Day in the Life of a Gap Student in Spain

By: Emerson Loria

I wake up at about 7:20 in the morning and go into the bathroom to take my morning shower.  I then get myself dried off and dressed and then I go to the kitchen to get myself something for breakfast.  Breakfast here is very light so I generally just eat some fruit and yogurt.  After all this is done it’s about 8 o’clock and I head down to the courtyard where I meet up with Brendan and Noah.  Once we three are there we head across the street to the bus stop.  The bus then takes us directly to the university so we get to our class about 30 minutes early every day.  After our Spanish and culture class we all get on the tram to go back to our host families (we don’t take the bus because it doesn’t arrive when we finish classes).  Once I get back to my house it is about 1:30, so I usually watch a little bit of TV since I’m the only one in the house at that time. At about 2:30 the entire family has arrived home and we finally sit down and have lunch together.  After that my brothers like to do any homework I have so that’s what I do as well, such as our daily summaries or this blog post.  After that I and my host brothers will play something together like a video game or card game.  Then at around 9:30 the family all comes together again and has dinner.  After dinner everyone kind of does their own thing.  Sometimes they go in their own rooms, other times they hang out in the living room.  And at about 11:45 I say goodnight to my family and I go to bed.

Missing Home

By: Sammy Johnson

Being in a culture and environment completely different from yours at home really makes you think about what you appreciate at home. I miss being able to wake up every morning and watch English shows in the living room. I miss being able to easily have a conversation about my plans for the week. Most of all, I miss my family and boyfriend. I haven’t seen them in person for more than a few days in this entire 3-month stretch. It is weird, starting college and realizing you can’t see certain people everyday. I can easily transition into any given environment and be comfortable in the space I make myself to live in, except the only missing part is the companionship like that of with my family or boyfriend. The perk to spending 3 months with the same people is that you are bound to make a best friend. I’m glad I made mine. Being able to prosper in any environment is all about the relationships you have going into them. If I got one thing out of my gap semester, it is a unforgettable time with 13(ish) people.

 

Camino

By: Angelo Boone

The Camino de Santiago was a great end to my Gap semester because it provided a perfect opportunity to reflect on all the memories I have gained over the past three and a half months. The hiking got a little tough on the feet, but it was a good reminder of how difficult NOLS was at times. It is easy to forget all the things and little struggles that occurred over the course of the semester, so remembering some of those times are good. Brendan and I chatted a lot about how great Gap was for us and how blessed we are to be a part of such a great experience. This Gap experience has forced every person in this cohort to grow and change in ways that they may not even see, and it has been cool to watch that unfold first-hand. While hiking on day two I had a good talk with Rafa’s (our CIEE instructor) dad a.k.a “big papi.” He kind of resembles who I want to be at his age. He is 65 but filled with more life and energy than I could imagine. Heck I mean if he was able to hike the Camino with (and sometimes better than) a bunch of young kids than he must be doing something right! I asked him what his secret was and he said “traveling, being positive, eating good food, and talking to good people.” That sounds like a great way to live life to me and I hope that one day I will look back and be able to pass that advice down to someone else.

Perfect Capstone

By: Neil Howland

Going into the Camino de Santiago, I had low expectations for the difficulty. After spending 24 days fending for ourselves in the Wind River mountain range, five days of walking and staying in hostels with showers and food that was cooked for us seemed like it would be a cake walk. On the first day we walked 23 kilometers, approximately 12ish miles in a downpour of freezing rain. I only brought shorts and tee shirts and my rain jacket. That was a day where I questioned what I was doing and why we were even still in Spain after completing the classes. But over the next four days the weather cleared up and what I thought was just going to be a long hike turned into an eye opening experience. We met people from all over the globe all with one common goal in mind. Some were religious; some were not and were just doing it as an attraction. What I thought was going to be a long five days turned into something that flew by, and before we knew it we were hiking into the cathedral. I had never been to church in a foreign country but it was remarkable to me how similar the services were just in a difference in language, I found myself responding in English because I knew to flow of the service so well. For me the Camino was the perfect capstone to the Elon Gap Experience.  We all went in not knowing what to expect and came out with a newfound sense of respect and pride for not only ourselves but the world around us.

A Goodbye Letter to My Host Family

By: Mary DiMartino

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Translation:

Dear Mom, Dad, and Paula,

In the words of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I’m sad to leave Alicante, but I’m so thankful for this experience. Alicante became my home in such a short time. While I love this city and all it has to offer, like the beach, the barrio, the good weather… The thing I’m going to miss the most is you, my family. Since day one, you made me feel at home. Mom and Dad, you treat me like your own daughter. I’m so grateful for you and all that you do for me – the tasty meals you cook me, cleaning my room, doing my laundry, taking care of me when I was sick, giving me chocolate every night for dessert, and more. Paula, you’re the little sister that I never had but always wanted. I love your sense of humor and how intelligent and kind you are. I’m going to miss having a little sister when I return to the United States, but you will always be in my heart. Thank you for welcoming me into your home, talking to me, and giving me the scarves and shirt. I love them! To all of you, while I’m excited to return to my house in the United States, I’m going to miss you and my new house, here in Alicante. Thank you for putting a smile on my face each and every day. I love you very much. See you later.

Kisses,

Mary

No Spain, No Gain

By: Noah Zaiser

As the program officially has drawn to a close, there is no doubt that Spain has centered itself as the most memorable aspect. Not just because it was a chance to travel somewhere else, but because of the opportunity to be in a difficult and challenging situation that presented a multitude of obstacles along the way.

You may be thinking to yourself: “What? These students have been raving about their experience internationally, this kid must have it wrong”. Yes, the entire experience of studying abroad has been everything I had hoped it to be and more, but that’s only enhanced by the challenges we faced along the way, and the tools we were given to overcome them. Allow me to explain.

The first official day of school presented a unique situation that I had not faced before. It could easily be described as “get to a class that is about a 20 minute car ride away without a car”. Needless to say, I had to utilize a different solution than what I was regularly used to. All I can say is, thank goodness for public transportation, because it was a crucial part of each and every day. The first week, I hopped on a bus, rode to the tram station, and took said tram all the way to class with 1.5 minutes to spare. The great part about this was that I only learned from these obstacles. Eventually I was able to find a bus that took me all the way over to the University, and saved myself time and trips on my public transport card. Living in a town setting, in urban North Carolina, there’s not nearly as much of a need for buses, trains, and trams. The experience of immersing myself in European culture allowed me to face a completely foreign situation and find a way to tackle it efficiently, and that’s all I can ask of a life experience.

Another unique challenge was the ordeal of breaking the language barrier. Imagine forgetting 80% of the Spanish that you learned in high school and trying to read a menu, let alone order properly. While this was only a minor setback, once again, it provided the ability for me to take a tough situation and become encouraged to learn from it. The name of the game in Spain is repetition, and the more Spanish I spoke, the more I was able to hold a conversation, or eat what I wanted.

As a whole, I believe the toughest situations in life can turn out to be some of the better experiences that we can learn from. In Spain, I was challenged daily and often. Many of my friends and family members sometimes laugh and refer to my study abroad time as a “vacation” or “time off”, but in reality, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Even outside of my school’s campus, I was able to learn from my mistakes and hardships each day, which is a key component of college in any sense. So to say the least, I believe I got the most out of my study abroad experience, even if it wasn’t easy. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Me Llamo Juliana

By: Juliana Siler

Hola! Me llamo Juliana. Soy Americana, soy vivo en Carolina de Norte. El clima en Carolina de Norte es hace un poco frijo. Tengo dieciocho anos. Tengo aprender un poco espanol a CIEE, para hablar con mis espanola abuela. A mi hogar en America, tengo un perro, el llama Roger, y una tortuga, el llama Ted.  Los dos son simpatica. Mis aficiones son leer libros en ingles, y veo la tele. Yo quiero visitar la playa en espana, y en America. Mi favorito coulores son rosa y azul. Me gusta tortilla patata y paella, cual es el plato tipico de Espana. Me no gusta jamon curado o tocino. Me gusta espana.

Camino de Santiago

By: Brendan Gallagher

Couldn’t have asked for a better way to close out Spain. The first day was a grind to say the least because of the perpetual rainfall throughout the hike in tandem with the chilly weather. Staying positive was a key to success during this day and thankfully we were able to dry off our soaked clothes at the hostel after the hike. After being rather lazy during the final few days in Alicante, the Camino was a solid way to close out the Spain experience. Rafita and Rafa major were a dynamic duo of hike leaders and I was able to improve my Spanish immensely. Angelo and I had some in depth talks about our opposition to materialism and spirituality among other things, as we were able to gradually reflect on our overall Gap experience. I can’t believe it’s all said and done but I couldn’t have scripted it any better. I’m excited to reunite with the family and continue the Elon journey on campus in January. 

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Paella

By: Alexa Baer

This week I finally got paella. We were in Barcelona and Cheyenne and I decided to split a seafood paella. It was good but there were too many vegetables. Cheyenne didn’t want the mussels they put in it so I got to eat them and they were very yummy. The meal looked fantastic when it came out however there were shrimps that were still attached to their shells in the dish. I didn’t know how to eat it and neither did Cheyenne. So we decided to dissect it. I cut it in half and started poking the half with the shrimps tail. I saw the shrimps poop strip and decided it was gross. So then I went and cut up the side with the head. Big mistake. I got to the shrimps brain and it was gross. So we ignored the other two shrimps and ate more of the paella. Then Cheyenne dissects the second shrimp. She does it right and the shrimp is edible. Then I tried again with the last shrimp but I couldn’t cut it right. And also the thought of eating it while it still looks like an animal creeps me out. So I guess the moral of the story is I don’t know how to cut shrimp, I don’t like veggies and paella is muy bien.

Mi vida en España

By: Brendan Gallagher

Mi tiempo en España ha sido una aventura increíble. Mi familia tiene dos personas, mi madre y padre, y ellos son perfectos en mis ojos. Mi habitación aqui en España fue muy diferente que mio en los Estados Unidos porque es más limpio. Mi madre/abuelita hace el lavado de ropa todos los días. El almuerzo es muy grande y comíamos muchas carnes y vegetales únicos. Por ejemplo, conejo fue un tipo de carne que comimos en el primer día. Me gusta tener las conversaciones en español porque el aprendizaje es muy importante en un pais como España. En general, la gente en Alicante es muy amable y servicial. Si tú sabes un pocito de español, el descubrimiento de direcciones es muy fácil. Fútbol es el símbolo de España y veo en todos los sitios en Alicante. Para todos mis amigos y familia, recomiendio un viaje a España en un momento en su vida. También, la naturaleza en España es surrealista. Mis lugares favoritas son La Castilla de Sánta Bárbara, la playa en Alicante, Guadalest, y Barcelona por supuesto. España fue un de los partes mejores de GAP en totál y estoy agradecido por este oportunidad. 

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Roma

By: Mary DiMartino

This past weekend Ang, Nate, Cheyenne, and I all flew to Rome and spent a few days in the beautiful city. During my short time there, I learned quite a bit….

  1. Don’t stop and talk to the people trying to sell you expensive tickets (group tour, skip the line) outside of big attractions like the Vatican or Colosseum – even if they seem sincere at first!! Don’t let them trick you!!
  2. You easily forget Spanish if you’re not speaking it all the time L For the 4 days we were travelling/in Rome we all spoke English and heard some Italian which was complete gibberish. Never did I ever think 4 short days of not being immersed in Spanish would affect me, but the morning after I got back I kept having to ask my mom to repeat what she said.
  3. Rome is cold. We’ve been pretty spoiled the past few weeks with the nice Alicante weather, but this weekend we got a taste of what we’d been missing. Cheyenne bought a coat one night because it was so cold, and I was very very close to doing the same.
  4. Airbnb is definitely the way to go for overnight accommodations. It was just as cheap as staying in a hostel would have been, and we had our own nice little cozy apartment to come back to each night. Shout out to Rita for letting us stay in her apartment on such a short notice!!! 🙂
  5. Italy actually has bad pasta… When you think of Italy you think of exquisite 5-star pasta dishes, however, this is not always the case. One day for lunch we went to a café that served us microwaved meals… blah
  6. However if you take the time to seek out a good restaurant, you will find yourself 2 hours later completely content with a giant food baby. 🙂
  7. Time goes by SO fast – 4 days isn’t a lot of time to begin with, but it went by way quicker than I thought it would. Always be taking in your surroundings and immersing yourself in your experience. You will appreciate that once your experience is over and all you have left are the memories you created.
  8. Some of the less tourist-y attractions/things to do are the most fun. Although seeing the Vatican, the Colosseum, Old Rome, etc., was really cool and memorable, I think I enjoyed the little things the most: eating gelato, having conversations with the lady who worked at the gelato shop, walking down the streets of Rome and seeing all the street artists, and so on.
  9. When food tastes good, Italians say “buono” and put their index finger up to their cheek and twist it.
  10. In Rome (and possibly all of Italy/Europe?) they advertise McDonald’s food products as they actually look in real life versus in America where a McDouble looks shiny and juicy and delicious in pictures but when you order one it looks the complete opposite.