant that specialized in snails. Being from the United States snails were not an ideal finger food to consume. It took a little grit to get over the fact that we were eating snails. Once our host mom found out that we thoroughly enjoyed the snails, she decided to cook a large dinner that revolved around a very large pot of snails. To be honest, it was the best meal that my roommate and I had the pleasure of eating during our time in Sevilla. Although our time in Sevilla has come to an end, I look forward to being able to continue trying different traditional Spanish foods while in Valencia. 

-Hayden Gamarra, Biology major, Oscar Company

Ryan in Spain - First Days

Here are some photos from Ryan and his family's first days in Spain.

First day in Madrid.
Ryan, his wife and daughter on the plane to Spain.
Walking thru the streets of Madrid.
Chocolate and Churros in Madrid.

They then took the train to Sevilla.
Playing cards on the train.

First day in Sevilla.
Locked out of the apartment.
Tapas restaurant.