Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Final thoughts

I am currently writing this on the plane from Madrid to Philadelphia. I want to say thank you to everyone who encouraged and supported my decision to study abroad.

What I will miss about Spain

Public Transportation, getting anywhere in the city quickly and cheaply via metro or bus

My host mother, Rosa, and our housekeeper Piudad who were sure to keep me in line, provide all my meals, and do my laundry for the past 4 months

Eating bread and olive oil with every meal


Going to a restaurant with friends and sit there for over hours just talking about the anything and everything… literally

Cien Montoditos every Wednesday (Little sandwiches and a huge beer for 1 euro)

Spending the afternoons in Retiro Park with friends just laying in the grass in between class

Seeing Obama’s picture in Spain’s newspaper more than ours

Spanish night clubs and bars

Real Madrid futbol

The constant battle between Barcelona and Madrid

Walking everyday to class passing the Prado Museum and Retiro (it always puts you in a good mood no matter how shitty of a day you have)

My teachers and study abroad advisers through my program in Spain

Traveling to another country for less that 50 Euro like it’s no big deal

How easy it is to travel in Europe

Pretending I’m Spanish in public

Picking up on people’s conversations on the Metro and feeling like a badass when I know what they are saying

Tapas with every beer

All the Americans at Dubliners near Sol

Walking by incredibly large and historic buildings that are older than our country everyday

The phrase “No pasa nada”

Ordering food in perfect Spanish and receive a reply in English

Catching the metro at 6:00am when it opens after staying out the whole night before

Jamon (ham)

Party Committee with Sharon

How safe you feel in Madrid

Walking around Sol and Plaza Mayor at night with people everywhere in the plazas

Batalloning(drinking) outside in the Plaza or Retiero out of our literos de Mauh

And finally all the great friends and memories I have made

What I miss about America

Friends and Family

The food! (Taco bell, Real Hacienda, Pizza, Jimmy Johns, Mac and Cheese, Hamburgers cooked all the way, etc.)

PAYING IN CREDIT CARD! It seems no one accepts credit cards and if you are eating with a big group, there is nothing as splitting the check. You go through Euros REAL fast after a while

The Exchange rate

American TV

Being able to watch things on the internet without restrictions because I do not live in the right continent to support the videos (nbc.com, Pandora.com, and a few youtube videos)

Just picking up and driving anywhere you want.--it’s going to be crazy

Understanding everything that is going on around me

Stores are actually open on Sundays and in between 2-5pm

Going to a café to work on a paper and drink coffee (you get judged if you do that here)

Having a 21st birthday being a big deal (legal drinking age is 16)

Not using electrical converters for everything I plug in

Sigma Chi

Going to the lake with the family

And finally, MY BLACKBERRY

Alright now after my flight was delayed for over an hour, I am now flying from Philadelphia to Chicago looking out over this absolutely beautiful sky while my Itunes are playing the most depressing songs that are constantly reminding me of Spain. It really feels just like yesterday when I was packing my suitcases with Mom, having my final dinner in Chicago with the family, and watching them stay behind as I go through security at the airport for the biggest adventure of my life. This has all just seemed like one big dream that never happened. I will go back tomorrow walking a little bit taller with a greater appreciation of all things I have. A little bit of my heart will ALWAYS be in Spain, and I cannot wait until the day I can go back to get it. Words cannot describe everything that is going through my mind about this experience. I have learned so much about world around me, and most importantly, myself. My trip has made me realize all the potential this world has to offer and what I need to do to constantly adapt to this ever changing place we all live. I will continue to grow from this experience.

From the above list, I think it’s pretty obvious how much I will miss Spain. A part of me will always be in Spain and I cannot wait for the day when I will get the opportunity to return.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nearing the end

Classes are finished and my bags are packed.  I'm leaving for home in the morning and thought I would do a little update.  I will have my final thoughts and conclusion of my study abroad experience up sometime soon.  So check back for that.    

VIP Madrid Open Tickets

The weekend after Belgium, a few friends and I planned a one night trip to Granada in the south of Spain leaving on Saturday morning.  My friend Joanna and I didn’t have much going on that Friday before we left and decided to meet up and walk around the city with no particular plans in mind.  We meet for about 20 minutes before she gets a phone call from a family friend that is living in Madrid.  She said she had 2 VIP tickets to the opening of the Madrid Open that day and asked if she would like them.  Her friend met us where we were and gave us the tickets but told us the VIP area closed at 5:30.  At that point it was already around 3:30 and we had no idea where the complex even was.  We split a cab and walk into the arena.  We found the VIP section and you could tell we were IMMEDIATELY out of place.  Mind you, we were wearing only t-shirts and flipflops while everyone else were in suites, dresses, and full of Lacoste wear.  It was in a beautiful area that was more like a club/lounge type area with gourmet deserts and an open bar… all for free.  We go up to the bar and get two drinks and sit down along the river.  We could not get over the fact where we were and things like this do not generally happen to either of us.  After enjoying a full plate food of different deserts we headed to our front row seats to watch the first-round womens .  After watching a few sets we decided to walk around the complex a little more.  We find the practice courts where we were able to watch Rafael Nadal from Spain and Rodger Federer practice (number 1 and 2ranked in the world).  These are two of the largest names in the tennis world and we were sitting front row watching them.  It was by far one of the coolest things I have done in Madrid. 


Five of us went down to Granada for one night in the south of Spain.  Granada is a very old city that has a heavy Muslim architecture influence and could pass for an Aerobic city in the Middle East.  The city is built on a hill and the stone streets are very narrow and have a strong Muslim influence.  It is home to the world famous Alhambra which was constructed by the Moorish rulers in the 14th century.  It is an enormous structure with beautiful views of the city and an elaborate garden.  What I loved most about this city was how cheap everything was.  Granada is famous for giving generous portions of “tapas” or mini appetizers with every beer you order.  I don’t think we paid for lunch of dinner once because we would just fill up on tapas throughout the day.  There wasn’t too much to do in Granada and I think one day is plenty to see everything in the city.  Our hostel was very nice and in a great location.  That trip concluded my travels to other cities in Europe.

Accenture Interview

This past semester at Purdue, I was involved in an organization that brings to campus 10 individuals who have made significant contributions to his or her own field for a few days to speak with students about their successes.  I had the honor of working with Frank Modruson, the Chief Information Officer for Accenture (the number one global consulting and outsourcing firm in the world).  I worked closely with him prior to his visit to Purdue as well as spending three days with him during his campus visit.  For our final project in my International Business class, we had to conduct an interview with a company that has presence in Spain and the United States.  The purpose of the interview was to find differences between our countries in the way they conduct business, market entries, clients, ect.  I called Frank to see if there was any way I could conduct an interview with someone in the Madrid office.  The next day I received an e-mail from him saying he has set up an interview with the Chief Information Officer of Accenture:Spain.  She oversees all Accenture offices in Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, Valencia, and Seville.  We had an hour and a half conversation in her office the following week.  She answered all of my questions and really gave me some great insight of the professional world of Spain.  At the end of the interview she said, “If you ever want to come back or work in Spain, please give me a call and we will try to find you something.”  I about hit the floor stunned.  The next day I wrote her a Thank you e-mail and she replied with thanking me and wanting to continue to stay in touch.  Hopefully some sort of opportunity will come out of this.  

Monday, May 18, 2009


I promise updates are coming soon.  This week has been crazy getting ready for finals, papers, and presentations.  Only a few more days here and I'm back to the States.  A few things on the way are free VIP tickets to the Madrid Open where we saw front row Nadal (Spain's most famous tennis player) and Federer play, a trip to Granada (south of Spain), an interview with the director of the Madrid Accenture office for a class, and a Cultural Urban fest.  Hopefully I will have something here by Thursday.  

Monday, May 4, 2009


I decided to go to Brussels about a month ago to visit two friends from high school Anna Duquaine and Jacqueline Brown.  They were recently in Madrid in the beginning of April so I was excited to see them again and where they study.  I left on Thursday morning and arrived around 2:00pm where I took the train from Brussels International Airport to the Leuven train station, the city they are technically studying.  Both of them had class so they gave me directions to their house which was very close to the train station.  They live in this four story building with 26 other students that range from the age of 18-25 from all over the world (U.S., Spain, Belgium, Japan, Slovakia, ect..).  To say the least, it is quite a diverse group and all of them seem to be very good friends.  I did think it was interesting that although they all come from different backgrounds; they always spoke English around the house.  When they arrived at the house after class, we went out to see the city of Leuven.  Leuven has the population of approx. 60,000 people with 30,000 being students at their university.  It’s a very young, safe, and fun city about 15 minutes outside Brussels.  After walking around a little bit, we ate at this great restaurant called ‘De Werf’ where they are famous for their cheap food (HUGE portions) and their hot chocolate.  They bring out warm milk with chocolate chunks in a separate bowl.  You pour the chocolate chunks into your mug and stir until they melt.  After dinner we returned to their house and watched the TV show ‘Friends’ because it’s the only thing that plays in English.  Everyone was gathered around the couches in the basement watching.  They speak three languages in Belgium but mostly everyone knows English.  That evening they wanted to take me to Leuven’s “Fac Bars.”  There are 11 Fac (short for Faculty) bars in Leuven that each represents a different school at their university.  For instance, they have an Econ Fac bar for all the econ majors, Language Fac bar and so one.  When I arrived one of the Fac bars we went to was packed.  I was expecting drink prices to be quite high because it is in such a central location to many college students, but I couldn’t believe how cheap the beer was.  You get a huge mug full of Deuvel or Estrella for 1-2 Euros.  In Spain, they would easily be 4-5 Euros.  After one of the Fac bars we headed to another bar outside this plaza.  There were students everywhere in this plaza just sitting outside on the tables in this plaza.  It was a great atmosphere and was a lot of fun.  After sitting outside and talking with people from their house from Slovakia, Belgium, and Kentucky, we went to get some Belgium Fries.  In America, our late night food would typically be Taco Bell, Jimmy Johns sandwiches, or pizza.. but in Belgium, its fries with mayonnaise and andaluce sauce.  It was actually a lot better than I imagined. 

The next day we hopped on a train to the city of Brussels.  Another friend from high school, Courtney Barker, had a 9 hour layover in Brussels before she was leaving to Ireland to study for 2 ½ weeks.  We went to the airport to pick her up and put all of her things in a locker at the station so we could explore the city.  Anna and Jacqueline had been to Brussels a few times already so they were able to take us to all the major sites.  Unfortunately May 1, was Labor Day for Europe and all the museums and many shops were closed.  The buildings and architecture was what impressed me the most with the city.  It’s very unique and not like anything else I’ve seen before throughout Spain and Italy.  We stopped by Brussels’ most famous fountain “Manneken Pis” which stands for Little Pee Man.  It is a small bronze fountain sculpture depicting a naked little boy urinating into the fountain’s basin.  What I thought was cool about this was on occasion, the statue is hooked up to a keg of beer and cups will be filled up with the beer flowing from the statue and given out to people passing by.  After taking pictures, we got some chocolate which is one of the three things Belgium is most known for (the others are Waffles and Beer).  We next headed over to the Royal Palace to see where the king lives.  After that we had to take Jacqueline and Courtney to the train stations so Courtney could catch her flight to Ireland and Jacqueline was going to see a play all in Dutch in another city.  After they left, Anna and I went to the Delirium Bar where they serve over 2000 different types of beer.  I got the stereotypical Delirium beer that was alright, but I don’t know if I would get it again.  It was getting late so we wanted to head back to Leuven.  Before I left I wanted an authentic Belgium waffle.  We found a little place along a main strip where I got a Waffle with chocolate sauce and bananas.  We ate it in their Grand Place plaza which you are surrounded but stunning buildings with polished gold as the trimmings. Eating the waffles outside Grand Place was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done in Europe so far.  We headed back to Leuven and called it a night.

Originally we were going to Amsterdam on Saturday but instead we went to the city of Antwerp aka “The diamond capital of the world.”  We walked up and down the streets and they had a huge district for shopping.  It was very crowded throughout the main streets.  We headed towards the river and walked along there for a little bit also.  Although I was disappointed we didn’t go to Amsterdam, Antwerp did have its own “Red Light District.” That was quite the interesting experience and quite frankly one I don’t have to go through again.  We didn’t do too much in Antwerp but it was still a cool little city with a lot of things going on.  We hopped on the train and headed back to Leuven for the hour train ride.  Unfortunately that evening we didn’t go out but I had an early flight the next morning anyway. 

Visiting Brussels has reallysparked an interest in learning other languages than just Spanish.  It’s so common for people there to know 2,3, or 4 languages in Europe.  I swear some people here speak English better than I do, which is quite sad to see how much less we emphasize and value the importance of other cultures and languages in America.  We sort of just expect everyone to know English and become offended when they don't and not bother learning to speak another one.  After this trip I could have really seen myself studying somewhere in Belgium.  Again, I have no regrets coming to Madrid, but it is interesting to see the differences between the two countries.  I am so glad I was able to get this experience because it opened up my eyes even more to the other places, languages, customs, and people of Europe.  Maybe teach in Spain for 9 months after graduation and start graduate school in Belgium September 2011?  We’ll see.

Anna and I in the Delirium Bar

Grand Place plaza

Grand Place plaza at night

Belgium Waffles

Manneken Pis (They dress him up sometimes too)

Leuven's Library that would play Happy Birthday with its bells

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I returned home from an interesting weekend in Portugal on Sunday afternoon.  We had an early flight on Friday that flew directly into Lisbon and arrived around 7:30am.  There were 9 of us total including the 8 of us from my program and a friend from Purdue studying in Sevilla, Gretchen.  She joined us later that day when her bus arrived from Sevilla.  We stayed in a really nice apartment that looked straight up out of an IKEA magazine, complete with a plasma TV in the living room that comfortably fit all 9 of us.  That afternoon we booked a tour guide that met us outside our apartment to take us around the city on a walking tour and explain the history behind the city and major buildings.  We started walking in the Chiado neighborhood where there were incredible views overlooking the entire city as well as the coast.  Lisbon is a very hilly city that sets right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  During our tour, our guide was telling us about the earthquake of 1775.  The quake destroyed nearly everything in the city as well as set fire to many buildings.  The people than ran to the port for safety until a tsunami came on shore and killed 30,000-40,000 residents.  Talk about a shitty day.  After seeing some of the major buildings in Lisbon, she took us to the oldest wine cellar in Lisbon where we had plates of food waiting for us and 6 different bottles of wine for a wine tasting session.  Pretentious.. I know.  We were educated on how to properly drink wine and which wines go best with which foods.  Red wine is best with meats and sea food, White wine with lighter meals such as Italian, and Port wine (what they are most famous for) is best with desserts or salads.  I wasn't a huge fan of Port wine as it was very sweet, thick, and a little spicy.  Then again, I still think box wine tastes good.  That evening we walked around Barrio Alto and the Chiado neighborhoods.  The following day the Portuguese were celebrating their day of Independence from their dictatorship.  Many people were congregated in the Plazas and they had venues and stages set up for bands to play.  You literally couldn't move down streets because it was packed wall to wall with people.  After walking around a little bit we decided to head back to the apartment to get some sleep.

The following day, Gretchen and I took a train to Belem which is about 15-20 minutes away from Lisbon along the coast.  While walking towards the Jeronimos Monastery, we passed by a Chariot Museum with free entry.  Now a Chariot museum does sound kind of boring, but it was fascinating to see how these authentic chariots have lasted through time.   After the museum we headed to the Monastery where we sat in the court yard for a while and had the familiar "I don't want to go back to reality" and "I can't wait to move to Europe" discussion.  We headed over to the famous pastry shop Casa Pastéis de Belém to try the Pastel de Nata.  Pastel de Nata is a small cream tart that kind of looks like a miniature Sugar Cream Pie.  After we enjoyed our pastry and some authentic Portuguese McDonalds (a Big Mac), we headed back to meet the others at the apartment.   On our way back, we ran into a huge parade along the streets.  It seemed to be more of a political parade with each type of party being represented.  People were dancing, music was playing, and political party flags were waving.  It was interesting to see the “Portugal for Communism” flag in their section of the parade.  The next morning we caught our flight home and I just uneventfully hung out around the apartment and caught up on the television serious 30 Rock.

This was an interesting weekend to say the least.  Traveling with 9 people can get difficult as everyone has different agendas and opinions on things.  It was good traveling with Gretchen and comparing our study abroad experiences.  This weekend I will be traveling to Brussels and Amsterdam to visit two friends from Anderson that are studying over there.  I am excited to get out of this part of Europe and eat some authentic Belgium Waffles.

I did a little photoshop.. I'm not too good at it though

Overlooking the city from the observation tower

Another view, our apartment was along this road

Bottle 5 and 6 of our wine tasting session

Gretchen (friend from Purdue) and I outside their main plaza

The courtyard inside the Jeronimos Monastery in Belém 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Doing as the Romans do..

I was fortunate enough to book my trip to Rome at the last minute.  I wasn't too thrilled about going mainly because I didn't really know too much about it.  I've always kind of pictured it in the back of my head as "old and dirty."  I was proven wrong as it by far exceeded my expectations I had set.  The flight was around 2 1/2 hours and I flew directly into Rome’s main airport.  I took the train to the main station in the middle of Rome, Termini, where our hostel was fairly close.  Since I booked a different flight than the rest, I arrived first and checked into the hostel while I waited for them to arrive.  We had a 4 person private room with our own bathroom.  It was in this nice plaza that was close to many of the main attractions Rome has to offer.  When the rest of the group arrived everyone wanted to have a quite night as we were hungry and tired from the day of traveling.  We decided to go to an authentic Italian restaurant across the street from the hostel for a quick Italian meal.  Four hours and a few laughs later, they kicked us out because they were closing the restaurant at 11:00pm.  We were pretty tired so we just decided to call it a night and head back to the hostel for an early day the next morning.

We got some information about the double-decker buses that tour around Rome from the hostel and decided to try it out.  We bought the 2 day hop-on hop-off pass so we would not have to worry about taking public transportation (Rome is much less inefficient than Madrid’s metro/bus lines).  We ran the tour once all the way through to listen about the history of each monument and such while we passed them.  After the first run tour, we stopped at the Trevi Fountain where it is said if you throw a coin behind your back into the Fountain, you are ensured a return to Rome.  Approximately 3,000 Euros are thrown into the Fountain a day and the money is used to subsidize a supermarket for Rome's needy.  I was one of those stereotypical tourists and threw my 0.50 Euro into the fountain while making a wish.  Hopefully that whole return to Rome thing comes true.  After the fountain we headed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier or as its better referred as by Americans, The Wedding Cake.  It’s a very large monument that has an incredible view of Rome from the top.  After pondering on top of the monument for a while, we headed down to the Coliseum.  It was surreal seeing one of the most famous structures in the world literally right in front of you.  Since it was near the end of the day, we decided not to take the tour of the inside and continue on with walking around the city.  That night we did a Bar Crawl where I talked to some girls that were studying in Rome for the semester.  They went to Carnegie Melon and were leaving in 8 days.  I asked them if they were tired of the Italian food yet and they replied with, "I don't think I can ever eat or look at Italian again."  By the end of the weekend, we could already start to feel that way as everything is carbs with tomato sauce.. but I'm not complaining too much, Italian is my favorite food.  

The next morning we wanted to make our first stop to the Vatican.  We entered into St. Peter's Basilica and words cannot describe how beautiful and extravagant the inside was.  Pictures cannot give proper justice to this breathtaking structure.  Gold was everywhere, famous sculptures, paintings, and alters dedicated to many past Pope's and other significant people.  From the center of the Basilica where the alter of St. Peter stands, the Statue of Liberty could fit with room to spare in the top of the dome.  After walking around inside the basilica, I stopped in the prayer room and said a quick prayer.  It was really moving praying in one of the most holy places in the world.  After walking around a little more, we headed to the Vatican Museum to check out Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and specifically, "The Creation of Man" fresco.  They really made you work to see the Sistine Chapel because you probably walk through 50 other rooms just to see it at the very end.  It was really neat to see but, the whole room is overwhelmed with paintings.   It is hard to really get a grasp of what’s going on in all the works.  After the museum we got some phenomenal gelato and finished the evening up walking around the city.  We grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the hostel to call it a night and pack for our flight in the morning.  

I can really say I now really appreciate the Roman and Italian culture.  My first experience of Italy was Milan where we had a difficult time adjusting to the city, the people, and the Italian language.  Now, it was like second nature to us.  I didn't really notice a language barrier at all this time as it is so similar to Spanish.  You could always get a general idea of what was going on, especially if you were reading something in Italian.  Plus, EVERYONE spoke English.  I could not believe the people from the store workers, waiters, and everyone in between spoke English.  I saw more American tourists in Rome than I have any other city in Europe.  I have been so fascinated by the Roman history and culture that I have been Wikipediaing like crazy random facts and history of Rome.  I really hope to return again sometime and utilize actual tour guides instead of kind of winging it like we did.  The whole city is like one huge Museum and I strongly recommend checking it out if you get a chance.  

Me infront of the Colosseum

Trevi Fountain
Me in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
One of the rooms leading to the Sistine Chapel 
St. Peter's Square in the Vatican
Inside St. Peter's Basilica

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Halfway point..

Well this past April, 2 marked the two month mark of my study abroad experience.  It’s truly scary thinking about how quickly this is passing.  I keep thinking of everything else I need to do, things I need to see, and meeting more Spanish friends.  Every time I think about how fast time is going, I get a little depressed because leaving Madrid will probably be the saddest day of my life.  Think leaving Purude without ever returning for a homecoming.  Although I know I will remain close with the friends I have made here, it will not be the same as a simple metro stop away meeting for dinner in Sol.  Although, if I start traveling as much as I do on the weekends here, a flight to California, Wisconsin, or St. Louis doesn't seem that bad.  

The week after Barcelona, my Mom and a good family friend, Marsha, made the trek all the way to Europe for a few days.  It was so good seeing them and I was very excited to show them around my new "home."  We were sure to do all the touristy things in the city as well as just take time to relax at the Park or dinner somewhere in town.  I think they were impressed with everything I showed them but I know they went into this journey without knowing what to expect.  I hope they were able to see why I have fallen in love with this city and why it will be hard to leave.  We took a day trip to Avila and Segovia where we had a tour guide that spoke in Spanish and English.  It was great to see some of the smaller and historic Spanish cities rather than a huge city like Madrid.  They had some wonderful Cathedrals and many historic features in each city.  The castle Alcazar of Segovia was one of the main influences for the design of Cinderella's Castle in Walt Disney World.  It was beautiful on the outside that had a great view of the city, but when we arrived we thought it was the original castle that was now preserved into a museum.  However, the real castle was burnt down in 1862 and was rebuilt to the same style as it was before it burnt.  That was a little disappointing but it was still great to see.  I was glad to hear they returned home safely and I had a great time showing them around Spain.

The week after they left we had mid-term exams.  I believe all of them went pretty and am glad they are over with.  Now most of my classes have a big project left and our final.  I need to start getting those things together that way I’m not waiting to the last minute to finish everything so I can enjoy the end of my trip. 

On Friday I went to the airport to pick up two friends from Anderson, Anna Duquaine and Jacqueline Brown.  They are both studying in Brussels and are visiting Madrid for the week.  We spent most of Friday together and mainly just talked about how fortunate we are to be able to have this experience.  We are thankful for our families support in our decisions to study abroad and how much more we have grown and matured as a person.  Coming from Anderson you are almost stuck in this little "bubble" and forget there is a whole other world out there from Anderson, the state of Indiana, our colleges, the Midwest, and the United States for that matter.  We get so caught up in things from each of those bubbles and you have to wake up and realize there is so much more out there in this world.  Each of us will always have a little Anderson in us no matter where we go or what we do with our lives.  It may not be the most glamorous or desirable city in the world, but I appreciate the things I have learned and the experiences I have had growing up in that town.  All three of us will be back in Anderson for the summer and we are already planning on frequently getting together and mope about how much we miss Europe.  

We have the week off of school due to Santa Semana Easter holiday and I will not return until April 14.  I am planning on going to the beach with my Senora (Rosa) and her daughter (Maria Jose) on Wednesday to next Monday to La Manga, Spain.  It is a small beach town that is along the Mediterranean Sea.  Since it will be just us 3 and Maria Jose's 4 week old baby, it will be a great opportunity to practice my Spanish.  I also have trips booked to Rome April 16-19, Lisbon, Portugal April 24-26, Brussels to visit Anna and Jacqueline April 30- May 3, and possibly France the week following.. but I still haven't booked it yet.  

Sorry for all the random things in this entry..