The Last Week (Kinda)

By: Sammy Johnson

This week is a big week for the Gap group. Or, at least it’s a big week for me. We have to partake in class registration on Elon’s schedule, not Spain’s, we have presentations in our culture class, we are traveling to Barcelona, and we have to prepare to say farewell to our homestay families. Time has flown by living in Spain. Coming to Alicante I thought, “this will be the slow part of this semester.” NOLS went very quickly considering we spent the majority of the month in the wilderness. Service-learning traveling across country also went significantly quick knowing that we had to pack up our things practically every night and travel to a new location. Spain was the first time in months that I could and can settle myself in one place. I can familiarize myself with the city I am living in and act as one of the residents. Now, as registration and housing applications are coming up, I’m more connected with the States than I have been in weeks. I’m living on the schedule of the US, following their times and staying up until 10:05 pm to simply register for classes. Finally, I can feel that my stay in Spain is coming to a close and I have to say goodbye soon to the thins I cherish here most.

Barcelona Soccer Game

By: Angelo Boone

Wow, I never have imagined the possibility of me going to a soccer game in Spain but man am I glad I did! It was more of a last minute decision (an expensive one), but it was definitely a highlight of my Barcelona experience. The atmosphere was absolutely incredible. The game was not considered a very big one but even so the entire place was packed! I went with Neil and Tommy and as soon as we got there we stopped at a little kiosk and bought some scarves and hats. The stadium was a lot bigger than I imagined, so it took us a little while to find our seats. Once we did we were able to get food and drinks for much cheaper than I would expect, and much cheaper than any sports team in the United States would cost, so that was good! The game itself seemed to fly by. Unfortunately it ended in a tie, but I actually liked it because the entire stadium was ecstatic the last 10 minutes of the game. The experience as a whole will definitely be an unforgettable one.

15 Things that Still Surprise Me after 4 Weeks in Spain

By: Cheyenne Wilson

  1. How awful the city can smell: one minute you’re just walking along then BAM your hit with a smell that makes you want to instantly throw up
  2. The amount of walking we do every. Single. Day.
  3. How much survival Spanish I’ve been able to pick up while living in Spain, I really thought there would never be a day I could easily order my dinner
  4. However, I’m pretty sure my host family dog understands more Spanish than me.
  5. The movies and TVshows: they just mute the English words and have a Spanish voice over, so the actor’s mouths are moving to English words but you hear Spanish.
  6. Breakfast isn’t really a meal, more like a snack of a croissant and tiny coffee.
  7. The hot chocolate is more like brownie mix??? Huge bummer.
  8. How awesome my Spanish Mamá can cook, every meal is great. One day she made pasta with HOMEMADE tomato sauce, almost better than the pasta in Italy.
  9. How many things there are still left for us to explore, we seem to find another amazing place every time we go out.
  10. Many. Puppies. Everywhere. At any given time I can walk down the main road into the plaza and see a minimum of 5 dogs, at busy times there are anywhere from 15-20, its heaven.
  11. The way Spaniards don’t fully cook their meats, I’ve gotten very raw hamburgers, essentially tossed on the grill, flipped and taken off, and that’s normal.. I also had completely raw salmon at a very nice restaurant and I don’t think I have very high quality taste.
  12. The hospitality and hostility of people, you never know what you’re gonna get.
  13. The street performers are amazing, but why do they ever get into something like that and if they’re good why don’t they do something more with their talent? How do they make a living? I may never understand.
  14. Time change, gets me every time I try to talk to family and friends back home.
  15. In some areas every building is a work of art, and some people pass by never noticing and never appreciating their surroundings.

FC Barcelona

By: Neil Howland

This weekend we went to Barcelona and it was an absolute great experience to get to know and understand a new city. On of the highlights to the weekend was going to see F.C. Barcelona the soccer team of the area play Malaga, another team in La Liga. We were talking about weather or not we wanted to go to the game all week and we made the smart decision to wait until five hours before to finally choose to go. It was a mad dash to try and find a few tickets together in a row. With Barcelona being such a famous team and with the amount of history involved I guess I came up with many different preconceptions. It seems as though for fans in America the game is more about the experience and not the sport. You see all the tailgates and the fans who are more there for the “party scene” than the actual game. The extent to the fan ship seemed to be more professional than anything I have seen in the United States. For starters the first most noticeable thing was the lack of drinking that you see in the U.S. I believe this could be attributed to the fact it is more about the sport than the party. And also the sportsmanship was unlike things I have seen in some American sports as well. Obviously the was loud and somewhat obnoxious cheering, but as far as I could tell, with my little Spanish linguistic experience, it seemed to be for Barcelona not against Malaga. This was really an interesting experience to see a differing cultural aspect in something like sports, which is relatable in both cultures. Unfortunately it ended in a tie.

Barcelona

By: Tommy Nelson

This weekend we were given the opportunity to spend the weekend in Barcelona.  Barcelona is a city I have always been interested in visiting since I was a young boy, one thing I have always wanted to do was watch FC Barcelona play in their home stadium. We were able to do that this weekend also.  The first professional soccer game outside of the USA was watching arguably the best team in the world at home.  It was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life.  There have been many days that I will never forget that have come from the gap experience, but experiencing this stadium and the fans there is surely something that has been crossed off my bucket list.

Picaso

By: Juliana Siler

Spain is a country with a rich historical background. From castles built in the twelfth century to cobblestone market streets Spain oozes history. Pablo Picasso one of the world’s most famous painters was from Spain, and I had the opportunity to go to the Picasso museum yesterday during our weekend in Barcelona. It was an interesting museum that had texts printed on the wall detailing his evolution as an artist, along with hundreds of pieces of his art. Throughout his life Picasso had many different phases of art, he began as a realist, and quickly switched to impressionism, where in my opinion he made some of his best works, and then to cubism which he is most known for. The exhibit also detailed his relationships with other artists of his era, and how they influenced his work, and how he influenced theirs, it was amazing to see how they played off of each other’s techniques and styles to create masterpieces. The Picasso museum also housed a temporary exhibit on cubism and its influence on the Great War. It emphasized the importance of keeping contemporary art alive, when most artists of the time were being sent to the front lines of the war to photograph and video the carnage and brutality taking place. It included works of many artists that lived in France at the time, such as Picasso, Rivera, Blanchard and Gris, and their interpretations of the war through a cubist lens. The exhibit displayed the photographs that were taken by other artists during the war, alongside the cubism pieces and it was interesting to see the different takes on the war through both perspectives. Overall the museum was amazing, and it made the weekend in Barcelona even better.

 

US or Spain

By: Emerson Loria

After spending so much time in Spain I naturally thought about what it would be like if I ended up moving here.  And because of that I decided to figure out which country is actually better, so here are the categories I looked at and who won each one.

  1. Life expectancy- US: 78 years Spain: 82 years
  2. Unemployment rate- US: 4.9% Spain: 22.7%
  3. Education- US: 14th in the world Spain: 31st in the world
  4. GDP rankings- US: 2nd Spain: 14th
  5. World happiness rank- US: 14th Spain: 37th
  6. World healthcare ranking- US: 37th Spain: 30th
  7. World food rankings- US: 9th Spain: 4th
  8. World government rankings- US: 11th Spain: did not make list (it was top 25)
  9. Crime level (the higher the number the worse it is)- US: 56 Spain: 29
  10. World military ranking- US: 1st Spain: did not make list (it was top 25)

So with the United States beating Spain in 6 of the 10 categories it is clear that at least based on these areas, the United States has the better statistics.  So regardless to how great it may seem to be here in Spain I guess I should be grateful for the ability to come back to my great hometown.

Explanada de España

By: Alexa Baer

If you’re standing at the steps to Mercado Central and start walking down hill you’ll pass many quite a few bars, a Taco Bell, a Dunkin and a taxi stop. As you pass all these places you’ll get closer to the beach but in between you and this beach is what I call the board walk.

This place is not actually a board walk but I don’t know what else to call it, other than a huge side walk. On one side there are several restaurants and cafes. On the other side is the ocean. And in between the ocean and the restaurants the place is lined with sellers. If you go all the way down to the public beach you’ll see a stand selling magazines. Next to it is a stand selling umbrellas and scarfs. Across that stand is an ice cream store that’s closed until 4. Beyond that is a beautiful carousel.

If you turn and walk in the other direction you’ll pass stands selling souvenirs. You can find purses and wallets, necklaces, lighters and even shot glasses.

However, my favorite place is the old man who has a table outside the McDonalds. Unlike some of the other sellers he is only there during the day and he’s there every day except Tuesday. He is an old man with gray hair and he speaks no English. He sits at a desk next to his table and that’s where he hand paints every single one of the pieces he sells. He paints cats and dogs, as well as the scenery. His pictures of flamenco dancers are gorgeous. He paints fridge magnets, paper weights, and pictures inside picture frames.

His artwork is simply amazing. I wish I spoke more Spanish because he seems like the kind of person that has many stories to tell. I have so many questions for him that I will most likely never ask. And it’s strange because I will most likely remember this man for a while and he might’ve already forgotten about the American girl that bought the beagle magnet and a painting.

Grateful for Gap

By: Brendan Gallagher

The opportunity that I’ve been granted over this past semester finally sunk in a couple of days ago. Noah and I were relaxing and reminiscing on the beach of Alicante on a clear-skied Wednesday night. We both didn’t hesitate to acknowledge how unreal of a semester we’ve had thus far and how we couldn’t have envisioned it any other way. Sure, being on Elon’s aesthetic campus would have been enjoyable, but I wouldn’t trade the connections and experiences we’ve made on GAP for anything. I truly lucked out with such a diverse and entertaining group of fellow freshmen. However, it would be ignorant for me not to thank ECoder for all of her selfless planning and organization for the group over the past couple of  months. So, thank you ECoder for everything, although it may seem that your unmeasurable amount of time and effort dedicated to us often goes unnoticed. It is also inexpressible to note the amount of character development and tolerance for adversity individuals have encapsulated since NOLS. There were various members who struggled with the daily burdens in the Rocky Mountains, but continued to persevere with a limited amount of verbal complaining. It was quite a transition from the “back country” to everyday society after NOLS but it was an ideal way to put our previous month of personal growth into perspective. GAP is so difficult to sum up on paper or even verbally but I can honestly say that applying to become a part of this opportunity has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in who knows how long. I cannot believe that this run is finally coming to an end and I’m excited to continue my college career with a core group of friends I’ve made along the way. That being said, I’m also too hyped to return home to recap the past semester with both my family and friends. There are multiple life skills that I have learned and developed over this past semester that I can hopefully transfer to life back home and on campus in the United States. Life is good and I thank God every day for all of these blessings.

Top 10 Things that are Different Here in Spain

By: Emerson Loria

  1. Outdoor community- maybe it’s the nice weather or maybe it’s because of how pretty the city itself is, either way people here are always outside or enjoying the time. The streets always have people and restaurants always have customers, all I know is that people truly are out and about.
  2. A drink with your meal- in the United States you are looked at poorly if you start drinking alcohol too early in the morning, but here the culture around alcohol is very different. Beer or wine can be had at almost every meal.
  3. Alcohol- people in Spain basically never get drunk, they drink but only one beer or glass of wine at a time, so getting drunk isn’t something that happens much at all.
  4. Jaywalking- in the United States, if there is half a second between two cars on the road, someone will try to cross. But in Spain they truly never break the jaywalking law.  It is very rare for me to see people crossing the street without the little walkman sign on the street light.
  5. Dogs- I used to think that America was too obsessed with their dogs, but then I came to Spain and I changed my mind. In Spain dogs are everywhere, way more than in America, and all kinds of dogs too, small, big, purebred, mutt, they got it all.
  6. Cars- cars are still just about everywhere like in the United States but something I noticed is the size of the cars here. All the cars I have seen are much smaller than the cars back home; with crowded cities and small roads I guess it only makes sense to have small cars.
  7. Graffiti- in America graffiti is hidden from most people and generally taken down as soon as possible. But in Spain graffiti is everywhere and everywhere, not really hidden at all and it doesn’t seem like the government is trying to take it down.
  8. Level 0- in America the ground level is floor number 1, but in Spain the ground level is floor number 0. Floor number 1 here in Spain is the floor above that, which is floor number 2 back home.
  9. Fresh food- back home people generally go grocery shopping once a month and get huge amounts of food to last for that time. But here people go at least once a week because the food is so fresh and doesn’t have any preservatives so they need to eat their food quickly before it goes bad.
  10. The news- every night the news channel will spend about 5 minutes talking about what is going on in America, which fascinated me because in America we rarely see anything on the news that is not in America. Which makes you wonder about the general public’s awareness of the world around them.

Home

By: Laura Pacheco

I tend to possess an unfortunate set of qualities that prevent me from being calm in uncomfortable situations. I don’t ask for directions, eating new food is a generally bad experience, and trying to make new friends feels a bit like holding your breath underwater for a really really long time. Many of you, knowing that may now be wondering why I thought this semester was a good idea to which I reply: good question. To be perfectly honest I did not have a specific reason on why I loved the gap semester until I was already here. I’m not sure if I have some underlying desire to make myself uncomfortable out of spite or if I was meant to be here or I accidently got lucky and made one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. That being said, the joy of this experience has not let me escape the uncomfortable. Food has been a pleasant surprise because I am forced to be polite and eat whatever is given to me and I have actually loved it almost 100% of the time. I have found my way around town as well but my Spanish is still poor and I have essentially felt like I am out of place and doing relatively poorly. It was not until my plane from Brussels, Belgium after a weekend of travel and felt, upon seeing the streets of my city from the air I felt an unbelievable rush of calm and the words “Im home popped into my head before I could even think them. It was the emotion I hadn’t felt in a long time and even had trouble feeling on returning to Columbia for fall break. Being back in Alicante I knew the streets and I knew the bus system and the prices of my favorite bakery and the smell of my apartment and I didn’t know how comfortable this place was until I left. I don’t know why and that seems surprising and odd but my meaning of home has changed drastically over the past couple months. Home is different on Gap. It’s not where you were born and where all your family and things are. Its a place you were dropped in and a place that grew on you even when you fought it. Its where these strangers became your family and at times your only source of sanity. In a moment the entire point of studying abroad hit me. I found familiars in the food, in the lifestyle, in the language, in the culture. Things that were once scary but now are a haven. If you can connect with a culture so much that in a way it becomes your own and it begins to provide the security of an identity. That’s when you have connected to a completely different place. That’s when you have found a home.